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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

i just ride them

so recently i was made aware of a tendency i have to just ride motorcycles. this came about when a good friend bought an identical bike to me and instantly proceeded to instantly start adding stuff to it. he changed some gearing, tweaked the sprocket alignment, ordered a power commander type gadget and generally--in the words of the dual sport world, farkelled his bike. the modifications on my bike include new tires and adjusting the hand controls.

thinking about this on my ride home today made me realize that for a long time i have just ridden motorcycles. my jobs have given me great opportunities to ride hundreds of bikes, some for an hour, some for a year, and i know what makes a good ride and a crappy ride, but more often than not i have just ridden the bike as they were.

having spent some time on racetracks, dirt and pavement, i fully understand what the benefits of proper suspension tuning brings, as well as engine tuning to suit your riding style. but all that tuning and set up takes away riding time. yes, i have set bikes up properly many, many time. yes, they are easier to ride, better controlled and much safer, so no need to tell me what i am missing. but i also think my constant rotation of bikes over the years has been a big part of why i just ride them.

So often i get on a new or different bike and in the first 5 miles i know what the suspension limits are, what the brakes do or don't do, how power is delivered and what the chassis does (to a point) and i just adapt my riding style to the bikes abilities or lack of abilities. i am not sure if that means i am a better rider than people who invest hours in set up before they ride or worse.

what i know is, more often than not, i am just riding for fun or transportation and the limits of the bike are not going to get explored, so i just ride it.  i dont know if i do the bikes justice by not tweaking al kind of things, but i do have a good time riding anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Letting Go of Anger to Let Pain Pass and Remembering Lost Friends

Those of you who have known me for a very long time know that October is, in general a shitty month for me. Of the things I keep personal, October is the biggest part of it. I try to block it out, but the two worst anniversaries of my life are in October. I very rarely talk about them, as its pretty hard to accept, but I also realize I never dealt with one of them, and I think I will today.

See during my formative years in high school and college, I had some great friends. Lots of great friends, but I had two best friends. Scott and Gregg. We did many things together, laughed a lot and generally enjoyed those times more than I knew at the moment. We were those annoying friends who had our own way of communicating, mostly with killer lines from comedy movies and albums that applied to the situation we were in. You may not have understood why we referenced spider monkeys (Richard Pryor) at that moment, but the three of us were laughing to the point of tears when the comment was delivered.

Scott and I moved to California at the end of July 88. That trip is a story unto itself, but suffice to say, loading a 27' UHaul with all of our belongings, my Suzuki Samurai, our two motorcycles and his car on a trailer behind us but the little rental truck slightly over its weight capacity. The move was hard as we both left our families behind, but also our friends--especially Gregg. Thankfully Gregg was a corporate pilot for an international company so we knew he would have some trips to CA as part of the deal. But the three of us never had a chance to hang out again as a drunk driver killed Scott while we were out on a motorcycle ride in early October of 88. The immediate days after that incident were the hardest I have ever experienced in my life. Not only was Scott dead, our friend Dayna, who was riding passenger on his bike was in the hospital fighting for her life. And I was alone in a new state across a big country with no one for support--except my phone calls to Gregg. I remember being alone in my Marina Del Rey apartment, picked because Scott loved boats, and trying to sort out my loss at 4 am. I couldn't. I was to deliver the eulogy at his funeral, but how could I? I had not cried yet.

The stress and arrangements of getting Scott back to Philly, getting a flight back, making arrangements to leave a new job for a while--I didn't know how long I would be back in Philly, it was a lot to take. Thankfully I did get some laughter with Gregg in those private jokes.
I decided to go back to California permanently after the funeral. I visited PA a lot in the beginning, friends weddings, reunions, those things. But It was a lot of work as I was building a new life. Gregg visited quite a bit, we talked about him moving out--he loved the weather and the ability to ride motorcycles all the time.

I had married while in CA, and on one of Gregg's visits we discussed my need to get divorced. It was a long, serious conversation and he was a good person top have it with. He understood my unhappiness and helped me move forward with confidence.

Then, Gregg, who had always dealt with a bit of depression in his life, took his own life in October of '97. I was devastated. My two best friends were dead and we were not even in our 40's yet. Somehow I felt I had failed him as a friend. But I realized how often I called him and asked him to move here with me. How much I checked in on him. And then I got mad, no furious, with him. And until this morning when I sat down to write this, I never let it all out. For 17 years I have faked sadness, because anger was all I felt. Rage when I should have grieved. I was being selfish about my loss and not recognizing my friends pain.

I know a lot more about personal struggles, depression and its effects at 52 than I did at 35 and I understand why Gregg did what he did. But back then I shut him off, and blocked his memory. Now, today I just miss him and wish I could talk with him again and quote stupid movie lines until we couldn't catch our breath from the laughter.

October still sucks for me, I miss my best friends. But I spent all morning recalling stupid things we did together. Remembering how we would steer a conversation so we could weave in a stupid movie line. Thinking about late nights in Philly diners talking about motorcycles, cars, girls and the future, with stupid lines mixed in. Never once thinking that this friendship, the closeness, trust and ability to count on each other wouldn't be there. It seemed eternal, we would always be there, growing up, but making the time to hang out.

Its been 26 years since that asshole took Scott and 17 years of me not forgiving Gregg. Today I think I will just listen to Bill Cosby, Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor and for the first time in a very long time laugh with my friends.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

26 years later--i still hate drunk drivers

26 years ago this month, a drunk driver killed my best friend. It was 3 in the afternoon, we were riding motorcycles in Malibu, with friends visiting us from Philadelphia on the bikes. 3 in the afternoon. Sunny day. We were not racing, speeding or screwing around, just cruising down Kanan Dume road at 3 in the afternoon when an idiot felt he could drive--drunk off his ass.

The day before the drunk driver thought he was able to drive

He lost control of his pickup truck and spun sideways in a turn, straightening out in our lane, hitting Scott head on, killing him pretty much instantly. Poor Dayna, on the back of his bike went flying and thankfully landed in a tree, and though severely injured, made it through the surgeries and ended up making a full recovery and living a healthy life. Scott, my best friend, died because of a drunk driver. period. No soft way to say it. Some asshat decided he could drive drunk and he killed my best friend.

So, the next time you feel inclined to drive drunk, high or for that matter text and drive, think about this, 26 years ago i watched my best friend bleed to death right in front of me because someone that thought they could drive drunk was wrong.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Notes from a motorcycle commuter

Please feel free to share this with all the car driving people you know.

Lately I commute about 90 miles a day, round trip, on a motorcycle. Five days a week, although sometimes just four as I work from home occasionally. But in that 360-450 miles a week of work flow traffic, I see a lot of people in cars--also motorcycles--doing things they shouldn't while operating a vehicle. And I see road courtesy being thrown out the window

1- texting. You are not fooling anyone by holding it on your lap to text. I see you look down and then see you drift in the lane to whatever side that your hand is on the steering wheel. The other fun texting thing you try is both hands on top of the steering wheel, phone cradled between two, and then texting. Guess what? When you do that, you slow down dramatically. Upwards of 10-15mph slower than the cars around you. Stop texting and driving

2- dealing with your kids while driving. Here is a fun fact: when you turn around in the seat to yell/talk/console your kid(s) you drift in your lane. I know because I have to avoid you. Have a kid issue in the car? Do like my dad did and say, "if I have to pull this car over, you will be sorry" and if you need to deal with the kid for any of the above reasons, pull over please

3- Eating while driving. Yes, some people feel it is a time saver I guess. In my car you are more likely to be thrown out in the street than chow down a cheeseburger, but that is just me. But folks, if you a re going to eat in your car, make it finger food. A bowl of cereal, or whatever it is you have in the bowl, well its simply not safe. Your first panic reaction is going to be not to spill on yourself, then second will be deal with the road situation. I hear beef jerky is a nice snack in the car, not messy and very little distraction. Plus its full of protein, probably good for you.

4- using your cell phone. Um, here in California we have a hands free only law, holding your phoebe two inches from your face using the speaker phone isn't dodging the law, its still in your hand. And, likely you are concentrating even more on that call because of the poor audio than if you held it to your face. Remember when driving was a chance to listen to the radio and not hear from people in the office/friends/wife/husband/kids? How about you play attention to the drive and not the call? I can tell when you are having a fun versus a serious conversation. Fun calls you speed. Serious calls you slow way down. Guess what? They both affect your driving

5- pickups and trucks carrying things. Please, please please add an extra two tie downs to your load. There is not a day that goes by I don't see something on the side of the road that I know flew off a truck or SUV that could have killed me had I been behind the vehicle when it fell off. Oh yeah, car drivers, you cannot hold a mattress, sheet of plywood or anything else down to your roof with your left arm. Tie it down properly please.

6- motorcycle riders and lane splitting. Yup, you guys are not exempt from my wrath. First, its a freeway, not a racetrack. Swooping lane to lane, no turn signal and in traffic that is already moving at 70-plus Mph is, well stupid. Communicate your intention, be cautious to drivers and make your lane change. Be respectable to car drivers, maybe  they will respect us. And lane splitting. When the traffic is basically stopped or moving 10-15mph, don't lane split at 50. You freak the car drivers out, scare them and piss them off. Then, I come along doing a nice, calm lane split and they don't want to let me by because you were an ass. And I see it enough to know this is true.

7- passing lane blockades. Folks you are not the police. It is not your job to sit in the passing lane, or the fast lane as it is known, and try to regulate traffic by driving the speed limit in that lane. Its my choice to risk a speeding ticket by passing in that lane--move over.

8-smokers and spitters. I am on a motorcycle. Where exactly do you think your cigarette ashes/butt or your spit go at 70mph when you send it out the side window? Nope. Not out the side like you intend, but behind you thanks to wind velocity. And guess who is behind you?

9- courtesy. All of us need to exhibit a little more of it on the road. See a slowdown ahead, let someone in your lane that is trying to merge. Driving a section of road with many freeway exits and entrances close together? Don't drive in the right lane. Let people use that for exiting and entering the freeway. Treat other drivers as you wish they would treat you.

Yeah I know. I ranted. But all of these things happen when I am on the road each day and all of them put my life in jeopardy and honestly, none of you have the right to do that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kawasaki Ninja 1000...700 miles of fun so far

After logging 700+ miles on the Ninjas 1000 I have come to some conclusions. First, it is not the bike I would replace my Kawasaki Concours 1400 with--and that bums me out. I wanted to LOVE this bike like I do the Concours. But... there is a but, the Ninja is clearly a much sportier sport-touring bike than the Connie.
It is nimble, light, fun and easy to pitch around. Living up to its' name, the Ninja 1000 attacks corners and punches down straightaway. The 1000cc engine spins up quickly and stays ready to accelerate in pretty much any gear--and that is one of the problems. Stock, it turns something in the realm of 5500rpm at 80mph in 6th gear. That means passing a car requires no downshifting, but it also means the engine is busy at that speed and fuel mileage reflects it. I am barely squeaking out 40mpg on my commute of 90 miles a day, most of it on the freeway --moving with traffic at 80-85mph, as traffic is prone to do in Southern California.

the riding position is very comfortable, taller bars than on the ZX-10, the Ninja lets you sit up and see the Pacific Ocean should you be riding south or north on the 5 freeway between Laguna Niguel and Encinitas each day. With three easy to adjust positions, the windscreen allows you to find a comfortable bubble to live in. Needless to say the saddlebags are handy, although while they will hold a full face helmet, they don't fit a backpack with a decent size laptop. At their widest the saddlebags are 36", so lane splitting is no biggie--and more than a few full Sportbike riders have been surprised as I led the way through gridlocked freeway traffic.
More fun techie stuff can be found on the handlebar switch set. Power modes, traction control, multiple trip meters, fuel mileage, average mileage, range and engine temperature are all available to scroll through with the left handgrip. This unit also has Kawasaki's terrific ABS system. Technology is not lacking on this bike.
Its a pleasant enough bike to ride around, again, easy to turn, maneuver and relax while you cruise. When you want to dig in on a hard corner, the Ninja 1000 is ready. I took one out late last year and ran some of my favorite Malibu Canyon roads--Latigo and Decker--and the Ninja worked really well, embracing my plant the front tire with the brakes into the turn, then be really hard on the throttle out of the turn riding style. For those of you who don't know me that well, I am never going to be a racer. I am really fast on slow roads, but just average on fast roads--I have never learned to trust the front tire, so I chose really tight roads and work really hard to go fast on them. This is where the Ninja 1000 kills my Concours, its well over 180 pounds lighter and that makes a huge difference in the tight stuff.
And that is the reason the Ninja 1000 is not the replacement for my Concours. My riding, while I like to think my riding is really exciting all the time, the reality is, I commute and just go places a lot. So, with that the comfort of the Connie, along with the 1400cc of power when I want it and all the other stuff I have battered on about with the 1400, means its the bike I am still most in love with. The Ninja 1000, is quite the exciting affair though!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

you do know that just because it has a fairing doesn't mean its a full sportbike, right?

I have been around motorcycles/motorcycling for a long time. I fell in love with the concept of man and machine back when motorcycles were just motorcycles. They were not sport touring bikes, or sport bikes, touring bikes or any other category. In fact when I fell in love with motorcycles Harleys were not even called cruisers, they were just motorcycles.

Back then you bought a bike, say a 1977 Suzuki GS 400 (My first non enduro street bike) and you made it do what you wanted it to do. That meant I added a rack and sissy bar to it for when I wanted to carry things, and a bolt on windshield for touring. You had to have a certain amount of imagination, mechanical skill and, most importantly, no preconceived notion of how good it was supposed to work when you were done. You just believed that the mods you made were the right changes to transform your bike.

Then the Gold Wing came along. And the Yamaha Virago. And the Suzuki GSXR. And then the Kawasaki Ninja. Suddenly there were sub categories and specialized motorcycles. The UJM(universal Japanese motorcycle--a basic, standard style bike), the bread and butter of the motorcycle industry quickly disappeared and good or bad, categories were created.

Side note here for you non-riding or just bought a Harley because they are cool folks: Ninja is not a style of motorcycle, its a sub brand at Kawasaki. That said, Ninja does not automatically mean full-sport race bike. Examples include the Ninja 1000 ( a sport touring bike) and the ZX14R, a much more drag bike than sport racing bike, as well as the Ninja 650,a wonderful commuter bike and the Ninja 300, a great beginners/commuter bike. And a Suzuki GSXR is not a Ninja. Nor is a Honda CBR a Ninja. Because it has a fairing and sporty lines does not make it a race bike. Take a quick look at the handlebars. If they are above the triple tree by an inch to three inches, sport/commuter. Clip on bars, under the triple tree? Race bike.

From the specialized categories, sub sub categories were developed. Sport Touring bike came along as the riding population realized they needed bikes to go as far as they used to as UJMs. The aftermarket responded with handlebar risers, footpeg lowering kits and wonderful detachable soft luggage. All this aftermarket excitement led manufactures to build purposeful sport touring bikes. And harder edge sport bikes. And cruisers that are more cruiser(y). The only thing that was left alone for the longest time was the enduro world. These bikes were still just dirt bikes with lights. Light, agile and fun to bash around on. Then somebody went and traveled on a dual purpose/enduro bike.

Suddenly a new category of large adventure bikes was born. In all fairness BMW invented this category in the mid-90s, but only engineers rode BMWs back then so no one really knew. Now, I have to say I am split on this category because the size of these bikes--Suzuki Vstrom, Triumph 800 Adventure, Yamaha Genre and many more, well off roading with them would be an adventure for sure. But on the other side, they are big, comfortable and functional bikes. You can whip one through a canyon dragging footpegs one day and then bomb out a 700 mile day the next. Its almost as if the UJM has come back around--with semi knobbies and hand protectors. Even Ducati, Aprilla and Moto Guzzi have adventure-esque bikes in their line up. This is a fast growing segment of the market because people seem to like riding comfortably and still having fun--imagine that, fun on motorcycles.

So, diatribe concluded, what did we learn? There are many types of motorcycles and as they say in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, The More You Know, the Better It Gets.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ZX14R--redefining what fast is

If you are one of the people I know who have only ridden Harleys, you can't comprehend just how fast this bike is. The Kawasaki ZX14R can do this:
0-30mph--1.2 seconds
0-60mph--2.6 seconds
0-90mph--4.2 seconds
0-100mph--4.8 seconds
1/4 mile ---9.47 @152mph
Top speed - 485 (electronically limited)

wrap your head around that. In less time than it takes you to do a three Mississippi count, it can accelerate to 60. With a pro rider like Rickey Gadson on a STOCK bike it can do sub 10second 1/4 mile passes. This bike is just plain fast.

And pretty comfortable, not gold wing comfortable, but roomy enough to let you relax while you cruise the Southern California freeway system looking for Ferraris and Lamborghinis to mess with.
but, the other thing about this bike is all about calm. It starts up, idles smoothly, has power modes and traction control and is quite happy running around town doing errands and never waking up the 1441cc sleeping beast under the plastic. Its just a regular sporty motorcycle with an engine that can press your brain backwards in your skull.
I will be putting 3-400 miles a week on this thing for a while so I will update my impressions as they come along, but for now I can tell you that Kawasaki understands fast motorcycles and is the reigning king of the jungle.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Can you see me now?

I ride a lot. Here, there, everywhere. A lot. And recently I find myself needing to commute 4-5 days a week for about 80+ miles a day round trip. On LA/OC freeways. California is the land of the self absorbed driver, with focus on following their in-dash navigation, talking on their Bluetooth connected phone and sending texts from behind the wheel. In other words they don't give a darn about others on the road.

A few years ago my friend Art Friedman started doing all his riding with a high visibility orange full face helmet on. He swore it made him more visible and he had less close calls in traffic . that has always hung in the back on my mind. Normally I don't think much about the color of my helmet, I just pick upon a good brand, on sale, and deal with whatever color is available. Lately I have been using Scorpion for a few reasons:
1- flip down sun shade. Perhaps the single greatest invention ever for those of us that put in long days on a bike. Morning sun? Drop the sun shield down. Late night in an office heading home, a clark shield is already in place--fantastic
2- comfort. The Scorpion is light and padded well, eliminating pressure points and neck fatigue.
3- price. They are a damn good price for what you get.

I picked up this EXO 500
Its silver and "Can you see me know?" Yellow.  I think it should create just enough contrast that most brain dead southern California drivers will see me. Guess I will find out soon enough if Art knows what he is talking about.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


I have a diverse group of people I call friends that fall into two categories--gear heads and not gear heads. These two groups utilize their garages very differently. Gear heads, like me, see the garage as an important part of daily existence. Non gear heads see it as storage.

Did you know that non-gear heads will actually fill their garage up with household storage stuff? Maybe they will fit a car into it, but it will be surrounded with a years worth of acquisitions found at Costco. Or luggage. Lots of luggage. And boxes they have not opened for two or three moves. Yeah, they treat it like one big closet--shudder.

So apartment living aside, I have always treated the garage as my father taught me--a man's castle filled with all of his toys and tools. A place to go and do man stuff. Fix, create, restore, maintain. Objectify. Treat vehicles like they were mean to be treated--with TLC. And collect cleaners and polishes. That is a huge part of garage ownership.

My first house had a two car garage, that for some reason also housed the laundry drier. The house was so small, there was no way to make a change, so I tolerated it. But the rest of the garage was all about motorcycles. I had a nice hydraulic bike lift, drill press, tool boxes, really cool tile floor, stools, refrigerator, stereo and a cabinet full of waxes, polishes and cleaners. This was during the HOT BIKE/STREET CHOPPER days so often there were 3-4 motorcycles besides my 2-3 bikes in that garage. I can't even tell you how many tech articles were done in that garage, but if you were a regular reader back then, you probably saw my garage. It was a nirvana for my riding friends, and a bit overwhelming for my non-riding friends. Side note about the garage refrigerator. There was a kit--paint and some stick on stops to look like tool box drawers--that turned my garage refrigerator into a giant toolbox. It was very cool. I have pictures somewhere that I will find and post one day

Then, I moved to Wisconsin. Um. Well. Yeah, about that. Not the smartest thing I ever did--except for the garages I had a chance to own. House one in WI was a 3.5 car garage. Huge. A single garage door and parking for Marcia's car (Wisconsin winters require garage parking) and a two car door for me. I had my truck on one side, my bikes and lift on the other and in the .5 extra deep spot, my workbench, tools, stools and garage refrigerator. Additionally that garage had storage overhead that ran the whole length of the three car area. Sure the Wisconsin winter was cold and long, but I could go to the garage, mess with my bikes, clean and wax my truck and generally gear head out amongst my stuff.

House two in WI, well it was a gorgeous custom built place on a lake, but it was a bit lacking in ultimate garage space. It was only a 2.34 car garage, but what made it ok was the 3/4 part was a separate room off the two car part. Essentially a workshop that stored my bikes and tools--a little less splendid than the first house, but the workshop feeling was really cool.

Then came the move back to California. We had many requirements for a house, but a three car garage was one of the most important. Marcia had grown used to parking in a garage, I had developed a taste for a clean, nice car thanks to living in WI and my bikes and tools and workbench needed their own space. So when we found a house with a three car garage--and the stuff Marcia cared about--it was a quick, done deal.

Current garage is not as great as the garage-mahal I had in WI house one, but it works. For the most part all I have to do is move the Challenger into the driveway and I have a two car garage of space to work on bikes, fix things, or create stuff. I couldn't imagine life any other way than with a fully functioning garage.

Oh yeah, and I still have a cabinet full of waxes and polishes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

a little recognition for my "beater bike"

Those of you who know me are in tune with just how much I love my Kawasaki Concours 1400, so I don't need to explain all that it does well. No, I need to talk about the other bike in my life, my 2012 Suzi Vstrom 1000 Adventure. I bought this bike to be my do-it-all machine. A bike I didn't have to obsess over, a bike I could let get dirty once in a while, leave parked outside without worrying about pieces getting sun faded and a bike I could take on the worst of California freeways with. And it does all that well.

Now let's not lie here--it is an ugly bike. Seriously. The designers added about 15 pounds of unnecessary fairing bulk and panels that hide the basis of why this bike is so good--the TL 1000 based v-twin. From any angle you look there is too much going on in the "styling" department. Soft curves, hard angles, insanely robust luggage brackets and an exhaust system that likely adds 30 pounds to the bike. And drags in hard right corners (blow the picture up here and you will see the scrapes on the exhaust shield).

But, ugly aside it is a damn good machine. I have commuted to work on it, ridden canyons, run errands, picked up groceries, buzzed down fire roads and generally used it for any type of riding I wanted to do. And it does it all with a healthy dose of power. The Strom is rumored to put 98hp and 74 Ft/lbs of torque to the back wheel--which makes keeping the front wheel on the ground a bit of a first and second gear challenge.

The upright, dual sport style riding position and wide bars make staying in the seat all day a pleasant experience and the sheer size of the bike makes toting a passenger a pleasure. And the fact that it is that comfortable allows your passenger to stay relaxed--which was good that day we were dragging the passenger pegs in corners!

I have some modifications I will need to do, eventually. So far all I have done is basic service and replace tires, because the bike is just fine. It could use better brakes--I will probably add some braided lines, better pads and maybe look at different calipers, but for now they stop the bike from any street speed I attain. The suspension is due for an overhaul, but the factory adjustments are not quite maxed out yet--close so I expect that to happen sooner. And then there is that exhaust. Its big. Its heavy. Its bulky. I am sure a new system would shave a bunch of weights and wake the bike up significantly, but then it would be a lot louder--and a full system has to be spend. So for now....

The Vstrom is just a good bike, not great, just good. It has no overwhelming characteristics of anything--except ugly, damn it really is just ugly--but it works. And it does anything I ask. And if you look at the number of units sold, the appeal of these bikes is undeniable.

A new model is on the market now, no better looking, but better equipped. If you are stuck on what one bike to own to do most everything, check in with these guys for all the vstrom information your brain can process.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Don't hate the hipster--well I tried, anyway

Had to go check on a brother-in-law's pets last night in Irvine. I'm in Laguna Niguel so it is not that far, not a big deal. It was about 630 when I left the house, so I figured I could check on the animals, feed them and then head out to PCH for a nice sunset ride home on the beach--a perfect way to spend Friday night.
It was a wonderful night, perfect temperature, and clear as it could be in the skies. Leaving the animals behind I hopped onto Jamboree to blast the beach. Jamboree to those of you who do not live in Southern California, is a long, winding ribbon of what would be perfect road--if it were not for all the traffic lights, mini-malls, car dealerships and the Irvine Police Department. It winds, crests and straightens out all in an effort to tempt your throttle hand into misbehaving. Veteran of the road, I resisted its call--OK, well I might have left one traffic light slightly quicker than necessary to remind the guy in the Audi A8 that, well he is still in a car--not a supercar--and I was on a 1400cc Kawasaki Concours. Mid second gear, I slowed enough to let him catch up and smiled at him through my helmet, I am sure he understood.
I cut through traffic down PCH--Pacific Coast Highway--through Newport Beach and towards Laguna Beach. The sun was just starting to soften and set, the light was amazing. I felt that a picture of my bike and the coastline was in order--I just sort of forgot there is nowhere between Newport and Dana Point (where I would turn to go home) that is both undeveloped and coast accessible. Photo effort was destroyed, but the visuals were still amazing. The Pacific in its glory, beautiful homes, nice cars, bikini-clad girls walking the sidewalks, yes it was a great commute home.....
Anyway, to my point here. I needed fuel on the way and I stopped into a gas station on Crown Valley Parkway in my home town of Laguna Niguel. As I pulled in I immediately saw another bike so my spirits jumped. You know, gas station camaraderie. Talk about bikes, roads, where the cops are, the things you do when you see a kindred spirit. My hopes were dashed instantly as I got closer. He was a hipster with an attitude. He looked at me as I rode in on the Concours and did a very minor disgust head shake. Like he was the pure biker at heart and I was on a big, useless machine. I may have been wrong, but 44 years of being around riders tells me otherwise. I immediately had an attitude as well as I sized up the wannabe resplendent in his official hipster garb. He had, and I kid you not, skinny jeans, high top Vans, a faded red tshirt with a largely oversized zippered hood and a '70s fullface helmet with no face shield. His bike? A Honda 450 with the side covers removed, the tail section stripped to a bare minimum with the taillight hung from the subframe so the fender could be removed and the seat redone to look like a '60s Triumph, clip ons and the crowning hipster touch? A black "X" made with electrical tape on the headlight.
There was nothing I could talk to this guy about and I knew it. We were two very opposite ends of the motorcycling spectrum. I took another glance at his bike and was assured of my suspicion--huge, giant, glaring chicken strips on his tires. Sure, some people have to use their bikes to commute, I get that and leaning to the edges can't happen in town, but--this was a half worn tire and just 4 freeway exits south of this gas station is Ortega Highway, pretty sure with a decent canyon that close a few corners can be negotiated.
He finished gassing up before me, and started his unbaffled two-into-one megaphone pipe equipped machine. A quick blip of the throttle to about 5-6000rpm assured the owners of the SUVs and MBZs at the station he was ready to leave. Out of the gas station he bleated and blasted to the..... traffic light 40 yards from the driveway. It reminded me of Thursday night at the Kawasaki Koffee Break as I was standing outside with a Kawasaki employee/friend. We were looking over the bikes in the parking lot show when a guy on a Ducati Panigale equipped with super loud pipes made the turn in front of the building winding out first gear so he could do the super loud, look at me deceleration ride into the parking lot. It inspired me to drag an old line out of my book when I said "Oh look, they must have been out of Harleys with straight pipes, so he bought the Ducati". We laughed and laughed and laughed.
So, I didn't want to hate the hipster, but I did. Not because he was different from me, remember I used to own a Harley and a GSXR at the same time, but because he had a crappy attitude and wanted me to think he was cool because of it. You ride. I ride. That should be all that matters, not the bike, style, brand--OK, well scooters, you can ignore scooters--just that you ride. I'm going to try not hating again when I ride today, but please don't give me attitude, or as Chopper Dave and his shirts and key chains say "They Forced me to Hate"
You can find Chopper Dave's stuff at

Also if you want other cool shirts and stuff that says you ride to people that also ride check out Church of Choppers store at

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not So Entertaining--My New Business--Please refer your friends

After a very long career of working for other business owners and learning everything they had to teach, I have decided to open my own business offering business management and marketing. consulting.

It is a huge leap of faith, chance to take, but it has me pretty pumped up. I know I can help the average struggling business to do better, so in all of the glory I can muster, here is my official press release.

HKC - Howard Kelly Consulting

With 30 years of business management and marketing experience, Howard Kelly now lends his abilities to your endeavor. From selling automotive tires in a discount shop to holding the editor’s chair at HOT BIKE Magazine during its’ prime to marketing industrial air chillers and creating all of the 2014 Kawasaki product brochures, Kelly brings a unique perspective to the table. His combination of business experience, budget management and expert marketing strategy creation will allow your company to reach the next level of success.

Unlike most marketing consultants, HKC insists on starting by learning your business and the infrastructure that supports it. An evaluation of your business practices and the team that implements them is done prior to preparing a marketing campaign, because if your business can’t support new business growth, that must be addressed first, otherwise you will be wasting marketing efforts and dollars.

When you are ready to get your marketing plan going, HKC will build a custom strategy based on your budget, anticipated growth and infrastructure expansion. All aspects of media are incorporated—web, print, direct and social. HKC can create your press releases, catalogs, brochures, collateral materials, advertising and full marketing campaigns. HKC can work with your existing art director or introduce you to one. Additionally, with Kelly’s full background in photography, studio, location and event coverage can be provided.

With a network of the best professionals in the United States working directly with HKC, no project, event, trade show or store redesign presents a challenge. When you partner with HKC it is like adding a complete marketing department to your business without the need for extra office space for the staff. You get professional services at a fraction of the cost of a full department.

Because HKC will work directly with owners/principals, client space will be limited.


Howard Kelly

(949) 491-5182

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Opinions please

Thanks to the super secret Google stat machine, I know a lot of people read, or at least look, at what I put up on the blog. I write about my thoughts, ideas, or passions for the day.

But here is the thing, many of you have commented privately to me about missing the stuff I used to write in the magazine, so I thought I would put this out there: what would you like to see me write about? Is there a topic that you think I should pay more attention to? A segment of the motorcycle industry? Should I put more effort into my Save the Six-Speed campaign for cars? What then?
Let me know and I will attempt to make it happen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons to be learned from motorcycle crash compilation videos

There are a few thing to be learned from watching this compilation video

1- a lot of people ride with GoPro type cameras

2-GoPro type camera mounted on your helmet make it real easy to see when you target fixate

3-its a street not a racetrack

4-never ride really close to the guy with the GoPro on his helmet

5-scooters are always dangerous

6-riding in Europe and Asia is a challenge

7-in Europe they open doors into you for lane splitting

8-in many countries in Asia they run over scooter riders

9-Stunting on the street never seems to work out

10-slow down in traffic

11-assume they want to run you over

12-scooters still suck

13--riding gear is a smart thing

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not all Craigslist buyers are jerks

I'm not kidding, its true. Let me explain, no let me sum up, it's quicker.

About 2 years ago, my brother in law bought a Yamaha Virago 250 with 5700 miles on it for a few of our family members to practice on when they finished their MSF courses. Well, 2 years and 500 miles later the little Virago that could, wasn't. Wasn't being ridden. Wasn't getting any love. Wasn't doing anything but gumming up it's carburetor and taking up garage space. It went to a local dealer for a complete carb rebuild and new battery and the decision to sell it was formulated. I have some time right now, so I volunteered to take it on.

The bike started out pretty clean, only 6200 miles on the clock total, so I rolled it into Kelly Garage Inc. and did a quickie clean up and then took some pictures. I shot the bike from both sides, plenty of details and even took shots of the two flaws the bike had figuring it would be easier to disclose everything up front.

Then I carefully crafted an ad for both Craigslist and eBay. I talked about low mileage. I talked about great condition and runs perfectly. I talked about freshly rebuilt carb and new battery. I disclosed the scuffs on the rear fender from the first owner's use of leather saddlebags and the scuff on the rear muffler from a driveway tip over. No detail hidden. And I put a price of $2595 on it. On the high side, but not terrible for such a great bike with a residual value next year similar to what anyone was going to pay for it this year as their beginner bike.

So the Craigslist comments started. Emails at first:
Does it run?-- Yes, like it says in the ad, runs perfectly
Is it in good condition?-- Yes, like it says in the ad
Is there anything wrong with it?-- Yes, like it says in the ad, a scuff and scratch
Will you take $1200 cash?-- How else would you pay and n0

Then the Craigslist text messages started coming in:
Is it still for sale? Yes, that's why the ad is still posted
Is it in good condition? Yes, just like the ad says
Does it run? Yes, perfectly just like the ad says
Does it leak oil? No, its a Yamaha
Will you trade it for my electric guitar? No way dude
Will you take $1200 cash for it right now? No. And seriously how else do you think you are paying for this?

EBay was not as prolific on responses. But the questions were of a more serious nature, mostly revolving around would I pay for shipping to the east coast. Nope. Sorry.

Then the I want to see it texts started coming in. Most were challenged to create full sentences. More often than not I thought about meeting them in a parking lot rather than my house, but time was an issue. So I had two people scheduled to come see the bike yesterday prompting me to prepare

One potential buyer had me thinking this way, the other seemed cooler. Crappy potential customer backed out and cooler customer showed up, girlfriend in tow. Nice kid, plenty of questions that were relevant to the bike and learning to ride. Turns out he was a recent MSF grad and was doing it the right way, versus the cool guy way, and buying a small bike to really learn on. We settled on a much lower price, $2150, because he seemed a good guy and impressed me with solid thinking. We talked about maintenance. We talked about gear--he needed all of it and wasn't going to ride until  he had it. We talked about how a year from now this bike could be for the girlfriend to learn on when he steps up. He asked if I could ride it to his house so it would get home safely--rather than him risk the freeways.
I went into my gear locker in the garage and pulled out a helmet and had him try it on. It fit so I gave it to him to help him get started on the proper gear deal. We talked about buying in local stores versus internet for the rear of the gear. I explained how the pricing may well be cheaper on line, but building a relationship at a small, independent shop might be helpful as a beginner with a bike he may need service on in the future. The best part about him? He listened. He actually wanted the advice and took it in.
I rode the bike to his house and in the car on the way back I told him how impressed I was with his desire to get started riding the right way and offered to serve as a mentor to him. He had my number, he seemed a good kid, it seems the right thing to do. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Burnout Blather

First, let's understand the reasons for a burnout.
Drag racing--its done to heat the rear tire(s) up for an optimum launch
Showing off--its done to let the world know you have lots of horsepower, or you want attention
Stunting--its called drifting then
Motorcycle events-- its a crowd thriller/attention draw

now, I am a big fan of the show off burnout. I have done dozens of these in magazines over the years and am still prone to doing one when the crowd is right. But tires are darn expensive these days, so I try to keep my show off burnouts to a minimum. being a trained professional, not a drunk at a carnival, I am confident in my knowledge of a motorcycle, how it works and how to tell when a burnout might go bad, so I can do a burnout anywhere at any time on any bike. And since I don't do stationary burnouts on bikes that don't have front brakes--- truthfully I don't enjoy riding bikes with no front brake--I don't need a wall for doing a burnout. I like to freestyle my burnout and score massive showoff points.

but as seen above, I have spent time in a burnout box. The Titan you see here roasting its back tire was actually on a hydraulically lifted burnout box 10 feet over the crowd in Myrtle Beach, so I thought it kind of cool. The burnout box/wall serves its purpose for safety when said carnival bike riders have 3-7 beers and want to do a burnout, but I suggest to all bike event promoters there be a change.
Let's steal an idea from the freestyle stunters and create two burnout areas. Your traditional wall where amateurs can put their bike against an immovable object and row through the gears in attempt of shredding their tire, yawn, and a sectioned off area (with those concrete barricades they use for construction) where a wanna-be stunter can get his one-hand-standing-next-to-the-unreleased-Harley-CVO-bagger burnout show off session on.
Let them go in and spin donuts. Stand next to the bike. Stand in front of the bike and do a donut backwards (I have some photos of me doing that, scary as all hell the first time). Show they have control of the bike. The barricades should go far in creating crowd safety, but still allow those that feel they have the skill to go ahead and show off. Let the no front brake, I just want to smell like tire smoke crowd use the burnout box.
With the proliferation of Dyna/FXR customs on the market, along with baggers, front brakes are fairly prevalent in the Harley world. The Sportbike world couldn't imagine a bike without front brakes, so promoters, what do you say? Can we get a stunt show out of these guys? We have professional stunters drifting their bikes in a closed area, maybe a freestyle burnout area will bring another generation of stunters to the show?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

action. drama. adventure. heroes. 1990 Italian 500cc moto gp

You have an hour to learn about real men racing? Watch this. Not only were they riding 500cc two stroke machines that weighed something like 350 pounds and produced well over 200 horsepower--- and if you have never ridden a two-stroke, think of the throttle as a light switch, on or off as their powerband is pretty narrow--but they had to switch to mild rain tires because it kept drizzling and threatening to rain. They raced anyway. Non of this sissy NASCAR stuff where they stop racing because the track is wet.

 Nope they just hitch their leathers up a bit higher and race.
Names like Rainey, Gardner, Doohan, Schwantz. The greats doing great things on a motorcycle. Towards the end of the race watch how fast these guys pass the backmarkers.  imagine feeling fast enough on a bike to even consider racing one of these monsters and then being passed by these guys at the speeds they do. Your ego would be crushed forever. Or, these front runners were not mortal, perhaps they were racing deities. Either way, this is an education on what fast looks like on a motorcycle. And no rain delays ;) 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fastest superbike lap, Isle of Man TT, Bruce Anstey

So you want to know who the fastest rider is, with the most guts ever? A 44 year old dude named Bruce Anstey who averaged 132.2 Mph around the 37.75 mile long Isle of Man TT course this year. Average Speed!!!! Think about that, he traveled 37 miles on public roads, not a race course, at an average speed faster than some people have ever gone in their life.

Take a look at what just a few minutes of this ride looks like and try to tell me this guy, as well as everyone who has ever lapped that course, is not a legend!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Discovery Channel...Please go back to penguin documentaries

So with great anticipation I watched Biker Live last night on Discovery to see the new exciting changes. Thankfully Velocity was running some real motorcycle programming simultaneously, Isle of Man TT racing. That is motorcycle drama I can get behind--a man on a bike challenging the road, weather and time to be the best, fastest and not die in the process.

On the there hand, there was Biker Live. Filmed to make seemingly talented guys look like they don't have a clue. Oh the drama. Really? Did we need a monolog about being too young to be a bike builder? Fabrication skills do get better with experience, but if you have them, you have them. Did we need to see a half hearted attempt at making part of a gas tank, just to see it thrown on the shop floor? Did we need a scene showing rolling eyes when discussing how to time a magneto? NO, but Discovery did.

For anyone that plans to support this stuff again, let me help you in case Velocity has racing on again at the same time. Show synopsis: Introduce builders, make them look less capable than they are. Coerce them into making bold, boasting claims on their abilities to build drama. Show timeline discussions of how the bike being built can't be as good as normal. Cut to goofing off in shop or immediately outside of shop. Kick up music for dramatic scene where alleged great bike builder doesn't know how to tune his engine to start. (note, what builder ever, anywhere builds a full bike mock up before paint and doesn't start the bike then, but instead waits until its fully painted and assembled for a first try at starting?). Show celebration as bike fires with just seconds to go before deadline.


Please Discovery, stop making the motorcycle industry look stupid. If you do, we all promise to watch penguin documentaries when you release them

Monday, June 2, 2014

Riding gear--yes, it is worth the cost

Here is a fun fact, when I was the editor of HOT BIKE, I used to get complaint letters and complaint booth visits from members of ABATE about my consistent use of a full-faced helmet. They said that me being in the magazine, always seen with a full-face, was hurting their cause of legalizing no helmets in California. I thanked them for the compliment of thinking my sphere of influence was that great, but said, in reality, I was just exercising my right to choose--and I chose a full face helmet because it made me feel safest.

What gear do you wear when riding? For me, I have two levels of gear.
1- Relaxed mode--when I think I can't get hurt--which by the way is completely ridiculous. But if I am running errands, heading out for a ride just to get somewhere for a meal with a friend, or knowing I am not going to push the limits of tire adhesion.
  • Full face helmet--a current, quality brand. There is no argument here. A good helmet is worth every penny, especially if you are on a long ride and it adds time in the saddle because its comfortable and fits properly
  • Gloves--no fingerless, that's a joke. Real leather, not motocross or pit crew gloves
  • Riding jacket--proper body armor in proper places
  • Jeans--a fallacy of protection, if you hit the ground perfectly they can protect you, but how many crashes are perfect?
  • Leather shoes that cover my ankles--back in the 1990s I wore high top leather sneakers, all white, with plenty of padding around my ankles, now its work boots or riding boots
Like I said, this is relaxed mode. If its really hot, I have a vented jacket that does allow a lot of airflow, but still provides protection. Let me just say this, on the record and factually, the ground, concrete or asphalt, does not get less abrasive because the temperatures go up. Crashing on a 90 degree day is no less painful than crashing on a 60 degree day, the road will still chew your skin up, a fender will still crush your skull. Quality riding gear is your ONLY line of defense against accidents. And no, you are not such a good rider that it can't happen to you.

On those days that I feel the need to see how far my bike can lean, or I have a really long commute in rush hour traffic, I upgrade the jeans to a dedicated riding pant, or an over pant with body armor. It may make me sweat a bit more, but well worth the extra protection. Not much more gear. Why? Because I think about the crash all the time

Don't fool yourself into thinking a t-shirt and leather vest will protect you, they won't. Why? Well, think about walking or bicycling. When you fall or crash, what's the first thing to hit the ground? Your hands and arms. Gloves and a long sleeved jacket would be nice as you meet the asphalt. Want to survive a head on crash? I did, cracked an Arai Signet helmet on the landing, but I was able to tell the police what happened when they arrived. I had a bitching cool pair of Bates leather gloves until that accident. But thankfully they took all the abrasion and I was able to type the very next day. My leather jacket that day? Has some really cool scrape marks on it. Wonderful conversation starters at pre-ride coffee places.

Bottom line, spend on gear what you think your body is worth. Just because a jacket is made out of leather doesn't make it a motorcycle jacket. It needs double stitching, body armor or at least reinforcements in key areas. The stuff you wear to skateboard is probably ok for skateboarding, but how often do you ride a motorcycle at skateboard speeds versus highway speeds. Invest in the crash. And then ride to help prevent it happening.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

sweathogs--debate team?

There was a TV show that broke incredible rules, dealt with issues we all had in high school and made us laugh stupidly --because we had never seen anything like it before, Welcome Back Kotter.
This clip had me laughing at all the double entendre they managed to get away with. Good stuff

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

when riding is not a "special occasion" but an everyday thing

It is no secret that I enjoy social media. I would probably say, in order, I enjoy Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and make use of them most of the week. Why I enjoy it is not as much about keeping up with friends, my real friends get direct contact from me, but to see what the motorcycle owners of the USA are doing.

Yes owners, not riders. See, that vast group of people I see on social media prattle on and on about this special occasion they rode their motorcycle. And as such, the once, or dare it be, twice a week they ride becomes a special occasion. Really? Why is that? Bike choice? Outfit choice? Don't really love riding as much as owning a motorcycle?

See, here is the thing. For the most part, with a touch of planning, there is nothing you cannot do on a motorcycle--within reason. True you can't carry lumber, bags of concrete or a flat screen TV, but normal day-to-day commuting, the right motorcycle and gear choice let you ride all the time.

Example: I always buy a bike that has either quick release saddlebags or a way to secure a bag on the back seat, giving me carrying capacity. On top of that, I have an Aerostich Courier bag that can carry almost anything. Groceries, tools, sprinkler parts, ammunition, even a cat once, have all traveled within the confines of my motorcycle storage systems. And I always have gear that permits me to do what I need to do. I have gone to meetings that required me to be in a suit by putting a riding suit on over the fancy clothes and carrying proper shoes to replace the boots in my saddlebag. Saved a ton of time in traffic that way, and got to ride my motorcycle mid day, instead of being in my car--because I had a meeting.

At one point in my career, office attire required slacks, shirt and tie. So, I would take a few changes of clothes, stash them in my office and ride in 5 minutes early, which was easy on the bike, change and be the tie wearing dude I needed to be until 5, when I changed and head home. In the cooler months I just switched to wearing an oversuit and office clothes underneath.

For me, riding anytime is better than being in a car--and I LOVE my car. But it seems every time I choose the car over the bike, I end up wishing I was on the bike. So I built my life around always owning a bike that was a bit functional--a GSXR is not exactly a great commuter/carry stuff bike but I made it work--and gear that let me ride when I want.

So, if you follow me on various social media outlets, odds are you won't see me post a lot of "I am taking a special ride" pics, but more likely my motorcycles doing my daily errands and commutes. Life is much better on two wheels--all the time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

NSFW--but funny...100 funniest movie insults

I need to write some of these down. Apparently there are movies with great funny lines that I have not seen. But these are some of the best movie insults ever..... I will be filling up my Netflix and Hulu watch lists.....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

what is your cylinder count? a real live survey

Recently I have looked closely at those people I call friends and realized that all but one, have a deep, focused commitment to internal combustion. Motorcycles, cars, planes, boats, ATV/SUV and anything else that falls into the category of generating power.  Among this group of friends I have a smaller group that share an email digest. Every year or two a missive goes out asking for a full report of your personal cylinder count. This is to include basically anything that has a piston/cylinder (we are not really sure what to do about rotary engines) and itemize the list.

The list is an entertaining read, and not surprising, it gets competitive as guys are wont to do. Suddenly revisions to the list pop up as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and even novelty blenders get into the count. I think we drew the line at substitute electric edges because the 2 stroke gas unit blew up.

So, currently I am at a fairly low level, having cleaned out a lot of projects lately but my list is as follows:

Dodge Challenger-----8 cylinders (it is a Hemi so I should get some extra points here)
Kawasaki Concourse---4 cylinders
Suzuki V-Strom---2 cylinders
MBZ C300------6 cylinders (wife's car)
Briggs and Stratton Lawn Mower--1 cylinder
Garage air compressor--1 cylinder (this is where the stretching starts)
Total = 22 (a really disappointing representation, I need to buy some stuff)

It would be fun if everyone that read this commented with their count, and where they live, just in case any international competitors are reading this.

sometimes a video says it best..... wheelies!!!

Friday, May 23, 2014

why i have ridden motorcycles for 44 years now

I was 8. My dad bought me a go-kart, I was a lucky kid, but I convinced him to sell it and get me a mini bike. Nothing special at all, just a tube frame, 3.5 hp lawn mower engine, a throttle and a rear brake that was a flat plate of steel that rubbed the back tire. Changed my life. That feeling of a motorcycle as an extension of my mind began and the longest I have gone without a bike since that day is 31 days. 31 days? Yup, totaled a bike and it took 30 days to get a check, bought a new bike the next day.

It hasn't been all roses owning a bike, I crashed and injured myself in many ways on the dirt, then had a few street accidents too. Watched my best friend in the world die on a bike 20 yards in front of me when a drunk driver lost control of his pick up on a lovely Saturday afternoon in Malibu.

But no matter what the situation or circumstance, I am always drawn back to the feeling. The feeling of how a bike becomes an extension of your mind. See, if you have never ridden, you cannot fully grasp it, but when you take control of a motorcycle, it becomes a part of you. And it doesn't matter what kind of bike you are on, if you are actually in control of the bike it is a part of you. Together you lean into corners, together you share the rush of acceleration and the effects of braking. You are exposed, open to the weather, the smells, the excitement.

What? You drive a performance car? Big deal. It is not the same. You sit in a car and get tossed around by the forces at work. you sip a coffee, adjust the radio and seal your self in a cocoon, separated from the world. Short of the fact that you turn the steering wheel and push on the pedals, you might as well be in row 23, seat c in an airplane.

I will try to explain the feeling. First you have to understand riding a motorcycle goes against the very nature of the motorcycle and physics. Huh? Its a single track vehicle, stand it up on its wheels and it wants to fall over and lay on its side. So just by riding to the end of the block you have accomplished something. But now, you take that natural tendency to fall over and eliminate it by being in control and making the bike do what you want and it is glorious. The acceleration of a motorcycle, even a small displacement bike, is intoxicating. Its raw. twist the throttle, row through the gears and get up to speed. Every action you make has a reaction. Get on a mid to larger sized engine and you will understand power. As you go through the gears you feel yourself pushed back on the seat, the wind picks up and punches you in the chest and helmet. Suddenly you are holding on to a speeding projectile and you connect with the fact you are controlling it. Dialing up or down on the throttle changes the sensation and the effects of the wind/speed. Slow way down and enjoy the scenery and smells, wind it up and the best roller coaster in the world becomes tame. Now its time to turn. In a car you turn left a and get tossed right in the seat--your body going against the forces of nature. Turn a motorcycle and you must let your body lean into the turn, tempting nature as you push the motorcycle towards its natural desire to lay on its side, but countered by momentum and throttle. It feels right, it feels natural and when the turn ends you look for another. That sensation of leaning over at 45 degrees, horizon titled in your helmet, road winding in front of you and you and the motorcycle joining forces to beat physics, its amazing.

Then there is the whole getting from Point A to Point B in a much cooler fashion than everyone else around you. When I used to teach CMSP (MSF for you non Californians), I often talked about first bike selection. I endorsed buying a small, sued bike to get your riding legs under you before buying your dream bike, and I reminded the class of one thing, no matter what bike you are on, you are infinitely cooler than someone in a mini-van. Think about it, when you a re on a bike and stop at a light, poll up in front of a store, or just cruise down the boulevard, people look at you. They make conversation with you a s they walk past your bike. You are Fonzie, Evel Knievel,  and Steve McQueen all in one nice package, picking up groceries on your way home. Non-riders equate what you do with what they know and they know TV motorcycle riders. Thus you are cool.

If you have never ridden before and are reading this, ask someone who rides to read this and see if its true. Even better, go take an MSF course and learn for yourself. I promise you won't be disappointed with motorcycle riding.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

the true Wheelie King--Doug Domokos. Wheelie Wednesday

Met Doug many, many years ago, we used to talk at the IMS shows. Then when I got into the magazine business we kept talking about using him in the mags, sadly we did not move on the idea and Doug is with us no more.
Simply a great guy, missed all the time. Would love to have talked to him about the stunting craze today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

obviously the tv people are not listening to me

Did you see that show last night? The 'build off'? Did anyone, at all, actually get a good look at the motorcycles? Did anyone see a nice clean view of the left and right sides of the bikes? Nope. Lots of drama, lots of oh no we are builders with a problem prior to deadline, but no focus on the bikes. Its a biker build off right? You would think that implies bikes to be seen, but no, we got wonderful views of guys in a boat, in a parking lot, drinking beer, discussions of MMA deadline settling and lets eat a hot dog with a bottle rocket in it.

These are not the people I want representing our industry. This is not how I want our industry represented. This is not the build quality I want non-riders to perceive for what our industry creates.

Please express your opinions to anyone that will listen about the garbage they keep putting on televising, and again, if you can fund it, I will create the quality programming our industry deserves.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I guess I left a mark in the motorcycle industry—The Horse Magazine STILL Writes about me

Disclaimer: this is going to be a long story, so if you have short attention span, it’s not for you.

One of my dreams as a kid was working on a motorcycle magazine—which prompted me to leave Philadelphia for Los Angeles where it seemed my chances would be greater. The story of how I ended up in the Editor’s chair at HOT BIKE and STREET CHOPPER is a long story, but the part I will share is my interview with Steve Stillwell and Bill Porter (if you don’t recognize those names in relation to publishing, you are not as old school as you think). They sat me down in the conference room at McMullen Argus and handed me three copies of HOT BIKE, a legal pad and a pen. “Take about 30 minutes and write out what you would change in these magazines if you were the editor. We will be back” and they left. Summary of my notes: there were no bikes being ridden, even in the ROAD TESTS and the girls in bikinis had to go. They offered me the job on the spot.

This was May of 1996, and prior for those that don’t know, I had the privilege of learning from Frank Kaisler at HOT ROD HARLEYS serving as feature editor. Prior to that, I was the shop foreman at MOTORCYCLIST. I knew where I wanted this magazine to go. I wanted action, excitement, exhilaration—all the things motorcycles give you, especially when it is January in Philadelphia and you can’t ride, so you read and re-read your motorcycle magazines (firsthand experience pays). We put together a team that was all over the idea and we attacked the market. Now keep in mind the Harley world was EXPLODING at that time and custom everything was at a fevered pitch.

And the magazine grew. Another fun side note here: I was enthralled with seeing my pic doing wheelies, burnouts and any other cool thing on a bike in the magazine, and I wanted everyone to experience that when we shot their bike—so a new rule went into place. If your bike can’t be ridden, it can’t be in HOT BIKE (or STREET CHOPPER later on). So what did the REST of the Harley mag industry do? They started adding riding to their pages. Don’t believe me, grab your old copies of saved magazines going back to 1996 and take a look at 1997 and beyond. And the industry responded. Builders wanted pics of them doing burnouts in their bike features, excitement was taking over.  

But, I am going to let you in on a secret about magazines, they are in print to make money. Whether it is by selling 40$ a year subscriptions or a ton of ads, the bottom line is they line someone’s pocket. Handsomely if done well. So we sold ads. And we did editorial that supported our advertisers. But here is the thing, and you can ask around the industry today and people will verify this, if you sent us a product that sucked, was garbage or didn’t do what you said it did, I wouldn’t put it in the magazine no matter how many ads you bought. We were not going to sell out. Fix it, reinvent it, change its intended purpose and we will look at it again. I pissed of a LOT of people that way, but I protected our readers. If I was going to support the people that supported the magazine, it damn well was going to be good stuff. So we supported our advertisers and promoted good products to our readers without writing negative stuff and slamming people. We took the first rule of business and built lasting relationships with our advertisers—and it worked.

So HOT BIKE kept growing and regularly seeing 240 plus pages each month. And the guys at IRON HORSE took offense. They slammed me for riding a Buell, wearing a full face helmet and promoting (their term) Easter Egg bikes—but such fat fendered, incredibly painted bikes were the core of the CUSTOM MARKET at the time, so we featured them. But we also featured choppers, Pro Street bikes and even baggers. But we were known for the coolest fat tire softails at that time. Fine, I was good with that, because we were seeing the coolest bikes in the industry. But the cats at IRON HORSE thought their market—garage built bikes with no new parts on them—was our market, but it wasn’t. So month after month they mocked me. And month after month I ignored them. We grew, they didn’t. Then one day they were gone. Funny thing about a magazine, it needs advertisers to survive and if you bash the people that would spend money with you, why would they. Now out of that old IRON HORSE crew, I remain friends with a few of the staff guys and we laugh about those old days, but the bottom line? They went away because they didn’t understand the business of a magazine. Do it right, make it interesting to the reader and respect, not serve, the hand that feeds you.

So, along comes another garage built magazine brought up from the ashes of IRON HORSE called THE HORSE. And guess what? They wrote about me all the time too. HOT BIKE was peaking around 300-352 pages a month towards the end of my time there, and EVERYONE knew it. Harley gave us exclusives, the manufacturers gave us first shot at their parts and generally we were the place to be for those interested in what the latest trend in the industry was –not garage built, no new part bikes. We had nothing against them and ran a few here and there when they caught our eyes, but we were focused on the business of providing a good magazine to the hundreds of thousands of reader we had.

I’m getting somewhere with all this now. Yesterday I was on the phone with a younger guy in the editorial world, explaining some things about us older mag guys and he told me that in the recent issue of THE HORSE, Hammer—Ralph Janus, the OWNER of the magazine, the guy who makes all the coin it generates—was ragging on me and praising Jeff Holt the current editor of HOT BIKE. He wrote the same stuff he has been writing about me for OVER 10 years, corporate, boring, blah blah blah. Now in the last 10 years since leaving HOT BIKE all I have done is write two books and maybe a dozen magazine articles. I should not be a factor in the magazine industry at this point, but he goes on and on, about me and the way I did HOT BIKE and how Jeff Holt (I have never actually met Jeff, and I am sure he is an OK guy, we chat on FACEBOOK once in a while and even talked about me doing an editorial in HOT BIKE, but I never heard back from him) is doing things that are so much cooler than I did. Well, guess what? Jeff is doing the SAME thing I did, but with a different trend in the market. MY time was the explosion of radical customs, Jeff’s time has the explosion of BORN FREE type bikes and FXRs. A different mindset, a different style of bikes to please the readers. Old Ralph, on the other hand, is still beating 10 year old story lines and attempting to generate sensationalism from readers he has had from the beginning. Great you have loyal readers that know my name, but shouldn’t your circulation have grown enough that your readers DON’T know who I am or what HOT BIKE was like OVER 10 years ago?

Remember Ralph, if you are using me to generate buzz in your magazine—that you own and make money off of, shouldn’t you be cutting me a commission check on the side? Shouldn’t your efforts be in producing a better magazine that grows a little? Better editorial, better photos, a greater reason to see people invest in your title? If you really want to sensationalize with my name, offer me a column in your magazine (paid of course) and I will spice things up for you. Otherwise, a line from one of my favorite movies says ….”10 years man, 10 years, 10 years, 10 years man 10 years 10 years”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NSFW--sort of, well maybe, but definitely not safe for those with no sense of humor

The last few days on the blog have been pretty serious and digging in a bit deep. So, some absolutely silly, sophomoric humor is required to bring back the fun. And there is nothing funnier than when innuendo abounds...... this can be taken at face value as humorous, or its flat out hysterical when you factor the idea of making it not really safe for work or those that have no sense of humor.

Offended? Sorry. Amused. Great. Not interested. OK.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Biker Television--please stop until its done right......

Much like a fender bender on the side of the highway, I was drawn to look at Biker Live on Discovery last night. And it was about the same result as looking over at two cars on the side of the freeway, "Hmmm, I wonder how that happened?"

A brief history lesson for some of you. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Harley world was on fire. You could not buy a new Harley at MSRP, in fact most dealers were able to add upwards of 5K a bike. This frenzy drove the magazine business to its own frenzy, with as many as 14 Harley based titles capturing the custom bikes as quick as they were spit out--see that time frame also was the beginning of the wild customs becoming prevalent. And it was pre-internet so your information had to come in your mailbox. Mid 90s to early 2000s saw the internet come to life with custom bike things and some of the very first biker TV shows. And the very first biker drama made for TV came along and changed how the world viewed custom bike builders.

Where in the world did the people who make TV get the idea that all good and not-so-good craftsmen function in shops filled with drama, hacking bikes together with hose clamps and big hammers? Every show I have seen on building bikes, cars, customs whatever, somehow requires a storyline that involves a deadline that can't be met, in-shop disagreements and portrays the builders as less than professional. And honestly its pissing me off.

One of the very fortunate things about being the Editor of HOT BIKE when it was at its peak in popularity and circulation was that I had access to the best names in bike building. And I had the chance to meet up and coming builders. I also had a chance to be in their shops--hundreds of them. Yes, I met a few hacks, but if I had to put a percentage to the hacks it was far less than 10%. I can tell you about the days I spent in Jesse James shop, watching him obsess over making a fender fit perfectly, building an exhaust that has never been seen before and generally treating his work like a artist. Matt Hotch, another guy who sweat the details like no one, spending days figuring out how to run all the wires and cable inside the frame of his creation, ensuring a smooth finished product. Arlen Ness, yeah the guy who started it all, standing in his shop, stripping down an Ironhead Sportser engine for a project, painstakingly putting parts in clearly labeled bins as he disassembled it to use in a project he was building. I have watched Kendall Johnson build an engine with the same level of precision that a jeweler uses on a Rolex. Dave Perewitz laying out a paint job with vision and knowledge that it will be right the first time. Jim Nasi metal finishing every part of his build. Wink Eller knowing he can get 10 extra horsepower by tweaking this or that. The list goes on and on. Professionals doing what they feed their families with--professional custom bike building. No drama, no wrenches being thrown, no toolboxes flipped over. Do you know why? Because when you throw things like tools and chairs, they bounce. And when they bounce in a shop full of customer bikes, it costs you money to fix them, and none of these professionals are in business to lose money.

And yet, we watch these shows. And we allow our world to be portrayed as a bunch of goofballs who have crappy tools, don't plan ahead and generally fumble through a build using incredibly questionable technology. Then the drama shows add the riding portion. News flash folks, its a custom bike, of course its going to have glitches on its first few rides. Generally the whole bike is handmade and to that trying out new ideas, innovative ways to improve the look and style and doing something that hasn't been done before. Its not a Harley/Honda/Suzuki/Yamaha/Kawasaki cruiser that just rolled off the assembly line and someone added pipes, a custom seat and new handlebars to. This is a custom creation. And we allow the producers to show the almost fatal meltdown when it backfires on a first start or that a tire expanded on a few hundred mile trip and rubbed the fender. Things happen. And all of the custom builders I know fix those things for their customer when it does. They take pride in their build. They believe in delivering 1000% quality to a paying customer.

Now don't get this wrong--many custom builders are eccentric personalities. They goof off outside of the shop and at events. They do dumb things that we all do, its just you recognize them when they do it. But they are not hacks. And yet TV producers say they are. And we are suckers and we watch it. Why? Because there is no other TV for our passion. I am sure the drama could be replaced by an in depth look at how a cocktail napkin sketch of a part of a whole bike gets transferred to reality. I know the first time I saw a CNC machine programmed or a water jet cutter run, I was entranced.

We live in a Wal-Mart society where craftsmanship is no longer valued. We are a replace not fix world, because why fix the vacuum or TV when you can run to the store and get a new one instantly? What will we do in 20 more years when people no longer know how to fix anything? Its time to praise the craftsmen, the absolute foundation of America, and show that those that build are also those that think. Since I travel in very non-biker crowds often, I hear what they say about builders and customs. First, they think a custom bike can be built for almost nothing but scrap metal pieces and, second, they don't think they last a week. Its embarrassing and really annoying when I have to explain all that is wrong with the shows and how they portray builders. Funny thing the non-riders are fascinated when I tell them the truth about what goes into a custom build, savoring the little tidbits of craftsmanship I throw them in the story. A metal bender? hammer and dolly? CNC what?

If there is anyone with a few million dollars that wants to fund a TV show, I am ready to produce it. Let's go to the best builders, lets get them to share their secrets of how they make a fender, welded onto a rigid frame with a 120ci engine not split on full throttle blasts down the highway. Lets teach people how a guy builds a frame and figures out the right rake and trail to keep his customer alive while riding to the local hangout and still looking good in the parking lot. How about we show what it takes to paint a bike with a graphic that is on the sheet metal and the frame? How about we remove all the drama and show what talent, dedication and intelligence looks like in a bike builder.  I am serious, if you can fund the show, I will make it work.

In the meantime, let's do a service to all the guys that go on these shows. Support them through magazines, websites and blogs. But lets not feed the frenzy of these fake, drama infested atrocities they call biker shows.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

falling in love-with the right motorcycle

Through some interesting twists and turns in my life, I have had a chance to ride a lot of motorcycles that are not mine. From grunt time at Motorcyclist, to the big Editor Chair at HOT BIKE and STREET CHOPPER, to being a part of the industry, I have poked around on some amazing bikes.
I have had the unique opportunity to ride:

**The very first V-Rod from LA to Sturgis and back--it will go 127.4 miles on a tank of gas. Exactly, then it is EMPTY

*The Harley Davidson Marlboro Man movie bike--all over LA for a month. Yes, people knew what it was and asked a lot of questions

*One of 50 street legal Vr1000 Harleys. A day spent cruising the backwoods of Milwaukee doing wheelies and dragging toes. In the heart of Milwaukee I was snubbed by every Harley rider I waved to

* The very, very first Buell S1 from La to Morgan Hill. 400 miles of giggles and torture.

*The first Ducati 916 when it came out.... Drool
* Yamaha GTS1000 with the cool, goofy front end. Amazing bike

*A Kawasaki ZX-9R...perhaps the best bike ever in the sporting category. Big, FAST and it handled

* The first FXR2. Lots of explaining that it was NEW FXR, not an old FXR

* A Sportster 1200 at Willow Springs where we were intent on making it faster by switching wheel sizes and combinations

*The first TC88 Softail Classic--which I rode 1018 miles in one day, Denver to Anaheim, an experience that would have been made a lot better with 30 more horsepower.

So, my point that I am blubbering about is I have had a lot of experience on all kinds of bikes, real experiences. When I bought my Kawasaki Concours, I bought it because I was mad at the Harley world. Living in Wisconsin at the time, I was meeting people who basically said, if it wasn't on a Harley they wouldn't ride. In my mind they were not motorcyclists, but hobbyists. Me? I didn't care what I rode as long as it was riding. So I looked at the Concours, 1400cc, shaft drive, radial tires, big brakes, easy detach saddlebags, electrical adjusting windshield and stupid fast. Seemed a perfect replacement for my very custom FXDXT, it would be faster, handle better and require almost no maintenance. So I bought one. And fell in love on the test ride.

Lately I have had a chance to ride a lot of really cool, really fast, really exciting bikes again. Which has kept me off the Concours for about a month. Yesterday I had reason to hop on it and BAM, just like that the love affair is rekindled. Fast, smooth, comfortable and deceivingly amazing handling, the Concours lets me ride fast enough in turns to be entertained, eat up freeway sections with ease and pick up some groceries on the way back.

I will always seek that next experience of being on a new, different motorcycle, but I am pretty sure this one will always be my go to love affair. Have you found yours yet?