2008 Seattle Motorcycle Show Snapshots

sThe Seattle Motorcycle show was suprisingly small this year, about 1/2 the size of what it was last year. Still, it's a great way to see tons of bike stuff all in one place. I tried on a bunch of jackets and helmets, and hopped on a bunch of bikes. Here are a few of my favs, snapped from my iPhone. The BMW F800GS, by the way, was from Touratech, not BMW. BMW wasn't at the Seattle show, sadly.

Cell Phones While Riding

I ran across this thread the other day, while wondering if there are any good iPhone apps that have to do with motorcycling. Some guy is upset that he can't talk on his iPhone while riding. For me, I don't even listen to music while riding. Even on this years trip from Alaska to Seattle the wife and I didn't listen to music, there was just too much to take in visually, and music was a distraction from the reason we were there. The sounds of the ride were important too, hearing the whine of the engine, the road surface changing, even pulling over here and there to listen to the wind and bald eagles cry while flying over head, there's just so much a visitor should take in on a trip like that. Of course there's the safety issue. I just don't think it's smart to not hear the ambient traffic noise around you, much less have a cell phone conversation while riding. Plus, at least for me, one reason I like to ride is I can be left alone, to be in my own world. In the few times that I've been expecting a call, I've pulled over once I felt the phone vibrate and called the person back. No worries. So it's everyone's own prerogative what they want to do while riding, but my simple advice is to be in the moment and focus on riding, while riding. Riding is fun, we like to do it, so why not concentrate on it?

WWI Paint Job

I was looking over a bike in the parking garage today, and I got to thinking how some bikes look like WWI battleships in camo. Of course they're not purposely painted for this, but I still think the bikes look like the long lost offspring of the ships. I think some of these paint jobs look great, bikes and battleships, just pointing out the similarities.

Now You See Me, Now You Don't.

Now that the days are getting shorter, and the evening falls much earlier I've been looking for ways to be more visible to cars (aside from my bright yellow helmet). I keep my luggage on the bike (top and side bags) to add size and therefore visibility to the bike, and if I ever put it down it's one more layer to skid on before I become the puck. I wanted to add daytime and nighttime visibility so I added these red and white reflective trailer warning stickers. I think they look pretty good, plus they're kind of Christmas like so maybe I'll look jolly too. I can tell I'm old now, when the safety of the bike takes precedence over how it looks. Then again, because I've been a safe (and lucky) rider I get to grow old.

BMW Changes Turn Signal!

(Blog post from Hell For Leather magazine. LOL description of a situation I've been in a few times while test driving BMWs)
To date, attempting to signal the direction of your intended turn whilst riding a BMW precipitated the following sequence of events: Horn honk; confusion induced wobble; signal in the wrong direction; confusion induced wobble; horn honk; turn while signaling in wrong direction; horn honk; signal in correct direction post turn; horn honk; continuing to signal; signal cancelled. But no longer, the company has finally brought its indicator switch mechanism in line with that of every other manufacturer.
We actually kid. While certainly unique, we never had a problem with BMW's old system and fear that it's fallen victim to the increasingly endemic Companies Listening to Old Fart Journalists Syndrome. You see, tasked with not only stuffing themselves with all the free food and drink they can fit in their surprisingly large stomachs, motorcycle journalists also find themselves needing to review multiple bikes after spending only a few minutes in the saddle of each. Afraid of actually criticizing the machines themselves for fear of loosing their access to those free meals, the old fart journalists instead find silly little niggles to complain about. The BMW indicator switches were one of those niggles. Just like iDrive, if you employed a small fraction of your brain's capacity, you could figure them out in about 30 seconds. But that 30 seconds of time was enough to spoil the day of many a crotchety old man, so now BMW riders will have to switch on their indicators just like everyone else.

Rainier Beer Motorcycle Ad

Chrome, Not Just for Google Anymore

Wow. That's a lot of chrome. Kind of turns into Wonder Woman's invisible plane though.

2009 BMW K1300R

Add the new 2009 BMW K1300R bike to the list of bikes that I'd love to have, for no other reason than to own and ride a work of art. This bike, with it's industrial Ugly Betty loveability has just never found wide spread appreciation. I can understand, as it's not much more than an engine wrapped in engineering and no real touring talent or even commuting skills to speak of. All that aside, the last time I was able to throw a leg over the older version of this machine I was supprised how light and accurate everything on it felt. Thanks BMW for keeping ojects of lust like this in production and forgoing your German instinct for only the practicle.

Aprilla Zen Master

Kudos to the dude on the Aprilla RSV making the wet street left turn in front of me today. RSV dude was threatened by a car trying to turn in front of him, aka not seeing him, and did everything right. He passed me as I crossed the street in back of him, his eyes were moved on to the car at the corner. He was locked on to it in an impressive display of looking ahead. Rightfully so, said car started to pull out and cut him off, and he was able to drop on foot to the group as he came to a near full stop as the car slammed it's breaks. Well done Aprilla dude.

Middle Aged Bat Bike from Honda

Once again, kudos to Honda for thinking creatively. I'd have to see it in person to really know what I think of it, but the new Honda DN-01 is radical, and bold. I'm all for the evolution of the motorcycle, and this is clearly a step toward the new, but will it appeal to enough riders to get traction? For me, and this is an uncool admission, I'm excited to see the CVT come to market as I've long felt that bikes should have the perks that autos have had recently, if only to make them more simple to operate and therefore accessable to a wider audience. I'll watch this one close, and probably make the pilgramage to the dealer to thow a leg over one, just to see what it's all about.

Alternative Transport Rumor Du Jour

So is it Honda's turn, again, to innovate on two wheels? While we've seen rumors of electric bikes on the horizon, this is the first authoritative mention of a hybrid bike, this time from Wired. I'd be surprised if it were to take the shape of the Interceptor here, but you never know. Maybe a better speculation is why wouldn't they put it in the high brow ultra tech show piece bike? Time will tell.

Motorcycle Morning Near Miss

Jumped on the bike, in full ATGATT, this morning for the commute. Cruising along about 40mph I’m in my own - sorta paying attention - world. The Jeep I’m following for the two lane merge onto the highway slams to a violent full stop from what was an easy and steady 40mph. Usually no problem, in fact I practice full panic stops often, but only being an easy mile from my house my tires were very cold and I was getting no traction out of them, and the smooth tumbled concrete road surface didn’t help. I locked ‘em up and felt the back end start sliding sideways as it looked for grip, and the Jeep, still completely stopped was getting closer and closer – I was headed for impact. $hit. How embarrassing to rear end a big dumb car.

Everything was surprisingly calm in my mind though, and the slow mo thing along with my MSF class (et al) training kicked in, and all I could hear in my mind was, “Escape route! Escape Route!”, as I pumped the breaks to avoid the back sliding out too far to keep control. I have large hard cases on my bike, and the lanes, filled with traffic, were tight so I was wondering if I’d even make the squeeze. Escape route or smash into the Jeep bumper! I heard in my mind. So I gave it a shot and committed to the lane split with a shove of the bike to the right, a bit freaked out that my back left case might catch on the stopped Jeep and hook me into a fall. What made it worse was the other lane to my right that I was about to split with was still moving at about 40mph and I wasn’t sure who or what was over there for me to swerve at or if they were going to react well to a bike inches from their mirror all of a sudden. I committed and split the lane.

Apparently there was a Corvette to my right, that had breaked hard when it saw me wiggle and slip my back end in an attempt to stop, and it gave me room to move to his lane. At least that’s what I noticed later, when I was splitting the lane oddly with no car next to me, assuming there’d be a car there. Then, as I tried to pull away in front of the ‘Vette and get back up to traffic speed and sorted out, there was no throttle response. Wha? Now what? Apparently I had stalled the bike…I guessed. Not sure how, but the bike was off I was coasting, now starting to slow everyone in my new lane. I went through the start up procedure, ignition off and then on, clutch in, push starter…ignition! Whew. The power was back and was back in the flow again. Admittedly I was a bit of a jerk in my stress and gave the evil eye to the Jeep as it passed me, his lane now moving, but a tinted visor helped keep my attitude in check . At first I cursed him for slamming on the breaks and stopping like that, but then realized I didn’t know what he stopped for, and ultimately it was my responsibility to prepare for it and assume the worst of cars on the road with me, on a motorcycle.

Electric Motorcycles 2010

I told you so. Looks like reports are coming out that Honda and Yamaha are planning electric powered bikes as early as 2010. The Bloomberg report speculates that the price will be sub $4000, but that's hard to belive. We've got a few years to hash this out though.

Motorcycles Are 10 Times More Polluting Than Cars

Kind of takes that smug grin off your face doesn't it? According to Susan Carpenter from the LA Times bikes spew a lot more of the nasty stuff out their backsides than cars and trucks do. However, because they're such a small portion of the vehicle total the EPA is much more lenient. And frankly, there's just not a lot of ways to fix the problem on such a small engine. If you bought a bike new from 2006 till now you're already on one of the cleaner bikes as the EPA's first tier of pollution requirements kicked in then, the next phase is 2010. So next time you pull up to a Prius driver don't heckle him too much, just laugh at his life in a cage like the rest of them.

BMW 800GS is Almost Here

Don't you hate it when they know you? I got an email, spam really, from my local BMW motorcycle dealer (South Sound BMW) announcing that they just received their demo BMW F800GS bike. They even included some teaser shot of it being uncrated. I'm trying not to get all giddy about it myself, but I think it's too late. If the starts align I'll get my turn riding the thing, but even if I wanted one I don't think there'll be enough built to get one this year...maybe not even until mid next year. I'm not the only one giddy.

Aprila Mana, Yes, Bike Me.

I don't know what Mana means, and I'm not sure what Aprila's new tag line is about "Bike Me", but Aprila, go ahead and Bike Me because I really want an Aprila Mana 850. If you don't know the Aprila Mana 850 is the kind of bike that I can run at the mouth about, even to non bike types. Sure, I've got a soft spot for the standard bikes, as they're not like the glam rock super bikes, or gay biker Harleys, they're the to wheeled everyman. The go to work, do what's asked and then come home to do it again the next day. What's great about the Aprila Mana is it's innovation. I'm hoping we're seeing new ideas lurch forward into acceptance. I can't wait to drive one and confirm if my theories are correct, or not. My friends, what we have here is what I think is the perfect city commuter bike. CVT? Room for your lid? No clutch or neutral? All hail Aprila. UPDATE: There's a new Mana only site from Aprila here.

Silver Surfer

Robert Frank once talked about what's between the pages that made his photographs. It's what's between the moments that makes the ride. The pinnacles of slicing the corner, or elation for a perfect U turn, or all that definitive moment stuff are all important. But there is a moment of nothing that's everything. Once you realize it's there it starts to shatter and flake away, but while you have it there is perfection. Doing nothing, feet planted on the pegs, body balanced on itself, traffic moving aside and the machine pulling you quickly forward across miles of concrete unencumbered by anything except yourself. There's the moment.

Donut Dominator

I chatted with a motorcycle cop today, about his bike, his training, his attitude when riding. They undergo 2 week of skills training to ride as proficiently as they do. I only took an MSF course for two days. He riding philosophy was solid, it was all about respect. He rides assuming his sergeant is watching, he rides assuming he's the lone representative of the Seattle PD, he rides with respect for the road and other drivers. I'll subscribe to that philosophy. Good on ya motorcycle cop.

Kawasaki Concours vs Yamaha FJR

Is it me or did Kawasaki just give up on innovation and copy the Yamaha FJR with their new Concours 1400 sport touring bike? Admittedly I'm a big fan of the porky FJR, but want the rising tide to lift all boats, and just wished Kawasaki would have let the Concours 1400 bake a little bit more. After all, it is panacea bike class, the Lexus of motorcycles From what I hear the new Honda VFR 1000 should be something impressive, but what VFR hasn't been?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Pictures Surface

A bit of fascinating news over on The Kneeslider motorcycle blog recently. There are pictures to go with the famous book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Nicely laid out here with the caption and author's footnotes. Far different than the images I had in my head, but just as valuable and much more interesting.

Six Answers

Marcus Aurelies wrote about his six timeless observations on life. They're on the money, and also apply to riding.
Lesson #1: We Are Responsible for Our Own Experience of Life
Sure, they'll cut you off, signal right then turn left, but it's you, the rider, that's responsible for your safety on the road. How far do you follow? Do you always signal? Is your helmet black or yellow?
Lesson #2: Everything Changes
Never assume the road that you ride to work on everyday will be the same tomorrow. New pavement, a dropped bucket of wet paint in the lane, or the worst time ever for your side luggage to come open, everything changes. It's how we deal with it that matters.
Lesson #3: Live a Real Life
Fear no ride. You live a real life because you ride. You chose to ignore all the "my uncle died on a bike" stories and enjoy it, even if there is a risk. Its risk that gives reward.
Lesson #4: Be Grateful
Wave at the guy that let you squeeze into the lane. Be happy that you noticed the smell of fresh bread being baked on the ride to work today, be excited that you enjoy your trip to and from work because you're on two, very fast, wheels.
Lesson #5: Be Detached
So what if that minivan flicked you off. No big deal that the Harley guy just passed you in the bus only lane wearing only shorts and sunglasses. It's his choice. Focus on what you can affect.
Lesson #6: All Is Well
All is indeed well. You live in a country that gives you anything you want, anytime you want it. There is nothing to complain about if you are an American. Our system gives you the opportunity to change it. In the end, all is well. Life is good.

Spare Change

I think I'm in the minority with I say that I like the new Buell 1125 CR. I can overlook it's reputation for poor long term quality and it's jackhammer vibrations at a standstill for the bold styling. At some point we, as motorcyclists, have to embrace the new and cultivate our rapidly dying culture of individuality or we make a mockery of the ideas that we are at our core. Doing it your own way, not following the crowd, style, power, all these things are what every guy/gal on a bike is about at some level. You admit to it every time you strap a helmet on to ride to work, or participate in your "hobby". Kudos to Eric Buell for going big and taking a chance. I like the Buell 1125 CR. Screw you if you don't, go get back into your Honda Accord.

Electric Motorcycles

I'm calling out the big manufacturers, right here, right now. Hurry up with the good looking electric bikes, damit. With millions of R&D dollars, a short concept to production time and low material and build costs why haven't we seen more electric motorcycles? There's a niche market, as evidenced by Vespa purchases, for short trip high mpg vehicles, the Prius has become the cost no object symbol of eco pride, and even motorcyclists don't want to waste a drop of gas if they don't have to. I love my 4 cylinder sport touring rig, all 1300ccs of it, but I'd gladly ride a well designed electric bike back and forth to work if it was road worthy. The best of the breed, and it's a low bar right now, is the Enertia Bike from our neighbors to the South, Portland, OR. Consider how awkward the first American motorcycles were, created much in the same was as the Enertia, from guys with a good idea and some shade tree know-how and compare with what a 100 years of innovation will produce. Well, ok, Harley Davidson innovation has been on vacation for the last 60 years, with the remote exception of Buell, but all those other brands, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, heck I'll even throw in Triumph, you get the idea.

Big BMW 1200GS

I'm bias to BMW motorcycles, having owned a BMW F650GS myself just recently, but after test driving the fabled, exalted, and seemingly untouchable BMW 1200GS I'm not impressed. There, I said it. I refuse to follow everyone off the cliff and say it was god on wheels, because it wasn't, but boy did I want it to be. For close to $18,000 out the door it better be stunning. First, it was impressive in that the boys in Germany have done a lot of thinking about where to put the switches, how to position the rider, about what little thing that you've ever wanted on a bike shows up. But that's just it. There's too much going on. It's 100 butlers trying to make you happy at every bump, throttle, and corner. All talking at once it was white noise. It felt spongy, and wide. It was powerful, but not exciting power (I've ridden the BMW K1200R so I know the BMW boys can make power galore.). I was less than expected and without soul, and as I drove around the city, then on the highway I never was able to get what I wanted out of it. An odd duck it was. I wanted so bad to enjoy the ride and start getting the loan in place to call this legend my own, but the ride convinced me otherwise. The king is dead. That is, unless the BMW F800GS due out this fall as learned from the mistakes of the big daddy BMW 1200GS. My wallet still waits to see if the German boys out think themselves.

Lucky to Be

Today I wasn't fluid. I wasn't able to get in exactly the right gear, traffic was dense and I wasn't able to hold my lines, or my speed. Worst, there was a baseball game downtown, near my office, and like a moth to flame thousands of bad drivers swerved slowly toward the stadium, in my way, new to the neighborhood, jockying for their $20 parking spot. I'm sure some of them had bikes at home, that they were the people that ride with shorts, loafers and flame half helmets on Sunday afternoons. Most important, over all my inability to mesh with the machine and the traffic, I was excited. Everyday I get excited about my ride. It's good to ride.

Rolling Under

If I'm as still as the road will let me be, there'll be a moment when the lane, the cars, the scenery roll under me and I no longer move as I fly down the road. It's disorienting, but in a good way. I'm still and everything else moves around me. The bike sucks in each stripe one after another and what's behind me is gone, what's beside me is trivial and I move motionless. Me and the motor, a nuclear powered vacuum sucking the world into into our machine.

Corner Thinking

There's always something to focus on when riding. I rode home from work, across the bridge, and directly into the orange setting sun today. The long sweeping turn that connects the bridge to the highway was all zen. Sat up, air noisy and hitting my body, dropping into 3rd, not too much deceleration, keeping my body balanced and in place, starting to lean forward, I slid off the saddle to the right just a bit and pointed my chin toward the apex, looking around the faring. Entering the corner and feeling the bike tipping over and thinking of the inch of tire that was scrubbing microscopic pieces into the highway, adjusting the path, disappointingly, every second or so I pulled on the throttle just enough to exhale and push out of the curve and moderate the speed to merge into the new traffic.