Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Is Motorcycling Competence?

A friend of mine and fellow long distance rider, Steve Bracken, wrote this post to the ldriders mailing list.  I thought I'd share it here as it may be the best description I've ever read on what it means to be a competent motorcyclist.  It strikes home for me because I had 3 near misses today in a ride of about 20 minutes.  My awareness, a certain level of competence, luck, and my angel being on the job allowed me to miss all 3 drivers with their heads shoved up by their hemorrhoids.  Here is what he posted:
With the current vogue for discussing "competence" I would like to share a
few thoughts that may amuse a few, entertain a few more, but hopefully
resonate.

My motorcycle license plate backer declares that the rider of this machine
is one of "The Worlds Toughest Riders". It is, not to put too fine a point
on it, complete bollocks.

I am not tough, not in flesh nor attitude. I am a slightly prickly, a bit
anal, but soft-centered, 54 year old husband and father. I bruise when I
fall and cry when emotionally distressed. I am typical of my breed.

If I have what could be described as "a quiet determination", then
generally I keep it to myself. No one but me knows what resources I bring
to bear to stay on a motorcycle for hour after hour. You probably do it too
if you are reading this, but what you do is personal to your own
circumstances, and no one else knows what they are. Sure we get together
occasionally to tell lies, drink beer and generally behave like teens at
Prom Night, but we all live in our personal spaces, and the lies are the
lies, and the Prom Queen is the Rally Master!

I have ridden motorcycles since I was 16 years old, legally, and a bit
before that without telling my Dad. As a teen and young man I admired my
friends, who lied about "getting their knee down", pulling wheelies and
other feats of daring-do that I never quite managed to master; and never
really tried that hard. Have I ever sullied a knee-slider? Well yes,
several times, including a couple of occasions where it wasn't actually
planned.

There was a time when I believed it reasonable to occasionally do stuff
like that on the public highway. Indeed, if you ask Troy Martin he will
tell you that I can still get the devil in me, if traffic on a Dallas
freeway is deliberately trying to keep me from a timely rally finish! But a
ten mile sprint, while it can be fun, is not the way I approach the tricky
business of keeping out of trouble on modern, cellphone plagued, roads.

"Approach the corner still accelerating on wide open throttle. Pick you
braking point, move to the outside then brake on the limit of adhesion.
Nail the apex, straighten up then hard back on the gas. Rinse and repeat".

This will get you around the track pretty quickly. If you do it better than
the others, for twenty laps, then you will win a Moto-GP. If you do it on
the road, you will likely die. So if you want a Track Day, then book one
and go play. It's fun.

On the road my only ambition is to get to my destination in one piece, and
in a timely manner. If I can do that without incident then I am happy. We
talk sometimes about speed, about techniques and styles, and those
conversations inform us all. We each bring what we can to make the next
journey, one of five miles or five thousand miles, as safe for our friends
as shared information can make it.

So on the road I go slow into corners, wait until I can see the exit,
straighten up and fast out. It reduces lean angles which, if you have seen
my bike, is a good thing. The dynamics of riding tell me that I could go
round faster, and do so easily. I could carry a little more speed in, lean
quite a lot further and the forces involved would take me through quite
safely until .....

Until my back, or heaven forbid, front wheel hits the patch of diesel,
thoughtfully left there by the last 18-wheeler with an over-filled tank
went around the bend before me ... or until I hit the patch of gravel
washed to the outside of the bend ... or until I get to the apex of a tight
turn then spot the stationary vehicle, cyclist, or deer and have completely
run out of safety margin. Well you get the drift.

Two weeks ago I left home for a two day ride that was scheduled to be just
short of two thousand miles. Not a particularly remarkable ride in this
company, but we should always keep a sense of perspective. That ride, to
everyone outwith our small group, is insane! Really? Two thousand miles on
a motorcycle in 42 hours? Are you fucking nuts??

I probably am nuts. We might all be nuts. Yet I am also a nut who is
painfully aware of his own mortality. That we do a dangerous thing, even if
the risks are calculated, is not lost on me. There is always a small part
of me that is a bit scared of the ride, at least beforehand. Those
butterflies of anticipation as you are about to embark upon an
extraordinary (at least to others) task.

Before every Long Distance Ride, a small part of me doesn't want to go.

It's that part, I believe, that brings me safely back to my family. It's
the collective and personal knowledge of the dangers and the risks that
ultimately means that I only use one of the dual compounds engineered into
my tires. I like that the softer compound is there, it's my safety margin,
but if the moulding nibs remain when the tire is worn out, then I am
pleased that I just rode ten thousand careful miles that mean I am still
around to ride ten thousand more.

I know it's not this simple. I am aware that many of the dangers can be
influenced by chance, or factors not within our direct control. But we do
what we can to improve the odds, we owe that much to those who love us.

This is simply one man's approach. I don't suggest that anyone else need
feel bound by it, nor even informed by it if that philosophy is not for
you. Just add it to the collective, and make it to the finish, wherever you
are going.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Podcast launched

We posted our first episode of Long Riders Radio today at Long Riders Radio  Hope you give it a listen and tell us what you think.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Birthday to Bridget The Beemer

2 years ago today, on Friday the 13th of April, 2012, I purchased Bridget, my 2012 BMW R1200 RT motorcycle.  Since then, we have taken some great roads to places I've never been before.  Among those trips, Highway 1 and 101 in California along the pacific coast, Beartooth Pass (3 times), Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Big Bend National Park, and many others.  We've also ridden countless 2 lane roads in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas.  We've also ridden to visit my daughter, son in law, and grandkids in Wyoming at least 4 times.  My daughter won't let them ride yet but they got to set on the bike.  Maybe when they're 40 or so.  She has always performed great and been a lot of fun to ride.  Here are a few of my favorite pics from our first 2 years together.






I've promised her we'll still be together when she hits 100K on her odometer, she just keeps getting better the longer I ride her.  So Happy Birthday Bridget, let's go ride.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Tour Of Honor

I got up this morning and rode down to Ardmore for a Tour of Honor stop.  There were some thunder storms dancing around in south Oklahoma but they all moved off to the east before my arrival.  Here is the memorial in Ardmore.
After Ardmore, I rode over to Durant and had lunch with a retired postal friend of mine, Terry Brooks , who retired as the Postmaster of Ardmore.  I enjoyed visiting with him and his wife, Renee, who was kind enough to bring us lunch.  After the lunch stop in Durant, it was a short ride over to Atoka for a visit to the memorial there on Highway 75.  Here's a pic of it.
The last stop on the list for Oklahoma this year is in Owasso and I started to ride on up there today but came on home instead.  I'll visit it next week and stop in to visit a long distance riding friend, Steve Bracken.  I'm going to interview him for a new podcast a friend and I are starting called Long Riders Radio, stay tuned for more info on our first episode.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 Tour of Honor

The 2014 Tour of Honor began today and runs thru November 30th.  I have ridden to the Oklahoma sites the last 2 years and was the 2nd person to ride to all 7 last year.  I rode to 4 of the sites today.  This is a great way to honor those who have served in our nation's defense and I have the honor of being the state sponsor for this year's sites.  I rode to 11 different sites earlier this year and submitted pictures along with GPS coordinates for each location.  Each state has 7 sites selected and those in Oklahoma are spread out enough to take a rider thru various parts of the state and some good riding.

I began the ride this morning with 2 friends, Mark and Tom at Veteran's Park in my hometown of Moore, OK.  This park was heavily damaged last year by the tornado and while the memorial is back in place, there is still ongoing construction on the rest of the park.  As you can see, the day dawned dark and gloomy with temperatures in the 40's and a strong north wind.

Our next stop was the small town of Minco, OK.  I submitted this site not only for the memorial but for Minco police officer Mycal Prince who was killed while serving in the Army National Guard.  His police dog was later adopted by his family.  The flags weren't up yet today when we made our stop.
After Minco, we hit Highway 152 west and Hwy 6 north to Elk City, OK.  This memorial was recently completed in the cemetery just north of town.  To my disappointment, the BBQ restaurant was closed so we settled for one of the most poorly managed, filthiest McDonalds I have ever been in.  The north wind was sweeping down the plains in western Oklahoma today.
Mark had to leave us at Elk City so Tom and I continued on to our last stop at Seiling, OK where we ran into 2 other riders on 3 wheelers who were also riding the Tour of Honor.  I really like the memorial in Seiling.  It's almost a full city block with a mural and some surplus military equipment.  Almost dropped the bike getting it into place on the sidewalk but managed to save it.
After Seiling, we rode back east and I parted ways with Tom in Watonga.  It wasn't the best riding day weather wise but I've ridden in a lot worse, at least it was dry.  Of course when I pulled in my driveway, the sun came out.  4 of the 7 Oklahoma sites have been visited and the pictures submitted, I'll get the other 3, Ardmore, Atoka, and Owasso, later this week.  If you haven't signed up for the Tour of Honor, it's not too late and it's for a good cause.  Here is a little map of today's ride taken from Spotwalla with my iPhone app SWConnect.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Looks Like Spring Has Sprung

We've had several good days the last couple of weeks and in my opinion, not that tough of a winter here in Oklahoma.  Sure, we had some cold weather and some freezing stuff fall once in a while but no major snowstorms and even in the coldest of weeks, an occasional warmer day appeared.

It's amazing how my 2012 R1200 RT is pretty comfortable to ride in colder weather.  As long as the roads don't have any slick stuff on them, you can can ride it and while it may not be pleasant, you can stay warm enough not to suffer if you dress right.  It also has heated grips and seat that are nice to have.  Speaking of the RT, she's coming up on her 2nd birthday and rapidly approaching the 53, 000 mile mark.  I've got a service appointment on the 22nd to get new tires and oil change.  I was going to start  doing my own basic maintenance but since she needs tires too, I'll get all of it done at the dealer this time.  The more I ride this bike, the more I like it, if they make a more comfortable touring bike that is as fun to ride as it is, I don't know what it would be.  The new 2014 model RT is water cooled and pretty tempting but I promised myself I would try to ride this one for at least 100K miles before getting another one.

Speaking of other ones, my 2014 F800 GS Adventure is for sale.  I've listed it a couple of places and am in no big hurry to sell it but I've realized that my style of riding is better suited by the RT and I'll probably never use the GS to it's fullest potential anyway.  I like the bike and it is fun to ride, especially since I put a California Scientific wind screen on it that solved by buffeting problem.  My loss will be someone's gain since I'm taking quite a hit on it versus what I paid for it 2405 miles ago.  Here is a pic of how it's set up and it's priced at $14,750, if you know anyone looking for one, I'd appreciate it if you send them my way.

I've managed to get it quite a bit of riding the last couple of weeks and making several of the bonus locations for the Big Money Rally . As I mentioned last post, the first list of locations includes a list of libraries and courthouses.  The courthouses are those where the county name is the same as a former President.  Here I am in front of the Garfield county one in Enid, OK.
Motorcycle riding in Oklahoma, as well as a lot of other places, involves a lot of riding in strong wind.  This week's rides have been no exception with winds ranging from 10 mph or so and gusting up to 40 mph.  Ron, Mark, Tom, Chris and I rode Tuesday and the wind was really tough riding west across to Medford from Perry.  I can usually just lean the bike into it a bit and ride but when it starts jerking your head around that ceases to be fun pretty quickly.  But the good news is I've gotten pretty used to riding in the wind and if I waited for a calm day, I'd get about 10 rides in a year.
It won't be long before March rides out like a lamb and hopefully we'll have some April showers to end the drought here in Oklahoma.  With my new Michelin PR3 tires I'm getting next week and good rain gear, I'll be ready to ride.  There's no better smell on a motorcycle than just after a rain on a ride in the country.

As I've mentioned before, I am somewhat of a gadget geek.  One new thing I've been using lately is an iPhone app called SWConnect .  This app allows you to track the route you ride and then review or share it from Spotwalla .  It also allows you to post different messages along the route so someone can follow along and see how you're doing.  It doesn't offer the emergency help message sending like a Spot device does but it's a pretty nice way to track your rides and it's free in the app store. As an example, here is a 306 mile ride that Ron and I took yesterday.

So it looks like spring has sprung and I hope you get some good riding in, I certainly plan to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January Riding

The weather in Oklahoma can be iffy at best.  For example, Oklahoma City schools were closed Friday due to extremely cold temperatures of 5 degrees with sub zero wind chills.  Saturday, it was sunshine and highs in the middle 60's.  I've been able to ride quite a bit and have been spending most of my riding time on my BMW F800 GS Adventure I bought back in October.  You're definitely out in the wind a lot more on this bike than my RT but that's been helped some with the addition of a Laminar Lip .  The lip helps solve the buffeting problem and moves the air flow higher up as I ride.  I wish it was a couple of inches taller but it definitely helps.  Here is a pic of it installed on the bike. 
Missy has given it her seal of approval as well. Speaking of Missy, this is just her 2nd ride this year.  She had her right eye pop out of the socket on December 11 and had to have surgery to fix it.  Fortunately, she's back to her normal self now and seems to have full sight in it.  We're taking it easy so far with just short rides around Lake Draper or down to Starbucks.
I've  never been too thrilled with group rides but this year I've been on a couple of rides with some fellow BMW owners, Tom, Mark, and Ron.  We started the year off right with a New Year's day ride and have ridden 3 or 4 other rides so far.  We all seem to have similar riding styles and it's nice to talk motorcycles with fellow riders.  One of our recent rides was to Medicine Park and Mt Scott, 2 of my favorite places to ride in Oklahoma.  Here's a pic of Tom on top of Mt Scott.
He's holding my placard for the 2014 2014 Big Money Rally .  The rally is all done online by submitting photos from various bonus locations around the country.  Some locations include designated libraries, county courthouses with former president's names, and other places.  It's been fun so far and a good reason to ride to places I might not visit otherwise.
I had the misfortune of having my 2nd flat tire of the year on the GS yesterday.  I was riding with Tom, Mark, and Steve and we had just gotten to El Reno.  As I turned a corner, the bead broke on the rear tire and I almost lost it.  Fortunately, a nice retired Marine lived right across from where I had the flat.  He let me park the bike at his place so I could take the wheel off and go get a new tube put in.  Tubed tires are a real pain to repair.  When I finally got the bike home, I ordered the stuff I need to be able to make a roadside repair in the future from Best Rest Products along with a couple of spare tubes.  Maybe if I carry this stuff with me all the time, it will ward off any more flat tires and if not, at least I'll be able to fix it myself.
Winter weather is supposed to blow back in tonight with a high tomorrow in the 20's so it looks like the bikes will stay parked most of this week.  I'm not complaining though, any chance to ride in January is good and we've had several nice days this year.