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Wednesday, June 26, 2013


And now on with the show.

Kimmie roared to life the other night, yes roared.  I could just hear her say, in the petulant voice of a pretty Korean girl..."I need to go further, I need speed.  I need the open road.  It's been so long since we gone on a long ride!"

Perhaps it's the summer weather but I have gotten tired of the daily commute.  I am up for an adventure, I, crave something different.  I've been reading blogs like Road Pickle, Riding the Wet Coast and Scoot Commute,  I envy their tales of long trips and adventures and just doing something different for a change.

I suppose every rider experiences that need in their life to just keep going, to see what's down the road and around that corner.   In our case I've been thinking about a ride to St Augustine.  Sue and I visited recently but traveled by car with my family.  The idea of taking the bike there has appealed to me for some time.  I know that Kimmie will hold a overnight bag without issue, so a weekend trip is within grasp.  I feel ready to make such a trip.  I suppose given enough time I'll want to travel the country.

Only two issues.  I don't have any (unplanned) vacation time left this year, so  it needs to be next year.  Susan has been using my jacket and back up helmet so we still need to get her proper gear.  Plus she is not feeling comfortable behind me.
She has confidence in my ability, but I am a full foot (0.30 m) taller than her.  So she sees nothing but the back of my helmet (and I refuse to ride without a helmet).  At a little over 200 pounds (90.7 kilos) I'm very good at blocking air flow.  So she's hot, with pins in her back from a car accident in her teenage years she needs to sit a certain angle to be comfortable.  That may not be possible on the bike.  Funny how you learn new things about someone you have been with for a long time.  I've a feeling we will be doing more 2-up riding in the fall and winter when the temperatures fall to a much more manageable degree.  Now that I'm used to having her back there, I can't imagine riding without her.

Kimmie quotes Keiichi Sisawa in my ear:   I would think that a motorrad's purpose in life is to go places isn't it?  The traveler's purpose in life is to travel.  - from Kino no tabi.  "Let's go." she whispers.   I turn the throttle and she purrs.  I think of Jack Kerouac “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

She whispers, demanding now...."Let's go for a ride"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Brotherhood of Two Wheels - Scooters and the biker's wave

I have a question for you as a scooter rider. Here in Ottawa I wave to anybody on two wheels but scooter riders never seem to wave back. What's up with that?

David Drouin, who maintains the excellent Motorcycle Addiction blog sent me an email concerning the so called "biker's wave."  It's one of those questions that pop up now and again on the various forums I frequent.  Scooters in most states require the same licensing, the same training as motorcycles.  Today many of the maxi-scoots are certainly as powerful as many motorcycles.  That line continues to blur as motorcycles are redesigned with automatic transmissions and internal storage.  So why don't we scooterists wave?

I generally wave at passing bikes, either the traditional motorcycle or a scooter.  Hell, I even wave at bicyclists...they are part of the brotherhood (and sisterhood) too.  Generally speaking I get a wave back - although there are those snobs that will only wave at a particular type of bike, or worse - a particular model.  Actually I have noticed that I tend to get a "one finger" wave as I pass certain types of bikes whose brand name I will not mention here.  David's question did get me thinking however, so I'm introducing a new series which I'm calling "The Brotherhood of Two Wheels."  Anything dealing with the perceived divided between the scootering and motorcycling community, anything that deals with helping out our fellow riders will fall into this category.

I really don't worry about if I don't get a nod or wave in return.  Frankly you never know what is going on in the other bikers world.  He could be concentrating on shifting, turning, safety, etc.  What really annoys me however is two things I've come across again and again.  The first is a arrogance, either real or perceived by those in the motorcycling community that scooter riders are not real "bikers."  Therefore we are not worthy of a wave.

For example, when I lived in Tampa proper there was a big motorcycle garage.  This was at the beginning of the scooter boom and they had a big sign hanging out front,  "WE DO NOT SERVICE SCOOTERS - DON'T EVEN BOTHER ASKING" 

It's been a few years since and to the best of my knowledge they still don't service scooters, which seems to be cutting off the nose to spite the face, after all scooters are the fastest growing segment of the motorcycling world.  Some forums, like (which I am a member of) have a section dedicated to scooters, but with the caption "If your secure in your manhood."  I know, it's meant to be funny.  It's not and again, shows a perceived bias against those of  us that ride "scooters."   That somehow we are not "real men."

I've been asked questions about my scooter.  "Is it street legal?"  "Can you ride on the highway with it?"  These questions often come from the non-riding public.  But I've been asked those same questions by "bikers" as well.

The second issue is the nature of scooters themselves.  I ride a maxi-scooter - generally defined as anything above 250cc.  Well I'm not a rarity; it's much more common to come across a smaller, slower scooter often in the urban environment putting along between 30 to 50 mph (48 - 80 kph).  Even as a scooterist myself, I've railed against these smaller cc machines.  For me it's an issue of safety.  If your top speed is only 45 mph your limited to what roads you can ride safely.

When I first started riding I had a Zuma 125.  My top speed was 55 mph (89 kph) and although I felt safe on the city streets, I was always looking about to make sure I was not going to get hit by some moron behind me.  Any two wheeled vehicle is invisible to most cagers.

Scooters are smaller due to their very nature.  So did I wave as often as I do now?  No, I did not.  Putting aside the safety issue however, we scooterists seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex.  I will admit to lying about what I ride at times because of perceived bias on someone's part.  I felt the sting of others scorn because I don't ride a "real bike."  Even my beloved girlfriend wants me to buy a "real bike" sometime in the future.   

Is it because we are underpowered for the most part?  Is it because popular culture recognizes the motorcycle and celebrates the "outlaw lifestyle" it represents?  How many shows and movies involved motorcycles?   Can you name one movie other than Quadrophenia that has scooters in it?  Even the quintessential American Graffiti  has a kid riding a scooter, who promptly crashes it in the opening credits.  At the end of the movie he is given a car.  Given these images it is any wonder why scooterists have an inferiority complex.

We have very little in the culture that celebrates the scooter.  American culture is about speed and power and going long distances.  Sure a scooter is going to go further, some of them are capable of nearly 100 miles on a gallon of gas...but to do so we have to give up speed and power.   Most Americans are not willing to do that.  So the scooter is "inferior."  Those of us that ride them are "inferior."

Finally, and sadly, I think most scooterists don't give the wave for one simple reason.  We don't know any better.  We don't get the wave, so we don't give the wave.  Give the wave.  Give a smile.

I'm going to continue to ride Kimmie in all types of weather and on all types of roads.  I will continue to wave at scooterists and motorcyclists.  Hell, I'm even waving at bicycles.  If I see an issue I'll pull over to offer what little help I can.  I'm a scooterist, I'm a biker, I'm a proud member of the brotherhood of two wheels.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Frustration leads to Serendipity

Frustration:  feelings of discouragement.

Serendipity:  finding valuable or agreeable things not sought after.

This last saturday I experienced both of those feelings.  Susan and I started riding two-up for several reasons, but one of the main ones is she wanted to explore the local area with me.  As part of the Equinox to Equinox rally I was visiting old cemeteries and  traveling all around the back roads coming back home with interesting stories and pictures of what exactly was out there.

We agreed to go exploring, planning to take a two hour and 60 mile ride to a few places I wanted to mark off my list.  The courthouse in nearby Dade City, the Muffler Man, a couple of cemeteries.  I had heard of an old ghost town nearby...well not really a ghost town but a town that used to have over 1000 people living there that now had less than 100, yet somehow managed to preserve it's early 1900's buildings.  As fans of history we had to see this!

First however we had some errands to run and breakfast to eat, so we climbed aboard Kimmie and took off.  We had no issues, not a care in the world as we started off on our journey.

Then Susan started to tap me on the shoulder, she forgot something at the house.  We turned around.   About an hour later we left again.  And turned around again as something else was needed or forgotten.   Another hour passes.  We are now into the heat of the hot for Susan to ride.  I'm on my own.

I've been looking for a way to map out my route and then have it transferred to my phone.  I have some earphones that I can plug in and listen to the GPS directions as I ride.   I head out, the voice in my ear tells me turn left, turn left, turn left...wait a second.     It seems to be stuck on one turn, refusing to advance to the next.   I try a different tack, inputting a new destination.   It searches for GPS.    It searches for GPS.  It searches for GPS.   I swear at it.  It finds GPS.

It loses signal.

Fuck it, where does this road go anyway?

I turn and start to head down a road I've never been on before.  It's a nice 2 lane road, heading into the wilderness that is central Florida.  I ride through farmland and past citrus tree, there are more than enough twisties to make it interesting.  I am the only bike on this road,  and I realize it's a hidden gem as I putt along at about 40 to 50 miles per hour.  It's a great road, no potholes, the curves well marked out.

I pull off here and there when something catches my eye, an old barn falling down or a baby calf grazing at the fence line.   I try to entice it with some flowers picked by the side of the road but it wants nothing to do with some strange man riding a noisy machine.

I ride some more, the smell of lavender off in the distance.  I turn a corner and see an old familiar sign.  I'm in the Green Swamp now.   The paved road gives out to hard scrabble but it's nothing that I've not ridden on before, Kimmie and I move forward, till the road were on dead ends at a small but well maintained little church and graveyard.

I ask permission of the dead to move my motorcycle close to the graves and take my photo.  Taking a few minutes to watch the various butterfly's float through the air.  It's peaceful here and I can understand why the Baptist Church seems to be in the middle of no where.

Off again now....through twists and turns heading home or at least in that general direction.  I cross an old wooden one lane bridge.  I worry about stopping in the middle of it, but I hear no fact I hear nothing but nature and the gurgle of the water below me.

I know now that I have to return to this road, this hidden gem.  I hope to bring Susan here, she would love the quiet and the view.  The flowers on the side of the road in their purple and golden glory.  I'm tempted to post something to the various forums I belong to.  Letting other bikers know about this find, this amazing remarkable road.  Then again it's my secret...and I'm reminded of the legend of  Brigadoon.

On the way home I was able to get a few historical markers out of the way.  So I was able to get some points towards the rally.   But the rally was an afterthought.  All I wanted to do now was ride.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Does the "Gearing Up Saga" ever end?

A few days ago at work a buddy of mine asked me how hot I was wearing my jacket every day.  I explained to him that I just bought myself a new mesh jacket that allowed for better airflow, and that lead to a little discussion about safety in general.  How wearing a jacket or a helmet just becomes habit, much like putting on a seatbelt.

At this time if you are still reading then good for you!  Hopefully this is NOT going to be a "boring safety post."

Well  maybe a little bit of safety.  I am going to review my new mesh jacket and talk a little bit about my future plans for Kimmie.  All of which, strangely, seem to revolve around safety issues.  I've already done more "farkles" on Kimmie than I ever did on the Burgie.  I'm counting the new seat as a farkle even though it was not planned that way.

  Ten years ago if you would have told me I would have fallen in love with Motorcycling (actually I'm a Scooterist) I would have thought you were nuts.  Five years ago I was giving it some thought, for the same reasons I started riding.  To reduce my costs and make my life simpler.  To a great extent it has.  Sometimes I pull next to a bus or some other reflective surface and I find myself wondering who is that guy in the dark helmet, the new grey and black jacket wearing the heavy boots is.   I've come a long way from the guy in the half-helmet wearing a bright yellow spring jacket with no armor at all.  No gloves, no boots.  Riding my little Zuma 125 down twisty roads in the middle of the night.  So paranoid of being hit from behind I would pull off the road at night to let cars pass me.

Today, on a bigger machine, I wear proper gear most of the time.  I will admit that I've gone to work on hotter days sans jacket (one of the reasons I bought the mesh jacket).  Or I've had a meeting sometime in the day where I've slipped on my dress shoes instead of my boots.

Now that Sue is starting to ride with me, we have been looking at jackets and a new and better helmet for her than the old half helmet she wears now. I only bought my new jacket at her insistence (Yes I'm that cheap!).  It's funny how suddenly having a passenger changes things.  Suddenly the lighted license plate I toyed with buying takes on more urgency.  Installing a air horn becomes less of an issue and moves up the "to do" list.

Well I certainly find the light modulation kits annoying when I ride, I can understand why others have them.  I'm not sure if I'm willing to annoy other drivers yet by buying one.  I am not so worried about the personalization of Kimmie as I am about making myself and my riding partner safer.

It's funny how that works.  How something originally intended to get me from point A to point B cheaply became something more.  How it inspired this silly little blog.  How it's taken me further and now I want to share that...that feeling of joy I have when I just go anywhere.

See I told you there wouldn't be to much safety talk in this post.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

An unexpected farkel (and a 2-up update)

See the tear in green?
When I bought Kimmie I didn't realize that there was a small tear in the seat cover.  It slowly got worse over time since it was on the seam, and although I considered it a minor annoyance I knew that I would  have to fix it eventually.   In talking to a few people that supposedly know about these things they felt it would be easy enough to take a fabric needle and nylon thread to stitch it together.

When the dealership decided to call me regarding a few things I posted on Facebook,  and in various groups I belong to (including one they sponsor) to resolve a previous issue, one of the things we agreed on was to fix the seat.   I was simply expecting them to replace the cover and not the whole seat.  So imagine my surprise when I get a new and  upgraded seat?

I'm still not happy with the way the company in question handled the whole situation, but frankly the seat goes some distance to resolve those issues.  I am not however rescinding my original comments.  I've worked in customer service and sales all my life in everything from engineering to banking.  I've trained salespeople for God's sake.  So if I feel I'm will know it.

So far I've only ridden about 50 miles on it (or 80.5 km) and am still trying to determine if I'm happy with it.  It seems a little less comfortable than the other seat did, and reminds me a lot of the previous Burgman seat - which had some issues.   I do like the backrest and that is a great improvement.  Only more miles will determine if it works for me.  Since there are no seams it's not going to tear, which is good.  The backrest seems to be adjustable, but I will have to take a closer look at that.

I also had a chance to drive over the Howard Franklin bridge twice on Kimmie.   I was very curious to see how she would handle the winds of the bay, since I was severely punished for it on the Burgman before.  It was fine.  Not a single issue to be had, but I still don't like driving highways.

Although we got pounded by the first tropical storm of the season this week and last Susan and I did manage to get some 2-up time.  So far just lazy rides around Zephyrhills and our community.  I took my time, being sure to take turns slow (but not to slow) and stay on the back roads.  Susan thoroughly enjoyed it and raved to all the Facebook friends about it.  I started to enjoy it once I realized how the bike was going to react and that I was not going to dump it.  Although in about an hour from now we are planning on going to dinner at one of our favorite places to eat and relax, and that will require me to drive in some heavier traffic, so we will see how that goes..  No, sadly it's not the Taco Bus but I did finally get a chance to eat there last week and enjoyed every second of it!

Until the next update, keep the shiny side up!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sloppy Seconds or "Rob doesn't really have a topic this week."

It's been one of those weeks where nothing got accomplished.  I got buried at work, the weather did not cooperate and the lovely Susan and I didn't manage to get our stuff together to start trying to ride 2-up.    We did make sure she was able to climb onto the back of the bike without difficultly but we haven't taken it out yet.

In fact, I've not ridden much at all in the last few days.  When I have however I've noticed something about myself and my riding technique.  I've become sloppy.  Not really coming to a full stop when making a right turn at a stop sign.   Looking down a bit when making a turn and not keeping my eye on what's ahead.  Racing through yellow lights.   

In other words, stupid.

I am not sure where or how I've picked up these bad habits.  What I do know is that I need to break them.  If something goes wrong when I'm riding solo that's one thing.  I am responsible for my own actions, my own life.  I've accepted that responsibility.  Riding with a passenger means that I am now responsible for their life as well.   With the additional weight of a passenger the bike will react differently.  Act differently.  It's simple basic physics.  I need to break those bad habits now.

The second thing we need to do it get the lovely Susan some gear of her own.  I have a secondary "back up" helmet which she can wear on our low speed trial runs around the neighborhood, but once we start heading out on the roads I feel a full face helmet for her is in order.  It's probably the safest option as well.  We have not talked about jackets yet but I would hope she go for some Hi-Vis.  

I would like to get this all accomplished before our second cruise on Celebration Cruise lines (and third cruise overall) to the Bahama's (which we have never visited).  Last year a local scooter group traveled to the islands and  zipped around the whole island on rented scooters.  Susan and I have done similar things on our other cruises, enjoying Cozumel for example in a rented jeep, but this is the first time I will be renting a scooter.  You can see a video of last year's ride here.

When the same group offered a great rate to go this year we jumped at the chance.  We are looking forward to exploring the islands.  My only concern however is other people.  The group we are riding with are all experienced riders, I'm sure the natives are familiar with their machines.  These are not the people that concern me.  I have watched enough You Tube video's of idiots on scooters to be concerned about people that don't know better being out on the streets of Nassau.

Finally I just want to remind everyone that the National Ride to Work Day will be here soon.