Apr 10
Two wheels
icon1 Guy | icon2 Bikes | icon4 04 10th, 2009| icon31 Comment »

April 10
A few years back, I bought a sail boat. It was a little 22ft Venture with a 10 horse kicker and retractable keel. This was a few years after Dennis Conner won the America’s Cup race with his boat “The Stars and Stripes.” The Stars and stripes was a catamaran, or a boat with two hulls. Many thought that Dennis’ win was unfair because he wasn’t in a single hulled boat. In fact, the rules were changed before the next race.
While I never subscribed to the idea that he cheated, I did approve of the rule change. To me, a sail boat is at it’s best with a single wineglass shaped hull. The very “problems” the cats are supposed to cure are the very things that attracted me to sailing. Roaring along on a beam reach, and healed over with your gunnel in the water, is sailing on a level cat drivers will never know.
Now that I’m riding motorcycles, strangely I find myself facing almost the same aesthetic assault. The motorcycle world is being invaded by a plethora of machines that have more than two wheels. Yes, trikes and quads have been around for some time, but previously trikes were custom machines converted from a two wheeled bike in somebody’s garage and quads were off road machines primarily used by hunters and farmers. More recently third party companies began offering trike kits for production bikes and the number of trikes began to increase. Now there are companies offering production machines with three wheels like the Can-Am Spyder Roadster.
These machines have their followings and there will be more and more of them on the roads. As for me, sail boats should have one hull and motorcycles should have two wheels.

– Guy Wheatley

Apr 9

How cold is too cold? As the weather makes a less than smooth transition from winter to spring, that’s a question I find myself wrestling with some mornings. I’ve heard that a local club has what they call the 50/50 rule. If there is a 50% chance of rain, or it’s colder than 50° they don’t ride.
I’m barely 10 blocks from work, so I can get by with a little more bravado than some. When I got my first bike several years ago, I made it a point to ride it to work unless there was a force 5 hurricane or worse. Cold didn’t figure into it. I discovered that if I dressed warm and rode at a reasonable speed, the 10 short blocks from my house to the paper was easily bearable under any conditions Northeast Texas could throw at me. My coworkers egged me on a little by always asking if I was on the bike. Some questioned my sanity while others praised my fortitude. I’d even ride through a light sprinkle.
One fine January morning I woke to temperatures in the teens. Sure it was cold, but we hadn’t had rain in weeks so I knew the roads would be ice free. This was a real opportunity to demonstrate my stup….. eh ..fortitude..
I was on a little 250 Nighthawk in those days. I geared up and strapped a thermos of coffee to the sissy bar and headed out. I don’t remember the actual temperature that day, but I do remember that it was below 20°. I was going as slow as I could go and stay on two wheels. I didn’t want the air blowing over me any faster than absolutely necessary. Turns out to have been a good thing.
I rounded the post office on State line heading south. As I made a slow speed right off state line onto fourth street, the back tire suddenly came out from under me. There was just no traction and I went down like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I was barely moving so there was very little forward speed added to the impact as I hit the ground. And, thanks to the cold weather, I was well padded in layered clothing topped off by a heavy coat.
The top busted off my cheap thermos spilling steaming coffee all over the road. I was surprised to find it frozen into a thin layer of brown ice in a minute or less. As I reached down to pick up the bike, I almost went down again. My boots were slipping over a clear coat of glaze ice covering the road. No wonder I went down. Where the heck did it come from? We hadn’t had rain in weeks, but the entire lane was covered in ice for at least 40 feet. I gingerly pushed the little Nighthawk off the ice patch and eased the last block and a half to work.
That was the last of the cold weather for a while that year so it was several months before I again faced cold weather. The mystery of where the ice came from was cleared up a few days later as I followed some guy pulling a trailer with a water tank around the post office. The tank must have been empty by the time he got to where he was going because he was slopping gallons of it over the scene of my recent accident as he made a right onto fourth st. The moron must have made the same trip a few days earlier, just before I got there.
That was something of an epiphanal moment for me. Feeling that tire go out from under me made the concept of a wreck real to me. I also realized that there were factors outside of my control. This time it was a guy with a water tank. Next time if might be somebody’s sprinkler system. In that light the decision to ride in weather that cold seem more foolish than tough.
Years later, I now have a very different philosophy. I don’t ride to impress people. I ride for fun. And if it’s too cold to be fun, why bother?

– Guy Wheatley

Apr 8


I caught the tail end of a new show on HD Theater Monday night called, “Twist the Throttle.” It’s touted as being an eight part series about the greatest motorcycle brands in the world. This particular segment was about Honda. I wish I’d caught the whole show. I think it covered a lot of historical material about the company.
They showed the 1975 GL1000, or original Goldwing. I’m used to the Ultra Touring bike that is the Goldwing of today. An 1800 cc monster weighing in at almost 1,200 lbs with more electric convinces than found on the average family car. I’d have never recognized the sporty looking 999 cc little bike with the flat four engine, not a saddlebag in sight, and weighing in at a puny 602 lbs, as a Goldwing. Honda has certainly had an impact on the motorcycle world. It’s hard to understand how the company that produced the Goldwing has generally given up on power cruisers. Only the venerable Goldwing has survived the general halrlyfication of the rice burner brands. Gone are the Magna V-fours, the and the flat-six Valkyries. Nothing but V-twins everywhere you look.
What’s a V-four lover to do? Oddly enough, buy a Harley. OK, it doesn’t come with a stock V-four. But you can buy a V-four Harley type engine to go in it from a company called V-quad. These monsters produce 250 horsepower in a 215 cubic inch engine. That would be the equivalent of a 3500 cc engine in the metric world. Other than a Boss Hoss, is there another production bike out there with that much displacement?
With any luck, this will be a good seller, prompting Harley-Davidson to start offering stock bikes with the V-quad. Then, as Japan continues to copy Harley, we’ll eventually get a good Japanese V-four bike again.

– Guy Wheatley

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