Nov 20

I was scouting some roads last weekend with some friends for an event scheduled for next summer. We were evaluating roads for smoothness and for the fun factor. We had several routes to get from waypoint to waypoint and were looking for the most fun ride.
As I looked at the countryside, I began to think about the way it has changed. I recently read “Across America on a Motor Bicycle” by George Wyman. It chronicles his journey from San Francisco to New York City in 1903.
Wyman made the 3,800 mile trip on a 1903 California Motor Bicycle. It weighed 90 pounds and its little 30cc engine produced 1.5 horse power. Fortunately, it could also be peddled. He crossed the Sierra Nevada using railroad beds, as there were no roads for that portion of the trek. The roads that were available were mostly impassable because of rains durring his travels. He used rails beds for more than half of his journey. While he rode the machine under power for much of the way, he also peddled it and walked it for may miles.
I thought of George Wyman as I rolled over modern asphalt roads on my 1500cc cruiser. Somehow the occasional bump or pothole didn’t seem so disastrous.

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— Guy B. Wheatley

Nov 13

My first bike was a little, 250cc Honda Nighthawk I bought new from the dealership. Soon after I got it home, I discovered it was hard to get into neutral while the engine was running. It would just jump over neutral going from first to second, or second to first. As it was a new bike I took it back to the dealer to get that fixed. I found the guy who sold me the bike and told him about the problem. He said, “It’s supposed to do that.” This sounded suspiciously like the old IT line of, “It’s a feature, not a bug.”
“It’s supposed to be hard to get into neutral?” I asked the guy, making no attempt to hide my incredulity. “What’s the point of that?”
“Well,” the guy explains, “You don’t want to be in the middle of an intersection, staring at an oncoming 18-wheeler, and hit neutral trying to go to second.”
I wasn’t totally convinced, but I left without having them tear into my transmission. That was several years ago.
I was making a long left turn a few days ago at a large, multilane intersection. I indulged in one of the bad habits I’ve allowed to develop and upshifted with the bike in a peg scraping lean. Or a least that’s what I meant to do. What I actually did was pop into neutral. It’s amazing that such a small thing could change the situation so completely in less than a second. With no power going to the ground, and the bike leaned over, I had no control.
There are only two ways to stand a bike back up. Tighten the turn, or increase power. With the transmission in neutral, I couldn’t get power from the engine into the bike. I was already scraping the peg, so I couldn’t lean over any more to tighten the turn. Fortunately, the bike had enough centripetal energy to stay on its wheels until I could find a gear and get power to the back tire again.
The sales guy was right. It’s not a bug. It is a feature—one I don’t want to do without.

Nov 11
Swap meet.
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I went to my first swap meet Sunday. A friend had a spot and offered to let me take a jacket I’d bought before losing 75 pounds. I didn’t sell the jacket, and my friend didn’t make much, if any, money. But it was good experience anyway.
I didn’t see many people swapping parts, but I did see a lot of folks swapping advice, stories and good times. I also got to see some unusual bikes. It was better seeing them this way. They weren’t lined up in a bike show, but just sitting at a vendor site or in the parking lot.
Even though it didn’t appear to be a huge financial success, I heard a lot of people talking about making it a regular event. I hope they do. It was fun, and I think that as time goes by and people get used to the idea, it will start bringing in money.

blog-111109

— Guy B. Wheatley

Nov 4
Dirty Riding
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In general, you can find almost any design of motorcycle your imagination can come up with. I’ve done blogs about bikes with big radial engines, electric engines and even one with a jet engine (technically a gas turbine engine). But these were all unique, hand-made machines with limited production. None of them had a sport built around them.
I happened to catch the FIM Speedway races a couple of days ago. I can promise you that if you’re just flipping through channels and come across something like this, you’re going to stop and watch for at least a few minutes.
FIM stands for Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, or International Motorcycling Federation. It is the body that regulates the motorcycles and track used in the race.
Here are some interesting specs:
They can’t have engines larger that 500cc.
They burn methanol.
They must weigh at least 170 pounds.
They can have only one gear.
They can’t have brakes of any kind.
They run on a dirt track anywhere from 850 feet to 1,500 feet long and at least 33 feet wide.
More specs at Wikipedia
OK, now get your mind around a 170-pound, methanol-burning, 500cc motorcycle that can’t gear down, ripping around a 33 feet wide dirt track. With no brakes. And other motorcycles.
Sounds like a recipe for excitement to me.
These bike spend much of the race at a 90˚ angle from the direction of travel. They have a dirt shield over the rear tire to reduce the spray of dirt and gravel. To my eye, these are strange looking bikes with a strange riding style.


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— Guy Wheatley