Jan 29
Ha Ha Harley
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 01 29th, 2010| icon3No Comments »

One of the motorcycle Websites I frequent recently posted a link to what was billed as a “Classic Funny Harley Commercial.”
Classic? It certainly recalls the tired old stereotype of motorcycle riders. We see a couple in bed as a rider rolls up on his Harley. As the biker enters the house, the man in bed with the woman hides in the closet. The commercial ends with the “humorous” disclosure that the guy hiding in the closet is actually her husband. One supposes he is too intimidated by the biker to stand up for his marriage. As the woman married the other guy and warns him of the biker’s approach, it is reasonable to assume that her participation in the “affair” is coerced. That changes the dynamic from affair to rape.
As far as I can tell, this commercial was produced in South Africa and may have only aired there. I called the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. in Milwaukee to see if this was a legitimate Harley-Davidson commercial. I spoke with a lady who was unable to verify that it was produced by Harley-Davidson but said that as it used the Harley-Davidson logo, it was probably sanctioned by Harley. She said many Harley commercials are produced by dealerships that have permission to use the logo.
Really, guys? That’s the image you have of your customers? That’s the element you want to appeal to? The ad ends with the Harley Davidson logo on a black field with the word “Respect” under it. Respect is not the word that comes to mind when I view this commercial. Nor does it create in me a great desire to run out and buy a Harley.
If Respect is what a motorcycle company would like to have associated with its brand, then let me recommend another way. Imagine an intimidating leather clad-biker showing up and changing the environment with his physical presence, but in a positive manner. Instead of a rapist for your image, maybe use a B.A.C.A. rider.
Now that’s something I’d respect.

— Guy Wheatley

Jan 27
Book Review
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 01 27th, 2010| icon3No Comments »
Leather riding gear

Rebuilding the Indian – A memoir by Fred Haefele

Rebuilding the Indian – A memoir by Fred Haefele
As a relatively new biker with limited mechanical skills, I was able to identify with parts of Fred’s story. Like his Chaz, I too have an individual who has been my guide to responsible motorcycling, repair, and maintenance. I’ve also met an eclectic mix of characters through biking that I’m sure I’d never have met otherwise. I was less able to empathize with the idea of dealing with the cold weather in Montana, but still found those sections to be interesting reading.
The angst of becoming a father again after 20 years was far less entertaining. Haefele constantly distracts the reader from the bike restoration with side trips and flashbacks about his dysfunctional first marriage and the equally dysfunctional relationship with the children of that union. He also spends too many words on nonrestoration issues about his current marriage and finances. If the restoration of the motorcycle is supposed to be a metaphor for his life, then the connection is weak and uninteresting.
The gems of this book are the tales of treks to out of the way places to see unique and, often possibly dangerous, people, the search for elusive parts and agonizing over whether to take the less onerous road of reproduction parts. But like gems in nature, they are buried under a heavy burden, and rare and hard to find. But like the elusive gem stones found in nature, the ones in this book are worth digging for.
I learned things about Indian motorcycles, and about eccentric motorcycle enthusiasts. The book touches on the dichotomy of being a homeowner, husband, expectant father and a biker. A more skillful approach to this element would have turned a mediocre book into a classic of the genre.
As it is, it’s worth spending the few evenings it will take to read it.

— Guy Wheatley

Jan 24
Leather riding gear

Geared up for an early spring ride to the Magnolia Festival

I saw a helmet a few days ago that looked like the head piece of the Marvel Character, Iron Man. I told my son about it and he laughingly said that you could wear it with the Batman look-a-like motorcycle suit. I thought he was joking, but a quick search on the Internet and I found it. Superhero-inspired design isn’t the only variant on motorcycle gear. A rider was recently pulled over in Florida for wearing a helmet that looks like a Gladiator helmet. I’m not sure I understand exactly what statement somebody is trying to make by wearing some sort of costume while riding. To some degree, the bike itself is a costume.
The second I became a “biker,” there was something different about me. Not only in the way I thought of myself, but in the way other people thought of and treated me. Most of the people at work were surprised to see me on a bike. I’m the I.T. guy and I think most of my coworkers just thought of me as “the computer geek.” It was like I suddenly became somebody else.
One of our sister papers was temporarily without tech support, and I was filling in. This required several trips to the site about 90 miles away. During this time, my wife and I rode the bike over to the same town for a weekend festival. We were sitting at a table with some of our riding friends, all dressed in leather riding gear,when I noticed one of the ladies I’d been working with at another table. I gave a friendly wave and said “hi.”
The lady gave me a strange look and a standoffish nod. For a moment I thought I’d mistaken somebody else for her, but looking again I was fairly sure it was the person I thought it was.
“You’re name is Mary isn’t it?” I asked.
“Yeeesss,” she responded in a low leery tone.
“You work at the paper?” I continued.
Another slow, drawn out “yeeeess.”
“I’m Guy.” I finally said.
For about a second she continued to stare with a blank, uncomprehending gaze. Then she made the connection and her demeanor completely changed. I’d love to have heard the conversation with her coworkers the following Monday.
Don’t look for me in a Batman suit. The chaps and the jacket are costume enough.

— Guy Wheatley

Jan 20
New American V4
icon1 Guy | icon2 Wrenching | icon4 01 20th, 2010| icon32 Comments »

An exploded view of Motus’ KMV4 engine

It’s finally coming and it’s more than I could have hoped for. I always thought that you’d have to choose between classic style and performance. I must admit that the high-revving, high-tech, high-performance, multicylinder engines that I’d love to have in a bike don’t give you much in a classic, retro style. I always thought it would have to be one or the other. Oh the joy of being so wrong.
An Alabama company will soon introduce an American made sport-tourer featuring a V4 engine. Motus will use an engine called the KMV4 from Katech, Inc. This motor promises to deliver the oxymoronic properties of the latest technology and retro design. It’s a V design with overhead valves and pushrods. The camshaft is nestled in the V in a design reminiscent of the classic Chevy short block engines of the ’70s. But this ain’t your daddy’s engine. With 100-cubic inch displacement, it may still produce 140 horsepower from the innovative Gasoline Direct Injection.
But for all of the promise this engine holds, at the moment it’s only promise. As of this date, it has not been mounted in a bike or road tested. Keep an eye out here for future blogs on this innovative bike. I can hardly wait to get real-world reports. I’ve also got a few suggestions about the bike I’d like to see this thing power.

— Guy Wheatley

Jan 15

Columbanus of Bobbio

In a ceremony that took place in the Italian town of Bobbio a few years ago, the Vatican officially endorsed Irish St. Columbanus of Bobbio as the patron saint for motorcycling. I don’t know much about how a saint is selected to be patron for a particular activity. St. Columbanus was born in 543, so I doubt he was a biker himself. So why this individual? It may have something to do with the man principally behind the push. England’s biker bishop, John Oliver.
A man of the cloth, the good bishop is also a man of leather. In sport-bike dominated Europe, he rides a Harley as well as Euro-sport bikes. He is also an outspoken advocate for ecology, calling for “radical lifestyle changes.” It’s very likely this motorcycle-riding tree hugger has been the cause of more than a little ecclesiastical indigestion. And so was St. Columbanus.
Born in Ireland, Columbanus was harassed by the ladies, irresistibly attracted to him, to the point that he fled the country. He rattled around Europe for the next few decades, leaving disjointed noses among the clergy and royalty until settling in Bobbio. King Thierry of Luxeuil had him forcibly placed on a ship to be returned to Ireland. A strange storm came up and blew the ship back to the continent, frightening the captain into releasing Columbanus and his crew. One of the miracles attributed to him was the multiplication of two loaves of bread and a little beer for 60 brethren. This is probably why he is remembered with a “Feast Day” every Nov. 23.
So what is the connection between a 5th century monk, a 21st century bishop and everyone who’s thrown a leather clad leg over a bike? Maybe a little rebellious spirit.

Jan 7
icon1 Guy | icon2 Wrenching | icon4 01 7th, 2010| icon32 Comments »

I’m going to tell you everything I know about engine oil.
Exxon 10w-40. There. That’s it.
That’s what Dad used in his cars. All of them if I remember right. It came in a blue-colored can made of cardboard with a metal top you opened with a can opener. He also used it in the garden tractor, lawnmower and tiller. I’m not sure he didn’t also cook with it. He did make a concession when it came to our 2-cycle outboards, pouring in some blue-colored concoction that made them smoke like the dickens. But as far as motor oil goes, it was Exxon 10w-40. So, when ever the dipstick came up a little dry on any of our vehicles, I’d run out and get some Exxon 10w-40 and pour it in.
The first time a vehicle I purchased needed an oil change, I took it to one of those places that do oil changes.
“You wanna keep Prestone 5w-30?” the guys asks.
I’m momentarily stunned. We’re talking about motor oil and at no time did I hear the phrase, “Exxon 10w-40.”
“That’s what the manufacturer recommends,” the guy offers into the uncomfortable silence.
Now for all I know the manufacture may recommend pancake syrup. For some reason it never occurred to me check out this little tidbit of information before hauling the car out for an oil change. I can feel my testosterone level dropping by the second.
“Yeah, that’s what I want.” I grunt before I wind up an alto.
Years later I attended a motorcycle wrenching session with some of the guys I ride with. Most of them were doing things like jetting their carbs or changing their fork seals. As we were meeting in a garage, and the guys were holding tools, I didn’t let the words “forks” and “carbs” fool me into to thinking this had something to do with cooking. I elected to tackle something I could do with minimal help. Change the oil.
This meant I had to go out and buy some to put back in the bike. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a little sticker that told me what kind the last guy used, the way I often can on my car. So I casually asked one of the guys what oil he used. At this point I discovered an interesting fact about motorcycle oil. In a room with 10 bikers, there will be at least 11 opinions about oil.
Both my bike and I survived the experience. I now do the oil in all of my vehicles and decided to learn a little about oil. Wow! I had to learn a lot just be be ignorant. Fortunately there is a lot of information available on the Internet. I started out reading the multitude of threads about oil on the numerous motorcycle forums I belong to. There are undoubtably a lot of smart people giving out good information there, but I couldn’t tell the difference in the good advice and the bad.
I did find a site I like. Motorcycle Info It’s produced by the guy who owns California Scientific. I’d characterize him as a fairly bright fella who’s also a pretty decent writer. I don’t think you’ll see anything on his site turned into a major motion picture, but it is entertaining and informative.
If I keep improving my mechanical skills at this rate, I’ll be pretty good by the time I’m 150.

— Guy B. Wheatley