Feb 26
Custom paint job on savage.

Olive drab military design on a 1997 Suzuki Savage.

We’ve got some guys coming up from the Dallas area this weekend. These guys belong to the Magna Owners Of Texas (MOOT) forum. We actually have MOOTsters from all over the world. It turns out that the wrenching talent on this board is incredible and worthy of a future blog topic on its own.
Part of that talent resides here in Texarkana, and that is the draw for this weekend. We’ve got a local guy who’s a virtual Michelangelo with body putty and a Picasso with paint. So a lucky MOOTster with a new-to-him bike is journeying to see the master and get his bike painted.
So, what color? Well, these guys are riding high revving, multi-cylinder machines, so we need a fast color.
“What’s a fast color,” you ask. The short answer is red or yellow. And there is actually some scientific basis for such a claim. It turns out that red, orange, and yellow photons have longer wavelengths that allow them to travel slightly faster through air than colors with shorter wavelengths, such as green or blue. This only applies if you’re a photon, traveling close to the speed of light, but that’s just nit-picking. Besides I believe that some of the guys try to reach those speeds, so the rule still applies.
But science aside, there is a lot of friendly debate on the fastest color. Some like the hot colors, the reds and yellows, while other go for the cool ones, the blues, greens, and purples. I suppose it depends on whether you want your bike to look “Hot,” or “Cool.”
But which ever school you belong to, the paint must be applied with technical perfection. And that’s where the real magic lays.
I’ve read a lot about painting. It’s funny that I keep reading the same sentences about finishes from topics as diverse as polishing shoes, to building boats. A beautiful finish requires a lot of patience. Many thin coats, be it polish, paint, or resin, are superior to a few thick ones.
Prep, sand, paint. Prep, sand, paint. Prep, sand, paint. There’s just no replacement for that part of the formula. But this part also requires experience and talent.
There is more to preparing a surface than smearing on some filler and hitting it a few licks with coarse sandpaper. Getting the paint the right consistence to go on cleanly and smoothly also requires skill. You compound the issue greatly when you start using additives like pearl or metal-flake. Put that in a clear coat over a decal or an air brush design and it gets even more complicated.
Did I mention decals, air-brushing, and ghost flames?
After extensive reading and studying the subject, I’ve discovered the secret to a beautiful paint job. Call a MOOTster.

— Guy Wheatley

Feb 17
My Fantasy Bike
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 02 17th, 2010| icon3No Comments »
Victory Vision with KMV4 engine

My fantasy bike, a shaft drive Victory Vision with the KMV4 power-plant

As an older guy rumbling around on cruisers I’m not going to trying to hang with a bunch of busa riders. My Magna will do 140 mph. That’s about 60 mph of overkill. I don’t really need a lot of power, but I like knowing it’s there if I want it. I’ll admit to having some fun sitting on my little 750 cc bike as some guy with twice the displacement potato-potatoes up next to me, then leave him watching my tail light get smaller in the distance and wondering why his $20,000 machine can’t keep up with my $2,000 one.
My 1500 cc bike has plenty of power and, with the oil cooler, doesn’t overheat idling at stoplights in July. I can load it up with 600 pounds of riders and equipment and the bike acts like it doesn’t know we’re there. While I can still pull away from most bikes of the porcine variety, I won’t be leaving any Magnas or Valkyries at the stoplight. But I can load it up and maintain highway speed going up hill in the middle of summer without overheating. It delivers that power through a noisy V-twin. I’ve got mine muffled down to reasonable levels, but that just means I can hear the engine noise. I once described it as sounding like chains rattling around in an oil drum.
A bike that I think has beautiful body lines is the Victory Vision. I’d call the style future-retro. The bike looks futuristic with classic curves reminiscent of cars of the 1930s or 1940s. The exhaust pipes fit snuggly under the molded hard-bags giving the bike a sexy, curvaceous and wasp-waisted look. I’ll describe my reaction to it as pure lust. But that clunky V-twin sitting in its chest bothers me. This bike should purr before it growls. Think kitten, not pig.
I blogged a while back about the new bike coming from Motus. The thing that fascinates me about this new bike is the engine. Somewhat reminiscent of the Chevy short block engines of the ’70s this is still a high-tech power plant. It’s a 1650 cc V-4 that is expected to deliver up to 140 HP using gasoline direct injection as well as other advanced technologies. What’s more, Motus plans to mount it longitudinally on their bike, the same way a V-8 would sit in a car. The bike they’re designing is a sport tourer, though, so the ’70s muscle car look is muted.
So what if we took this powerful, high-tech, beautifully retro-styled engine and mounted it longitudinally in the high-tech, beautifully retro-styled Vision, with a shaft drive?

— Guy Wheatley

Feb 12
Mounting up

The missus getting ready to mount up.

Anytime we go somewhere for a weekend visit, the question of whether we can go on the bike runs through my mind. As you might expect the threshold for caging it, or going in the car, is higher for me than for my wife. It’s not a macho thing. She’s as willing as to face the elements as I am. To quote one of the weasels in the movie Chicken Run, “It’s a lady thing.”
I’m just not as worried that the hair I have left will be messed up or matted when I get where we’re going. And for me, a weekend outing requires one pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, underwear, and socks. My biking boots are black, and I keep them pretty well polished. They’ll pass as dress shoes if you don’t look too close. My tooth brush and a disposable razor don’t take up much room. I keep a travel size bar of soap, tube of toothpaste, bottle of shampoo, and cologne in a travel bag. My toiletries can go in a fanny pack and my clothes in a gym bag.
Not so for the lady of the house. If we take the bike, it will probably have to be a trip to see the kids or a very close relative. Somebody she is willing to visit with helmet hair, or someplace where she can wash her hair once we get there. And there are way too many factors that influence clothing to go into detail here. It’s a combination of whom we’re visiting, whether we’re going someplace formal while we’re there and weather.
We did take a week’s vacation on the bike one year, so it can be done. (Ride report and photos here.) It just requires some planning.
Another factor is route. In the years before my mother died, I’d run up to Cabot for an overnight stay. That’s about a 170 mile, 2–1/2-hour trip up I-30 from Texarkana. But if I’m going to be on the interstate, I’d just as soon be in the car. The whole point of the bike is to enjoy a leisurely ride over a scenic route.
My wife and I did make the trip on the bike a couple of times, following U.S. Highway 67 up as far as Benton. That’s a beautiful ride we thoroughly enjoyed, but it took almost 5-1/2 hours one way. (Ride report and photos here.) The main point of that trip was the ride. We just happened to visit somebody while on the ride instead of riding the bike to visit somebody. It may sound like semantics, but it’s actually an important distinction.
I just need my friends and relatives to move to locations that are more convenient for motorcycling.

— Guy Wheatley

Feb 8
Iron Bridge on U. S. Highway 67

Iron Bridge on U. S. Highway 67

There will be a lot of people on I-30 between Texarkana and Little Rock on any given day. If the goal is to eat up miles as fast as possible, then that is the best route. Highway 67 between Texarkana and Little Rock offers a very different travel experience than that found on I-30. Less than a mile to the east of the controlled access, four-lane corridor, a more leisurely and scenic journey awaits.
Before I-30’s construction in the 1960s, U.S. Highway 67 was the main route between Little Rock and Dallas. Most of the old highway remains between Texarkana and Benton. It’s amazing that these two roads, so close together can be so different. For one thing, taking the older route will add almost 2 hours to the trip. Google only calculates an additional hour-and-a-half, but that is actual rolling time. I say two hours because of the many stops you will have to make going through small towns. Google fails to adequately take into account the time you’ll spend stopped at intersections, stoplights and other attractions that will stop you for a few seconds or minutes.
And those small towns are part of the charm and appeal this route offers. You can find little main-street and road-side cafes offering food and atmosphere you won’t find along the interstate. Even the chain convenience stores are different here. Clerks greet patrons with first names and genuinely friendly smiles.
I’ve had the opportunity to take that route several times on trips to Little Rock and Cabot. One of the most memorable was a circular day run starting out on U.S. Highway 71, and going through Hot Springs. (Ride report and photos here.)
My wife was riding two up with me and my son was with us on his bike. We’d planned to spend the night in Hot Springs, but the weather was nice and we just weren’t through riding. So we left Hot Springs about 11 pm and headed south down 67.
A beautiful full moon came out and rode with us. As the temperature dropped, mist rolled out of the ditches creating dancing wraths that disappeared as our bikes ran through them.
As we pulled into the driveway at 2 a.m., we were exhausted. But I could have continued this beautiful ride for a few more miles.
If you haven’t been on this stretch of road for awhile, give it a try the next time your out on a lazy run.

— Guy Wheatley

Feb 5
Interesting custom sidecar

An interesting custom sidecar

I’ve never understood the desire for a sidecar. That doesn’t mean I think sidecars are bad, it’s just that somehow the idea never generated any excitement in me. The addition of a side car means the addition of another wheel and that’s where you lose me. If you’re going to have 3 wheels, why not just go ahead an trike it.
Now if you could get a side car that was easy to attach and detach, I might go for that. There might be times I’d like the additional storage. I could see having one if I could drop the hack and ride on 2 wheels again when I didn’t need the extra room. But then again, isn’t that what a trailer gives you. And at a lot less cost. And with a trailer you don’t lose as much width as you will with a side car. Finally, it is my understanding that a bike has to be trimmed for the side car and wouldn’t ride very well if you just pulled it off.
But as with trikes, there is a faithful following of sidecar enthusiasts. Like the folks at the United Sidecar Association. These riders don’t see sidecars as a joke. They appreciate them as serious and legitimate motorcycling equipment. And, I must admit, lurking in on their forums I am starting to appreciate some of what attracts them to this particular style of biking. There could be some advantage in having your passenger at your side as opposed to at your back. You can also use a sidecar for children or others who may not be safe or able to ride behind you.
I have seen some side cars that got my attention. I’ve posted photos of some of them on the Texarkana Bike Night forum. Texarkana Bike Night forum. In some cases, the craftsmanship is amazing. Few of these are offered as practical solutions to riding problems. They are mostly curiosities done for laughs, or advertising promotions. But some of these do look like a lot of fun.
Still, I think I’ll be contented to just look at other people’s sidecars. Neither Vic nor Maggie will be sporting one.

— Guy B. Wheatley

Feb 2
Sons of Anarchy
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 02 2nd, 2010| icon3No Comments »
open road

The Road to Freedom

In my previous post I attempted to take Harley-Davidson to task for a TV spot based on the bad-boy biker image. (see below) I asked the question, “Is this the image you have of your customers?” A few days later, I’m starting to wonder if it was the right question.
A business will grow by attracting new customers. To attract those new customers, it will need to appeal to the image those potential new customers desire. The real question any business should be asking is, “What image do our potential customers want to have of themselves?” So the question I should have posed to Harley-Davidson should have been, “Is this the image you think your potential new customers would like to have of themselves?” The answer to that question might be surprising. Whether or not I approve, the answer may very well be yes.
Kurt Sutter produces the FX show “Sons of Anarchy” about a fictional motorcycle gang, living just outside the law. It averaged 3.7 million viewers in the second season. In the crucial demographic of adults ages 18 to 49 it pulled in 2.6 million viewers and more than 4.3 million viewers caught the season 2 finale. According to Nielsen, the finale was the most watched show among men aged 18 to 49 in its time slot.
Watching a TV show about outlaw bikers doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody wants to be an outlaw biker. But it is a strong indicator of a fascination with the idea. Let us hope this is only escapist fantasy. But whatever the motivation, 4.3 million potential buyers is a darn good market for any company to appeal to. I can’t blame Harley-Davidson for aiming its sales effort at an existing niche. Where there is a demand, even for anarchy, somebody will offer supply.
But we as motorcycle enthusiasts and consumers might want to rethink the image we aspire to. What we demand, somebody will supply. And if the world we leave is filled with people modeling themselves after outlaw bikers, we may become the parants of anarchy.