Jun 30
Heart shaped burn on my wife's leg.

The heart shaped burn left on my wife’s leg by a hot muffler.

The same week I bought my second bike, I was invited out to the lake for an event about that model of motorcycle. My wife and I had been riding less than a year at that point and were looking forward to meeting other riders. My wife was wearing shorts. The more experienced riders warned her about bare skin and motorcycle exhausts, but she can be rather firm in her intentions and stayed in the shorts. We got back from a ride and dismounted the bike. Removing her helmet, she stepped closer to the bike to use the mirror to fix her hair. That’s when the pipe got her.
She didn’t tell anybody and slipped into the lady’s room to put on long pants. I didn’t find out about it until later that night. It was a serious burn and our physician told us she might need a skin graft. Fortunately it didn’t come to that. It was painful. It had to be scrapped to remove the burned skin, then she had to keep it clean and infection free until it finally healed.
The burn was unusual in that it formed a perfect heart shape. Our friends, children and other relatives weren’t too sure what to make of our turn to biking. So we decided to have a little fun. We started telling them that the burn was an initiation to a lady biker club called “Babe Owners Of Bikes.” You can work out the acronym on your own. We claimed that she had to brand herself with the heart shaped iron attached to the hot pipes of a motorcycle. I didn’t really expect anybody to believe it and don’t quite know what to make of the fact that almost everybody did. My sister even wanted to know if there was a chapter in her area that she could join.
The doctor assured us that this would be a permanent mark because it was a third-degree burn. As time passed however, it faded to the point where it barley remains as a slightly darker spot on her leg and the heart shape is no longer discernible.
Even though my wife thankfully doesn’t carry a scar from that encounter, you could still say it left a permanent mark on us. We now dress more appropriately for riding, wearing nothing less than jeans and boots on even the hottest of summer days. I’ve got my own faint scar on my wrist where a hot pipe got me as I worked on a brake line. Those first unfortunate burns served as well-heeded warnings that these machines can hurt you if taken for granted. I quickly got tired of being burned. You might even say I got exhausted.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 24
2002 92TC Deluxe

My 2002 Victory 92TC Deluxe

I recently bought another bike. That makes four of them sitting in my carport. One of those belong to my son, and is only here until we can replace a wiring harness, so I don’t feel too bad about it. Another is the VF750 Magna that isn’t going anywhere. It’s the other bike I plan to keep. With half the displacement of the Valkyrie, it’s still my fun little bust-around-town bike. It’s also nice to have when my son comes home. We’ll both have a bike to ride.
The last bike in the stable is the Big Victory Touring Cruiser I bought a few years ago. It was the first big bike my wife and I got for long-distance, extended rides. We’ve taken it on several overnight and multinight trips. It has done us proud, being reliable and comfortable for long distance.
But the flat-6 howl of a Valkyrie has been whispering in my dreams and fantasies. When I got the opportunity to pick up an especially pretty one for a good price I couldn’t pass it up, so now I need to get rid of the Victory.
You wouldn’t think that would pose much of a problem. This bike is a 2002 Deluxe Touring Cruiser with slightly more than 18,000 miles on it. I’ve priced it at the bottom of the market and fully expected it to move in a week. Goodness knows I’ve had a lot of people ask about it. But most of them either couldn’t get financing, or wanted to trade. I’ve been offered swaps for several pickup trucks, other motorcycles and a tractor. I don’t mean a garden tractor. I’m talking about a recently rebuilt Ford 3600 with a box blade. Does nobody deal in cash anymore? I guess nobody has any. My yard is so small, I don’t even have a gas push mower. I use a reel mower. I certainly don’t need a tractor.
I started checking with my friends to see whether one of them needed a tractor. Maybe they could buy the bike from me and trade it for the tractor in sort of a three-way deal. Wow. Is this what it was like before money in a trade-and-barter society? I remember hearing about doctors in the 1940s making house calls and being paid in chickens.
I just want to sell the Victory so I can pay off the bank for the Valkyrie. I wonder if the bank needs any chickens, or a tractor.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 23

My iPhone as MP3-player and GPS navigator.

I’m on my third GPS navigator. My first was a Garmin street pilot C320. I bought it expecting only the magic moving map that would show me turn for turn how to reach my destination. Discovering the commercial database that allowed me to find the closest gas station, store or restaurant quickly spoiled me. I started to see the other possibilities these devices had to offer.
One feature I still don’t have, but would like, is the ability to load a preplanned route. The GPS units I’ve used so far pretty much assume that the goal is to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Even though you can add way points, there is a limit to how well you can map out a circuitous route. Additionally, the unit keeps trying to get me to get back on major roads when I’m running a parallel, scenic road. I’ve seen units that have this function, but they cost more than I’m willing to pay for those features.
I liked my Garmin. As mentioned above, the commercial database was an unexpected surprise. It was amazingly complete, but took up so much memory that I couldn’t load the entire U.S. at one time. This became a problem on my trip top San Antonio. I assumed it was in the region I had loaded. By the time I discovered it was not, I was on the road. I had to by a paper map to complete the trip.
As the maps on my Garmin became outdated I decided that the cost of updating them was too close to the cost of a new unit. My second one was a Magellan Maestro 3200. This unit had a complete U.S. map, but the commercial database was sorely lacking. I could find specific stores with the Garmin. The Magellan was doing well to find general categories. This would have been unacceptable if not for the purchase of my iPhone about the same time. The maps app that came on the iPhone was absolutely incredible. I could type in a vague phrase like, “fish place,” and get hits on seafood restaurants and restaurants specializing in catfish. Try that with a paper map.
The map app won’t work as a GPS navigator. It doesn’t update position often enough and it can’t show the 3D turn by turn view needed for effective navigation. But like the commercial says, “There is an app for that.” I purchased one called Navigon when it came on sale which makes my third GPS navigator my iPhone. It’s the right size to mount on my handle bars, right on the plate that holds them to the risers. In conjunction with a 12-volt adapter and stereo bluetooth headphones, I’ve got everything I need, and more, right in one unit. I can listen to my iTunes library while Navigon shows me the way. I can take an incoming phone call if I get it. I’ve also got my e-mail and an Internet connection for when I stop. It plays video so if I’m going to be on the road overnight, I’ll get a movie or podcast ready.
Using another app called gas cubby, I keep track of maintenance and mileage on all of my vehicles. Including the one I’m riding at the moment.
The female voice on my first unit caused me to name it Wicked Wanda. The next unit needed a different name so I called it Magic Madge because that sounded more like Magellan. The Navigon app alerts me when I’m exceeding the speed limit. I’m thinking of calling it my Nag-a-vator.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 17
MotoCzysz E1 PC

This year’s Isle of Man Zero Emission race winner. MotoCzysz’s E1 PC
electric motorcycle.

The annual Isle of Man TT races can certainly be described as electric. Manufacturers and riders view the 37.7 miles of narrow twisting road as a proving ground for engineering and skill.
More than 200 riders and several spectators have lost their lives to this chase to push the performance envelope.
But there is now another electric element to the races. Starting last year, the event introduced a zero-emissions race. At the moment, zero emissions means electric.
Last year’s winner was the British-Indian team Agni, with an average speed of 84 mph and a top speed of 102 mph. With conventional bikes, an average of 100 mph is considered the benchmark of indisputable proficiency. The fastet lap ever recorded by any bike was set this year by John McGuinness at 131.578 mph.
This year an American team brought to the fray a unique machine built from the ground up. MotoCzysz’ (pronunced Moto-sizz) bike sported proprietary batteries, hand-built by a company that also supplies NASA, and an oil-cooled electric engine. The bike won the zero-emissions race with a lap speed of 96.820 mph and a top speed of 135 mph.
We could well see the zero-emissions race turn in times that rival standard races within a few years. And like all such races, this is a proving ground for the technologies and designs that will eventually make their way to the average consumer.
MotoCzysz holds several patents on this advanced electrical technology, and rumor has it the company is in talks with manufacturers, including Indian automobile giant Bajal.
Truly, the electric motorcycles at the TT races are giving us performances that can be described as, well, electric.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 13

My last blog was about other drivers not seeing bikers. While that is definitely an issue, there is also something to be said about what we, the bikers, don’t see. Most people are surprised at what they don’t see. Our visual field is not created or maintained in our eyeballs. It’s actually in our brains. Our eyes are the major contributing organ to the information in the visual field, but they are not the only source, and they don’t record images unfailingly like a camera. A lot of image processing is done at the retina.
One would intuitively suppose that if there were a blind spot on the back of your eye, you would see a blank spot when you looked out at the world. In truth there is a blind spot where the optic nerve attaches. Yet we are unaware of the blank spot in our visual field unless we make a specific effort to recognize it. For a quick test, find a spot on the wall. Close one eye and focus on the spot with the open eye. Now hold your extended arm with thumb up and covering the spot you selected. Now, keeping your eye fixed on the spot on the wall, slowly move your arm to the side at the same level. Somewhere around 20° you’ll notice that you can no longer see your thumb. You’re not overtly aware of the blind spot in your field of view, but you won’t see anything that’s in it.
A lot of what we “see” is built upon our experience and expectation. Most people have had the experience of looking at something, but being unable to figure out what it is. Suddenly you recognize it and it becomes clear. I’ve had this happen to me while deer hunting. A place I’ve been watching will catch my attention. I’ll stare, but not see anything for a minute. Then the deer moves and suddenly I see it plainly. Even after it stops moving I can still see it, because I know it’s there. My eyes are not collecting any additional information. Everything I’m seeing now was there a second ago, but now that I know what I’m looking at I can see it.
One way this plays into operation of a motorcycle is in the head check. All good riders know that mirrors can’t tell you yes, only no. Before you change lanes you must do a head check, or turn your head and look to see that the lane is clear. Unfortunately human physiology often shows us what we expect, so if we’re looking to see an empty lane that may be exactly what we see whether it’s really empty or not. It may sound like semantics, but it’s a good habit to start looking to see where the car is. It’s the same physical movement, but a different mindset that may well have a different result.
Also move your eyes around as you look. Remember the disappearing thumb? As you look back over your right shoulder that thing in the middle of your face that the sunglasses sit on is probably blocking your left eye. That means you’re only looking with your right eye. A car coming up fast from 30 or 40 yards back doesn’t take up much more room on your retina than your thumb did at arm’s length. If it happens to be about 20° off the vertical on the horizontal plane in your visual field, you’re going to see exactly what you saw with the thumb experiment. The cage operator will be telling the police. “He just pulled right in front of me like he didn’t even see me.” And your biking friends will probably be sitting around convinced that a careless cager just wasn’t paying attention and ran over you.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 10
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I ran across the phrase SMIDSY recently in reference to motorcycle safety. The site said it was the most common type of motorcycle accident. I’d never heard of it so I checked out the website. In the UK, it’s an acronym for, “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.” I suppose an Americanized version might start, “Sorry Man.”
But whatever you call it, the fact remains that the most common cause of motorcycle accidents is the operator of a larger vehicle not seeing a motorcycle. Many bikers take the attitude that the blasted cagers need to be more careful and pay more attention. They vilify the motorists and place most of the blame on them. But most of these people are good people with no evil intentions toward bikers. The sad, SMIDSY effect is a result of human physiology and physics.
This was the subject of a pilot episode on British television about motorcycle safety. Advanced instructor Duncan Mackillop takes us through the physics involved and points out that it is ultimately the rider of the motorcycle’s responsibility to be seen. He introduces what he calls the SIAM, or Smidsy Identification and Avoidance Maneuver.
He offers an idea I haven’t heard before. He suggests weaving back and forth as you approach a car at an intersection to make your self move across the other driver’s background.
Until law enforcement departments become familiar with and accept this concept, it may result in a ticket. A police officer, seeing a biker begin to weave back and forth as he approaches an intersection, may instinctively react negatively. But to prevent the death toll from mounting, both bikers and police officers will need to leave convention behind and embrace new techniques to prevent tragedy.

— Guy Wheatley

Jun 7
Rest stop

Re-hydrating during a rest stop at a road side connivence store.

Last year’s Great Motorcycle Vacation turned into a rain-soaked house remodeling vacation. This year it started out in a similar fashion. I’d reserved a cherry picker for the Memorial Day weekend because I got it from Friday night through Tuesday morning for a one day price. Then I got the opportunity to buy the motorcycle I’ve been wanting for several years. I picked it up a few hours before I got the cherry picker. So while my new-to-me Valkyrie sat in the garage, I was perched in the basket of a cherry picker fixing the eaves on my house and painting.
But fortunately for my vacation, the cherry picker had to go back Tuesday morning.
We’d been planning to run Arkansas Highway 7 from the Louisiana State line to it’s northern terminus at Lead Hill recreation area on Bull Shoals lake, north of Diamond City.
Wednesday morning the wife and I ran over to El Dorado, then down to the state line. From there we headed north to Camden, then back to Texarkana to get the southernmost leg out of the way.
We took Thursday to replace the passenger pegs with floorboards on the Valkyrie. I ran a 12-volt adapter so I’d have power to the GPS. We did a little bike maintenance, got gear ready and headed out with another couple Friday morning for a three-day run up and back.
Most of Highway 7 was everything I’d been promised. On the way back, we decided to see what else Northern Arkansas had to offer. We took some smaller roads over to 65 and followed it into Conway for the night. Leaving Conway the last morning we took 60 west over to 27 and rode it down through the Ouachita National forest into Glenwood.
Just south of Glenwood, we took 84 west to Langley then followed 396 north for 6 miles to Albert Pike recreation area. After a quick dip to cool down and wash off a little road grime, we finished the trip by following 396 south to 70 west where we picked up 71 south back to Texarkana.
The weather was kind to us being cool most mornings and offering a little cloud cover during the day Friday and Saturday. Sunday was the hottest day and I got a little sunburned on the final leg.
I’m not sure you can find a bad motorcycle road in Northern Arkansas. I plan to head back up there in the near future and find some more of the good ones. I especially want to run the Pig Trail though the Ozark National Forest.

Click here to see the photo album.

— Guy Wheatley