Sep 18
1916 Triumph with sidecar.

1916 Triumph with wicker sidecar.

That’s a saying I’ve heard from more than a few people. It expresses the sentiment that more power means a bigger engine. Intuitively that would seem obvious, but it’s not quite that cut and dried. What you do with a given displacement will have a lot of effect on the power you get.
This point was brought home to me recently as I attended an antique bike show. I was looking at at 1916 Triumph motorcycle. It had a 500cc engine. In a modern motorcycle like the Kawasaki Vulcan, or Ninja, one would expect 50 to 60 horsepower. The old Triumph engine for 1916 used it’s 500cc to produce a whopping 3.5 horsepower. Just as well I suppose, as this old bike was fitted with a wicker sidecar. Can you imagine strapping a wicker side car to a Ninja?
While that is an extreme example, you can still see the effect of engineering decisions on performance for a given displacement in contemporary engines. For a short time, I recently owned two bikes with 1500cc displacement. I was amazed at the difference in the two machines. A friend of mine commented that, “There’s 1500 and then there’s 1500.” The big V-twin bike topped out at about 85 horsepower, while the flat-6 produces roughly 100. That’s even more surprising when you consider the V-twin was a newer design, fuel- injected power plant while the flat-6 was older with a carburetor.
Both of these bikes are big touring cruisers where comfort and reliability is more important than raw power. A co-worker recently bought a Honda CBR 1000. Checking the specs on that bike I was surprised to discover that the 998cc power plant of this little bike produced 148 horsepower.
There’s been a huge gain in efficiency from better mechanical engineering since 1916. But the improvements in the last 10 to 15 years have been smaller. We’re probably getting close to the best performance we’re going to get from simple mechanical advances. The greatest impact on engine performance in the last couple of decades have come from electronics. Engine control units, or ECUs, now integrate several mechanical systems to control fuel delivery and ignition producing not only more power over a greater RPM range, but better gas mileage as well.
Dual cams and variable cams have improved valve performance, but these are still mechanical systems with some limitations. You can time when a valve begins its cycle with variable cams. But so far the lobe, or time the valve stays open, is constant. Some engines are experimenting with electronic valve control that offers the opportunity to alter the time the valve is open, but also can alter the area through out the cycle for maximum combustion.
So, what do we do when we reach the limit of performance using electronics? Well, there’s always chemical engineering of the fuel.

- Guy Wheatley

Sep 14
Are you a biker
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 09 14th, 2010| icon31 Comment »
Billy the biker.

I met Billy the biker at the 2008 Hot Springs Open Rally.

Somebody posted a question on the Wild Ride forum. The rider was approached by somebody who asked if he respected the law, and if he was a member of a biker gang. Answering “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, the rider was then informed that he wasn’t a “biker.” His question to the forum was, “What makes you a biker?”
I asked for permission to post some of the responses. Several responses have been edited for language, spelling and grammar:

Question: Are you a biker?

Tuff call on this one. I guess it depends on what you think you are. I have ridden all over the US. Also, Korea and Europe. I started on a Mini Bike at age 12. I paid 25 dollars for it and had to reach between my legs to work the gas. I consider myself a bike rider. No colors and good friends. Just my thoughts.

2 questions…
1, Why do you care if you’re a biker or not ?
2, Why do you care how someone perceives you?
What should matter is how you see yourself and how your family sees you…  A husband …. A dad, the rest is just unimportant.

Roadranger you hit it on the head. I ride to please myself and no one else. I ride with friends sometimes but on long trips I actually prefer to ride with just me and my wife who is my best friend. That is when I really feel free. I stop when I want to stop, go when I want to go and I wait on no one.

Well, the way I see it if the guy who asked you that thinks you have to be a outlaw club member to be a Biker, then he is a (expletive deleted.) and you don’t want his opinion anyway. I have been told that I was not a biker because I don’t ride a H D. When I was younger I would try to talk to them, now I ask where their bike is, and what kind of miles do they put on it. That’s when I can laugh and walk away. I agree with Roadranger and Bikerdude, If you are a biker then you don’t care what a cager or a rub thinks. And a biker will not ask if you are, they will know.

You are all right! If a person has to ask, they wouldn’t know anyway. Just got back from Deals Gap on a little 4 day vacation. Saw every kind of rider you could see. Little old ladies, 30 somethings, middle aged, old aged, youngsters, oldsters, everyone in between. Goldwings, Harleys, trikes, Spyders, dual sports, scooters, old bikes, new bikes, in-between bikes. Some rode in, some came on trailers. (yuk) Everyone was there to have fun their own way. I rode out and back. Put almost 2,000 miles on in those 4 days. Stopped and checked on a couple of riders on the side of the road. Held the door open for the ladies at every business we stopped at. Wore my vest and Wild Ride patch all the time. No one ever asked me if I was a biker. And yes, after 2,000 miles in 4 days, my rear end was sore! I still don’t know the answer to your question. Just keep ridin’!!!!!!!!!!!!

Read all the posts and you are all right. I have ridden outlaw, and partied, I have been to CMA rallies. State leader for GWRRA. I believe that a biker is someone that enjoys his ride (2 or 3 wheels ) and rides heck out of it, not fast and crazy. I was asked this week if I was trying to break my rear. Because I have been to Kansas 2 times this summer and will be going again in a few weeks. Each trip puts about 3000 to 3500 miles on my bike. This is my only riding. I go for day trips of 150-200 miles just to see where a town is or for coffee, so I think of my self as a biker. My friend down the road puts about 1000 miles a YEAR on his. He is a biker, miles, parties, and all that don’t make a biker. Someone said if you are there for those that need you and you enjoy the ride YOU ARE A BIKER. As far as type of bike you ride, wouldn’t it be a dull world if I couldn’t pick on the H-D riders about their bikes, and them call mine a rice burner.

That is why the answer to the question, “are you a biker” is definitely not question coming from someone who knows. I say, who cares!!! Put your rumpo in the saddle of a HD or Yamaha, Honda, BMW, crotch rocket … whatever and put your worries behind you!

Does my Schwinn count?
Who gives a rat’s rear end, call me a Alien from Pluto for all I care.
I ride because I like to. I lend a hand to people (biker or not) because that is who I am and how I was raised.
Labels on your tank or shirt do not make you a “biker”.
If you’re in the wind on any kind of bike and we pass, wave back and ride on in peace …

Too funny! I was at “bike night” at my local bar last Wednesday. Bunch of bikes there. I was tired and took my truck. A newby asked me why I didn’t ride my bike down. I said “Well if I get my bike out, I don’t need to ride it a mile to the bar to prove I’m a biker, I’m gonna get it out and ride 250 miles to a bar!” Enough said …

- Guy Wheatley

Sep 8

My last blog was about a crash I had pulling out of a gas station. For some reason that crash scared me more than the one near Hazen, Ark., even though the one close to Hazen had the potential to be much worse.
The Hazen crash came during the week I was in Cabot for my mother’s funeral. I had just started my vacation when she died, so I pulled my camper to my sister’s house and was staying there. I had the Magna with me. We made a day run to our hometown of Gillett, about 100 miles to the south. It was dark by the time we started back so my wife rode with my daughter, son and grandkids who followed me in the minivan.
I was heading north on U.S. 63 coming up on the intersection with U.S. 70. It was several hours after sunset and this poorly designed intersection is not lighted. The striping on the road is worn off and almost nonexistent.

The site of my October 2008 crash near Hazen Arkansas.

The site of my October 2008 crash near Hazen Arkansas.

I was doing 70mph heading up 63. As I came around the corner a vehicle going south blinded me. I didn’t realize the road split with northbound traffic making a right turn. As I approached the place where the road split I tried to see past the glare of the other vehicle’s lights to determine where the road actually went. By the time I realized that I had to swing to the right to avoid a head-on, it was too late. I’d been sloughing off speed as soon as I got confused about where to go. I’m not sure how fast I was going at this point. Once I realized I had to turn, I leaned the bike into a peg-scraping turn, holding it as tight as I could. My daughter said I was really throwing up sparks, which alerted her to the turn. (She hadn’t see it either and said she would have probably wrecked if my emergency manuvering hadn’t alerted her.)
My speed was not excessive. I was matching other traffic on a highway that was as flat as the bottom of a skillet, and straight as a rail for miles. The night was clear and I could see for miles right up to the moment the headlights blinded me. Even then I could see enough of the road so that it looked like the oncoming car was in the same lane with me. Since his course had me to the right of his heading, I was right in the spot where headlights on low beam are directed. In less than a second I went for being able to see very well to being almost completely blind. That fraction of a second happened to be in a critical moment negotiating a curve.
I was making it until I hit grass at the edge of the road. At that point the tires went out from under me and I slid a good 30 yards on the tall wet grass. I stayed in the saddle as the bike did a flat spin. By the time we stopped I was leading the motorcycle.
I could tell I was OK. The wet grass allowed me a slow stop without chewing me up. I’d only been on asphalt for a few seconds and my leather jacket lasted long enough to protect me.
The wreck must have been pretty spectacular. A truck driver behind my daughter came up and said he expected to help remove a corpse. I guess my peg was really throwing up sparks before I went down. The trucker thought I was on fire. He said he thought my bike had exploded and that was why I went down.
Knowing my wife, kids and grandkids had seen me go down, I tried to get up quickly, but my leg was trapped under the bike. My son got there fast and pulled the bike off me. I must have had 10 acres of grass in the bike. I took some damage to the pipes and engine guard during the few seconds I was on the asphalt, but nothing serious. I wore the scrapped jacket for another year. It’s hard to explain exactly why I didn’t get rid of it. Not really a good luck charm, and not to show off a battle scar. It just seemed like it had been through a rough spot with me and felt like an old friend I didn’t want to lose.

− Guy Wheatley

Sep 2
Bikes gassing up

Bikes gassing up at a convenience stop.

Somebody on a bike forum recently posted a Youtube video of a guy with a new motorcycle running into a parked car trying to get it out of the lot. Some of the members express sympathy, while others believe he got what he deserved as a result of his failure to respect the machine. I find myself in the first camp, remembering my own unfortunate incident.
Truth be told, I know exactly when and what I did to start the ball rolling and will take responsibility for a poor decision, but I wouldn’t characterize it as sheer stupidity. It was an incorrect analysis of my capabilities, and the danger inherent in the maneuver I was attempting.
I was on my Victory 92TC Deluxe at the time. I was riding two up with my wife on this heavy, and top heavy, bike. We had gassed up and were about to pull out of the service station. There were two ways out, with exits at opposite ends. The leader of the pack took the one behind me. This is the point where I should have had the wife dismount and duck-walked the monster around. Instead I watch the nimble Valkyries easily loop around 180 degrees and decided I could probably do the same.
As I began the turn, the bike started to lean. I let off the clutch a little more to stand it back up, but the engine lugged for a second. Things started to happen very fast after this. I’m certain that I opened the throttle to get RPMs back up, because the bike was really leaning now and threatening to go down. The engine caught, over revved, and stood the bike up completely, straightening out the turn. It also threw me back some altering my grip on the bars and completely changing the dynamic between me and the bike. I’ve now turned 90 degrees, the gas pumps are 10 feet straight in front of me, and the bike is moving too fast to make the turn. In that strange instant when time almost seems to stop, and ideas seem to come at lightning speed, I decided to try for the gap between the pump islands. I even remember noting that there was no traffic on the other side of the pumps.
While my mind was furiously working out escape routes and identifying potential obstacles, it completely missed the salient point that I was leaning back with such an awkward grip on the bars that I had very little control of the motorcycle. What’s more, as my hand was pulled back, it had rolled on the throttle and I was actually accelerating toward the pumps. As the distance between me and the barrier decreased I began to realize that the machine simply was not going where I wanted it. I was now too close and moving too fast for the gap between the island to be a viable option. At this point, my brain really did seem to be operating on two levels. Almost like two pilots in a cockpit. As one part was analyzing the new situational data, another part was thinking, “My God! I’ve GOT to get off the throttle.”
These two mental operations reached a consensus on the best course remaining. Even dumping the bike, I can’t stop before I get there. I’m too close and moving too fast. If I continue to try for the gap, it means going left. There is still momentum from the bike righting itself, forcing it to lean to the right. Trying to go left means fighting that momentum and getting the bike to lean back the other way. Failure to make the turn will result in either a head-on into the pump, or a high-side lay down going between them.
Going right requires a harder turn, but I’ve got the bikes momentum working with me. It is still in the process of a longitudinal rotation that makes it lean to the right. The point of failure here will be the tires losing grip. I remember seeing the debris on the blacktop including pea gravel from the asphalt, and thinking, “The tires will never stick.” But the aftermath of failing this turn is a low-side into the concrete pad of the pump island.
Let me be clear here that at no point did I decide to “lay it down.” But I did make the decision on which way to turn based on the probable aftermath of the turn’s failure. I decided to go right.
It was, of course, inevitable that the tires lost grip and we went down. The bike rolled my right leg beneath it, twisting my knee. It struck the concrete pad, tires first. It felt to me that the impact must have carried roughly the same energy as the asteroid impact that created Meteor Crater in Arizona. The truth was, fortunately, less spectacular. I must have gone down at almost the moment of impact, because there was very little damage to the engine and bag guards on the bike. You had to look very close to see any scratches. If fact, the bike showed almost no damage at all.
Everybody in three counties was suddenly there showing concern and trying to see if I was all right or if they could help. These wonderful people were all very sincere, but I think I would have preferred death to the embarrassment.
I got off lucky. The wife and the bike were both undamaged. I had a sprained knee, and began shaking so violently that I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. Eventually I calmed down and we were able to get home. I arrived a MUCH wiser rider.
I’m not so quick to laugh at Youtube video of motorcycle wrecks now.

− Guy Wheatley