May 29
Road crown can affect turning dynamics.” width=

A vehicle protruding into an intersection can force a biker
to take a path through an intersection with more road crown,
which can affect turning dynamics.

I take the same route to work most mornings. There is one intersection that continues to give me pause. One of the streets fronts Wadley Hospital and runs basically east-west. The other joins it from the south in a T. There was obviously drainage problems here at one time as the roads have excessive crowns and large drain openings. As I head west into the intersection, and make a left, turning south onto the other street, I notice problems holding the turn. Even at a cautious speed, I’ll sweep out much farther than I intend to. I often drag the pegs trying to stay out of the gutters. It took me a while to figure out that the extra angle of the road surface was what was causing the trouble. If I can hold a line close to the center line, where the surface is more horizontal, I have very little difficulty. It’s only when I drift toward the road edge, and the more steeply sloping surface, that I have problems.
This is actually counter-intuitive to me. A motorcycle turns by leaning. I had always assumed that the angle of the tire to the road surface was the determining factor as to the radius of the turn. But if that were true, the crown would make the turn easier as you got closer to the edge of the road. But I was experiencing the opposite.
One thing that is obvious is with the same lean angle relative to the horizontal, you will be much closer to the road. A lean of 45 degrees to the horizontal may feel like 60 degrees on a crowned road.
Whatever the cause, the way to avoid the issue is to stay as close to the center of the road as I can. That is what I usually do. But sometimes there will be a car waiting at the stop sign. The car will have the stop sign, but if it protrudes too far into the intersection I can’t turn close enough to the centerline. It forces me to take a line farther out where the crown is more pronounced. If that happens, I have to slow down to make the corner. But I’m doing so in front of a driver impatient enough to intrude into the street. I’ve got to keep an eye on the driver to be sure he doesn’t assume I’m going faster than he expects and run over me as I slow to negotiate the turn.
Just one more reminder that not all of the decisions about my safety while on my motorcycle are up to me.

- Guy Wheatley

May 23
Mount Scott located to the North West of Lawton Oklahoma.” width=

Photo curtesy Wikimedia Commons
Mount Scott located to the North West of Lawton Oklahoma.

I’ll be on vacation for a week starting Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been hoping for an epic bike trip. The closest I’ve come so far is the vacation trip to San Antonio back in 2007. While certainly not epic by the standards of those who do the 4 corners tours, Iron Butts runs, or ride to Alaska or the Florida Keys, it was still a decent little motorcycle adventure. It seems that every year I’ll have something provisionally planned, only to have something go to pot at the last minute.
The plan for May was simply to stay at my son’s house in Fort Worth, and use it as a base for riding the roads west and north of there. We might even buzz up to Geronimo, Okla., where I lived as a kid, then run up Mount Scott.
The nice thing about having two motorcycles is that I’ve got another one to ride if one goes down. I changed out the springs and oil in the front forks of the Magna to have it in good shape, even though I’d planned to take the Valkyrie. It’s always nice to have a Plan B. That point was brought home when I noticed the Valkyrie has a leaking fork seal. It costs more to have someone to fix it than I’m willing to spend, but will take me longer than I have before we leave. So, look’s like Maggie’s up.
Except suddenly she’s having problems. She’s running horribly and completely refusing to fire on the right rear cylinder. Gas additives are wonderful, but they can only do so much. I’ve been living on borrowed time, knowing that I need to pull the carbs and give them a good cleaning. The problem is almost undoubtably in the carbs. This is not an immense project, but again, I don’t have time to do it before I leave. So Maggie is down for the count.
I’m not going to spend almost $400 on labor I can do myself, on either bike, I don’t have time to fix them before I leave, and I’m not going to miss riding on vacation another year. So I’ll be riding the Valkyrie with a busted fork seal. Maybe not the smartest thing in the world, but I’m not going to be running the Tail of the Dragon or doing any canyon carving. This is pretty much gentle, rolling hills. The leak is recent and I’ve lost very little fork oil at this point. I can’t feel any difference in the ride yet. I’ll just keep it in mind, and take it easy. All I really want are nice, easy, scenic rides that won’t demand much of the bike. I should be fine.
Sounds like I’ve got a couple of winter projects coming up though.

- Guy Wheatley

May 13
Bikers and hobos
icon1 Guy | icon2 Small Talk | icon4 05 13th, 2012| icon32 Comments »
Valkyrie Motorcycle and old steam engine.” width=

My Valkyrie and an old steam engine at Queen Wilhelmina State park.

Texarkana was a rail town, and the past is still evident in the many railroad tracks passing through the old downtown area. As I sit here at my desk thinking about my bike, I can hear train whistles echoing through the ancient buildings. I can also hear the sound of the cars on the tracks. In this canyon of aged bricks and mortar, the sounds echo from the sides of empty buildings that stare with empty eyes of broken glass. While loud, it’s an ethereal sound, seeming to come from another world or time. Somehow the feelings those sounds stir in my soul resonate with the thoughts of my motorcycle.
Those sounds make me want to mount my bike with my wife behind me, and follow the ghostly clacks and whistles to some other place. Riding is far more than simply getting from point A to B. At its best, riding takes you to the place that lonely train whistle comes from. It could be a moonlit desert with the lights of a small town in the distance. It might be a high pass, mists rising from the ditches as it carves its way through a mountain forest. It may be a passage through rolling plains, swept with waving grass as the winds kiss the earth.
It’s not a place you’ll ever actually get to. It’s more like a place you’ll pass through on the way to a dream. It’s a place the stress and troubles of the day have a hard time following you. It’s a place you have to be willing to accept on its own terms.
I enjoy meeting and talking with other motorcyclists. I enjoy going to motorcycle-related events. I’ll even take a short ride with a large group. But the longer I sit in the saddle, the more I find my greatest joy to be those times when it’s just my wife and me. Just the two of us, slowly exploring a lonely winding road. I’ve heard of men who used to ride the rails, not out of financial necessity, but out of spiritual necessity. Men who would take time off from work, hang up the suit and tie, then jump a boxcar. I can understand how that whistle would call to them. It’s an invitation to step out of time and explore the world and yourself. The motorcycle whispers the same siren song. “Let’s go,” it says enticingly. “Leave all of this stuff behind and find freedom and adventure somewhere out there. Or maybe just peace.”

- Guy Wheatley

May 9
Pink Ride
icon1 Guy | icon2 Events | icon4 05 9th, 2012| icon3No Comments »
Amy Quinn Smith” width=

Amy Quinn Smith, of Hooks, Texas poses for a portrait outside Whisky
River Harley-Davidson in Texarkana. Local riders are raising money and
organizing a Pink Ride for Smith, a breast cancer survivor.

As a cancer survivor, my life has changed some. While I’m presently cancer free, the lingering, nagging question of “what caused it” is still with me. I now stop and think about things I used to take for granted. Sometimes I pause while in the past I would have charged ahead. I rarely worried about carcinogens or contaminates before. I was quick to touch chemicals and slow to grab a respirator. Not so any more.
And events that would have never registered with me before now catch my attention. The Pink Ride this coming weekend is a good example. Last year this breezed by under my radar, even as it raised $4,000 for a local breast cancer survivor. This year it caught my attention.
This is a local event organized by Diana Rains to help her friend Amy Quinn Smith. Whisky River Harley-Davidson, which sponsored the event last year, is sponsoring it again this year. There is a police-escorted ride from Whisky River to Dwight’s Bikers Dream in New Boston. The entry fee is $35 for the first rider and $15 for the second. After refreshments at Dwight’s, riders will return to Whisky River where there will be an auction to raise money with products donated from local businesses. There will be food, music, vendors and a breast cancer awareness booth.
One of the things that strike me so much about this event is it was started by a local person, sponsored by a local business and calls on locals to help a local. Diana says she knew just whom to go to for help. The motorcycle community loves to ride for a cause. And she’s right, but that only underscores the sense of family of the biking community. I may ride around on my piece of Jap-Crap while Diana putters around on her Hardley-Ableson, but if one of us needs help, we’re both riders.
Kudos to Diana for starting this, Whisky River for sponsoring it, the local businesses that donated items for the auction and the riders who participate. Because of people and events like this, the term “biker” carries a very different connotation now than it did a half century ago.

- Guy Wheatley

Click here for Texarkana Gazette, Heath Beat article about Amy.

May 7
Epic journey
icon1 Guy | icon2 Bikes, News | icon4 05 7th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
Ocean going Harley-Davidson.” width=

The Harley-Davidson bike that made an epic journey across the
Pacific Ocean. – Inset shows bike before the tsunami.

Epic journeys always stir the imagination. There was Lewis and Clark, Shackleton, Lindbergh, even Milo and Otis. Some journeys are planned, while others are unexpected. Most of these travels are taken by people, but some have involved animals. There will be a story in the news a couple of times every year about some dog or cat, who made their way back to a family after an unfortunate, and usually unexpected, separation. So far the principals of all of the tales I’ve read or heard about were biological creatures.
But now comes the news of a 4,000-mile journey from Japan to Graham Island, off the coast of British Columbia, taken by a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The trek was taken over water, unusual for a motorcycle, and sans rider. The bike, owned by Japan’s IkuoYokoyam, was stored in a white container. It was washed out to sea during the March 11, 2011, tsunami. It was found on April 18, 2012, by Canadian Peter Mark. Apparently the bike, inside the container box, had ridden the ocean currents across the Pacific. No epic journey is ever leisurely, leaving the one undertaking it unscathed. And this one is no different. When found, the bike was covered in corrosion. It’s unclear whether it will be salvageable. But also, like all epic tales, this one ends with a trip home. The bike will be shipped back to Japan, and the shop that sold it to Mr. Yokoyama will help with the paperwork and storage. The faithful steed, after being ripped away from home, will return to its owner, somewhat worse for wear but undefeated.
There will be those who will snort and say that a piece of trash just washed up on a beach. Some will insist that this in an inanimate object and that imbuing it with the nobility of cause is nothing but anthropomorphizing.
“It’s a machine for crying out loud,” they’ll say. “It can’t have any affection for an owner.”
But those of us who’ve thrown leg over beloved machines know better. They can be cantankerous and pouty when left setting up too long. But they can bring joy and freedom of spirit too. They can share with you eldritch moments that only speak heart to heart. And when the chips are down they can hang in there for you, continuing to run even as they’re hurting to take you the last miles to home.
They don’t come from the factory like this. The soul of a bike comes from its rider. It absorbs, or maybe merely echoes, the emotions we experience as we ride. But eventually the bike will take on those characteristics, and its rider will feel and respond to them.
The reunion will be bittersweet. Mr. Yokoyama will feel joy at the reunion, and sadness for what his bike has suffered. Hopefully the wounds can be healed and they will share many more moments and miles.

- Guy Wheatley

May 3
Corbin ridge-like seat” width=

Corbin ridge-like seat.

A California man is suing BMW and third-party seat maker Corbin-Pacific, claiming that he suffered a 20- month erection as result of the combined products. Henry Wolf of California claims his issue began after a four-hour ride on his 1993 BMW motorcycle with a ridge like seat. He is seeking compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and emotional distress.
Though I’m certainly not a urologist, I have heard of priapism. The condition is no laughing matter as it can results in the loss of the organ. WebMD lists several causes of the condition including trauma to the spinal cord or genital area. One supposes that is the basis of his claim, that the seat and motorcycle combination somehow caused the underlying trauma. Though there is apparently no other recorded case of this happening, it still would not give Mr. Wolf a winnable claim against the two companies named in his suit, if proven true. They would have to be proven negligent. As this condition seems to have never occurred before in recorded history, it’s hard to see how BMW and/or Corbin could be held negligent for not preventing it. Additionally, one might suppose that if an extensive amount of trauma was occurring over a four-hour period, Mr. Wolf might have decided to dismount the bike.
Many riders are familiar with the effects of long rides with uncomfortable or ill-fitting seats. Usually the problems make themselves known a little further back in the buttocks or lower back. But that much vibration in the crotch can have an effect. I have experienced, and heard other riders speak of, mild stimulation caused by the inevitable vibration of straddling a motorcycle. But the long-term result is usually numbness. I’m just not sure Mr. Wolf’s claim will stand up in court. As far as litigation goes, it won’t last very long if it goes to a jury of motorcycle riders. I’ve seen links to this posted on three different boards, and the reaction has been universally negative. I’ve yet to come across a rider who buys Mr. Wolf’s claim. Most of us don’t believe him, and would like to think our fellow riders are made of better ethical stuff. From what I’ve read, he’s going to have a hard time getting other bikers on his side. A lot of us have ridden a lot of miles, and nobody else has had this problem.
If it is somehow proven that BMW and/or Corbin are responsible for Mr Wolf’s condition, then I suggest dumping any stock you may have in the company that makes Viagra. And you can bet that BMW motorcycle you planned to buy with the Corbin seat will be on back-order for several years.

- Guy Wheatley