Jul 19

Taking a tumble on a Valkyrie.

I never got a definitive answer about whether a tree falling in the woods makes a sound if there’s nobody around to hear it. But one thing I know of an absolute certainty is that if a biker drops his motorcycle and there were no witnesses, it never happened! But as we move further into the 21st century, there is less likelihood that such an event will not be witnessed.
I was pulling out of the parking lot a few days ago, going to lunch. I backed the bike up a couple of times to clear a car parked next to me, then began making the small loop to pull into the alley, just as I’ve done hundreds of times. The next thing I remember is getting up off the pavement, wondering just what the heck happened.
Whenever such an incident occurs, all bikers know there are three things that you must do immediately. First: Stand the bike back up before anybody else sees that you dropped it. Second: Nonchalantly check yourself to see if any bones are sticking out. Third: Get the heck out of there before you wind up having to answer embarrassing questions.
Unfortunately for me, one of my coworkers was out in the alley sucking a cancer stick and saw the whole thing. So much for deniability. I’d pretty well determined at this point there were no bones sticking out, but I wasn’t absolutely sure they were all in one piece inside of me. To buy some time, I backed off and made a show of inspecting the bike. Luckily, the bike doesn’t seem to have suffered any damage. My coworker had reached me by now and was incessantly asking if I was OK. I assured her that I was fine as I tried to look mildly irritated but calm.
There was a little discomfort in the right knee, but the leg seemed operable. Pants leg not torn, so it can’t be too bad. The right arm is a little different story though. Pretty well numb except for a dull ache in the bicep. It doesn’t seem to want to do as it’s told, and seems a little weak. The jury is still out on whether I can ride with it.
But as the woman continued to interrogate me about my well-being, seeming not to accept my assurances, escape became more urgent. Besides, I’d used the arm to pick up the bike. How bad could it be? Giving her a final assurance, I mounted the bike and prepared to make my exit. I hit the starter, and nothing. ARRGGGHG! Now what? Then I remember the Valkyrie has an angle sensor that will shut the engine down if the bike falls over. To reset it, I’ll just have to turn the key off and back on. With the satisfying sound of singing 6 x 6 cobras, I finally depart the scene, convinced the worst is over.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a television show whose theme song went, “When it’s least expected, you’re elected, you’re the star today. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.” I know how the victims felt. Re-entering the building after lunch, I’m greeted by stares and a flurry of questions about whether I’m OK. It seemed an inordinate amount of attention, even if the lady who saw it had told everybody she’d seen. Then I get the bad news. She’d told her supervisor who had then reviewed the video from the parking lot security camera. By the time I got back, it seems everybody in the building had seen it at least once. I’m not sure the final show of The Sopranos got such good ratings.
Fortunately, such fame is fleeting and just a few days later nobody is talking about it. But the incident does bring up an interesting question. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there, does it make a sound then, or only after somebody reviews it on a security camera?

- Guy Wheatley

Jul 16

Title: Chad Tye Benefit
Location: Whiskey River Harley-Davidson 802 Walton Drive Texarkana, TX 75501
Description: Chad Tye leaves behind a wife and 4 children, ages 5, 9, 10, and 14 years of age. Bikers will come together this Saturday at Whiskey River Harley-Davidson to raise money for the family. All proceeds will go to the family.

BBQ Brisket and Trimmings
Live Music – 50/50 Drawing – Auction
$5.00 Donation
Start Time: 09:00 am
Date: 2012-07-21
End Time: 4:00 pm

Jul 6
Valklyrie at intersection” width=

A Honda Valkyrie approaching an intersection.

I was approaching an intersection on my way home a couple of days ago when I suddenly heard frantic honking. I was still half a block from the intersection, and I could see a guy in a pickup approaching from my left. He was also about half way down the block. I could see him looking at me as he tapped his horn. He then held up his arms in a shoulder shrug as he mouthed, “What’s the deal?” It must have taken a couple of seconds for things to register for me. I even looked around to see if there was another vehicle he might be gesturing to. But I was the only one. I eventually realized that he somehow assumed I was going to run the stop sign, and was angrily waving me off.
My knee jerk reaction was definitely negative. With my left hand committed to the clutch as I geared down and my right hand busy with the brake, I had no free manipulative organs with which to express my reaction. I did mouth back something, but I don’t really remember what. As I stopped at the intersection, I watched him roll through looking at me instead of at the road. He still had his hand up, not on the wheel, apparently completely absorbed in his feelings of injury.
Needless to say, I made my way home with less than respect for this individual. Motorcycles accelerate and decelerate more quickly than cars, so it’s possible I was approaching the intersection more quickly than he expected. But he began honking with more than half a block still ahead. It was way too early to have any idea I might run the sign without tarot cards or a ouija board. But the worst failing on his part was his complete disregard for his surroundings as he transited the intersection. He was so wrapped up in his self-righteous indignation he would have simply run over anyone, or anything, that moved into his path at the last minute. I’m sure that if he had taken out some kid on a tricycle from the nearby apartments, it would have been my fault for distracting him. Too bad he doesn’t appear to hold himself to the same standards he would hold other drivers.
Oh well, at least he saw me.

- Guy Wheatley

Jun 15
Sons of Anarchy cut.” width=

Actor Kim Coats wearing a Sons of Anarchy cut.

I did a blog a while back in which I ragged on FOX’s “Son’s of Anarchy.” (Blog – Sons of Anarchy) It wasn’t so much the show that I had trouble with, but the idea the viewing public seems to aspire to the idea of an outlaw biker. My complaint is with a generation that looks up to the 1 percenter life style.
But as fans of the show will notice from the title, I’ve obviously changed my position some. Since that blog was written, my son came home for a visit with three season of SOA on DVD. He tried all during his visit to get me to sit down a watch a couple of episodes with him. Finally on his last day, I let him pop in Season 1 and the wife and I got our first exposure to this cultural phenomena.
He left the next day, without his DVDs. He started this, so by golly he can just pick them up on his next visit. We went through three seasons in little more than a week. We’d be sitting, bleary eyed in the living room at 1:30 am convincing ourselves that we had time for one more episode. It was the Sopranos all over again. We were hopelessly hooked on a show I was a little ashamed of watching. But you’ve got to admit Ron Perlman just looks like he’d be the leader of a motorcycle gang. And darn it, Jax is really trying to do the right thing. And his girlfriend is a doctor. You get the idea. None of my high minded ideas about responsible viewing lasted through the first episode. So toss me in the basket with the other trillion or so SOA fans. We watched season 4 as it aired with the rest of America.
And now, they are getting into merchandising. There will be hats, shirts, stationery and other bric-a-brac. But the real kicker will be the 100 SOA Harley Davidson motorcycles. It is my understanding there will only be 100 of them, set to sell for $25,000 apiece. I’m curious about how that will work. First come, first served? There may be some throw-downs at some dealerships. I’m guessing at auction these bikes (if truly limited) would go for between $50,000 and $100,000. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go for more. Another show I watch is called “Hollywood Treasures.” I’m frequently amazed at what people will pay for memorabilia from a TV show or movie they like. And a whole lot of people really like “Sons of Anarchy.” Guess I’m one of them now. Will season 5 EVER get here?

- Guy Wheatley

Jun 6
Watch for Motorcycle signs in Grand Prairie Texas.” width=

The “Watch for Motorcycles” sign was donated and installed
Tuesday, May 29, in Grand Prairie by Allstate to help prevent
motorcycle crashes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 46 percent of all multi-vehicle crashes occur at intersections. Often this is a result of one vehicle making a left turn in front of another trying to go straight through the intersection. In 2009, this type of collision accounted for 40 percent of motorcycle crashes. This is especially dangerous for motorcyclists. Being on a small vehicle with no surrounding structure for protection means a greater likelihood of serious injury or death. This becomes even more unfortunate because motorcycles are more likely to go unnoticed by the operators of other, larger vehicles.
There are several reasons why motorcycles are less likely to be seen. One is of course the smaller size and profile of the vehicle, especially from head-on. The image of a motorcycle head-on just doesn’t take up much room on a retina. But another, and probably larger, factor is due to the way humans process visual information. This has been studied at great length and there are thousands of volumes devoted to the subject, but it boils down to the simple fact that we don’t see what we don’t expect to see. If we look at an intersection for cars, we’re unlikely to see a motorcycle. I’ve done two previous blogs about visual perceptions as they relate to motorcyclists. “The SMIDSY” and “Now you see it now you don’t.” I won’t repeat those details here except to say that this is as much a physiological problem as it is a psychological one.
The previous two blogs dealt more with bikers recognizing and understanding this phenomena, and ways to lessen its impact. But another important part of the solution is to educate the drivers of other vehicles. Allstate insurance company has instituted a program called ONE (Once is Never Enough) that works to educate drivers to look twice for motorcycles. Working with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) they have developed a standardized sign. Some of the first signs have been installed in Grand Prairie Texas, where a test program identified particularly dangerous inerrsections.
Hopefully these new signs will start to appear at other intersections around the country as other transportation agencies begin to adopt them. And hopefully we will see a decrease in the number of motorcycle crash fatalities as a result.

- Guy Wheatley

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

Apr 13
A bad idea” width=

A bad idea

A lot of bikers are putting larger gas tanks or auxiliary tanks on their bikes. Others just plan to carry extra gas in a container. Having discovered years ago that my gas tank has a greater range than my bladder, I never gave the idea much thought. I’m usually pulling into a convenience store with gas pumps to discharge some liquid long before I need to take on fuel.
There was one occasion when I was traveling with my son on a bike with a small tank and limited range. We were making the trip in the wee hours of the morning, and I was certain that none of the small towns we were traveling through would have pumps open. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so we bought the smallest gas can we could find, filled it with 2 gallons of gas and strapped it to his luggage rack. Even though the weather was cool and heat wasn’t causing the gas to expand, the jostling ride did. The plastic container quickly ballooned up and gas began to fizz past the cap. We stopped every few miles to transfer as much of the volatile liquid from the plastic can to the gas tank as it would hold. We only got 30 miles out of that 2 gallons. On his little bike, 2 gallons will take you 60 miles, but at least half of the fuel fizzed out past the cap.
I’ve listened as some riders caution others about the dangers of carrying gasoline in containers. Most of them understand that it is dangerous, but the expense and effort of installing either a larger tank or auxiliary tank drive some to consider stuffing extra gas in a container carried in saddle bags or strapped externally. Then the discussion turns to what sort of container to use.
Several people I know recommend several types of small fuel containers. These are made of aluminum and have screw in tops. They feel it is safe to carry gas in these “fuel” containers. Unfortunately, it is not. The specific containers I’ve seen suggested are camp fuel containers. Camp fuel is usually some variant of kerosene. Camp fuels have a relatively high boiling point. (175 degrees c to 325 degrees c for kerosene) A high boiling point means a lower vapor pressure. Thus the fuel doesn’t push as hard against the container walls. Gasoline has a relatively low boiling point (40 degrees c to 220 degrees c) and a high vapor pressure. As I discovered on the run with my son, it puts a lot of stress on the container it is stored in. Underwriters Laboratories tests gasoline containers to a minimum of 25 psi. And even then, gasoline containers are supposed to be vented. These are containers intended to sit stationary out of direct sunlight in a well vented area. They are not to be jostled, exposed to heat, or stored in an enclosed space. I have yet to see a safe, or approved, container for carrying gasoline in a saddle bag or trunk. Those fuel bottles will get weaker and weaker as the gas continues it’s relentless push to escape. Eventually the aluminum will give way. With luck, the only problem will be having the clothing, tools, or food in your saddle bag or trunk soaked in gas. But there is potential for much worse problems. In my estimation, it’s just not worth it.

- Guy Wheatley

Mar 30
Chariot races from 1939” width=

A modern twist on chariot races in 1939 at the
Palmerston North Speedway in the Manawatu area of New Zealand.

The heyday of the Roman war chariot was about 1,500 years ago, but they may be coming back. Hopefully they won’t be used to subjugate neighboring nations. But the excitement of careening around a dirt track in a flimsy looking, two-wheeled cart a la Ben Hur, sans biological horses, seems to be calling to some modern gear heads. A company called RomanX is trying to bring back the excitement of bread and circuses, ancient Rome style. It’s just replaced the hay burners with gas burners. Specialized quad machines are harnessed to the front of the ancient-styled chariot, driven by a racer dressed as an ancient Roman warrior. RomanX hopes to bring this to life as a commercial venture with television contracts. Who knows? There are certainly stranger shows on the air.
The people at RomanX aren’t the only ones with this idea. A quick Web search gave several hits of variations on the theme. Most of the other sites and videos I found used standard motorcycles as the “beasts” of burden. Some had riders on the bikes, other modified the bikes to be controlled from the chariot. One group even put plastic horses over the top of the motorcycles. Some of these folks just seemed to be having fun, while others are looking toward some sort of business venture. It’s an interesting idea, but it turns out that it’s not a new idea.
I recently ran across a post of old photos featuring old motorcycles. There were several interesting photos, including extended-fork, chopper-styled bikes going back as far as 1917. But what caught my eye were the old Roman chariots being pulled by motorcycles. I was able to track one of the photos to a 1939 event at Palmerston North Speedway at the A & P show grounds in the Manawatu area of New Zealand. Apparently the show grounds had fallen on hard times and was looking at various new attractions to bolster attendance. It had two “chariots” built by a local company that used two, nine-horsepower, Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The history of the speedway site says that one of the riders, Murray Andrews, attended the 75th Jubilee. It didn’t mention whether he showed up on the chariot. The site says there are no accounts of how the machines performed. But I can see a good bit of dirt being spit from the wheels in the old photo. My guess is they were pretty exciting. I’d have bought a ticket. Ancient Romans captured nations with chariots pulled by one and two horses. I’d imagine that Mr. Andrews and companion were able to capture and audience with their chariots pulled by 18 horses.

- Guy Wheatley

Editors note: I originally had the location of the A&P Speedway as Takaro, New Zeland. Thanks to Max Rutherford, Secretary/webmaster, Historic Speedway Ass. for setting me straight.

Mar 12
Winter Bikes” width=

Bikes under the carport weathering a short snow..

Here in Texas, we have a relatively short off season. The weather here just doesn’t go into months of deep frost. Even in what passes as the dead of winter in Texarkana, I can find a couple of riding days in any two week period. I never store my bikes for the winter. They just aren’t going to be there long enough for that to be a necessity.
I find it interesting to listen to the guys from more northern climates on the various motorcycle boards I belong to. I think the off season can be harder on the riders than on the bikes. They’ve had to winterize their rides with additives to the gas and oil. Some believe in draining the fluids, while other insist that keeping seals moist is important. The motorcycles have to be protected from the elements. Some find winter homes in garages or storage buildings while others are wrapped warmly under bike covers.
As the machines peacefully slumber the winter away, their owners grow increasingly frustrated. A few, possessing large enough working areas, ease their pains with winter projects and maintenance. Many others turn to forums and biker boards trying to stay connected in some way with motorcycling. But often the good-natured and friendly posts about summer rides and adventures are replaced with laments about being stuck inside. Tempers are shorter and the topic list is broader than in the summer months. The result is often a general decline in civility and tolerance manifested online. Several members have commented on the cyclic nature of online temperament. During the winter months there is more arguing and name-calling than when people are out burning energy and frustrations as well as gasoline on the road. I also see more people coming and going on the boards during the winter. As one person gets feelings hurt and leaves, another will join. And often, the newbie will have just left, or been kicked off, another board.
But eventually the days get longer, the weather warmer, and the flowers start to bloom. And guys who sounded as though they might have done violence had they been in the same room will clap each other on the back as they leave a favored greasy spoon to put some miles under their wheels.
So to all of you out there sick of the trolls, hang on. Summer’s coming.

- Guy Wheatley

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