Mar 5
Guy on his Valkyrie” width=

Joy riding on the Valkyrie.

Even though both of my bikes are considered power cruisers, I’ve always taken pride in not using that power irresponsibly. I like knowing that if I need to get out of a dangerous spot, I’ve got the power to do so. I can quickly accelerate to pass a large vehicle, or to get out of somebody’s blind spot. Twice, a twist of the wrist has taken me out of the path of potential danger. Maggie’s get-up-and-go has gotten me out of a couple of tight spots at intersections when another driver wasn’t paying attention.
But that power was not to be abused. I took pride that I drove close to the speed limit, didn’t shoot through intersections and waited for large gaps to merge or pass. To me, a good rider is one who makes good decisions and avoids the necessity of riding on the edge to avoid disaster, not somebody who lucks out after getting themselves in a bad spot with supposed riding skills. I had no respect for those people I’d see darting around cars and shooting intersections as the light changed. I still don’t.
Imagine my surprise then to discover I’d become one of them. I realized I was driving like some stupid young kid on a sport bike, or Squid, as we old cruisers call them. I was on the Valkyrie one day, stuck behind a couple of cars on a four-lane road. They were pacing each other going right at the speed limit. The road ahead was clear, but I couldn’t get around them as they poked along side by side at almost the same speed. They were actually traveling at a reasonable speed, the speed limit. But in my squidified mental state, this was an intolerable situation. A small gap finally opened up as one car slowly pulled ahead of the other and I cranked the throttle and shot through it. I kept the throttle open letting my cobras roar as I looped around the car ahead of me, cutting back into the lane far too quickly. I took some satisfaction in the thought that I probably scared the dickens out of the cage driver.
That’s when the 55-year-old, responsible adult who’d been asleep somewhere in the back of my brain finally woke up and demanded to know just what the heck I was doing. I’d only been back on the bike a couple of weeks at this time. Somehow I’d been seduced by the power available with the flick of a wrist. I don’t know if it was a subconscious revolt against the frailty I’d recently felt or some other factor. I just know I’d let it take over. The speed and acceleration had become a narcotic, and I’d gotten hooked.
There is no Squids Anonymous nor a 12-step program. This has to stop right now, cold turkey. And it has. To my relief, simply calling my behavior to light was enough to remove the desire to act that way. I’ve always been repulsed by the attitude of those who’s lack or respect for themselves, others and their sport, allow them to behave so irresponsibly. Realizing that I was behaving that way was disconcerting enough to remove the temptation to do so again.
Thank goodness my epiphany didn’t come with a call to 911 and the sound of sirens.

- Guy Wheatley

Feb 23
Progressive Springs for the Magna.” width=

Progressive springs for the Magna.

With both bikes in need of some TLC and the gloomy weather, I’d despaired of ever riding again. I’d taken the Magna to Wally World a couple of times, but with the front end diving so badly I didn’t want to push my luck with a real ride. I can’t ride the Valkyrie because it needs rear breaks.
I’ve got the brake pads for the Valkyrie. What I didn’t have was the gumption to get out there and put them on. Maggie needs an oil change in the engine and the front forks. I’ve got the filter, and both types of oil. The only ingredient I’m lacking is the same one I’m lacking for Val.
Monday morning as I left for work, the weather wasn’t gorgeous, but it was tempting. At noon, I parked the truck, dug Maggie out from under her winter blanket, and rode her to work. The weather has gotten better almost every day and I find that the bike between my legs and the wind in my face is wonderfully invigorating. My last pre-surgery ride was barely four months ago, but it almost seems like a different lifetime. It’s as though the surgery removed my passion for the bikes along with the disease.
These last few days have brought back the memory of those rides. They’ve also brought back my desire to work on and ride my beloved bikes. I’ve even gotten enough excitement to fall back into the old “might as well” trap. While I’ve got the fork caps off Maggie to replace the fork oil, I “might as well” replace the stock springs with progressive springs to improve her handling.
The weather should still be mild this weekend, and I find myself with a dilemma I haven’t faced since before my trip to the hospital. Work on the bikes or ride them? It’s a great dilemma to have, and proof positive that I’m making progress.

- Guy Wheatley

Feb 13

This was supposed to my personal blog. It is hosted by the Texarkana Gazette, which holds all rights to the content. But it was non-the-less the opinions and observations of a single person.
Unfortunately, after the surgery I haven’t been very motivated. Both of my bikes need maintenance that I’m only now feeling well enough to start. But the cold and dreary weather that I once took pride in defying, now keeps me inside. I just haven’t felt like much of a motorcycle enthusiasts recently. I’ve only ridden a few miles since November, and only fire the bikes up to keep the carbs from gumming up. I just don’t have anything to write about, nor do I feel a pressing urge to express an opinion or share an epiphany as I once did. As a result, I’m asking to Gazette to take down the link to the blog. It should be gone some time today. The blog will still be here for those who have it bookmarked, but there won’t be any additional content for a while.
Hopefully as summer comes on I’ll recapture the excitement and enthusiasm of the past, and again feel like sharing my thoughts online. But for now, I’d rather pull the blog than let it stagnate or fill it with desperate drivel.

Nov 21
Hell’s Angel
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 11 21st, 2011| icon33 Comments »
Bikes in the carport.” width=

I recently finished the book, “Hell’s Angel” by and about Sonny Barger. I have little doubt that the general time line of events was pretty accurate. The part of the book I found less convincing and most terrifying was Mr. Barger’s attempt to downplay the dangerous and violent side of the events. Some gruff-looking guy acting tough and telling everybody how “bad” he is can be disconcerting. Mr. Barger’s attempt to distance himself from that image is far scarier. Though he frequently describes himself and the club as “Just a bunch of guys who like to ride their bikes and have fun,” the extremely casual attitude toward human life and an utter disdain for civility paint a different picture.
The book wasn’t so much an eye-opener as a point around which a growing conviction could congeal. When I first bought my motorcycle, I ran out and bought black leather riding gear. Looking back, it was a lot like selecting a Halloween costume. Ray Liotta’s character in the movie Wild Hogs referred to riders dressed in black leather, who weren’t part of the outlaw culture, as posers. The ghosts or mummies I may have imitated on Halloween don’t really roam the streets. The 1-percenters, on whom the black leather riding costumes are based, do. So do I want to dress like them? Is that truly the image of myself I’d like to convey?
In my case the answer is no. I like being a law-abiding citizen. I like being a good neighbor. I like people to feel safe and relaxed around me. I actually want to be an average American who rides a motorcycle for fun and relaxation. So if I don’t want to be some bad and dangerous biker when on the motorcycle, who do I want to be? Turns out that answer is easy. Me. The same guy sitting here at work writing this blog. The same guy who will sit with his wife, kids and grandkids on Thanksgiving. That guy enjoys riding motorcycles for the sake of the bikes and the ride. A guy who doesn’t need to feel he’s intimidating somebody to enjoy riding.
I’ll continue to wear protective riding gear. A lot of it will be black because that is the most popular color and the most easily available. But I won’t be dressing for effect. I’ll be dressing for safety and comfort. And if I don’t look like a biker? Good!

- Guy Wheatley

Nov 17
Bikes in the carport.” width=

Bikes in the carport waiting for me to get better.

The surgery was seven weeks ago. Physically, I’m recovering faster than my doctor expected. It’s always good to hear how far ahead of the curve I am on each visit. That being said, I guess I was expecting more energy, stamina and desire to do stuff. I really thought I’d have been back to blogging several weeks by now. It’s just hard to write about the motorcycles when I haven’t been on them in such a long time. It will be a least a couple of weeks before I get on them again. And then it will only be for short rides of a few blocks. As a result, I just don’t have much to talk about.
One bike-related event did happen recently while I was waiting a drug delivery. Actually, I was standing in line at the pharmacy. There was a pretty long line so I knew I’d be there for a while. They guy standing in front of me looked to be in his mid-30s. He was wearing soiled jeans, a tattered sleeveless t-shirt, and sported a goatee. He had tattoos, but so do I, so no judgment here on that score. He just seemed like a typical, working-class stiff who’d stopped by the pharmacy on his way home from work. What caught my attention wasn’t the way he looked. It was what he was saying. He was taking to the lady ahead of him about a mutual friend who’d been hurt on a motorcycle.
I listened for a second to see if I might know the person they were talking about. I didn’t know the subject of their conversation, but was just about to join in offering sympathy when the guy said something that stopped me.
“Yep,” he said loudly, “that’s why I’ve got loud pipes on my bike. Loud pipes save lives.” He then went on with an impossible tale of a lady on the interstate doing 80 in an SUV full of kids almost changing lanes in front of him until he hit the throttle and his pipes warned her off.
I’m not saying it didn’t happen. It just would have to have happened in a universe with different laws of physics than those that operate here in this one. If he had no pipes at all simply blasting hot exhaust gases directly from his heads, the lady doing 80 in an SUV would not have heard him until his was even with her. By the time she heard his pipes he would have to be almost to the front of her vehicle and past the most dangerous point. It’s far more likely she caught movement in her peripheral visual field. There has been a lot of research on this subject, and nobody has found a single piece of objective data that loud pipes are beneficial. In fact, there is a considerable body of evidence that they are detrimental. But nonetheless, some people who like loud pipes continue to insist they are a safety feature.
The fellow in line ahead of me was obviously one of them. He then continued with several other colloquialisms that were equally ridiculous, including the following two
He didn’t wear a helmet because it restricts vision. And there are two kinds of bikers: those who have had an accident and those who are going to.
As I listened to him loudly blather away, it occurred to me that with his philosophies on safety, it was no wonder he assumed that accidents were inevitable.

- Guy Wheatley

Jun 23
Wasps
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 06 23rd, 2011| icon3No Comments »
Grain Elevator” width=

A grain elevator similar to the one I worked at during
college summers.

During the summers between college I worked at a grain storage facility. We called them grain elevators, or just elevators. When grain is brought to the elevator, it’s dumped in a pit. At the bottom of the pit is a hopper that feeds the “elevator,” from which the site draws its name. This is just a belt with buckets attached that lift the grain to a turn-head almost 200 feet high. The turn-head is a swiveling pipe that can direct the grain falling from the top of the elevator into one of several pipes that lead to either a storage bin, a dryer or another turn-head somewhere beneath the elevator turn-head. A lot of the movement of grain is done by gravity, feeding the falling product into different pipes leading off a turn-head.
The Big-4 , named after the company that manufactured it, was an elevated grain bin that stood atop 30-foot legs. It had a slide gate at the bottom. A truck could drive under this gate and be loaded with grain by simply opening the gate and allowing the grain to fall in. When grain was sold, it would be dumped into the Big-4, ready to be loaded onto the customer’s truck.
Usually I’d be out of school for the summer and start work just as oat harvest began. We’d run 12-hour days, seven days per week for about four weeks. Then things would begin to slow down and we’d start cleanup, maintenance and waiting for rice harvest. We learned to stay busy, or at least out of sight, during the lull between harvests. And during this time, you never completed a job in an hour if you could drag it out for six hours.
One day the boss called us over the intercom to, “get rid of the wasp nest on the Big-4.” The little rascals had decided that the slide gate handle was just the place for a big nest. One can imagine that certain territorial disputes would arise when the time came to open the gate to dispense grain. We were being called upon to resolve the issue by diplomatic, or other, means. The usual procedure here involved chemical warfare. We’d climb up the legs and out onto the bracing of the bin to get within the range of a can of bug spray. Thus I found myself hanging upside down from a piece of angle iron 30 feet above the concrete as my co-worker prepared to anger a couple hundred wasps.
I watched Slick, nobody used proper names in those days, take careful aim with the spray can, then hesitate. I foolishly thought for a minute that Slick was getting nervous. I’d known him long enough to know better, but that was still my first thought. It disappeared quickly when I heard him say, “This is too easy.”
Slick had strange ideas about what was easy. I personally didn’t find the prospect of fighting off a couple of hundred angry, poisoned wasps with one hand while clinging to an inch-wide piece of angle iron 30 feet above a concrete floor particularly easy. But then I wasn’t Slick.
“I’ll be back,” Slick said as he slid down one of the legs to the ground, then disappeared into the main storage building.
True to his word, he was back barely a minute later carrying two yard sticks. He shinnied up the leg opposite from me and approached the wasp nest from the other side. Reaching around it, he handed me one of the yardsticks. Before I could ask just what in Hades I’m supposed to do with it, he began to poke at a single wasp with his stick. He eventually angered the insect to the point that it jumped on the end of the stick and began to furiously stab at it with it’s stinger. Slick then extended the wasp-laden end of the stick toward me.
“Smack it!” he answered my questioning look. I smacked the end of his stick with mine catching the wasp in between. We both watch the tiny body spiral to the ground below. By the time I looked back at Slick, he was already tormenting our second victim.
You know, this really was fun. You’ve got to be careful about poking at the wasps. Occasionally one of the smarter ones will jump off the nest and attack the stick holder rather than the stick. Try hitting an attacking wasp with a yardstick, hanging upside down, etc., etc. We took home a few whelps as souvenirs. And things could get real interesting if you messed around and hit the nest while wildly swinging at an attacking wasp. But even this was too easy for Slick, so he cut our yard sticks in half length ways making them even more narrow. It became a point of pride to have the narrowest stick. One at at time, wasps soon became an endangered species at the elevator.
Just a few days before I would return to school that summer, another one of the crew came running up as I was unloading a truck and excitedly said, “Slick found a wasp nest!” Frankie never found the thrill that Slick and I did from participating in these hunts, but he seemed to enjoy watching us do it.
Even though rice harvest had started and I didn’t really have time for this, I hurriedly gave the customer his ticket and a bum’s rush out the door. We hadn’t seen any wasps in weeks, and this would undoubtedly be my last chance this summer. Following Frankie across the yard to a different building I spotted Slick among the tangle of angle iron bracing almost 200 feet up at a turn-head.
“Hang on ’til I get there!” I admonished Slick. He was known to go solo by smacking the wasp on a wall or brace as it rode his stick. He’d have the rest of the summer and fall to wasp hunt. This would be my last shot this year, and he could darn well wait for me.
I breathlessly arrived at the battle ground. In this flat rice country, we seemed to be at the pinnacle of creation. The turn-head was 5 feet above us, above that is only sky. I could see our competition, DeWitt Grain and Storage, in the city of DeWitt 14 miles to the north. It was here, at the edge of space that this last ragtag band of six-legged refugees made their stand. And a sad little affair it was. The little wad of perforated paper was smaller than a golf ball with 4 wasps clinging to it. Something stirred in me and I looked to Slick to see if he also felt the urge to grant amnesty to this last colony.
Nope. He’s already handing me the first wasp. Oh well. Smack, smack smack smack, and it’s done.
That was my last summer at the elevator. Slick’s dad and the other partners sold it that winter. The new owners had their own crew, so I found a job on a tow boat the next summer. That was many summers ago. But to this day, I never see a wasp nest or yard stick without thinking of Slick, and the fun we had that summer. It’s an oft-repeated truth that you don’t recognize the best days of your life while living them. It’s only now, looking back across the years, that I realize what treasures they were.

- Guy Wheatley

Jan 4
NewTire

My Magna VF750 getting a new rear tire.

Tires are literally where the rubber meets the road. A tire will have a greater impact on the handling of your motorcycle than any other single component. I’m surprised then at how little I hear about tires on wrenching boards compared to things like oil or spark plugs.
I’ve seen discussions in which guys adamantly defended one brand of oil over another. I remember the old cigarette commercial from decades ago that claimed their customers would rather fight than switch. The same goes for oil. There can be a real passion associated with oil selection.
While oil is important, it won’t likely make the difference in keeping the bike upright in a tight spot or out of the ditch. You will probably not go flying down a mountainside because of an oil failure. But the performance of a tire is often the difference between life and death.
Most of the posts about tires on the boards I frequent are about using a car tire. I’ll ignore that subject for this blog and focus only on brand loyalty. Also the boards I belong to are for cruisers. I’m not sure these observations hold true for sport bikes or dirt bikes.
Most tire-related posts begin with somebody about to change a tire and seeking advice. Most of the responses will be tentative compared to those for oil. Usually the suggestions will involve only a couple of brands. Rarely somebody will suggest changing to a different profile. And it seems to be a much smaller percentage of the members willing to join in the discussion. It seems a lot of guys simply haul their bike to the dealership for the tire “that goes on that bike.”
And that may well be the answer to my observation. Folks aren’t as passionate about something they don’t do themselves. Changing the tire on a big cruiser is no simple matter. It requires a lot of muscle, confidence and some fairly heavy-duty equipment. You’ve got to support the bike while the tire is off, break the bead on the old tire, wrestle it off the rim and the new one on. Then there is the issue of balancing the tire. If you’re not a believer in Dyna-beads, then you’ll need a tire balancer. It seems only a small percentage of cruisers are willing to take on those challenges. Many of those who do also ride dirt bikes on which there may be more willingness to do your own tire change, and that carries over to the other bike for these riders.
I’ve seen video posted showing people changing tires using things like garbage bags or ratchet straps to ease the procedure. The tires being changed in these videos are usually for sport bikes or dirt bikes, again leading me to think cruisers are less likely to venture off down this path.
All riders might benefit from an increased interest in tire technology. At the moment there seems little incentive for tire manufacturers to improve motorcycle tires. Too many folks simply let the dealer install a “recommended” tire every 10,000 miles or so. The same passion for oil, applied to tires, might generate enough consumer pressure to get manufacturers to produce motorcycle tires with increased life and more versatility in tread design and profile in the cruiser market. As cruisers, we ought to be more active in tire design. After all, we’ve got a lot riding on them.

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 27

Carburator from L650 Savage

I called my son, then held the phone close to a running motorcycle to let him hear the engine. He was thrilled when he figured out it was Thumper, the little 650 savage we’d been working on. We replaced the wiring harness the weekend before, but ran out of time before he had to leave and didn’t finish putting it back together. I promised him I’d get the gas tank back on it and see if the bike would run with the new wiring harness.
We thought we’d dodged a bullet because it had been setting up for a little more than 2 years with electrical problems. We both figured that once we got those sorted out, we had a trip into the carburetor ahead of us. The sewing machine regularity of the “putter putter” being transmitted to Fort Worth by cell phone seemed to belay that assumption. Alas, it was not to be.
A couple of days later Brandon had a Friday off and headed home for a three day weekend. I got a call midmorning while I was at work. “Dad, I can’t get it started, and there’s gas pouring out of the air box,” he explained over the phone.
“Sounds like a stuck float,” I told him. “Go get some carb cleaner and we’ll pull it tomorrow.”
An early morning ride with a side trip to the Pioneer Days festival in New Boston delayed our wrenching session until Saturday afternoon. By 1:00, it was too hot to ride, so we set up in the carport under a fan and got to work on Thumper.
Neither of us had pulled a carburetor before, so we carefully checked the Clymer manual before tearing into it. We also took pictures at each step so we’d have reference images as we put it back together. Even so, we occasionally found that a part wouldn’t come loose as easily as the manual suggested, or that our unit looks slightly different from the drawings.
We compared ideas and observations, each offering techniques until we eventually got the cleaned carburetor back in place.
This exercise had every opportunity to be frustrating, starting with the fact that we were tearing into the carb after we thought we had the bike fixed. Putting the bike back together we tried to remember, or figure out, where some of the hoses taken off 2 years earlier went.
Eventually we finished. Standing over the little machine, listening to the engine running smoothly and surely I realized that I had thoroughly enjoyed myself. My son’s satisfied grin told me he had also.
It was fun putting the little bike through its paces and making sure it would continue to run. We went looking for bumps to be sure the electrical short from two years before was really gone. We toped off the tank, then headed down the road, each mile bringing us more confidence in our repairs and a greater sense of accomplishment.
Fixing and riding the little bike was fun. Doing it with my son made it fantastic.

Guy Wheatley

Carburator

Aug 1
Guy on Vic

Me on Vic

I sold the Victory. I’ve been wanting a Valkyrie and recently got the chance to get one at good price. That made three bikes in my garage, and that was just one too many. I’ll keep the Magna because it’s smaller, and a different type of ride. The Victory and the Valkyrie are both big touring bikes, and they were the redundant pair. Obviously I’m keeping the one I just bought, so that means Vic is the one headed for classifieds.
I listed it on a couple of internet sites and put a classified ad in the paper. I had quite a bit of interest in the first couple of weeks, but nobody actually closed the deal. Nobody had any money. A lot of people offered to trade for it, and some of the offers were interesting. But I wanted to sell Vic to pay off the Valkyrie. Eventually, the phone calls got further and further apart and I began to be afraid I might not be able to sell it quickly for what I thought was a reasonable price.
After about a month, I took out another classified ad in the paper. I also cleaned it up and set it in the driveway of a friend, who had a good location as far as traffic goes and had quickly moved a couple of vehicles for other people. Two days later I got a call from the classified ad. It turns out it had erroneously been listed under “boats for sell.”
I met the nice couple at my friends house one morning, and watched as the man took it on a test ride. My friend had shined the bike up in a way I never had. The chrome gleamed in the bright sunlight, and the paint looked better than I ever remember it. After showing me his mc license, the man mounted Vic and pulled out onto the road with a skill born of many miles in the saddle. He was a big man of about my size, and he looked good on the bike.
I watched Vic leap down the road under the potential buyer with a grace and eagerness I’d never witnessed. I wondered if I had ever fit him as well as this man did, and was surprised to find myself experiencing what I can only think of as jealousy.
When the guy came back, he pulled into the driveway with an ear to ear grin that told me he and Vic had gotten along famously. His wife asked him, “Well, what do yo think.” He just gave her a big thumbs up, and I knew the deal was done. I couldn’t quite figure how why I wasn’t happier about it. He and his wife talked for a minute, and the lady reminded her husband that they were obligated to go look at another motorcycle a friend of theirs was selling. They left to go look at the other bikes, but the man and I both knew he’d be back.
I came back home to finish some chores I’d started, but had every intention of heading back and taking Vic on one last ride before the deal was done. But shortly after getting home, my wife fell off a ladder and gashed her head. I was sitting in the emergency room with her when I got the call that the couple was on their way back to pick up Vic.
My friend had all of the paperwork and was able to complete the deal without me being there. By the time we got out of the ER, the deal was done, and Vic was gone. At that time, my mind was on my wife, and I didn’t think too much about the bike. But once we got home, it hit me that my Big Vic was really gone. We had a lot of good times on that bike. It was the one my wife and I took to San Antonio for a week. We made several overnight trips on it, and it never once let us down. I think it was worse because I didn’t get to see it that last time, and actually hand over the keys myself.
So, here I sit at 3:00 in the morning, unable to sleep with a lot of good memories and a good bike on my mind. He’s been gone less than 10 hours, and I know he’s got a good home. But I miss him.

— Guy Wheatley

Jul 2

I first blogged in January about the new American V-4 engine coming from Katech for the Motus MST-01. At that time the motor was more concept than reality, never having actually fired to life. That appears to have changed.
Motus just redesigned its website, and released a video that shows the engine being dyno-tested. Motus people in the video seem excited and claim the engine is performing at or exceeding predicted specifications. But there may be more to the story. There are other videos posted on YOUTUBE, including one of an engine walkaround that shows an engine partially mounted to a frame. An audio clip sent out to a few insiders seems to be of a high- performance engine racing by a microphone. Motus makes no claims, simply releasing the audio clip without further comment. But the barely contained exuberance of the Motus staff hint that we may be past static testing. Some of them have the “cat that ate the canary” look I don’t believe would come from an engine bolted to a stand.
This will be an exciting engine. Even though it has a look reminiscent of the muscle cars of the ’70s, it will be a high-tech, powerful machine. Using 1650cc displacement, it will produce 140 horsepower because of advanced features such as gasoline direct injection. My 1500 cc Valkyrie flat-6 is only producing about 100 horsepower, and I can promise you it’s an exciting bike to ride. The 1800 cc engines found in the lastest GoldWings probably top out about 117 horsepower. That’s just a lot of kinetic energy being produced in a small volume.
Motus still plans to mount this thing in a “Sport tourer,” that to my eye is more sport that tourer. I’m still hoping that their second, or maybe even third bike will be a big, comfortable, highway cruiser with no consideration for weight savings. That 140 horsepower should have no trouble pushing saddle bags, light bars, a trunk and big-ol, wind-catching farings down the road faster than anybody really needs to go. And I bet it will still pull your head back even with a top end roll on the throttle.
And if there’s ever been an engine that screams to live in a trike, then this is it.
I’ll be seriously disappointed if I don’t see this thing getting some serious attention at the 2011 Isle of Man TT.

— Guy Wheatley

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