Sep 13
Blind Spot
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 09 13th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
Blind spots” width=

Safety dictates avoiding blind spots.

I just saw video of a guy on a motorcycle who almost got run over by a woman in her car who was on a cell phone. He was trying out a new bike mounted video camera and caught the action on video. Link to VRCC thread with video.
Now just to be clear, there is no excuse for the woman’s actions. She was obviously not paying attention as she pulled into his lane right in front of him and almost hit him. Though I couldn’t see it on the video, I have no reason to doubt his assertion that she was on a cell phone. But the biker is not completely without fault either.
I was nervous as I watched the video. Of course I knew from the title of the thread that there was going to be a near collision. But I’d have been nervous any way because of where the biker was riding. He was in her blind spot. Additionally, that is a bad place to be because of exactly what the woman did. It’s a rather fundamental safety procedure that you do not stay in that position, relative to a car or larger vehicle.
Somebody pointed that out a little ways down the thread. The rider acknowledged that he was in a bad spot, but said that the woman would have still pulled out if she could have seen him because she was on her phone. I think he missed the point that she couldn’t have hit him if he wasn’t there. As motorcycle riders, we should assume that the larger vehicles are going to do do things like that and be sure that we’ve taken appropriate counter measures. When a car pulls up slightly ahead of you, as the woman did in the video, you should get out of that spot. Pull up at least as far as the front door of the car. This keeps you in the drivers’ line of sight for one thing. If they still do something unfortunate, you will have more time to accelerate out of the danger zone. If you can’t pull up that far for some reason, then drop back far enough that a sudden lane change won’t hit you.
The thread wandered over several topics, from the camera to louder horns. But the salient point, not to be missed here, is the ultimate responsibility of a motorcycle riders’ safety lies with the biker. As the operators of the smallest and most vulnerable vehicles on the road, it is incumbent on us to not allow the larger vehicles to hurt us. Regardless who is legally at fault, the motorcyclist will get the worst of it.
In this incident, the camera recorded a good lesson. I hope the rider learns it.

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 29
Honda Nighthawk” width=

The 250cc Honda Nighthawk is a sporty little bike. It was a good starter bike
for my wife and me.

When my wife and I bought our first motorcycle, it was a 250 Nighthawk. I hadn’t ridden in decades and we decided to start out with a smaller bike that would, hopefully, be easier to ride. I rode it as much as possible, including to and from work. After a few weeks, we felt confident enough for my wife to start riding behind me. We buzzed around the block for a few days, then started riding it a little farther, going to some of the back roads just outside of town.
Eventually one Sunday, we decided to try our luck at a longer trip. One of the things we hoped to be able to do was go camping on it. We thought a small tent, sleeping bags, and a little cold food would fit into a couple of backpacks that we’d wear. The campground we’d most often use was just 90 miles north, and a couple of hours away. Finding ourselves with nothing to do one Sunday, we decided to just take a test run up there and back.
The local weather called for a 40 percent chance of rain. I felt pretty good about those odds. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the forecast for the campground. That would be the major lesson on this trip.
The trip up was fairly uneventful. I was worried about the strain we were putting on the little bike. We’ve both lost a lot of weight since then, but in those days our combined tonnage would have run right about 420 pounds. Getting out on the highway I found that I would run between 60 and 65 mph with the throttle wide open. The going was slower on upward grades, sometimes dropping to as slow as 45 mph.
The route we took was beautiful with small, but well kept, roads snaking through scenic hills. The weather was cool for late summer, with scattered clouds. As we crossed the last major east-west road on our way north, we were just 4 miles from the camp store as the first big droplets began to spatter against my face plate.
I asked Sharon what she wanted to do.
“We’re too close now to turn back,” she said. So we plowed onward.
The rain got worse with every mile. By the time we pulled into the store parking lot, it was an all out deluge. I pulled the bike  under an awning covering a walkway, and we went into the store to dry out. We bought some snacks and soft drinks. By the time we finished our impromptu lunch, the rain began to slack off. A short time later the precipitation stopped, giving way to overcast skies.
While the sky wasn’t blue, I couldn’t see any storm clouds. I figured the worst had come and gone, and we’d be fine on the trip back home. Though we were still wet, I was sure the wind blowing over us would dry us out by the time we got back to the main highway. But barely a mile down the road, it began to rain again. Every mile south took us into a harder and harder downpour.
The rain wasn’t cold, so the only discomfort was from being wet. Not really all that bad. Somebody had told me that if you ride motorcycles, you were going to get wet eventually. So this was our day. We both laughed about it, imagining what our kids would say when we told them the story. Then came the first great crack of thunder. It was close enough that the boom and the flash came at the same time. I was sure I felt the concussion in my chest. Now it wasn’t funny anymore. With deep, gravely ditches on both sides of the road, we were the highest thing in the area. I thought about getting off the bike and taking shelter in the woods, but I wasn’t sure that was any safer. Additionally, the storm was showing no signs of abating. For all I knew, we might wind up there after dark. That was a prospect I didn’t relish.
There was no place on this little road to take shelter. U.S. Highway 70 was just 10 miles south. If we could just get there, we’d be close to some inhabited areas where we could get out of the rain at a convenience store. We doggedly kept going while I tried to determine if each new clap of thunder was closer. I was trying to decide at what point I would abandon the bike for the woods.
We finally reached the bigger highway. This one would take us west-southwest for the next 30 miles. I was glad to reach it, but in some ways it was worse. It was much wider, with wide shoulders. The land here had been cleared on both sides, and the tree line was now 100 yards or more from the road leaving us much more exposed. I considered just staying there and hiding in the trees.
But looking to the south, I could see blue sky. Just a mile away, or less, was a bright sunny day. Too bad I was now heading west. I hadn’t heard thunder or seen lightning in the last few minutes, and with blue sky in sight and a small town just 10 miles up the road, I decided to make a run for it. But I had barely reached highway speed when the next clap of thunder threatened to knock us off the bike. The rain increased to the point that I couldn’t stand going more that 40 mph. The impact of those fat drops just hurt too bad to go any faster. It seemed that the lightening was getting worse, yet I could still see fleecy clouds and blue sky over my left shoulder.
We eventually reached the small town of Dierks, but to my dismay, there was nothing open on this rainy Sunday afternoon. The lightening was incessant by now. I spotted a little filling station with two pumps covered by a metal top. The store was closed, but there was shelter of sorts up next to the pumps. I wasn’t really sure if that was any safer, but my nerves were completely shattered by now. This was at least different than being out on the open road.
We stayed on the bike under our modest shelter. I watched the line of blue where the sky was clear still to the south and willed it to come our way. But it ignored my psychic urging. Just 15 miles further west, we’d hit U.S. Highway 71 and turn south, toward the peaceful land I could see from our current refuge. But at the moment, that intersection seem as far away as the Pacific Coast.
After 15 minutes, the rain and the thunder slacked off. I could still hear it in the distance, but it wasn’t the spine-jarring reports that had chased us for the last 30 miles. With little hope that the clear weather would move north, and fear that conditions might deteriorate, we hit the road again for that last 15 miles to relative safety.
About halfway there, we got the last close bolt. After that, it was just a moderate shower and distant lightening. With every clap of sound and drop of water, that stubborn line of blue mocked us with safety just out of reach.
In a fine drizzle, I made a left turn heading south now on 71. In less than a mile and barely a minute later, we were riding down a bight, sunlit road that was as dry as a bone. As the temperature climbed, our wet clothes kept us cool as they dried. An hour later, 46 miles to the south, we pulled into our driveway tired, but elated. This had been an adventure, scary but exciting. And we knew that the decision to buy the bike and been a good one.

- Guy Wheatley

Aug 8
Starting Big
icon1 Guy | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 08 8th, 2012| icon31 Comment »
Starter bike.” width=

My wife and son’s 250cc Diamo starter bike parked in front of my
1500cc Victory 92 TC Deluxe Touring Cruiser.

A new member recently joined the Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club. This guy is more than 60 years old, and has never ridden motorcycles before. Apparently the Valkyrie has caught his eye, and he plans to buy one. He gave us some information on himself. He’s technically competent, seems very intelligent and generally a reasonably cautious guy. But he said he does not plan to start small. His first bike will be the Valkyrie.
He assures us he will be careful, take classes, read books, watch videos and listen to advice from more experienced riders. But he seems pretty well set on bypassing experience on a smaller bike first.
Several of the VRCC members, including yours truly, advise him against this. He has a pilot’s license so I asked him if he would recommend somebody learning to fly in a 747. But to my surprise, and dismay, a few members encouraged him to go for it. Most just tell him to be careful. Others think his experience as a pilot gives him the same kind of skills needed to safely operate a big, powerful, cruiser. There is the feeling that as this man is so intelligent, and is licensed and qualified in a demanding profession, that he can simply “smart” his way to safe operation of his bike.
Being smart always helps. But one of the things a smart person will do is proceed cautiously and methodically. No amount of “smarts” will replace experience. A rider on another board recently posted about the accident that destroyed his bike and seriously injured him. He was a new rider and ran off the road into a ditch. He acknowledges when things started going bad, he fixed his gaze on the ditch. This is known as “target fixation.” It’s just natural to look at the thing you’re most concerned about. In his case, the ditch. But it’s also true you will go where you are looking. It takes time to learn to subconsciously look at where you want to go, not at the scary thing you’re trying to miss.
As things start going sideways, your body will react instinctively. There is no time to “think.” You will do either what just seems natural or what you have trained yourself to do. The biggest brain in the world won’t change that.
It’s an old adage that there is no replacement for experience. Somebody reminded him there were old pilots, and bold pilots, but not many old, bold pilots. Learning to ride on a Valkyrie is certainly bold.

- Guy Wheatley

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 10
The film trick
icon1 Guy | icon2 Wrenching | icon4 07 10th, 2012| icon3No Comments »
Film used to repair leaking fork seal” width=

A piece of film can be used to repair a leaking fork seal.

I replaced the fork oil and upgraded to progressive springs on my Magna back in April. I no sooner finished that project when I noticed a leaking fork seal in my Valkyrie. I really didn’t have time to do it myself, so I got a quote on having it done. It was only about $100 in parts, but the labor was going to run close to $400. OK, so I do have time to do it myself.
Researching the procedure, I quickly realized why the labor was so expensive. This is not a simple repair. It requires a couple of special tools and, if done incorrectly, can damage the replacement parts. In other words, you can waste $100 in parts, and whatever your time is worth, and accomplish nothing. So I kept riding with a slowly leaking seal.
I hadn’t noticed any performance degradation yet. I knew eventually I’d have to tackle this problem, but I was hoping to put it off until winter. The Magna, with its upgraded progressive fork springs, was again out of action because of an ailing carburetor. If I tore into the Valkyrie, I’d have no bike to ride. So I wanted to get the Magna running before I pulled the front end off the Valkyrie. But there are just too many projects lined up in front of the carb job, so I just keep riding and watching the oil spot where I park the bike get bigger and bigger.
I found a wrench session about 5 hours away where they were doing fork seals on a Magna. One of the participants has experience replacing Valkyrie fork seals. He even has the special tools we need. He invited me to come up. But there was no way I could leave town that weekend, so I thanked them and suggested I might try to get up there later in the year.
In the meantime, however, somebody on the discussion thread mentioned the “film trick.”
I’d never heard of this, but apparently it is common practice among the riders of dirt bikes. It seems that leaking fork seals are part of off-road riding from debris working its way in between the fork tube and seal. Rather than replace the seals every time they see a leak, dirt bikers will take a piece of film, like used in old- fashioned cameras, and use it to try and clear the foreign material. They simply remove the dust cap, then cut a slight point on a strip of film. Then they slide the film up the fork tube, in between the tube and the seal. Then they push the film all they way around the tube, with the film at an angle. Very often this forces the contaminant out of the seal. You then wipe the oil off the tube and bounce the forks to reset the seal. You may have to repeat the bouncing and wiping several time until the seal reseats and you no longer see oil on the fork tube. But once that happens, you’ve just saved yourself a $500 repair.
So Sunday morning, I found myself kneeling at my Valkyrie’s front wheel, film in hand but no real hope in my heart. This just seemed to be too good to be true. A chrome shield that is supposed to protect the tube was in the way. But I eventually got the dust cap off and the film in between the tube and seal. Again, the shield made a complete 360-degree circumnavigation of the tube difficult, but I eventually succeeded. I looked to see if I could spot any material dislodged by my effort. I didn’t see anything. I wasn’t surprised, figuring there was little chance of this simple solution actually working. But as I began to wipe down and bounce the forks, I noticed that the seal had stopped leaking. As of Tuesday morning, the tube is still clean, and the oil spot on my sidewalk has stopped growing.
I’ve watched a lot of high-dollar, special-effect movies. I watched blue humanoids ride flying dragons, and a man in an iron suit fly. But stopping a leaking seal has got to be my favorite film trick.

- Guy Wheatley

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 22
Honda Super 90.” width=

Photo: ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A little Honda Super 90 motorcycle, similar to the one that hauled my
co-worker and his wife from california to Arkansas.

When I was in college, I worked at the Shoe Factory in DeWitt, Ark., during the summer. There was a guy there who had made the trip from somewhere in California to DeWitt with his wife on a Honda 90. This guy was about 6 feet tall and rail thin, not weighing in at more than 120 pounds. His wife, on the other hand, probably tipped the scales at close to 200. They came from California on that little bike with everything they owned. He always dressed in wide-brimmed cowboy hat and boots. His belt buckle weighed as much as he did. He looked like a 1950s TV cowboy. I’ve kept that mental image in mind for years. While I admire his gumption, it had to have been a comical sight.
That memory was called back for me when I read a post on the Valkyrie board. The person posting had a business trip coming up and was considering making the 570-mile trip on his bike. He only had one day for travel and, would have to be presentable and rational enough for the business meeting the next day. The advice he got was mixed.
One of the people who responded was a lady who told of going from Fort McClellan, Ala., to Detroit sometime in the 1960s on a 50cc scooter. She said it took her three days and 8 gallons of gas. She didn’t give any details about why she made the trip, but I’d imagine they were similar to the guy at the shoe factory. I doubt it was a simple joy ride.
I wouldn’t mind making a long trip on my Valkyrie. We’re talking about a big and comfortable, 1500cc cruiser. Yet I don’t think I’d risk a business meeting on my ability to endure almost 600 miles in a day on it. I might still make an endurance run in the next few years, but it will be something that won’t jeopardize my job. It will be something I try for fun. If it hurts too bad I’ll quit. A little more than a half-century of living has taught me that some things are important and worth suffering for, while other are not. I’ve made the conscious decision that I ride motorcycles for fun. When a ride stops being fun, I’ll shut it down in a heartbeat and save my suffering for other, more important battles.
But there’s a special place in my heart for those heroic little bikes that delivered so much for their owners. In some parts of the world, they are still little bedrocks of dependability that keep some families afloat. So here’s a tip of my hat to the little bikes that could, and the ones that still can.

- 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

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