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

Apr 19
Texarkana Bike Night Forum” width=

Home page of the Texarkana Bike Night Forum.

I started a little Biker Board for a local group I used to hang out with. At its high point we had about 20 active members, and there would be several posts every day. Sometimes, we’d get into good discussions, and threads would get long or branch off into other topics. But as of this writing the most recent post, not counting my own, is 30 days old. The next most recent post is more than 30 days before that one. I show 23 members, but with no posts, I’m not sure I’d classify any of them as active.
But mine is not the only board fading. The first board I joined more than 10 years ago has a member list of more than 500. I joined it for the camaraderie of enthusiasts of a particular motorcycle, but also for information and help with maintenance. I’ve since joined other forums, usually focusing on a particular model of bike. I found them to be wellsprings of information and support. The format lends itself to the exchange of information. I can post a question on a maintenance thread, and get several responses. And as the thread is a specific question, the responses are usually on topic. The advice is vetted with an erroneous suggestion usually pointed out very quickly by other knowledgeable members. Social interests are also handled with separate threads for each topic. Every meeting, ride or annual gathering will have its own thread. Posts are easy to read and understand as they are threaded by topic and presented sequentially by date. It’s an efficient way to share information.
And, of course, there are those who believe it their purpose in life it to inform the rest of us about what our political or religious opinions should be, but they are relegated to other areas so members can easily avoid if they choose to do so. Moderators will maintain a level of decorum and environment appropriate to the venue. Occasionally a member who will not follow the rules will be removed.
I would find more posts each day than I could keep up with when I first joined. I usually selected only those topics that seemed to hold some interest for me. Now, I can go days at a time without seeing a new post. All of the boards I belong to have seen a decline in activity. So where have all the members gone?
Facebook must certainly account for some of them. I know several people who say they don’t use the boards much any more because they are on Facebook. And that is sad. Facebook has its place, but it did not bring the same ease of use to topics. If you have a lot of friends, topics will quickly scroll off the bottom before you see them. And there seem to be more chronic posters on Facebook than I ever saw on the boards. It seems no matter the topic, there will always be somebody posting every few minutes with some irrelevant or off topic reply. Facebook doesn’t lend itself to long posts on very specific subjects such as jetting the carbs on a third generation Honda Magna with associated photos, video and links to parts. Facebook may be free to join, but if its success comes at the expense of those wonderful old boards, then we’re paying a very high price indeed.

- 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

Apr 9
Leaking fork seal” width=

Leaking fork seal on my Valkyrie.

I finally got around to replacing the fork oil in my Magna. And while I was at it, I replaced the stock springs with progressives.
The bike sat in my carport for a week while I worked up the nerve to get started. I’ve only seen this done once before, and that required pulling the tubes out of the triple tree. Reading and researching, I discovered that I had lucked out on my model. On the Magna, there is an oil drain plug on the back of the tube. You don’t even have to remove the wheel. Just put the bike on a lift so that you can lift it, to decompress the tubes before opening the cap. Drain the old oil, reach right in and pull out the old springs, pour in the right amount of oil, put the new springs and spacers in, then replace the plugs and cap. Voila, you’re done.
You do have to cut the new spacers. The optimal length I need is 5.12 inches. The progressive kit included a single 10-inch piece of 1-inch schedule 40 pipe that you are supposed to cut to use as spacers. To keep each one from being a little more than a tenth of an inch short, I just popped down to the hardware store and bought another piece of pipe. Then, you have to add back the correct amount of oil. A little less (521 cc) for the progressive springs than the amount required for the stock springs. But last Sunday, I finally got it done. I was so happy to have both bikes running again.
I decided to ride the Magna for the next couple of weeks because it’s been setting up for a while. So I pulled the Valkyrie up on the sidewalk, inside the gate, where I keep it. I put the cover on it to keep off any dust, or rain that might fall. As I came out this morning, I noticed a spot on the front tire. I often let my little Yorkie out in the front yard to do his business, and my first thought was that he had marked the bike. No such luck. Closer examination revealed it to be fork oil, dripping from a busted seal.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

- 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.

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