November has always been my least favorite month. It signals the end of all that is good: warmth, freedom of movement, the green of summer and the beauty of early fall, and of course in northern climes it marks the end of another motorcycling season. For going on forty years I've sadly marked November as the time to park the bike and winterize it. In old days (how many remember this piece of history?) the insurance on motorcycles lapsed during the winter months so there wasn't even any occasional riding on a 'warm' day. November meant the end of riding until at least March or April.
The end of October and first of November bring us death-based observations such as Halloween, All Souls Day, Day of the Dead, and other bright and cheerful events marking the end of life. It is with this backdrop that I once again admit that summer is history and that I must winterize the bike yet one more year.
But there is still life in those aspects of the sport that transcend the riding season. The business side of the industry continues with new products and continual research; legal issues wrestle their way through the regulatory process at all levels; and as another racing season wraps up exciting news is once again made on the national and international stages. I've decided to breathe some life into this biking season by spending some time on these other facets of the motorcycle lifestyle. So here we go.In recent days two representatives from Brammo, Inc., of Ashland, OR, rode the company's totally electric motorcycles from Detroit to Washington, DC, retracing the routes taken by GM and Chrysler execs when they made their famous hat-in-hand trip to DC earlier this year, in hybrid cars after their corporate jets were grounded. Brammo wanted to demonstrate their Enertia Motorcycle, an electric bike already on the market ready for distribution. The below blog follows their road trip and time in DC as they try to get an appointment with Barack Obama, and give him one of their bikes. Fun and interesting reading.
It is fairly well known that Brad Pitt is a motorcycle enthusiast, regularly riding in the LA and Hollywood area. He normally wears a helmet to provide some anonymity as he enjoys a ride alone or with friends. But of course this doesn't deter the paparazzi who follow every move that movie stars make hoping for a one-of-a-kind photo that will make them rich.
A few days ago Pitt was involved in a minor accident when a nosy photographer pressed him a little too closely, and he tried to squeeze between cars to escape. Only slight damage to the bike, none to Pitt.
On an issue having nothing at all to do with celebrity and good looks - Unfortunately there are too many riders who equate noise with power and personal status. Posers who think they must run straight pipes to be cool are the single greatest threat to the motorcycling lifestyle out there today. They are going to bring the government, and worse, public opinion, crashing down on our heads, and we'll some day all be forced by law to ride the equivalent of Honda Civics with two wheels.
I have nothing against a motorcycle that makes its presence known with a deep powerful exhaust note typical of a V-twin, or that shows off the power of a well tuned 4-cylinder sport bike. It's music to my ears!
What I hate is the obnoxious sound that any internal combustion engine makes when it is improperly equipped with a tuned and matched exhaust system. Noise does not equate to power, and more noise doesn't equal more power! All unmuffled engines sound the same - a lawnmower with a rusted out muffler, or a '72 bucket of rust automobile with holes in its muffler, sound essentially the same as a motorcycle with straight pipes. Nothing sexy about any of them!
Anyone who knows a whit about engine tuning knows that a certain amount of back pressure, provided by a tuned exhaust system, is critical. Intake and exhaust, and everything that happens in between, are interconnected actions, and altering one without tuning the others just reduces power and efficiency.
Over the years I've had a lot of fellow riders comment on how poorly their bike ran after they put aftermarket pipes on. It's louder, but now it surges, has less power in various RPM ranges, starts harder, and in general runs like crap. Well, Duh! You just undid years of engineering research and testing done by the manufacturer, turning a well tuned machine into a backyard experiment. As a youth I remember lots of young guys who thought that the first way to a cool sexy car was to alter the mufflers in some way. Usually they just made it run worse, albeit louder. Not sure any of the female persuasion thought it was either cool or sexy, though.
I have nothing against aftermarket manufacturers of exhaust systems. There are very reputable companies that make exhaust systems that are lighter, better looking, and when properly matched to the bike, can make it run better when other parts of the system are correspondingly adjusted. And these quality replacement pipes are not ridiculously loud. I've used them in the past on some of my bikes with good results.
Anyway, after all these years of talk and hand-wringing by those in power, finally we have something to hang our hats on - - a common sense and easily verifiable standard by which to judge motorcycle noise. I suspect that many states and municipalities will enact this standard as law by reference.
Read about it below.
I love watching motorcycle racing. I haven't figured out why NASCAR racing, where drivers strapped in a cage repeatedly race around an oval, is so popular with spectators, and yet motorcycle racing doesn't have the following necessary for prime time TV. To my way of thinking there is no comparing the excitement level between a car driver that isn't even visible to the viewer, and a motorcycle pilot hanging off the bike at insane angles and speeds, inches away from the concrete and other bikes, and at speeds at least as fast as the car drivers. Motorcycle tracks are also quite different from stock car racing in their configuration. No simple ovals, bike tracks have many built in tight curves along with high speed straights. This sort of road race demands infinitely more in skill besides simply holding a line on a steeply banked oval.
There are several levels of racing on road courses, with the international Grand Prix and MotoGP being the best of the best. And the best of the best individual racer for the last decade has been a young Italian by the name of Valentino Rossi, now with an amazing 9 world championships to his credit. Read more about this amazing athlete and showman below.
In domestic motorcycle road racing the best racers compete in the AMA Pro American Superbike category. These races are great fun to watch at venues such as Daytona, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Laguna Seca, and many more fabled tracks across the country.
How about some funny, or just plain weird news to lead us into this month of darkness:
In Germany, a woman motorcyclist riding in a completely legal manner was found 50% guilty by the court for hitting a drunk who was walking (stumbling) across an intersection against the light. The accident occurred during one of Germany's many beer festivals, and the judge said that the motorcyclist should have anticipated drunks being present during the festival and been more careful. Can't win for losing!
In Florida, a man was arrested for drunk driving on his motorcycle on I-75 - did I mention he was also naked? Turns out it was his 5th DUI arrest! He's lucky to be alive - clothed or not!
In Pennsylvania, a motorcycling dentist was arrested because his female passenger happened to be naked. Putting these two cases together we can now assume that both the operator and passenger must be clothed while riding a bike.
The town of Harleysville, SC, has a problem with its town signs being stolen. For some reason the police suspect Harley owners are behind this crime spree. Talk about jumping to conclusions! I more highly suspect those Suzuki riders.
On the bright side, only five more months till spring.