Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

Motorcycle news and opinion

Archive for January, 2016

Black leather and grey hair

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It is the winter bike show season in Canada – a chance to blow out some cobwebs and gawk at all the latest bikes and gear. I went to the Toronto “Motorcycle Supershow” on the second Friday of the new year with an old riding buddy. While shuffling our way interminably through the lineup toward the one entryway I had a chance to do some mental demographic analysis (yes, it took that long). The typical showgoer appeared to be a male, fifty plus+ years of age. We appeared to fit the demographic.

Once inside we began winding our way up and down the aisles, stopping to take a picture once in a while or straining to swing a leg over one of the bikes on display. Although I will probably never own one, I can see why low-seat cruisers and step-through mega-scooters are becoming more and more popular as the average age of motorcyclists increases.

Some of the more interesting bikes were at the Polaris/Indian display. Polaris has established a foothold in what was considered exclusive Harley territory by doggedly working on improving and promoting their big Victory cruisers and pushing them out through their existing snowmobile network. Their dealers have probably been happy to have something to sell during the tough sledding months. Polaris is also the most recent in what has become a long line of optimists willing to try to revive the Indian brand. It might work this time. I liked the “Scout” line of mid-size V-twins, despite their miniscule solo seats. Have seats gotten way smaller or is it just my butt that has gotten bigger? I always preferred the original Scout to the bigger, heavier Chief, even before they were called cruisers. The bike I found most intriguing at the Victory display was the Empulse TT, an electric sport bike developed at the Isle of Man.


My buddy admitted he was not really interested in the vintage bike section and I admitted I had no interest in the custom bike section so of course we had to see both. Looking at the painstakingly restored old oil-leakers and the block long chromed showboats got me thinking about how much time people seem to have on their hands these days, not to mention the money it must take to build a custom trike with a roof and turn signals made from fibreglass cobra heads with LED eyeballs. I would love to pull up in/on something like that on a first date. The latest custom craze appears to be stretched and slammed scooters. Who knew?

slammed scooter

While wandering around, my buddy and I kept bumping into people we knew (all of whom fit the demographic). Thinking about it later I realized that I had known some of these people for twenty years or more and the one connection we had was bikes. In many cases the only time I see them is at bike shows and other motorcycle events.

One of the halls we entered was filled with deafening engine noise. I thought someone was doing dynamometer runs. We milled our way closer and eventually found out that it was someone doing a stunt riding demonstration. We never did actually see anything, as the crowds were too deep. Not sure why open pipes were necessary. I suppose it added to the drama. I felt sorry for the folks who got stuck with booth locations in the area, as it was almost impossible to communicate with any of them, even when yelling directly into each other’s ears.

The “Supershow” is not the squeaky clean new bike show downtown with official manufacturer displays. The show by the airport is mostly dealers, clubs and small vendors and has a bit more of a bad-boy edge. Included here is a “fashion show” (the bride wore leather) and a smattering of “booth babes” wearing skin-tight tights and skimpy tops – even a few bare midriffs. I don’t think that many of them were actual riders but they did occasionally drape themselves over a bike for photo-ops. Decades ago when my buddies and I were mostly single, such displays would ratchet up the testosterone level a few notches. Nowadays I find old grey-haired guys ogling girls young enough to be their granddaughters kind of sad.

Eventually our feet gave out and we braved the Friday afternoon traffic home. When my wife asked how the show was I went on a long philosophical rant about how motorcycling was dying out, how there were no more young people at the shows, no new riders to carry on, that me and my buddy were probably the last generation of motorcyclists. I left out the part about the booth babes. My wife listened patiently (she has had lots of practice) and then reminded me that me and my buddy had attended the show on a Friday afternoon – a privilege reserved for pensioners like us – and that the kids would probably be there on Saturday and Sunday.

I really must be getting old.

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January 31st, 2016 at 3:59 pm

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What I have learned about motorcycling – some of it the hard way

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Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • More fatalities are caused by oncoming cars making left turns in front of you than any other traffic situation.
  • Bikes are less stable the slower you go. That means the parking lot, approaching stop signs/lights; making turns in intersections are places where you’ll just drop the bike without knowing what happened.
  • If you’re tired, sick, upset, or just don’t feel sharp, don’t ride.
  • Get the right gear: full face helmet, riding jacket, boots with ankle protection, and good gloves. Wearing jeans is a bare minimum.
  • Try to get long term disability added to your health insurance. It’s Murphy’s Law. If you get it, you’ll never need it.
  • Assume no one sees you. Plan accordingly.
  • Learn how to double swerve. That means making an evasive manoeuvre to avoid a car, person, dog, bicycle, tree, and then make another manoeuvre to get you back in your lane.
  • Always be aware of your options. They are typically: slow down, stop, swerve, double swerve or downshift and add power.
  • Front brake is 80% of braking. If you get on the rear brake hard you’ll skid and wreck. The rear brake should only be applied to supplement the front brake. Using them together 80/20, you can minimize the bike’s braking distance. If you brake really hard while the bike is leaned over in a sharp turn, the bike will stand up. Always be aware of your entry speed into a turn.
  • Where you look is where you go. Commit this to memory. This means when you identify a road hazard, use your eyes to find your evasive manoeuvre. If you stare at a hazard, you’re going to hit it.
  • Racing a car is a quick way to become a grease spot on the road. 99% of all bikes are faster than 99% of all cars. You can pretty much beat any car hands down. If you have to prove it on a regular basis, go fill out your last will and testament.
  • Oil, water, cold weather, manhole covers, painted lines, sand, gravel, paper bags, plastic bags all will reduce traction and cause you to lose control of your bike. If you are riding on a low traction surface, minimize the amount of steering/braking/acceleration changes you make, until you get back on clean pavement.
  • All rodents, cats, dogs, squirrels, deer, etc. can and will eventually decide to be in the same place in the road as you are at some point. Plan accordingly.
  • Bugs can hurt. They can also explode on contact with your body/face/helmet etc.
  • The faster you go, the higher the chances of serious injury or fatality. It’s not a linear relationship though. Generally speaking, above 80 kph is when the chances of serious injury increase dramatically.
  • Large trucks on the highway can be hazardous to your health. They can lift things like 4 by 8 sheets of plywood, not to mention rocks the size of walnuts.
  • You have no bumper, seatbelts, airbags, traction control or ABS brakes (save a few high end Honda and BMW cruiser/tourers). Your error margin is small. You have to stay within the safety envelope. Every rider breaks this rule at some point. Try not to break it often.
  • If you’re going to lose control of your bike at 160+ kph, your gear only benefits the fire department in cleaning up the accident scene.
  • Most helmets meet all of the safety requirements (DOT, SNELL). The cost of the helmet is directly proportional to the comfort of the helmet. Also, as cost goes up, the weight goes down. Different helmet brands are shaped differently. Some fit oval heads better. Some fit round heads better.
  • Boots that claim to keep your feet dry from rain will cause your feet to get wet with sweat.
  • All motorcycle maintenance items/repair costs cost 2 – 4 times more than for cars.
  • Riding a motorcycle is much more interesting, exciting, entertaining, thrilling, demanding, and fatiguing than driving a car. Don’t expect to ride 1000 kms per day until you’ve actually done it. The sportier the bike, the less time you can ride it without a break from the numbing vibration/ harsh suspension/ cramped position.
  • The testosterone level in a male rider in a group is equal to the sum of the testosterone levels of all the males riding in a group. Don’t push yourself beyond your means.
  • As dangerous and scary as all these things make motorcycling sound, there is still nothing like it, and it’s completely worth it, as long as you do the right things to mitigate the risks involved.

Oh. I almost forgot. Have fun!

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January 9th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

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