Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rain riding

I took a ride to Naselle and around the valley the other day. Here are a few pics.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My New Scoot

Okay. That'd didn't take long. Actually, I've had my eye on one of these since they first introduced them a few years ago. I am the new proud owner of a 2009 Piaggio MP3 400.

Yes, it has 3 wheels.

Yes it weird looking.

Once you are on it, however, it rides just like a motorcycle -- or I should say a 400 scooter. You counter-steer just like on a bike, you can really lean the thing over in the twisties and it is smooth and fast.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this three wheeler compared to the Can-Am Spyders. The Can-Ams don't lean, which is kind of the fun part of riding motorcycles. I can't fly planes, so riding motorcycles is as close as I've been able to come in my daily life. It's the leaning that gives you that feeling of motion and speed. Sometimes when I'm driving, I'll even feel myself leaning in to the corner, trying to cut a little more off the apex before accelerating out.

So when people see it they say "oh, it's more stable, right?"

Not exactly. Motorcycles operate by the gyroscopic principle. If the wheels are rolling at speed, they are hard to knock over. They are very stable, even going around corners. In this regard, the MP3 does have a little extra gyroscope up front, (are two 12 inch gyros better than one 20 inch one?) but the real advantage is on slippery and uneven surfaces. That's where the MP3 is brilliant. That's why they've sold gobs of them in Paris -- wet cobblestone streets.

When leaning into a corner, the MP3 has an extra contact patch up front that stays on the ground even when leaned over 40 degrees. That outrigger wheel keeps contact with the road in the event that the other wheel loses grip or hits unstable ground. I found this out yesterday coming around a cover and finding the road covered in mud and pine needles from a recent storm. The Mp3 stayed planted to the road like it was attached with velcro. That's where the advantage is.

At low speeds, it is no more stable that my VStar 650. You can lock the front wheels when rolling to a stop so you don't have to put your foot down, but I'm still in the habit of putting my foot down. The turning radius is very tight and so it is easy getting into my driveway.

So far, my daughters do not like it. They think my old motorcycle was cooler and that dad isn't cool anymore. I'm surprised they thought there dad was ever cool. My wife likes it a lot. She loves the back seat and smooth nature of the CVT. Mama Bear is the opinion that matters most!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sold! Now What?

Yesterday I skipped church and spent the morning puttering around the garage putting spare parts and accessories together. A couple came all the way down from Seattle to buy El Burro.

Shelly was excited about the big red bike. She promised to give it a good home.

 It was sad so see my old friend go.

It is not the end of my motorcycling, but I'm left with a hole in my garage and a fog hangs about the future. What's next?

One of my goals is to get something that is an every day ride. Something I won't hesitate heading to work on even if the weather is a bit damp.

Last winter I didn't tear the bike down and found I rode it quite a bit over the winter. That said, a big carbureted cruiser is not the best all weather machine.

Alas, I shall not speak ill of the so recently sold.

That bike did everything I asked of it. I sorted through a lot of emotions behind those bars.

It was time for something new however, Time to move on. I mistrust nostalgia and am skeptical of sentiment. I could have tottered away until my beard ran long and gray with that bike, but that's not me.

I now have my wandering eye on some younger Italians with fuel injection and anti-lock brakes.

There are new things in the world. Always new places to go.

Adios El Burro,

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fall Riding Weather

I'm selling El Burro. Not sure why, it just seems time for something new. Maybe it has too many memories already for me. Or maybe I'm just looking for a new challenge. It is certainly not the bike's fault. El Burro continues to run like a champ.

 I've stripped it down to go more in the bobber direction. I think it looks tough and it is fun to buzz around without the bulk of the sissy bar and bags.

 With a sunny day, I took some nice snaps. Check them out. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Church of the Motorcycle

I went for a long ride on Sunday while my wife and daughters went to church.

My sister Mindy passed away last week. I didn't feel like talking with anyone at church about it just yet.

I didn't feel much like talking.

So I skipped church and went for a long ride along the Willapa Bay road to the Long Beach Peninsula.

The bay road is full of perfect curves and natural beauty. I listened to the music of the engine.

We used to live and work on the Peninsula. I used to drive this road every day, but I tried never to take it for granted.

Long Island, Baby Island off to my right, the great wood of the Willapa Hills to my left, mudflats shinning silver in the sun. Motorcycles move with your mind, they become a part of you on twisting roads like this. Shifts and brake, twist and accelerate, poetry and prayers.

At the beach, I rode past the apartments where Amy and I lived the first year we were married. I rode my bike up to the Beard's Hollow overlook and watched the waves crash against the shore. This used to be just a gravel pull out over the steep cliffs. So much has changed over the years. Now it is paved and dotted with tourists. It used to be a secret place. Discovered by others now, it is still a great place to listen and watch the ocean pound away at endless time.

There was little traffic on a Sunday morning, a few RVs and other people on bikes. I was unhurried, I made it back to Grandma Nelson's just in time for Sunday dinner, but was tempted to go out riding again.

There are times when I think I'll sell this old motorcycle ... but never when I'm riding it.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ed's Knob Mod

 I've never liked the hex-head over the battery cover.  It meant I had to get out a wrench to check fuses and the battery. 
Unfortunately, I've had lots of opportunity to do this lately because I had a bad battery that I eventually replaced.
I also installed a quick connect trickle charger hook up but didn't fish it up under the seat, so I had to remove the cover to plug it in this winter. Finally, On a ride a few months ago, the bolt wasn't snug and rattled out. So I went to the local Wilco and bought a 6mm male knob and voila - easy access.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Keep Your Head Up, Eyes Down the Road

Lindsay and I with my CB400A the day I bought it. 
It was probably a mistake. Bad timing. 

Of course, I’ve never regretted it.

There was an ad on Craigslist for the exact same make and model as the motorcycle I had when I was in college. A 1978 Hondamatic CB400A with a dent in its tank.

They all have a dent in the tank.

I hadn’t ridden motorcycles for almost 20 years at the time. I never really gave it up, just like I never officially gave up learning to fly airplanes. I started flying lessons when I was 14. One day I couldn’t take lessons anymore - I was too young and the instructor found me out -- and I just never got back around to it. 

It was the same with motorcycles. On campus at WSU and at home in the Columbia River Gorge, riding a motorcycle was fun and thrilling and practical too. Riding it was a wonderful release of stress, a mind-clearing exhilaration. It was an it’ll-be-OK machine that ameliorated the tumult of life.

College was stressful because money was tight. It didn’t help that I had quit school for semester because I became too focused on the debt of student loans and the girlfriend from Hell. 

I tried to take a shortcut that turned out to be a dead end. 

In a brief moment of wisdom I admitted my mistake and went back to college. My dead end decision, however, forced me into a dingy off-campus apartment with a disgusting roommate. My financial aid was delayed, so I worked three jobs and slogged through the slush and snow in wet sneakers, unable to afford a parking permit for campus. 

One spring day the check arrived, but I’d already managed to pay my books and tuition and fees. That left some money to buy food and pay rent. Somehow, I still had some money left over. 

As the snow melted around me, I lingered by the used motorbikes for sale at the Honda dealer downtown. It was orange, cheap and ugly in that late 70s sort of way. It also had an automatic transmission which would be perfect for a new rider negotiating the hills and traffic of Pullman.

Theoretically the $600 I spent that day on the motorcycle and helmet could have been put to better use. Yet,  I cannot for the life of me think of a better dollar-per-joy return on investment. 

I was not fast or reckless or daring. My CB400A was one of those “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” type bikes designed to be unintimidating. It was simple and fun. 

Moreover, when you are riding a motorcycle, it demands your full attention, which allows all the other intruding thoughts to ease away. 

I sold that bike with every intention of buying another. It paid my airfare to Alaska to work in a fish processing plant for the summer. My plan was that I would come home with full pockets that would not only allow me to pay for the next year of college, and to buy a new motorcycle. I had my eye on a Harley-Davidson 883. 

The fishing and the pay wasn’t as good as my wild expectations. My pockets were only deep enough to pay off some credit cards and fund my final year of college. 

Looking back, I could have bought another old bike, but I didn’t. Always meant to. I even test rode a Yamaha 850 special a couple years later. Instead, I invested it in a wedding ring for Amy. 

That was the best decision I’ve ever made.

For twenty years - years of commuting and working and even a return to school to study nursing, I always thought I’d get around to motorcycles. I just didn’t. 

Then, there it was. The same bike I sold, the same year -- the same user-friendly automatic transmission -- for $600 and only a short drive away.

The timing was all wrong.  Amy’s dad was sick and we were helping on the farm. My mom was coming down for a visit later that day. I got up in the early morning hours and hopped in my truck driving up to Raymond to meet the guy in Dairy Queen parking lot. After a short ride around the back streets, the grin was stuck on my face. I realized what I was missing. I couldn’t get the money out of my pocket fast enough. 

I tore that bike down and rebuilt it, using an owners manual and parts off of ebay. There are lovers of these old bikes all over the world and they are willing to share their knowledge. 

Amy’s dad fully recovered and but then first my mom, then my sister were diagnosed with cancer. The motorcycle didn’t occupy all my time -- it didn’t solve any problems. Yet, it was there for reassurance and relaxation, distraction, escape. 

The restoration allowed for little projects in the basement and garage to occupy the rainy days. I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and unlearned all the bad habits. 

During that course you pick up little lessons that apply to life as well as to riding. On two-wheels exposed to the elements, your life is in your hands and the world presents itself with much greater immediacy -- much less room for error - than when caged in the metal shell of car. Your mind is the most important piece of safety equipment on the bike. 

As you ride, you are constantly scanning for things that may come into your path, drivers who probably don’t see you as well as potholes and oil slicks that can force you to lose control of the bike.  You can look for these objects, but you don’t look AT them. You are so connected to the bike that to ride smoothly, you have to keep your eyes down the road.

The bike wants to follow where your eyes go. If you are looking at the stick in the road - you will hit the stick in the road. Instead your mind traces the path ahead, the smooth line between and around the hazards that confront you. 

You can’t trust others with your safety. You anticipate potential hazards and plan a path around them. Actions are smooth and confident. Panic doesn’t present solutions. 

Focus not on the obstacles, but on the escape. 

Five years after that trip to Raymond, I have a different motorcycle, and a different Spring is battling the rearguard of winter. There are deadlines and bills to pay and any number of catastrophes waiting around the corner. 

Yet I keep my head up and eyes on the horizon. 

And I have a motorcycle.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


temporary solution until I could get a new tail light. 
It all started when one of the mini bikes fell over and broke the tail light on El Burro. I was fixing that when I noticed that one of the turn signals on the front wasn't working -- and I couldn't get the bulb out. Drat. So now I've got the whole light bar off the front and it looks much cleaner, I just need to figure out where to put the turn signals. This is a big departure from my more-is-better lighting solution. I'm also thinking I finally have a location for that Ford emblem I found. 
Thought this would look cool. Could hide the horn behind it even. 
This is what it looked like last summer. Lots of lights, but maybe not so bright.