The best advice: Five things to remember

good advice makes the ride better

Eric Trow (right), owner and chief instructor of Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training, gives a student some one-on-one instruction during a training tour.

If you’ve been around motorcycling as long as I have, you can remember a time when there were no Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses and few good books on how to ride better. Training may have been the motorcycle salesman telling you, “This is the clutch, this is the brake, one down and four up. Good luck, son.” Advice varied widely, depending on your sources, and could have been as ill-advised as the infamous, “Never touch that front brake, she’ll throw you right over the handlebar.”

Today, we have far more sources of advice, but it’s still up to us to separate the good from the bad. Having thought about all the tips and lessons thrown my way over a lifetime of riding, I’ve come to the conclusion that these are the best five pieces of motorcycling advice I’ve been given. Continue reading The best advice: Five things to remember →

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2016: Day one, ride one of a new year

ride to Pickerington Ponds

No ice here. Funny how much better 35 degrees and sunny feels compared to 40 degrees and gray and damp.

With the sun shining and temperatures around 35 degrees, there was nothing to stop me from starting off the year with a motorcycle ride on Jan. 1, what many people in these climes call a polar bear ride. Thanks to El Niño and one of the strongest freak storms on record, the North Pole was the same temperature as Chicago this week, so even the real polar bears didn’t face serious winter weather.

I took the camera and the Versys for a short ride to a nearby nature preserve. While I was fiddling around with the camera, a man and his wife in a car arrived. He walked over to strike up a conversation.

Turns out Mike is a BMW rider, and we ended up talking for quite a while about his bike, mine, favored roads and the usual topics of conversation that arise when two riders happen to pull off the road at the same spot and time.

Through circumstance and, to be honest, choice, I spend most of my riding time alone. For some people, motorcycling is appealing mainly because it is a social activity, and they probably can’t imagine the appeal of the riding I do. My work, though, not only gives me more than an average amount of opportunities to talk about motorcycles, it actually requires it. So foregoing the social aspect of riding is not really a hardship for me.

Still, I always find myself cheered up by those chance encounters with strangers who instantly have plenty to talk about with me, just because we’re both part of that minority that rides. Like my habit of taking a polar bear ride the first day of each new year, whenever possible, it’s a small positive that forces its way into my awareness, and I’m a person who’s all too quick to spot the negatives.

All in all, a good way to start the year.

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¡Feliz Navidad! y’all.

Feliz Navidad

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Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT review

Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT

The Versys 1000 LT came to the United States in 2015 after being first available in Europe. As a long-time Versys 650 owner, I spent a week on the big brother to see how it measures up. Photo by Scott Sorenson.

About 13 years ago, my wife saw a TV travel show about a place in Saint George, Utah, called the Red Mountain Resort. At the time, she was a mid-life grad school student dreaming of a spa getaway with her girlfriends. Now that she’s the associate provost of her college, she decided it was finally time to indulge that old fantasy, so we planned a trip around her birthday.

Of course I had to find a way to squeeze some motorcycling into the excursion, so I hatched a plan that involved me flying to Southern California before heading east to meet her. From the start, I knew exactly which motorcycle I wanted to borrow for this mission: the Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT.

Why? Several reasons.

First, I knew it would be capable and comfortable enough for us to do a little two-up riding, but sporty enough that I wouldn’t feel like I was a barge pilot for the majority of the trip, when I was riding alone. Second, I knew there was interest in the bike among our readers at RevZilla’s Common Tread. And finally, as a long-time Versys 650 owner, I was very curious to see if Kawasaki could supersize a bike known for being nimble and fun to ride without losing those positive qualities.  Continue reading Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT review →

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Alpinestars T-Jaws WP textile jacket review

I have more than my fair share of Alpinestars gear. From my old faithful roadrace boots and one-piece leathers to a pair of SP-1 gloves, two textile jackets, a mesh jacket and pants. If you plot all those products on a spectrum of my level of satisfaction, a pattern emerges. The more track-oriented stuff, I’m content with. That’s why I’m still wearing those old boots and leathers, even though I probably should retire them. The least satisfactory of the products are the two textile street jackets.

Alpinestars T-Jaws WP jacket

The Alpinestars T-Jaws WP is a sporty textile jacket that is comfortable in a sport bike tuck or on an upright bike like my Versys.

The newer of those is a T-Jaws WP jacket I’ve now been wearing for more than a year, in all kinds of weather and temperatures. Is it a failure? Not at all. But it makes sense for a smaller slice of riders than I expected when I first started testing it. Read on for all the details.  Continue reading Alpinestars T-Jaws WP textile jacket review →

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Short shift: Quick review of the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

As a daily agenda goes, this one was pretty good. The Southern California morning was still young and I had use of a new 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and just two loose objectives: get a feel for this bike, which I’ve been interested in for some time but hadn’t yet been able to ride, and meet up later in the day to talk shop with an old business friend I hadn’t seen in years.

apple pie in Julian

The caramel-topped apple pie at the Julian Pie Company comes deliciously close to being too much.

To facilitate the first objective, I set for myself another totally arbitrary but pleasant goal: Get a slice of apple pie at the Julian Pie Company in Julian, Calif. That would give me the chance the ride the Ninja on everything from traffic-clogged I-5 to the twisty curves and hairpins just east of Julian on Route 78. With just one day to spend with the Ninja, I wanted to make the most of it.

So what’s the verdict? Well, the caramel-topped apple pie is a little over the top but great, just the same. But if you’re here, you’re no doubt more interested in the motorcycle review than the pie review. That’s not such a short story, even though I didn’t have enough time with the bike to write what I would consider a full review. The Ninja 1000, it turns out, was just what I hoped it would be, in some ways, and not what I expected in others.
Continue reading Short shift: Quick review of the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 →

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Under the helmet, we are one

This video is full of cliches. It’s a promotional video, predictable and sappy.

I love it anyway.

I recently wrote a satirical piece for RevZilla that made a point about the way we motorcyclists divide ourselves into warring tribes over the smallest things, like the color of our leather or the rake angle of our motorcycle’s fork. This video makes the same point in an entirely different way. A visually striking way.

Bajo el casco, todos somos uno.

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The tweet says it all: #summerisgone Part 2

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