Slow way around: Big lake, little bikes in Lake Erie Loop

This article was originally published in the September, 2008 issue of Backroads magazine.

The throttle has been jammed to the stop for several minutes, the engine is screaming above 9,000 rpm and I’m tucked in tightly, desperately seeking every last mph of top speed as I flee Detroit on I-75 south.

That’s when the SUV in the left lane sedately passes me at about 75 mph. The kids in the back seat turn to stare at me, then point and laugh.

Glancing at the gauges, I see the tach needle on the 1996 Suzuki GN125 start its slow descent once again and I nervously check the mirrors for inattentive drivers coming up fast behind me. Dammit! The bike just won’t stay above 60 mph in fifth gear on even the slightest uphill grade.

At this point, you may reasonably ask: What am I doing on I-75 in Detroit, a city where everyone drives big cars at 80 mph, on a bike once described by Iron Butt Rally commentator Bob Higdon as a “hairdryer on wheels”? You could blame my weakness for oddball motorcycle events, especially those that benefit a worthy charitable cause. You could say it’s because I’ll do anything to get a story.

Personally, I prefer to blame Bill Murar. Yeah, that’s it, it’s Bill’s fault. Continue reading Slow way around: Big lake, little bikes in Lake Erie Loop →

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A woman’s place in motorcycle racing

Indy Supercross podium

A woman’s role in motorcycle racing is to be on the podium… holding a can. KTM photo by Cudby S.

The World Endurance Championship car racing series, best known for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, announced in a Tweet that it has decided to eliminate “grid girls” this year. Not surprisingly, the debate on social media has been lively, to put it kindly.

Some say “about time” and some say “this sucks,” but now that one racing organization has addressed the issue, you can bet that others will start to take a look at this “tradition” that feels more uncomfortable every year.

Of course motorcycle racing has its own “grid girl” issue, though they’re called “umbrella girls,” because while car racing’s “grid girls” perform no useful role, making them clearly nothing more than an adornment, “umbrella girls” at least superficially perform the useful task of shading the riders from the sun on a baking hot grid. Of course you don’t have to be wearing high heels and a bikini, or some leather miniskirt outfit, to perform that function, so the “performing a useful task” excuse has always been a pretty thin veneer. Continue reading A woman’s place in motorcycle racing →

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How to get your motorcycle ready for spring

spring motorcycle ride

As soon as winter breaks, you know you’re going to want to go for a ride. Will your motorcycle be ready?

If you live as far from the equator as I currently do, you know how you feel when that first nice day of spring comes around and you really, really want to go for a ride. A real ride, one that involves fun and traction, not multiple layers of clothing, shivering, and slippery roads.

How quickly you can take advantage of that nice day depends primarily on what you did when winter first hit. To uncover the truth of the matter, answer this simple quiz.

After the last time you rode your bike, you:

A) Added fuel stabilizer to the gas tank and topped it off; washed, dried and waxed the bike; lubed any control cables that needed attention; attached a maintenance charger to the battery; stuffed rags in the air intakes and the exhaust.

B) Felt a tire going flat; skidded the bike into the garage broadside; leaned it against the garage refrigerator and figured you’d deal with it later; didn’t deal with it later.

I’m sure you already know where this is going. Continue reading How to get your motorcycle ready for spring →

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Two dozen tips for a smarter motorcycle tour

Motorcycle trip

The only thing better than a motorcycle trip is a well planned motorcycle trip.

For many of us in northern climes, this is the time of year we spend looking longingly at maps and imagining all the places we’ll go as soon as the weather breaks. If I’d actually done all the trips I’ve dreamed of doing on some dreary February evening, I’d be in the million-mile club and would have worn out several more motorcycles.

Reality is usually different. Family responsibilities and limited time off from work keep most of us from fulfilling all those off-season fantasies. That just means that we need to travel smart to make the most of our time on the road. Based on my years of motorcycle travel, here are two dozen tips for smarter touring, divided into before, during and after categories: Continue reading Two dozen tips for a smarter motorcycle tour →

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My thousand-mile day

Lake Superior Circle Tour

Preparing to leave for the Circle Tour around Lake Superior on the Suzuki Bandit 1200S in 2002. The 1,000-mile day came a few days later, and was totally unplanned.

You won’t find my name on the Iron Butt Association list of people who have done a SaddleSore 1000 ride, which is riding at least 1,000 miles in 24 hours. I could say that’s because I’ve always been more interested in having the experience of things than gathering the credentials, and that would be true enough. But the real reason my longest ride (which may or may not have been a little short of 1,000 miles) wasn’t IBA-certified is because I never planned to do it. That lack of planning is also why I did it in the hardest possible way. Continue reading My thousand-mile day →

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Sign in support of legal lane-splitting

I am a strong believer that responsible and legal lane-splitting (lane-sharing, filtering, etc.) by motorcyclists is hugely beneficial, not just to those of us who ride, but to everyone on the roads. Unlike many of the people who chime in to oppose lane-splitting during online discussions (and have never actually done it), my opinion is based on years of experience. For eight years, I lived in Puerto Rico, where lane-splitting (and filtering to the front of traffic at stop lights) in the ever-congested traffic of San Juan made me safer, saved me uncounted hours of time and got me out of the way of all the people in cars, too, thus benefiting everyone. I’ve also benefited from lane-splitting in California, the only state that allows it.

filtering

Filtering to the front at stoplights lets motorcyclists separate themselves from clusters of urban traffic, increasing safety and reducing congestion.

Now, you can show your support for making this sensible practice, which is commonplace all around the world, legal in all 50 states. Here’s how. Continue reading Sign in support of legal lane-splitting →

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2015 Daytona 200: The best-funded club race ever

In some of the darker days of my career, I’ve written a few news releases. So I understand the demands of that craft.

An ethical publicist will not out-and-out lie in a news release, but rather present everything in the most favorable light, omitting inconvenient information. Because I’ve written a few news releases, I also know how to translate them. How to read between the lines finely crafted by a well paid public relations consultant and extract the truth. Basically, wiping the lipstick off the pig.

The Daytona International Speedway issued a press release today about the 2015 Daytona 200.

Their title:
Daytona International Speedway Enters Into Sanction Agreement for 74th Daytona 200 With American SportBike Racing Association

My translated title:
The 74th Daytona 200 Will be the Best-Funded Club Race Ever

Here’s the rest of the news release, plus my translation. Continue reading 2015 Daytona 200: The best-funded club race ever →

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Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex boots review

With my old motorcycle touring boots showing signs of impending disintegration, I went on the search this year for a pair of boots that checked all my boxes. I found it was harder than I thought.

Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex bootsI have a pair of Alpinestars roadracing boots for track days, and they provide wonderful protection. But that protection limits walking-around comfort and I don’t need toe sliders when riding on the street. My touring boots were waterproof and relatively comfortable for walking, but protection was limited to a couple of little discs over the ankle bones and a flimsy shin guard. I wanted shin and ankle protection, a waterproof liner, and reasonable comfort, without the clunky toe sliders. In the end I found one candidate: the Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex boots. Fortunately, they seem to be the only street boots I need. Continue reading Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex boots review →

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