Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Labor Day Twist



The roads entering and departing Frankfort, KY offer some of the most sensational curves in the central area of the state - not to mention the opportunity to explore a bit of history in the process.  Rt. 421 remains a favorite of mine, whether I'm visiting the capital for the day or following that ribbon of asphalt southeast all the way to that wondrous Mecca of the two-wheeled life at the convergence of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina.  Unfortunately, on Labor Day 2017, I only had enough time for a ride through the local environs.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Love, Hate, Love

During my years in absentia, I've come to understand the inner workings of the R1150RT with a grudging familiarity.  While I continue to contend that the BMW motorcycle achieves the pinnacle of what I consider to be a comfortable and capable touring rig, my dedication - if not to the brand but to this particular machine - emerges challenged only by the level of frustration I experienced coping with the few minor setbacks in engine function to which I have been subjected over the last five years.  For those acquainted with the German moniker, reports of reliability are legendary - stories swapped in the gloom around campfires of machines peaking above 300K miles.  Usually, such tales begin with, "I knew a guy who knew a guy who had a cousin..."

Personally, I haven't come across such legends.  Though I don't entirely discount the existence of such rare and unique specimens - several documented accounts report motorcycles with over 200K on the odometer - I doubt the existence of an entire fleet of these machines.  My own experience wrestling with the cantankerous systems of my Oilhead leaves me with uncertainties as to the extended future of my beloved RT.  To balance the scales, a fair number of the machines I observe at vintage motorcycle shows - in various stages of resurrection - happen to wear the BMW roundel.  And many of those are Boxers.  

The trials and tribulations I experience in maintaining an aging BMW motorcycle leave me a tad cynical.  On more than one occasion, I have been known to declare from the garage following a prolonged evening of wrenching on some failed component of German origin, that this moment shall be the last I will tolerate from this infernal contraption.  I curse and gnash my teeth.  Shake my fist at the beast and threaten to strip it to the rolling chassis and sell the components to the lowest bidder.  My wife watches stoically, shaking her head at the railings of a husband driven mad with frustration and occasionally providing me a fresh cup of steaming coffee to fuel longer hours under the flickering neons of the garage.  

Despite all this - after reassembly and a quick test turned to 200 miles on a lazy Saturday afternoon - I roll into the driveway, shut down the engine, and wonder if I can find a job where someone will pay me to leave behind my career to spend my days in the saddle.  I will ride in the rain. I'll pitch a tent in lonesome places - or at least, stay in a really low budget hotel.  Eat food from gas stations, consume camp rations, and brave the sad country music infested interior of Waffle Houses.  I'll explore all these deliriously wondrous discomforts for just a few more moments behind the handle bars of that amazing machine.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Corydon Pike

As I purchased a new camera a few days ago - a GoPro Hero Session 5 - I thought a short run on the local roads to test the unit's capabilities was in order.  The footage depicts a short run up Corydon Pike, a connector road bridging Rt. 111 out of New Albany, Indiana to Rt. 62 in Georgetown, Indiana.  Although a brief ride, my primary interest pertained to assessing the effectiveness of the small camera's image stabilization functions.  As I gain familiarity with the device and polish my skills with the camera's use, I'll review a few more features of the Session 5.  This video was shot in 1080p at 60 fps with the image stabilization option in effect.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Something Old; Something New

1948 Indian Chief
As the summer nears it's end, we motorcyclists often begin to contemplate the fact that we may not have ridden as much as we'd prefer.  Many of us had plans to pursue particular rides - perhaps not far from our own backyards.  In the late Spring, I envision another pass down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I close my eyes and imagine myself standing along the shoulder of that iconic stretch of road waiting for the early morning fog to rise out of the valleys of the Virginia high country.  On some lengths of the Blue Ridge there is solitude and quiet that rivals a monastery.  While I can get a bit of the sacred lonesomeness of those mountains in the rural back roads of Kentucky - particularly the farther east one rides - I had hoped for some exposure to the cool mountain air and the scent of laurel.
1969 Ducati 

Alas, gremlin hunting through an aging R1150RT electrical system proves to be the principle menu item as Spring transitioned into summer.  Working on the BMW awakens in me a passion for maturing iron - especially of the German variety.  I've noticed a return of "things vintage" to the motorcycle world over the past few years, a yearning for the simpler machines of yesteryear lacking the complex electronic overlay of contemporary motorcycles.  Perhaps, too, we hunger for the experience those early machines brought us - the exhilaration of the ride punctuated by the heartbreak  of unreliable electrical systems, rough manufacturing, questionable stopping power.  Despite the problems I recall as inherent in those early machines of which I was custodian, my mind turns frequently to the concept of owning and caring for vintage hardware.
1973 Honda CL350

Nostalgia births those last gatherings in weather that promises to deliver a rider home in the same comfort under which one rolled away from the hacienda.  From this point forward - doubly so for those riding in northern latitudes - we're forced to ask ourselves if we must carry the liner for the jacket and spare, clear shield for the helmet.  We move into the season which often initiates the slumber of old iron through the winter - the slow shift of leaves from lush green to nature's fire.  The weather becomes fickle and the sun cannot be relied upon to predict the warmth of a weekend afternoon.  In my mind, the Autumn season encourages reflection, and I can think of no better opportunity than to gaze longingly at vintage machinery before the march toward winter truly begins.  
1964 BMW R27
On Sunday, August 27, 2017 my wife and I make the journey to Madison, IN for the first annual Thornton's Cycle End of Summer Bike Show.  The clear, sunny afternoon affords us the chance to witness some rare specimens of the motorbike world - some prime examples of restoration.  The event also showcases those machines with patina barely sufficient to hold the machine together.  Regardless of condition, each bike carries the marks of it's travels, etched into the brushed aluminum and smokey chrome.   By the time we left, having consumed a basket of chicken fingers and Coke from a can, the urge to possess and maintain one these rolling pieces of history simmers in the back of my mind.  

1975 BMW R75 and Company
That is, until I return home to the RT waiting in the garage for a transplant of starter and kill switches.  A part I order - rather than pay the ungodly price for new electrics fresh from the folks at Bosch - from a salvage yard somewhere beyond the wall of the Rocky Mountains.  I realize that all machines are in the slow process of becoming vintage.  All bikes gather the stories of their miles into their surfaces.  All a rider must do is survive and ride long enough.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Fallacy of Long-Term Product Reviews

A phenomena I've noticed in the motorcycle product placement word involves the review of products for the so-called long-term.  As a motorcyclist of almost a quarter-century, the use of a product for a prolonged period of time takes on a fundamentally profound new meaning.  I still have my first leather jacket, hanging cracked and faded from a peg on the wall of my garage.  Though I haven't worn the jacket in years - my midsection no longer permits this - that jacket endured miles of highway, freezing temperatures, rain, and a battalion of high-speed insectoid invaders.  


While the leather aged remarkably well - conditioned as it was by the elements - the lining all but disintegrated with years of regular use.  The jacket's also a bit stiff.  The arms are permanently bent at the elbows and the cuffs of the sleeves molded into crests of leather to accommodate gloves long since  retired to the rubbish bin.  Considering the abuse and the long march of years, my original leathers have withstood the test of time.

When considering long-term product reviews, I'm less interested in a jacket, pants, gloves, or boots which have been worn for three months in relatively stable conditions than those products I see other riders wearing which have withstood daily and, oftentimes, brutal testing.  I want to know the story behind the Roadcrafter with faded impact panels, smudged with road grime from the knees to the lower cuff.  I desire the tale of the boots resoled after three years, the leather pliable as soft cloth.  How many times has the liner of that favorite helmet been washed, rewashed, and replaced simply to preserve that fantastic outer shell now out of production.  

And don't get me started on motorcycles.  Three to six months in fabulous weather on a machine acquired with an odometer reading zero should be called "A Nice Beginning" rather than long-term review.  Long-term testing involves standing under a bridge overpass watching the lights of the instrument panel fade to black, the death of a ten year-old electrical system by thunderstorm.  What suffices as long-term motorcycle testing for product placement would likely only scuff a new set of brake pads.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gypsy's Reboot

When glancing through the last posts in this blog, I experience the sensation as if I discovered something I'd thought lost.  Akin perhaps to finding an old box of parts stuffed under a work bench, I read through old entries as if turning over an odd foot peg or dusty mirror, marveling at the speckled patina slowly consuming the mirrored surface of the chrome and dusting away sticky strands of cobweb.  The odor of old gasoline absorbed into a cardboard box triggers memories of long hours spent in the garage, worrying away some problem threatening the next day's ride.  With a grease-stained rag in one hand, I wipe the grit and grime from those old parts, turning and examining each for wear.  In the measured age of yesterday's parts lies the hope of the ride tomorrow.  

All gypsies must come in from the road from time to time.  The horse must rest and be cared for.  The wanderer brings in tales of the wild places, those of open highway and wilderness as well as the view of interior places fostered by long hours in the saddle and the pulse of an engine.  It is time to dust off those old parts, hold tools in the hand until metal warms to the touch, and recall the profound fortune which allows us to be vagabonds - if only for a weekend at a time.