Sunday 31 May 2009

Awesome things

There’s a great blog called 1000 Awesome Things in which the author posts about everyday experiences that are in some way special, or ‘awesome’. Well written and entertaining, the blog is hugely popular (over 3.5 million hits so far) and is definitely worth following. So cruise over there for a look (once you’re done reading me, of course).

Anyway, I was thinking about that premise – the sum of those events, big and small, that form our collective experience and, more specifically, that fuel our addiction to motorcycles and motorcycling. You know the ones – those you tell friends and family about because they are exceptional, out of the ordinary, or totally unexpected.

In that context we all have our own list of awesome things, and here are a few of mine.
1. Overcooking it going into a corner, then pushing hard on the inside bar to drop the bike further and further into the slot until, foot pegs scraping, you apex the turn and start to straighten out, able to breathe again. Pushing the limits of modern tire technology – awesome. 
2. Riding the Yellowhead Highway West from Edmonton. The rain stops, the sun breaks through the clouds and the Rocky Mountains fill the horizon before you. At that particular moment, all is right with the world, your bike, and you. Living the moment - awesome. 
3. A cager stopping to help when you are broken down at the side of the road and driving you 20 miles back into town for parts. Then sticking around to make sure your repairs are successful before continuing on his own journey. Good Samaritans - awesome. 
4. Strangers in a campground inviting you to share their table and a full course meal after weeks of beans and hot dogs cooked over a campfire. Fellow travellers of the road - awesome. 
5. The police officer who chases you for 5 miles on a winding road, not to give you a ticket (although well-deserved) but just to see what you’re riding and talk bikes for a while. And then, as he leaves, tells you where he’ll be parked with his radar gun for your return trip. Sympathetic cops - awesome.
What would be on your list? Please share in the comments.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Automatic garage door opener

I’ve often thought how convenient it would be to simply push a button and have the garage door open and close behind you. I know, I know, there are garage door openers on the market designed to do just that, but being a cheap bastard (Scottish blood) I’ve always been on the lookout for something, shall we say, more frugal.
This BMW F800S rider in the UK (probably Scottish heritage too) has just the answer.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Good gear to have

As a believer in ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) I often find myself trying to enjoy a nice summer day in the city or local artists community or whatever my day’s destination lugging around a helmet and a heavy jacket because I have no way to store them safely on the bike. Helmet locks are available, but there’s really not much that can be done with your coat, gloves, etc. if you don’t have fairly large locking saddle bags.
pacsafe Then my brother found this nifty gadget in an outdoor store. The PacSafe is a stainless steel mesh bag that you can use to “Throw … around your pack, secure … to something fixed and get on with your adventure.”  While it’s designed for backpackers, instead imagine your helmets, jackets, gloves, throw-over saddlebags and anything else you want secured in the bag. Just load it up and lock it to your back rest, rack, or any other part of your bike and your gear will be be kept safe until you return.
It comes in various sizes, with the medium size being most suitable (in my opinion) for two helmets and jackets. When folded it takes up practically no space, with closed dimensions of approximately 6 X 4 X 2 inches. And priced under $100 it’s significantly cheaper than a single lost helmet or jacket.
I won’t leave home without it.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Motorcycling of a different sort – trials riding

Vintage Trials notice
DSC_4452Twice a year a friend hosts a vintage trials competition up at his farm in the wilds of Lanark County.  
The spring event is often a trial in another sense in that it’s held at the peak of black fly season (click for The Black Fly Song) which means participants will donate slightly less than a pint of blood to those carnivorous pests in addition to any they might spill crashing down a rock face or shredding a shin on a stump. In other words, everyone has a great time!
Fortunately, this year the weather was terrible for black flies – cold and windy – so they weren’t much of a factor at all and riders could keep both hands on the bars rather than riding the sections single-handed while simultaneously trying to pry tiny blood-filled gnats from under their eyelids or out of the waist band of their shorts (which led one wag to comment that it had been some time since he’d had anything quite that blood-engorged in his pants!).
But bugs aside, there was a decent collection of riders and a wide variety of bikes on display, as usual, but by far the nicest was this truly vintage Arial single – the only Brit bike in evidence.
The rest of the field comprised an older Honda TL-250, Bultacos and  Montessas, Gas Gas  and Beta bikes, and a raft of Yamaha TL-125’s – the vintage trials workhorse.
DSC_4426DSC_4378 But once the riders started on the first section, all bets were off as skill clearly trumped  equipment. With a total of 10 sections comprising rocky hills, loose stone beds, felled trees, lots of slippery leaves, and water hazards there was something to challenge everyone.
DSC_4401Navigating a steep hill section on the Arial. 

But I saw him go in there!        
Last one through.
All told it was a great day. Everyone had fun and no serious mishaps occurred to any riders or their bikes.
But it just wasn’t the same without the black flies.

Thursday 14 May 2009

What do you do with old helmets?

Like many of you out there, I have accumulated quite a few old motorcycle helmets over the years. Some were damaged and some were just replaced because of age. They were all just taking up space in my garage as I didn’t want to toss them in the landfill and then wait for a million years or however long it takes for fibreglass to break down.
So I started looking for ways to re-use old helmets. Hopefully you can use some of these ideas – I know I will.
1. Planters. Here I thought I had a novel idea, but this seems to be quite a popular use for an old helmet. Fill it full of dirt and plants and watch them grow.
Helmet planter
2. Re-line it (and presumably continue to use it). This guy provides step-by-step instructions on how to renew your old helmet when the lining wears out.  I don’t think that’s highly recommended by the safety gurus, but if you don’t really care and only wear a helmet because you are forced to by law, then I guess this solution is as good as any.
3. A bucket. Or in the case of this guy, a helmet.
Nigerian helmets
4. Paint fantastical images on them and place them on stakes to ward off evil. Or on fence posts and call it “art”.
5. Turn it into a  computer, like this guy did.
Helmet computer
6. Donate it to your local fire station to use for training purposes.
7: Turn it into a hands-free loudspeaker for that next protest rally. Note, this design also uses that other essential motorcycling product – duct tape.
Helmet loudspeaker
8. Bird houses. A full-face helmet could make a pretty interesting bird house I think. A bit of wood for the base and the face opening, and voila – a mini Hilton for your feathered friends.
helmet nest
9. Wear it in the kitchen when trying out that new recipe, kindly provided by your ex-wife.Helmet safety
10. Give it to your local hoodlum (or alleged cop, in this case) to use as a disguise when robbing a bank.
helmet robbery
11. Replace those tacky black velvet Elvis paintings presently gracing your living room wall with this tasteful display commemorating your passion for motorcycling.
helmets on wall 
12. Protect that sharp point on your 60’s-style sissy bar with it.
13. Give it to the kids to play with. And if there’s anything that will prevent you from ever using it again it’s all the peanut butter, orange juice, cookie crumbs, drool, etc. that will be ingrained in the lining within about 15 minutes.
helmet kid
14. Save it for inclement weather. Note the clever use of the sheepskin seat covers as well.
helmet blizzard
15. Seal up the visor, put a light in the back and turn it into an aquarium for your bichir fish (pronounced “biker”).
biker fish
16. Give it to your teen to wear while taking driver’s ed courses.
helmet car
17. And last, but not least, give it to Fido so he’s legal.
helmet dog

Friday 1 May 2009

Air powered motorcycle

A friend recently made me aware of this story.
A garage inventor in Bristol, UK, has converted his Puch moped to air power. Propelled by 2 high-pressure scuba tanks, his vehicle has a top speed of about 18 mph, and a maximum range of about 7 miles. Technical enhancements to the pressure tanks and/or the power unit could make the air-powered motorcycle a reasonable inner-city mode of transport for delivery services, security services, etc.  Or he could hook up with the Chopper Golf Cart guys and tackle the golf market.
As the comments to the original article attest, there is a lot of debate over whether such a device would ultimately offer any significant ecological advantage once one considers the full cost of energy required to pressurize the tanks, etc., but his Puch does provide an interesting prototype, and one which will spawn other backyard inventors to improve the concept.
Just don’t expect to see a convoy of these heading down I-90 into Sturgis any time soon.