Friday 31 January 2014

Going out his way.

Bill Standley was an avid motorcyclist all his life and his prized possession was a 1967 Harley Davidson. So when he died at the age of 82 he wanted to be buried with his bike. Not that unusual in itself, but Bill wanted to do it differently. Instead of being buried beside his bike, he wanted to be buried on his bike.
So with the assistance of a supportive family, an agreeable and creative funeral director, a glass-sided case, a modified septic tank, and 3 burial plots he got his wish, as per this news item:
There’s something to be said for going out the way you always wanted, but still, seeing him sitting there on display in his glass box, astride his bike, is very discomfiting. But then my feelings don’t really count – the family is happy as, presumably, is Bill’s spirit, so who cares what anyone else thinks. And in the end it doesn’t really matter anyway as eventually Bill and his beloved Harley will revert to the dust from whence they came.
RIP Bill Standley and happy riding!

Wednesday 29 January 2014

One man’s dream

Hands up everyone who has heard of the Britten V1000. Anyone? No, me either.
Turns out John Britten was the nearest thing to a modern day Burt Munroe, of The World’s Fastest Indian fame. Also a New Zealander, Britten decided in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s that race bikes of that generation could go faster – a lot faster – and so he decided to build a better bike to compete with Ducati and the other factory teams on the world road race circuit.
Except all he had was his ideas, his garage, some basic tools, a bunch of friends, and a very understanding wife.
And that’s what he did. He and his buddies managed to build a brand new 1000 cc, twin cylinder motorcycle, designing, casting, machining, manufacturing, and assembling it all from the ground up, a motorcycle that, in it’s very first race, placed second behind a factory-built Ducati.
That win turned out to be no fluke. With a 2nd place finish they attracted some financing that then allowed them to cover some of the basics, such as testing. Over the next few years the Britten V1000 went on to win many races and set numerous speed records, impressing all who rode, or competed, with the V1000.
Sadly John passed away from cancer in 1995 and the company died with him. Only 10 of the motorcycles were ever made. All are currently in private collections.
It’s a helluva story, and I guess if you were following motorcycle racing at that time you would certainly know the name. But it’s never too late to catch up. There’s a great YouTube video  out there just waiting for you to link to it and marvel at what one man with a dream can accomplish. Check it out.

Monday 27 January 2014

Billy Connolly’s Route 66 - A Review

Route 66Billy Connolly is an irreverent, banjo-picking, folk-singing, Scottish comedian, recording artist, actor, author, biker, and (per his bio) Citizen of the World. That alone should make you want to read his book, but in case you need convincing….
Back in the day (unspecified) when he first heard Chuck Berry singing “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” he decided one day he would travel that iconic road – or at least what was left of it - from end to end, Chicago to Los Angeles .
In 2011 he got his chance while filming a British television 4-part documentary entitled, appropriately enough, Billy Connolly’s Route 66. (It’s on YouTube and worth a look:
But this isn’t about the TV series; it’s about the book.
Filled with fascinating little factoids (we can thank Al Capone for best-before dates on perishables, the Chicago Tribune building incorporates 136 fragments of other world famous buildings in its walls, Wild Bill Hickok was involved (and won) the first recorded quick-draw duel back in 1865, the title “Mother Road” came from The Grapes of Wrath), the book offers readers a kind of behind the scenes look at Route 66. Connolly has an eye for the odd and unusual, and is clearly in his element when chatting up the locals – and not the mayors and other dignitaries, but the people on the street, the farmers, the shopkeepers, the recluse with a collection of more than 5,000 guitars… you get the drift.
Before I rode a very small segment of Route 66 in September, my knowledge of the road was restricted to the aforementioned Chuck Berry tune and what I learned watching Cookie and his famous comb in the Route 66 TV series from the early 60’s. But if, and when, I get to do it again, Billy Connolly’s book will serve as a great guide for some of the more offbeat attractions that are must-sees along this famous, and slowly disappearing, road across America.
And even if you never intend to set foot, or two wheels, on Route 66, it’s just a good, fun read.
Billy Connolly

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Flagstaff to Sedona (Guest post)

Back in September I blogged about the Great Circle Tour we did down in the Southwest. Due to time constraints we bypassed Flagstaff and Sedona, an omission I want to correct one day soon. However, in the meantime, my friends over at Motorcycle House and Viking Bags have offered up this review of State Route 89. I’m sorry we missed it but it’s now definitely on my must-ride list.
Flagstaff to Sedona – State Route 89A

Although Arizona's State Route 89A stretches an impressive 89 miles from Prescott north into Flagstaff, motorcycle riders will find the most fun along the 28-mile corridor that connects Sedona with Flagstaff. No doubt, the entire State Route 89A is easily ride-able in just over an hour (if you're obeying state speed limits, that is), but riders will find the most enjoyable section to be the latter, northern half of this journey. Motorcyclists from all over swear by this particular stretch of 89A, and some will even claim that it's the best ride in the West.


So what makes the 28 mile stretch between Flagstaff and Sedona that memorable? While you should really ride this section to find out for yourself, it should be known that Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon both lie along this path. The road through Oak Creek Canyon continues for about 13 miles until it empties into the town of Sedona, but not before a thrilling ride offering riders amazing scenery and many adrenaline-packed corners. The two make for some unforgettable riding experiences but it's what lies ahead that matters most. Of course, riders can opt to take it easy and enjoy the natural surroundings, as Slide Rock State Park is on the route as well. However, a series of hairpin turns encourages riders to push the envelope with their motorcycles and their bodies.

Just like any other public road, though, motorists, RVs and even bicycles find their way climbing the twisting roads of the Sedona-to-Flagstaff portion of SR-89A. During the summer months, the area is heavily trafficked with plenty of visitors, many of whom will be stopping along the way to soak in the natural surroundings. With that in mind, riders whipping through the turns should be aware that others like to play in this area, too.

For sport riders wishing to seek the ultimate thrills this is a true knee-dragging mountain road. As such you'll want full ATGATT for protection and a good appreciation of your, and your motorcycle's, capabilities. You don't want to come unprepared. Travelers who wish to relax and simply soak in the beautiful scenery can pack a bit lighter for comfortable riding in Arizona temperatures. You'll also want to carry some non-riding gear for when you're off the bike because the area boasts many great activities to enjoy on foot.


State Route 89A is a true paradise for Western motorcyclists, but really, it's a rider's dream no matter where in the world you live. If you can get your bike out there it's certainly worth a ride or three. Sport riders may wish to make the ride from Sedona to Flagstaff several times in one day as each time provides a new understanding of the pavement and the scenery. Likewise, casual motorcycle enthusiasts will enjoy exploring new opportunities with every mile they pass. State Route 89A is one of those must-rides in every motorcyclist's lifetime, and I don't mean just once. With one ride along the Sedona-to-Flagstaff section of 89A, you'll be hooked for life.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

In search of the Methuselah battery

We just (barely) survived a recent deep freeze here, and are about to enter another one on Monday. When the temperatures outdoors are hovering around the –20C to –30C (-4F to –22F) we’re not the only ones to feel the cold. My car, which had always started, even in the coldest days of previous winters, didn’t like it one bit. Or, I should say, the battery didn’t like it one bit. So there I was, stranded, until I put a bit of charge back into the battery.  The next day, the same thing. It was time to replace the battery which I found, to my surprise, to be the original equipment and 7 years old.
Most sources I checked indicated that the average life expectancy of a lead-acid starter battery was 3 to 4 years, and given the temperature extremes here that lifetime would typically be even less. Even under more nearly optimum conditions I have never had a motorcycle battery last that long, with 5 years being about the maximum, even for a well-maintained unit.
While not the much-desired Methuselah battery that will live forever, clearly my battery didn’t owe me anything.
When I started looking for a replacement I kept seeing references to new battery technologies. In addition to the classic lead-acid battery that’s been around for a century or more, some manufacturers were touting their Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) and Gell-Cell technologies (at higher prices, of course). So to sort out the confusion I went to an excellent source I have used before who seem to know everything there is to know about batteries and can explain it in layman’s terms – the people over at Battery Stuff. (Also a great source for replacement motorcycle batteries and accessories.)
There’s some really good information in their on-site tutorials, but to summarize, all three types employ the same general principles, but AGM and Gell-Cell batteries both have the advantage of a reduction in the rate of sulfation – which is what kills your battery over time – and so should last longer. Between the two, AGM is more suitable for starter-type applications and Gell-Cell for deep cycle applications. AGM batteries will also hold their charge longer than a typical flooded lead-acid battery, so forgetting to hook up the trickle charger when you’re going to be out of town for a few weeks is much less likely to leave you stranded with a dead battery when you return.
All of which is to say that the battery on my Dyna is nearing its end of life. It still seems to hold its charge, and I do keep it on a charger, but my next battery will definitely be an AGM type.

Monday 20 January 2014

Seniors discount

There’s the old adage, “You’re only as old as you feel.” Then there’s the argument about mental age versus biological, or chronological age. A simple Google search will turn up dozens of sites that will test you to determine the age at which you think and act versus the age you actually are – all bogus science but fun nonetheless.
I don’t need any of that. I KNOW I’m really 35. After all no one who acts like they were born in 1949 would ride a motorcycle or do half the things I do (or think I should be able to do). Sure the body aches a bit sometimes, but whose doesn’t on occasion? And that hair thing? Pffft, lots of 35-year-olds shave their heads, so what’s the difference?
So imagine my surprise when I was at the grocery store the other day and the cashier automatically deducted the seniors discount. I was outraged! But then I saw I’d saved $5 and the 65-year-old me surfaced momentarily. “What the hell,” I thought, “it’s $5, enough for a pint.”
senior biker bar

Thursday 16 January 2014

Motion induced blindness

Some time ago I blogged (here) about the gorilla in the room in an attempt to explain why so many car drivers just don’t see us (and oftentimes don’t even see other cars or trucks). Sure we’re a smaller target but it seems there is, in fact, a physiological explanation for this common and temporary spot blindness.
Now another interesting bit of information regarding selective blindness has come to my attention – motion induced blindness. Motion induced blindness is a phenomenon where, if a person’s sight is fixated on a specific point and the background is moving, then that person may develop blind spots in the periphery of their vision. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s web site has a demonstration of this phenomenon at and Wikipedia provides a bit more detail at
To put this in practical terms, consider a driver in a hurry who is approaching an intersection. He has visually fixated on the traffic light, hoping it doesn’t change before he gets there. Traffic is moving around him. These are ideal conditions for that driver to not even see the motorcyclist just off his front fender as he changes lanes, with predictable results.
The fact that there are explanations for such behaviour doesn’t absolve the driver from any responsibility. However as riders we can help make ourselves more visible by knowing what is happening and why. And it turns out one of the simplest remedies is movement; lateral movement seems to be most effective in breaking through that visual trance. Just shifting lane positions when approaching intersections or when surrounded by heavy traffic is often as good as a red flag and an air horn, and certainly better than a “CAN YOU SEE ME NOW, ASSHOLE?” fluorescent green t-shirt that the zoned-out driver still won’t see.
All of which is to say, it’s a dangerous world out there, so ride safe folks!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

The devil finds work for idle hands

According to Benjamin Franklin, “It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.” I suppose that may not always be so as I’ve been pretty miserable at some jobs, and very happy since I’ve been (sort of) retired. But I needed a lead-in and Ol’ Benjie seemed as good a candidate as any.

Anyway, the point of all that was that I like doing ‘stuff’ and can get a mite crotchety when I am loose ends for any length of time. So the missus likes me to be busy, as evidenced by the length of the ‘honey do’ list, which I tend to treat as suggestions rather than directions, but that’s another story.
It’s January. The weather sucks! I’ve read a book a week for the last month and it’s time for some other distraction. Enter eBay!

There aren’t many things I don’t like about my Dyna; it’s a good fit for my type of riding (at least most of it) and I haven’t won a lottery lately, so it fits the budget. But it’s not perfect, and one of the things that has been an irritant since I bought it is the location of the ignition switch, down on the side of the steering head where the key ring rattles around, scuffs the paint, and threatens to pull the key out at any time. It’s also awkward. I much prefer the tank-top location of the Wide Glide and other H-D models, so for the past couple of years I have been on the lookout for used parts to do the conversion. (It would be cheaper to upgrade to a Road King or Softail than pay the H-D prices for new components.)

So there I was, bored, cruising eBay when I came across the critical hardest-to-find part for the conversion – a brand new, still in the shrink wrap, dash panel to house the ignition switch. It was like Christmas all over again, just two weeks later. So I placed the order and it arrived today!

2014-01-15 12.27.242014-01-15 12.30.44

Of course this is just the start. I still need an ignition switch, a new steering lock, and top bar clamp. Since I lose my tachometer I also have to decide whether to replace the speedo with a speedo/tach combination (expensive) or just go with a bar-mount tachometer. And then I’ll need to find a few days to pull it all apart, reroute/lengthen/shorten all the connecting wires for the switch, the idiot lights, and the speedo, and do most of it a second time to fix the inevitable screw-ups. Going to be fun!