Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Kawasaki Z1000
I've had a thing for naked bikes ever since I rode an old CB750F. Of course, back then they weren't "naked", but I can't help thinking back to that old Honda every time I see one.

Kawasaki's Z1000 is one of those super hot naked bikes (IMHO). Motorcycle Daily has a favorable write up over at their site.
The styling of the Z1000 is, simply put, stunning. The bike is impressive in pictures, but it is even more so in the flesh. The bold design of the Z1000 isn't an aberration -- expect much more to come from Kawasaki.
Put me down for two.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Fight Terrorism, Ride a Bike!
Gas prices are rising rapidly. I'm guessing they'll continue to go up for a while, plateau, then come down to a price 10-15% higher than they were two or three weeks ago. What better reason to ride a motorcycle?

As soon as I started riding on a daily basis, I cut my gas budget by 2/3. That's a lot of money I'm saving, and that's a lot of gas I'm not using. In fact, if SUV drivers, drug dealers, and drug users are "funding terror" (yeah, suuuuure), then motorcyclists are proactively fighting terrorism by using significantly less gasoline than anyone else on the road! Boy does it feel good to give Osama a big kick in the ass every time I start my bike up.

Next time you see a motorcyclist riding down the road, kicking Saddam's ass by not using his filthy gasoline, get out of his way (so that he can get where he's going faster and use less of that evil gas), wave, smile, and cheer your patriotic brother-in-arms, and make plans to get yourself a nice, shiny, new, terrorism fighting motorcycle as soon as you can.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Motorcyclist reviews the '02 F650CS as a great bike for beginners. I was excited about the bike until I saw that it looked strangely deformed and very much like the V-Strom (not one of my favorites).
There will probably be just two kinds of responses to the CS. One: "Omigod, that's a lot of money for a 650 thumper with fruity bodywork." And, two: "That's exactly the kind of bike my wife (husband, partner, brother-in-law) would like, and it'll bookend my own BMW perfectly."
(Emphasis added) Still, the review is quite positive about the bike. Looks like one that new riders yearning for a BMW might look into.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Hmmm, I Dunno About This...
I saw my first Suzuki V-Strom sometime last summer, and I was immediately turned off. To me, it looked like an imposter. What I thought at first was a naked bike soon looked to me like a dual sport. Then I realized it had street only tires on it. But it does have hand guards. And it has a huge amount of ground clearance. What is this hideous monster I asked myself? And who would be interested in a nasty bike like this? It didn't take me too long to find out just who would be interested.

Turns out this is one of the bikes in the new "sport utility motorcycle" class. I commented very briefly on this phenomenon here, and linked in my comments to Motorcycle Daily's sport utility motorcycle commentary. Apparently, Motorcycle Daily is incredibly fond of these newer bikes, as they've chosen the hideously ugly V-Strom to be one of their long term test bikes.

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of the sages over at MD, but I'll tell ya, this is one bike that's going to have to work really hard to win me over. Maybe I need to go give it a test drive.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Marsee Adventure Ballistic Jacket
Reviewed by Motorycle Daily, this looks like a great jacket at a good price. Sounds like it includes everything you need to keep you safe and it looks good as well (bonus).
It is a very robust design that uses a 500 denier Ballistic shell, with a stronger, 1050 denier Ballistic layer in the shoulders and elbows. Between the outer and inner layers is a breathable, seam-sealed, waterproof liner. CE body armor provides impact protection in the shoulder, elbow and spinal areas and is easily removable (when it becomes necessary to wash the jacket). A zipper and velcro front closure incorporates a doubled-up storm flap to keep the drafts and rain where it belongs - on the outside. The neck collar has a polar fleece lining and uses a paired snap closure. There is a zip-out liner for cooler temperatures, and vents in the back under the arms to provide circulation on warm/hot days.
The jacket retails for $375, and can be purchased online here.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Kawasaki's KLR650
This bike is definitely at the top of my motorcycle wish list. It's no R1150GS, but it's also $8K less than what you can touch a new GS for.

Every time I read about this bike, whether it's a review, a touring story, a military anecdote, or the stinking manufacturer's specs, my heart starts pumping in that funny way that either means you like what's happening or you're about to die. Can't wait 'till I get mine.

NHTSA Drops the Ball
According to the Motorcycle Rider's Foundation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has missed the mark with its new Motorcycle Safety Program. Read the Motorcycle News Wire story here.
NHTSA issued this new plan more than a year and a half after the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (SMROs) and academicians leveled stiff criticism of the draft "Motorcycle Safety Improvement Plan" (McSIP) the agency had proposed in May 2001. The MRF and SMROs charged that plan ignored dangerous motorists (ie, car drivers) and placed more emphasis on safer crashing (eg, protective gear) than safer riding.

The MSP's greatest weakness lies in rider training and motorist awareness. In the summer of 2001, the MRF asked the agency to get behind the joint MRF-SMRO plan for rider safety by supporting their call for a resource injection to help rider training and motorist awareness. MRF began providing their plan to Congress nearly one year ago. Today, NHTSA's rider training program continues to fall well short of the mark.
I'm with the MRF on this one. I think that more needs to be done to acknowledge motorcycles as a valid transportation alternative in today's society. Too often motorcycles are looked down upon as purely recreational vehicles (dangerous, deadly, and troublesome ones at that). The truth is that motorcycles can be a legitimate means of daily transportation with an untold number of benefits both to the motorcyclists that ride and to our national infrastructure. Motorcycles use less gasoline, they're easier on the environment, they utilize less space on the road, and they are less harmful to infrastructure than cars are. Motorcyclist are generally more aware of their surroundings, they can arrive at their destination faster, and they're having a whole lot more fun than your average cager.

Next time you're stuck in traffic, look around you. If every vehicle around you with only one passenger in it were riding on a motorcycle, there wouldn't be a traffic jam. It's a mistake for the NHTSA to not take motorcycles seriously.

Hubba, Hubba
Check out the goods on the 2004 Yamaha FJR1300. Beautiful bike, well priced, and they're using Roadcrafters in their advertising pics. Nice.

I can't wait to see a shootout between the top sport-touring bikes (US models please). Gimme an ST1300, an FJR1300, and an R1150RT. Can't wait to see that article.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Learn to Ride Paranoid: Pt. II
Rant about riding safely and educating yourself one day, find the perfect article on the subject the next. Check out Andrew Cherney's article on going "Back to School" over at Motorcycle Cruiser. He touches on almost every point I made, and even hits the ones I meant to make and didn't.
A serious street rider understands that he's likely to be surrounded by dozens of car-piloting incompetents on any given day, all blissfully unaware of his presence. A few well-structured lessons go a long way toward stacking the odds in your favor in the high-stakes game of Street Survival (incompetent motorcyclists aren't a long-lived bunch).

MD does Aprilia
Motorcycle Daily reviews the 2003 Aprilia RSV Mille R. Their review makes me wish I had $18G for an Italian bike.
Let's face it, a bike like the Mille R is not for commuting to work. It is a stallion. You polish it, stare at it in your garage for countless hours, and ride it for pleasure. You also use it to measure and expand your own riding abilities . . . the same way you would measure and expand your driving abilities if you owned a Ferrari or Porsche.

The Mille R is more a work of art than a transportation device. It is intended to be Aprilia's ultimate expression of its engineering and racing experience, with street-legal lights and emissions equipment added on as an afterthought.

A stallion it is, but the 2003 Aprilia Mille R is an extremely well-trained stallion. When you ride the bike, it is predictable and, at the same time, highly responsive to your inputs.
Hey, watch that drool on the keyboard.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Learn to Ride Paranoid
Motorcycle fatalities are on the rise nationwide, according to NHTSA statistics.
U.S. motorcyclist deaths dropped consistently from 1980 to 1997, but now are jumping each year by the hundreds. In 1997, 2,116 motorcyclists were killed; in 2001, the number was up to 3,181, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The story goes on to say that no one really knows why the U.S. numbers are up.
NHTSA cites many possible causes for the increased motorcycle death rate, among them that riders tend to be older - the average age of motorcyclists killed in crashes increased from 29.3 in 1990 to 36.3 in 2001.

Bigger bikes are doubtless another contributing factor, as engine size has increased by 25 percent on average from 769 cubic centimeters in 1990 to 959 cc in 2001.


But even those reasons together don't provide a full explanation, experts say.
To answer why this is happening would take an exhaustive study of motorcycle accidents and why they happen, something that the NHTSA says it won't do.

I've been thinking about this story for about a week now. I know that anecdotal evidence doesn't count for much where statistics are concerned, but I also know that statistics don't count for anything when I find myself in a dangerous situation on the motorcycle that I haven't prepared myself for.

As far as I can tell, a large portion of the spike in the stats can be blamed on new riders of all ages with little or no knowledge of how to ride (seemingly always on bikes that are way too big for them). Have you ever seen the pack of five or six guys on insanely powerful sportbikes riding around in t-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes? Or how about the 100lb biker mamas on 600lb, 1200cc motorcycles that almost fall over at every stoplight (wearing a half helmet, jeans, and a flimsy leather vest)? I fear for the lives of these people, almost as much as I fear for my own on my daily commute.

Rider education seems to be a sure fire way to stem the escalating death toll. It's one thing to know that riding can be dangerous. It's quite another to get into the middle of a blind, decreasing radius turn at 60mph with no knowledge of counter steering or how to "look through" your turn. So where do we turn for an education?

The Ohio Department of Public safety runs Motorcycle Ohio, a program that is cautiously being credited with Ohio's lower than average motorcycle fatality rate.
Nationwide, motorcycle fatalities increased more than 50 percent from 1997 to 2001. In Ohio, they were up 14 percent during the same period, despite a 26 percent increase in the number of motorcycles registered in the state.
The MSF offers the Basic RiderCourse, a two day intro course that teaches "how to operate a motorcycle safely, with a lot of emphasis on the special skills and mental attitude necessary for dealing with traffic." I took the MSF Basic RiderCourse before I got my first motorcycle, and I credit it with saving my life on several occasions.

There are plenty of other opportunities available to riders of all skill levels. One of the local Memphis groups that I ride with is holding a motorcycle "rodeo" this spring. The focus will be on riding basics, learning new skills, and getting rid of bad motorcycling habits. Many motorcycle clubs hold similar events. Some states have their own motorcycle safety/education programs similar to the program in Ohio.

There are plenty of reasons that motorcycle fatalities are rising. Education, riding paranoid, and wearing the proper safety gear all the time are some of the things that we as riders can do to make sure we don't become one of those rising numbers.

AMA 1, Sen. Hurt 0
Congrats to the AMA for organizing a protest against New Mexico State Senator Allen Hurt's Senate Bill 239. The bill would have forced motorcyclists who died under specific circumstances to become organ donors whether they had signed an organ donor card or not (read the AMA Jan. 30 report here).
Hurt's bill, designated Senate Bill 239, specifically states that: "a person operating a motorcycle without a helmet and who, as the result of an accident, is pronounced brain dead pursuant to Section 12-2-4 NMSA 1978 by a licensed physician shall become an organ donor regardless of whether the person made an anatomical gift by completing the organ donor statement…"
The AMA is reporting today that the bill has been withdrawn, largely due to the volume of e-mail generated by the AMA's Rapid Response program.

Thanks to the AMA, and shame on Sen. Hurt.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Sport Utility Motorcycles?
Motorcycle Daily theorizes that the popularity of and the clamor for Sport Utility Vehicles is now infecting the motorcycle market. They point to the new Ducati "dual sport" (that should never be taken off-road) as evidence.
Ducati believes, like sport utility vehicles in the automobile segment, the market for sport utility motorcycles will expand dramatically -- drawing new customers to the segment. On one level, the Multistrada is just a big dual sport, like so many others, but its blatant devotion to street, as opposed to off-road performance (it is not even an off-road pretender), signals its departure from the other motorcycles in the sport utility motorcycle segment.
There are a bunch of other examples that could be given that point to this trend. Motorcycle Daily reports on one here.

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