Friday, March 16, 2018

What if?

Is that an old BMW with sidehack? Or an old Russian copy of an old BMW, or a Chinese copy of a... you get the picture.

YOU know I consider myself to be a typical motorcyclist, that is funny, good looking and smart.  Well, okay lets agree on good looking and funny.  How about just funny and leave it at that.

Personally I started out riding primarily for two reasons, back in 1968.  The first was... I wanted the Independence and freedom of being motorized on wheels.  Sometime after the last ice age, Alberta allowed 14 and 15 year olds to ride on the street  by limiting engine size to 100cc.  That wasn't a problem back then because my first two bikes were "little".  Initially I had a Honda S 90 with it's 4 speed gearbox, then a Suzuki A 100 Scrambler, which was also a 4 speed but was powered by a rotary valve two cycle engine.  Because the 'Zuke' had a high chrome exhaust, it was cooler because it could be ridden off road which I did a lot of on vacant lots, and out beyond St Albert and the confines of the city routinely.  Look at the current popularity of street scramblers.  Both bikes were very common and available given the licensing restrictions.  With enough acceleration to at least stay with traffic on city streets, they were also abuse resistant given that my rides quickly advanced to highway jaunts to places like Lake Wabamum, Elk Island National park and Red Deer.  It's a wonder that neither bike exploded held with the throttle pinned, speedometer showing 66.5 mph for miles on end.

The second reason I started riding, was named "Kelly"

Kelly was the teenaged girl who lived next door to me in NW Edmonton.  Label me if you want, but I fantasied about the long red hair, flowing in the wind arms entwined around me as I rode to the beach at Pigeon Lake!  Of course it was only a fantasy as I didn't yet have a bike, she was beautiful and had a boyfriend named 'Butch'  which in them days was the moniker of a 'tough guy'.  Butch would ride up on his CB 160 with the mufflers cut right off after the header pipe, clad in dirty blue jeans,  a white T and boots.  He could have been the prototype for Arthur Fonzerelli except the Fonz rode (?) a Triumph.

So between my fantasy of Kelly, aided by her sunbathing in the back yard in her bikini (it was the sixties) and the ability to escape parental control for hours at a time, I began riding motorcycles. 

Anyway, as often happens, I wake up remembering some point of my riding career that's spanned 50 years.

A few weeks back, I popped out of bed... okay languished for an hour and then clumsily rolled out from between three cats, I had a different "what if" moment.  Let's say I was returning from Phx and due to a mix up I was invited to sit in first class next to a guy that looked suspiciously like Bill Gates.  Of course I turned the conversation to motorcycles and this passenger asked what I would ride if money were no object?

I decided to put it out there amongst some of my motorcycling pals.

What would you buy if money was no object?

I know this isn't an original idea but that morning I was curious enough that I circulated the question and sat down waiting for some feedback.  It wasn't long in coming.

The guidelines were simple.  Regardless of your experience level which varied from beginner to "old geezer," if you had to choose a single bike of any brand, type and had a barrel of cash stashed in your jeans, or you were wearing the jeans while inside the barrel.. which was full of green/blue/purple or orangebacks. 

I didn't want a long obtuse dialogue, just send me a line or three to explain your choice.

Here's some of the answers I got... see how yours compare?

Scott said:  (probably my favorite)

"A URAL Gear Up.  He liked the 2WD (that's right, it has a 2WD option) modern? Russian copy of the BMW and ZUNDAPP machines used by the German Army in WW2.  The sidecar equipped URAL has plenty of storage space and the ability to include his girlfriend on Adventure trips which otherwise are ridden solo on his KLR.  (Frank's note; With a Ural's "cool" factor, he could carry more than one girlfriend at a time!  Now there's an adventure!)

Kathy said: "she loves her Vulcan 800!  It's well balanced, has lots of pep and she likes the Classic style typified by numerous Harleys."  

I too like the mid sized Vulcans, which reminds me of a story... back in '88 when the first 1500's were imported, I was out with some friends riding.  We stopped at a little café off route 19 here on the Island, frequented by riders and sports car enthusiasts.  When we came out there was a guy sitting on my bike. Tsk tsk I said, or something like that, and he stared at it obviously liking it.  He asked me what it was and I answered, a Vulcan 88 as in cubic inches.  I told him it was the largest production MC engine in the world and it was built be Kawasaki.  He disagreed and pointed at his own bike and said tartly that it was the biggest.  I asked him if it had been bored or stroked although it looked brand new, which it turns out it was, and I could see my question went right over his head.  I did point out to him that although large at 1340cc, the Vulcan at 1470cc was indeed bigger!  He begged to disagree with me, and by this time my riding partners are nearly rolling around splitting a gut laughing at this exchange.  I'm not certain where he learned his math, but we parted at that...

My often times KLR riding pal Trevor, didn't disappoint when I put this to him.  Trev shot back a reply immediately informing me that his dream bike would be a Husqvarna Super Enduro 701.  His reasons; lots of power (near 70hp) both road legal and off road capable, and as I mentioned to him, he had the giraffe legs for the 38 or so inches of seat height! 

Zac's answer did not surprise me.  He figures a Suzuki DR 650 with upgraded suspension, big bore kit, more fuel capacity and decent luggage would make an ideal bike for his riding style.  I myself have a similar bike with my XT 600.  He finished with the caveat that he wouldn't mind having a Triumph Scrambler too!

Chris #1 would pick a circa 2005-2012 Yamaha MT01.  A bike that couldn't get traction here in North America but was briefly popular in Europe.  Basically a factory modified V Star 1700 that played on the power cruiser looks but with lighter weight (aluminum frame) USD* forks, decent suspension and as Chris eloquently states it... "Quick, powerful and sports bike type handling."  He liked the upright seating position as well.

Chris #2 on the other hand would take an All Black Triumph Tiger 800 if somebody handed him the cash.  He liked its ability to do some casual trail riding, praising it's light weight as compared to the Mega ADV bikes, something that he could pick up off the ground if he were trailing somewhere in Baja or Chile or the Alaska highway.  Besides... he added it looked "Bad Ass"

Melanie chose a Yamaha Bolt.  She tells me it's comfortable to sit on, looks good, and has style and is easy enough to lift off the side stand.  She'd sure like to ride one!

Ron likes bikes that are like him.  Old, reliable, still dashingly good looking and devoid of frivolities that add nothing to the riding experience... but cost a barrel of dough if they need a visit to the shop.  He likened that experience to the difference between adjusting the valves on his DOHC GS 1000 Suzuki himself, to taking the bike into Exotic Cycles where a tune up would involve a day and a half, with several hours of removing and replacing body work and end with taking out a 2nd mortgage!


He loves his Magna.  A "cruiser" with a race bike engine.  He doesn't need anything more.  He tells me he's already cool, rich and handsome beyond belief and doesn't need any bike to enhance his many attributes.

Nuff said!

*USD Upside down
Cool 1981 XV 920 RH


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Will HD fall afoul of the proposed US tarrifs?

(this taken from a US news article. Photos and opinion after, are my own)

Harley-Davidson implemented just-in-time manufacturing, different management strategies, relentless product improvement, and many other ideas stressed by William Edwards Deming. Ironically, many of these theories had been put into (successful) practice in Japan after World War II by companies employing engineers, managers, and scholars trained by Deming. The tariff gave Harley-Davidson a bit of breathing room, which Harley used wisely, by making enormous quality improvements, improving labor relations greatly, and modernizing their business practices.

Harley-Davidson reclaimed its market share and more. In 1987, Vaughn L. Beals, Harley’s chairman and CEO told the U.S. International Trade Commission, ''We're profitable again. We're recapitalized. We're diversified. We don't need any more help.'' He requested the ITC end the tariff plan a year ahead of schedule.



Harley-Davidson largely saved their own bacon. Many business studies of the turnaround have been done, and the results are nearly unanimous: their metamorphosis was nothing short of transformational, and through loads of hard work, Harley pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.
However, that’s not to say the tariff was unimportant to Harley’s future. Even if relatively minor in terms of actual economic impact, It was probably a crucial action serving to calm the frayed nerves of Harley’s creditors. The investors who bought Harley back from AMF were very over-extended, and the paucity of excess operational capital was likely causing much temple-rubbing — Even though Harley was visibly righting the ship.

Darwin Holstrom, in "Harley-Davidson: The Complete History," notes that Citicorp, their lender, had continued to lend not out of generosity, but because it was felt that their chances of recovering the loan was better with Harley operational — they didn’t even believe Harley’s carcass would cover the debt. Eventually, even that plan was abandoned, and in November of 1984, Citicorp announced over-advances would stop as of March 1985, which they later pushed to December 31, 1985. Peter C. Reid notes in "Made Well In America: Lessons from Harley-Davidson on Being the Best," “...Citicorp officials began to worry about what would happen when the tariffs on big Japanese bikes ended in 1988.”

Harley CFO Rich Teerlink simultaneously prepared the company for bankruptcy filings and searched for an investor, which only came at the last moment and after much negotiating and pleading. Would their new lenders have materialized without the temporary protection offered by that tariff? Highly unlikely. Harley-Davidson became a publicly traded company in 1986. “Going public was a hard decision, but we had such difficult financial problems it was the only decision,” said Beals.
Was the tariff the correct action for President Reagan to have executed? Can such a complicated topic ever have a “right” answer? That’s certainly a multi-faceted and complex issue, and likely not one I could answer, nor could a consortium of scholars and economists. (They’ve tried, and they have the same problem I do — they leave more questions than answers.)

Even Beals was fairly blunt. “For years, we tried to figure out why the Japanese were beating us so badly. First we thought it was their culture. Then we thought it was automation. Then we thought it was dumping. Finally we realized the problem was us, not them.”

Oddly, among all the politics and money surrounding this issue (and others like it), there is one statement Ronald Reagan made that sums up the issue completely accurately and can in no way be refuted no matter what side of the issue anyone found — or still finds — himself on. “I have determined that import relief in this case is consistent with our national economic interest.” Perhaps that statement cannot be construed as an explanation for enacting the tariff. On the other hand, perhaps it was all the explanation the situation warranted.

This mumbo jumbo is interesting to anyone that was around in the Reagan years.  That was back in the day that HD was repurchased from AMF (American Machine and Foundry) and to ensure the survival of the brand, a multi year tariff was placed on MC with displacements over 700cc originating in J A Pan.  The first year tariff was a whopping 49.4% 

That affected a large portion of Japanese imports being unfairly (?) penalized.  The long and short is HD survived and by successfully selling an "image" to the public (do I need to tell you... okay in case you've been lost in the Amazon for 30 years) dentists/construction workers/lawyers/politicians took on the visual persona of weekend "bad boys".  Watch Wild Hogs on Netflix!

I even had a guy working in my Financial office who came to live with me (big mistake) during his divorce, that bought an '03 Anniversary Heritage.  This guy didn't even ride bikes!

He ended up being so "f__g" obnoxious that my riding friends wanted to beat the crap out of him when he would come up to a group of us, flashing his $40 zippo, wallet chained to his jeans, the Beanie lid proclaiming that helmet laws sucked and proclaiming US as riders of Jap junk!

Today, there is much talk and reading on what is happening with the North American market for motorcycles.  With HD sales falling by double digit sales figures and the entire Big Bike market feeling the hurt, and... with much talk about smaller, lighter, easier, cheaper to ride motorcycles growing in the market place (albeit it it's the international marketplace, not American or CDN) it makes for great speculation. 

If you are a long time motorcyclist as I am, and if you came in during the mid to late '60's when the British and American industries' were on the cusp of collapse, teetering on the brink of oblivion, and the Japanese who were accused of being transistor radio makers and nothing else of any consequence... you know what happened in the next decade.  The once powerful British MC business went the way of the dodo, HD got bought out by a tractor outfit and the 100cc Yamaha's and CB 125 Honda's begin the switch for hundreds of thousands of new riders moving up to 350's, then 400's, 650's and bigger, while the little bikes eventually disappeared altogether. 

History tends to repeat itself, lessons go unlearned and those that paid no attention, fall by the way side.



In our case, that is the case of Motorcycles, which we all love, this likely won't happen again.  Why you might ask? 

To quote Albert Einstein... the "Fourth World War will be fought with rocks and sticks"

ps Coming up...

"If money was no object, what would you buy and why...?"

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Unlike perspiration... inspiration can often be much harder to find.  As is defined in short...


1. stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity
2. the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused
3. someone or something that causes this state
4. an idea or action resulting from such a state
5. (Physiology) the act or process of inhaling; breathing in

It's certainly true that humans aspire to be not only inspired, but inspiring.

Over my lifetime I have felt there has been cause for both. 

I like to read, a lot.  One of the must haves I had for building this house in the move to rural PEI was to have a library.  I'm not talking merely of a WalMart Ubuild book shelf in a box but a real honest to God enormous vast, heavy and appealing, library.  A place where I can display my little yellow Honda and have enough diversity to be able to pull something off the shelves and sit in the sunlight of a nice winter day, feet curled up under me, next to a furry creature.

I have a small version in my office where I keep a handful of pocket books but in our living room my bookshelf is 8 feet tall and 24 feet wide!  There are currently about 650-750 books, not counting magazines on my "bookshelf." 

It's a dream come true.  I've got stuff by hundreds of authors, some fiction, some non... plenty of history for I believe that if we don't learn the lessons that it teaches us, we are destined to repeat it.  Sometimes with horrific consequences.

I have fun stuff, and serious stuff.  Some of it is fluff, there are many who-done-its and there are many mind provoking volumes.  There's Lenin and there's Lennon.  There's Bryson, Evanovich, Grisham, Haley.  I have Travel, Mystery, Biographies.  I've got Dune, The JOY of Sex, The Gangs of New York, and Defining Moments in History.

Plenty to be inspired with.

Just yesterday as the sun shone in through our living room windows, I pulled Charley Boorman's "Race to Dakar" off for a look see.  Of course I have his and Ewan's  'Long Way Round' on video and the memory of having met them on the final leg of their journey, quite by accident while we were all in Great Falls Montana in 2004.  My buddy, Rock pestering (peppering?)  them with questions, while I could see they were pretty much exhausted and on auto pilot to get to NYC.

Anyway... I am always thrilled to read about other's adventures.  They may be simple or elaborate, but never the less I often find inspiration between the covers. 

Race to Dakar one of them. 

There were two things that jumped out right way as I leafed through the book version of the video.  The first was the constant references to ride within one's limits and capabilities without giving in to pressures to ride beyond them.  The other is to find away to ride beyond them.  This is true for just about everything in life.  Life to many seems like an ugly four letter word, something to be rushed through without stopping to smell the poppies, or taking it in, in glorious deep breaths, to savor over and over again. 

Take riding in Baja for example.  Although I haven't ridden there now since 2007, I still remember the beauty of the silence of the desert,  on previous trips, the fear of the unknown, the constant concern for safety and the cherry on the top, the relishing of another memory that will stay with you forever.

The last of my Freedom Cycle bikes, DT 50L/C

Although I have not ridden in Baja for many years now... I have spent almost 10 years with a secondary home in PHX Arizona from which base I have travelled the Superstitions, the White Tank, and especially the Bradshaw mountains extensively. In my photo albums both film and digital, there are nearly 35,000 digital memories.  One of my favorite things is to sit in front of my laptop, steaming coffee cup in hand and just watch the parade of memories flicker in front of my eyes on my screen savor. 

I've had many stories published about riding the SW deserts and even though I now live on the East coast... I am looking forward to making many more memories in the locale.

Anyway, getting back to Inspiration...

I picked up as I said, Charley's book... and inside the front cover in ink I see an inscription.  This one is hand written and personal to myself which I would like to share with you.

It's short and sweet and I will state it's origin and message to you, maybe there you will find some of your own inspiration for yourself.

it is...

Happy Birthday Dad!
More inspiration for your future publications!
Keep your adventurous spirit healthy and strong!

Love Holly and Lisa

dated January 3, 2008

Of course Holly and Lisa are my grown daughters and in January of 2008 I was preparing to travel fulfilling a very long time dream of mine.  In that year and the one right after I would be sitting on the seat of a beautiful and willing Diversion 600 Yamaha to finally ride not only the roads of my birthplace but covering nearly 30,000 km and two dozen countries.

You might say, I was inspired...

Right after completion...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The good new days!

Getting some time in over Lake Pleasant on an ultra-lite
It was a wonderfully sunny day... my partner exclaimed loudly with gusto... "I LOVE IT"

Unless you began life as Benjamin Button or Merlyn the Magician... you and I live conventional lives.  That is to say, we began carried in our mother's womb for a suitable period, kicked out into the real world suddenly, some white ghost like human slapping our bottoms while we're helplessly inverted, spend years learning useless math skills and pretty soon, we are toiling away in the cotton fields. 

I remember clearly as a 'ute" how I wished to emulate Roy Rogers, Matt Dillon, Little Joe and then later on, Steve McQueen. How I couldn't wait to be 'older'...

Some baaad pards in this bunch lookin' at mebbe robbin' the bank.

So here I sit wondering where in the hell the time has gone?  ... and what have I done with it??

It's true that many of the people I have known throughout my life have done nothing more exciting than resetting the clock an hour ahead in the spring... then reversing the process six month later.

Or maybe downloading 'ring tones' on your smarteerthanyouare phones.  Not to say, this is wrong, bad or otherwise, but considering how short our human lives really are, like couldn't you come up with something daring and memorable just once?

Just tooling around the backcountry

I've often commented that if we make it to 50, the rest are bonus years!

Stone silence, not a cricket chirping.
I've never been the guy that books a week in the Bahama's to stay at a pink flamingo colored all inclusive hotel, except for the odd Yamaha travel trip I'd qualified for during my Freedom Cycle days, but really... where is the option marked "ADVENTURE"?

On the Adventure 150, somewhere in AZ

Kicking back sipping pina colada's on a concrete patio poolside, is not my idea of fun, or even a vacay.  On the other hand, riding a dirt bike off road in Baja California for 8 weeks and sipping a mucho fria Tecate at the end of the day as the sun drops over the Sierra Giganta's carries much more appeal to me.

YEARS ago I bought a vacation townhome in Arizona. Back in the day when I lived in Calgary, it was more or less a straight drive south on interstate highways.  I loved that drive down, 24 road hours and I'd cross the Rockies several times dodging big trucks cruising at 80 mph ( the trucks not me) watching the scenery turn from bland winter prairie to 35C heat in southern Utah and by the time I reached Mesquite Nevada, the palm trees were waving their welcome.

A left at Vegas, over the Colorado at Hoover Dam and pretty soon I was pulling into Wickenburg in preparation for arrival in the big city.
P 51 Tucson Air Museum/park

Flying was even less problematic.  Hop on the 737/A320 at 6 am in Cowtown and by noon my Adventure scooter was loaded with groceries in Glendale.

Since moving to the east coast requires flying all day and my medical insurance is climbing each year, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up.

A PEI back trail

Don't get me wrong... I love vacationing in Arizona.  I've ridden gentle back roads, freeways (Okay not real exciting but remember traffic is moving at 80+ mph while my single cylinder 350cc 'dirt bike' is struggling to reach 60!)  I've ridden every mountain range around the city, piling up countless miles during my adventures, getting lost, paddling through knee deep sand drenched in sweat, dropping the bike, picking it up again, thinking of the next hill ahead and maybe a cool Rolling Rock in my backyard tonight.

This last 18 months have been, ahem... less than satisfactory, the most exciting thing I've done is watch COP shows on hotel TV... my home down there is still not completely repaired.  Hopefully will be before I next arrive in April.


Just another Island day

BACK closer to home, I've been doing more riding locally.  It may not be death defying like the Mojave, but still I get to exercise my body and continue to chalk up the motorcycle miles.  Last years week at Lisa's home in N.B. gave me a great excuse to motor around the province's western wall, giving me lots more adventure miles and writing opportunities.  I even spent some time in Utopia (see CDN BIKER September/October 2017)  Brenda and I even managed to get an overnight ride along the back roads of Nova Scotia on the Citicom 300!

Can you think of a better way to spend a day?

One of the fabulouso things riding the maritime provinces is the close proximity to home. If I had to grab the highway... I could be home from virtually anywhere here in 5 hours or less.  Of course I prefer to meander along exploring colorful villages, back country and local history.

I made ambitious plans last season and won't be making that mistake again.  Riding here is best unplanned with no particular destination. As the three provinces connect on the narrow strip of land barely above water at Sussex and have more narrow paved or unpaved back roads, you don't have to travel on the Trans Canada unless you're dying to put on the miles.  Unlike Western Canada or the USA... it's not about clocking miles.  It's about exploring the back country.

Some where in southern NB Canada

I am pretty sure that this year I will be foraying into NS more often with the possibility of doing some riding in New England.  After all my passport expires in 2024 and I won't likely be renewing it.

So for now... I am enjoying a mild winter, reading, remembering past rides and adding memories for new ones.

To the Good New Days to come!


Monday, February 5, 2018

Will wonders never cease?

SO, HD is closing it's not that old factory in Kansas City.

Sales are not just down, but way down.  Further, Polaris Industries (former makers of Victory) and current of Indian, even worse. 

Of course, there are multiple reasons for these drops in numbers, part of which is having little to no market for a viable entry level MC.  Of course at one time HD had the Buell Blast(?! huh) 500 but that was never a serious motorcycle and apart from many going to MC training courses, the public greeted it with luke warm water and didn't really like the bike.  I looked seriously (okay maybe semi) at buying one for my PHX digs but after riding several examples I found the bike to be shakier than a paint mixer, terribly underpowered with quirky handling, so so brakes and generally poor quality control went into the makings of the bike.

Okay so kiss Buell goodbye.  How about the India made Street models.  How popular (or not) are they?  Well I don't have any scientific answer to that puzzle but I can tell you I have seen one (count 'em 1) on the road in 3 years, and it was from PQ loaded with some touring gear in company with a Big Twin.  The fact that a woman was riding the Street just goes to show that women are certainly buoying up some of the lost sales to new comers.  Just as I predicted in the late 70's and early 80's. Just not near enough.

The other factor is cost.  HD and Indian are both priced at the higher end of the market attracting and aimed at affluent buyers.  Of course those people are now often in their sixties and up, and simply put, won't be around much longer.  Most of my riding friends are in this age category.  I myself am 63 (well I decided last year I would start counting backwards, so in that vein I'm actually now 61)

Who can afford a BMW at 30K plus, or a Gold Wing same, or an HD or any one of a number of bikes priced in the mid teens and several going into the 30's!  Again, only the guy that has no alimony payments, a secure corporate job and has several suits in his closet, next to the MC gear.

I've often felt I would rather have half a used trials bike, dualie, sports tourer, vintage stuff and more used... for the cost of a new Wing or Decker.

THEN there is the whole issue of what exactly Motorcycles are to the N.A. market?  Basic transportation on the lines of China or India or VietNam...?


Bikers on this side of the pond even differ greatly from Europe. 

Here for the most part, we are "posers" while at least the posers over there, attend GP races in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. Hard enduros, rally bikes like the whole PD thing, and pay substantially more both in licensing and purchase of their bikes.

They are serious riders. That plus the long time regulations limiting displacement/horsepower and graduated licensing have fostered a 'move up' market. 

I was just having a conversation this past week on lane splitting/filtering, call it what you want and over here we have a single state that allows it. (CA)

In Europe and Asia, it's not just common but a necessity to keep traffic moving.  I've ridden round-abouts with a dozen exits, and lane split in Athens, Budapest and Spain and many others... try doing that here and you will have a dozen auto drivers on their cell phone calling 911 for Pete's sake!

Sometimes I'm of the feeling that I should have moved 'over there', how different my riding experiences would have been.  Weekly local MX races, MOTO GP, the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees...

Who knows.  I arrived in Canada as a Hungarian refugee and certainly wasn't keen on growing up behind the Iron Curtain! 

WE have some of the best riding in the world.  Period!  Canada and the USA are VAST countries with a massive variety of terrain, weather and wonders to explore.  Yet most riders I know rarely venture out of their neighborhoods.  No wonder they soon tire of riding and hop in the Volvo 'cuz it's a lot easier to grocery shop.

I feel very fortunate that I had parents that didn't have a problem with me riding a bike. 

Growing up in the sixties, there were few bikes out
there.  The Brits were on their collective last gasps, the Japs invading with cute and practical little bikes like the two Passports in my house, were just gathering steam.  It's been an exciting 50 years for moi!

I'm sure we will never see that again in this part of the world.  Eventually motorbikes will be outlawed or redundant. 

As a last note... I was reading that HD was going to pursue two new and distinctive avenues moving ahead. 

One... they are going to phase out their current dealerships for high end auto oriented combinations stores which has already gotten underway. Don't think so?  Remember when they dropped many of the HD shops that kept the brand going through the lean years, in favor of cookie cutter image stores?

The second, they are going to put an electric bike on the market within a year.

Stop laughing you! 

Can't you see the future... eventually, maybe even in my lifetime, we will see sports bikes and cruisers with nearly a hundred kilometer range and charging stations for bikes everywhere including the Sahara. 









You read it here first folks...

the Doc.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Aye... Karumba!

What gives eh?  Normally, this time of year I'm doing minor repairs on bikes, working in my (somewhat) heated 1100 square foot garage.

Not this time baby!

Although there is little to no snow on the ground, it's so dang cold and has been for weeks, you'd need dynamite to dig a hole out there. 

As I pretty much do every morning, I have a peek at my back door mounted thermometer. 

Blimey, it's 20 below zero on the Calvin scale.  Again! Zero being the equivalent of 32F.

I don't care which scale you use, it's friggin' frigid!

It's so cold I don't even have any desire to fire up the Polaris for a spin round the hood! 

When I arrived back to Canada mid December, the temperature dropped and hasn't really improved since.  Shades of living in Alberta!  I remember well the winter of '81, living and working in Fort Mac.  That memorable winter it didn't get warmer than -40 for SIX weeks!  You read that right, minus forty as a daily high. (note: at -40 both scales meet)

Living on an Island, our mini climate is more temporal but not as of late.

Much as I try getting my head space into riding weather, I can't get over that banshee biting wind tearing at my clothes out there.  Just this past week we had gusts to 139 kph or otherwise for my American friends, 90 mph!  Fortunately the roof stayed on.


On the plus side, it's the end of the week in the New Year and I can already tell the days are getting longer. 

So what am I doing if I'm not wrenching, and our internet speed (a misnomer if I ever heard one) is too slow to even watch the occasional Netflix program... I've hauled out some of my old magazines, this batch being from the late '70s.  I'm reading about twin shock RM 400 Suzuki's, reading a shoot out of the 175/185 cc "dual purpose bikes" (the DT 175 won) and reading the multi colored ads which were common in the day.

Seeing the Yamaha ads prominently featuring the '79 YZ 400 brought back some interesting memories. 

Yamaha swept the US Nationals
Rich Burgett, Bob "Hurricane" Hannah and Broc "too tall" Glover

I had left my machining job at the "plant" and taken a position at Four Seasons RV World. 

In those days I was organizing the McMurray Dirt Riders (MDRA), we'd just had a new track built a few miles south of town by my contacts at Keyano's heavy equipment campus free, as part of their training program.  I was still trying to find some time to ride my own MX bike, run the then new National Canada Safety Council Program locally, when my friend and business owner John, asked me to ride MX for the shop. 

I really felt I was better learning the ropes in preparation for my soon to my departure east, to open my own venture (Freedom Cycle)  Nagging me by the day, I finally compromised with him and offered to ride "if" he got me a new Monoshock YZ 400.  Considering that they were sold out in the entire country, I felt pretty safe I wouldn't be donning my MX gear anytime in the near future. 

Well imagine my surprise when JM approaches me and asks if I can give a hand in the shop to uncrate a just arrived motorcycle, nothing unusual there. Except, to my surprise the model number on the crate states it's a YZ400F!  Yup, a brand new open class race bike. 

Given how little time I had, the YZ didn't get much use but I did have some fun at Valiant MX park (named after Gil Valiant, a young man and racer that died of a fatal disease.)

1979 YZ 400 quite a departure from racing 125's

Some of my competitors were astonished that I could pull second (and sometimes third) gear off the start line on the hard pack course. Of course the fewer times you had to shift, the quicker you could get round the circuit.  I don't remember how I did with the little time I was on the bike but I had lots of fun roosting the 45 plus bhp 5 speed two stroke, having ridden 125's for several years. 

Even after moving to PEI shortly after and building some local tracks, I never went back to the monster open bikes. 

Which brings me to another story... After opening up FCI and getting together with some guys to build a very good track in Richmond, I was back on a YZ 125J. 

That year (1982) while at the Vancouver Yamaha motorcycle dealer show if memory serves, on our way to Japan (with Mike Gallant, my partner), I happened to be talking to a very distinguished gentleman by the name of Abe, about my success with the bike.  Wanting to have a little fun with Mr. Abe, I answered him with this quip.

"I was happy with my YZ but needed more horsepower," stating in jest, that Honda's CR 125 was more powerful... and I wanted to go faster...

Being about the same height as he, but about 40 years his junior, he looked me in the eye puzzled, and asked me pointedly in broken English;

"oh... you need mo powa, you YZ 1 an 25 is not fas enuff..."

I nodded. "yes, that's correct it's not fast enough."

After a moment thinking he continued;

"No problem. You get YZ fo niney... is much fasser." 

Now it was my turn to be puzzled until the smile broke on his face... He'd got me.  I'd been had!

* (YMC's president)

( (or it might have been Mr. Ken Aoba)

My Race bike and race van!


Monday, December 25, 2017

Saving Motorcycling, act two!

The Euro Divvie 600 at the Brandenburg Gate Berlin 2008

I was reading the Bike Bandit online newsletter this past week and wrote a bit about it in this Blog.

VTR 1000 new in '98, background, The Rockies
Well, well, well... it seems this is a bit of a hot button topic, with lots of opinions.  Some suggest better training for new riders (I myself taught the CDN program for nearly 2 decades) others suggest various things like ad campaigns to promote riding, hiring firms that specialize in image building (do we really need to do that?!) (I think Trump must have used one of those) and reduced pricing. 

One thing that came up several times in comparing Motorcycling in North America with places like Japan, Europe and developing countries (China and India for example) is how the population in general views motorcycling.

It's true that we over here have, always seen motorcycling as a sport or in some cases, a work of the devil! 

My silver Citi 300i amid the wild lupins on PEI
Having ridden extensively in Europe a few years back, riding over across the pond is far better accepted and very diverse.  It doesn't hurt that Europe in general has a much higher standard of living than say... Bolivia or Viet Nam where riding bikes is cheap and common and often a necessity.

The question seems to hinge on bikes as a necessary mode of transit (everyone has seen the pics of a family of 17 riding a Honda Cub in Thailand or San Salvador or in wealthier countries, more of a fashion statement or testament to MotoGP! 

In the USA and here, riding is very much profiling as a sport. 

My last uncle, John and his wife sitting on my Little Red;
Szolnok HU

It was nearly closing time way back when I worked for Bow Cycle in Calgary and an older (55 ish remember I was younger then) gent whom I'd been talking to, was leaving via the front doors.  He was tall, dressed in black leather head to toe including chaps and shorty helmet, and was riding a vintage looking Honda Shadow with a short seat height, forward mounted pegs and loud pipes.  Just as we were shaking hands a CBR 900 R pulled up and parked next to the Shadow.  The rider was a 30 something, dressed also in leather but this time bright colors, full face helmet and pre curved Castre gloves, looking like he'd just come from the Isle of Man or maybe the GP at Donington! 

They got a little tangled up with who was coming through the door first, but the Sports bike rider stood by my side as the Shadow rider fired up his VT, causing the windows to vibrate  from his exhaust.  He pulled away and the fellow in the GP gear said almost under his breath...

"Damn Posers"  (actually he said F__ng Posers but you get it right?

Honestly I did a double take, okay maybe a triple.  Sure the guy on the Shadow was likely a working stiff maybe even a professional but the CBR rider certainly could be said to be a poser too... I don't think the he was a top finisher at a local GP race. 

XT 225 Serow well travelled.  This is overlooking the Sea of Cortez Baja CA

At least if the road racer replica actually lived in England or France or Germany... he was probably a very good rider and quite possibly been a regular on track days or in the stands at a local event or GP.

While on the other hand it's no wonder that Honda has sold (let me get this right) 100 million step through's.  That's 100,000,000! I myself have two.  One in the basement adjoining the TV room and the other on my book case in the living room.

I own two of the 100,000,000 sold since '54

Countries like India and China are the new burgeoning markets.  In fact India Enfield is now the fastest growing mark in the world!  Never mind that scooters and micro engine bikes thrive over there. 

Consulting with my GPS, err, map.

While the US and of course on a much smaller scale, we are suffering with dropping sales (well under 100,000 units  in Canada for example), those former poor third world countries, are selling tens of millions of motorbikes and I would venture to say, very few are Fat Boys, or 200+ bhp hyper charged Sports bikes!  I would also guess that there is NO National motorcycle training program in any of those countries.  You get on, you learn, hopefully, judging by the myriad of crash videos on U-Tube, you survive! 

This is Athens, even Holly, my well travelled daughter thought Dad had lost his mind

I clearly remember riding through Athens in '08 on my European Diversion 600 which I called Kis Piroska (Little red 'riding' hood)  It was utter chaos to the tenth power!  I stopped for directions at a local COP shop, parking on the sidewalk like the other 500 cycles/scooters of various incarnations, and asked two police officers (jokingly)  if there were any traffic rules in the city.

Refused to pose for a photo but I did get their bikes

One cop said, 'of course we have traffic rules'.  The second cop then added very quickly, 'but don't follow the rules, follow the other moto's and you'll be alright.' 

From Slovenia to Italy on the way to Portugal and the Atlantic coast

That meant splitting lanes at traffic lights, crossing the center line to get to the head of the traffic... anything but obeying basic traffic rules.  It's got to be common knowledge when even the cops are telling you to break them. I learned in Athens that riders cut their handlebars down to ease the passage between rows of cars!  But that's another story.

Obligatory cat photo, hanging around the café Gradac Croatia

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, this topic is at least for now, getting some airplay. 

1975 Me at 20, already had 7 years in.  Heading across Canada '73 R 60/5
Me, on the other hand will be starting my 50th year of continuous riding in just a few days and I can tell you this...

I did my part to encourage people to ride and tried to convince the public that NO, that guy on the Shadow was not a 'Hell's Angel or card carrying member of the Kings Crew' nor was the guy with the CBR and his race 4 into 1 pipe a professional road racer that had taken a turn at the local race track and somehow ended up on Bowness road!.


My riding experience began in 1968 when BSAs and Triumphs and Norton's and Harley's ruled the streets. (and leaked oil profusely)

T Bolt 650

When 4 stroke Scramblers were on the way out and ring dings were beating the crap out of them everywhere on the planet.  I saw the rise of the Japanese domination of the sport as they still do, and I saw the threats posed by insurance companies and their "black lists"

As for 'Saving Motorcycles' ?  I'm passing that torch to the Trevor's and the Chris's. The  Melanie's and the Eric's of the world.  It's their turn.

As for myself, to quote Arlo Guthrie...

"I don't wan' a pickle... I just wanna ride on ma' moto-sickle!"

2002 T bird 900 Triumph, a little old, a little new!

Happy New year to all... heck, the days are already getting longer!