Monday, September 23, 2013

§6 Cryptic Advice for Picking a Bike.

There is a lot of good advice out there about how to pick a motorcycle. Make sure it is right for your height, is in good condition, that kind of thing. I have very little to add to this-a mere addendum, really.

There are those among us who are commuters. These are riders who go for the sensible bike, ride with a sensible style and wear sensible gear. They are a kind of unsung hero among the rider community. Lone riders, who go to work and to school on machines that get good gas mileage at the cost of low maintenance. For cats like this, the choice is fairly easy. 250 or maybe 650cc. New or low miles. Boom. 

But then there are the rest of us. 

It is true that, no matter what, you should probably get a bike that is mechanically sound. Otherwise, you will learn the wretched truth about restoration. (Even now, there are those among you who hear this and know it to be true and yet still are going to take that plunge. And in so doing, you are making the right choice.)

But aside from this, you must allow for the drum beat of the non-rational. Some bikes call to the soul. Some bikes answer the will of the whim. Bikes that are condemned as decisevly uncomfortable by some are ridden by others for thousands of happy miles. The bike that would fit you in with your crew may deaden your soul. Your people may suggest. You may listen. But the choice has to be between you and fate. 

My suggestion obviously reflects the romantic connection I have with my bike. Others among you may simply be looking for "something to learn on", or may have the material means to have more than one machine in your garages. This puts you a bit far from me, in a zone about which I can't really comment. But I do think that those who feel inexplicable connections to their crafts know what I am talking about. 

Sure, this or that bike may be better on gas mileage. But you are going to travel thousands more needless miles just because you are on two wheels. After all the life calculus is done, ride the bike that makes you feel that you don't even deserve the pleasure, a bike that others can feel you loving as you walk away from it in the parking lot. After all: Life is meaningless. Bikes are fast. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Ride Far on a Sportbike.

This summer, not counting regular ass riding around in cities, I have clocked nearly 3000 miles. 

The total distance has made me realize how utterly achievable it is for me to travel the trans-American highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Already, I am dreaming of the day when I can ride from Virginia to California, mostly on back roads, hopefully. 

My travels have also brought me to a proper reckoning with my gear. I figure I should share my revelations, for all the sport bikers out there who might want to rock exit to some place far away.

For me, an important aspect of riding is being comfortable. I don’t want to ride for an hour with wet undies or a heavy ass bag on my back jacking up my shoulders. There are a lot of people who deal with this stuff like its whatever, but that ain’t me. So keep this in mind as I offer these suggestions.

1) Get a more comfortable seat. 

Sportbike seats are made to transmit feel to the rider. So they are hard. That is not what’s up out on the highway. So get some gel shit or a Corbin seat or something. Then, for good measure, get some bicycle shorts that have all that padding around your sit bones. This single thing will improve your possible saddle time most of all.

2) Wear your best helmet.

Your best helmet is the one that is most comfortable. I  used to rock an old Scorpion EXO-700 in the city. It was perfect for daily riding to and from school. But if I had it on for more than an hour, it would jack my face with pressure points. So for long distance, you gotta make sure that the lid won’t give you a headache. This is what you are paying for, I think, when you buy a Shoei or Arai or whatever: comfort over a long period of time. (To be fair, I think the new Scorpions are coming around on this too. That EXO-R2000 seems quite nice.) So make sure you are properly fitted. 

3) Be ready for the rain.

I have a mesh/leather Rev’it! suit that has a rain liner. The jacket liner is too short, so I replaced it with a Fox MX rain jacket, which is perfect. It is a bit of a hassle to put on the rain pants, since they go on underneath the suit and not on top of it, but they work perfectly when they are in place. However, I think it is best to have rain pants that just go on top of whatever you are wearing. That way, when you see the clouds, you can just pull off right quick and pop it on, as oppose to risking indecent exposure charges like I have to. 

Also, your boots have to be waterproof. I honestly don’t know why the very first pair of boots I ever got weren’t Goretex. There is no advantage whatsoever to regular leather race boots. One should either get the “air” version of these boots, for hot weather, or waterproof boots for moderate weather and rain. Leather boots cost marginally less and take for fuck ever to dry out when you do get caught in the rain, as all dope riders do. So, seriously, if you are going to get race boots, get waterproof race boots. 

Held. My new favorite gloves.

You also need waterproof gloves. I have had a couple pair over the years and I can say quite easily that the Held Air N Dry gloves are the best. Mainly because they are two gloves in one. So, when it is not raining, you can cool your hands all serious, and when the torrent is coming down, you can be dry from that Goretex goodness. I didn’t think they could be so dope until I tried them on for myself. Yeah, they cost a lot. Yeah, they are worth it.

The R35 is in the middle. Do not buy if you are less than six feet tall.

4) Keep the weight off your back.

I have a few bags. A small Ogio tank bag. A Cortech tail pack. A Kriega R35 with a US10. Here are my thoughts: Any tail pack that isn’t waterproof is a waste of money. Yeah, sure, you can pack your stuff with plastic bags to stay waterproof, but that is just extra shit to do. The ideal zone is to rock a Kriega US20, with maybe a US10 on top of it. These bags strap quite brilliantly to the tail of even the smallest rear sections, of which the R1 is a serious contender.  That way you don’t have to worry if your electronics and such are going to be okay. Plus, Kriega bags are quickly attached and detached. So you don’t have to fumble with taking off your seat and shit just to take your bag into the motel or brothel or where ever you are visiting. 

For the tank bag, however, I have a bit of a different perspective. This is because I feel the tank bad should be the bag of gear and should be easy to access. A Kriega bag is not really going to fit this description because of the way they close up (they roll and snap. The Ogio bag just unzips at the top like regular). So I kind of like the Ogio tank bag. In it I put all my gloves, my other visor, balaclava, and the little ass toe shoes I walk around in. All that. And, because I’m a hypocrite, I pack them in a plastic bag in case of rain. Because, look, those rain covers that cheap moto bags have may block a light drizzle, but they don’t do shit about rain.

5) Water. 

So, I don’t keep much in my R35; Mainly I wear it so that I can carry things around whenever I get to where I am going. However, I do stick a water bladder in it so I can sip throughout the ride. Riding hungry is alright. But riding thirsty is fucking madness, kids. 

Peep the left arm.
6) Smartphone and Charger.

Okay. Got a trick for you. Sportbikes don’t usually take kindly to GPS mounts and all that. There just isn’t the space for these things on the clip-ons. So this is what I did; I got a cell phone arm band type thing from ebay and put it on my left forearm. Then, I put a stylus in the top clear pocket on my tank bag. So, when I pull off the road to check where I am going, I don’t have to remove any gear or unzip anything. Also, when I get to my destination city, I can just turn on the phone navigation and use it to get me to the address. Obviously, I can’t use it in the way that people do when they are driving; I can only afford the quickest of glances when out on the road. But that is really all you need to find a place. And the mounting there on my arm makes me feel kind of like a sci-fi superhero. It worked out so well on my last trip, I am thinking about getting the arm band sewn into my jacket, so it can always be perfectly placed for my quick glances.

Yeah, and if you are wondering where to pack your phone charger, let me help: Put that shit in your jacket pocket. That, way, when you stop off at Starbucks or whatever roadside nasty you have to eat at you can just plug in right quick, get some charge.

7) Oh, and about that phone…

I don’t know about IOS, but Android’s Google Maps are quite useful. Here goes the style. First, you can tell Maps to cache certain areas so you don’t need to have coverage to access them. This is offline mode, which is accessible from the menu. Next up, you can save particular locations in maps by “starring” them. This means that you don’t have to search for a place over and over again. You just click on the star on the map and you can navigate there. This simple thing makes it way easy to chart a course from spot to spot out on the road. Also, you cats need to know about Glympse. If someone is waiting on you, this can hip them to the moment when they need to open the gate or put the tea on. 

If you are thinking that your phone won’t be able to sustain the use of these apps because its battery is shitty, you need to get that shit modded by some nerds. I run Avatar ROM and I can get 20 hours with moderate use. 

Alright. I have one other piece of advice which is a bit more personal. It goes like this:

8) Make an adventure out of that shit.

I watched this show recently. Neal Bayly Rides or something. This cat took a bunch of GS riders on an adventure to some janky ass white privilege-confirming orphanage. Maybe it was the editing, but this whole thing had the look and feel of the lamest ride ever. At every turn they were at some nice ass hotel, soaking in swimming pools, having boring conversations with each other. One cat didn’t even want to eat the basic snacks of whatever country they were in. I say no to this.

If you are going to be on the road, then meet new people. Have conversations with motherfuckers that you would never talk to. Stay in places that aren’t hotels. Couch Surf. Or even rock that AirBNB style. Or camp somewhere, if you have the kit. Or sleep under a truck. Look, you don’t ride a motorcycle because it’s safe. You ride it because, as the man says, you can live more in 5 minutes going fast on two wheels than some cats do for their whole blood clot lives. I got a homie retired in the suburbs right now who used to race, who once got passed by Kenny fucking Roberts on the track. This cat put 60,000 miles on the devilish 2004 ZX-10 without ever scratching the tank. Cops used to knock on his door wondering if he was the guy who evaded their sirens out on the road. That is what I’m talking about. If you have to look back on your life, then let there be moments when you courted danger and uncertainty for no other reason than because you could, where you came out on top or paid some price. “Adventure is discomfort recounted at leisure.” We live in a nation and age of incredible opulence and security. The least we can do is try to get jacked up every now and then. 


It seems daunting to ride for a long time on a bike that does not seem to be made for such a thing. Even for those who have bikes closer to the touring spectrum, there is a kind of apprehension about covering the miles. But here is a general fact: If you can ride for 45 minutes straight, you can ride for an entire day. Maybe your wrists or knees start to hurt a little. Sure. But you can adjust your weight and stretch out in the saddle and you won’t be riding for longer than your small ass gas tank will let you anyway, so there will be plenty of breaks. 

Some cats have travelled around the world on a Sport Bike.
You can probably travel around Florida.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tampa to East Lansing.

I rock exit early in the morning. The Tampa ground is wet from a week of constant rain. There is more rain in the forecast, but I don’t have time to wait it out. I wait for the realization that, oh, I left something behind, as I merge onto the highway. It never comes. In fact, nothing comes at all. There is no voice in my helmet, no stream of terrible reflection. So fresh on the road, I attend only to the movement of traffic and the feel of my bike. 

The revelation of the road is a product of the temporal attitude toward it. The first ten miles of a fifteen mile trip are experienced quite differently than the first ten miles of a fifteen hundred mile trip. Cats like to say that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" on some inspirational, let’s-get-it-started foolery. But the first step of the thousand miler feels and means something much different than the first step of a cat who is looking for the bathroom at Starbucks. One settles into the bike differently. There is a different kind of investment as you look down the road. I wonder what it must be like for the riders who have ridden down the entire continent. 

The dampness of the morning quickly fades and what is left is sunshine and moist air. All vents are open; upon my face, there is alternating sweat and salty dryness. Hours pass before I form a single continuous thought. I pass the town where the race track is. I heard from a guy at a dealership that the track only has a few years left. The owners will not repave once the asphalt has degraded past ride-ability, he said. 

I have to get back to that track soon. It is the place where I beat my ghost, the spot that holds evidence of my levels up in my lap records. If I don’t ride it before it closes for good, I will be without a valuable self-reference, unsure exactly what my confidence levels should be. That race track is my measure of man. 

In Atlanta I meet insane traffic and a friend who is in an insane process. She is in “depletion,” the final stages of diet before a kind of bodybuilding championship. She is loopy from a lack of food and spends the evenings standing naked around the house as her layers of spray tan dry upon her skin. For two days we speak about body politics and the education of black women. At a local dealership she gets fitted for a helmet and I buy some waterproof gloves for the rain that I know will be coming soon on this trip. On the second morning, she leaves to rock the stage and I hit the streets for Kentucky.

On the way I think yet again about a friend’s son. The kid is recently out of jail. I spoke to him once about his notion of his future. I was dismayed, though not surprised, to learn that he didn’t really have such an idea. He did not dream. I tried to build a space for hope with the best words I knew. But prep talks are only as good for the moments just before a game. There are zones from which I don’t know how to recover; I wish that I could have spent more time with him. 

Outside of Nashville I stumble upon a breakfast spot that looks good. I leave it though, overtaken by a kind of nausea brought about by the reality of gentrification. I have never had such a feeling in New York; this is quite mysterious. Instead I hit Nashville proper. I dismount after parking on a downtown street and hear music from a metal box installed on a corner. It is playing Johnny Cash. Further down the street is a museum for the Man in Black. Closed. I have come too early, like Nietzsche's madman.

In some back alley diner I eat a sandwich and learn that a friend of a friend has died under terrible circumstances. Once again I think of people that I wish I could have spent more time with. I also think that the problem with the world is not that there is so much suffering, but that the wrong people suffer. My tea is bitter. 

On the next stretch I sing rap songs in my helmet to keep the voice from creeping in. After awhile I see signs for caves. Mammoth Cave. Cave City. Finally I stop and ask the women at the gas station to point me to the nearest cave, which is atop “Gun Town Mountain.” The cave entrance is near an event space at which one can see gunfights and cancan shows. The cave guide is short dude wearing a shirt that says “slacker.” He. Knows. A. Lot. About caves. “From the book of rocks comes the history of the earth," he says.

In the not so distant old days, people didn’t know that caves were an ecosystem. They nearly destroyed entire cave systems with artificial light and the oils from their hands. Not because the knowledge about this wasn’t available back then; it’s just that America didn’t care so much about science for a while. Not until after Sputnik, says the guide. It was the race to beat the Russians to the moon that caused us to care about the lessons of the natural sciences. It is kind of a pathetic motivation for knowledge, but it is also essentially American, I feel. 

On the exit from the cave, I see a huge building with a statue of a Tyrannosaurus out front. The cave guide said that there weren’t any fossils in Kentucky. Guess the people at Dinosaur World thought they would address that.

Why are roadside attractions so strange? A palace made entirely of corn. A cafe staffed by naked women. A “Mexican” theme park in a racist ass state. I suppose that there is no hope for a high minded roadside lecture on existentialism or a history lesson on the housing crisis. But I would totally pull over for that shit.

In a short time I hit Louisville. In a neighborhood full of little boxes made of ticky tacky, I meet the brother of an old friend. It is always a bit strange to see the family of someone you’ve known for a long time. For some reason I always default to a notion that my homies just emerged fully formed from an egg or some such shortly before I met them. But here I get an intimation at least of the history, the zone in which these cats came to be. Even a small picture can give a deep glimpse.

I talk with man and mother over BBQ then sleep soundly. On the exit from town I run into a Harley rider who has clocked 219,000 miles on his bike, which he bought new in 1988. I have no anti-Harley jokes in the face of this legend of a man. His bike looks brand bloody new. Says he once rode from Daytona to San Diego. I tell him that I will make such a ride one day, though I will probably end in the land of the East Bay Dragons instead of Cardiff by the Sea. He looks at my bike and wishes me the luck that he knows I will need.

On the highway I see a pink SUV. Happily Homeless, it says. Has a link to a blog. At a gas stop, I look it up. Looks like the woman is on the road contemplating love and grief. I wonder if one can consider anything else while going place to place but never ending up at home. 

The road drones on. In Michigan the road quality drops off as the cop presence increases. Fine with me. I slow down and cruise until I finally land at the campus of MSU. It is a city unto itself, a kind of terrible island of undergraduates and low speed limits. I meet some professors and come to rest in a hot dorm room. I am grimy and sore.

I hit the bed and stare at the ceiling. In the next four weeks, there is only a philosophy. But already I am looking further forward to some nameless moment of peace, with my kid maybe. Or in a woman's arms. Or out on the road alone between nowheres. Like the woman in the pink SUV, I am homeless. But fuck if I can figure out the happiness part. 

I park my bike so that I can see it just outside of my window. In soaks up halogen and moon light. In the day I go walking and come to a bridge. Beneath it are truths that can only be recorded in spray paint. Okay, right, I remember. I'm not the only one.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Indianapolis. Day Two.

Today were the races, followed by a flex to Louisville. My trip so far has been almost adventurous. I am looking for a word to capture this. Splendiforus maybe. Or just awesome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Indianapolis. Day one.

So. I got here. But the first party i hit did not involve two wheels. It's crazy out here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Test for an exit.

Tomorrow i leave Lansing. My next stop is Indianapolis, where i will attend the Motogp races.
I have loaded the blogger app on my phone so i can post pictures and such during the general festivities tomorrow. (I am composing on it now; fuck if i know what the formatting is going to look like.)

Really, I have no idea how this is going to work out. I have no ticket, no lodging and no one to meet there. I have been so distracted by academic life in Michigan that all of this has escaped me.
Non-preparedness guarantees adventure, yo.

Tomorrow. 260 miles to destiny.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Dope Edge of Exit.

Tomorrow, I am starting off on a trip that will see me in Michigan for a few weeks. It will be my longest moto journey yet, complete with the challenge of trying to pack (mostly) everything that I will need for the stay. My efforts at packing have resulted in some new gear and more than a few compromises.

Moto reflections and reviews of gear coming soon.

The Consequences of Prohibition.

Once, I sat with fellow motorcycle riders and spoke about a trope we often encounter when out on the road. A man who has stopped to check out the machine will inevitably say something like, "Yeah, I want to get a bike but my girlfriend won't let me." I expressed to my homies how vexing this is and told them that I often suggest that they get a bike and a new girlfriend. A friend, however, told me I should have more patience. There are some people, he said, who in fact are making this claim so that they do not have to reckon with a mode of transportation that incites masculine power fantasy but that can be legitimately terrifying. Yeah, sure, these guys are annoying. 

But, he said, some of the men who say that their girlfriends won't let them ride are truly held back by the compromises of love. These are men who have the full measure of Biker's Desire, but who risk disrupting the lives they have built with their soul mates. These riders/not-riders deserve our deepest sympathy, for their lot in life is truly tragic. 

And so it is in the heartbreaking story of Barry Strang.

After 38 years of denial, his wife finally let him buy his first motorcycle at a dealership in his town in Wyoming. Elated, Strang rolled his machine off the lot, rode for three miles, lost control, slammed into a tractor trailer and died. 

Perhaps I am just emotional lately, given the rulings of Florida courts, but Strang's death hurts my soul. His family reports that, while they are completely bent over his demise, they take solace in knowing that he died fulfilling the longest dream of his life. I can hear that; If I die on my bike, my friends should rejoice. I will not have been killed by time or by the cops but by a great love whose risk I accept even as I strive to claw a few measures of safety from chance, distracted drivers and wet roads. But I am still upset over how preventable this all was, and what it says about bike-sellers and soul mates. 

First, what the blood is up with that Harley dealership? He visited that shop, say the news reports, every week for more than forty years. (This fact is especially heartbreaking, since it demonstrates that Strang was truly committed, and lived with his desire at the forefront of his life while being held back from it by the love of his life.) That means that he knew everyone in the dealership and that all of these cats knew that he had little to no experience with motorcycles. 

The story is not complete here, of course. It may be that he rode the bikes of friends, or that he rode at some point in his life for the test a motorcycle endorsement on a driver's license. What the blood clot ever. The people at that dealership should have sent some cats out to ride with him, or something. They should have taken care of him in some manner beyond just letting him ride off and they didn't. There are people at that dealership right now who are feeling like a bunch of assholes and I hope they feel like assholes for the rest of their assholy days.

Embedded in my harsh judgement is a general sense of "fuck you guys" for dealerships in general. I have often felt that the way that many of them sell bikes is reckless and irresponsible. If a cat with no riding experience, whether they bound with youth and stupidity or are old with slow reflexes, goes to buy a powerful bike, sellers should see to it that they get off on the road in the best possible way. They should implore these new riders to make sure they have someone to ride with who can show them the ropes. They should maybe even have a person on site who helps coach them, with whom they go on short this-is-how-you-manage-the-beast-we-just-sold-you rides. Fuck. 200 horsepower. You can buy a bike for less than a Camry that has 200 horsepower and weighs less than 380 pounds. I know that in America anyone with money can buy what they want because 'Merica is Free, but for fuck's sake. The last status is that the dealer of a motorcycle has knowledge that a first timer doesn't, this knowledge could save their lives, and they don't share it because of the full constellation of issues rooted in culture, commerce and our nation's bogus commitment to some harmful ethereal freedom. So, yeah, fuck everybody in that dealership and all the cats in the dealerships who fit my description. 

I have more sympathy for the widow in this story. I don't want to speak about her specifically, but I do have some thoughts on the archetype of the significant other who is the only barrier between their mate and a motorcycle.

This bullshit has got to stop. 

I know that people who are in relationships have to make compromises in order to live well together. But we are also supposed to support one another, right? We are supposed to make sure that the other can be a better person. Sometimes that means allowing, or rather, supporting the pursuit of their dreams, even when these dreams entail risk. "I love you too much to allow you to do something dangerous" should be seen as a shitty thing to say to someone. The liquid modern age has brought boredom to the acts of labor that used to give our lives meaning. (Though there is much to be said for those acts of labor are themselves dangerous.) Maybe that danger is just one marker among many that it is worth doing. I know that my perspective is limited on this one, but it is just not possible for me to imagine a happy life in an immaculate cage, even if it was built by and shared with my life partner.

There is a related version of the cage that I do know about. Some cats have suggested to me that the advent of my daughter should be enough to put me off the bike. I guess the idea is that, if I die on my bike, this will somehow be a disservice to her, what with the robbing her of a dad and all. To this bullshit I usually just say that the best example I can set for her is to go hard with the things that I love. 

Now, getting killed in the Toyota Tercel that I traded the bike in for--that would be fucking waaaaaaaack.

I guess the last point of this focusless rant is that, sometimes it is the refusal to support your love's desire--to do or be something--that kills your love. Maybe it makes them cold, as their deep want to ride a bike or travel to another country becomes a calcified desire for freedom in general, and you become the chains of that bondage. Or maybe, when you finally relent, you do so at a time that is not optimal, though they are still compelled to act before you change your mind. In their haste to finally follow through, they miss the crucial steps that could have seen them off on a better start, one that would not have fulfilled the fears that conditioned the previous decades of your dream-killing denial. 

Strang rode for three miles. It is a pitifully short distance on a bike, yet far longer than many spouse-restricted bike-wanters will ever travel. Maybe this isn't a tragedy worse than death, but it's pretty close. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

There are moments when something that you know becomes something that you feel. And that feeling is itself a kind of knowledge. It reveals the degree to which you adjusted to the world, though the world has always been quite hostile to you. 

In such a moment, the truth is inflamed. We live in a terrible time amidst terrible institutions. Antipathy transmutes into blame, accusations of iniquity. The collective tradition, the aggregate of customs and background perspectives that we have inherited from the past, slowly reaches up from its hateful depth and corrodes us from within. 

That acid burned me into suspicion and resentment long ago, as it had my mother, as it had my grandmother. And since that darkness, that is, the norms of American culture, have been with me so long, I limited contact with those who didn't understand me, or didn't speak my world to those who I knew would not understand but who I could not avoid. The limitation of contact is a privilege that many don't have. 

Unable to avoid, they get the worst of the world of another. Maybe they are pulled over by the authority. Maybe they work under an authority, maybe they just encounter a peer who lives in a perspective validated by the authority. It doesn't matter. In each case they stand before the law in all the ways that Kafka said. The law is senseless and traumatic because it comes to us not from reason but from history, which is senseless and traumatic for those who don't commune with historical forces of authority. 

The thing about a norm is that it is transparent to the person who wields it. It often takes a moment of contrast to reveal that this way of encountering or acting within the world is one among many and one has the option of acting in another way. A person who thinks that being gay is a choice is asked, "when did you decide to be straight?" The question creates the contrast. The contrast reveals the norm. The norm is visible as tradition and tradition can be shed. But questions are not enough for everyone. Some people just sit with their closed communities, proclaiming, why can't they see this? It's so obvious these people deserve what they get. 

The people who are are getting it often see a different world with the same kind of "clarity." Though in this case it doesn't matter because their perspectives have no power. And they are suffering in ways that are not visible to the powerful. 

Well, certain kinds of suffering are visible in ways that serve the powerful. But not visible in ways that punish the perspectives that cause others to suffer or to die in the gated communities in Orlando. That is what racial antipathy is, after all; the implicit distaste for the life of another. 

I have known my place in this landscape for quite some time now. But now I have been made once again to feel what I know. It is a shame that the greatest gift I give to my daughter will be my hatred.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Loneliness: A Fractured Reflection.

Loneliness isn't about being deep in a wilderness, away from people. There is talk of a carpenter who hits the dusty streets for forty days, but this isolation is more literary than anything else. The man who goes out in the dark has people to which he can return. True loneliness is in the midst of the crowd, sitting out at dinner with a phone full of missed texts. The quiet of the dark underscores this disjunct, exposes the fundamental emptiness that ruins comfort. 

There are many types of alone, I think. There is the desolation of having no one and that of knowing that you missed the chance to have someone. One is a longing for a future. The other is the punishment of a lost world. There is also the loneliness of vision, in which one's project reascends community. All of these depths determine their means of redemption. The woman who is formed by her project comes out of the cave to find the others who have been transformed by their own work. Her tireless craft has instated her to a world where she is not only connected, but respected. The lonely man happens upon a woman or man at the bar. Or the woman of his past returns. 

The Atlas is indifferent to whichever state of mind brings me to its saddle. I have ridden it in isolation as well connection. On the road I have chased the twilight of my missed child, ridden it to and from companions who went on to make gracious or painful exits. At times, the bike itself is the cordoning element; it is my project, or the means whereby I contemplate my project. But it always returns me to the world. It may be indifferent, but its effects on me are never that. My loneliness is either deepened or alleviated. No matter which it is, I am compelled to keep riding. 

Yeah, the carpenter rode out for 40 nights. But he had God and the devil. That's basically cheating; the rest of should be so lucky.

Monday, April 8, 2013


So, I have a number. 

This was not intentional. I do not race and I don't need to have a number. There is pretty much nowhere in my riding life where a number would be significant. And yet here it is.

It began with a sticker. My daughter's grandfather is a big fan of Jackie Robinson. He sent some stickers in the mail. The number looked cool enough; I was already partial to it because of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Then there is also the manner of its proximity to Noriyuki Haga's number in World Superbikes. I am always trying to get close to the demon Haga through fantasy and fancy, so why not?

Then I began to do more research. The Japanese find the number unlucky, says the internet, because the numbers sound like "until death" when one pronounces them. Then there is the Ma'at, the negative confessions (most of which I would not be able to speak if I stood before judgement). Over the course of a day, I what just seemed like a cool sticker to put on a bike began to feel like a meaning.

I can only imagine that this is how Ben Spies felt when he decided on the number 19 for his SBK campaign. I remember reading that he came to feel with certainty that 19 would be his number, that the number began popping up everywhere in his life. So he just knew.

If his tattoos are any indication, Spies is a theist. He is therefore more open to the mystery of the universe and prone to interpret the reoccurence of a number as a kind of sign. I wouldn't say that I am open to the world in the way that I imagine him to be, but I cannot help but notice the degree to which the superstition of the number has entered my zone. I have often used arbitrary symbolism to aid in self-understanding. A row of bikes named Pharmacon and a couple tattoos can attest to this. But the number feels different.

Kant says that the human mind is such that there are questions that, owing to its structure, it cannot help but ask. These are the same questions, which, also owing to the structure of the mind, it cannot answer. The very idea that a number, pasted on a machine, or revealed in numerological transcription of a name (in this case, the name of God), could bring with it a value distinguishable from its absence, is a bit ridiculous. Yet still it turns, says Galileo.

If you get the chance, hit up Google and search for "the answer to life, the universe and everything." 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gear Review

Recently I took a trip of nearly 900 miles, from Tampa FL to Charlottesville VA, over two days. The first day was relatively mild and clear. The second day was cold, rainy and miserable. I wore the same gear throughout and thought it would be good if I gave a review.

Here is the rundown by item.

Bodyfit 200 weight wool base layer.

This was the only top I wore and I wore it the entire trip. It kept moisture off my skin, allowed me to cool off when it was hot and helped keep me warm when it was cold. Also, it doesn’t smell, which is pretty cool if bathing isn’t your thing and you want to rock a 1700s linen shirt style.

Medium Weight Merino Wool Socks.

These worked surprisingly well at keeping my feet warm for most of my trip. Until the rains came.

REI lightweight thermal pants.

Wore these on the second day when it got chilly. This plus the Gear pants was all I needed to get through.

Revit Ignition Jacket with Gear Pants.

This suit is billed for use in all seasons. It is leather and mesh, with liners. The pants have a rain liner that zips in on the inside. The jacket has a rain liner and a thermal vest. The rain liner never worked very well for me. It was too short and did not adequately cover my midsection. On the return from long rides in the rain, I would inevitably be soaked from the belly button on down. So I don’t much use the rain liner, unless I want to stay warm.

When I took off from Tampa, I wore the jacket and pants with none of the liners. The mesh in this gear is woven tighter than most other mesh options, so it doesn’t flow as much air; but it still flows plenty. Plus there are vents in the jacket sleeves. I rode for a couple hundred miles with only one sleeve vent open to test the difference; I found that the open sleeve gets quite a bit cooler.

Unlike the jacket liner, the pants liner is properly waterproof. The pants also have knee pads beneath pretty thick leather, which does a great job of keeping the cold wind from freezing your legs. In temps down to 32 degrees, this was all good.

Fox MX Fluid Jacket.

This is essentially the liner that I got to make up for the deficiency of the liner in the ignition jacket. The fluid jacket is not bulky like some moto rain gear. It packs quite small, which was good, given that the R1 was not rocking too much storage. The jacket is superior to an internal liner in that it is easier to put on and take off, since it doesn’t require taking off the Ignition jacket itself, and it does a better job in blocking the wind. This became a big deal as night fell and I found myself in freezing temps.

Gerbing Heated Jacket Liner

Without this piece of kit, and the gloves, this trip would not have been possible. Because of this jacket, I rode in uniform warmth through weather that would have had me shivering and wrecked on the side of the road. If you want to ride in the cold and are maaaaad soft in the face of cold weather like me, this is a jacket that you need to get. Even the collar is heated, yo. The collar.

On the first night of riding, I stopped at a rest stop and put on the liner. I plugged it in and felt the heat immediately. After a bit, it was fully and fairly uniformly heated, to the point where I was quite hot sitting still. I took off and learned that, in the wind, a lot of that heat is carried off because of the mesh construction of the ignition jacket. This turned out to be perfect given the temp outside.

On the Second night of riding, which was the tenth circle of hell (which, in Dante’s Inferno, is actually really cold), I put on the MX Fluid jacket and found that, oh hells yes, the Fluid jacket helped retain all the heat generated by the Gerbing liner. It was great.

This is not to say that the liner kept me comfortable and toasty like I was in a car. To be accurate, what it did, especially when the temp was ICE COLD and it was raining, was allow me to feel like I was merely riding in 55 degree weather. It couldn’t have made me hotter than this anyway without burning my skin. And remember, I freeze easily. The simple fact is that you can’t beat this jacket.

Gerbing T5 Gloves.

Okay. My man the Black Yamaha once told me that, while everything else is whatever, you cannot ride in cold weather without heated gloves. I immediately discounted the “whatever” part because the Black Yamaha is from Maine and I once saw him walk out into the bitter cold in a T-shirt, but he is right about the gloves.

Gerbing gear is such that the gloves plug into the jacket liner, which in turn plugs into the battery connector. It cuts down on wires and for that I am thankful. The gloves did not seem to get as hot as the jacket, but on further reflection, I think that the difference in warmth is down to the way that my bike directs wind. On these big cruisers and touring bikes, the wind is directed away from the hands of the rider. Not so on the crotch rocket. The heated gloves kept my hands just on this side of too cold, which is fantastic if you consider that they were also completely wet on the outside from icy death rain. Being waterproof was also a serious highlight of these gloves.

Alpinestars Balaclava

My face would have frozen and fallen off without this. When things got real serious, I wrapped a fleece scarf around my neck. But this thing really made everything okay.

Shoei RF-1100

This helmet is nice and all. It is properly aerodynamic so it doesn’t cause neck fatigue. It has a nice wide field of vision. It is pretty light and I can wear it for hour upon hour without feeling the nag of pressure points. But I will be damned if this helmet doesn’t suck at de-fogging the visor.

There is a vent on the front of this helmet that flows a crapload of air directly onto the inside of the visor, along with my face. When the air outside is cold, it does a wack job of clearing the fog; it will basically clear one little tiny area that I can only see through with one eye. This happens the same way on both my clear and dark visors. I don’t get it. My RF-1000 never had this problem. At one point in the ride, I had to just slow to a crawl because I had so little information through sight because of the fog in my visor. It was as close as I think you can get to flying a plane at night with instruments only.

I see now that not having an anti fog coating is a major flaw and I have already ordered some Cat Crap anti fog stuff from eBay.

Alpinestars SMX Plus Boots A.K.A. The Muthafuckin Boots.

These boots did their thing just fine until the rains came. Since they are not waterproof, they eventually began to leak. This was some wackness. By the time I got off the bike in Virginia, I felt like I was walking on stumps. I love these boots but I see now that it is worth it to have fully waterproof boots.

Cortech Tail Bag and Ogio Tank Bag.

Both of these things did what I needed them to do, but let me underscore something: They are not water proof. They come with these covers that go over them, but the covers are not waterproof. A plastic bag would have done a better job that those covers. I was not thinking so I neglected to put plastic bags on the inside of the luggage, and as such, everything got wet. It ended up being okay, but a little bit more time in the rain and I may very well have needed to get a new computer. This was my own damn fault, but riding has a way of making your forget little things like that. Makes me think that it is always better to get the right gear at the outset so that you don’t have to think about these things out on the road. For this reason I am starting to think more seriously about Kriega gear.

All in all, this ride went pretty well. If I had waterproof boots and luggage, and a fog free visor, I probably could have gone another 500 miles in the cold and rain without much trouble. The trip has revealed to me that, as I currently have it set up, my moto suit is pretty much perfect and I do not need to go replacing it any time soon. Once I get waterproof boots and proper waterproof luggage, I will be an all weather gangster.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


A friend hit me up with a question about camber the other day. This is what I drafted as an answer:

Camber. Also known as banking.

Suppose you are headed down a road toward a left turn. Let's find out how much grip your tires will have given your turn speed.

If the road is completely level, you will have the same grip as when you are riding in a straight line. When you lean over in the turn, the force of gravity will be equal to the centripetal force pushing you to the outside of the turn. This is perfectly fine.

Now,  the road could be banked to the right. This would mean that,  if you were to pour water in the road at the turn, the water would flow to the outside of the turn.  This is negative camber,  or off-camber.

When you make this turn, the force of gravity will be a bit greater than the centripetal force pushing you to the outside of the turn, because you will also be "falling" to the downside of the turn while also being pushed to the outside if it.

Or,  the road could be banked left. So that the water would flow to the inside of the turn. This is positive camber, which is what you see at racetracks. When you take this turn, the force of gravity is weaker than the centripetal force, since that force is pushing the bike into the incline, which gives the tires more road to grip on to. You are essentially falling into the turn.

Consider the Nascar oval track. It is basically a wall.  You couldn't stand on it without sliding to the inside of the oval.  When those cars come by at speed, they are pressed into the camber of the turn.

If a Nascar racer took a turn on a flat road at the same speed, his car would fly right off the road into the trees. Being able to go faster around a corner is the benefit of positive camber.

Now, in the real world, most roads are in fact mounds, so as to deal with drainage. So, if there is a curve that goes left, you will be off camber on the left turn. But when  you turn around and take the same curve going going right, the camber will be positive.

None of this means much at low speeds. But when the rider is going fast, camber makes quite a difference and is quite easy to feel.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Presentations.

The Green Ninja and I gave some talks recently. It's transcendence on tap, yo.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Panigale Rider Speaks the Truth.

Recently, I explained to a friend of mine that the Panigale impressed me, but didn't inspire me. To me, the bike is an aesthetic mess, a glut of exotica easily eclipsed by the simplicity of the BMW s1000, which I have come to favor quite a bit. The Panigale is too focused, I said. Too uncomfortable, if we are to believe the reviews.

But the testimony of a rider who traveled 15,000 miles on a panigale has forced me to reconsider at least one point; The machine is not too focused. It exists for those who can love it, and that love can carry them to the end of the earth, no matter how hot the exhaust is just beneath the seat.

"I did 1,036 miles in one day on the Panigale, so it can’t be that bad of a touring bike now, can it?

That sentiment of ‘why that bike?’ was expressed quite a bit during my trip, though, and a lot of people I met in gas stations or on the side of the road didn’t believe how far I’d come on it until they saw my license plate. 

I think the issue wasn’t with my choice to ride the bike I love — it’s that our lives have become so comfortable and cozy that what we consider challenges today probably wouldn’t even classify as inconveniences a generation or two ago. Show up for a ride with Steve McQueen in 1972 complaining about the switch for your heated grips only having three settings and you’re going to catch a boot to the hairy gumballs. Our ability to adapt is greatly underestimated, which is why I think so many people end up choosing what seems to make sense instead of the going with bike they lust after. 

I knew the Panigale would test me, but that was part of the allure. Coping with demanding situations and overcoming adversity produces a tremendous feeling of private, personal power that luxury and security can never provide—isn’t this, the internal satisfaction that comes from doing things our own way (despite the added difficulty), one of the reasons why we ride motorcycles?"

-- Dennis, at Hell for Leather Magazine