Why we ride

The wind is warm and thick with the scent of summer and grass. I feel guilty just for a fleeting moment while listening in on the private conversation between the front tire and the pavement below. The soft, subtle grinding of rubber on asphalt reminds me of mountain trips past.Tail of the Dragon

I have no need for your creature comforts. There is no place, here, for your anti-lock brakes, cruise control, heated steering wheel, power seats, power… anything. I look down at the speedometer and feel free from the constraints of a shift indicator light, a fuel gauge, a tachometer… A seat belt. Today is not the day for touch-screen navigation or air-conditioned seats.  Today is for riding. The angry growl of the exhaust, and the whipping of the wind is the only song offered me, and I accept it with a devilish grin.

I watch in eager anticipation as the breach between my headlight and rider in front grows, urging my right hand to twist ever further and unleash the beast lurking deep within the parallel twin beneath me. As I roll thumb-ward down, I feel her hands open and squeeze against my chest, pulling us together. The corner is approaching and my grin grows uncontrollably, slowly exposing my teeth to the air. I’m thankful for this helmet covering my expression, otherwise everyone within eyesight would likely giggle.

The bike leans itself over, further and further, as if demanded by some telepathic connection.  Leaning and leaning, seeking the apex. My throttle hand remains steady, eyes fixed on the exit, and then a moment of weightlessness when the left peg touches the ground and that beautiful grind of steel on street rings out softly.

On the throttle, now! She stands back up and the front end begins to lighten as we continue to close the gap left by our leader, his tail light getting ever larger. Closing and closing before the bright reminder that another corner approaches.

That’s how it’s done

I’ve had a Craftsman 3/8″ torque wrench for about a year and a half, maybe two years. Love my torque wrenchIt’s one of my favorite tools in the garage. In fact, take a look at the photo on the left and you’ll see me using it on my bike with a great big smile. Every semi-serious shade-tree mechanic needs a good torque wrench, and generally they last forever. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll rarely find a good one for less than $100.

I buy Craftsman tools because Sears stands behind its products (well, usually).  Craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty, and I’ve personally returned more than a few.  Suspension work frequently results in broken sockets and ratchets and Sears has always been great about returning them.  But not all tools are created equally, and some of them, like torque wrenches, are only covered for a limited time.

Last week, I lent the wrench to a friend who managed (somehow) to break it.  The grip became loose and the wrench’s torque set was stuck somewhere around 15 ft lbs.  Now, I know that Sears only guarantees wrenches like this one for a year, but I figured what the hell and brought it down to my local store.  I’ve read mixed reviews lately about returns, but my experience was nothing short of awesome.  While standing in line, a sales associate and a guy in plain clothes approached me and asked if they could help.

When I explained the situation, the sales associate told me that the wrench was no longer covered.  It was clear he recognized the older model and knew its age.  I thanked them and said, “well, see if you can find a trash can to throw this into, then?” and handed over the wrench.  That’s when the plain clothes guy stepped in and said “let’s see if we can figure out when you bought this wrench” and smiled at me.  We walked to the nearest computer and he looked up the part number, and then asked me if I was a Craftsman Club member, which I am.

torqueHe never asked for my name, phone number, address or any other identifying information.  He said to me, “so you bought this no more than a year ago”, without even waiting for my reply he looked at the sales associate and said, “swap him out, and make sure this one gets labeled as a return”.  On my way out of the store, I stopped and shook the hand of the plain clothes man (it was clear now that he was a manager or supervisor of some kind).  He smiled at me and said, “thanks for coming in, it was my pleasure”.

The price tag on the wrench was $69.99, and for a one-time investment, Craftsman has created a customer for life.   I’ve spent thousands on tools, boxes, and benches over the years, and when Sears had the opportunity to do customer service right, they nailed it.  Someone from Sears seriously needs to call someone at Kay’s.

Everyone follow.. Ford?

This could be it.  Earlier this week, Ford released details that their new turbo-charged 4 cylinder Mustang could deliver over 300 HP!  Now, your first reaction might be “What do you care, Frank?  A Mustang?  What gives?”  And you’d be right.  I’ve actually owned two Mustangs over the years, and they’ve both offered me the reliability of a Yugo.

But this isn’t about my experience with Fords.  It’s about the auto industry’s penis contest.

Turbo 4-cylinderBack in 2000, I was looking for a small performance car and ended up with an MR2 Spyer.  Those of you who know me know that I spent the next 5 years (and $20,000 dollars) trying to build one only to fall short at the end, limited by the Eco-friendly engine in the car.  This inevitably led me to a V6 for my next project.  Even after the release of the WRX STI and the Lancer Evolution, 4-cylinders just weren’t putting out the power sports car enthusiasts expected, seemingly up against some invisible 300 HP wall.  Is it an insurance issue?  Perhaps reliability fears?  Certainly we have the technology.  I’m sure someone in the industry can answer with an educated guess, but who really cares?  The fact is, now that someone has ventured outside the turbo-4-comfort-zone, my hope is that everyone else will follow.

Isn’t it about time for a 350 HP version of the STI?  How about a 275 HP version of the new (and tragically underpowered) BRZ/FRS?  Talk about a hot seller!

Come on auto industry!  Stop telling me what I want, and making vehicles we want to buy!

Of Dragons and Asphalt

Every time we get the idea of heading up the mountains there is always a huge effort of timing, preparation, and planning.

From loading 350 pound bikes onto a rental truck, a NINE HOUR drive, packing, to getting vacation time from work there is much to be done. It always seems like a lot of work for just a few days away.

Helmet, jacket, gloves, boots, camera, video camera, memory cards, batteries, cash… Jesus, where am I going to put all of this on that little sport bike? White knuckles, check. OK, let’s go.

That first ride up 28 instantly erases the memory of all the painstaking effort and time, the planning and weather watching, the overtime and crazyness of the preparation.

Clicking my bike into 3rd gear and laying into the throttle, hearing the scream of the engine bouncing off of the canyon walls, the natural laws of physics start to make sense in a Taoist kind of way.

When riding at high altitudes at a “reasonable” rate of speed (lol), your ears will deafen and pop like they do on an airplane. I always try to avoid swallowing or popping them, because when your lean angle is just right, you can actually HEAR the relationship between the road and your tires over the screaming exhaust. Like the soft murmur of a distant conversation. I’ve never been a religious man, but that sound is as close to enlightenment as I’ve ever been.

Craigslist spammers

I posted one of my bikes for sale yesterday, and already the spam has started.  My retribution is to post the messages and their emails here.  Feel free to spam them all you like:

From: shontatbb463@yahoo.com (Teisha Schut)

Msg:
You don’t have to sell this so cheap…I used to sell stuff on CL just like you were doing to pay my bills. I ended up realizing a lot of people get ripped off, its over-all NOT SAFE anymore to meet people from craigslist. A friend of mine told me about an amazing website and said I should check it out so I did. I made about 4000$ last month. I’m making more than I was at my regular job. If you want to try it visit http://googlepaidme.com

If you need help getting started please let me know.

Here’s my response:
Are you kidding me?  Spamming random Craigslist posters about some sign-up-get-paid-get-rich bullshit site?

I’m not selling the bike to pay my bills, or put my kids through college, or scrape together enough money to get by…  I’m selling it so I can buy another one to add to my collection.
Get a life, asshat.

Here’s another one, just as entertaining (note the caps that really get your attention, LOL)

From: joshua@kingersons.com (Joshua Kingersons)

Msg:
HOW ABOUT SOME PERFUMES/COLOGNES AND CASH COMBINATION. I’M TRYING TO GET RID OF MY FRAGRANCES (FROM STORE)
http://kingersons.com/fragrance/discountperfume.html
JOSHUA K.

Here’s my response:
Oh, shit!  I can get knockoff perfumes in exchange for my brand new motorcycle?!  PLEASE send more info!

Motorcyclist’s widow addresses killer

Normally don’t post this kind of thing, but this letter is devastatingly well written.

“A MOTORCYCLE RIGHT-OF-WAY VIOLATION WIDOW AND SURVIVOR ADDRESSES THE KILLER OF HER
HUSBAND
An open letter from Amy Pickholtz to Brenda Melancon

Brenda Garon Melancon, Former Mayor
44337 Melancon Street, P.O. Box 7
Sorrento, LA 70778 . 225-675-8*7*

I hope on this day, 14 October 2009, that you will spend some time reading my letter, and that the message I am conveying will make a difference, because on this day I will spend some time at the cemetery mourning my husband Jim, and spend sometime honoring him by reflecting on all the reasons that I fell in love with him.

“It’s not the life that you live, it’s the courage that you bring to it.”–Yogi Bhajan

This is the quote I adopted in 2004 when I started to teach yoga. I really never understood why I adopted this particular quote as my own credo, and even put it on my yoga business cards. Now, I truly understand why.

It’s been 2 years since your grossly negligent behavior as the driver of the car who violated our right-of-way, and as the Mayor, who although with prior knowledge did nothing about the existing problems at the intersection. We know the result of your negligence. The death of my husband Jim, the permanent disabling injuries to me,and the devastation to our entire family. I will remind you of your immediate response after the crash when asked if you had been in touch with the Pickholtz family, was “No. I don’t wanna know. This is all so devastating to me. The accident was just horrible.”

Horrible, yes, but this was not an accident, Ms. Melancon. This was an incident,caused by you, but not solely about you.

You reiterated how devastating all this was to you when you took it upon yourself to call The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge to use them as your own personal platform in response to the Sorrento Town Council meeting reporter including in her article my showing up at your public town hall meeting on Tuesday June 16, 2009. The headline on Friday June 19 read, “Mayor: Crash ‘devastated’ her”:

You literally slid out of the back door of your own town hall meeting (without having opened up the floor to any further business), when faced by me and the other16 motorcycle riders, family and friends who sat or stood quietly without disrupting any of the business of your town council meeting. The Advocate reporter was irresponsible to even write an article for you and furthermore to intertwine my previous quotes into your dictated agenda.

My message to you of “It can never be over” written on a poster board was in response to you saying “It was a terrible accident, and I’m very sorry. I’m glad that it’s over…” after the Grand Jury hearing concluded they would not indict you on Criminal Negligent Homicide, Criminal Negligent Injury and Failure to Yield from a Private Driveway. The Grand Jury’s failure to indict does not mean you were found innocent. It means that the law in Louisiana does not support Justice. You should have been found guilty by proximate cause for killing my husband Jim, and for seriously injuring me, and you should have been charged with the ROW Violations ACT195.

How can you think this will ever be over?

You need to know that I still need to go weekly to grief therapy, still need physical therapy, have to rely on pain medication daily, still live with PTSD,survivor’s guilt, chronic pain, disabling injuries and depression. I am still paying exorbitant medical bills, and health insurance premiums as a result of you crashing into us. I have had continued tests, treatments, surgeries and therapies.I am scheduled for my fifth surgery. I must maintain myself physically in order to function at a reasonable level to care for children and maintain my household. The simplest tasks have become physically challenging and my everyday functioning is completely at the mercy of my pain levels throughout the day.

I am still unable to provide an income for my household. You took away took away my financial stability, and my physical ability to do the work I used to do. Yes, the insurance companies paid. It is a pittance after all the medical and legal expenses, and with the ongoing medical expenses and no income, how long do you think it will last?

And what are your financial ramifications?

You had the audacity to question if I think you felt nothing, for learning a “person was killed”, as you put it, while propped up on your platform in the Advocate newspaper. This is not about what I think you feel, Ms. Melancon. This is about how you have taken no responsibility, morally or ethically as a human being, or any action to make any positive impact as a political figure. A person was killed, Ms.Melancon. His name was Jim Pickholtz and he was a son, a father, a husband, a friend and the absolute, unequivocal love of my life, with whom I was supposed to grow old.

Since you took it unto yourself to refer to your letter of May 22, 2008, in the newspaper, I am taking it unto myself to refer to your letter, also, in which you expressed “sympathy and condolences for the loss of my husband.” I need to remind you that I did not “lose” my husband and your wording was entirely insensitive to the fact that you killed him. Your timing couldn’t have been any worse, either. It was very damaging for me to have received your letter on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and even more damaging to read what I consider an empty jumble of contrived clichés and self justification defending your previously perfect driving record.

Nowhere in your letter or to the media did you ever ask, “Is there something I can do to help?”, or ask how I am, or how the children are. Nowhere did you reach out a hand or reach beyond your own self, or into your political position as a public official to DO anything to help me, my family or the community.

Why?

Courage. Well… it takes courage to do so. I think you’ve buried your head in the sand as a coward.

I am writing proposed legislation and will be on the floor with two Bills next June,even though I have never been politically minded before. I am talking with the new administration in Sorrento in order to make the necessary changes to the entrances and exits of the property at the Ascension Civic Center. I have volunteered as the Director of the Baton Rouge Chapter of MAC [Motorcycle Awareness Campaign], and have applied for MAC to be present at the largest festivals in the area that are non-motorcycle events so that our message and mission goes out to the motoring public. I am speaking on behalf of MAC and independently on television shows, radio shows and at events held by Motorcyclists’ Rights Organizations that invite me. I am actively involved in my community and do whatever I can to help by guiding and talking with other crash victims, and comforting other widows of motorcycle riders killed by motorists like you. I am trying to make a difference, so that no one!else has to go through what I am living.

All of this takes courage.

In two years I have come from being totally incapacitated, months spent in a wheelchair, and having to re-learn the simplest of physical functions that we all take for granted–like walking, from begging God to take me to Jim, to waking up daily in grief and depression and loneliness, in anger and pain, to enduring the emotional and physical roller coaster of loss–of Jim, of health, of my blended family, of my entire life as it was, what I describe as “blissfully happy.”

It takes courage to stand up for my rights and advocate for motorcycle awareness. It took courage to sit before you in your meeting. It takes courage to write you this letter, which I can only represent as my truth. It takes courage to accept that I am a victim, but that I will not be victimized. It takes courage each day to live without Jim, yet honor Jim all the ways that I choose.

So I ask, who are you speaking with about being a driver who killed a motorcyclist?How are you educating motorists to look for motorcycles? How are you spreading the message to other motorists, so that they don’t kill a motorcyclist, too?

You had over a year in office to correct the problems that exist at that intersection, and you have the rest of your life now as a civilian to do something,and yet to this date, you still have done nothing. I maintain that no matter what the Attorney General says about the crash site, the tree line, the guardrails, or the stop sign placement at that intersection didn’t kill Jim: You did. You were behind the wheel of the car, and you violated our right-of-way. You are the proximate cause of this incident. You also knew about the obstructions and yet, you didn’t take the care to insure that the right-of-way was clear.

The law in Louisiana is not yet in place, but it will be after next session, that would have convicted you, which is Ordinary Negligent Homicide. I maintain there is no justice, there is just law. If there was justice, you’d be off the road, without a license to drive. You’d be at the very least doing community service and advocacy work for motorcycle awareness, and you would have been found guilty on all counts of negligent homicide, negligent injury and failure to yield, and you would have been charged under the current ROW Violations Act 195 and convicted of that, too.Louisiana should be ashamed as a State to not have the proper law in place to convict those responsible for negligent homicide. And you should be ashamed, Brenda Melancon, that you’re doing nothing to make amends for killing my husband Jim,permanently injuring me, and devastating an entire family, not for months, but for the rest of our lives.

Perhaps you shouldn’t have listened to your lawyers, and been in touch with us personally from the beginning of this tragic incident. Perhaps you should have considered the timing of your letter, the affect of the content and your comments to the media with greater stringency. Perhaps, you should look at the forgiveness that you hope I will be able to offer you with some more reflection and merit.

I invite you muster up the courage to take your head out of the sand and do something.

In memory of my husband Jim I remain,

Amy Pickholtz . brmac@eatel.net
FTY-ROWV Widow/Survivor/Bikers’ Rights Activist
Director, Baton Rouge Chapter, Motorcycle Awareness Campaign
P.O. Box 4762 . Baton Rouge, LA 70821 . http://www.macorg.com”

The life of your helmet

While visiting a Cycle Gear yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the manager.  Apparently, your helmet has a “shelf-life”.  Meaning that, like bananas, you’ll eventually have to throw out your $700 Arai helmet because it “goes bad”.  But, when?  How long does a helmet last?

So, I did some research to find out what the life-cycle is like.

shoei logoA Google search returns literally hundreds of results on internet forums and magazine websites, but I decided to go right to the source.  Since I own a Shoei, I went to them directly.

First, find out what your manufacture date is:

Where can I find the Production Date of my SHOEI helmet?
The Production Date is located on a sticker under the center pad of your helmet.”  – source

According to the research I’ve done, 5 years is your shelf life. Now we ask the question: “Is that 5 years from manufacture date? Or 5 years from when I bought it?”

Surely, you can buy a helmet that’s been sitting on the shelf for 2 years, does this mean that you have to replace it 3 years after you buy it?  This question was actually a hell of a lot harder to answer, and consequently not addressed on their website.

With a little more digging, I found this:

Helmet Replacement
Ultimately, the useful service life of a safety helmet is dependent on the intensity and frequency of its use. Helmet replacement is recommended even if only one of the under-mentioned points applies:

  1. The helmet was subjected to an impact.
  2. The comfort padding or the retention system has become loose due to heavy use or display signs of deterioration.
  3. The synthetic foam padding displays signs of heavy use and the helmet feels too loose. Test: with the retention system fastened, the helmet turns to the side when you gently shake your head.
  4. There are indentations in the EPS liner and/or white scratches can be seen on surfaces with black paint.
  5. Even if none of these is applied, we, SHOEI, recommend replacement in 5 years after it’s first purchased at retail.

So there we have it, right from the manufacturer’s mouth: Assuming the helmet is in new condition, you should replace it 5 years from purchase date.  Either way, I’m due for a new helmet.

araiThis past weekend I found a closeout sale on a REALLY cool Arai helmet that’s being phased out.  The model is about 2 years old, and when the manager at CycleGear told me about the shelf-life, I got worried about it’s safety.  Thanks to Google and good old-fashioned research skills, it looks like that Arai is in my near future after all.

“Fast” is a word I used to be comfortable with

Those of you who read my blog (I know right!? There’s actually a LOT of you out there!) know that I am an avid motorcyclist. This past weekend’s trip to the mountains of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee taught me (yet again) that I draw a very fat line between my riding and truly “fast” riding.

Now, in the defense of my ability (limited as it is), I was riding on worn-out tires that had no business on mountain roads. I really should have swapped them out before heading north. One ‘sideways’ incident on the first day we rode on wet roads, and I scrubbed off 20% on every turn afterward.

Anyway, even with my tires being out of ideal condition, you can really get a feel for the difference between my riding and “the guys out front”. First, check out my video (remember, all of my video clips are sped up 125% – 150%):

Now, watch this one. This is one of the leaders on our last ride (this video is NOT sped up at all):

Yeah, I’ll stick to the back of the group. LOL

It’s on like… Well, it’s on.

Dragon LogoBack to the Dragon in ’09!  Those of you who didn’t book are really going to miss out.  There is some questionable weather, so wish us luck!

Photos, videos and other Dragon madness will be posted on KeyboardDevil.com over the weekend.  Stay tuned for updates!

Last year’s trip photos can be found here.

Last year’s video:

See you all next week!!

Fallen Riders website

My buddy Erik over at Perilled.com has started a charity for motorcycle accident victims and their families.

“There are so many motorcycle accidents today. Many people are seriously injured or killed and families are left with expenses that they cannot afford to pay; medical bills, burial costs, legal fees. Times are hard enough dealing with the loss of a loved one due to a motorcycle accident, without the added stress of paying for these things.”

Make sure you stop by there and show some support, or better yet, donate some money to get this site up and running!

See the blog post here.

Donate here:

Click here to lend your support to: Fallen Riders and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

More Pussification

Here we go again

Anyone who’s ready my article “The pussification of America” knows where I stand on government regulations on “unsafe” products.  Now they’ve taken it a step further and, in the opinion of many, way too far.

“The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) has effectively banned the sale of youth off-highway vehicles (OHVs) as of Feb. 10, 2009. The AMA is calling for action now to help reverse the potentially devastating effect this could have on the sport of OHV recreation.”

dirt bikes and kidsBasically, the law breaks down like this: Stricter regulations have been added to childrens’ toys pertaining to the amount of lead allowed in/on them.  “…all youth products containing lead must have less than 600 parts per million (ppm) by weight…”

So far, so good.  If you think toys that toddlers might put into their little mouths shouldn’t contain lead, fine.  Good for you, whatever, we don’t care…  But the issue here isn’t toddler’s toys…  “The CPSC has interpreted the law to apply to various components of youth OHVs (off-highway vehicles) including the engine, brakes, suspension, battery and other mechanical parts.”   Here’s a thought… Don’t let your kids put motorcycle parts in their mouths, you fucking idiot.

Very serious problems

Firstly, in a nation of morbidly overweight children, where our kids have to be told kid on a 4-wheelerby commercials starring professional athletes that they need to go outside for “at least one hour per day” to play…  We’ve removed yet another avenue of exercise, motor-skill developing, and fun.

Secondly, and equally important, there are literally tens of thousands of dirtbikes that are out there being used that you can no longer buy parts for.  So when the brakes wear out you, as a parent, can’t replace them.  Who is going to be responsible for the accidents, crashes, and deaths caused by this?

Get more information: link to AMA link to CycleNews

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