I wrote recently about things car drivers do that annoy and endanger bikers, but I know in all fairness that the reverse is probably also true: sometimes, bikers do things in traffic that annoy drivers, things that are dangerous and/or illegal. Here are a few that come to mind.
1. Block traffic when riding in a group. I’ll admit, this practice makes me very uneasy. When there is a large group ride, sometimes a rider or two up front will pull out into an intersection and stop, blocking the oncoming traffic from one or both directions so that the entire group can pass through the intersection en masse. I’ve been in the midst of it, and certainly it’s beneficial to the bikers… but I imagine highly annoying to the drivers who have their own business to attend to and don’t care about keeping your group together. I don’t think the police are terribly fond of this practice either.
2. Hot-dog in traffic. It scares the holy hell out of me – and pisses me off – when I see a rider doing a wheelie (or any stunt) in traffic. I mean seriously – it might give the biker their jollies but if they crash they will be creating needless trauma for any motorist who sees them hit the pavement and/or runs over them because they couldn’t stop in time, not to mention endangering their own life and the lives of others. Completely irresponsible, as are excessive speeding and attempting a rolling human pyramid.
3. Ride without regard for their passenger’s safety. Now add to the above, a passenger on the back of an irresponsible rider’s bike and you have – an asshole. An asshole who puts another human being at risk of losing their life just so the rider can show off a bit. Of course, you don’t have to be a stunt-riding jerk to be guilty of disregarding your passenger. Another example of this is when I see someone with a child on a motorcycle that is too small to reach the footpegs, riding on the gas tank, not wearing a helmet, etc. etc. Seriously, I can think of no likely circumstance where any of this is acceptable. And don’t try to tell me about your four-year-old dirt bike prodigy. If he’s on YOUR bike and he can’t reach the pegs, he should not ride on it. If you are going to ride like a hot-dogging jerk, or even if you are just an idiot in general, do not subject a passenger of any age to your dumb-shittery and poor decision-making.
4. Lane-splitting. Although this practice is legal in California, I am not sure I’d ever have the balls to do it. (Well maybe if I lived in California where it takes 9 years to get across town…) I read a piece via Twitter recently, on the website RideApart, which referred to lane splitting as “… the most natural act of the motorcyclist.” (Really? Because I can think of at least five other things that are more natural for a motorcyclist than trying to thread their bike through the “needle eye” gauntlet of pissed-off stop-and-go traffic.) While the article does state that this practice can have “dire consequences,” the writer nonetheless encourages riders to practice this skill:
Find a long red light in town where cars tend to back up in two lanes or more, then try and approach it just after it turns red. Carefully pick your way to the front of the queue, quickly calculate the time remaining on the red and, if there’s enough, squarely plant yourself in front of one of the lines of cars, claiming your rightful territory.
Um — rightful territory? I’m pretty sure your “rightful territory” is back there in line, behind everyone else who got there ahead of you. But apparently not in California, nor in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
5. Park selfishly in a busy parking lot. This one’s relatively minor as far as infractions go, but I’m sure road rage has been waged over much less. Still, it’s one of those acts of courtesy you can perform to show the general public that bikers are not all hot-dogging dumb shits. What’s parking selfishly for a motorcycle? Arguably, one bike per space when open spaces are at a premium is one example. It should be noted that you are absolutely entitled to one whole space of your very own. You do not HAVE to park two to a space. So it truly is a courtesy if you and your pal park together, assuming you can do so safely. Cagers should thank you for this. But chances are they won’t, so perform this random act of kindness like you would any other – without expectation of reward. Other bike parking sins: parking over the line so your bike takes up two spaces… parking in the diagonally-lined space next to a handicapped spot… blocking someone in… unless it’s this person. You can block this person in:
BONUS ITEM 6. Mouth off/instigate road rage. As a motorcyclist, it’s pretty hard to bite your tongue when some jerk cuts you off in traffic, refuses to give you room, or any number of sins. And I’d say it’s probably well-understood that if one person mouths off in traffic, the other one will probably respond in kind. Cagers need to understand that motorcyclists are vulnerable, so it takes less to piss us off and we are perhaps more vocal about it when it does happen. But bikers also need to sometimes just take a breath, be grateful they are still “shiny side up,” and move on. Or do like I did: once when a woman turned left in front of me, I went to give her a piece of my mind by pressing my horn button with special emphasis, and hit the turn signal instead. I’m sure the blink-blink-blink of my left-turn light really let her know that I was furious!
What are other things bikers do that give us all a bad name?
Over time this blog has become a bit of a “love letter” to my home state of Iowa. As I’ve said before, I believe that every town in this state has something to recommend it: some sort of attraction, historic marker, great diner, or even roadside oddity. I am always excited to discover something new, and when you add in a scenic route to get there and the company of wonderful people, it just makes for some really great days.
Last summer, a few of the Chrome Divas made a fun discovery of this type when we rode to Oskaloosa and visited the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum. Now Oskaloosa is a great destination for several reasons, but the Pioneer Farm is rather special because it gives visitors an up-close, hands-on look at the way life was in the 1800’s-early 1900’s on an Iowa farm.
This ride took place in late May of 2015. By all accounts our Saturday should have been a wonderful upper-70’s kind of day. Instead, we left Des Moines under clouds with temperatures in the mid-50’s. I don’t think it broke 60 all day. We did hit just a tiny spit of rain, but fortunately that didn’t turn into anything major.
Val had planned the ride for us with the intention of having lunch in Oskaloosa. This was also a great choice for Seven Over, because she was participating in not one but TWO summer-long Scavenger Hunts and needed a couple pictures of herself in this area – one of them being at a “mule cemetery” located at the historic Nelson Farm.
The route to Oskaloosa was (as always in Iowa) beautiful despite the clouds, taking us on a meandering path through southeastern Polk County, then over to the tiny town of Monroe on a very nice (new to me) county road marked F70. From here it was south on Highway 14 to Highway 92, and east into Oskaloosa.
We parked on the square and had lunch at Smokey Row, a local place which we learned was housed in an old movie theater – obvious and evidenced by the presence of the original marquee, which now hangs inside the restaurant and is fully lighted. It was quite the display, and we managed to have some fun with the large statue at the front of the room as well. (We did not similarly molest the proud and regal statue of Chief Mahaska out on the Square. I’m sure he appreciated our modesty.)
After lunch we set off to find the mule cemetery, which was easy because it was kind of front-and-center at the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum property. Turns out, the original settlers of this farm had two white mules, Jennie and Becky, buried on-site in 1888 and 1897 – both animals served in the Civil War and were 34 and 42 years old at the time of their respective deaths.
As we were gathered in front of the little burial plot, a person we assumed to be a groundskeeper came up from one of the utility buildings and greeted us. This was “Joe,” whose last name I did not get but who – as it turned out – was a former mechanical engineer at Disneyland in California who had had enough of life as an Imagineer and retired to Iowa. Once here, and looking for something to keep him busy, he took the opportunity to do some odd jobs around this little historical farm/museum and ended up in charge of the property care-taking.
Joe was pretty keen on giving three goofy biker chicks the low-down on the mules Jennie & Becky, and invited us to also see the original log cabin that was first built on the property.
From this point forward, as Joe told us more and more details about the farm, he would mention in passing some other building – and then invite us to see it. So as it turned out, we got a very detailed tour from a person who knew literally every nook and cranny of the place. We saw not just the original cabin but also the larger two-story brick house built in 1853…
… the summer kitchen and “meat house”…
…the occasional odd contraption such as this underground storage unit…
With these buildings we took about two hours of Joe’s time – and when we finally ended up at the actual museum building itself, he accompanied us through that and gave us the official museum Scavenger Hunt list to complete. At this point we also met the manager of the museum. She and Joe both work on behalf of the Mahaska County Historical Society.
This was a really wonderful place and I think our sincere interest in the antiques and stories, and of course our animated and silly antics/bad jokes, perhaps encouraged Joe to share his knowledge. We so appreciated it!
Because we had spent so much time at the museum, we took a fairly direct route home along Highway 163 which put us back into Des Moines on the city’s east side. It was a fantastic and memorable day, and the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum is one of Iowa’s true historic treasures.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found over the years of riding a motorcycle that I have actually become a better driver overall. In particular, I diligently look for motorcycles. Sadly, I still see many, many drivers who do not wish to share the road, pay full attention to the task at hand (driving safely), or do their part to prevent accidents. I’m sure there are many variations on these themes, but broadly, here are the things drivers do that annoy and endanger motorcyclists. What would you add to this list?
1. Use their cell phones while driving. This one is so all-pervasive it isn’t even shocking anymore. I cannot count the number of people I see daily on the road, yakking on the phone or, worse, reading their phone and/or texting, just flat out ignoring the fact that they are in command of a four thousand-plus pound steel vehicle that is hurtling through the neighborhood. But this isn’t really just about cell phones. It’s about anything that grabs the driver’s attention away from driving. I understand it’s hard to avoid every possible distraction, but engaging in some – like phone use – is purely by choice.
2. Incorrectly gauge our speed. Granted, this one is difficult – bikes may be closer or farther away than they appear, and because our profile is smaller than a car it is not easy to tell how fast we’re approaching. But the rule should be, when in doubt wait it out – meaning, let the bike safely approach and pass in front of you before pulling out into traffic. Come to think of it, that’s a good rule no matter what might be coming down the road.
3. Fail to give us adequate room. Cut us off in traffic, turn left in front of us, veer into us in our lane, hit us from behind, don’t allow us to safely merge… etc. etc. As a car driver, you should just assume that a motorcycle is going to use at least as much space as a car. This is in your driving instruction manual, which most people probably haven’t read since high school, coincidentally a time when they were ALSO not paying full attention. Don’t pass us in our lane just because we are only using half of it. Look at what’s in the lane ahead of you when coming to a stop at a light or stop sign. Don’t assume you have enough time to turn left in front of us. Give us room to merge onto the highway by slowing down or moving over.
4. Throw stuff at us. You shouldn’t be flicking out your cigarette butts (your car has an ash tray for that), tossing out fast food containers (litterbug), or throwing anything else out your window anyway. For bikers, these things are not just an annoyance – dodging them (or being hit by them) can cause serious harm. And if you’re purposely throwing something out of your car in hopes of hitting a biker? You’re a special kind of ass-hat and I want nothing to do with you on the road or in any other facet of life.
5. Break traffic laws like speeding, traffic signals, etc. These practices don’t make you a menace just to motorcycles – they make you a menace overall, to everyone on the road. You’re not above the rules, and failure to pay attention is NOT an excuse. There was a post on Facebook recently making the rounds, written by a guy who was apparently sick of all the entreaties to “be on the lookout for motorcycles.” He was quite adamant that he would do absolutely nothing to watch for motorcycles, and that bikers should not consider themselves deserving of special treatment and should probably just drive cars like everyone else. The thing is, bikers aren’t looking for special treatment. We’re riding legal vehicles that leave us a lot more vulnerable than an automobile, and we simply ask that other drivers understand we have a right to share the road. You know – the same courtesy they might extend to their own mother, son, daughter, father, etc. should they encounter that person in another vehicle while driving.
BONUS ITEM #6. THIS. You are a Level Five Asshole. You have NO RIGHT to do this to ANYONE. Kindly rot in Hell.
BONUS ITEM #7.
Okay, now that I’ve ranted a bit about sharing the road, I’ll let you in on a little secret: we bikers are not all law-abiding angels.
Whhhaaattt??? I know, you’re shocked. As was I when I figured this out. But it’s true, sometimes bikers do things that annoy cagers. So, that’ll be covered in an upcoming post. Because this blog is nothing if not fair and balanced!
Had a lovely ride on May 23 with a small contingent of the Chrome Divas, with plans to have lunch in Ogden and then a visit to a small museum in Boone.
We left Sambetti’s around 10:30 in the morning and traveled north through the Saylorville Lake area, on to and through Madrid, and north toward the Iowa Arboretum along R26, but instead of turning east on E57 to the Arboretum, we turned west and then north again on R18. This took us to the junction of Highway 30, which we crossed, and then turned west to head into Ogden, Iowa along E41, part of the original Lincoln Highway.
This was a very pretty ride on a couple of roads I’ve never been on before – always so happy to discover a new path!
Ogden is a small town of about 2,000 people in Boone County, quiet but with a great little restaurant called The Lucky Pig – bigger inside than it looks outside, and excellent food… tenderloins, pulled pork, shoestring onion rings, and dessert… typical Iowa, too much great food at an affordable price!
After lunch we headed east out of Ogden to the town of Boone along E41, which is a really beautiful and curvy little stretch that on this day was showing off large patches of purple blooming Dame’s Rocket all along the way. (Although at this point in the ride, I admit I was not able to focus much on the scenery… just outside of Ogden, I ran over a black plastic piece of something and heard a sort of “kitt-oonk” noise under my front tire… I was worried sick for a few miles that the tire was going to blow out or go down. Fortunately this did not materialize but I know I missed getting my full measure of appreciation for E41!)
Our destination in Boone was to be the Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace and museum.
Mrs. Eisenhower served as First Lady of the United States during her husband Dwight’s Presidency from 1953-61; she was born in Boone, spent some time as a small child in Cedar Rapids, and then was eventually raised in Colorado. She traveled extensively throughout her husband’s military career. In fact, it was not until they left the White House in 1961 that the Eisenhowers actually owned their first home – a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The birthplace home in Boone is lovely: a small yellow frame house on a quiet residential street, located directly across the street from where it originally sat. (It was moved to make room for a larger church, and since we parked our bikes in a church parking lot across from the house’s present location, it’s likely we parked our bikes right in Mamie’s original living room!)
The house has been fully restored and furnished, and is now managed by the Boone County Historical Society. It features original Doud family furniture, a period “summer kitchen” and garage (apparently including Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant in the garage!), and is surrounded by neatly tended perennial plants and landscaping.
Alas, despite indications that it was to be open for visitors until 5 pm, the museum was closed when we arrived around 1 so we could not go in. We pouted on the front porch, took a couple photos through the windows, and enjoyed the landscaping to the extent that we could.
Our trip home took us through Boone along Mamie Eisenhower Avenue and then South Story Street, which we took south out of town and became a park road through Ledges State Park. We continued through and exited the park, heading east and eventually junctioning with Highway 17 just north of Luther, Iowa.
A honk and a wave as we passed BFE Vintage Motorcycles in Luther – where they had all their vintage bikes parked out in the parking lot… a stop here would’ve been a great vintage bike show for sure! – and we continued on southward through Slater, Sheldahl and Polk City, again through the Saylorville area and then each of us “toward home.”
We will have to return to Boone to take the tour of Mamie’s house – and, maybe it’s time for another ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad.
“Today we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. May God bless the souls of those who died defending our liberty.” – Senator Marco Rubio
Hope you have many moments today to pause and reflect upon the sacrifices made for us by those who gave their lives serving America and defending our freedom around the world.
I was reading an article online the other day in which the author laid out her motorcycle start-up sequence. Because I am a believer in doing my start-up tasks in the same order every time (so I don’t miss something important), I decided to write down my own sequence in case it might be helpful for someone else.
I noticed when I did this that there was one notable difference between my sequence and hers: she starts her bike in neutral, and I start mine in first gear.
I have no idea where I picked up the habit of starting my bike in first, but i immediately wondered if one method was recommended over the other.
Turns out, yes. And it’s not mine.
I looked for this information a few different ways: I polled my knowledgeable tribe of biker pals… I looked online in Harley Davidson support forums… and (HORRORS) I broke open my owner’s manual for a quick review of HD’s “official” recommendation.
The obvious benefit to this is, in neutral, I don’t have to worry about the bike lurching forward and possibly getting away from me. (That’s assuming I am absolutely certain it’s in neutral. )
Or, as my friend Shirley said when she responded to my non-scientific poll on this question: “I always start in neutral. Why? So I don’t forget and run into the garage wall!”
Aside from this bit of common sense, there’s also a mechanical reason for starting the motorcycle in neutral, especially when the bike is cold: starting in neutral allows the fluids and clutch plates to warm up before you attempt to engage them by putting the bike in gear.
This is helpful because when the bike is cold, the fluids have also cooled and settled away somewhat from the parts they are protecting. The clutch plates are therefore likely to be somewhat stuck together due to the suction created from this cooling and settling.
If you start the bike in first gear, you’re attempting to unstick those suctioned plates without benefit of first warming the fluids.
Think about the viscosity (resistance to flow) of other cold fluids vs. their warmed-up counterparts. You know the old expression, “slower than molassses in January”? That’s not just something a pioneer hillbilly made up one day while sitting on his front porch, waiting for his kin to come along with a washboard so they could start the jug band jam. It’s actually a perfect illustration of how temperature affects viscosity: molassses is slow in January because it’s cold. And cold impedes flow.
For motorcycles, flow (of fluids) is critical for smooth operation. When you start the bike in first gear, you’re asking moving mechanical parts to unstick from and engage with each other while surrounded by cold, poorly-flowing fluids. You are causing unnecessary wear and tear on those parts. You are being unreasonable. And you are annoying the hell out of your motorcycle.
Stop annoying your motorcycle, and start your motorcycle in neutral. You’ll improve its overall performance, and you’ll (probably) avoid running into the garage wall.
American endurance driver Deena Mastracci intends to walk into the DMV in Santa Clarita, California on June 1 and get her motorcycle license, and then immediately set out on a 9,000-mile motorcycle journey as her “first ride.” But not just ANY 9,000 miles, because Deena’s route includes portions of Alaska, the Arctic Circle region, the Yukon, and finally, through the Midwestern United States where she will then conclude the ride in Pennsylvania.
Deena plans to use her journey to call attention to the work of the Motorcycle Relief Project, a nonprofit charity that helps veterans with PTSD and other injuries.
“I am taking on this challenge to show women, veterans, or anyone intimidated by something new that the best way to overcome that fear is to drive through it,” Deena states.
She’ll also set the record for the longest journey completed by a newly-licensed motorcycle rider. She’ll be accompanied by her fiance and fellow endurance driver Carl Reese, and by paramedic Jeremy Fox, both on their own motorcycles.
According to a news release posted online at PRWeb, “Followers can track her progress with live GPS vehicle tracking provided by GPS Insight, a technology leader in fleet tracking software. Mastracci’s live map is available on carlreese.net, and additional updates of her journey will be posted on Facebook and Instagram.”
Do you have sufficient arrogance?
I don’t mean to ask, “Do you think you’re better than everyone else?” What I mean is, do you know just how knowledgable you really are, and do you believe in the value of what you know?
Speaking from a business perspective, marketing blogger Scott Hartshorn years ago made the point that it’s easy to assume that other people in your industry are better or smarter than you, and therefore more credible. And this assumption can keep you from putting yourself out there, getting known, taking risks, and reaping the rewards.
I believe that this notion can be applied across the board: not just to Scott’s industry of commercial blogging, but to work, family, parenting, hobbies, socializing and even community involvement.
More recently, moto-blogger Rachael (Fuzzygalore.com) noted that for many of us, there are two yous: Your You and Someone Else’s You. And, that Someone Else’s You is almost always “bigger and bolder” than Your You.
I think Scott & Rachael are saying the same thing – though in different words and from two different life perspectives: that we hold ourselves back from our true potential because we just don’t think our experience and knowledge are as valuable as that of others. We believe, for whatever reason, that outsiders are the experts while we are just… us.
Having been a business owner, a Chamber of Commerce leader, the “new gal” for various employers, a first-time parent, a newbie motorcycle rider, and even a newbie blogger at various points in my life, I can relate to this concept of “insufficient arrogance” on many levels. So many times, I’ve realized (perhaps too late) that I didn’t start out a new phase of my life or a project with the belief that what I brought to the table was just as good, if not better, than what other folks brought.
In short, I’m not sufficiently arrogant!
Or to put it in Rachael’s terms, My Me is standing in the way.
Is this because I’m too dependent on the approval of others? On the notion of being liked? On the idea that what I know is somehow less valid than what others know? Am I – inconceivably – allowing the hard-won knowledge I’ve gained and the experiences I’ve had in life to hold me back me rather than propel me?
And the questions too painful to ponder: What has my insufficient arrogance cost me? What opportunities have I missed because My Me did not measure up? Am I not yet who I wish to be simply because I didn’t think I was good enough to start?
I can tell you this: more and more, when I feel hesitant about a new idea, I am trying to take a conscious look at myself through the eyes of Someone Else’s Me. Because yeah, she’s bigger and bolder. She works harder than My Me. She puts herself out there. She owns the failures, and reaps the rewards.
Look where you want to go.
Scan the road at least 12 seconds ahead.
Slow, Look, Press, Roll.
These are some of the best pieces of advice you’ll hear for riding and controlling your motorcycle. One of the least-discussed aspects of riding, however, is what happens at the end of the ride: parking!
And, while it’s tempting to simply cruise in to your destination and hop off the bike, it’s far better to actually put some careful thought into your stoppage. Because quite honestly, how and where you park will determine the ease with which you eventually leave. So I’ve got one more piece of advice for you to consider:
Park for the exit.
What I mean is, park your bike with leaving – not arriving – in mind. Because truly, how you park your bike determines what challenges or problems you’re going to have when it’s time to leave. Here are some tips for smart parking.
Park level. Seriously, do yourself a favor and make this a top priority in parking your bike. Whenever you can, pick a level spot so you don’t have to do a drastic lean to one side when preparing to leave.
Park solid. Mud, gravel, and even hot-baked blacktop can cause your bike to sink where it sits, especially considering that all the weight of the bike is transferred to that tiny contact point at the end of your kickstand when you’re parked. You can improve this situation by re-distributing the weight of the bike, using a parking disc or small piece of wood placed under the end of the stand.
Nose-out. Taking the time to park “nose out” has saved me many headaches when leaving a parking spot. What I do is pull into a parking lot, quickly scan to identify my target space, and then make a U-turn in front of it so I can back in – assuming, of course, that doing so leaves me level and solid. Where this really saves me is in a space where the parking spot slants downward toward the curb. If I’m nose-out, I don’t have to try to back the bike out and up an incline.
Stick together. In a group, as the ride leader, I try to scope out an area big enough in the parking lot so that our entire group can park together. This ensures that we’re more likely to be able to leave as a group and less likely to inadvertently leave someone behind.
Share a space. This is more of a courtesy shown to other vehicles. A single parking space is almost always big enough for two bikes, especially if one parks a little ahead of the other. If I’m at a very busy venue, I try to occupy as little space as possible if I can do so without compromising my parking safety or that of my spotmate. It might go without saying, but I don’t actually put myself into a space with another bike if I don’t know that person. I only share a space with my own riding companions.
Shut down, lock up. I have a shut-down procedure (and conversely, a start-up procedure) that I go through almost every time I get off the bike. This involves locking my ignition as well as my front forks, removing gear, etc. etc. Although it may seem a little OCD (or even overkill) to do things the same way each and every time, I’ve found that practicing a consistent shut-down sequence ensures that I won’t miss performing a really critical task like… ahem… putting the kickstand down.
These are my tips for smart, safe parking. What else would you add to this list?
Although I will not be riding on May 7 (International Female Ride Day), I certainly hope YOU get the chance to do so! Be safe and have fun on IFRD’S 10th “ride-a-versity”! As for me, I will be traveling to Orlando to visit my daughter, the beach, and the Magic Kingdom!