Capitol City Customs Swap Meet & Bike Show

by on February 9, 2008
in Events

UPDATE Feb. 12: Wow, Stephanie at Iowa Harley Girl has a HUGE selection of photos from the Capitol City Customs Bike Show! Be sure to visit her blog to see all the neat customs from this past weekend!

ace of spades bike If a crowded swap meet is a sign that Iowans are getting sick of winter, then this year we must all be on the edge of insanity. Not only was it nearly impossible to find a parking spot, it was difficult to even walk the rows of merchandise – I’d say this event has outgrown the 4H building at the Fairgrounds, where it’s been held for many years. As always, this event featured many used parts, leather dealers, and other bike-related booths, plus the custom bike show that I thought was a little larger this year. We missed one bargain – a quick-release windshield that might’ve fit Kristin’s bike for only $65 – and ended up not buying anything at all. But it was nice to get out and shop for bike-related stuff anyway. I took a few pictures of some of the custom bikes and put them on Webshots. Have a look, but don’t be fooled – the swap meet is wonderful but it’s no substitute for getting out there and RIDING!

Pay because you ride: The Iowa Legislature hates bikers

by on February 1, 2008
in Blowing a Gasket

iowa state capitol in winterIn researching a state legislative bill on a non-motorcycle-related topic, I found out that last year’s Iowa Legislature introduced two biker bills that could come back for debate this year: one was the obligatory helmet law, requiring motorcycle riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets (HF465). The other proposed a “safety helmet surcharge” (appropriately, HF666) on motorcyclists – $5 or $10 per year of license validity.

That’s right, a tax on being a biker.

I was livid. For years the argument for requiring helmets on all bikers was that “the public” shouldn’t have to pay their medical bills if a rider has a helmet-less accident and happens to be uninsured. (“Why should we have to pay for your stupidity?” has been the cry, as if helmets were the key to preventing all death or serious injury on a motorcycle.) So, our state apparently wanted to charge $5 extra per year of license validity if the biker declared s/he and all passengers on her/his bike would always wear helmets. $10 per year if they wouldn’t make such a guarantee. Point being, as a biker you were going to pay extra whether you wore a helmet or not.

This is absolutely an unfair proposal that singles out one group of legal vehicle operators for no reason. Except for this: the state of Iowa offers a deep discount on vehicle licensing fees to people who drive pickup trucks. In the old days, when pickups were used as farm vehicles, lawmakers of this largely agricultural state thought it would be helpful to offer this price break to poor farmers who couldn’t afford to pay the standard annual registration fees on their “working vehicles.” These days, of course, Iowa’s urban areas are large and growing. All kinds of people drive pickups for all kinds of purposes – even as family vehicles. But the state doesn’t have the balls to reinstate the normal registration fee because the ag lobby is still very powerful. So they’re looking for any and every way to force other vehicle owners to cough up more money to make up the difference.

Which is chicken-shit, especially because bikers get the short shfrift when money goes out, too: another bill in the 2007 session would have offered tax credits to individuals who purchase “fuel-efficient vehicles.” But guess what: motorcycles, which typically get anywhere from, what, 30-50 mpg? – are excluded. So bikers get hit with the helmet surcharge, but they don’t get the benefit of the tax reduction for riding a 40-mpg vehicle. Nice.

When you put this with the disturbing trends in road repair I reported on last summer, it adds up pretty quickly: Iowa legislators view bikers as some sort of expendable cash cow. We don’t deserve a smooth ride on the highway, we don’t deserve help with medical bills if we are uninsured (even though non-bikers who do stupid things probably do), we don’t deserve the tax credit for our fuel-efficient bikes. But we DO deserve to be stuck with an exhorbitant fee tacked on to our driver’s license just because we choose to ride, and we DO deserve to have our freedom of helmet choice taken away.

Four words to sum this up: Thank God for ABATE.

And two words for the Iowa Legislature, but I’ll let you guess which two they are.