Sunday, January 27, 2008


In the world of motorcycle riding, one of the most important but not well understood maneuver and skill is the countersteer. Basically it is steering the motorcycle in the direction opposite of where the rider wants to go. Want to turn left? Steer the bike to the right.

This manuver only works when the motorcycle is traveling at a speed where the gyroscopic effect of the wheels start playing a role in stability. Usually that is around 15 miles per hour.

What countersteering does, is lean the bike effectively in the direction the rider wants to travel. The gyroscopic effect of the wheels help the bike pivot on an axis parallel to the direction of travel.

Perhaps some videos of effective counersteering could help...
Countersteering on a Honda Rebel...

A more scientific description of countersteering...

I hope that helps some of the new motorcycle riders out there that wonder what the heck countersteering is.

Ride Safe!!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on Gas Mileage

My little new Honda Rebel rolled the 1200 mile marker. No champagne or party favors or loud noises. Just her, the road and I.

This mileage milestone sparked a thought; just how much money am I saving by commuting with my motorcycle rather than my truck. So, I whip out the calculator and do some calculating...

For simplicity's sake, I made a few assumptions.

  1. My motorcycle gets an average of 60 MPG. In all reality, it is closer to 70 or even 80 or better on a good day. This is not a calculated or advertised MPG, but measured.
  2. My Chevy S10 pickup gets an average of 15 MPG. That's on a good day!
  3. I drive or ride a monthly total of 1200 miles.
  4. Gas costs $3.10 Yes, that is perhaps an average or approximation, but close enough.

So, if I ride 1200 miles on my Honda, I will be using 20 gallons of gas per month. That's $62 in gas per month. Extend out a year, and thats 14,400 miles using 240 gallons of gas, costing $774.

Now, what if I apply the same number of miles to my truck. 1200 miles in my Chevy would use 80 gallons of gas. That's $248 per month! On gas for my pickup! Extend it out a year and it will consume 960 gallons, costing $2,976!

That's a savings of... Drum roll please... $2,202! Just the gas savings alone could pay off my motorcycle in a little over two years.

Here's to a great year of fun riding and gas savings to all!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


All those knobs. Are they necessary? I have had conversations with people about relationships and whether they need to be complex... with all those knobs.

The resounding answer is a definite NO.

My experience shows otherwise. Granted, I have had limited experience in this respect but I wonder sometimes. One misadjusted knob and that little device could easily overheat. Yes? No? I don't honestly know.

The relationship with my motorcycle is simple. I keep her maintained and she takes care of me. It is simple and reciprocal. There are few surprises.

I ride down the road and forget the clutch and throttle and brakes and gears. We meld together and function as one. I understand that a good relationship should be like this. Sure, there will be slippery spots on the road and she or I may make a mistake from time to time. That is the nature of life.

I wonder if a relationship, a close intimate relationship can be like this. I wonder...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wind and Enjoyment

What can start as a warm, fair weathered trip can always end up windy and cold. Like today. 2PM and I was out the door to run a few errands and then head out towards Hoover Dam. The warm spring-like air seemed to beckon bike riders to the road. Not five minutes when by that I didn't see another bike.

After finishing my errands, I am off. Riding into the new headwind was a challenge on my Honda Rebel. It's 239 cc motor does very well commuting to and from work at a nice rate of 35 to 55 MPH. Riding uphill into a headwind of 20 MPH is not it's forte.

None the less, I enjoyed the ride. It was more challenge than I was expecting but all the same, a difficult, challenging ride is better than a day in the office.

Pic of my 2007 Honda Rebel 250 with Lake Mead in the background.

By the end of the day, the previously warm air had chilled by ten degrees and wind was gusting to more than 30 miles an hour. To make things even better, the wind had switched directions so going back home, there was also that pesky head-wind to battle with.

Only about 80 of my planned 100 miles. A day well spent.


“A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour” -anon

I had plans today. A quick mid morning ride to work, then onward to the most northern reaches of Las Vegas Boulevard. According to google maps, round trip should be more than 125 miles of mostly empty two lane asphalt.

Even good roads have detours.

Weekends at work are usually non-events. When there are problems though, they are typically serious. Saturday was the beginning of one of those weekends. What I had expected was a quick thirty minute test of our e-mail system. Murphy was busy. A detoured day. Four hours later I needed a break.

Myself and a few other programmers had little to do while the system admins plied their skills. Detour was the theme of the day, why shouldn't a ride reflect that theme?

According to Google Earth, Lake Mead Boulevard exits the city to the east, becomes a two lane highway, winds through the the foothills around Frenchman's Mountain and makes its way toward Lake Mead. As enjoyable as maps and charts and even programs like Google Earth may be, nothing rivals the feel of the road and wind.

And this was a very nice ride. Rather chilly but the sun warming my black leathers ensured comfort. Above is a rather poor map of my route. As a point of reference, the dark green circle in the upper left highlights the Nellis Air Force Base runways. Regardless of how well Google Earth represents Nellis, there is nothing like looking down on the runways, F-16s on one end, holding short for permission to take off.

The light green line follows my path up and out of town. After making it out of the foothills, I decide to take a small paved road known as Pabco Road. Following it north would take the traveler past the Pabco plant, across the original Spanish Trail, then end at I15 and Las Vegas Boulevard. I turn back right after passing signs that read “Trespassing” and “Blast Danger”.

This nice piece of narrow two lane asphalt has it all for a noobie rider. Minimal traffic, smaller hills and valleys, sweeping curves and even a few twisties. I put the little yellow circle on the map to indicate a little challenging section. Coming back, and I should have remembered this, there is a slightly rising hill. At it's apex, the road immediately starts to drop and curves to the left.

Took me by surprise but didn't loose it. I would be lying if I said there was no adrenalin. WHEW!

The dark blue line follows my return path on Pabco Road, then continuing on toward lake Mead. This short run was indeed enjoyable. I lost count of the motorcycles on that road. There must have been at least fifty, nearly all waving or nodding acknowledgment.

At the entrance to the Lake Mead Recreational Area, a set of toll booths, I turn around and return. (Purple-ish? Line) It was rather uneventful but enjoyable. A quiet road with almost no traffic, I buzz myself back to work.

Yes, even detours can be quite enjoyable.

(I am tired, and as such this is probably not one of my better blogs...)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Opportunities and Leather

Several evenings ago I was riding to the local grocery store to buy a little something for dinner. I remember back years ago when my daughter would eat just about anything. Now at the old age of seventeen years, she can be rather picky. If not served too often, roast chicken is good and her complaints only start after three days or so. So, I am on a chicken run.

I pull my bike up and park next to the bicycle rack. Instead of human powered cycles using the slots, a small herd of scooters rest there in the 30-something degree temps. Several look sad, abused and not well maintained. The small scoot on the opposite end of the rack from my bike was a well ridden but clean older white scooter of unknown make.

An attractive woman comes out of the store and turns toward the herd. She looks at me while I take off my helmet and gloves and places her purchases on her scoot.

“Do you have a smoke?” she asks.

I am unsure whether smokers have a 'look,' or maybe there is some assumption that if a person rides a cruiser, they have a higher likelihood of smoking. It is something worthy of some research somewhere or contemplation by someone else. Or... Maybe she was just making conversation... Breaking the ice, so to speak.

“Sure, regular lights OK?” I remove a pack of my 'cheapest generic smokes anywhere' and hand her one.

“Oh, thanks! I left my Marlboros at home and just wanted one before going back there.”

“Do you need a light?”

“No thank you. I have plenty of matches.” Quite polite.

I noticed her eyes first. Deep dark blue with wide pupils. Perhaps my age or even younger, mid or late 30s. Her hair short, maybe shoulder length and somewhat curly, a dark blond.

“You want another for the ride home?”

“Oh really? Sure! Thank you SO much!” She takes it, touching her warm, soft but well labored hand to mine, and places it in the storage compartment under the seat. I notice the typical items there... Matches, tissues, screwdriver, crescent wrench, tire gage and a book. A thick paperback book. What was it? Damn. She closes it too quickly. Grisham? Shoot! Looked like some sort of spy thriller or maybe a science fiction by the looks of the cover artwork.

“Well, ride safely,” I say, waving and walking off, into the store.

Why did I leave like that? Why didn't I ask her out for coffee or continue the conversation? She obviously wanted to talk. What's the harm in talking with someone new? I am restless in the store, somewhat glad to have some separation from a situation of potential verbal intercourse. But, I wondered. Why not ask her over for a quick cup of coffee?

I hurriedly buy my roast chicken and walked out to where the herd rest, hoping for the opportunity to just say “Hi, would you like a cup of coffee?”

She and her white scoot were both gone, to where I may never know. And, that's OK. I really want no one involved with me right now... A recently divorced middle aged man with a seventeen year old daughter, still cohabitating with his ex-wife for financial reasons.

Maybe it's better I wear this leather jacket. Minor, and even some not-so minor abrasions never touch my skin, and I am protected from certain elements of this harsh world. And it helps protect others from me.

Roast chicken strapped to the rear of my bike, I roar singularly off into the night.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Nine hundred forty seven. That is how many miles I have ridden my Honda Rebel since October when we first became acquainted. She had her 600 mile checkup and oil change earlier this week. I must admit a few things. The shifting was starting to be a bit grabby and oil was starting to be discolored. However, I had the engine running pretty well after tuning the carburetor a bit. I just wanted them, aside from performing the regular service, to check the engine tuning.

Well, I know they changed the oil and checked the valve clearance. They cleaned the bike, albeit not as well as I have done in the past. The chain and cables were well lubricated and adjusted, transmission and clutch are nice and smooth now. The idle setting was also lowered to spec. I had adjusted it to be a bit too fast.

However, it still sputters and hesitates at times and now cuts out completely when accelerating from stop and the engine is not completely warmed up. I am working from a disadvantaged point of view. My riding skills and experience is relatively thin, so differentiating hardware problems from rider problems is not as easy as one would think. An experienced Rebel rider could probably determine where the problem lies, or perhaps that there is no problem.

As a whole, I am quite happy with my bike and my progressing skills.

In celebration of our 1k mark, I hope to take a little ride this weekend if weather permits. Perhaps even if the weather doesn't permit we will go. I need the time out. The two of us seem to understand each other; that we need to get out and go. I sense it when we reach 55. She purrs and I relax.

What barely passes as scenery on my daily commute to and from work slips by in slow motion. Not just viewing the scenery, but being part of it, is now vaguely understood. There is a conflict. Las Vegas is the bane of my existence and I yearn to remove myself from this scenery, yet riding integrates my soul further into an environment that I wish to separate myself from.

As with most things in life, there are good and bad aspects to everything; left and right; up and down; positive and negative. Or better, Yin and Yang. Understanding that there is no “good” or “bad” may be one of my larger challenges. There just is.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Embrace Nothingness

Embrace the nothingness of the universe and all knowledge shall flow forth.

The Zen of motorcycle riding is much more than trite allegory. A rider cannot simply rely on reflex and palpable stimuli. Doing so would be too coarse or too slow. One must reach into the nothing of the universe and see all, sense all. Raw processing of all input while flying at 70 miles per hour only inches above asphalt is staggering. Piloting a two wheeled vehicle is not a practice of processing but of trust.

Trust in the physical world. Physics keeps the bike vertical at 50 miles per hour. Physics makes the tires stick to the road when cornering. The environment will always affect the rider and bike in predictable ways. Brakes will work only to a certain predetermined point before the tires loose traction and become ineffective. A motor can only accelerate a bike at a certain rate.

Trust in the ethereal world. The Tao. Nothing and everything. There is a higher being or knowledge or what have you; conventional or not. Trust it is there.

Trust in your inner self. Trust in your abilities. Trust in your skills. Trust in your knowledge. Trust that you have limits.

Lasty, trust that you can meld the physical, ethereal and inner self. That is key in any journey, whether it be on a bike or within the context of a life.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Crack

A door has been opened a crack. Through it a light that illuminates but does not shine fell forth. All and nothing from within. Only a crack. Gaining a glimpse of eternity, truth in the shadow of a life partially lived.

Unexpected revelations occur at unexpected times under unexpected circumstances. That is the nature of the unexpected. A short ride, a novice on a willing conveyance of the soul. Utter clear concentration and focus allows things to happen within the searching soul. A door. Hinges unused for an eternity creak.

Piloting a car, one may enjoy the concept of free physical travel. On a motorcycle this is a soulful epiphany. Only a small view is sufficient to know the path is right and just; that there are more things in the universe unseen than seen. The soul moves and is freed by the joining of the real and ethereal existences.

Traveling from point A to point B is nothing. So much worldly energy is expended on the points and transitioning from one to the other along a line. In mathematics, points are nothing more than dimensionless coordinates in space. The line nothing more than than a one dimensional entity connecting two points. And this is many peoples' lives complete; the points and lines.

There is more to life. There is everything between.

The door now opened cannot be closed. The light does not blind but is warming and gentle and illuminating. Light reflects from what was, what is and what could be. As the door opens, so does the mind.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

130 Miles

One-hundred thirty miles. Two-hundred nine kilometers.

That is how many miles I have ridden since January 1st, 2008, 8 AM. That's an average of about 43 miles per day. Extrapolate that puppy out, and I have 15,695 miles for the year. Not bad, but I want more.

Today was the first day I rode to work, for work. It was exhilarating, empowering, fantastic!!!

On the first day of this year I did go on a little ride. It was all of 25 degrees when I started out. I had no idea how cold 25 degrees was, when on a motorcycle at 50 MPH! WOW! I didn't really let it get to me until the feeling in my fingers started to leave. Then there was no choice. A few quick stops along the road, shove the gloves in the little spot behind the cylinders, hands in pockets, toasty gloves on the hands, and off we go.

The hum of the motor. The smells and sounds. The feel of the road underneath. Attention focused sharply ahead, flying by, to be left in its appropriate place; behind. If life could only be more like that.

Death and danger surround me at all angles. And I am not afraid.