Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Going For a Smoking Ride

There are only a couple of thing in life that are truly satisfying, one is going for a nice leisurely ride on the motorcycle on a hot day and the other is enjoying a good smoke.
One of the problems when you combine the two is that the smoking is not as enjoyable while riding down the highway as the hot embers are being force fed back to your lips by the wind, the cigarette burns at five times normal, and you can't get the darn thing lit at speed. The only solution is to stop the bike and light up.
Not good enough, if I have a lot of miles to go a smoke at highway speed would be a time saver and satisfy my nicotine habit.
Smoking and riding are not at all naturally compatible but of course problems can be overcome with a little imagination.
First you have to get the darn thing lit, no easy feat while travelling. The Bic lighter is a good reliable igniter in a no wind situation but completely useless in wind. This is where the Zippo lighter comes in, advertised as a good reliable product even a hurricane could not blow the flame out. Well a hurricane can blow a Zippo out and to my amazement I could only get a smoke lit if I slowed down to a slower speed . Something which slows your progress immensely and irritates the heck out of your riding partners as they think you are constantly having bike problems. One asset that the Zippo possessed is that when you stopped for gas you could top up the Zippo with premium fuel that changed the taste of the cigarettes to that of raw gasoline. Another drawback to the Zippo is after lighting you held it and the smoke in front of your face ready to draw the fire to the cigarette, the wind would push the flame past the end of the cigarette right to your mouth which would result in nasty burns to you lips. I soon learned to light the cigarette by turning my head to the side and letting the wind blow the flame across the tip of the cigarette and not into my face.
But the ultimate solution to this problem is to install an auto style electrical cigarette lighter to the bike. Sure you can buy a water proof one from the biker accessory manufactures but that what be too easy and expensive. Down to the local value-mart and you can pick up the unit, some connectors, fuses and even a relay if you are so inclined. Takes a few minutes to install and you are on your way to trouble free cigarette lighting as well as having an outlet for other accessories as well. Big problem solved, with the added benefits of being able to bring along an AC/DC TV, tire inflater, cell phone and various other DC powered goodies.
It goes with out saying that smoking and riding cannot be accomplished while wearing a full face helmet, other than drilling a small round hole, in the general area of the mouth, slightly larger than the stogie you wish to puff on. And of course the cigarette would have to be extra long and you could only smoke about half before it began to scorch the front of your helmet. Open face helmet is the answer.
Now this is all still impossible if your motorcycle does not have a windscreen or a fairing with a windshield to stop or deflect the wind from your cigarette. This is where I can certainly extol the virtues of Honda's wind tunnel tested fairings and windshields. Through their exhaustive research and testing they have manufactured a product that produces a virtual dead air space behind their windscreen that is extremely smoker friendly.
While going down the road if a craving for a smoke hits, I grab a smoke from my pack, reach over push in the cigarette lighter, wait 15 seconds, bring the glowing lighter to the cigarette and puff to my hearts content. But wait, after enjoying the smoke all I have left is the burning butt and I have no where to dispose of the unwanted stub.
The last few years have been rather dry around here and if I were to callously toss the the still burning butt onto the roadside and maybe into the dry grass of the ditch and it should start a fire, I would not only be a litterer but an arsonist as well.
I need an ashtray! At first I used to ground the butts out on my floorboards but that put me in a precarious riding position and I am not a stunt rider by any means. I had to sacrifice my cup holder by putting all my butts into an empty Coke can but have since then upgraded from an unsightly pop can to a state-of-the-art ashtray complete with closing lid. Problem solved.
Maybe I should have just quit smoking

Monday, February 19, 2007

Riders Choice Awards

Here is your chance to check out some great blogs and motorcycle sites. Take a look at the choices for awards and take the opportunity to vote for the ones you like best. And no I am not in any of the categories.

Motorcycle Bloggers International is an association of active bloggers in the motorcycling world. Its members ride and write around the globe.

Each year we conduct the MBI Riders Choice awards program. We invite riders around the world to participate by nominating and voting for the awards. New motorcycles or related products, services, events and actions by an individual or organization are eligible for awards in one of several categories. Now YOU can make your voice heard by casting your vote. Log on and vote!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Motorcycle Camping - Life Outdoors

Next to my love of motorcycling is my love of camping.
There is nothing like being out on the open road miles from home and living and sleeping out of a tent. Sometimes it is not easy as the weather will drench you to the bone or send deep shivers of cold as the temperatures dips even further as your road speed increases.
But once you get that fresh air feeling from being out in the elements all day, it is a natural extension to stay in the great outdoors.

One of the drawbacks of motorcycling camping is the amount of gear you have to lug around with you and packing the bike is an art all unto itself. I crossed the continent twice on this 1980 Honda CX500 loaded to the nuts and had everything I needed for a comfortable camping experience.

One of the first things you learn is that all of your gear has to be small but functional, you can't take the big old family tent, rather you must find an adequate pup tent. I made the mistake of buying a too small tent and took it along un-tried and found to my discomfort that my air mattress, sleeping bag, me and my clothes bag did not fit. The secret is not to find the smallest tent but the one that will fold up into a small bundle. A single air mattress fills the bill as it will keep you off the ground and if a rain storm develops through the night and floods your campground and your tent floor you will be high and dry and keep your sleeping bag from soaking up the rain water.

Everyone who bikes and camps does it differently, some eat all there meals in restaurants going to the campground late and just sleeping at their campsite. I like to stop early before all the campgrounds are filled, set up camp at a leisurely pace and cook my own evening meal. After a full day in the saddle this is a pleasure to do and as most bikers will tell you, you will get lots of interruptions as other campers in motorhomes, trailers and cages always like to come over and admire the bikes and chat you up about how envious they are of you for being adventurous enough to hit the open road on a motorcycle.

I also like to have a cup of coffee in the morning as I usually arise early and scan the campground for activity from the luxury campers. There is nothing like being the only one up and awake at that hour of the morning enjoying a cup of brew and a smoke with the sun shining brightly as the early morning haze lifts. Small cooking and eating utensils are easily available and a one burner stove is easy to pack along with a small coffee pot, pot and fry pan. I never feel the need to eat haute-cuisine on the road as time on the road is more important than adding on the calories.

The one thing that I really missed on my camping-biking trips is a chair to sit in when arriving at camp. The only two options available were sitting on the picnic table provided at the site, sitting on the ground, the bike or a stump if firewood is available. After a long hard day in the saddle a chair would be appreciated and I have solved that by finally finding a small camp chair that folds up neatly and is easy to pack on the bike. Sometimes when camping, fire wood is available and of course the fire at night provides all the light and heat one needs to recant the days ride. Getting the wood chopped is no small feat with a hatchet but neighbours are usually more than willing to help you out.

Once in awhile a well equipped campground like a KOA is a must stop to freshen up with a shower, do a little laundry and maybe even use the pool. Such was the case while traversing through Missouri and getting caught in a torrential thunderstorm where we were soaked to the skin in a matter of minutes as we did not get off the interstate in time. So we pulled into a KOA early in the afternoon spread all our gear out in the sun to dry and washed up our laundry.

The season that you ride will determine if you can camp or have to motel it. Late in the season when the days are warm but the nights are cold it makes more sense to motel it while travelling but during the heat of the spring and summer months camping is thoroughly enjoyable.

When you are on the bike and riding the roads through small towns and villages it is as if you have escaped the bounds of reality only choosing to drop in when you need to stop for gas or lodging and then with a twist of the throttle you are out of their reality and back into your own. Even camping is an alternate reality that is not compatible with the residents of the nearby town and by camping you remain on your route with the highway not far from your tent.

Hotels and motels always remain an option on a motorcycle camping trip if the weather turns but if you want the full experience there is nothing like living your whole motorcycle experience out in the bare elements

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Long Lost Rides Gone Forever

During the nasty bonds of winter riders in the great white north can only relive past rides or dream of the rides to come when the weather finally turns and the ice recedes off of the highways.

After a twelve year hiatus I returned to biking with a used Silverwing , not exactly a vintage machine and not exactly an up-to-date precision instrument, but a stable mode of transportation that allows me to feel the freedom biking provides.

With this thought in mind I am thinking back to the rides I had before and are now lost to other lucky riders.

The one that got away, or the one that I casually discarded, that I miss the most and yearn for almost on a daily basis is a 1980 Goldwing Interstate that I had purchased used eons ago with low mileage and mint condition.

The bike as I bought it was a standard issue Goldwing with no options other than an AM/FM radio. But during the short time that I had the bike a riding ritual was to stop at any and all Honda dealers and look over their selections of available do-dads and chrome add-ons and acquire them for the Wing. Even as I crossed the continent in a motor home with family we had to stop and check out the motorcycle dealers. Most of the bling bought for the wing was purchased in Alberta, my home province, but other items like the backrest was purchased in Elkhart, Indiana while cruising through with the motorhome and chrome purchased from Bert's, The Motorcycle Mall in Azusa California by mail order. The trailer was added along the way and proved to be an asset when it came to touring, but sadly I never put the miles on the wing that the bike or I deserved.

In total I added over 50 items of chrome and options to the wing and spent nearly $2,000. in the process, spending wisely and buying items on sale as they became available. I know this because I kept records of the purchases and itemized them as I added them to the glitzier and shinier wing. I still have the list, the catalogues and the fliers from the retailers and most of the receipts from the purchases, what I don't have is the bike itself.

In a fit of rider fatigue and a lack of friends to go riding with as I thought my riding days were over, I offered the bike up for sale through Andre's Motorcycle Accessory Centre in Calgary, Alberta. The bike when I bought it had 2,500 kilometers, and when I sold it I had only added another 27,500 kilometers. Andre sold the bike in due course, I collected my money, and as near as I can remember the bike went to a rider in Okotoks Alberta.

I can only reflect on my stupidity for selling the bike and sometimes while riding in the Calgary area I strain my eyes searching and scanning the bikes that zip by if per chance it is my long lost ride. I know that if I should come upon the bike it will be older and more seasoned as I remember the wing to have been, but I would embrace the chance to see that glorious machine again.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Postcards From the Edge-Going to the Sun Highway

One of the finest motorcycle rides in my neck of the woods is The Going To The Sun Highway in Glacier National Park in Montana.
Recently at a swap meet I was thumbing through some post cards and found this one which seems to be from the 50's or 60's showing the road in all its glory.
I have been through this pass before on my motorcycle and intend to do it again this year, last time I was not interested in taking photos, just cruising through and enjoying the ride.
Next time through I intend to stop and smell the roses, as they say, and take more pictures to record what a marvel this road through Logan Pass is.
If you are interested in taking this ride through a National Park you can enter the pass from the east using US 89 or from the south using US 2, and you will be treated to some of the nicest mountain scenery to be found anywhere. Last time through there was a lot of car and camper traffic but it did not dampen the majesty of the ride as only a fool would try to rip through there on a crotch rocket.