THE MAD COW ON TOUR

By Gerde Applethwaite

I stepped out of my front door and did an immediate double take … and then another. Not forty feet away, across the street was something that was part Ghost Rider, part Jurassic Park and part Ray Harryhausen. It was quite simply the skeleton of a cow draped over a motorcycle. I had every sense that this was real because my hallucinations just don’t run this way.  I had spied Billie G. Lynn’s extraordinary “Mad Cow Motorcycle Project.”

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Billie is a sculptor on a summer tour with this project. To date she has made her way from Florida to the West Coast to eventually loop back home. She draws a crowd whenever she stops – whether she is astride the cow skeleton creation or when it is trailered behind her truck. The massive skull of the cow sits out front where the headlight nacelle would be and serves as something of a maidenhead on the scariest pirate ship ever – or maybe another decorative fillip on one of the Reever ships from Firefly (bet that takes you back, huh?) The skull is the first thing to breach the wind as the Mad Cow comes up on you – small headlights to its left and right. Yes, its eery and weird and nearly impossible to take your eyes from: It must be doubly spooky at night. The pictures on Billie’s website do not do it justice. <madcowcycles.com> Go to her Facebook page and follow the adventure and the documentary in the making <https://www.facebook.com/MadCowCycles>

Billie is sprightly, bright-eyed and clever. Two minutes with her and you understand the mission of the summer tour and the reason for the Mad Cow Motorcycle. She revels in telling one and all what she’s up to.  Billie is (as am I) a vegan and the project is designed to inform as many people as possible of the dangers of eating meat both for their personal health and for that of the planet. Take a look at the info on her site and follow some of the links. It is eye opening stuff…. ohh, and some links will take you to excellent vegan recipes.  At its core is her attempt to “spread the word about factory farming and encourage people across the country to eat less meat.” Worthy goals as far as I am concerned and if it takes the nightmare vision of a ghost cow made of bone and steel to get your attention then so be it.

The bike itself was fabbed from the ground up (pictures on the site) with an assist from a friend named Sam Coleman.  At it’s heart is an 18 horsepower Kubota diesel engine. The engine runs on vegie oil diesel fuel that she has the ability to process on the road. This effectively means that the only reason she has to stop at a burger joint is to get some fuel for the Mad Cow. It also means that her smog output from the tail pipe is substantially reduced. The engine outputs directly to a right angle gearbox with a wide belt drive sprocket on it. The belt then loops over to a transmission and finally a chain from the trany to the rear wheel. The rear tire is a modern, low, fat tire; the front is guided by an old school leading-link springer fork setup reminiscent of the best of choppers. The taillight looks to be a bullet type off of an old big fin caddy from the fifties flanked by two very small LED turn signals.

I won’t go into detail about the cow skeleton – just look at the pictures – it beggars description. If you see Billie while she is out on her adventure give her a big howdy – go up and say hello. She is completely friendly and approachable – only the bike is scary. Meanwhile give the Facebook page a look see.

Gerde

Adventure is in the Air

We’re here to tell you about the latest and greatest that Klim has to offer. Taking a note from the Adventure Rally Jacket, Klim has gone to the next level to bring the new and improved Adventure Rally Air Jacket. Now more adaptable, breathable and indestructible than before; the Adventure Rally Air Jacket is designed for all weather conditions in any season. Most notably, it is built to withstand the heat making it more than suitable for hot riding conditions all over the world. Let’s take a look at the construction that gives way to its functionality.

  • heavy duty Kevlar mesh with Superfabric overlays gives ultra ventilation and ultra tear and abrasion resistance
  • adjustable internal harness disburses weight evenly and reduces overall heat
  • shoulder, elbow and back padding is bomb proof and absorbs impact energy
  • D30 Xergo shoulder and elbow pads offer protection across extreme temperature whilst remaining flexible and breathable
  • D30 Viper Pro back pad is the ultimate D30 back protector with breathable and flexible Airwave Technology
  • ample cargo space includes a hydration compartment with a 3L bladder, a side hip compartment with easy access while riding and a lower back compartment.

 

 

With all the spectacular features that the Adventure Rally Air Jacket boasts, there’s one more that is worth mentioning. While this jacket is optimal in very hot weather conditions, it is adaptable to colder temperatures or evening riding simply by throwing on the Klim Gore-Tex Over-Shell Jacket. Despite the name, the Over-Shell Jacket is small, compact and portable enough for daily storage. The Gore-Tex construction is a three layer fabric that creates a water and wind-proof barrier backed by a GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY waterproof and breathable layer. There is also various reflective panels for increased night time visibility.

Klim continues to set the bar with both the Adventure Rally Air and the Gore-Tex Over-Shell Jackets. The Adventure Rally Air alone is a superb jacket, but with the Gore-Tex Over-Shell it is a truly superior jacket for all riders in all conditions.

Two Dummies and An Innocent Passenger

BigGuy82

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On a recent trip to Hawaii, I rented a Harley Ultra for my wife and I to tour Oahu on.  Not a bad ride, but certainly not as maneuverable as my Triumph Thunderbird 1600 ABS.  During my ride, I wanted to visit the Punchbowl National Cemetery so off we went.  Enjoying the ride, I missed the turn and found myself going up a very challenging road (at least for a Harley) on a major hill named Tantalus.  It wasn’t too long before I was negotiating the hairpins on a large Harley with a passenger and since I was already well into this, I decided to push on rather than turn the monster around on a narrow winding road.  All seemed to be going quite well.

Well into the journey, I came upon a left hand hairpin curve.  To the right, there was a car pulled over against the guardrail … the driver was sightseeing at a non-sightseeing curve.  Between the edge of the road and the guardrail, there was a 2 -3 foot strip of grass.  I slowed and as I approached, the dummy in the car put it in reverse then threw it into drive and pulled out in front of me.  Not able to go into a blind left hand hairpin curve, I opted for the right.  I narrowly missed the ass end of his car but was headed towards the edge of the pavement.  The big Harley barely caught the edge, slipped off and tipped, jamming itself between the roadway and the guardrail.  We both hit the pavement, but I was moving so slowly at that point (under 5 mph), there was no road rash at all.  Unfortunately, my wife’s left leg took the brunt of the weight and she ended up with a torn ACL.  The bike only suffered minor scratches on the left saddlebag.

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A minute later, the guy who pulled out in front of me must have seen us lying in the road and he stopped and backed up.  His first question was “Are you alright?”.  His first statement was “I didn’t see you”, which is just another way of saying “I wasn’t looking”.  Stupid, dumb cager!  Of course, there was another dummy involved in this preventable accident … me.

Here are the things that I could have done to avoid this, proving that a lot of experience does not always translate into ongoing common sense:

 

  • On a new bike (to me) I should not have been on such a challenging road.  I should have paid attention to where I was, not missed my turn and therefore avoided Tantalus all together.
  • Once on the road, I did the right thing and took my time, so I wasn’t trying to emulate riding The Dragon one up on a crotch rocket.  However, when I saw the driver who was illegally pulled to the side of the road put his car in reverse, I should not have slowed … I should have stopped.
  • Finally, as I played this back in my mind (over and over), I realize that as soon as I knew I was headed towards the rail, I FOCUSED ON WHERE THE BIKE WAS GOING, NOT WHERE I WANTED IT TO GO.  This is so basic and I have been doing it correctly for years.  However, in a tight situation, your brain has a mind of it’s own (get it?) and unless you fight it, it will take over.

So, the moral of this story … no matter how experienced you are and no matter how good you think you are, you really do need to practice the basics from time to time.  In this case, I have been really focusing on looking where I want to go, even though this is normally an automatic reflex.  I am, in a way, reinforcing the “muscle memory” in my admittedly weak brain.  At the end of the day, we were very lucky and the silver lining is that this will make me an even better rider.

PS – another silver lining here … I was so depressed about this accident, I had to go out and buy a new 2014 Gold Wing :)

BigGuy82

NOT MY THING

By Gerde Applethwaite

gold-spray-paintWhen I was a kid my dad had this thing with gold spray paint.  His version of a clean tidy look for many of his tools and most of his garden equipment involved a drill with a wire brush attached and some sort of degreasing agent – all of it topped off with his can of gold spray paint. We had a gold lawnmower or two, gold shovels, gold hedge trimmers, a gold sledge hammer (just the weighty end) and on. On a warm Saturday, late morning, we would often smell throughout the house the second pot of coffee on the brew followed sometime not long after by the distinct noise of the spray can rattle – then the coffee aroma would be overwhelmed by the spray paint. I didn’t inherit his penchant for spraying everything up. My shovels are all a bit rusty on the blade ends and his looked like he had just come back in from a groundbreaking ceremony.  Not my thing.

Choppers and bobbers are not my thing. Scooters are also not my thing. I will support your right to ride a bobber until they pry the angled digital tire gauge out of my cold dead hands. Bobbers look comfy to me and I respect that – comfy works for me. Choppers simultaneously shout “hey, look at me” and “hey, what are you lookin’ at?”  The thing that I respect about choppers though is the amount of real fabrication craft on display with most of them. Scooters just scare me – those small wheels. I lean in another direction.

One of my favorite bikes is a custom made machine by O.Ray Courtney using a 1930 Henderson as a base. It is a jaw dropper of art deco excess and I saw it on Bikeexif a while back. What an incredible piece of sheet metal sculpture. I also like the looks of an old Parilla 250cc race bike for pretty much the opposite reasons; it is spare, cut down and devoted to nothing other than the race. The stuff, any of the stuff, cranked out by Germany’s Kaffeemaschine is fine by me. They specialize in, among other things, turning Tonti-frame Moto Guzzi’s into exquisite cafe bikes. Some will disagree. The thought of turning any Guzzi into a cafe bike sends them into paroxysms of spew.  To each their own.

On the West coast fabricators and the mechanically inclined have been puttering away in their garages all year long but in the East and Mid-West they have recently dug out of a cold tinker-inhibiting winter.  It’s time to get out the box of sockets, the angle grinder and the (god help us) can of gold spray paint to start modding out your ride. I like sitting out at a picnic table with blank paper and a sharpened pencil to hand, a cold IPA within reach and good company to tell me what they think I should be doing to the bike instead of whatever it is I have just sketched out. Good times.

Watch out for bloody knuckles. Do not reach for the spray can until you have found your dust mask, make sure your bike is properly propped up and most of all have a good time.

Gerde

 

 

Icon Airmada Chantilly

Icon does it again with the Airmada Chantilly helmet! The new graphic helmet features an impressive blend of chantilly lace, plaid and Día de Muertos-esque skulls in either Black Rubatone or Gloss White. The intricate artwork has many worldly influences, one of them being from Chantilly, France. As the name implies, chantilly lace originated from Chantilly in the 17th century; hailed for its fine ground pattern and sophisticated detail.

Icon also takes a page from Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday in adding skulls to the mix.

With a helmet this elegant yet tough, it’s no wonder that it’s in high demand to both male and female riders.

Wherever your head’s at, we’ve got it covered.

-Helmet City

SPRING BE SPRUNG

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Buy the gear, scooter people.

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In my neck of the woods the riding season really never ends but the warm weather has just now come on with a vengeance. The streets are filled with bicyclists, motorcyclists of all stripes and of course scooter people. Birds are chirping and squidly guys with yoshimuras are sending out their mating calls. Its time for me to do my yearly get-your-bike-ready post but before that a post with my obligatory quasi-rant about the under-clothed.

Not so long ago there was a guy in my neighborhood who rode a beat up old ninja. He sported tank top t-shirts  and a chrome beanie helmet. His major claims to fame were not his wardrobe choices but the fact he couldn’t seem to go for too many blocks before he popped a wheelie. He got quite good at it. He would go for blocks and run through lights. He isn’t around anymore. I don’t know where he is but my first guess involves a prone trip to the hospital.

Glaringly obvious to me as I wander our local highways and bi-ways are the number of scooter riders who are wearing no other safety gear than the mandated helmet. The scooter people by and large do not get it.  The vast majority of powered 2 wheel accidents occur at an overall average of 35 miles per hour. You are more likely to experience an unwitting and unwilling mating with someone else’s sheet metal if you are riding on the urban/suburban streets.

A scooter’s smaller wheels make them more skittish on the road than your average motorcycle.  Add to this the fact that idiots are still going to text their way into your scooter with their 4,000 pounds of steel – this trend shows no signs of diminishing. If you are out sooterating in your sandals and t-shirt and shorts you are just asking for it. It is at this point that I would inject my usual rant about the gear but I will forgo it for now because I bore myself with it at this point. Those of you who are out there riding free likely have more than a vague idea of the hazards. So, let’s just assume for a moment that I just gave you 5 or 6 well reasoned arguments to invest a little money in a jacket, gloves, pants and boots.

We have a nice assortment of these things and heck you’re here anyway – take a look

Gerde

SPRING THING

By Gerde Applethwaite

There are ritually repeated memes in moto blog posts; there are oil threads and there are tire posts and there are others of the same ilk that seem to keep the moto blogosphere arguing with itself about the proper course of action. They are well known enough that they are usually qualified with some eye rolling and apologies before the original poster commences. In a minor constellation there is the thread about whether or not to wash your bike. Welcome to this year’s celebration of Spring. Herein I will lean into the wind and signify next to nothing. Let’s commence.

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I come down somewhere in the middle of the great unwashed thread. The anti-washites state that you are likely to contaminate your oil system by forcing your soapy water onto and into your bike’s parts. They also mention the likelihood of tweaking something in your electrics. Good points. The washists will tell you that dirt on your motor inhibits your engine from radiating out heat and adds to ongoing corrosion – oh, and it makes your bike look like crap. I agree that you should never take your bike to the wand car wash. The pressure is too great and you are likely to mess something up. Sure, take your dirt bike there and get the grunge off of the wheels and the frame of the bike but spray carefully when you get around the wheel bearings, the engine and the electrics. I use the common garden hose and a bucket of soapy water. I have never had a problem with this method but I am careful.

California is in the midst of a drought so there is yet another reason not to wash your bike at all. I think my compromise on this is going to be to ride out to a friend’s place in the near burbs, park the bike in the middle of their lawn and wash the thing with a green soap that the lawn will not dislike.

I have a project bike with a sad seat. It is in need of a reupholster but for this season I think I just want to get it back on the road and I will deal with the cosmetics bit by bit in the latter part of the season. My seat is not at the point where the foam beneath is being shredded but the vinyl is torn in places. Sewing up the seat while the seat cover remains on the bike is beyond my skill set. I have heard that they make a vinyl, adhesive backed, repair tape. I think that might be the ticket for right now.

I don’t mess around with tires. I mean, I don’t push it. When the tires are starting to go I put on new set. When I was a young, stupid and impoverished student I ran the tires on my CL77 down to the threads and lived to tell the tale but I am no longer young and (arguably) less stupid.  I don’t want to drop a lot of money into tires on the project bike and I have been told by other CB350 cultists that there is an inexpensive Shinko tire getting surprisingly good reviews. It will give me piece of mind to get these old tires off the Honda.

Wheel bearings and steering head bearings are a lot cheaper if you go to a bearing shop rather than the dealer for your parts. Some of the bearing shops will not sell you anything if you tell them the parts are for a motorcycle. Why? Dunno – maybe its a fear of being embroiled in some sort of litigation if you put them on incorrectly and then get into an accident. My steering head bearing is notchy – has to go.

I am going with a heated gear setup on the touring bike this fall and I am not sure that my alternator is sparky enough to keep up. This has led me to investigate LED headlights and taillights. The market is growing every month and an upgrade to LED’s is in my future. Check your state’s rules before you spring for an LED headlamp as some do not yet allow it.

I have just adapted my first aid kit to fit under the seat of the CB350. There is much less room  there than in the Flying Brick so I had to divide it up into two segments. I was still able to get it all under the seat.

Springtime is the official beginning of bike tinkering season.  I live for this time of year. Get on out there.

Gerde

 

Turtley Awesome Rossi

Before Marc Marquez, there was Valentino Rossi. Dubbed the “The Doctor,” Rossi is a professional motorcycle racer known for his multiple MotoGP World Championships. An Italian native, Rossi’s love for racing started a young age with kart racing and continued to grow as he did.

In honor of Rossi’s legacy, AVG has dedicated the Corsa Turtle Rossi Replica Helmet. The helmet is a colorful attraction featuring a turtle with big bright blue eyes. Rossi considers the animal to be very significant as he’s said the turtle was a mascot from his youth. It all started when his mother got him a stuffed turtle toy that he would then attach to his helmet while racing. Despite their size and speeds, turtles have come out on top though the popular saying “slow and steady wins the race.” Much like our nine time Grand Prix World Champ – Valentino Rossi.

Wherever your head’s at, we’ve got it covered.

-Helmet City

Helmet Designs for Tomorrow – Today

By Gerde Applethwaite

Bell recently announced that they are designing a helmet with an EPS liner that can be custom shaped to your individual head. I do not know whether or not this will be more comfortable on a long ride but intuitively I would think so. It also seems that in the event of a crash it would distribute and cushion the impact across your head better than a traditional unit. This got me to thinking about the future of helmet design and what we might have in store.

I like the idea of a custom molded helmet liner but more than that I would like to have an off the shelf helmet with a D3O or Sastech liner. The molecular armor would be more effective than the ubiquitous EPS foam in helping insulate your head bone against the shock of an impact, albeit a bit more expensive. D3O makes a helmet liner but I have never seen one in a helmet.

Reebok is making a small electronic device called the Checklight that installs into football helmets. It determines the shock force of an impact and reads it out. That’s clever. The notion of having some more objective way to evaluate the extent of an impact after your crash might be useful to the folks in the ER and it also might give you pause to think before you jumped back on your bike after what you thought was a small get-off.

Fighter jet style heads-up displays are already being designed for motorcycle helmet use. They are an interesting idea but they are not for me. I don’t want anything in my visual plain that will in any way distract me from scanning the road although I would consider one that displayed a visual warning if, say, the oil pressure dropped suddenly or the water temperature rose suddenly on my bike.

Photochromic face shields are available on some new Bell and Shoei helmets and I intend to test them out sometime this Summer. I like the idea of a shield that will change its shade in response to the light but I don’t believe that the current photochromic shields are polarized. I would like to see the polarized shields become more available across product lines.

The state of helmet communications systems improves with every season. Not that long ago they were scratchy and sounded like a bad walkie talkie but today the sound is markedly better and you can also hook up your phone and music devices. Things will rapidly change and become more even more innovative with these systems – and quickly at that.

Helmet shell plastics technology only gets better with every passing season.  Carbon fiber and Kevlar are still only available in the more expensive offerings but as the manufacturing techniques develop further we will see carbon and Kevlar migrating into lower priced helmets. New types of helmet shell materials are right around the corner and these new materials make my first helmet seem like a real antique bucket.

If you have an older helmet I recommend that you take a look at some of the newer helmet designs – whether it be comm. systems, drop down inner shields or pinlock setups the future is now… or at least soon.

Gerde Applethwaite

New Gear Learning Curve

By Gerde Applethwaite

honda_classic2_CB125A neighbor on my block just bought a bike. Its his first bike and he chose well. The vintage Honda 125 will be perfect to allow him to build riding skills without worrying about the weight of a full-sized machine.  He goes to college and his rides will be a combination of commutes to school, trips to the store, to see friends and also rides in the hills. Rides to the gas station will be few and far between which is smart considering his student budget.

Here in California you have to wear a helmet so he popped for a flat black open face unit because he likes the retro look of the open face. He is talking about cafeing out the bike and the helmet will be part of the look. At some point down the road he wants to swap in a bolt-on cafe racer seat kit. Its going to cost him a bit over $200.

He rides in a denim jacket, jeans and street shoes. I have forgotten what he is using for gloves but if I recall when I last saw him ride off he wasn’t wearing any.  He was stoked about getting some retro goggles to help complete the whole cafe look.

He is a new rider and he is young. He doesn’t want to think about riding gear, he wants to think about the paint scheme for his cafe racer seat.  He is going to have to make a choice. Does he go for the cafe seat kit or does he delay that and go for a jacket and some riding boots? You know where I stand. One crash and he could be out not only the bike but the balance of a semester. The gear makes all the difference.

We have jackets, gloves and boots that will not break the bank and they will go a long way toward helping to keep you out of a cast. As you get more experience (and a bit more cash) you will want to upgrade your gear — get some armored riding pants that zip to your jacket or step up to a different jacket with, say, molecular armor. If you are a new rider you owe it yourself when you are out zipping around to talk to the other riders that you meet about the gear they ride with and why they chose it.

Gerde Applethwaite