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

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

 

 

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

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

IJMS Conference – 2014 in Colorado

By Gerde Applethwaite

The International Journal of Motorcycle Studies is a group of folk who roll around in the research and the writing centered around things motorcycle [not to be confused with the International Journal of molecular Sciences – they do something on a quite different scale.]  If you go to the IJMS main site you will see all manner of really intriguing papers written by riders, some academics – some not. It is truly great stuff. Its not just for motorcycle journalists, the topics vary widely. I have burned up hours and hours reading really fascinating papers gathered under the IJMS rubric. I recommend it to all y’all.

This year the 2014 IJMS conference is going to be held in the States, in Colorado. If you can carve out the time in mid-July to make it to the conference I will see you there. I will not be presenting a paper (BTW, final submission date is march 1st)  but I will be attending as many panels as I can.

Check it out:

http://ijms.nova.edu/

https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1309315

See you in Colorado Springs,

Gerde Applethwaite

The HJC CL-17: Next Generation of Quality and Comfort

The CL-17 is new to HJC, with significant improvements over its predecessor, the CL-16 design. The CL-17 comes fully equipped with a new ventilating system designed to give riders more aerodynamic capabilities than previous CL models designed. The ventilation system has improved from previous models in that are now four additional vents, including an eyebrow vent which is completely new and provides greater air flow for riders.

While the shell material is familiar, we do see that there have been some changes to the shape of the helmet. HJC describes the shape to a neutral oval fit.  Another new element to the CL-17 is the improvement made to the liner. The liner snaps are now more durable and easier to locate within the helmet. The padding system is still interchangeable, giving riders the option to change out pads for a custom fit.

Customers are very satisfied with the comfortable interior and excellent ventilation this helmet provides. Although this is one of the more affordable helmets available, don’t let the low price fool you. The HJC CL-17 delivers excellent the quality and comfort we’ve come to expect from HJC.

The HJC CL-17 comes in a wide selection of graphics and colors. Riders can choose from six solid colors, or four different graphics in a variety of colors.

HJC CL-17 Mystic

The CL-17 Mystic design comes in two different color options. The graphic on this helmet plays with an optical illusion design featuring lighter color tones to really make it stand out.

 

 

HJC CL-17 Redline

The CL-17 Redline comes in five different colors. The graphics reflect a really cool racing style with an asymmetrical racing strip down the center of the helmet. All of the helmets will have the HJC logo on the back.

 

HJC Victory

 

The CL-17 Victory can be found in three different color options, all very bright and designed with the HJC name running along the side of the helmet into the back. There’s definitely a bold choice in color representation of this helmet.

 

HJC Mission

The CL-17 Mission is a really cool design, especially small details along the helmet. The sudden choice of light grey, red or green to the overall dark grey tones the helmet displays really presents a sleek look for riders.

Bell Qualifier- Hi-Viz Rally in Black and Yellow

 

New to the Bell product line is the Bell Qualifier. Offering comfort and style, the Bell Qualifier takes the safety and durability of a helmet to a new level for riders. Having replaced the Bell Arrow, the Qualifier now features a new shield and ventilating system. The most noticeable change you’ll see to the Qualifier is the oval shaped helmet design, inspired by racer style helmets.  The change in shape provides riders with more aerodynamic capability. Staying true to the quality of Bell products, the Qualifier also comes with the exclusive Bell Click-Release system for a fast and simple way to remove shields. Definitely one of the stronger helmet design to show quality, presentation and safety.

The Bell Qualifier Rally in Hi-Viz Black and Yellow is one of our favorites in the new line of colors and designs to choose from. This style reflects a cool racing strip down the middle of the helmet, showing off detail in the reflective silver and yellow-tech graphics. Displayed in a rubberized style, the color is great for showing a sleek aesthetic of the Bell Qualifier. 

The Hi-viz Conundrum

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: Why wouldn’t you wear hi-viz? After I bought a Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest for a friend as a Christmas present I got to thinking about hi-viz…..again.

I bought the Firstgear Mil. Spec. Hi-viz Vest because it is my favorite amongst our hi-viz vest options. My pal’s gear is pretty much all black and I thought It would be smart to help make him more visible on the road. He thanked me for the present and then made a self-deprecating joke about his reluctance to wear it not because of some sort of fashion choice but because its just too visible. Yeah, we both cracked up. This lead me to wonder about what keeps people from buying hi-viz gear. I see more and more folks kitted out in hi-viz every day especially bicycle riders. Whether on Motorcycle or bicycle I only wear hi-viz these days.

For a mere $60.00 you get an instant upgrade for your lo-viz jacket or suit. For me this is a no-brainer yet there are plenty of folks out there who do not see hi-viz as a viable option. I am sure that moto gear manufacturers take this into account when designing their new gear. How they go about this I do not know. I imagine gnomes in Alpen caves looking into vats of bubbling future-predicting goo to suss the trends for the latest Alpinestars lineup. Who knows? I guess they hire fashion consultants (who may or may not ride) in order to get input into the designs for the latest looks. If you read my stuff at all you know by now that I constantly rant about the cluelessness of gear manufacturers when it comes to both hi-viz and reflective tape use. This seasonal design thing quickly becomes an odd game of cat and mouse though: when does consumer desire tilt the scales for manufacturers and when do the fashion mavens wholly dictate product design? Mostly I suspect it is the latter.

The fashion bonzos are not asking questions like: “What percentage of cage drivers who strike motorcyclists say to investigators “Golly, I just didn’t see him.”  Instead I am convinced they are saying stuff like “if we add the farkle X graphic scheme to this helmet how much can we expect it to bump up our sales in the 18-24 demographic or ”Sure we have to put some reflective stuff on jacket Y but “If we only put a little bit of reflective tape on this jacket we can save an extra .02 cents per unit.”

Another way that might work in the effort to coax manufacturers toward the bright would be to have insurance companies offer riders a discount for wearing hi-viz clothing and helmets. It would certainly be to their advantage but I don’t know how you would enforce it.

I am convinced that unless the push comes from the consumer side my vision of a hi-viz option in every part of a manufacturer’s line is a very long way off. The next time you go shopping for riding gear think for a moment about that half-wit in a cage texting his way down the road – right toward you.

Gerde Applethwaite

Hypothermia: The Chilling Truth

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: T’is the season to feel the brunt of the cold weather on your weary bones. Here’s the quick low-down on Hypothermia.

I have been really cold on several occasions, of note are: once while surfing in Northern California’s 53 degree water while clad in a completely clapped-out rental wet suit, once in Amsterdam on Sint Niklaas Eve while wearing ridiculous shoes as I trudged through the snow on my way to a party (doing my best, quite unintentional, imitation of Hans Christian Anderson’s  The Little Match Girl) and a few times while on the motorcycle – most often while wet from a rainstorm. On all of those occasions I got so cold that I got the shakes and I couldn’t stop them for quite some time and I guess it is important to note that it was all user inflicted. I mean, had I taken the time to dress for the weather and the environment I could have avoided all of it.

Infants and seniors are more vulnerable to Hypothermia as are people with heart conditions and folks who are taking anti-depressants, anti-psychotics or sedatives. My intention here is to give you an overview of Hypothermia and hopefully inspire you to go researching on the intertoobz at your convenience (see the reference note at the bottom of this article.) I cannot give you credible medical advice but I can certainly steer you toward those who can. If you live in a cold climate or plan to spend any time in one you should really get to know the information and advice surrounding Hypothermia. Be advised too that it is possible to suffer from Hypothermia even if you are not resident in what is considered a cold climate. Seniors die in their homes every year because older people’s natural body temperature monitoring senses become less useful to them and they do not realize how cold they are – then the addled brain syndrome, so much a part of Hypothermia, sets in and damage or death follows.

History is littered with folks who have learned the Hypothermia lesson hard way. The most infamous of which is Napoleon Bonaparte who decided to go after the Russians. It didn’t fare well for Napoleon or his 500,000 troops. Various Polar explorers, prepared as they were, learned the hard lessons of Hypothermia as have many climbers and Sherpas on missions to summit Mt. Everest.

Napoleon smashed his way, in mid-1812, toward Russia (can you hear the Tchaikovsky cannons in the background) with the simple mission to convince Alexander the First not to support the Brit’s. by buying British goods through proxies. Seems like a small thing right, but Napoleon brought his half million with him to help with the coaxing. The Russians played an effectively brutal game of cat and mouse with Napoleon that extended the time line and turned out to be increasingly catastrophic for both sides. Bonaparte started out in Spring but the thing dragged out into November and the Russian winter.  Russians were forced by their leaders to flee their cities ahead of Napoleon’s advance and forced as well to leave no food or supplies behind them. By August Napoleon was near Smolensk and after a great deal of back and forth the Russians fled the city but not before destroying supplies that would be useful to Napoleon. This caught Napoleon and his gang by surprise and further diminished his capabilities as his re-supply lines were already under constant threat from raiding Cossacks.  – an army of 500,000 needs its supply lines. Soon one of the key elements in the Russian victory would come into play: Hypothermia. The French troops were not prepared for a Russian winter and tens of thousands died of the cold. By the time it was over Napoleon staggered homeward with just 27,000 fit troops and a cadre of wounded. The painting at the top of this post by Adolph Northen is the most famous of those that depict Napoleon’s ignominious retreat.

For an extraordinary documentary about one tragic attempt to summit Everest you can do no better than to watch the 2008 PBS piece by David Breashears entitled Storm Over Everest. If this documentary doesn’t make you want to go out and buy heated gear before your next cold weather ride then you have ice in your veins.

Hypothermia and Hyperthermia are two different things, they are opposites and some folks confuse one for the other. Hyperthermia is the state of having a fever (which can be caused by disease and/or environmental factors) while Hypothermia is a substantial drop in body temperature and that’s what i’m talking about here. There are 3 stages of Hypothermia (some say 4 stages and add a final stage called Profound Hypothermia): mild, moderate and severe. I will only speak to mild Hypothermia here.

Most of us will only experience mild Hypothermia but mild as it may be it is certainly enough to kill you. In mild Hypothermia your body temperature is in that range from just below your normal temp. down to 96 (some readings say 95) degrees Fahrenheit -  it only has to drop below 96 degrees Fahrenheit before you enter moderate Hypothermia. When you are in the mild zone your ability to use to your hands and feet in a coordinated manner diminishes and you will at some point start to shiver — most importantly your mental faculties are now no longer reliable. If you are out on your bike (adding to the potential complexity of the mix is the fact that its already a challenge to drive in rain or ice or snow) any one of these things can be fatal.

Generally you will be coldest first in your extremities, so hands and feet are the most likely candidates for Hypothermia damage as well as the exposed nose. It takes more effort to circulate the warm blood out to your hands and feet and as you get colder your body tries to keep the core warm in order to keep you alive — you will risk frost nip, then frostbite. You manufacture heat in your muscle tissue and this will include your heart and liver. You lose heat predominantly thorough your skin (90%) and the lungs – the other 10%. I was told some years back that you lose 25% of your body heat through your head – something about all of those capillaries and such in your scalp. It turns out not to be true (except in infants and their heads should always be protected in even moderately chilly weather.)  Adults, you lose the same amount through your head as through the rest of your outer wrapping.

Remember you also lose your ability to think clearly and that starts at level one. When you combine the loss of rationality with the diminishing control of your arms and legs then you are seriously courting a crash.  When I got cold on the bike I would often go in somewhere and get a cup of hot coffee. Coffee and alcohol dilate your blood vessels and send the instant sensation of warmth back to your hands and feet at the expense of your core. For a while you feel good again. The core sacrifices warm blood to warm the limbs through now dilated vessels and the body’s core thereby loses its ability to maintain its equilibrium. The new blood in your limbs is now re-chilled when you are re-exposed to the weather making you feel even colder than before you had the coffee or the alcohol. The stress of a body core now colder than it was before can lead to heart failure or stroke. The limbs cannot be rewarmed until the core can be maintained at a warm temperature. Let’s say you are not the one who has suffered from mild Hypothermia but its your pal Stan (I hope, for the sake of this example, that you do not actually have a pal named Stan but if so please accept my humble commiserations.) You rush over to Stan and you take charge. You immediately start to warm up his cold hands and feet – makes sense, right? Within minutes blood rushes back to his extremities, Stan develops an Arrhythmia that turns into a heart attack and before your eyes Stan dies. When the warming process begins it should start at the core. Did you know this? I did not. My first move would have been to warm up the cold hands and feet. There is much to learn. Please read the outside informational sources and do the homework – someone’s life could depend upon your knowledge and skill. Forewarned is forearmed.

I knew a guy with a great rat bike who took two of those gallon and a quarter semi-rectangular vegetable oil plastic jugs, cut them out and glued on foam yoga mat type material. He slid them over his handlebars and bent some bronze TIG wire into shape on the inside to keep the wind from pushing the jugs against his clutch and brake levers. Some pop rivets and some bending and voila – hand protection for next to no money. It worked a treat and was of course completely within the decorative theme of the bike. There is a company called Hippo-hands that make a nice looking professional version of the same idea. I think they are slowly phasing out the business now and although they still have merchandise for sale the inventory is thinning out. I have a pair of something similar but smaller that I use on both bikes: they have a sort of faux-fur lining inside. I forget who makes them. I have had them going on twenty years now and I still get cold on some rides. No electrics for me as yet and I don’t know why. I am really ready for heated gloves at a minimum. It is also time for me to start looking into heated body gear.  On a ride I will get really chilled and then swear to buy some heated gear right away and then somehow never get around to it. I think this may be the year.

We have a pretty decent selection of heated gear and their accompanying controllers. Take a look. Expose as little of your body to the wind as possible. Wear a Balaclava or a necklacava. – we have those too. We also have great winter gloves. Make sure you are prepared before you set out on your next cold weather ride. Your choice of clothing is important. Synthetics and wool fabrics will hold their heat better when wet than will cotton. You can still perspire underneath all of those layers of clothing even on a cold day. If you wear clothing that wicks out the moisture away from your skin then you will have less heat transference from your body into your clothing. Polypropylene and polyester fabrics are moisture wicking.

Note: I used 4 sources for the medical information contained herein: The Mayo Clinic website, The NIH website, The Princeton University website and Wikipedia. I recommend you go to all of them in order to get more detail than my cursory overview provides. You will find treatment and diagnosis advice and you will also find notes on prevention.

Of course, if you have any questions about our heated gear, gloves or ancillary clothing do not hesitate to give us a call. I wish you all good riding in 2014.

Gerde Applethwaite

The Not So Helmet, Helmet

There’s a new voice in the ongoing debate between helmet advocates and freedom lovers: Wear a helmet that isn’t really there. We’re not sure we should even call it a “helmet” but for now we’ll use that word to describe this new twist on head protection.

The simplicity of the Swedish bike helmet design is brilliant. Prompted by a skeptic who said the helmet “would have to be invisible for me to actually want to wear it,” two Swedish women created a helmet that is actually a collar that is worn around the neck. When it senses “abnormal” movement, it inflates with helium and stays inflated for several seconds.

Although the Hövding is currently only approved for bicycle use, the implementations and future applications seem very promising. The pair has already won the “Epilepsy Innovation Seal of Excellence” by providing a new solution for people who suffer from seizures.

What role might this helmet play in motorcycling? The Hövding (which means leader or role model) claims to have 3 times the shock absorbancy of a traditional helmet and is able to take multiple hits in a single accident. We’ll have to wait and see if these strengths stand up to strict motorcycle helmet safety testing for ratings like ECE and Snell.

Some criticisms include the fact that it’s single use only. The obvious response is that every helmet needs to be replaced after an accident.

At $540, it is expensive for something you don’t even see. But that’s the point! For riders concerned about looking uncool as they walk into a bar or restaurant after a fast paced ride, the freedom of letting your hair blow in the wind without receiving criticism from helmet law advocates is going to cost you!

So what do you think? Does this look like something you could see yourself wearing at 60MPH or does your full face helmet have your unwavering loyalty?

Join the discussion on Google+: http://bit.ly/18ZZ0Bo