I never got a chance to ride a Buell

I’m a big fan of V-twin motorcycle engines. Owned a version of just about every configuration of motorcycle engine one time or another. The only exception is a BMW with the opposed two cylinders. My legs are too short to ride their motorcycles; always needed a step stool to just to get on one. Not that I’m really that short. It’s just my legs are not that long. I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m some type of mutant. The fact is I won’t make living playing basketball.

Currently three of the four motorcycles that I own are the V-twin engine configurations. The other motorcycle I own has an opposed 6-cylinder engine.

I like motorcycles that have a lot technology in them. I’m not interested in riding motorcycle with a lawnmower engine and gearbox. Been there done that (see my blog about that subject). Although, I’ve always been intrigued by Buell motorcycles. I think the idea of the complete disconnect from the other manufacturer trends appealed to me. Not the new ones with the Rotex engine, but older ones with the air-cooled V-twins.

The Rotex engine was a last ditch effort to inject technology into the Buell motorcycle company. Trying to make it something is wasn’t. Competing with the other manufacturers in very competitive market segment was truly insane. I wonder what they were smoking at the Buell motorcycle company to get that idea. I think it was the same stuff guys at Honda were smoking when they created the DN-01.

There was never much cutting edge technology used to make these motorcycles more competitive in the market place. Compaired to what the other manufacturers were doing. But the creativity that went into these motorcycles is what made them stand out to me.

An air-cooled engine will not make the same HP as a water cooled one. So what did Buell do? He used the swing arm as an oil cooler. Trying to remove as much heat as possible from the air-cooled engine. Also, he had a small fan to blow air on the rear cylinder to help keep it cool. Putting the fuel in the frame allowed him to put the exhaust under the engine. This lowered the center mass point helping the motorcycle to corner better. He worked with what he had and tried to make things workout the best he could.

I see the Buell motorcycle as piece of artwork. A painting that has been intertwined in the American landscape by Eric Buell. A motorcycle “Mona Lisa” if you will let me make that comparison. Really, you don’t have a choice, I’m writing this. A part of motorcycling history that will be forgotten one day. When you have chance you should look up Eric Buell on the Internet and read about him. Not now, you need to finish this blog first.

I realize that Harley-Davidson is trying to survive in these tough economic times. Sadly, cutting Buell was one of the ways to help streamline their operation. But long term they’ve made a mistake by removing some creativity from their business model.

Wear your helmet, we don’t want you to damage the streets!

1,000 Miles on the Vmax

Well, I have just over 1,000 miles on my Yamaha 2010 Vmax. During the first 600 miles I treated it like a baby staying under 4,000 RPMs on all of my rides. The break-in period for a motorcycle engine is very important for the longevity of that engine. So even though it was tempting to light up the rear tire and see how fast I could leave a stop light, I didn’t. Motorcycles tires are not cheap to replace. Replacing the tires on my Honda VTX 1800 cost me about $550. So watching someone trying to burn up their tires is fascinating to me. I guess they see smoke flying off the tires, I see money.

Been thinking about buy a Yamaha Vmax for about 10 years. But the older generations Vmaxs had several problems that bothered me. First off, no fuel injection, it had carburetors just like on your lawnmower or gas-powered weed whacker. Why is Yamaha manufacturing a performance motorcycle without fuel injection? Brakes, I’m all about ABS brakes. They will save your life in the event you need to brake hard. Some people will tell you that it’s not worth the money to get them. Well, they’re wrong! Checkout motorcycle accident data. It will tell you something different. The frame would flex when you went into a turn giving you that carnival ride experience. You know the experience, the sliding from side to side of a rollercoaster on the track. Didn’t want any of that noise, that’s for sure. This motorcycle was completely redesigned, no parts from the older version, not a one. This was a big commitment from a manufacturer to completely redesign a motorcycle. A lot of motorcycle manufacturers don’t put this kind of effort into one of their products like Yamaha did. So I was very much looking forward to the outcome.

When I first saw the new Yamaha Vmax at the motorcycle show in Chicago in 2009, I thought to my self , “Damn, that thing is big.” Pretty weird because I’ve been riding Goldwings for last 24 years. Sat on the motorcycle at the show and thought, “Man is this thing going fit in our garage? Might have to punch out the back of the garage to get it to fit.” I was about ready to call my wife and have her measure the garage, to make sure it would fit. Somehow this motorcycle distorted spatial relations for me.

Didn’t buy one during its first year of production want to make sure all of the problems are worked out first. Also, I already have a black motorcycle and hoped they would come out with different color. They did come out with a different color, red. Okay red it is, I guess, no other choices anyhow. The last hurdle was the insurance rate. Well a big surprise here, it was cheaper than the insurance on my Goldwing. Okay time to write the check, 20,400 dollars with extended warranty and out the door. Ouch! The first condo I lived in cost me 34,000 dollars. But you can’t ride a condo or tune a fish.

I can’t think of anything negative to say about the motorcycle. The engine gets hot, but I saw that coming. It has a big engine that’s generating a lot of power, so it’s going to get hot. Handling of the motorcycle surpassed all of my expectations. Cornering this motorcycle is a dream. It sticks to line without floating around so you’re not correcting it during a turn. It stops on a dime and it has some big brakes. The engine is very manageable at low RPMs. It requires premium fuel. Saw that coming too. Goes through fuel like water goes through a screen door on a submarine. Didn’t see that coming.

Okay, there is only one problem and it’s me. That’s right it’s me. My behavior changes when I’m riding my Vmax. Going fast seems to be the overriding theme. Fear of damaging my body fades away with every gear change. I think it was best said by Hunter S. Thompson “Faster, Faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

Wear your helmet!

Throttle Therapy

I was checking the tweets on my Twitter stream @coolcycledude and came across the phrase “Throttle Therapy.” This phase came from @MissBusa, it was her idea. And after thinking about this, it is really a defining term that describes why I ride a motorcycle. I know in the first blog I wrote about that I like the way motorcycles smell. Reading that blog will probably enhance your life. Or you might want stop reading this and turn on the TV.

I know this has been said thousands of times that riding a motorcycle is a relaxing experience. For me riding a motorcycle is not relaxing, it’s an intense experience. This doesn’t mean that I’m driving on the sidewalk at 100 mph or doing a wheelie down the middle of road. Nor would I stand on the gas tank while riding a motorcycle waving my arms, or riding it on the back wheel while siting on handlebars. Some people like doing this and that’s fine for them, but not for me. Sometimes when I see someone doing something dangerous on a motorcycle, natural selection comes to mind.

So back to the term “Throttle Therapy.” Riding a motorcycle increases my sense of well-being by focusing on a specific task at hand. My body and mind are very busy operating the motorcycle. Just about everything else fades away from my thoughts when I’m riding. All of the voices in my mind or the things that have plagued me throughout my life disappear. We all have these voices or thoughts that reduce our mental well-being. I don’t care how well you are adjusted, your mental well-being could be improved. Unless you’re really mentally well adjusted, say like Buddha, then I guess you are enlightened and shouldn’t be reading this.

But I’m going to guess that Buddha would have worn his helmet when he rode his motorcycle. Thank you for reading my blog.

Aggressive Vehicles?

I’m currently reading the Proficient Motorcycling book. After four decades of riding a motorcycle, I thought it was about time to read this book. I might learn something, which would be a good thing. It seems like a pretty good book, color pictures, tables and a CD. What more could you want? On Amazon.com 244 people have written comments about the book, which is pretty good. Considering it’s not on Oprah’s booklist that’s really a lot of feedback.

No sense in starting from the beginning, so I jumped right into a certain section and started reading. Everything was going along just fine until I read the buzzword “Aggressive Vehicles.” Okay, maybe I need to go back and reread that section again. Could it have been that I read it wrong, maybe it said aggressive drivers? Maybe our new dog Bailey distracted me while I was reading the section. He runs around the house like he’s high on speed or something. No, I didn’t misread the section, it said “Aggressive Vehicles.”

Okay, go along with program, new term to learn, “Aggressive Vehicles.” As I read the section, I learned that when a larger vehicle hits a smaller vehicle, the small vehicle takes most of the damage. Good thing I read that because I would never figure that out.

There’s even a table with a list of aggressive vehicles on it. This list came from NHTSA that collected the data. So someone didn’t just make up this list. The most aggressive vehicle according to the table is a Dodge B series van. When I see Dodge B series van I’m going to get the hell out of the way.

The section goes on to talk about when a motorcycle hits an automobile, the motorcycle driver flies over the automobile and hits the ground. When a motorcycle driver hits an aggressive vehicle, he or she will do a body slam into the side of that vehicle. I think all of these things any motorcycle rider can understand.

Riding a motorcycle is a risk-taking event. You can take classes on motorcycle safety, read books and wear safety gear. Every time you get on a motorcycle,  you’re taking a risk. That’s a fact. So when someone gives a vehicle a rating of “Aggressive” that’s stupid talk to me.

I would want to know why motorcycles are involved in accidents with these vehicles at a higher percentage than other vehicles. Maybe they’re design flaws in these vehicles that create blind spots for the driver. Who knows?

Why we need to go fast.

The earth rotates on its axis at about 1000 miles per hour. The earth also files around the sun about 67,000 miles per hour. Our solar system moves through the Milky Way galaxy at about 492,126 miles per hour. Do you see pattern here? Do you get the idea? We’re all on the move.

You have been moving since you were conceived, it’s not your fault. It’s in your DNA. The construction or design of your DNA surely was influenced from all of this motion. So I guess it’s only natural that we have created things that make us go faster. You have been told that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, but that’s not going to keep us from trying.

My favorite thing to go fast on is my 2010 Yamaha Vmax. When I turn the throttle enough– the keyword here is enough; notice I didn’t say all the way, just enough– I go into the “Oh shit” mode. Not the “Really fun” mode or this is “Really cool” mode. No, it’s right to the “Oh shit” mode. The “Oh shit” mode is whole different place. What exactly is the “Oh shit” mode? Well, let’s use this analogy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfs8cxkPZFE]

Let’s suppose you like skydiving. You jump out of the airplane and after certain time period you reach down to pull the rip-cord. But in your haste to jump out of the airplane, you forgot to put on a parachute. Yep, there it is, the “Oh shit” mode.

As I get older, I thought that my need for speed would decrease, but it didn’t for some reason. Maybe “this a bad idea” neuron didn’t fire in my brain yet. It could be that the connection is disconnected during acceleration or it was blocked by “this is fun” neuron.

It seems that going fast in a car is not the same as going fast on a motorcycle. There’s a lot more feedback when you travel fast on a motorcycle. This is what going fast is all about, feedback from acceleration.

So the next time you get pulled over for doing 100 miles per hour in a 40 miles per hour speed zone, just tell the officer that it’s in your DNA. Also remind him that you were really going 492,126,100 miles per hour. See how that goes.

Why I Ride a Motorcycle

This is going sound pretty weird. But I like the way Aprilia Touno smells when I’m riding it and when I park it after it has been running.

At this point your thinking, “What the hell is an ‘Aprilia Touno?'” The short answer is an old people crotch rocket. Let me rephrase that, it’s an older person crotch rocket. No bending over to reach the handlebars. I’m an older person and I’m too old for the bending over part. You people currently riding a crotch rocket are probably laughing and thinking “Dude, why don’t you ride around in a wheelchair, dude.” One day you will get “older” and then you”ll understand; that I know for a fact! Crotch rocket riders are a lot like surfers, they start and end a sentence with “Dude.” Your next thought is, “Why am I reading a story about someone who smells motorcycles?” One good answer is, you probably need more things to do in your life. Okay let’s move on!

I have inserted a picture and video of my Aprilia Touno motorcycle in this post since a picture is worth a 1000 words. (Where did this phrase come from? Is there scientific data to support it?) Aprilia up and running video

My Aprilia

It’s just not one particular smell, but a whole array of smells. It reminds me of my first minibike. You know and remember the minibike… centrifugal friction clutch, low pressure tires, no suspension, big foam seat. Oxy-acetylene welded steel tubular frame. It was powered by a Briggs and Stratton single cylinder, with 3.5 horsepower lawnmower engine. Your weed whacker probably has the same amount of horsepower; it seemed like a lot at the time. No foot brake or shift lever, just a hand brake. The hand brake looked just like the one on your bicycle. A 5.0 horsepower model was also available, but no sane 10-year-old was going to ride that minibike. There were no gauges of any type. They just weren’t very important. You didn’t care about motor RPMs, speed, engine temperature, or if the fuel tank was almost empty. All of the information from some type of display was completely useless, utter rubbish. (Maybe someone from the UK will read this.) This was all about turning the throttle and going fast. Or what seemed very fast at the time. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 miles per hour.

You got this engine to come alive not by the electric or kick-start, but by a pull start. That’s right, pull start, just like your lawnmower. Unless you have an electric start lawnmower, you still don’t know what I’m talking about. If you have a lawnmower with electric start you probability own a yacht and have no idea what I’m talking about. Oh, just to make this clear I wasn’t stepping in dinosaur poo when I was trying to start my minibike.

Getting my minbike started was no easy task, it never started on the first pull or the second. It was always a test of wills between me and the minbike. Move the choke up then down, check for fuel in the carburetor bowl, and adjust the ideal screw. After this start-up ritual and about ten or so pulls it finely came to life. Thinking back, I don’t think coming to life was the best way to describe it either. It was more like I had awoken something that needed a lot more sleep.

Once it was started, the throbbing and rattling were like music to my ears. I guess if you were going to equate the sounds with today’s music, then rap it is. I still remember the sound of the chain guard rattling. That was my speedometer, the more it rattled the faster I was going… until it fell off and it fell off a lot as I recall. Man, I wish they had Loctite back then.

Okay, here comes the really weird part of this story. To this day I still can remember the smells of chain lubricant, the friction pads in the clutch, the seat, the engine oil leaking from the head gasket. These sensory experiences have somehow been imprinted in my brain and remained there. Also, I think these sensory experiences have overrun the part of my brain where the ability to spell occurs. I’m pretty sure that the next person my wife marries is going to get a spelling test.

I wish I still  had a picture of my old minibike, because I can’t remember what color it was. I’m going to guess it was blue or brown in color. You think the color of it would have stuck in my mind. Maybe, I was repainting it all the time, maybe that’s why I can’t remember.

No, I don’t want you to get the idea my Aprilia Touno and minibike from the past are equals. I sure don’t want piss off a bunch of people in Italy, I saw all of the Godfather movies. No that’s not what this about. That minibike or the experience of riding it was the driving force that led me to purchasing the Touno. Not just Touno, but all the motorcycles I own or have owned. I guess all of the motorcycles I have owned have a little bit minibike in all of them.

Wear your helmet!

Motorcycle conversation and a whole lot more!