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30
Sep

An Apex of Seasons

There is magic in the air these days, and I am rather certain that it is not pollen.  We have reached that wonderful point of seasonal change in the Northeast as autumn approaches at a steady pace.  It is not entirely summer and not entirely fall; a seasonal apex, if you will.  Like a good mutt, this time of year inherits the strengths of both seasons.   It truly is a most pleasant time of year.

The landscape changes dramatically over these days as well.  The once proud stands of field corn of the deepest green mellow with age to an olive-tan drabness.  Forage choppers gorge themselves on the stalks and ears.  The intense heat of summer has subsided, and lawns have returned to a spring-like vibrancy.  Leaves are browning and dropping off the walnut trees.  Pumpkins and squash ripen on the vine, dotting the soil with spots of color.  Within a week’s time, it seems the hillsides have turned all shades of greens and oranges and browns, like the shag carpet covering the family room floor of a split-level house from the 1970s.  (No, not that Family Room—the one on the lower floor.  No, the other lower floor, just past the garage.  Nope, you’ve gone too far!) Read more »

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23
Sep

Like a Troubled Bridge Over Water

Several years ago, I made a frightening discovery while on a run near my parents’ home. Fortunately, no one had been robbed, nor was there any need to call the coroner. This was far worse. Two of the roads that I took to get to their home from the highway were in terrible shape, broken and crumbling from years of neglect. This was not the discovery, but a harsh reminder of the real tragedy: these two roads had never been repaved since I was born. Without getting into too much gruesome detail, I will just say that meant a very long time indeed: decades (several).

It was always harsh to drive over these roads. The winter cycling above and below the freezing point that makes our soil so easy to turn in the spring also wreaks havoc with pavement. Potholes and frost heaves are the result and, in fact, the norm for most of the Northeastern U.S. In Lancaster County, we also have the moving chicane known as the horse & buggy. Outsiders view them as simple and majestic, but they don’t take into account the havoc the carbide embedded in the steel shoes does to the road surface. The middle of each lane is often marred by deep troughs running the length of the road. It is only when riding motorcycle, bicycling, or in this case, running, that it becomes shockingly evident just how bad these roads were getting; you tend to notice these things when you’re more vulnerable to the elements. The potholes were deep enough to extend through the pavement and past the sub-base of coarse stones into the dirt beneath. While not wide enough to swallow a car tire, they could do some serious damage to a bicycle wheel. Or engulf a whole running shoe, and perhaps a whole runner. As I continued to run my course, fearing for my ankles, I pondered just how bad the Highway Department would allow these roads to deteriorate before slothing to action in an effort to repair them. Read more »

16
Sep

Rider’s Report–KTM at Indy

We all know one. That guy. The one born of wealthy and intelligent stock, who is not only good looking and athletic but seems to be talented in all aspects of life. The guy that can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. Meanwhile, the rest of us in society are left looking onward in disbelief. You are amazed by him. You are humiliated by him. You respect him. You covet him. You would secretly wish him dead, if it weren’t for that one flaw that you know about. It could be his giant nose, but often these flaws are hidden deep down beneath the surface, where only those close to him know the truth. That ugly truth is: he’s got a terrible sense of rhythm. And it delights you.

The golden boy of the two-wheeled world these days seems to be KTM. Their off-road lineup is a brutal force to be reckoned with since nearly every machine in their product range seems to be either a class-leader or at least right up there with the best of the best. They have a strong reputation as four-stroke single-cylinder masters (and their acquisition of dirtbeast builder Husaberg certainly didn’t hurt that), and they still have the backbone to offer a great two-stroke choice in each class as well. (It’s still nice to have the option of premix.)

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9
Sep

Difficult Decisions

There come times in your life when you have to make difficult choices. Many times you can see these crossroads on the horizon, gather information about your options, and make an informed decision. Years later, when looking back on the chosen path, one will often smile inside with the satisfaction of knowing that the correct resolution was reached and life was better for it.

Climbing out from underneath my BMW 325, I was recently faced with just such a dilemma. I am in the process of rebuilding the rear subframe with new bushings, shocks, and springs. Normally, this isn’t such a terrible task. (Normally, the fist-sized metal & rubber subframe bushings don’t break off inside the chassis, during the removal process either.) It took me nearly an entire week’s worth of evenings to get the broken bushing out of the chassis. Trying to do the job right, and since the subframe and rear trailing arms were off the car, I decided to give them a quick coat of semi-gloss black paint to freshen up the underbelly a bit. Things were starting to look up. Read more »

2
Sep

Rider’s Report–Road to Indianapolis

As a devoted follower of The Driving Farce, you are certainly aware by now that I rode out to Indianapolis with a group of friends for the Red Bull MotoGP race. We headed out from Lancaster, PA on a warm, sticky morning just in time to catch a wicked thunderstorm just west of Harrisburg. We invested in $16.25 in PA Turnpike tolls per bike. That’s $162.50 for our crew, round trip. I will admit that the Turnpike did offer us decent road, with the exception of the tar patches that they have in the central sections. In the rain, a bike tire will spin up while changing lanes when crossing these which is anything but reassuring, and especially not expected at partial-throttle. They can do better. For that kind of money I expect more, frankly; like train service with a bunk. And perhaps a bag or two of stale pretzels.

As we made our way across the eastern part of the country we played Musical Bikes. We drew bike names out of a hat prior to our departure. At each fuel stop we switched seats (and keys, thankfully) to allow ourselves a chance to sample the pleasures and pains of various manufacturers, and to contort our bodies into different shapes for the next 120 miles. So, without further ado, I give you my impression of each machine in order of the riding stint. Read more »