It is 52 degrees outside. That means the dead of winter is upon us once again. It is a dreadful period, and I find myself slipping into a dull state of monotony, looking for an escape from this grisly reality. Normally, I wouldn’t be in such dire straits, but normally we wouldn’t be experiencing springtime in February, either. Instead, we’d be basking in the wonder of winter and the sub-freezing temps that go along with it.
I happen to thrive in winter—a proper winter. I much prefer going out into -5 degrees to the sweltering heat of 95 degrees. I’ve always said “You can always add more layers to stay warm, but you can only take off so much before you’re arrested.” (Sadly, I am always the only one listening to this endless wisdom and, frankly, find myself quite boring.) You can imagine my dismay when faced with the timid, meek attitude displayed by this current winter–the seasonal equivalent of a Corolla driver. So I find myself plotting an escape from this existence.
I tend to prefer fantasizing the old fashioned way. None of this new electronic animated and easy scrolling stuff for me, thank you. I like the old fashioned ink on paper media to escape my reality. I go to the old standard: road atlas*. So, several times during every January and February I will dedicate a portion of the kitchen table, fix a beverage of my choice, grab a pencil, and open up my North American Atlas** to slip into a slow stupor of potential road trips. Read more
The question I get asked almost more than any other is: “How do I change my own oil?”* This always makes me smile because I am eager to help those who want to get their hands dirty under the hood. So, I will attempt to help others with similar desires to discover their inner-mechanic with a quick and dirty How-To guide.
When to change your oil
Step one is to determine if it is even necessary to change your engine oil. Answering a few quick questions should give you a good indication of just how much time you have before your next service is due. Read more
It was supposed to be different than this. The day offered so much promise.
The weekend started out right. On Saturday I was (arguably) the Best Man at my best friend’s wonderful wedding. The ceremony was short, meaningful, and emotional. The reception was simplistic, yet grand. I saw friends that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. It was a time filled with great celebration.
Sunday was a day that I look forward to every year: a singles ride to the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Trials meet held at the Grenogue estate in northern Delaware. We start out on a crisp autumn morning, our faceshields clouding with every breath, and ride from the Amish country of Lancaster, winding through the narrow single-lane roads of Chester County horse country. We choose the big thumpers for this ride because their small size is perfect for the narrow roads and lanes we travel. That and they make nice noises as they boom off the tall hedges and stone bridges. It is a day I anticipate for weeks prior, and it finally arrived. Read more
It happens so fast. One minute life seems a place of nearly unbearable normalcy, the next you are turned on your head (sometimes literally). It’s a difficult position to find yourself in: the forced decision to purchase a vehicle in a short time frame.
Sometimes the cause is a faulty head gasket; other times it is a faulty head. In my friend Gordon’s case, it was the latter. He was waiting patiently in his Mazda Miata for the traffic light to turn green (he has no other method of waiting, as he’s been accused of having “no concept of urgency” by some very close to him) when he was rear-ended by a Nissan Pathfinder (whose driver evidently had a very real sense of urgency). They both climbed out to assess the damage, went to the back of the car, and quickly realized that it did not look good for the little roadster. That’s it. Done. Game over. In an instant, he had to find a replacement.
I sensed what was coming next. He, in a momentary lapse of judgment, asked me to help him seek out another car. (I blame undiagnosed head trauma from the accident.) This tends to happen often when you’re pigeon-holed as a “car guy.” I’ve always found this a bit unfair since I also consider myself a guitar guy, motorcycle guy, dog guy, coal stove guy, Greenland kayak guy, and–most certainly–an boutique/vintage amp guy. Somehow people always seem to focus in on the car aspect of my limited knowledge base and attempt to employ me in their quest for The Perfect Car. Read more
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
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.)
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
There is a buzz in the air these days. My mind is preoccupied with thoughts of adventure and interstate. (Strange, since the two are often mutually exclusive.) I’m finding it difficult to remain focused on the work left to do before departure.
This particular trip will be taking me and five other riders from eastern Pennsylvania to Speedway, Indiana for the Red Bull MotoGP race. I know the route well, having been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway numerous times for the USGP Formula 1 races. (This was back when the United States still cared about Formula 1. Or, more accurately, when Formula 1 still cared about the United States.) I call it a route, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. No GPS will be needed (nor is it allowed in this group). Our path will take us up a two-lane highway for about 20 minutes, where we will make a left onto the Turnpike, then continue straight for about 11 hours.
It will be a very different experience from my previous Indy treks. We took a Coachman RV on every other trip to the Steakhouse Capital. I never understood the draw that a recreational vehicle offered to the elders of our society until I used it just once. It provided transportation, shelter, and entertainment to its occupants. (Albeit the last one in the tragic drama of nauseatingly high fuel consumption.) We could set up camp (extend the awning) in a parking lot directly across the street from the speedway. Aside from the fact that we were situated on top of blazing-hot asphalt skillet, this location proved ideal since there was no traffic to battle after a long day spent at the track, food & beverage were immediately available, and there was the added bonus of being awakened at 7AM to the shriek V10s turning 20,000 rpm. Also, motorhomes also give you the ability to pack once and be done. You don’t even need a bag, just pack your clothing and toiletries directly where you need them; none of this hauling suitcases and sleeping bags in and out of vehicles every time you stop for the night. Read more
I leave for the shore tomorrow evening. I’m not sure why those of us living in the Mid-Atlantic states call the place where land meets sea water The Shore, nor why elsewhere it is called The Coast, The Beach, or The Ocean. I do find myself reacting to the mere mention of The Shore as though someone was talking of The Plague or The Gout. I find it best to avoid any of them, for two reasons: 1) massive amounts of people (and massive people, more often than not), and 2) the traffic jams.
I must admit that I tend to dislike people, in general. I find them to be genuinely rude and inconsiderate of others (namely me). They also tend to speak too loudly and, while they’re at it, seem to have no concept of when to stop talking. I will admit that there are a few exceptions, and those are usually real gems. (I am not one of them, sadly.) However, by and large, most people fall into the category of Best Avoided, and a strict adherence to this rule has kept me alive and at least partially sane to this day. Read more
I can scarcely believe how many times the phrase has been uttered by my lips for the past 5 years. “What a great time to be a motorcyclist!” I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now. Due to my age, they probably assume that I’m either scratched or irrelevant. The sad truth is, they’re probably right on both counts.
I urge you to peruse your local dealership. (It doesn’t even have to carry “your” brand–the one you buy your chain lube and oil filters from.) Scan the showroom. Look closely. Think about the specs these bikes offer. Torque. Dry weight. Fuel capacity. Think back to the last time you last considered purchasing a bike. I’m willing to bet that the specs on the new, “boring” models outshine the last hot-ticket item that you lusted after, but couldn’t afford. Welcome to two-thousand…..what are we now? The millennium pre-teens? Either way–welcome to the reality that is today. Chances are that the 1,000cc beast of a bike that you checked out in your teenage years is right there in front of you. The horsepower numbers are all there. The featherweight figures you dreamt about for the last ten years are just within your grasp. Trouble is, the hot liter-bike you’re thinking of is not the bike that delivers the goods today. It may not even be a full liter capacity. Instead, it’s the Japanese Standard that offers everything you could possibly want. The dull, boring, UJM. And it is glorious.