pronounced “ā-peks” – the narrowed or pointed end, the culminating point, the point that is closest to the inside but not necessarily the center of the corner.
A good example of this occurred over the weekend when I was at a memorial for a fellow motorcyclist, an elder of the sport with many motorcycling friends. As I looked around at the gathering I recognized many fellow riders (strange how you can just “tell” if someone rides, isn’t?) and as I noted their approximate ages it seemed a graphic example of the “retiring” motorcycle demographic. I thought to myself, what inspired these people to become motorcyclist? What inspired me? What will inspire the next generations? Then some music started playing, as it often does at a memorial, but this was special – it was introduced as one of the departed favorites, it was the theme from On Any Sunday. There was an audible stir from the crowd and a lot of smiles.
Now I realize many of the people at that gathering were hardcore racers and enthusiast decades before the Bruce Brown moto classic was released, but clearly it impacted their generation just as it did mine – as well as generations decades after the film was released. So that got me thinking…does the Industry need a new On Any Sunday?
Maybe. I’ve read many statistics regarding annual sales and demographics. I’ve followed the invaluable grass-roots research of the Give-A-Shift movement (great work Robert Pandya). Though it is clear annual motorcycle sales in the US are less than half what they were 10 years ago, the reasons for this are not so clear. It’s difficult to know which statistics are relevant to which markets, and the demographics for each market factor heavily into the equation as well. Many of the sources reporting these statistics will state that sales are “flat” at the very least. Looking back 30 or more years, one could easily argue US motorcycle sales are cyclic, and though it has been much higher it has also been lower.
But I digress, so last Sunday (ironically) I decided to watch On Any Sunday like I’d never watched I before – this time I was going to analyze it, I was going to think about why it inspired me so, why it has inspired so many others, and what was the “formula” that made it such a classic. I thought perhaps if such a formula could be applied today, a new wave of motorcycling popularity may be initiated. Lofty ideals perhaps, but not completely unreasonable. Now, I know there was a sequel in 1982 – and I won’t go too far into that other than to say I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say “I sure would like to watch On Any Sunday II – I haven’t seen it for awhile, and it really inspired me”. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, it’s just completely different. So as I watched On Any Sunday, with my analytical mind in gear, I made the following observations.
When I first saw this in the theater (I know I’m dating myself) I was youngster who was a proud owner of my very own little motorcycle, my Uncle (who took me to see the movie) rode, as did my Grandfather, my two Great Uncles, and my Great Aunt. I remember watching this movie and feeling part of a large and diverse group who all “got it” – what it felt like to ride. I wanted to share the experience – with riders and non-riders alike. I think that’s a big part of what made the film the most important motorcycle documentary of all time, it made the experience accessible to everyone. I wanted to share this film with my Mother, who was not a fan of motorcycles but I thought if she saw it maybe she’d understand (and one day when I finally got her to watch it, I think she genuinely understood). So 47 years later, as I continued watching and thinking about what was unique about this motorcycle movie, it became clear to me that all the motorcycle films that came afterward were targeted directly at the motorcycling population – they had more intense footage, and more extreme riding, and they appealed to the targeted demographic – but they weren’t films you wanted to share with your Mother. Those who didn’t ride weren’t interested in those later films. To the best of my knowledge, none of them were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature as On Any Sunday was in 1972.
Perhaps it was the timing. Maybe it was seeing so many aspects of motorcycling compressed into a span ninety six minutes. Then there was the unique perspective and narration of a genius Surf Film creator – which in itself may have been what made the film more accessible to riders who didn’t know they were riders yet. Maybe at the core of it all, it was just the way the film told the stories of the people…from kids imitating motocross racers on their bikes (introducing the World to BMX), to the national and international champions, to Mike Gibbon from Grants Pass, Oregon putting the first tire tack on top of the Widowmaker. These stories reached out to so many – and still do. So do I think the Motorcycle Industry would benefit from another “On Any Sunday” sort of movie? Without a doubt. Imagine a modern version showing the diverse ways motorcyclist indulge in their passion, presented in an accessible non-menacing fashion that even your Mother would sit through…and think about how many new riders may decide to give it try with a closing line like…
“There’s something about going riding with your friends, a feeling of freedom, a feeling of joy, that really can’t be put into words…it can only be fully shared by someone who’s done it”
Makes me want to go out and ride one of my bikes right now – how about you?
Ran into Moto Film Director/Producer legend Peter Starr. He discussed his latest project with me. We also discussed his long term field testing of the shock I tuned for him on his V-Strom.
The show was awesome, and the crowd even more so – the stories…the bench-racing…the memories…all epic.
It’s always upsetting to hear a fellow motorcyclist has lost their life while riding….more so when it’s a co-worker, friend, or family member. Friday morning – leading into the long Fourth of July weekend – I got the interoffice email from the President of the company with the subject line “Tragic News”…co-worker, fellow rider, and friend Jim Hogg had lost his life commuting to work earlier that morning. In the 45+ years I’ve been riding motorcycles, I’ve lost a few friends to riding accidents. I never get used to it, each time is different and they seem to all somehow accumulate in my soul changing my motorcycling perspective and the reasons I ride.
Motorcycles are dangerous, I get it. Such events drive this point home and make one seriously evaluate their passion for riding. It’s an extremely unpleasant mental process of questioning something in your life that brings you tremendous joy – yet may lead to your demise. The longer you’ve ridden the more likely you are to have multiple similar tragic stories in mind that all weigh in on the subject. For some, such an event would result in ceasing to ever ride again and I completely understand that. Sometimes these people become a little fanatical about trying to convince everyone they see with a helmet in their hand about the pending death that awaits them if they continue to ride. They mean well. Others try to stuff the event deep down and pretend it didn’t happen. I understand this as well, the riding means so much to them that they simply don’t want to examine the potential downfalls – often rationalizing the tragedy saying things like “They died doing what they loved” (this rarely applies…I don’t think Jim loved commuting to work on a crowded freeway). Still others look for reasons…how did this happen?…what could’ve been done (or avoided) that may have prevented this tragedy?…what can be learned from this?
I guess I mostly fall under that last category, I find myself wanting to know what happened. In this particular case, the questions are many and for the most part unanswered. See, according to the news story the police received a few calls reporting “a motorcycle down” on the side of the road at about 7:30am – and that’s it. They arrived on the scene to find Jim’s lifeless body near the crashed Dynaglide he was riding to work. Now, this is alongside of one of Southern California’s busiest 4-5 lane freeways during “rush-hour” traffic. That’s the first question that keeps going through my mind, of the hundreds – perhaps thousands who drove by – why didn’t anyone stop? Surely someone saw what happened and just continued driving. Even if they didn’t see it happen, here’s another human being lying on the side of a road – why didn’t any of them choose to stop and see if there was anything that could be done? Then there’s the actual mechanics or physics of the accident. Was there another vehicle involved, perhaps a road-rage situation of some sort? If so, this could mean a homicide was ultimately committed. Or was Jim simply speeding and traffic stacked up, as it often does in this area, and he swerved off the road losing control? Was there some sort of mechanical malfunction (not likely, Jim was a professional)? Maybe he had a freak heart attack or something and was gone before he ever hit the ground?
Godspeed Jim…you left us too soon Brother.
It was time for another real ride. The days had started blur together as they sometimes do, and the never ending list of life’s tasks were beginning to overwhelm. You know the feeling. On top of that, my birthday was coming up – a perfect excuse to chase the horizon for a couple days…clear the head…hit the “reset” button. I wasn’t running away from or giving up on life’s goals and responsibilities, I was purely formulating a brief strategic retreat to regroup my thoughts and refocus my perspective.
I needed a good ride. Not that I can recall ever having any really “bad” rides, even the ones that don’t go as planned or go horribly wrong still tend to have their merit in my experience – at the very least they make for good stories. This needed to be a ride of epic proportions full of soul resurrecting sights and sensations. I have ridden up to the legendary Laguna Seca race track for various events on my birthday rides in the past and it’s always been great, so that was my original plan. But then I decided to focus more on the ride. I don’t care for travel on freeways or roads that remain straight for more than a mile for that matter, so I began plotting a route that avoided such thoroughfares. Sure, this would double the travel time – and that was the intent. As I planned the route out, I began to realize that I was trying too hard to “schedule” my time around specific destinations and events. So I decided not to go to any races at `Seca this trip which seemed to completely open up a whole series of possibilities. I then realized that from Monterey I could ride up into Yosemite of which I’d never ridden through before. So I figured I’d take three or four days and take very indirect back-roads up through Southern California and the Coast – through Big Sur to Monterey for day one. Day two head up into Yosemite staying there for a day. Then East out to Mono Lake and hang a right south down across the back of the Sierras and home, possibly stopping somewhere along the way pensive on if I felt like it. I plotted it all out on Goggle Maps and it was looking epic.
So I awoke on the first day – my birthday – and threw my riding gear on, swung a leg over the pre-loaded and fueled bike, fired it up and headed straight to the nearest Denny’s on the route for my free birthday “Grand Slam” breakfast…and worth every penny. I’d like to say this was at the crack of dawn, and I had plenty of daylight ahead of me. The reality was I had been up late the night before and thus decided to sleep in a bit. Also, the part about the bike being pre-loaded with all my intended gear wasn’t quite true either…truth is I was still packing my bags when I got up, hadn’t printed out my maps, charged up my Bluetooth device and swamped it over into the helmet I was going to use, cleaned the visors for said helmet…and the list went on in a series of pre-coffee epiphanies. I did fuel the bike though, and even topped off and attached my reserve tank (FZ-09’s have small tanks). So by the time I left Denny’s and really got on the road, it was about 10:30am – half the day gone. I thought to myself “Hey, there’s no schedule involved here – just enjoy the ride”. That became an unintended theme as weekend progressed. I figured I could make the time up somewhere along the line and besides, what difference did it make if I ended up riding in the dark and arriving at my first nights stop a little late? I needed to try out some new LED road lights anyway. Off I went.
So I made my way north across the southeastern edge of the Los Padres Forrest and west over to Gorman, then out through Frazer Park on Hudson Ranch road over to the 58 and out to the Highway 1 near Cambria. This took several hours, as there were many blissful wrong turns and a few “I wonder what’s down this way” adventures – all great stuff.
My plan was to stop for lunch in Cambria and have a bowl clam chowder at one of my favorite places on the beach, but I arrived there late in the afternoon and decided to fuel up and just have a snack bar then be on my way. The bike had been handing strangely and I was checking it out as I sat on Moonstone Beach munching my food bar. Then I discovered the issue – my rear tire had disintegrated and was losing air.
Normally, this is the best part of the ride – the 100 miles scenic ocean cliffs through San Simeon, Big Sur, Carmel, and up into Monterey. However if it’s cold, windy, wet, foggy, and dark then it’s rather intense on a motorcycle. If that motorcycle has a bad rear tire…well, let’s say I was extremely focused on successfully getting to Monterey. I don’t typically experience arm-pump cramping on street rides, but any time the bike would lose a little traction from the damp road I’d tense up and worry that the tire had blown. The best part was the new road lights really helped a lot, lighting up the road sides and surface nicely without blinding the occasional oncoming motorist. Riding at night through big dense forests like that of Big Sur is eerie and the constant thought of a deer or something springing out in front of you is unnerving to say the least. I can honestly say it seemed like one of the longest 100 miles I’d ever ridden, but arrive at Monterey I did and only a little after 10:30pm – just in time for supper. I checked into my palatial accommodations for the night, had a hot meal and a nightcap, and after a full 12 hours in the saddle I was out like a light.
I got the gate of Yosemite Park, paid my fee and pulled off to the side check my map. The weather had turned from sunny to dark and as I got my GoPro out to record my ride into the Valley a rather menacing loud and long crack & boom of rolling thunder prognosticated how this part of the ride was going to be – wet. I didn’t care in the least, I had a rain suit and new rear tire, and I was in Yosemite. As I headed up the road I noticed several bear warning signs and a new bad interaction with nature entered my mind as a motorcyclist – what if I were to come across a bear? Would the bear chase me like an angry dog? Bears have been known to ride motorcycles, would they try to steal my bike? Even if this was not likely (and I had no idea one way or another as I’ve seen very few bears) what if I came around a corner and hit one? Sure, similar to hitting a deer it would really hurt and cause damage – but there would be little chance of a dear getting angry and EATING ME afterward. So as I rode and these likely irrational wildlife thoughts rambled through my head, it started raining. Not too bad yet, but I stopped to put the rain suit on before I got too wet. The GoPro was running the whole time, and though I’ve not seen it yet I’m betting the video is entertaining (though a strong language warning may be required at the beginning). Right as I went to remount the bike I noticed a snowflake on my glove…this was not what I envisioned my ride into Yosemite would be like.
I decided to get out to the highway, top the tank off, and just make a flat burn south to make up some time. I also wanted to stay ahead of the storm that seemed to be chasing me down. It still caught me as I hit the 99, but not too bad. By this time I figured I wouldn’t be in Fresno until about dinnertime – where I was supposed to be for lunch with a friend. I considered stopping and calling him to see if he wanted to meet up for dinner, but that’s about when the storm caught up with me so I just stayed on the gas and continued south all the way down to Bakersfield where I made a left on the 178 back up into the Sierras toward Lake Isabella.
I didn’t get to the Kern Canyon road until well after dark, which skirts the Kern River of which it was too dark to see. This was a very dark twisty canyon ride, full of bugs and I even hit a bat at one point – signaling I was riding into “Bat Country”. There was hardly anybody on the road late on a Sunday night; I think I may have passed five or six cars going the other way. It was both eerie and cool at the same time. As my elevation increased the temperature dropped. I considered stopping and adding a layer to warm up a bit but I was running so late and kept thinking “I’m almost there and they’re waiting up for me” so I pressed on. When I arrived at Ed & Rene’s, they welcomed me with hugs and a hot meal. It was late, so we limited our catching up for the evening and thus ended day three of my trek.
You know, over the years of riding I’ve done I’ve learned that the best rides have less to do with the destination and ultimately tend to be more about the journey – it’s not so much about standing on the summit as it is about the climb.
Here’s a link to the episode of Jay Leno’s Garage that features this set up – check it out!
- Riding motorcycles has a certain Sex appeal – if this if why you ride, you’re missing the point.
- To be a Rebel – again, if this is why you ride (and you look like this) you’re not really “getting it”.
- Save money on Fuel – well, not really when you consider what a modern high-mileage car can get these days.
- Run with the “Pack” – really?…not this Dude.
- Save money on maintenance – maybe not so much, ever priced a set of good tires for a motorcycle?
- Parking is never a problem – not true, unless there’s actually designated motorcycle parking and even then there’s the occasional ass-clown that parks their Eco-cage in it.
- Traffic is never a problem – well sure we can keep moving when the cages come to stop, but that doesn’t mean traffic isn’t still stressful. Splitting lanes for an hour is not the Dude’s idea of a pleasant ride.
- Basic 12″ tall black street boot – does what it should.
- Water resistant leather
- Upper PU internal shin guard, calf guard, plastic shin and ankle guard
- Overlap zip closure
- Ribbed flex panels
- Breathable, anti-bacterial and mesh lining
- Waterproof membrane Anatomical, removable and anti-bacterial foot bed
- Anti-slide rubber sole
$149.99 retail (sale pricing around $120)
Fit – ★★☆☆☆
Finish – ★★★★☆
Features – ★★★★☆
Durability – (TBD)
Cost Benefit – ★★★★★
PROS – design, quality, price
CONS – sizing runs small, narrow toe box
Boots, possibly the second most import bit of equipment you can wear if you ride. It’s a fact, and if you wear hi-tops, Chucks, or sneakers in an effort to look “hip” or cool – being able to walk normal for the rest of your life because you didn’t mangle your foot in an accident is much cooler. So assuming you understand this logic, I’d like to share a few observations I’ve made on a set of boots I recently acquired – MotoCentric’s Ranger Boots.
These are a relatively high value street boot, full of features typically found on more expensive brands. The construction is what I’d call a “hybrid” meaning it consists of leather, plastic, and patented textiles. Normally I’d shy away from a boot that wasn’t primarily made of leather, as I’m a bit old fashion that way, but this is a well-designed boot. There leather where it needs to be leather and all the other components are well placed and functional. The biggest problem with these boots is the sizing. I typically wear a 9 to a 9-1/2 (US) in a standard or wide if available. Some boots made in Europe or “off-shore” that I’ve worn tend to run a little small and I find if I order a half to a full size larger, that often results in a good fit. It appears that these boots are not offered in half sizes, so I went with a 10 (US). Once on, and before breaking them in a bit (stretching them out), they were almost too tight. The length seemed good, but the width was tight. The toe box on these boots is very narrow. So much so I was considering changing them out for 11’s but I think they would’ve been too long then. They were a bit difficult to put on as well, partially due to being so narrow and partially due to the design. Walking around in them wasn’t the most comfortable shoe I’d walked around in, but it wasn’t awful – these are for riding not walking, so I went for a ride. The lack of width and resulting snug feeling seem to subside once on the road. I believe they stretched out a bit. The unique textile shift pad on top of the toe has a texture that offered a good “grip” feel on the shifter without being overly so. The soles are not too thick nor are the heels very pronounced. Though they have nylon shin guards reminiscent of a motocross boot as well as other built-in guards, you don’t notice them. The ankle and toe guards went un-noticed as well. To me that the best kind of “armor” – the kind that you don’t notice unless it’s needed.
So are these boots right for you? If you’re looking for a “biker” boot or a shoe with a hipster sort of vibe, the answer is likely no. These boots have a nice subtle look to them that I like, not too Marlon Brando, not too Star Wars, just a purpose-built quality black riding boot. In regards to durability, I’ve not had them long enough yet to comment – nor can a I comment on their claimed water-resistance as I’ve yet to be caught in a storm with them (look for a follow up later), but they look to be pretty well made and I’ve had other MotoCentric products that have lived up to their claims and worked out well for me so I’m guessing these will too. They aren’t made in Italy (Pakistan actually) nor do they sport an iconic logo endorsed by World champions, but they don’t cost as much as those boots either. In fact, with a suggested retail price of $150 dollars – and a typical sale price around $120 – I believe them to be a bargain. At the time I wrote this review you could order a pair from the online retailer Motorcycle Superstore (http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/motocentric) for a mere $74.99. There were other online retailers with similar pricing. Bottom-line is if you’re looking for a pair of functional well-made street boots at reasonable price, the MotoCentric Ranger boots should be on your list of serious considerations.
“We’ve all got wheels to take ourselves away” – Gram Parsons
What’s my favorite ride?…For me, as for many of us, I think it’s hard to name just one – in fact I’d have to say impossible. True, some have been better than others but it’s still not a simple answer. The question itself could mean a route or destination, or could mean a specific ride that has taken place – or even be referring to my favorite bike. This seemingly simple question becomes more difficult to answer when I start scanning my mental database of 45 plus years of riding.
Sticking to the general implication of the question, perhaps my favorite ride entails riding to some scenic location…
Or possibly stepping back in time and cruising the old hack down the path less traveled…
So what’s my Favorite ride?…I guess my favorite ride is the next one…what’s yours?