8 Ball In The Wind

Monday, April 28, 2014

That "Oh Shit" Moment

I heard tonight about another motorcyclist getting killed by a vehicle turning left in front of him.  It really gets me when the government pushes for mandatory helmets but downplays the effectiveness of training to learn how to avoid a crash.  Or at least to mediate the impact if possible.  As well as discounting what factors the neglect of the rest of the motoring public has in regards to being aware that motorcycles (or any vehicle) are even on the road pror to making a turn across traffic.

I truly believe it is partly due to the difficulty of knowing whether someone involved in a crash, or who was a fatality in a crash, had taken some sort of rider education course or not.  So with little information, to go on, I can see how statistically it might seem insignificant.

The helmet mandators have a formula that uses 'potential' lives saved as a factor in finding how many lives were saved by helmets.  Yet I have been unable to find a verifiable study that shows how that factor was analyzed and verified.  Doesn't it sound much more logical to train riders to watch for and avoid possible crash scenarios, than to simply mandate they wear a helmet on their head?

I have watched numerous videos of motorcycle crashes over the last few months.  One of the things that seems to be most obvious about many of them, is the amount of time between the rider first realizes there is a hazard and the actual crash.  Several seconds go by, with the rider doing nothing more than applying their brakes.  Most of the videos I have watched have the same lack of any avoidance attempt in common.  A Motorcycle is a very manueverable vehicle.  With several seconds of warning, in many cases a simple lane change would have avoided the crash.  But the only action the riders take is to apply their brakes.  As if they have already resigned themselves to crashing, and only want to slow down the impact.

Try it yourself.  Go on to youtube, and search motorcycle crashes.  See for yourself how few actually seem to even try to avoid the impact.  I am by no means saying that all crashes are avoidable.  I wish they were.  I would have many friends still riding with me to this day if that was the case.  But if riders were given the skills to at least be able to try to avoid a collision, a number of crashes would not happen.

The government on the other hand, believes if you ride a motorcycle you are going to crash.  That simply by riding a motorcycle you have doomed yourself to some horrendous bit of roadway mayhem, and that only by wearing a helmet can you survive.  While I agree (to a point) that if you ride enough, over time you will lay a bike down.  That does not necessarily mean you are getting in a crash.

When I speak of crashes, I am speaking of impacts with something other than the road.  Sometimes, laying the bike down is the safest way to avoid a "crash".  But to simply keep riding directly at a vehicle for several seconds while applying the brakes, and saying repeatedly; "OH SHIT", isn't trying to avoid a crash.

I know when I ride, I am constantly looking for escape routes, and places to move to incase of an emergency.  The worse thing you can do is to get 'target fixation' on the vehicle in front of you.  Because you won't even realize you need to avoid it until it is too late.  Having the proper mindset, and thinking about exit strategies while riding.  Knowing how to counter steer to avoid or lessen an impact are all skills that will help you in an emergency.  Just relying on wearing a helmet to keep you alive when you crash, and not doing anything to try to avoid it, is purely moronic in my opinion.

As I said, it would be very interesting to see a study done that compares a number of factors;  whether or not the rider was wearing the helmet, whether the rider had taken any form of rider education training, and whether the rider did anything to avoid the crash in the first place, and of course whether there were any head trauma or head trauma related fatalities.  I truly think it would be an enlightening study.  That is also why I do not expect to ever see such a study taking place.  It would not fit neatly into the governments push to control our lives in every way possible.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sweet Bikes And Roads

Well it seems some of my scribbling will be in print.  At least regionally at any rate.  My post about ethanol (or at least most of it) will be getting published in the May issue of Freedom.  The monthly publication for A.B.A.T.E. of Washington.  Followed the month after by an article on how to persuade a legislator to work with us on our issues.

It is a start.  Not quite the bike related magazines I would like to get my stuff printed in, but it is a step in that direction.  I have been thinking of covering the Spring Opener here in the mountains of central Washington state.  The bands, bikes, and all the drunken festivities ought to be worth writing about.  Plus sending along a hundred or so quality photos along with the article just might help.

Everybody knows about the bike scene in California, and Florida, and of course they know about Sturgis.  Some even know about the scene in the greater New York/New Jersey area.  But there are some sweet ass bikes, and roads to ride them on in other parts of the country that don't get covered as much.  

I mean Hell, I have even heard there are good roads to ride in Kansas.  Even though I find that hard to believe being Kansas tends to be flat as a griddle, and as boring as shit to ride through (at least the parts I have ever ridden in).  But, I havent covered the whole state, so there may be some sweet road somewhere there that only the locals know about, and keep locked secretly away from all the out of state riders.

But here in the Pacific Northwest, we have an abundance of cool roads, and even cooler bikes rolling along them.  While some of the biggest names in the NW bike scene; like Taber Nash, Steg, and a couple of others have migrated down the coast to sunny Cali, many more are still here.  Plus, we have a good crop of small, garage builders doing their own thing.  Getting some quality shots of some of these bikes can be difficult at times.  But there are a handful of them that I truly want to highlight, and share with the world.  Some of them will be at the Spring Opener, and hopefully I can get enough good pics to be worth submitting an article or two from there.  There is also the BBW in July.  I have a feeling there will be some sickass,original chopped Sportsters there that are worth a story or two.  

If I am REALLY lucky, this summer I'll get a chance to ride up to Seattle and check out the Backfire Moto.  It is a bike night, but not your usualy bike night.  It is mainly for cafe racers, bobbers, choppers, and other rides that have been massaged from stock by loving hands, and ingenious fabricators.  More than a few vintage bikes are there as well.  But the Backfire Moto is definitely not for baggers.  It is a gearheads bike night.  Not for the feint of heart, who think that because you had the dealership bolt on enough factory chrome to keep a team of detailers employed full time, you have a 'custom' bike.  

I am sure that I am leaving out some fine runs, and locations.  The Oyster Run for example; but there are just too many bikes jamming Commerce street in Anacortes to be able to really get any good pics of a specific bike.  Leaving a card or note on a bike can be a real pain in the ass to.

But it is the roads of the Pacific Northwest that really bring out the bikes.  So I will keep on taking one of my cameras along when I ride.  You never know when or where you will run into some sweet bike, just screaming to have her photo taken.  Like the Vincent Black Shadow I ran across in the little town of Winthrop in the northeastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains.  Along with several other vintage English bikes, and a couple of early Sportsters, had just made the trek across the North Cascades Highway.  Across two 5,000 foot plus mountain passes and down into Winthrop (which is a rather cool old western town, with the states 'oldest legal saloon', wooden sidewalks, and buildings) and stopped for a cold bit of refreshment before heading east again.

There is a road in the remote southern Cascades that is a magnate for bikes of all kinds.  It is only a few miles long, but it is virtually nonstop twisties and "S" curves with a few long sweepers thrown in just for good measure.  The road has only been in existence for about 15 years or so.  But it's magic is spreading, and on a nice summer weekend it is filled with bikes of all types enjoying the heaven that is Curly Creek Road.

Hopefully, I'll be able to share some of the sweet bikes and magical roads of the northwest with a much broader audience.  We'll just have to see how things progress.  Either way, it is a goal I have for myself.  To get a bike photoshoot, or article in one of the bigger chopper magazines.  Until then, I'll just keep on the road as much as I can, and keep the words and pictures flowing.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Doing What I Have To Do

The one thing about the weather in the Pacific Northwest, in April, is that it is ever changing.  The old line that goes; "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.  Or go five miles down the road" had to have been invented on an April day.  That is just how it is.  Sun shining one minute; then a torrential downpour and wind for ten or fifteen minutes.  Always changing, always different.  Yet, always the same every April.  Spring in the "Pacific North Wet".

This Saturday is the Spanaway Chapter of A.B.A.T.E. of Washingtons "End of Winter" Poker Run.  The weather forecast is for 40% chance of rain and 52° F.  So today I went out and made sure my nearly 20 year old oil skin duster was waterproofed, and I tied a bandana between the fork sliders on Gypsy.  The bandana should stop most of the spray off the front tire, and the oil skin should keep me dry when we run into  the rain.  I could have bolted the front fender back on Gypsy, but I prefer not to run a front fender.  It is just the way I have always liked my bikes to look, and I have learned tricks to deal wiht the tire spray over the years.

Several of the people from around here are only going to go on the run "if the weather cooperates".  But I figure, if you wait for good weather here in the PNW, you will probably only ride about three months a year.  That doesn't work for me.  So I have learned how to deal with what I need to, and just enjoy the ride.  That is what it should really be about.  Just going and riding.  Not all the other added bullshit that can take away from the enjoyment, and make it a drag to go riding at times.

As long as I can just get out and enjoy the road, I'll be a happy man.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finding The Corpses

There seems to be more than just the BLM involved in the governmental over reach at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, NV.  When a pilot took images from a small plane of cattle being rounded up into small pens as part of their round-up, the FAA declared a 'No Fly Zone' over an area that roughly half the size of the state of Delaware that the BLM had closed to entry on the ground.

Hastily dug pits have been found now with many dead cattle buried in them.  Including two 'prize bulls' that were shot by BLM officials.  Water tanks, fence lines, and even tortoise burrows were destroyed.  Rather ironic since protecting the tortoise habitat was the first reason BLM gave for their actions.  The they switched to the Bundy's not paying $1,000,000 in graze fees that BLM had decided they were now entitled to.

There are even comments by high ranking government officials characterizing the Bundy's and those supporting them as 'domestic terrorists' while ignoring the heavy handed intimidation techniques of the BLM.

I would really love to see the Court Order the BLM says they were acting under.  It is of great interest to see if killing cattle, and destroying private property, and tortoise habitat is anywhere in the order.  This story has yet to finish unfolding.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bureaucrats Are Mental

I have been going over some documentation put out by the federal government on helmets.  They are all filled with a twisted mentality that shows one of the major problems with the government; the bureacratic mentality.  This is the mentality that finds it completely unbelievable that people do not follow the rules, so more rules need to be made.  For example, they write a base line standard for a product that must be met for that product to be legally used in this country.  As a part of that standard, it is stated that it is up to the manufacturer to meet the standard.  Once the manufacturer certifies the product  meets the standard, that certification is considered true unless and until it is proven false at some later date.  The really bizarre part is, that the manufacturer doesn't have to test the product before they certify it.  Have I lost you yet?

Pages upon pages upon pages of the standard are filled with technical information on the proper way to test the product.  What the test parameters are, and even the definition of the proper position of the product during its test. Then in all those pages, the loopholes begin to crop up.  It is how the bureacrats react to the way people use the loopholes to get around the standard that shows just how mental they really are.  They do not tighten up the loophole directly, but make new rules about what people are doing to take advantage of the loophole.  There is an old saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  But that is what bureaucrats do.  They make rules that people are supposed to follow.  When they find out some people aren't following them, they make additional rules, but the new rules only are more specific cariations of the old rules.  Same rules, over and over, just each time a bit more specific.  Many times the thing they alter in their safety standard has nothing at all to do with safety.  But everything about following their rules.

A case (or two) in point; motorcycle helmets.  Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218 is all about motorcycle helmets.  Pages and pages of testing criteria.  Such as; the shape of the 'headform' the helmet is to be put on, the 'proper placement' of the helmet on the headform, and the proper way to test 'helmet restraint strap'.  Plus many more little variables all related to testing to prove that the helmet meets the standard to be sold.  Actually, that doesn't sound bad to me.  If I wanted to wear a helmet, I would want one that was going to be of some good, wouldn't you?

But, here's the catch; in all those pages of test criteria, it doesn't say that the manufacturer has to test the helmet to certify it.  But as long as the manufacturer certifies the helmet (whether they tested it or not) by placing the infamous DOT sticker on the helmet.  The sticker uset to just say DOT.  But because nearly two decades ago people started making their own stickers that said DOT and putting them on all sorts of helmets, the NHTSA bureacrats finally changed the rule about the sticker in 2011.  The rule went into effect in 2013.

Here are the new rules for the DOT sticker (pay no attention to the typographic errors, I left them in, that is how this latest technical standard reads):

RequiredCertification Information
The symbol “DOT”, horizontally centered on the label,in letters atleast0.38 inch (1.0 cm) high
The term “FMVSS No.218,” horizontally centered beneath the symbolDOT, in letters at least 0.09 inch (0.23 cm) high.
The word “CERTIFIED,”horizontally centered beneath the term “FMVSS No.218”,in letters at least 0.09 inch (0.23 cm) high.
The precise model designation, horizontally centered above the symbol DOT,in letters and/or numerals at least 0.09 inch (0.23 cm)high.
The manufacturer’s name and/or brand, horizontally centered above the model designation, in letters and/ornumerals at least0.09 inch (0.23 cm) high.
All symbols, letters, and numeralsare in a color that contrastswith the background of the label.
No information,otherthan the certification information listed above, appearson the certificationlabel.
The label appearson the outer surface of the helmet and isplaced so thatitiscentered laterallywith the horizontal centerline of the DOT symbollocated a minimum of 1 inch (2.5 cm)and a maximum of 3 inches (7.6 cm) from the bottom edge of the posterior portion of the helmet.

Now remember, those are the rules just for the sticker the manufacturer has to place on the helmet certifying the helmet meets the standard set by the government.  Yet in all the seventy one pages of the testing standard, it doesn't say the manufacturer has to test the helmet before applying the sticker certifying the helmet as meeting the standard.  Which is fine by the bureaucrats at NHTSA because their rules were followed.  Even though it means that helmets that don't meet the standard get certified as meeting it.

NHTSA contracts out random testing of helmets out to 'independent' test companies.  Of the records I have seen, spanning over thirty years, the 'failure rate' for 'certified helmets' has RISEN from 31% to 45%.  These are the same helmets that we (in about aone third of the country are MANDATED to wear).

When most people think of a helmet that doesn't meet the standard, they think of one of these, so called 'Novelty Helmets'.

I don't think anyone who wears one of these, or any number of similar helmets really expects it to give any protection in a crash.  But that's not the point.  The point is, when in Legislative Committee hearings, the Washington State Patrol has testified repeatedly how bad 'Novelty Helmets' are.  Obviously, people can look at these shells with straps and know they aren't going to do anything.  But let's take a look at another 'novelty helmet' for a moment.

One of the two green helmets above is a helmet that meets the standard, and passes the test.  The other, for some reason didn't pass all the rigid criteria so it isn't 'certified'.  It is sold as a 'Novelty Helmet' and retails for around $99.  Both are made by the same company.  Can you tell tell the difference, and know which one is 'certified'?  I'll tell you in a bit, but to add even more confusion, I will tell you this;  one of the helmets is 'certified', but neither of them is 'DOT approved'.

You see, DOT doesn't "approve" helmets.  They left themselves an out in the standard by leaving it up to the manufacturers to certify that helmets meet FMVSS 218 standard.  But they themselves, aren't responsible for certifying that fact.  Even when they get notice of a helmet model 'failing' a test, NHTSA simply notifies the manufacturer.  It is up to the manufacturer to redesign, recall, or decertify the helmet.  But that is okay with the bureaucrats because they did what they were suppose to do.  Anything else, "isn't their department".

Since most of the states that still have a mandatory helmet law use, or refer to FMVSS 218 as the standard for the law, there is an interesting loophole I have considered taking advantage of myself.  Manufacturing my own helmet, just one, and following explicitly the labeling criteria certifying it meets the federal standard.  Since no testing (which would ruin the helmets usefullness, if not outright destroy the helmet being tested) is required before certification of the helmet according to FMVSS 218, it would be a legal helmet until it was scientifically tested and shown not to be.  It is something to think about.  

If law enforcement cannot tell by looking at a helmet on your head if it is "certified" without the DOT sticker on it.  And there is no way a 'roadside' test can be done that would prove or disprove the manufacturers certification according to FMVSS 218.  It might be worth it to become a 'manufacturer' and go from there.

There are a lot of issues stemming from this whole 'Novelty Helmet' side of things.  One of the silliest, to me anyway, is the whole sticker issue.  It must be on the helmet before it can be sold.  Once you buy it, the helmet is yours, and you no longer have to have the sticker on the helmet if you don't want it there.  Sort of like the tag on mattresses that says "under penalty of law, do not remove".  That is to show the mattress meets the government standards for mattresses.  But when you buy the mattress, you can rip that tag right off, and no one will care.  Because it is your mattress, and you can do whatever you want with it.

Think about that next time you buy a new helmet, and see that DOT sticker.  Because if you take it off, which you are allowed to do according to NHTSA, law enforcement may stop you for a "non-approved" helmet.  But since they can't tell if it is or not, and the Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled that FMVSS 218 so "unconstitionally vague" it violates a citizens 14th Amendment Rights, fight the ticket in court.  It is up to you.

Oh, and could you tell which of the two green helmets was the 'Novelty Helmet"?  Think law enforcement could tell?  The helmet on the bottom. is the certified helmet.  The top green one is the 'Novelty Helmet'.  Don't believe me?  Go check out Biltwells website and see for yourself. 


Catch ya on the road sometime...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thoughts On The Bundy Ranch Exercise

Maybe I am just a bit too cynical sometimes.  But this entire episode down in Bunkerville, NV has me wondering.  I know it was all "claimed" to be about protecting the endangered Desert Tortoise habitat.  But do you really protect the tortoises habitat by stampeding cattle over it with a helicopter?  In a round-up of cattle, I can see the government contracting cowboys, and putting them in BLM vests.  But the BLM 'Rangers' I saw in several videos were wearing body armour under their uniforms, and desert combat boots.

To me, it all appeared as if they were intentionally pushing to get a violent reaction.  Why else would you use what looked so much like former military personnel with dogs to escort a small convoy of dump trucks and a backhoe?  A dog wearing its harness, and being worked towards people who are being ordered to "Back up, or you will be bitten" in my mind is the same as someone approaching you with a drawn firearm.  Provocation, and possibly escalation would have played right into the hands of whoever was pulling the government strings.  What better excuse to call in troops, and possibly even declare Martial Law, than to claim there was an armed assault against  government agents 'performing their duties'?

I truly think that someone in a controlling position was truly hoping for some sort of confrontation bigger than what they received.  If thousands of civilians had arrived at the Bundy Ranch armed and ready to fight then almost any action against them could have been spun as some sort of 'domestic terrorist' organization that needed to be put down.  As it was, very little national mainstream media seemed to be covering the event.  A few hundred supporters did arrive on the scene but not enough to really fit the bill needed to create some major national wave of support for further erosions of our liberties.  So, the BLM backed down and returned the cattle they had already taken.

What bothers me  the most about this I think, is not the snipers perches around the property manned by government contractors, but the fact it had the feel more of a military exercise that had run its coarse.  The 'opposing force' had its organizational capabilities tested.  Drones were acquiring images of those on the ground, and no doubt facial recognition software was put to use to find any 'persons of interest'.  I would not doubt if at least one or two Stinger fake cell tower systems were used to pick-up and record any and all cell calls made in the area.  Phone numbers of the cell phones making the calls, the numbers receiving them, and any recorded conversations were no doubt analyzed.  This entire exercise provided the government with plenty of hard intel on a large number of people who were dedicated to freedom, and made then actually put themselves on a possible line of confrontation wiht the government.  Tell me Big Brother isn't interested in getting info on what they can now call 'dedicated' adversaries.  To me, BLM was just a pawn in a government exercise.

If only there had been a licensed Amateur Radio Operator there on the Bundy Ranch.  With only a Technician Class license (the most common entry level license class for Ham Radio operators) they could have mounted their own real time drone missions.  Flying relatively cheap radio controlled aircraft with amateur television broadcasting capabilities.  Can you imagine the effect of having actual real time images of what was going on just behind the ridge line behind those sniper perches?  It would have made things much more interesting for those on the ground, on both sides.  The video would have made for a much more difficult story to ignore for the national media.  But if they already had decided not to cover it, or only follow along with the governments story, it wouldn't have mattered.  But I am sure a relatively close-up shot of even one sniper perched above that ranch would have brought even more people in support of the Bundy family.  So maybe, in the long run it is a good thing that no one able to operate a remotely controlled aircraft camera was there.  Homeland Security might have gotten the clash they were exercising for.  Still, I think it might not be a bad investment for some liberty minded individual who can afford $1,000 or less for a small maneuverable drone surveillance system.

As I said, I truly think this was just an exercise.  Both in tactics, and disinformation, but also in reconnaisance of the possible enemy forces.  It could also just have been a feint, to get us all looking at Nevada over the past couple of weeks, and not elsewhere in the country.  Did we miss anything while our attention was focussed on Bunkerville?

Just some of the things buzzing through my head tonight.  I don't fear the government, just some of the bureaucrats in control of major portions of it.  What do you think?

Catch you on the road sometime...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ethanol and Your Bike

Ethanol in fuel like E-10 or E-15 can cause a great number of problems for your motorcycle (Don't even get me started on E-85 fuel).  Beyond just running poorly, using ethanol fuels can actually shorten the life expectancy of rubber seals and fuel lines, and seriously damage your engine.  Fuel economy will also suffer; by as much as 12% for carbureted bikes, and up to about 4% for fuel injected bikes.  The following is just a short overview of some of the problems that ethanol fuels can cause you and your motorcycle.

Carburetion Issues:  Ethanol can cause carburetor jets to become clogged.  Also, the floats can soften, which means they don’t function properly.  Leaving the bike difficult to idle, and running rough.

Fuel Tanks: The alcohol in ethanol attracts water like crazy.  This can lead to rust forming in your fuel tanks.  Even to the point of causing leaks within a relatively short period of time.  Since most fuel treatments to remove water from fuel contain alcohol as well, adding them does little to help the problem, and can exacerbate it.  When the ethanol separates into  gas and alcohol in your fuel tank, it can really speed up the rust process.  As well as causing other issues with performance.

Fuel Economy: With carbureted motorcycles, fuel economy can be reduced by as much as 12%.  Fuel injection has a somewhat lower loss rate, but it is still in the 3-4% range.  This is in part due to the fuel injection system being able to adjust to the lower BTU of the ethanol fuel.

Horse Power: Ethanol reduces horsepower, partly due to its lower BTU level.  Partly due to the fact that to average the final octane rating, a much lower octane level gasoline is mixed with the much higher octane ethanol.  When the two separate in your fuel tank, you first burn through the lower octane gasoline.  This can lead to pinging, and even detonation in your motor.  Then, when the gasoline is used up, the now nearly pure alcohol is fed into your motor.  This sudden change can cause damage and performance issues.

Fuel Lines: You should make sure that the fuel lines you are using will not deteriorate when using ethanol fuel.  Some rubber fuel lines can become brittle and crack.  They can also begin to decompose and bits break off from the inside and flow with the fuel.  This can cause clogs in your fuel injection or carburetor jets.  Either way, whether your fuel line becomes brittle and cracks (leaking fuel over your hot motor or you as you ride), or breaks down and clogs your fuel system it can lead to costly repairs in the shop later.  So be sure your fuel lines are approved for use with ethanol.

Here is an experiment you can do for yourself that will show you just how quickly ethanol fuel will breakdown.  Take a pair of pint Mason jars, and fill them about three quarters of the way with ethanol.  Drop a small, but clean new nut and bolt into each jar.  Then, to one jar add a little bit of fuel preservative (Sta-bil, or an equivalent).  Mark both jars with a sharpie to show the fuel level.  Seal both jars and put them in a covered area and forget about them for a few weeks or a month.

After the month has passed, take a look, and you should see that quite a bit of the fuel has evaporated (In your fuel tank this evaporation will help promote rust).  Also, check out and compare the two jars of fuel to each other.  Do they look the same?  And how does the bolt look inside of each one?  Now put them back on the shelf for another couple of months.  Imagine these jars as your fuel tanks sitting over winter when you don’t get to ride as much.

When you check back on the jars after two or three months, I have a feeling you will be amazed at how downright nasty the fuel looks.  Especially the untreated jar of fuel.  Can you imagine how that would burn in your engine?  And how does that nice shiny new nut and bolt look?  That is how the metal parts of your fuel tank, and fuel system will begin to look.  If you are like many riders, and take your bike to the shop for repairs, how much does a carburetor rebuild, or an injector replacement cost?  Or even worse, if it should clog or even close off a carburetor jet, leaning out your fuel way too much.  That can cause some serious (and costly) damage to your motor.

If at all possible, I would advise using non-ethanol gasoline if possible.  Yes, I know it can be difficult to find.  Personally, I know of only one gas station here in east Lewis County that has it, but luckily it is close to where I work, so I use it as often as I can.  If you can’t find non-ethanol fuel, then I would suggest a treatment that stabilizes ethanol.  Some of the better ones that I (or friends of mine) have had good experience with are Lucas and  Spectro brands. 

As long as the government is so intent on forcing us to use ethanol fuels, we need to be smart about it and protect our motors and fuel systems.  One of the things A.B.A.T.E. members can do is to contact your Congressman and Senator in Washington, DC and ask them to support our efforts to force the EPA to remove the requirement for ethanol fuels.  It isn’t really a ‘Green’ solution since it lowers fuel mileage, which then means we end up having to buy more sooner.  Also, since it is made from (mostly) corn and grain, forcing Americans to use it forces up the price on feed grain and corn for animals AND our own food.  It doesn't burn as cleanly as pure gasoline either, and when it does break down it burns even more incompletely.  But then, it is really all about control, and not really about the environment.  

Catch you on the road sometime…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Novelty Helmets

I was discussing of all things, my blog from the other day with one of my riding buddies, and good friend.  His reply to me was the perfect answer to those who think that you HAVE to wear helmets or you are just some kind of moron, or irresponsible dare devil.  He pretty much stated the same things I had in my blog as far as people should have the right to choose for themselves whether to wear a helmet.  To top it off, and to make my point even more markedly, he said he'd wear a helmet if he had to choose.  With a smile he added; "But then, MY helmets are cool!" and laughed.

The helmets he tends to wear are made by Biltwell.  They have the old classic look of the late 60's and early 70s.  Even down to the metal flake color schemes.  Biltwell helmets also bring out one of the other sides of the helmet debate, the so called 'Novelty' helmets.  Most people who think of 'Novelty' helmets think of the thin shelled skull cap helmet with absolutely nothing between the shell of the helmet and the wearers head.  Biltwell's 'Novelty' helmets look just like their other models.  With plenty of padding, and a high quality finish.  The only difference is they don't quite meet the standards to earn a D.O.T. sticker on the back.  But I seriously doubt if the average layperson (and especially police) could even tell the difference between a D.O.T. helmet and one of Biltwell's 'Novelty' helmets.  Since the onl way to test a helmet to see if it meets the standard is quite precise, and results in the destruction of the helmet, there can't be any type of 'roadside' testing to verify whether a helmet meets the D.O.T. standard or not. Except of course, those 'novelty' helmets with absolutely zero padding and only a minimally hard shell.  That is why a lot of police use the absence of a D.O.T. sticker as an excuse to pull over a motorcyclist for having a non-standard helmet.  The sad truth is, that the Federal standard that requires a helmet to have a D.O.T. sticker placed on it by the manufacturer ends at point of sale.  There is no Federal mandate that the D.O.T. on the back of a helmet must be permanently there.  Once the buyer has purchased the helmet, it is theirs to do with as they wish.  Including removing the sticker that says D.O.T. from their helmets.

All this will become a moot point once the legislature repeals the helmet law.  Even though, like my good firend, many if not most riders will continue to wear their helmets.  It will become one less reason for law enforcement to use to 'profile' motorcyclists.  Which, in Washington State is already illegal, but many law enforcement officers still use any excuse they can to stop riders in hopes of getting a bigger bust than a simple traffic ticket.  Think about it, removing one more toolthe police  can use to harass us while we peacefully ride.  While giving us, the motorcycling citizens, the RIGHT to choose whether to wear a helmet or not.  Sounds like a Win/Win situation to me.   Like the old slogan from when I first started riding on the street bike in the late 70's says; "Helmet Laws Suck."  They did then, and they still do.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Pulling Jugs

With probably 80,000 miles on her (I havent had a functional speedometer since the winter of 2009.  So I can only estimate the mileage, but it was already at 45,000 back then) Gypssy was beginning to leak oil pretty heavily when she was running.  The base gaskets on both cylinders were allowing small bubbles of oil to escape, and oil would blow back onto the belt and rear wheel.  Since I have this week off, I decided that it was the perfect time to replace those base gaskets.  Of course, that meant replacing all the other gaskets in the top end as well.

Removing the base gasket remnants

Things went along smoothly enough.  At least until I replaced the rear cylinder base gasket, and slide the rear jug back into place.  That is when I couldn't find the hose clamps I had set aside to use as ring compressors.  So, I put an end to the days work, and will go into NAPA in the morning and buy a hose clamp.  Then I can get back to finishing the job, and having Gypsy up and running again in time for this Saturdays A.B.A.T.E. of Washington Board of Directors meeting.  I just feel really stupid going to a motorcycle organization meeting in a car, and not on my bike.    Besides, the weather is suppose to be good this weekend, so it'll be a good ride.  I'm planning on having Friday as a break-in ride to double check that I don't have any more leaks.

Still have some things to get together, and make sure she is ready for.  I have some big runs coming up over the next few months, so Gypsy needs to be in the best of shape to make them all.

Catch you on the road sometime...

Sunday, April 6, 2014


There has been renewed discussion lately about a subject that seems to divide the motorcycling community quite severely.  It is, simply put; the question of do we have the right to choose for ourselves, how to take care of our own bodies.  As responsible (or at least reasonably so) adults, do we have the RIGHT to decide what is reasonable in our own minds in regards to our own personal safety?  It really is a passionate debate.  

I have seen people join online groups only to realize the group they have joined promotes a choice they don't wish to make.  Thats's all fine and good.  Just leave the group and go with your own choice.  But what strikes me is that many times, as the person leaves the group or forum, they post their reasons for leaving.  And strangely enough, many times it seems to degerate into a negative degrading comment about the groups objective.  Is it so difficult to agree that adults should be able to make a few basic choices for themselves?  Or is it that some people cannot deal with the concept that others do not share their choice.  Which somehow makes those 'others'  less intelligent, less reasonable, or outright irresponsible.

What is this choice I keep referring to?  Simple;  does a person have the RIGHT TO CHOOSE if they wish to wear a helmet or not?  

Currently, a majority of the states in the US are to some extent, 'Pro-Choice' states.  I say that because as I write this, more than 30 allow a motorcyclist to CHOOSE whether to wear a helmet or not.  Although all but two of those have some form of age restriction connected to the choice.  Even in the two states that have no restriction on helmet use, there is a choice.  You can wear your helmet if you wish, if not, then don't.

Sadly, Washington state is in the minority of states that still MANDATES the use of helmets.  It just puzzles me when the subject comes up of repealing the mandatory helmet law, why some people have such a strong reaction to even the idea of not wearing a helmet.  As if wearing a helmet gives them some form of superiority intellectually.  But there's the rub, they won't even see that repealing the helmet law doesn't affect their helmet use one iota.  

If there isn't a MANDATORY helmet use law, that does not mean you won't be allowed to wear a helmet.  It simply means you have a CHOICE whether to do so or not.

There is always a big discussion about several things when it comes to helmet use that seems to not quite fit reality.  But it does seem to fit common sense; at least until you look a bit closer at some of the facts.  For instance, did you know there is no such thing as a "DOT APPROVED" helmet?  The US Department of Transportation set standards for helmets to meet in regards to impacts.  It is up to the manufacturers to ensure the helmets meet the standard.  By applying the DOT sticker on the helmet, the manufacturer is stating the helmet meets the required standard.  The D.O.T. does do random tests on helmets the manufacturers claim meet the standards.  But, the D.O.T. doesn't approve helmets...as much for liability reasons as anything else.

Guess what, between 1980 and 2008, the helmet failure rate rose from 31% to 45%.  So, basically one third to nearly one half of the helmets tested didnt meet the impact requirements the D.O.T. set.  What speed are these test impacts you ask?  It is an impact of, get ready for this, 13.4mph.  The Snell standard is a bit higher, requiring two impacts in the same place.

Here is a quote from an email response from an executive at Snell about this very question:
"Our standards call for impacts with a velocity of about 17.3 mph followed by a second impact at the same point on the helmet at about 14.8 mph. A helmet that can take one of our headforms through these two impacts unscathed could probably handle a single impact somewhat greater than 17.3 mph but certainly no more than 23 MPH.

DOT tests apply two impacts as well, both at around 13.4 MPH implying a single impact capacity greater than 13.4 mph but certainly no more than 19 mph. These numbers all seem pretty dismal compared with even normal traffic speeds but, fortunately, few motorcyclists ever go head-on into a wall.

Most head strikes are glancing blows. The most common accident is the biker is thrown from the bike, falls to the road surface and scrubs off his cruising speed sliding along the roadway. The impact velocity is not his cruising speed but just the downward component picked up in his fall. A fall of two meters (we're metric here) will result in a DOT level impact. If the biker is thrown higher, say up to three meters, it will be a Snell level impact. Of course, with no helmet, a fall of one or two feet can produce death or permanent disability.

What's important is that almost any level of head protection will produce benefits. There are accidents in which even a thick toupee might save someone's life. However, a motorcyclist could not lift, let alone wear, all the helmet he might reasonably be expected to need to survive any reasonably foreseeable accident. For that reason, our standards look to identify all the helmet a rider could reasonably be expected to wear."

Ever wonder why a new helmet comes with a little tag saying the helmet needs to be replaced if it falls from waist height?  That's why.  It is the level of impact, or close to it, that a helmet is designed to protect against.  Not much of an impact, is it. 

I admit, sliding down the road, that helmet is probably going to reduce the amount of road rash you have on your head.  But it isn't going to do much of anything for the rest of your body.  Which brings me to the next reason I think we should be FREE TO CHOOSE; safety.

It has been shown over the years in numerous studies that helmets are more likely to protect against head (skull) injuries.  But your brain is still getting bounced around INSIDE your skull.  MAYBE not as much, but it IS bouncing around.  Plus, several of those studies have shown that while helmets MAY REDUCE THE RISK of head (skull) injuries, they CAN actually INCREASE THE RISK of neck injuries.

So you may be alive, but you could end up a brain damaged quadraplegic?  An extreme result, to be sure, but not beyond the realm of statistical probability.  It sure would be nice to have the FREEDOM TO CHOOSE if I found those risks acceptable.

The last thing I'll touch upon, is the "Public Burden" myth.  You've probably heard it before.  Some poor biker gets busted up badly in an accident, and ends up on disability and welfare to cover the costs.  Let's take a look at that idea.  It does happen, but to what extent, and how does that compare to the rest of the motoring community?

OK, here goes; first off, the statistics from the University of North Carolina says that the percentage of motorcyclist and all other accident victims are pretty close.  With 49.5% of motorcyclists having their medical expenses covered by insurance, compare to 50.4% of all other highway trauma victims.  Sounds pretty even, doesn't it.  That is, until you factor in the actuall amounts of motorcyclists vs the other highway trauma victims.  In 2012; in Washington State, 198 motorcyclists weren't covered by insurance.  That is the same year that 95% of the motorcycle fatalities in Washington State were wearing helmets.  So, while I don't have the actual figures at hand, it is a good bet that most of those injured were wearing helmets.  Still, 198 motorcyclists having the government pay their bills and costs for recovery does seem like a major burden on society.  That is, until you factor in the 905 non-motorcyclists (that 50.4% of other Highway trauma victims) into the equation.  To my figures, that means that motorcyclists are roughly 78% less likely to be a "public burden" than a non-motorcyclist.  So the whole "public burden" issue is a moot point.  So don't let someone get you distracted by it.

To finish, before I get off this rickety old soap box, adults should have the RIGHT to make free choices about their own health and well being.  Don't you agree?  That is all that repealing the helmet law in Washington State really does.  If you want to keep wearing your helmet, that's perfectly fine and dandy.  If you don't, that's your choice too.  Either way, you are responsible for your own choices.  It is simply a question of having the FREEDOM TO CHOOSE, and not be told how to take care of ourselves and our loved ones by some vague government bureaucrat to who we are nothing more than numbers and percentages in a set of columns somewhere.

Speaking of that, I have one last thing for you to think about.  If mandating helmets makes us safer, than why is it that the CDC stated in a letter to Congressman Thomas E. Petri that only "41%" of motorcycle operators who died nationwide in 2010 were not wearing a helmet.  That means that 59% of them were.  And only a minority of states mandate helmet usage.  Those facts alone should give you a good food for thought.

Catch you on the road sometime... 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We Made Law!!

A.B.A.T.E. has been working on getting a bill passed for two years now.  It isn't a repeal of the mandatory helmet law, but it is a step in the right direction.  Working with the system to get results, and building relationships with the legislators.  Just what a good lobbyist should be doing.

Well, as of yesterday, we got this one passed.  The Governor signed the bill, and as of June 12, if a light controlled by a sensor doesnt 'detect' the bike, and it goes through one complete cycle, you can ride your motorcycle through the light.  Even if it is red...as long as it is safe to do so.  In other words, make sure there isnt a Peterbilt screaming down the highway before you make that left turn.

As we began to gather at the Capitol.  At first i didn't think there would be much of a turn-out.  There were only a few friends there.  But we welcomed each other warmly and headed off to get things done.

Of course, we had to take a group pic on the Capitol steps. Then we went inside and saw that our little group was just a fraction of the supporters of the bill hanging around.

 You should have seen all of us crammed intoa hallway waiting to come in for the Governor to sign our bill.  It must have made for an amusing sight.  Thirty or so bikers, as many "suits", and a bunch of followers of Islam all packed into this one hallway in front of the Governors office.  And riding back and forth through it every few minutes were a small herd of people with disabilities on electric wheelchairs.  Its all good, quite the diverse crowd.

While we were waiting for the Governor to sign the bill, he did sign a Proclomation.  It proclaimed that May would be, in Washington State anyway, "Motorcycle Awareness Month".  After the Governor signed it,  'Mr Breeze' A.B.A.T.E. of Washington Legislative Affairs Officer read the decree off to us on the steps of the capitols rotunda.

When they called our bill number, we all walked in and stood around the Governor as he signed the bill.  He signed it, and after a few more minutes of pictures and expressing our gratitude, and telling the Governor that he should join A.B.A.T.E., (you don't need to ride to be a member), we headed out towards the door.  

I got home, and got word that there were a bunch of pics of us on the state website for the bill signing.  The very last one posted, was a surprise to me.  It was of me shaking the Governors hand, but the photographer had changed positions and it was a cool pic.  So naturally I snagged it.

It looks like this will be a good year.  One less hassle to deal with as we ride.  Now if we can just swing the repeal of that damned Mandatory helmet law in Washington, I can take that damn coconut off my head.

Catch ya on the road sometime...