This Can’t Be Good…

The National Highway Transportation Safety Board has just released a survey on drunk/drugged driving in the US.  Overall, the numbers look pretty good.  The number of people driving under the influence continues to decline.

A new roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms a continuing decline in the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers

In 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In the latest survey, that figure had fallen to 2.2 percent. A BAC of .08 or higher is now above the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But, as it often is, the devil is in the details.  Motorcyclists are the most likely set of drivers to be operating their vehicles while under the influence.

Motorcycle riders were more than twice as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to be drunk (5.6 percent compared with 2.3 percent). Pickup truck drivers were the next most likely to have illegal BACs (3.3 percent).

I can’t even imagine the level of stupidity it takes to get on a motorcycle ofter knocking back a few. And the idea that more than 1 in 20 cyclists is tooling around with a buzz on is astounding.

It’s All in the Marketing

You gotta hand it to Harley-Davidson, boy.  They rarely m iss a step when it comes to marketing, especially in terms of rider outreach.  I don’t know of any other company that interacts with the riding community  so seriously, and with such a keen eye towards building the brand than the MoCo does.

And they’re doing it again.

Share Your Spark: A Guide to Mentoring is a tool kit the Motor Company developed for current and aspiring riders featuring information on how to be a resource and support system to others during their motorcycling journey. The mentoring kit includes information for both potential mentors and mentees, including a DVD showcasing tips on how to become or find a mentor, stories from successful mentoring experiences, a special Share Your Spark pin and a planning and reflection guide.

Grab younger riders by hooking them up with older riders who can positively reinforce the idea that the Harley-Davidson is the best motorcycle ever!

Nobody is as successful at this as HD.  I mean, with BMW, while there are plenty of rider events in that community, the company’s attitude seems to be that, if BMW has to come looking for you, then you’re probably not the kind of person they want to associate with anyway.  Honda…well, they don’t do much at all anymore.  Not only did they cancel the Honda Hoot, their bike line-up changes at a geological pace.  It seems like all they care about selling you is a Gold Wing.

HD, though, is hyperactive in their contacts with the riding community.

A Tale of Two Jumps…

…And a tale of two Robbies. This past week, for the big new years celebration, Both Robbie Madison and “Kaptain” Robbie Kneivel made highly hyped motorcycle jumps in Las Vegas.

Robbie Madison’s jump was…insane.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM1e51mxulA

Robbie Kneivel’s jump was…meh.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqCqraMxSLY

I think Robbie Kneivel irks me.  First, he didn’t jump the volcano at the Mirage.  He jumped near the volcano.  And even if he had, so what.  I’ve been to the Mirage.  I’ve seen the volcano.  It ain’t that big. Jumping it really isn’t any more impressive than what the average motocross racer does every day, and Robbie–and FOX–acted like it was just as impressive as anything Evel Kneivel ever did.

It wasn’t.

If Evel had set this deal up, he would have jumped the volcano.  And he’d have done it riding a 600-pound Harley Sportster with stock suspension, not a lightweight little motocross bike with 18 inches of suspension travel.

Robbie Madison’s jump, on the other hand…well, not even Evel could’ve coaxed a Sportster up on top of a 100-foot vertical tower.

Granted, Madison used a motocross bike, too, but at least he has the excuse that it’s pretty much the only type of bike that could’ve done it.

In the video, the FOX announcer made a big deal out of the fact that kneivel doesn’t have a speedometer on his bike.  But a speedometer really isn’t necessary for a jump that can be made at any speed between 40 and 80 miles per hour.  At the end of the day, what Robbie Kneivel did was take a motocross bike and catch 25 feet of air from ramps on a level street, and it was hyped like the most amazing event ever.

I couldn’t do either of those jumps, myself.  But then I don’t bill myself as the world’s greatest motorcycle stunt daredevil.

Free WordPress Motorcycle Themes

One of the things I learned when I switched over to a WordPress blog is that there really isn’t much of a selection of explicitly motorcycle-themed WordPress skins available.  There’s about, uh, four I think, that I found online.

Well, now, I’ve more than doubled that number.

I’ve created a series of free WordPress themes for motorcycle blogs, and have tried to take care of both the sportbike guys, and the cruiser guys.  All of the themes are 2.7 compatible, and widget-ready.  There are no links to third-party sponsors or anything.  Not even a link to me.  Although, a courtesy link would be nice if you decide to use the theme.

Just click on the screenshot previews below to download the ZIP file containing the theme.

BLUE RACER

Blue Racer WordPress Motorcycle Theme
Blue Racer WordPress Motorcycle Theme

Blue Racer is a light-colored blue theme, with a racing bike header.

HOG ORANGE

Hog Orange WordPress Motorcycle Theme
Hog Orange WordPress Motorcycle Theme

I certainly wouldn’t want to leave the cruiser guys out of the party.  It’s a dark, grungy theme, in the orange and black colors that are traditionally associated with a certain motorcycle manufacturer.

BURNOUT

Burnout WordPress Motorcycle theme
Burnout WordPress Motorcycle Theme

Burnout is a sportbike theme, with a nice pic of a ZX-14 tearing up the asphalt.  And its tires.

SEPIA CRUISER

Sepia Cruiser WordPress Motorcycle Theme
Sepia Cruiser WordPress Motorcycle Theme

This one is a very neutral-colored, sepia-toned theme.  Front and center is the image of the Tachometer of my Sportster.  So, if you don’t ride a Harley, well, you might want to find another image to use as the header pic that doesn’t have a big ol’ bar and shield on it.

Like, maybe, this version, which is less Harley-centric.

Sepia Cruiser 2 WordPress Motorcycle Theme
Sepia Cruiser 2 WordPress Motorcycle Theme

HIGH SPEED

High Speed WordPress Motorcycle Theme
High Speed WordPress Motorcycle Theme

High speed is done in dark steel blues, topped by a ‘busa screaming down the highway.

SPORT TOURING

Sport Touring WordPress Motorcycle Theme
Sport Touring WordPress Motorcycle Theme

Sport Touring is square.  The theme is square, I mean.  Not a curve on it, and patterned squares are a central motif of this theme.  As is the FJR1300 in the header (with all badges removed, for, uh genericizing it).  Warm earth tones make this a soothing theme, in contrast to the sharp edges of the design elements.

So,  I hope you like the efforts above, and find them useful if you have a blog.

Flash: Motorcyclists Love Motorcycles

Motorcyclists have apparently never loved motorcycles as much as they do right this minute.  Apparently, according to J.D. Power, motorcyclists think their motorcycles are the tits.

Overall motorcycle ownership satisfaction averages 814 (based on a 1,000-point scale) in 2008, up 5 points from 2007. While all five components driving satisfaction improve in 2008, the most notable increases occur in the areas of cost of ownership and product quality.

I’d be a happy motorcyclist, too…if I had a motorcycle.

There’s been no progress at all on getting the FJR into a shop, no contact with the other drivers insurance company, or any other measurable sign that we’re moving towards resolving  my damages that resulted from the accident.

On the plus side, while I still have achey legs, I was finally able to start walking without a cane yesterday.   Still limping, but the cane isn’t necessary any more, so I got that going for me.

Buy a Hog, get HOG stock

A Harley-Davidson dealer in Milwaukee has come up with an interesting promotional idea.

Milwaukee Harley-Davidson on the city’s northwest side is giving 100 shares of Harley stock to any customer who buys a 2008 model motorcycle and 50 shares with the purchase of a 2009 model.

I’m not sure if that’s as big of a draw as they think.  HOG stock hasn’t been doing very well.

Shares of Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson closed at $16.72 on Dec. 9. The 52-week high was $49.56 per share, recorded in December 2007.

I guess whether it’s a good deal depends on whether you think that a decline of more than 50% in the last year means that this is a great buying opportunity…or we’re still in a price decline for the company’s stock.  But, based on the way the economy has been going, I wouldn’t look for a return to that fifty bucks per share any time soon.

Maybe they can get a bailout…

Long Beach Motorcycle Show

I guess this weekend I’m going to have to shell out the sawbuck and head up to Long Beach.  It’s the weekend of the big International Motorcycle Show, and I’ve decided to go.  Chris hasn’t decided whether to go or not.  If she doesn’t, I’ll ride the FJR up.

Both Moto Guzzi and Kawasaki will evidently be there in force this weekend, giving test rides of their various models.  I think I’d really like to try a  Norge and a Breva 1200 to compare and contrast.

I’ll also be taking the camera up, so there’ll probably be a little photo show here when I get back.

Stop Riding Immediately?

Hmmm. I find this troubling:

A new study revealed that men who ride motorcycles are at risk of impotence and urinary problems, possibly because the vibration of the engine damages nerves in their penises.

The study by doctors in Japan was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.

It found that out of 234 motorcyclists who rode about three hours every weekend, 69 percent reported mild to severe erectile dysfunction.

I’m not gonna say these scientists are full of it, but, well, if this was the case–I mean, seven out of ten motorcyclists with limp noodles–you’d’ve thought there’d be more, you know, talk about it.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the state of my rod, but I haven’t seen any…changes.

I dunno.  Something doesn’t sound right about this.

Hanging up the Helmet

It’s a dangerous thing we do, this motorcycle riding. And sometimes, with some people…well, it gets to you. Today, while perusing the FJR forum, I saw this post. It’s from a guy whose ridden for years, and has had enough.

At almost 50 years old and after 37 years of motorcycling on almost as many bikes, I have decided enough is enough.

Not long ago I mentioned on here, that we had traveled the length of the country and back to watch some racing through slete, snow and hail. I lost count of how many times I asked myself ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’

On the UK’s crowded roads it’s getting more and more dangerous and the pleasures of motorcycling are far from what they were when I started out. For mainly that reason our rides have become fewer and further between. When I get home I find myself relieved to a degree that we made it in one piece.

Today we went across country to a 70’s bike show. It was a great event and one we shared with an old biking buddy of mine from the very early days. On the way home, he pulled out a lead on me after I got stuck in traffic. I nailed the FJR to catch him up. As I aproached him and slowed to his pace, an Audi sports car pulled out from behind me and flew past at about 70-80mph. This was in a 40. He thought I was racing with him. He then continued to overtake a line of traffic and almost tee boned a car turning across the traffic (who was doing nothing wrong). This would have been a multiple fatal accident if they had connected.

I have seen enough and have arrived home feeling relieved once too often. This combined with a very recent experience that illustrated how quickly a happy life can be ruined. (A close friend was diagnosed with cancer and died 5 weeks later). I have had plenty of near misses and escapes over the years and feel that now is a good time to park the bike and hang up my lid.

We (my Mrs. & me) will still have a great interest in racing, and I will still attend this forum as long as I am welcome. I hope you guys don’t think any less of me for ‘chickening out’ but when the worry of what might be, overcomes the pleasure it really is time to stop.

It’s simultaneously sad to hear this, and to feel a sense of relief at his departure from riding. It’s sad to see someone leave the sport ofter so many years, yet, without the proper mental attitude, you’re endangering yourself when you climb on.

At the best of times, even when the weather is perfect, and there’s no other traffic on the road, you really don’t know if you’re going to survive your ride. A tire blowout at 70 miles per hour, a handful of gravel in the apex of a turn, a rivulet of sand from a drainage runoff, a dog coming out of nowhere, and you may not be going home that day.

But the best conditions are rare in most places. On most days, you have to face the soccer mom in her SUV, talking on her cell phone, who changes lanes right into you. Or the teenager who misjudges your speed and pulls out in front of you at an intersection. Or the older gentleman who looks right at you, and doesn’t see you. or the young guy in a sports car who gets right on your tail.

All of us who’ve ridden on the street have faced those hazards–and more–every day.

There’s a old biker saying, to the effect that, “If you ever throw a leg over your bike, and you aren’t just a little bit afraid, it’s time to hang it up.” That’s good advice, really, because if you are riding on the street, and don’t still feel the incentive to ride as if you were invisible to everyone else on the street, you’ll get overconfident, and bad things will inevitably happen.

But, the opposite is also true. When you throw a leg over, and your first thought is, “I hope I get out of this alive,” then you should probably stop riding, too.

Last year, about 2 months after starting to ride again, I dumped my Harley in a left turn, about 100 feet in front of my house. I dunno how it happened really. I guess I was looking at the turn, instead of where I was supposed to be going, and started to go wide. I hit the rear brake a little too hard, locked it, and low sided. I got back up and rode on in to work. But I noticed I was starting to freak out in left turns. I was refusing turns, and walking through them. Turns that I had made every day for two months. My mental attitude had been shaken. as a result, I became overly tentative and cautious.

If your head isn’t in the game, and you feel a little too much fear, then you really can’t ride safely. You’ll over-react to minor situations, or under-react to major problems, and you’ll go down. Physical skills are only about 70% of riding. It’s the mental skills that make up the remaining 30%, and if you don’t have them, through fear, fatigue, alcohol, or whatever, then you will go down, sooner or later, most likely in a situations that you should have the ability to handle, but don’t, because of your mental attitude.

In my case, I confronted my fear, went back to the parking lot, and undeveloped residential construction areas with roads, but no houses, and I practiced, and practiced. I did nothing but turns, circles, and U-turns. And I kept doing it faster and faster, day after day, until I got my confidence back.

But, sometimes, you simply can’t do that. The weight of experience, seeing others go down, wondering when your number’s up; they all combine sometimes to make you hang it up, at least for a while.

I hope I never find myself in the same position. If I do, I hope I’m smart enough or brave enough to make the same decision the poster above did, and walk away. Because if that’s where your head is, then walking away is the best decision to make. Dragging it out through pride or stubbornness is just an invitation to disaster.