Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Valentino Rossi Wins 2008 MotoGP Championship!

At the Japanese GP at Motegi on Saturday, September 27th, Valentino Rossi won his 6th premier-level (currently called MotoGP) championship, and 8th overall including the 125cc and 250cc classes.  It  only took 11 of the 24 laps for Rossi to advance to the lead from his 4th starting position and then win going away over his consistent chasers this season: Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo.  After finishing 2nd and 3rd the last 2 seasons, Rossi rode better than ever this season and won despite his Yamaha being down on power to the Ducatis and his team lacking the resources of the mighty factory Honda team. It's good to see the clown prince of motorcycle racing back in top post-race form, too.  Rossi pulled over after taking the checkered flag, donned a t-shirt that had a picture of a watch at 8 o'clock and text reading "Sorry for being late" in Italian, then sat opposite a "businessman" at a hastily erected desk at the side of the track and autographed a helmet. Just another day at the office for "The Doctor" I guess.
Take a bow Vale! 

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Ride for Kids" 2008

On Sunday, September 21st I had the privilege of riding the Philadelphia Ride for Kids event, which benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. I've done all four RFKs since it came to my area. The police-escorted ride begins at the King of Prussia Mall and winds thru back roads and tiny lanes in the Valley Forge area, before ending at Longwood Gardens.  While the route is very nice, the group ride/parade/gaggle experience is about what you'd expect with over 500 bikes.  While it's far from my favorite type of riding, the event is really about the kids and the cause. We raised over $169,470 this year at the Philly event.  RFK events raised over $4.5 million last year for pediatric brain tumor research and for college scholarships for brain tumor survivors. Ride For Kids  events take place all over the country; please take time to check out PBTF's and RFKs websites and perhaps find a ride you can do if you haven't yet.  By the way, I collect donations year 'round, so please email me (from my Profile page) if you're so inclined.  (Click to enlarge the photos below).
RegistrationThe gaggle awaitsCool trike (?)Honda Rune...rareNice '77 GoldwingLongwood GardensIt's all for the kids!One of the Stars

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Essential Motorcycling Library

There are many other essential motorcycle-related books I've yet to read, but these are the ones I own and can recommend without reservation. In no particular order:

10 Years on 2 Wheels
Helge Pedersen
ISBN: 0944958389

Norwegan photographer sells most of his stuff, buys and modifies a BMW R80 G/S, and spends the next 10 years and 250,000 miles traipsing around the globe. Along the way, he enountered enlightening, challenging and occasionally life-threatening events. Pederson became the first motorcyclist ever to ride through the infamous Darien Gap in Central America — 80 roadless miles of virtually impenetrable jungle. Even non-motorcyclists would like this one. 208-page "coffee table" sized book with over 200 amazing photos. Out of print and very difficult to find nowadays I'm afraid, but well worth the effort.

Total Control
Lee Parks
ISBN: 0760314039

High-performance street-riding techniques taught by the founder of the Advanced Riding Clinics and former roadracer and Editor-In-Chief of Motorcycle Consumer News. A must for sport and sport-touring riders. The techniques I picked-up from this book made me both quicker and safer.

Proficient Motorcycling & More Proficient Motorcycling
David L. Hough
ISBN: 1931993033 & 1889540536

Street-survival skills from one of the foremost motorcycling safety gurus and author of the Proficient Motorcycling series of articles published over the years in Motorcycle Consumer News. Must-reads for all riders, but particularly so for commuters.

Purple Mountains: America from a Motorcycle
Notch Miyake
ISBN: 1884313280

American businessman sells his business and decides to ride his bike coast-to-coast to visit old friends and to get a fresh perspective. Honestly describes both the highs and lows of motorcycle touring.

Against the Wind
Ron Ayers
ISBN: 1884313094

First-timer’s account of the 1995 Iron Butt Rally, where finishers typically have to ride around 1,000 miles a day for 11 days. Read it and you’ll begin to understand understand why Iron Butt Association members have those license plate frames that read “World’s Toughest Riders”.

Jupiter’s Travels
Ted Simon
ISBN: 0965478521

Exceptionally well-written tale of an Englishman who, not being a motorcyclist prior, decides the best way to see the world would nonetheless be on a bike (good choice!). He buys a Triumph and heads out for four years, circumnavigating the globe. More psychological and cultural study than travelogue, it's tough to put down.

Blood, Sweat & 2nd Gear
flash gordon, m.d.
ISBN: 978-1-884313-63-9

Indispensable guide to medical issues commonly confronted by motorcyclists from a practicing physician and daily rider. Dr. Gordon wrote for San Fransisco's famed City Bike magazine prior to becoming a regular columnist for Motorcycle Consumer News. Short chapters covering the gamut of motorcycle-related issues, from post-crash care to numb hands to "monkey butt" to fitness. The good doctor dispenses practical, easy-to-understand advice (a bit holistic at times but what would one expect from a San Fransican?) in a very readable, light-hearted manner. I never leave on a multi-day trip without this 9" x 6" paperback.

(Note: This is updated from the original post on 1/10/07)

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Failure Is Not An Option (?)

2nd time I used this NASA souvenir.  Ironic, eh?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Which Gasoline for my Motorcycle? (Part II: Brands)

In Part I, I discussed why higher octane isn't "better" than lower octane, and why running higher octane in your motorcycle than is necessary to avoid preignition is simply a waste of money. As threatened in that post, here's Part II, information to help choose among the retail brands of gasoline in the United States (sorry, my international readers are on their own). The following is based solely on research I've done (although I've tried to use authoritative sources), so take it FWIW.

Basic "gasoline" is a complicated blend of (mostly) hydrocarbons of various types. To this stew, various compounds (from dye to smog-reducers) are added, depending upon the application and, in some instances, the geographic location and local government requirements. Generally, for the US retail market aimed at private automobile use, the additives of most interest to we motorcyclists are ethanol 'cuz some motorcycles don't like it much; those used to increase the octane rating (benzene and toulene, which are aromatic hydrocarbons); and, probably most importantly, those that increase stability.

So, how to chose at which gas station we're going to stop when the needle dips low? Well, if you're like me you've waited until the engine is nearly sucking fumes and you're (of course) out in the middle of nowhere, the choice is easy -- the first (or only) station you can find. But assuming we've got a choice, ethanol content isn't a huge factor because within a given area the content is likely all the same. The minimum is 5.9% by law in the US, but in my area all brands seems to be at 10% lately (excepting the rare E-85 of course). And everyone offers the appropriate octane rating we need for our particular motorcycle (see Part I), so that's not a deciding factor, either.

Given a choice among brands, it's really about the stability-inducing and cleansing qualities of the additive package. When gasoline sits around for a while, it oxidizes and various compounds precipitate out -- we usually refer to them as "gum" or "varnish" -- which clog up our carb jets or fuel injectors. The "name brands" usually (but not exclusively) include more or better additives, such as Techron, which is a cleaner that is marketed under various names under license from Chevron. In the US, the EPA has requirements for additive packages, but the requirements have actually declined quite a bit during the Bush years (can you say "lobbying"?). In response, a group of auto makers (BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi) began certifying North American gas retailers as "Top Tier" if their gasoline meets certain requirements for the additive package. You can find the current list of "Top Tier" brands here. As of the date of this posting, the list includes:

MFA Oil Co.
Phillips 66
Entec Stations
The Somerset Refinery, Inc.
Kwik Trip / Kwik Star
Aloha Petroleum
Tri-Par Oil Co.
Turkey Hill Minit Markets
Mileage Stations
Chevron Canada
Shell Canada
Sunoco Canada

I'm very happy to see Turkey Hill listed as it's a very common retailer of gas and other motorcycling essentials (coffee, ice cream, bad microwaved lunch food) in the areas in which I often ride, including out in the Pennsylvania boonies. Now if only WaWa (I know, I know...it's a Delaware/Pennsylvania thing) would make the list, I'd be all set!

BP isn't on the list -- choose another!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Which Gasoline for my Motorcycle? (Part I: Octane Rating)

The "what octane gas to use" question comes up frequently on motorcycle forums.  Often, the motorcyclists posting such questions (and some who answer such posts) equate higher octane, more expensive gasoline with better performance. The information for making the appropriate choice of octane rating is easily accessible courtesy of Dr. Google, but the short answer is always "the lowest octane rating that doesn't induce preignition".  If your motorcycle engine has stock internals (99% of us), that means using the lowest octane rating recommended by the OEM (check the owner's manual).  If you've got an engine with a higher compression ratio than stock, you'll have to experiment to find the lowest octane that doesn't cause pinging.

It's important to remember that gasoline octane ratings are not indications of quality. Different countries employ differing rating systems, but all octane ratings are simply a measurment of a given fuel's resistence to ignition. Higher octane or "Premium" gasoline isn't "better" than lower octane, it's just harder to ignite. Running higher octane than necessary to avoid preignition won't make your motorcycle run better or add HP, or even run "cleaner".  However, it won't harm to anything except your wallet, so if it makes you feel better...
In Part II, we'll explore whether there's a difference between brands of retail gasoline in the USA.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Around-the-World Relay for Charity

On Friday and Saturday, 8/29 and 8/30, I had the honor of participating in the Delaware leg of an around-the-world relay to benefit Riders for Health, a charitable organization that provides effective transportation (mostly motorcycles) to physicians in sub-Saharan Africa.  And you thought nobody makes hut-calls anymore!  The relay was organized by some folks at ADVrider, the site for adventure-touring.  What's being relayed you ask?  Believe it or not, a Beanie-Baby ostrich named "Pooey" (ADV insider joke). By the time I took the hand-off from the Pennsylvania rider on the rainy night of 8/29, Pooey and the waterproof case in which he travels, together with a journal, ever-accumulating bric-a-brac, and a t-shirt signed by each rider that will eventually be given to the wife of a fallen ADVrider member, had traveled through most of the US (including Alaska) and Canada.  On 8/30, I and my two Delaware cohorts, Jeff ("olenuf2nobetter" on ADV) on a Buell Ulysses, and Dee on her Sportster, showed Pooey around much of Delaware, including historic sites in Newark, Wilmington, and Dover.  At the end of a long, hot humid day we handed-off Pooey and the case to the Maryland lead rider in Chestertown, MD.  The case and contents will shortly be shipped to Hawaii to complete the US leg, and from there it goes to Australia to begin the long way 'round.  Read the full report of Pooey's travels through North America in this thread on ADVrider.  My and Jeff's reports (and many more pix) regarding the Delaware leg are here at post nos. 1211 and 1212 on page 81.
PA to DE handoff (Photo by Jeff)
PooeyJeff (Photo by Jeff)
(Photo by Jeff)
William Penn & Pooey (Photo by Jeff)
Crossing C & D canal from Jeff's vantage
Mission accomplished! DE to MD hand-off (Photo by Jeff)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Motorcycle GPS Released (Funny Ad)

In an apparent attempt to compete with Garmin's Zumo line of motorcycle-friendly GPS units, a company called Becker has introduced its Crocodile unit.  Details are paramount in a tech device, and the photo of the Yamaha R-6 in Becker's ad doesn't inspire much confidence. (Look closely). Maybe the Crocodile is for right-hand drive British bikes only? And why does the rider appear so calm while he's holding that motorcycle up with his back, which also must be burning?  I am grateful, however, that Becker included that disclaimer...I was struggling under the belief that the GPS unit was larger than the bike itself.