Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dressing Blaze

This morning when I rolled Blaze down the ramp, I found it amazing that she did not feel heavy, nor did I have trouble rolling her backwards over the threshold. I know Blaze did not loose weight, so it must be that we are becoming more accustomed to each other. We made our way up the dirt road to pavement and off we went to work on an absolutely phenomenal day. I looked down at the odometer and realized that Blaze and I have taken 1000 miles to become completely comfortable with each other.

During break as I flipped through a few catalogs for accessories and frou-frou I could dress Blaze with, I had a sudden attack of conscience. Is Blaze really the frou-frou type? Am I trying to recreate a Jade look on Blaze? Blaze has a personality all her own I think, so I am being more critical with myself about how I want to dress her up. Are red and black leather lever tassels really Blaze? Does she really need more chrome?

Over the weekend my friend Lee scolded me for not having a license plate frame. This is what he wrote to me the next day.

“I was reading the Boston papers at work, and ran across an article on how Pat Henderson’s bike appeared in public without a license plate frame. Apparently the Herald got the story before the Enquirer picked it up. But it was a rather large exposé on current events. Please no more newspaper stories. Get a license plate frame.”

Now there is a suggestion I can use. Jade did not have a license plate frame so I would not be treating Blaze the same as Jade. She does look a bit raw back there without the license plate frame. The only new item installed on Blaze to date is engine guards. That is more a necessity in my book in the same way I view helmets. In this I have not violated Blaze.

I will be scanning the catalogs with a more critical eye, and listening to what Blaze tells me of herself too. I think in time, we will both know what is right to distinguish her from others in her “family.” Whatever that may be, when you see us on the road you will know that Pat and Blaze are one, in mind, and spirit.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Au revoir, Adiós, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

I knew the day would come. Still, when all is said and done, I spend a sleepless night, tossing and turning over the ordeal. True, Oliver appears to be a great young man. The twinkle in his eye and the body language he exudes tells me he has fallen head over heals for Jade.

His hand runs over the length of her. He delights in the music of the engine and pipes in their duet. He tests the feel and comfort of her saddle. Slowly, a wide grin spreads across his face and I know he is totally and completely infatuated.

I stand near and twirl the leather grip tassels between my fingers as one would twirl hair when nerves are tense. I see Jade again as on the first day we met and I understand his excitement. I tell him about all of her amenities. There is no need. It is interesting information only at this point.

We agree on a price and shake hands. Then Oliver and I stand for a few moments while photos are taken. I can’t post them. It is too much for me. I stand and watch as Oliver and Jade take their first tentative ride around the lot. Oliver has a new motorcycle cover. We help him cover her for the night. I give him a few last pieces of advice about her care. He listens with serious intent. I think I like him. Jade will be loved. So why is my vision so blurry?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Helmet Saves Man after Four Story Plunge

Last July, I picked up the local newspaper to read about a man who plunged four stories from a city parking garage. He was not drunk, or on drugs. In a freak accident, his motorcycle lurched forward and over the wall he went to drop 40 feet to the pavement below. Every bone in his body was broken, his lungs collapsed and he had some bleeding on the brain. However, it was his helmet that prevented his head from being crushed.

Fast forward to February 2009; again I pick up the paper and Leon Belesca is in the news. As I read about his recovery, I wonder if anyone is getting the message. In this latest updated story, it is reported that the helmet Belesca wore was a $475 Shoei helmet. There is a lot of talk about personal freedoms and the liberty to make our own choices. I am all on board with personal choice. In New Hampshire, we can still make the choice to wear a helmet or not. However, $475 seems like a bargain for anyone’s life.

Wisdom comes with age, so the old adage goes. In my younger years, when I employed the personal freedom mantra, I had little concern for how my choices affected those who love me. As I grow older and hopefully wiser with age, I realize the ramifications of how my actions affect those closest to me. Will I stop riding a motorcycle to protect my loved ones from grief? Not likely. I will however, continue to wear a helmet and rider gear to minimize the consequences of my personal choice.

A few weeks ago, my friend had an unfortunate incident with a blue haired lady driver. You may have read about this in an earlier post. In this low speed crash, he was tossed like a rag doll from his motorcycle. Later in examining his riding gear, the one thing that stood out most prominent was the extensive scratches and gouges along the side of his helmet. It could easily have been his head, and instead of getting up to continue on with his life, he might be enduring any number of unimaginable consequences.

When deciding on your personal choice, add to the list unintended consequences. Make a list if it helps of pros and cons. Whatever you decide, please use sound judgment when you decide to ride and remember another old adage; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I’m taking the rest of the week off from my helmet search because I’ve noticed a number of open house events taking place in the next few weeks. MOM’s is one dealer that has an open house this coming weekend. I bought my last helmet there. MOM’s is friendly, seems to always have parts I need in stock, and will make a deal if you are really interested in something. I want to give MOM my business because they treat me right. With this in mind I thought I’d pass on some kudos for another company I always have good luck with.

Last evening Andy and I installed new engine guards on Blaze. I ordered the guards through Cruiser Customizing. I am never unhappy with a purchase though this company. I find the prices are reasonable, if not for the most part less than you can find elsewhere. Shipping on items over a certain dollar amount is often free. Typically, I search the web for days on end comparing prices to find the best deal on extras I want for my bikes. I have even gone so far as to be lulled into the bargain of the week, such as “use our code and get 20% off.” However, by the time I add the shipping, Cruiser Customizing still has the best deal all around.

When I place my order, it never disappears into cyber limbo. I get a confirmation directly. I’m kept up to date with e-mail notifications when the part is shipped, along with ETA. The engine guards where shipped when promised, arrived on time, intact and unscathed. The instructions were included, well written and clear, with not one piece of hardware missing. Andy, who machined parts for more than 30 years, had not one bad word to say about the product. No comments about lack of deburring, or quality of the finish. Such complaints usually lead to a long soliloquy that questions the work ethic of “some people.” I’m happy to be spared this fate.

If you think the prices are due to second rate products, think again. They carry Tourmaster, First Gear and Joe Rocket for riding gear. For parts and accessories, Küryakyn, Vance & Hines and Cobra. Need tires? They will sell you Metzeler, Dunlop and Bridestone. The website even has short videos on how-to projects I find helpful. Check out the site, it’s easy to navigate and uncluttered. While you’re there, sign up for the newsletter, so you don’t miss a thing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trying It On

I have received some great feedback from riders about helmets, the model each like, and words reflecting cautions and hazards to avoid. If there is one phrase I hear again and again since I began my new helmet search it’s “try it on.” This one piece of advice I truly want to follow which unfortunately is proving to be better said then done.

Of the dealers that I can travel to during my lunch hour, all seem to carry one make with a smattering of others thrown in to fill up the shelf. The major representation is the HJC. I was even able to find my size and give it a try. (I am already an HJC owner.) The smattering of other models is all over the map, with not a single size suitable to test on my head.

I log back into the net to continue my search. The official sites for each name brand will gladly send you a list of dealers in the area that market their helmet. I get a few lists. I find dealers on the list that I have already visited. They didn’t have them on the self to try. They will gladly order one for you, most certainly. However, this is what I’m trying to avoid, ordering a helmet that I have to send back.

My frustration mounts. The idea for my next plan of action came from a newer member of the New England Riders. Knowing I was on the helmet hunt, he carried to the Meet and Greet, a flip face helmet his wife likes very much. The size chart for this helmet indicated that in inches, his wife’s helmet should fit. I gave it a try. Not bad. I guess my plan will have to be quizzing folks about their helmets, and if in my size range, ask politely if I may try it on my own head.

It isn’t the best plan I’ve hatched, but it can’t be any more torturous than riding to every dealer in a 100 mile radius just to discover they all have HJC. Not that I have anything against HJC, mind you, but I like to keep my options open. Add to that, if I’m going to ride around all day long, it will be on the twists and sweeps, not light to light, and intersection to intersection.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Statistics Don’t Tell the Whole Story

In my search for a new affordable helmet I have been researching the statistics on a variety of brands. My focus is on those companies that manufacture modular or “flip face” helmets. In my opinion flip face helmets are the best of both worlds. They provide better protection than open face models, but freedom from the claustrophobic confinement of a full face model. My research however has resulted in more questions than answers.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. I found a great chart listing the G force ratings on a variety of models. There were DOT only listed ratings and DOT/Snell rated helmets. I took each model from the top of the list for each rating and then went to the web in search of consumer review. While the statistics for Z1R (top DOT model) and Icon (top DOT/Snell model) were at the top of the list on the impact tests, consumers found that the fit was sometimes questionable and less than satisfactory. In some, the helmet didn’t stand up to the “roll off” test. This is where you grab the back of the helmet at the neck and see if you can roll if off your head. A helmet after all is only good if stays put.

Fit was not the only issue that consumers had problems with when trying out helmets. Small things like the vent levers and small plastic parts soon broke off on some of them. A vent is of no use if you can’t open it. Then the next line I read in a review nearly discouraged me in my efforts. “Finding the right helmet may take longer than finding the right motorcycle.” I certainly hope not! I need a new helmet a lot sooner than six months from now.

To my surprise the most popular and expensive models were lower rated on the G force tests. But again, beware of statistics. While the others were better with impact tests, some didn’t stay on the head. I will read the reviews for some of these more expensive helmets next. For now, the headache I have is not from helmet wearing, but reading so much content and trying to make sense of the findings.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I’m in a bit of a lull. With the frenetic motorcycle search and haggling over and behind me it seems I don’t know what to do with myself these days. The forecast for the week is heavy rain. Not exactly motorcycle riding weather. Despite the lull, I am still focused on all things motorcycle.

Last week I ordered engine guards and await their arrival in a few days. The next item on the list is a new helmet. I’m ready for the “new every five” but am shocked at the prices. They sure have escalated in the last five years. My current helmet is an HJC CL Max. This is the modular helmet with the flip-face. I do like the flip face, especially when I pull up to the gas pump, or make a quick stop for rehydration. Flip pump, or flip sip, and off I go. The best price I’ve seen so far is $130 and the most expensive is $175. Quite a price range so I’m still looking with hopes of finding something more affordable. I paid $90 for the one I have now so you can see how I would hesitate to fork over $130. Candy red to match Blaze would be a plus.

Riding Blaze is such a pleasure. I can’t begin to express my emotion when gliding along the roadways with her. She is responsive, easily guided, and so well balanced, that I am left at the end of a ride in a quiet state of utter appreciation. My long search for just the right motorcycle for me seems to have been well worth the effort. She has had her 1,000 mile check and is ready to roll in earnest. Andy’s Vulcan is in the shop now getting tuned up and ready for the season. Andy seems to be eager to get out and ride. This is the first year I have witnessed restlessness in him where this is concerned. I am usually the one chopping at the bit.

This weekend we will join 60 other riders at the Meet and Greet breakfast. As typical of April, rain is predicted. We may need to cage it to the event. Despite this, I am looking forward to being immersed in all things motorcycle related; trip talk, bike talk, accessory talk, and even trash talk, the best kind of banter of all!