Motorcycle Infoholic Since Twelve

As mentioned in my previous post I must be a sick individual based on my obsessive and insatiable appetite for information, entertainment and anything related to motorcycles! At the time I was thinking these were adult neuroses. That is not the case. This sickness started when I was very young. It probably dates back to when I was two years old and my mother’s cousin sat me on his Harley-Davidson. That might be a little young to develop an obsession. More realisticly I would have been eleven or twelve years old when I attended junior high school in New Britain, Connecticut. That would have been when I met other boys who either owned dirtbikes and/or followed motorcross as their favorite sport. We read Motorcross Action and Dirtbike Magazine religously every month. We followed the careers of our heros like Bob Hannah as closely as kids these days follow the antics of John Cena of the WWE. Actually I have no idea what todays kids follow… I don’t have any. The point is my motorcycle infoholism began back in the 6th grade! I forgot it started way back then. My obsession currently has me reading Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Zimmerman. In the book Mark Zimmerman spends an enormous amount of time explaining in detail how the motorcycle engine works, both two stroke and four stroke. It was the first time in my adult life to read this type of stuff, but not the first ever! The reading brought back memories of trips to the downtown library as a kid. I would go to the good old fashioned library and use the Dewey Decimal system to locate anything I could find on motorcycles and how they worked. This all played into the successful but diabolical plot to convince my parents to buy me a new Yamaha YZ 80 when I turned thirteen. So there you have it, I have been warped in this way since I was in the 6th grade and that is when I became a motorcycle obsessed infoholic!

Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough

proficient motorcycling the ultimate guide to riding well

I completed reading David Hough’s recently updated and expanded Proficient Motorcycling. This is the 2nd edition of what is considered to be the “#1 book in motorcycle safety!” It’s close to 300 pages so it is not a short read like David Hough’s Street Strategies which I reviewed last April. This book included a free bonus CD with 144 pages from Motorcycle Consumer News which I did not take out of the sleeve… yet. Considering the 300 page text and the 144 bonus pages on CD you get a lot for your money with this purchase and although it took some time to arrive from it was worth the wait.

I’m a sick individual who worries too much and is obsessed. Obsessed with motorcycle books! I have probably read too many of them and I can’t stop myself! When it comes to riding safety books, after a certain amount of books the idea is going to be that either one new idea is worth reading the whole book or that reading similar information over and over will embed the knowledge through repetition. Don’t under estimate any one good idea or the power of repetition, it can mean the difference between a close call and the final call!

It might be because I have read a number of motorcycle safety books that getting through this fairly large book was difficult for me. It reminded me of my childhood. I was born a poor sick child with asthma (sort like Steve Martin in The Jerk who was born a poor black child). And yes quite a few people think I am a jerk too, but I digress. As a child I had to take the most horrible tasting medicine in liquid form called Quibron when I came down with an asthma attack. The stuff was the worst tasting medicine ever! I hated it! But I had to take it in order to live because breathing is paramont to survival. Forcing myself to digest the 276 pages of motorcycle wisdom contained in this text was like bad medicine: neccesary for survival! Get the book, digest the book, survive! Simple formula, just click here for more information on the book at my Amazon store.

Proficient Motorcycling – The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well has all the information you need so if you have to choose one motorcycle safety book of the ones I have read so far, this would be the one I would recommend. However if you are not a big reader the shorter Street Strategies covers most of the hazzards you need to know about in more of a Reader’s Digest style. It is much easier to swallow! I have complained that many books, such as Street Strategies, are too simple. Proficient Motorcycling is not. In this book David Hough goes into very scientific detail about the effects of rake, trail, center of mass, gravity, traction, contact patch and everything that affects motorcycle cornering. In fact he got so far into some of the scientific detail in the chapter on cornering that he lost me… so I applaud him for that! If you want the detailed information about steering a two wheeler, this book has it!

What I came across in this book that I have not found in other books is a twelve page section on group riding. I have been simultaneously reading a crime drama that has me sitting on the edge of my seat and commands my full attention. I’m glued to that book, but this book as I mentioned has been a challenge to complete… except for these twelve pages. This website is geared towards the group riding experience and I have been personally involved with group riding for the past several years. My feelings about safety in group riding is currently in a state of question and these twelve pages were important in validating my feelings about how group riding can be done safely and some of the pitfalls that come with group riding. As David points out in one of many of his colorful imaginary scenerios a bad Road Captain can change a day trip into a chaotic mess. Additionally the group riding experience sometimes attracts an idiot or two that can cause problems for good Road Captains and other riders. There were several issues in this section that I found important and will continue to dwell over during the winter months. I guess that’s a good thing if a book gives you something you can dwell on for awhile after you have reached the final page.

So there you have it! This book has the knowledge you need to survive the mean streets on a motorcycle and you should make yourself read it. It might be next winter but I promise to follow up with a book review on the sequal More Proficient Motorcycling – Mastering the Ride.

Skill, Proficiency, Experience and Knowledge

Motorcycling is risky and the proficient motorcyclist knows that most of what matters on the road is what’s going on in the brain. If the saying “only the strong survive” is true, then the strongest biker will be the one with the most intelligence and knowledge! It will not be the motorcyclist with the most years or miles under his belt! It will be the rider with the most skill. In this case skill being the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively. 

A person’s physical strength, speed and size might matter on the football field… but not on a motorcycle! Riding ability can be instinctual but it can also be aquired. How? Most will probably tell you that experience is the best way to aquire skills. They will claim that years of experience results in skillfullness. Is that true? Does a more experienced rider have more skills than a less experienced rider if both are of equal inteligence? If you define experience strictly as time in the saddle then I would say “no”! However if you define experience as any activity leading to increased knowledge and ability then I would say “yes”.

There is a lot to learn when it comes to riding a motorcycle safely on the roadways. There are weather, traffic and road hazzards waiting to trip you up. Small mistakes on the road can cost an arm and a leg! I would rather not have to ride a million miles and experience each and every road hazard in order to gain knowledge of them! A friend might teach a new motorcyclist the fundamentals of how to operate a motorcycle and then say “the only way to learn more is through experience.” This could be good or bad advice depending on the above mentioned definitions of “experience”. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to wait until I have racked up a million miles before I consider myself a skilled rider. I choose to speed up the process and gain experience and knowledge through additional opportunities.

Look for opportunities to increase your knowledge of motorcycling. Fill your head with information during the cold winter months (if not all year round). Get yourself some good books to read and possibly some training DVD’s you can watch at home. Sign up for training classes at the beginning of the ride season. Then go out and practice. Take some trips and get that much sought after experience. Learn all you can, practice and become a strong rider! Remember the saying: “Only the strong survive!”. I’m sure you want to survive so get strong damn it! Also remember: “Knowledge is power!”

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January 2012 East Coast Biker

January 2012 East Coast Biker Online

The January 2012 issue of East Coast Biker Online is available. Diana has her year in review on pages 22 and 23. I have my product review of Sportsman Eyewear on page 38. Both articles have recently been published here at Road Captain USA. Click here to check it out.

Moto-Maps Banner 4

Mrs RC – 2011 in the rearview mirror

As with most years, 2011 was filled with some joys & celebrations and some disappointments. My plan to ride, ride, and ride some more fell way short of fruition.  I started the year by outfitting my bike for travel by mounting a set of saddlebags and getting some additional tailbag luggage.  This tripled my storage space, and made it really convenient when I did have the opportunity to travel. 

New Saddlebags

I rode to Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, MD, and I led small groups from First State HOG Chapter on overnighters to Virginia Beach for the Bridge-Tunnel Ride, Williamsport MD, Gettysburg Bike Week, and Tilghman Island.  But my plans to visit Maggie Valley and Pigeon Forge and to ride Skyline Drive did not pan out.  I hope my luggage set-up gets used way more in 2012! Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

Williamsport Trip

Jay and I took a vacation to Jamaica over Spring Break, so that ate up what would have been a good week of riding as well as a huge chunk of our travel budget!  I’m not complaining…relaxing by the pool, sailing the ocean, and climbing Dunn’s River Falls were well worth it!

Poolside Jamaica

Jay and Di in Jamaica

Jamaica Resort View

Dunns River Falls

There were many other factors that contributed to my abbreviated riding activity – work, family obligations, work, weather, chapter obligations, work, and catching up on sleep to name a few…  I had planned to increase my typical riding by 50% this past year, but in actuality it decreased by about that amount.  Sad (and embarrassing) as it is to say, I only put 5K miles on my Harley in 2011.

Don’t get me wrong, the year was not a total loss.  I had the opportunity to visit Barber’s Vintage Motorsports Museum in Alabama – an amazing sight that every motorcyclist should see at some point! 

 Barber Vintage Motor Sports Museum 1

Barber Vintage Motor Sports Museum 2

I traveled to Canton, Ohio, for my regional HOG rally committee training, and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame while I was there! 

 NFL Hall of Fame_Baltimore Colts Band

NFL Hall of Fame_Lombardi Trophy

I finally got to visit Fallingwater – the Frank Lloyd Wright house built overhanging a waterfall in southwestern PA!  (I’ve wanted to see it for like 30 years!)

Fallingwater_Frank Lloyd Wright design

The best part of 2011 has to be the recognition by my fellow chapter members for all of the hard work and efforts I put in to helping make First State HOG a successful enterprise.  As the photographer, newsletter editor, merchandise officer, volunteer coordinator, and a road captain (and those are just my official titles), I spend a lot of time and effort working for the good of the chapter.  I was recognized for these efforts by being voted by the membership as HOG of the Year!  I am truly honored.

HOG of the Year

Looking forward to 2012 – I am on a mission to make up for lost time last year.  I am a member of the Maryland/Delaware state HOG Rally committee for this year’s rally which is to be held in Deep Creek Lake in June.  I’ll be taking as many trips back & forth to that destination as possible as we explore roads and businesses in the area to set up a hugely successful rally for you to enjoy. 

Savage River Rd_Deep Creek MD

Muddy Creek Falls_Deep Creek MD

Jay and I have plans to attend two other state HOG rallies as well – the Pennsylvania Rally in State College, and the New Hampshire/Vermont Rally on the Kancamangus Highway.  Each of these trips will be at least 3-4 full days of riding – woo hoo!  Spring Break week is wide open for motoring here, there, and anywhere.  Who knows, maybe I will even get to Skyline Drive & Maggie Valley!

I am looking forward to my 5th wedding anniversary and a year with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair! Whatever happened (or didn’t happen) last year is now in the rear view mirror and my sights are set on riding more in 2012!