Dixie Road Trip, day 1

Well, it was a long day but not too bad, all things considered. We left a little late (surprise!), got rained on a little, had to suit up and get rained on a LOT, pulled off and got hailed on while taking shelter in the doorway of a church, and spent the last couple of hours trying to outrun a storm. All’s well that ends well. We spent almost exactly 12 hours Continue reading “Dixie Road Trip, day 1”

Road trip!

Omaha, NE to Charlotte, NC. 3 days, 1180 miles, and a side trip to Charleston, SC. I think I’ll probably be adding GPS to the bike before we leave, mostly to get the trip computer functions. Part of it is laziness. We used to run SCCA road rallies, so we got pretty good at TSD (Time/Speed/Distance) calculations. In fact, I still have an 80s vintage Casio programmable calculator we used to to TSD calculations on the fly when running in the assisted class. Still, while that’s pretty easy to do with a navigator in a car, it’s not terribly practical on a bike. It would be nice to see our average speed and ETA as we ride, so we know for sure whether we need to speed up or can keep a more leisurely pace. Besides, it’s good for finding one’s way back to the planned route, just in case.I’m excited to make the trip.
The ride across Missouri isn’t much to brag about, but we’ll be going through what I have been told is some incredible scenery, especially once we get across the Mississippi. We’ll cross our first mountains and get to see the western part of the Carolinas. Once we hit Charlotte I’m really looking forward to doing a little sightseeing, exploring the area with Lisa, etc. I know the trip from Charlotte to Charleston is a pretty nice ride, as I’ve made that a couple of times. Anti Monkey Butt
I even ordered a little powder… 🙂 Now to get the rest of the preparation work done! The oil has been changed, I’ll probably replace the tranny & primary fluids as well. The rest of the bike is in fine shape and ready for the road.

The Sy-Max 2 Redux

Well, after a number of delays and false starts, we now have a pair of very nice looking, pearl white Sy-Max 2 helmets with J&M headsets installed.

I ended up having to do some serious but not overly complicated surgery to get the headsets installed.  The Sy-Max 2 has expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam between the side of the fiberglass shell and the cushioned cheek pads.  This reduces the depth of the cheek pads, meaning  if you just drop the speakers into the cheek pad cavities like you’d normally think, they’ll crush your ears.  I had to remove the cheek pads, then remove the EPS side pads – fortunately, they are separate pieces that snap in and are secured with one screw on each side.  Some X-Acto knife work made some nice cavities for the speakers.  The mic boom exits between the front edge of the side module and the shell.  All in all, they fit great and sound even better.

Lisa has plenty of room between her face and the chin bar, but mine was right up against my chin.  Pretty annoying, and a non-starter for longer rides for sure.  I knew I had to do something about that, and toyed with the idea of warming the chin bar to give it a little more pointed shape.  Tonight I found I could remove the plastic inner shield behind the vent and latch; there’s a chunk of EPS about 3/4″ or so thick behind that.  With the shield completely removed, I have plenty of room but the vent won’t do much good to keep the shield from fogging.  I ended up trimming it to about 2/3 its original thigkness and re-installing it without the foam block.  I may do some further modification, but as I type this I’m wearing the helmet and it’s not bad.  It’s still contacting my chin, but I think I’ll let it break in before doing any more chopping.

All in all, they look great, feel great, and I find there seems to be a lot less wind noise – as I had hoped all along.  I’d like to keep the intercom VOX from tripping in crosswinds and when passing semi trailers; we’ll see how it all shakes out this season.  Hopefully between the new helmets and the new headsets, it will be a little more comfortable on the road.

My rant about the economy

I’ve been harping on this for years. What we are seeing is the exact same thing that happened over 30 years ago. The economy was good, so we (collectively, the American public) got lazy and stupid. Cars got bigger and bigger, because that’s what was selling. To hell with gas mileage! I’ve got money, so that 10 MPG monstrosity (3-ton sedan then, 3-ton SUV now) isn’t a big deal. Make my car bigger, faster and louder; I want to see horsepower numbers, not fuel economy. So the auto makers follow the money, and for some unfathomable reason think it will last forever. Short-term thinking sets in, no one looks past the next quarter or two, and they keep churning out F-150s and Escalades instead of looking to improve the smaller, cheaper, more efficient vehicles. That market is left (now as it was then) to the Japanese, only now the Koreans are in the game as well.

So, our Arab brothers decide to jack up the price of oil — why? Well, because they can! If you see that your biggest customer will buy whatever you offer, at whatever price you demand, it follows that you’re able to do whatever you want with the prices. Besides, we’re just a bunch of filthy infidel that will eventually be converted or killed anyway (in case you missed it, these people are not our friends). Throw into the mix that China is finally waking up from a 60-year sleep and starting to rub its eyes, look around and see that there is business to be done and money to be had. The cheap labor market has shifted from the Japan of the 50s and 60s to China (along with other places like India), and the standard of living in those places is rising. As a result, their demand for oil, steel, and other commodities is rising sharply.

All the while we’re blissfully cruising along at 80 MPH in a 4-wheel-drive pickup or SUV sucking down gas like there will never be an empty tank. Wind power? Too expensive to develop, coal is cheap (never mind those nuke plants starting to age out). Hydroelectric? God forbid we build any more dams! Solar? Again, why bother when gas and oil and coal are so cheap. Oh, hey, wait. Now they’re not, and now we’re 30 years behind where we should be. We wasted three entire decades when we could have been weaning ourselves off of foreign oil, because we were too short-sighted to see that the oil problems of the early 1970s would be back, without fail. Why? Well, for pretty much the exact same reasons there were back then, I guess.

And where was our government during all of this? Well, I guess we get the government we deserve. Don’t try to lay the blame at the feet of any one administration or political party; not a damn one of them did anything significant to help move us in the right direction. It’s not politically wise to tell people during good times that there will be bad times at some future date, and to prepare for them. We could have had strong leadership pointing the way to energy independence and the use of renewable, ecologically sound fuels and energy sources, but we didn’t. We could have had policies that encouraged American businesses and consumers to think long term instead of short term, globally instead of locally, but we didn’t. We still don’t. I don’t know that we ever will.

I have very little sympathy for American car manufacturers, or for Harley-Davidson for that matter. It should have been blindingly obvious all along that the ride couldn’t last forever, yet all of them have been pretending that it would. Now, when things are looking a little bleak as they were bound to, they act like it’s a huge surprise. Gee, they say, why aren’t people buying our behemoths any more? Must be that pesky ol’ economy, we’ll just make some more Yukons for when things turn around. Yeah, that will work.

And the Harley crew… my God. Did they learn nothing from watching the cigar boom of the last decade? Dealers building new, huge showrooms well after the market peaks and starts to decline? How incredibly obtuse can you be, to not see what is so obvious to even a casual observer? I watched American Chopper last night; the Teutels are building a new plant and expanding their operations. I wish them luck, but my prediction is that in a few years you’ll be able to rent space in that place for indoor tennis courts.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the economy will pick back up. Historically, it always has. I’m not frantically selling off stock right now, I’m buying at cut-rate prices (just not Ford, GM, or Harley). But I do wish that some day we might collectively, as a nation, wake up and remember that we’ve been here before, and maybe figure out that we might want to address some of these problems before the next crisis. If we don’t, these recessions will just continue to get worse.

HJC Sy-Max II helmet review

Mine arrived today… and went back today, but that’s a whole different story.

The Sy-Max II is brand new from HJC, one of the nicest flip-front modular helmets I’ve seen anywhere. These are really nice buckets. The liner pops in & out easily for cleaning, as do the cheek pads. Unfortunately it was raining all day and the helmet wasn’t the right size, but I’d still have taken it out for a quick ride if I could have. Looks like there is pretty good ventilation with one chin bar vent and one near the top, both of which can be opened or closed. There’s also an integral retractable tinted sun shield inside, which slides down into one of 3 positions so you can ride without shades. I’m sure the tinted shield isn’t polarized, but it ought to be just the ticket for those days when you don’t need really dark glasses, or are in and out of bright areas. I can see taking the shades off during the last gas stop of the day, so I can retract the tinted visor when the sun starts to go down. The J&M headsets look like they’ll fit with no problems, plenty of room for the speakers.

Unfortunately, while the CL-Max I tried on locally fit me fine in XL, the Sy-Max II was tight – so it’s on its way back to exchange for an XXL. We’re definitely getting the pair. Last time we got silver helmets to match the bike, this time they’ll be pearl white. I was a little leery of the color choice, but I think Lisa liked it better… once I got it out of the bag, I lost any reservations I had. It’s beautiful (and not girly).  And, kudos to New Enough!  Their customer service is earning their pay on this, I love these guys already.  Not to mention, their prices are the best I found anywhere.

Riding weather is back!

Well, so far we’ve been out on the bike once, and I’ve even had the Vespa out for a ride around the neighborhood. It’s supposed to hit 70 outside today, so it’s time to open up the windows and saddle up. I got the battery charged after finding it stone dead last night — that happens when you forget to turn off the ignition after you park it, duh. Seems to be OK, so we’ll see how that goes.

So, now it’s off to see how the roads are!

Successful quest!

Well, we did find helmets last night. We started with what we figured were the two best chances to find a decent selection. Both had a good stock of helmets – as long as you wear one size, and don’t want a flip-up modular. We left both places with the same story — “Well, our stock isn’t so good new, it’s out of season”. This from a motorcycle dealer, and a motorcycle parts & accessories dealer? In the Spring we’ll hear, “Well, stock is low, everyone’s buying now”.

So we ended up at Dillon Brothers H-D. Less than an hour later we had a matching pair of modular helmets, both of which fit. They had them in our size. Imagine that. Yes, they’re KBC like everyone else has, but with a little higher price tag… but they HAD them. Now all I have to do is get two new headsets…