Sunday, February 28, 2010

Goodbye to February

The heavy rains over the last several days melted 99 percent of the snow and washed away any road salt, so when I saw that the roads were dry today, I was tempted to ride my Harley.

Apparently, I was not the only one. As I drove my van to North Kingstown to have Sunday dinner with my brother, I saw a Harley and its owner stopped in the breakdown lane on Route 1 north. I pulled over to see if the rider needed any assistance or tools. The bolt for his air cleaner cover had fallen out, but he said he was okay, so I went on my way.

When I returned home around 4:30 p.m., I threw on a hooded sweatshirt, grabbed my leather jacket, helmet and leather gloves, backed the Wide Glide out of the garage and started it up. I badly needed a ride and was glad I went, although I paid a price for it - it was colder than I thought. I thought it was in the low 40s, but it was about 38 degrees, I later found out. My prescription eyeglasses fogged up every time I exhaled (I was wearing a half-helmet with eye shield). A full-face helmet would have prevented this problem and been a lot more comfortable in these temperatures, but it doesn't look right on a Harley.

This was only my second ride on my new bike and I had a brief scare when my rear tire fishtailed when I downshifted a bit too abruptly, but it happened so quickly I didn't have time to think. This bike is much more powerful than my little Yamaha, and I will have to ride it conservatively until I get used to it.

About halfway into my 20-mile ride, mostly on country roads, my fingers started going numb from the cold. Then when I got home and the blood began to circulate back into my fingers, the pain was excruciating. For about three minutes, it felt like my fingers were on fire. I can see why many people are fair-weather riders, and next time I ride, I'm going to wait for a 50-degree day. With March beginning tomorrow, I'm hoping that I won't have to wait more than two or three weeks for that 50-degree day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Itchin' to Ride

Yesterday, it was sunny and 46 degrees, so I couldn't resist taking a quick motorcycle ride to combat cabin fever. My Yamaha Virago has a Battery Tender pigtail on it, so I threw the charger on it a couple days earlier. It was at full charge in about an hour, so it really hadn't discharged much, despite the fact I haven't really ridden it in about a month. The bike started right up and idled smoothly (which I attribute to using Sea Foam fuel additive and stablizer). I checked the tire pressure and neither tire needed air, so I took about a 20-minute spin that included a short stretch on Route 1, where I got up to 65 mph. There is still snow on the sides of the roads, with some wet areas from snow melting, but the temps are slowly getting close to the bearable range.

Earlier that day, when I was driving my van, I saw one other motorcyclist on Route 1, riding a metric bike. While I was working in my garage, I heard what sounded like a Harley in the distance, but I wasn't sure. The farthest I ventured out in my Harley was my driveway, since I'm waiting until ALL the snow is gone and we have a heavy, soaking rain to wash all the salt away.

The first and only time I rode my Harley Wide Glide was also about three weeks ago. I had filled the gas tank before I parked it, but didn't add any fuel stabilizer (I ran out of Sea Foam at the time). I was a bit concerned about the fuel going bad and the battery discharging, but three weeks is apparently not long enough for either one of those things to happen. I added some Sea Foam, backed it out of the garage, and it started on the second or third try. I let the engine run for about 10 minutes to charge the battery a bit, while I sat on the bike and enjoyed the good vibrations.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Northeast Motorcycle Expo

As winter starts to ease its icy grip on New England, and withdrawal symptoms from being unable to ride motorcycles start to become almost painful, mid-February is the perfect time for a little encouragement to let you know riding season is (hopefully) just around the corner.

On Saturday, I attended the Northeast Motorcycle Expo at the Bayside Expo Center in Boston, along with a few other Romans 8 Riders: Spike, our chapter president (on the right); Mike Chretien, road captain (center); Bob Levesque (on the left); and Duke Davies (not pictured).

This was my second year attending the show. When I went last year, I did not even own a bike, so it was very difficult to see dozens of used motorcycles for sale by Motorcycles of Manchester, which were displayed at one end of the building, knowing I could not afford any of them - even the more modestly-priced ones.

"That's where you got the bug last year, sitting on the bikes," Bob reminded me. But at this year's show, I was much more subdued, since I bought my dream bike - a 2002 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide - a few weeks ago.

At the Bruce Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson tent, where new and used Harleys were for sale, Spike - who would love to see an all-Harley CMA chapter - couldn't resist teasing Bob, who owns a Kawasaki: "C'mon ... they can sit you down and get you financed," Spike said.

Unlike last year, where we left the show with a bagful of catalogs and handouts, this year we left mostly empty-handed. We did, however, receive an unexpected blessing when a leather and boot vendor, Bruce from Myrtle Beach, S.C., turned out to be a fellow Christian. Noticing our CMA patches, Bruce quickly asked me, Bob and Mike what our favorite Bible verses were. Then he quoted Scripture and prayed with us, urging us to have a fruitful season sharing the gospel with other bikers, because he believes Jesus Christ's return will be soon. He prayed that God would give us a "double portion" of his Spirit.

"That man was on fire!" Mike exclaimed afterward about Bruce's enthusiasm for the Lord.

Walking around the expo center, we also saw several CMA brothers and sisters from other chapters, including the Kingdom Cruzers from the East Bay, R.I. area, as well as Buck West and Bill Hegenauer, CMA area representatives from northern and southern New England, respectively. Rindo Barese and his wife, from the CMA Blood 'N' Fire Warriors chapter, based in Dedham, Mass., also manned the CMA tent in the exhibit area.

Besides new and used stock motorcycles, the show featured custom motorcycles, including radical choppers with fat rear tires and long, raked forks with skinny front tires. If you had $48,449 burning a hole in your pocket, you could have bought a Boss Hoss motorcycle (the red bike), with an engine that looked like it could rival a Caterpillar diesel in size and power.

While I experienced sensory overload during last year's show, being brand new to the world of motorcycles, this year I was more jaded, I suppose. I wasn't looking for a bike, nor any accessories, and I already have riding gear. For me, it was all about the fellowship and spending time with my CMA brothers. And, no Romans 8 outing would be complete without a meal - this year, it was at Ponderosa steakhouse.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wide Glide's Maiden Voyage

Thanks to what I believe was a God-created set of ideal circumstances, including a brief reprieve from winter (see, I got to take my recently-purchased 2002 Dyna Wide Glide for its maiden voyage about two weeks ago ... this is the follow up post about my first impressions of my new bike (sorry this post is so long after the fact, but better late than never).

I bought the bike on Jan. 23, and since the gas tank was nearly empty, I bought a five-gallon gas can and filled the tank up with regular, 87-octane gasoline, since that's what I use in my Yamaha Virago. But then I read the Harley owner's manual and saw that it calls for premium (at least 91-octane) gasoline, otherwise it can cause detonation (pinging). Great .... So, the following Tuesday morning, I bought a hand-operated siphon pump; pumped the Wide Glide's gas tank's contents back into the gas can; poured the gas can's contents into my van; went to the gas station to fill the gas can with 93-octane gas (they don't sell 91-octane locally); and then refilled my Harley's gas tank. The lengths we go to to pamper our Harleys ... it's insanity sometimes.

After refueling, I check the oil level, which looked fine (although it's due for an oil change) and checked the tire pressure, which was slightly low, so I added air. I attached a temporary registration plate, grabbed my riding gear and documents to register the bike, and started the bike to let it warm up. I had taken the saddlebags off the bike Saturday, so I was unsure how to safely carry the papers, but I rolled them up and stuck them in an inside pocket of my leather jacket, where they were secure. Being careful of the mud at the end of my landlord's driveway, I hit the road.

As is normal with carbureted Harleys, I'm told, the bike is "cold-blooded" (that's motorcycle-speak for "the bike takes a while to warm up"). It sputtered, hesitated and coughed, so I pulled the choke out slightly and it behaved better. The bike has straight pipes and is loud (which I like), but there is a police station near where I live and I was worried about getting stopped. Few things stand out as much as a motorcycle on the road in the middle of winter in New England. So I decided to ride a bit out of my way to get to Route 1, with my ultimate destination being Middletown, R.I. My ride would take me through five towns, over two bridges and across Narragansett Bay - a well-rounded test run, with some beautiful ocean views.

I had heard the bike run before I bought it, but was unable to test ride it, so I had to trust the seller's word that the bike rode and drove well. Thankfully, that proved true. The clutch engaged smoothly, and the transmission shifted flawlessly. Neutral was easy to find. The brakes worked well.

Now, ideally, I had planned to do a few short runs with the bike on local roads with lower speeds and little traffic, until I got more acquainted with the bike, like I did with my Yamaha Virago when I first bought it. But I very quickly felt comfortable riding the Wide Glide, even in heavier traffic and higher speeds, right from the get-go. I guess it's just because I'm a more experienced rider now. I did have to fiddle with the choke a few times on the fly, since it was cold-blooded, so that was a bit awkward, as my gloved hand groped for the choke lever. Also, while stopped, I had to give the bike a bit of throttle, as it threatened to stall (it only stalled once, and it quickly restarted). But, once it was warmed up, those issues disappeared.

While my Yamaha Virago (it's also an air-cooled V-twin, although much smaller displacement) warms up much quicker than the Harley, the Harley definitely is a huge improvement in ride quality. Rhode Island roads are notoriously bumpy, and the Virago rear suspension often bottomed out, but the Wide Glide was like riding a Cadillac. I found it to be well mannered and responsive on the curves. I also like the Wide Glide's forward controls and mini-ape handlebars much better, both for appearance and ergonomics.

Then there is the torque of the Harley's Twin Cam 88 cubic inch engine ... even going easy on the throttle, which I did, 60-70 mph comes almost effortlessly, and it lost no power scaling the Jamestown and Pell (Newport) bridges. The sound bellowing from the pipes was music to this rider's ears, especially when upshifting. In contrast, my Yamaha with its original exhaust system is so quiet I like to compare it to a sewing machine.

As I exited the Newport Bridge, I became paranoid, since signs are posted saying motorcycles with straight pipes are prohibited and can earn a hefty fine. What's worse, there was a police cruiser parked right at the bridge off-ramp! I checked my rear view mirror, but he didn't come after me. Now I was in heavier local traffic, and negotiated a traffic officer directing two-way traffic through one lane due to tree crews, before reaching the Middletown police station to get a V.I.N. check for my bike.

From there, it was a short hop next door to a branch office of the registry of motor vehicles, where I registered the bike and got a permanent plate. Oddly, I remembered all the paperwork I needed to register the bike, but forgot to bring a screwdriver so I could attach the plates. Duh! I asked a few people I saw in the parking lot if they had a screwdriver or pliers, but no one did. Thankfully, there was a tire shop next door, so I soon had my plate on the bike and was ready for the 20-mile ride home, as the temperature started to dip below 45 degrees, the point where my fingers start to go numb after a while, even with heavier gloves (they survived the trip).

As I stopped to pay the ($4!!!) toll on my way back over the Newport Bridge, the toll collector, a guy who appeared to be about my age or younger, asked me how the wind was coming over the bridge. It was pretty strong, actually, and I was pushed around a bit, but I never felt unsafe, as the Wide Glide is a heavier bike and rather stable. I don't know if he rode motorcycles or not, but he seemed to like my bike ... at least he agreed that a little wind is a small price to pay to be able to ride on an otherwise perfect January day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


No, it's not what you think ... I'm talking about Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. It's something I'm becoming well acquainted with this winter, my first full winter since I began riding motorcycles.

When I bought my first bike, the Yamaha Virago (the red bike on the left), in late February of 2009, the winter was winding down, so by the time I had it registered in early March, the roads were clear of snow and salt and I was able to ride. I was so excited to have a bike that the cold did not stop me from riding as often as I could. Since I didn't start out as a "fair-weather" rider, I rode late into the year, until about mid-December, when the first snow arrived. But for the most part, that was when I hung up my helmet for the season.

Then, in January 2010 (last month), I bought my second bike and first Harley, a 2002 Dyna Wide Glide, and have only ridden it one time, when winter took a very brief reprieve and rain washed the salt off the roads. Then winter returned with a vengeance (on Wednesday, as I started typing this post, we've had about six inches of snow, which you can see in the photo below, a view outside my window). If it seemed like spring took forever to arrive in the past, I'm sure it will take even longer, now that I have a Harley parked in my garage.

"A tough time to buy a bike (is) in the middle of winter," says 'dog155,' a rider from Maine, on "I did just once - the biggest mistake I ever made, because the urge to ride was agonizing."

Of course, riders who live in California, Florida and Arizona don't have to deal with winter, and sometimes they like to rub it in, while those of us who live in colder climates wish for global warming.

Some cold-climate riders minimize off-season motorcycle withdrawal by doing maintenance and upgrades on their bikes (a heated garage or basement is a big luxury - mine is unheated, but I'm thankful to at least have a garage), or browsing accessory catalogs to plan their next upgrades. Then there are the big motorcycle expos (I'm looking forward to one in Boston on Saturday), although they probably make it even harder to wait for spring. One rider on an online Harley forum had some practical advice: he uses the winter months to do most of his home improvement projects, so he can focus more on riding when the weather is nice. Yes, now's the time for those 'honey-do' lists.

Of course, Daytona Bike Week is just around the corner, and those riders with the time and money can trailer their bikes to Florida to enjoy some early warm weather riding, but I'm not one of those fortunate ones this year. I had an invite, but I had to decline it - buying my Wide Glide wiped out most of my finances. Maybe next year I'll get to go and get an early reprieve from PMS.

My Wide Glide could use a few upgrades (although a rear tire with low tread and an oil change aren't upgrades, but necessities) but that will have to wait another month or two while I save up. Meanwhile, I will do what most riders do - just wait it out (and grumble occasionally). I will say one positive thing about cold and snow - it makes me appreciate the warm, sunny days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Harley vs. Metric Debate

My CMA chapter, Romans 8 Riders, maintains a message board on Yahoo for chapter members to communicate. When I posted news on there recently that I had bought a 2002 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide, I received congratulations from several members. But, that discussion thread quickly evolved (or should I say, devolved?) into a debate on the merits of Harley-Davidson vs. Japanese (a/k/a 'metric') motorcycles.

The debate never really goes away, it just dies down ... until someone in our group buys a Harley.

Soon after I posted the news about my Wide Glide, Scott McKay, a former Romans 8 member who owns two Honda motorcycles (a Goldwing and a Magna), ribbed me for buying a Harley. Scott, who left Romans 8 last year to join another CMA chapter, had also remarked several months earlier that Romans 8 member Mike Chretien had joined the "dark side" when Mike traded in his Honda Gold Wing for a Harley Electra Glide.

Scott, who made the tired old comment about Harleys leaving trails of leaking oil, posted about one particular Goldwing that had been ridden 300,000 miles before needing an engine overhaul. "When a Harley can match this...I'll buy one!" he wrote.

But the Harley contingent of Romans 8, capably represented by Bob "Bobby Summertime" Cesario and Roland "Ro" Caron, did not let Scott's comments go unanswered. The debate was on.

"Now Scott, first of all, let’s be honest here ... people don’t collect and restore 'Wing Dings' [Editor's note: this is what the Harley riders in Romans 8 call Honda Goldwings] like they do Harleys," Roland opined. "After all, they are disposable bikes! Next point is, Harley doesn’t imitate anyone - they are always imitated. And finally, there are only two kinds of people in this world: those who ride Harleys, and those that wish they could."

For at least a dozen posts, Scott and the tag-team duo of Ro and Bobby Summertime verbally sparred (it was all in good fun, of course). I have to say, Bobby had the best quote. He wrote to Scott, "You ride rice ... and that ain't nice ..."

Scott called for backup from other Japanese bike owners. After much persuasion to join in the fray, Bob Levesque, our former road captain, who rides a Kawasaki Nomad, quoted some Scripture, then added his two cents.

“...Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you...”.... Hebrews 13:5

"So, my dear brothers, what I own, or ride, is of little matter," Bob Levesque wrote. "I'm just grateful that (God) allows me to ride."

Some Harley riders (not any in Romans 8) will not wave to other motorcyclists who ride a Japanese or non-Harley motorcycle. It certainly happened to me at least a few times when I rode my Yamaha Virago last season. Now, whether the riders didn't wave back at me because I "rode rice" or for any number of other reasons, who knows.

My own take on this issue is this: Although I prefer to own and ride a Harley, I respect and will acknowledge anyone who rides, no matter what nameplate is on his or her bike. When I rode my Wide Glide for the first time last week on a rather cold day, I only encountered one other person on two wheels. He happened to be riding a scooter, and I was riding a Harley, but that didn't stop me from waving to him.

In the end, my brothers in Christ agreed to disagree, and the 'debate' finally died down after a few days.

"God bless you, my brother, you're a good sport. This has been a lot of fun," Roland wrote to Scott. "As long as we all take this light-heartedly (as we should), it's a real blessing that we can have fun. In the end, I think we all agree the most important thing is our love for the Lord and each other ... Amen!"

Replied Scott: "Amen ... (and) I still love rice!"