Tag Archives: Features

Carburetors and Ethanol

carburetor float bowl
This is what even relatively new carburetor float bowls can start to look like when left to sit with unstabilized fuel. Upon restarting that debris can loosen and clog jets, typically the pilot jet.

For better or worse, most of the gasoline you can buy at stations around the U.S. has been “oxygenated” with some kind of additive since a series of amendments were made to the Clean Air Act in the 1990s. The idea is to help the gasoline burn more completely, and thus cut down on harmful emissions. The latest additive is ethanol, which — without getting into the political and environmental debates about its efficacy — is fine for use in fuel-injected vehicles that are run regularly and designed to use up to 10% ethanol (85% in flex-fuel vehicles).

On the other hand, ethanol-oxygenated fuel is not so great for any vehicles that sit between uses, and/or carbureted engines, like the one in your dirt bike or older motorcycle. Ethanol is alcohol, and alcohol is corrosive to certain parts in older fuel systems. Alcohol is also “hygroscopic” and likes water, so when water gets into fuel during a fill-up or from condensation, it can mix with the ethanol, creating a chemical combo that causes rust, corrosion, acids and sticky varnish that wreak havoc in fuel systems, especially carburetors. Ethanol can even cause rubber parts and fuel lines to dry out, harden and deteriorate prematurely.

Alternatives are few — unless you’re lucky enough to have a fuel supplier or gas station near you that sells ethanol-free gasoline (see pure-gas.com or buyrealgas.com), or you’re OK paying $15-$18 per gallon for ethanol-free gas in cans from a dealer (see vpracingfuels.com), most of us are stuck buying gasoline oxygenated with 10% ethanol. Again, your modern fuel-injected vehicle that you store in a dry place and run at least twice a month is unlikely to suffer any ill effects, but what should someone do with their older carbureted bike (or boat, lawnmower, string trimmer, generator, etc.)?

The simplest, best advice I can offer is…don’t let them sit. The shelf life of unstabilized gasoline containing ethanol is about one month. Running your vehicles every week — or two maximum — until fully warm is the best way to prevent fuel delivery problems. When you can’t run them, here’s what I do to minimize (not eliminate!) problems with my small collection of bikes, and my generator, string trimmer and lawnmower, even spare fuel in cans.

VP Racing
Only a handful of states mandate the sale of 10% ethanol gasoline, and none we’re aware of specifically prohibit the use of non-ethanol fuel, like many of the blends you can buy from VP Racing and some gas stations.

Half Full, Half Empty

On carbureted bikes with steel gas tanks, half the fuel system should be drained, and the other half kept full. Carburetors and their tiny air passages and jets can become plugged with aged fuel that deteriorates into sticky varnish over time. Since carb internals are made of non-ferrous aluminum, brass, plastic and rubber that won’t rust, if it’s practical to drain them (shut off the gas manually first or look for a vacuum-operated-type petcock that is off whenever the bike is), this is your best bet for trouble-free operation when refilled. O-rings and seals have been known to dry out and leak when carbs are left dry for a very long time, but this is less likely than plugged jets or worse if they’re left wet.

Some carburetors have a drain bolt in the bottom of their float bowls, others have a drain screw. Don’t overtighten either one, and only drain carburetors (into something please, not just onto the bike and floor) when the bike is off and cold. Don’t run the bike until it dies to suck the rest out — this can draw dirt and debris from the bottom of the float bowl into the carburetor. I once bought a Honda multi that had been stored in a basement for 15 years with the carbs drained and stabilized fuel kept in the tank, and it was rust-free and fired right up without carb service. If you’re careful, there’s no reason you can’t return newer, clean drained fuel to the tank.

Steel tanks on carbureted or fuel-injected bikes can rust inside, so it’s best to leave them at least ¾ full of fuel to which you have added stabilizer (more on this later). Some newer models have plastic-shrouded aluminum or plastic tanks, in which case it’s up to you, but make sure you stabilize it if you leave fuel in the tank. In really humid environments I would still keep an aluminum tank full.

Fuel injection systems seem much less susceptible to the ravages of stale fuel, and once full of stabilized fuel are almost carefree. In fact, some manufacturers warn against running their EFI bikes entirely out of fuel.

If you can’t drain carbs, after adding stabilizer to the fuel in the tank run the bike long enough to insure stabilized fuel has filled them, then shut off the bike and petcock. I carry a small bottle of stabilizer with me when I take out one of my less frequently ridden bikes, and add it at the gas station before riding home. Err on the side of adding more stabilizer; you can’t overdose (within reason) with the products mentioned below. Stabilized fuel in the carbs does not guarantee that they won’t suffer from plugged passages or jets, however, and you should still run bikes kept this way at least every three weeks. More often is simple insurance that you won’t need an expensive service — compare the cost of non-ethanol race gas and/or stabilizer to that of a carburetor rebuild and the former start to make economic sense. Just make sure you run the engine until it’s fully warm (to burn off water and contaminants in the oil and exhaust). While you’re at it, pump the fork and shocks and work the brakes, clutch and shifter to keep seals flexible and lubricated.

fuel stabilizer
Fuel treatments and stabilizers are not a panacea for ethanol, but they can help in conjunction with regular engine running.

A Stable Relationship

A good ally in the fight against bad gas and fuel delivery issues is fuel stabilizer. They’re not foolproof, but three we’ve found to provide consistent results with motorcycles are Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment, Spectro FC Premium Fuel Conditioner & Stabilizer and Bel Ray All-in-One Fuel Treatment. There are others, but we lean toward these simply because they include motorcycles in their literature and FAQs and that gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling. All make lots of claims about their effectiveness that we have no way of proving or disproving, so just buy some and use it, or spend hours online researching them before you just buy some and use it. All of them offer smaller bottles and/or containers with measuring devices built-in to make carrying and using it while out on the bike easier.

The instructions for each will tell you how much to use, how long the fuel is usable when treated, etc. There are some consistent rules of thumb. You generally only need to stabilize fuel if you won’t use it all up within two months (but carbureted bikes should still be run every couple of weeks as described above). Adding a little new gas or stabilizer to old gas won’t renew it, nor will adding more stabilizer to old stabilized gas extend its usable life. Overdosing is not an issue (unless you drink it, duh), and in my experience none of them will cure a plugged-up carb no matter how much you add to the fuel. Your best bet is to avoid plugging it in the first place.

Good luck, and please write me with any questions, comments or dissimilar experiences! [email protected]

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Land of Swamp and Sand: The ‘Other’ South Carolina Destination

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
Forest Service roads in the Francis Marion National Forest are ideal for dual-sport motorcycles and even the occasional Spyder. Travel on these roads is limited to licensed vehicles. No dirt bikes. Photos by Liz Hayes.

Each year millions of tourists visit Myrtle Beach or Charleston, South Carolina, searching for beaches, nightlife, shopping and endless feasts of seafood. However, far fewer people venture to the roughly 100 miles of coast located between these two popular destinations, where it is relatively unpopulated, undeveloped and dominated by swamp, saltmarsh and pine savannah. Undiscovered is fine by me, as this “land in between” offers numerous favorite rides where I can walk into my garage, pick a motorcycle (Kawasaki KLR650, CanAm Spyder RT or Yamaha WR250) and then ride road, dirt road or off-road depending on the day and my desires.

On a map, the area of interest jumps out in green, since it’s mostly occupied by the Francis Marion National Forest (FMNF) and its 259,000 acres of multi-use land. I live in Myrtle Beach and get there via U.S. Route 17. The interesting part of the trip begins in the historic town of Georgetown. Eating and history immediately compete with riding as the downtown features the Rice Museum, the South Carolina Maritime Museum, the Kaminski House Museum and a working waterfront with a boardwalk and numerous restaurants.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
The harborwalk in Georgetown provides good views of the harbor and easy access to numerous bars and restaurants. The harbor is connected to Winyah Bay, a large estuary draining northeastern coastal South Carolina.

A repeating theme on this ride is the rise and fall of a South Carolina plantation culture where products such as rice, indigo, cotton, tobacco and forest products were taken from the land with abundant slave labor and then shipped north or across the Atlantic. In the 1800s Georgetown was one of the richest cities in the southeast.

U.S. 17 out of Georgetown hugs the coast, and heading southwest you first cross the expansive Santee Delta and its parallel north and south rivers. Shortly after, there is a right turn on State Road S-10-857, which takes you to the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site. It features a restored mansion and interpretive aids explaining how rice was once grown here using an ingenious system of impoundments, water control structures and, of course, slave labor. Here I usually stroll a bit to stretch my legs in preparation for the ride to come.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
The mansion at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site gives one a sense of how lucrative was the growing of rice with slave labor. A stop here lets you stretch your legs and also gain some perspective on the South Carolina that once was.

Backtracking to U.S. 17 and then continuing southwest for about eight miles, look for State Route 45 and turn right, the beginning of a fantastic loop through the FMNF (this is also the place to get gas if you are running low). The road, a well-maintained two-lane, is flanked by extensive pine forests and intermittently crosses cypress swamps. Beware! Road closures are common due to prescribed burning and flooding.

In the FMNF you can choose your riding pleasure. Numerous Forest Service roads branch off, taking you to places such as Hell Hole Bay Wilderness and the Wambaw Swamp Wilderness. This is where I go when I’m wearing my dual-sport hat. Road riders should continue about 10 miles to Halfway Creek Road and turn left. A good place to stop along this road is the Wambaw Cycle Trail. You can commune with the numerous riders who trailer their off-road bikes here and then take the challenge of riding narrow single-tracks of deep sand.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
Halfway Creek Road provides access to Wambaw Cycle Trail, an extensive system of single-track trails. Deep sand is a real challenge for those used to a hard-packed surface. Definitely not a place for a Spyder.

Continue on Halfway Creek Road about 11 miles and then take a left on Steed Creek Road. Another five miles and you are back to U.S. 17. At this point you can turn right and head southwest toward Charleston. You might even want to catch the Bull’s Island Ferry and explore the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge (passengers only, book in advance and a full day is required). However, since I live in the other direction, I take a left and travel toward the town of McClellanville, about 11 miles northeast. Along the way stop at Buck Hall Recreation Area. It costs a few bucks to enter the site, but the views of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge are well worth it.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
The town of McClellanville will make you want to quit your job and find a resting spot under a live oak tree. However, you better not be around when the next big hurricane comes.

A short jog toward water from U.S. 17 takes you to McClellanville (population about 1,000), a quaint and colorful fishing village where you immediately begin entertaining ideas of quitting the day job and retiring to a life of pleasant views and boat floating. But before you make that leap, read the stories about how in 1989 Hurricane Hugo drove most of the inhabitants to higher ground. Many people climbed to the second floors of their houses while furniture bumped against the first-floor ceilings.

The one restaurant downtown, T.W. Graham & Co., is a popular motorcycle destination and the food is cheap, excellent and regionally correct. The Village Museum adjacent to the waterfront boat ramp provides some history about Native Americans and how they periodically visited this area to harvest fish, oysters and clams. The history you won’t hear about, however, is the role of marijuana smuggling in the local economy during the 1970s.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
The only restaurant in downtown McClellanville is now a popular motorcycle destination for riders coming from Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Seafood from nearby Cape Romain is served in the traditional Lowcountry style.

From McClellanville it is 24 miles back to Georgetown on U.S. 17, where you can find a few motels to spend the night and a few more places to eat and drink.

The beauty of this relatively short ride is that it is possible for motorcyclists to make pretty much year-round due to the subtropical climate. The traffic is always light but if you desire the hustle and flow of major urban areas, it is a short ride to either Myrtle Beach or Charleston. Given the choice, however, this land of swamp and sand is my preference.

Spyder motorcycle ride South Carolina
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Adventurous Streak: Adriatic Moto Tours’ Intriguing Southeast Europe Tour

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour is a rider’s paradise, with exploring the region’s beautiful and lightly traveled roads taking priority over sightseeing. With an open attitude and a sense of adventure, it will be two weeks you’ll never forget. Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

The Balkan region has had a hand in world history more often than you might think. Thanks to its geographical position, it’s always been a crossroads of culture, where farming first spread from the Middle East into Europe during the Neolithic era, and as the convergence point of Latin and Greek influence, Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, and Islam and Christianity. It’s been home to Goths, Huns, Slavs and Ottoman Turks, among many others.

For riders with an adventurous streak, the Balkans are also a fascinating place to explore, well off the beaten tourist track, where surprisingly entertaining roads with very little traffic will carry you through magical forests, along jade-colored rivers, over high mountain passes and past farm fields where workers still till the soil by hand. I first traveled to the Balkans with Adriatic Moto Tours (AMT) in 2017 (read about that here), visiting Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia, and was smitten by the culture, history, friendly people and, most importantly, the amazing roads. So this time I opted for a longer, even more adventurous getaway that would complete my tour of the former Yugoslavia — Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro — as well as allow a visit to two “behind the Iron Curtain” countries, Bulgaria and Albania, and a unique opportunity to get a passport stamp from a rather controversial country, Kosovo.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The 15-day Intriguing Southeast Europe tour loops out of Belgrade, Serbia, with rest days in Sofia, Bulgaria; Ohrid, North Macedonia; and Sarande, Albania.

The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour begins and ends in Belgrade, Serbia, a bustling city that sits at the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Danube and the Sava. I arrived a day early to acclimate and explore the city on my own, which I highly recommend. Belgrade, like most European cities, is very walkable and there are several interesting museums and points of interest, including an air museum that features pieces of a U.S. F-117 stealth fighter and an F-16 that were shot down during the 1999 campaigns, a monument to the Jewish and Roma victims of a Nazi concentration camp that once sat on the riverbank (Yugoslavia was occupied by the Nazis during WWII but its people resisted valiantly and were ultimately successful in driving them out) and the Museum of Yugoslav History, burial place of dictator Josip Tito. Most of the people I interacted with spoke English, and all were friendly.

The Serbs that I met tended to be very open and matter-of-fact, and it’s clear the events of 1999 are still quite fresh in their memories. At dinner the first night, only hours after I’d arrived, two young men at the next table overheard me speaking English and they turned and introduced themselves. “I am a riverboat captain,” said one proudly. “It’s good money, more than fifty thousand per month.” He meant 50,000 Serbian dinar, which is equivalent to approximately $475. He then went on to give me his opinions on why Serbia was struggling economically and how strong Yugoslavia once was. He thought the U.S.-led NATO bombing was unethical and misguided. At the end of our conversation, he and his companion warmly bid us good night and bought us a round of drinks. If only all discussions were so civilized.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
With AMT’s guides, knowing the local language isn’t a necessity, and many signs in the bigger towns and cities also included English, indicative of the region’s relatively new openness to tourism.

The second night, after a long day of walking and exploring, I met our tour group and guides at the welcome dinner. We were mostly American and Canadian, with a lone Australian, and notably there were two other single women besides myself, a first for me on an overseas tour. We’d been warned that the roads on this tour could be unpredictable — all paved, but in various states of repair — so I’d opted for a BMW F 750 GS (see sidebar here) for its light weight, easy handling and generous suspension travel. In fact, everyone had chosen BMW GS models, with the exception of one guy on his own Honda ST1300 and a couple on a BMW R 1250 RT. 

Our first day of riding brought us into Bulgaria, birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet and, up until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, a member of the Eastern Bloc. Unlike the former Yugoslavian states, which never fully adhered to the Soviet idea of Communism and instead leaned further toward Socialism, Bulgaria went all-in with Marxism-Leninism and, as a result, has been slower to recover economically than its Yugoslav neighbors. Caution is a must when riding Bulgarian roads, as around any bend could be a horse-drawn wagon, a herd of goats, sheep or cows, an entire family clinging to a tractor or a trundling logging truck belching diesel soot. (I’m fairly certain Bulgaria does not have an Environmental Protection Agency.) As we crossed into North Macedonia, flirting briefly with the Greek border, the landscape started to look familiar to this SoCal resident: low mountains and the vineyards of the Vardar wine region — and in fact we stayed at a working winery that night. Road conditions improved (although, as would be the case for the next several days, we remained vigilant for any surprises) and, best of all, we got our first taste of some real curves. But the best was yet to come.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
North Macedonia’s mountain roads are usually fairly smooth and well-paved, carrying us over low mountains and through rows of vineyards. Photo by Niko Perosa.

The best riding day of the tour, in my opinion, was from Ohrid, North Macedonia, to Gjirokaster, Albania. We crossed the dramatic Gramoz Range on pavement that ranged from smooth and fast to tight, bumpy and technical, eventually picking up a road that pretended to be two lanes wide but wasn’t. It clung resolutely to the side of steep emerald green mountains, at the bottom of which flowed a jade river. Flinging my lightweight GS through its twists and turns, often standing on the pegs due to the bumps, while simultaneously trying to take in the view was a challenge, so I hung at the back of the pack and stopped often for photos. Once nice thing about AMT is that it includes a GPS preloaded with each day’s route at no additional charge, so I wasn’t worried about losing the group.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Albania was full of surprises, including this stunning road between the Macedonian border and the town of Gjirokaster. The narrow, winding road demanded complete attention, which was difficult given the eye-popping scenery.

I’m not sure what I expected Albania to be like, but it still surprised me. Abandoned bunkers built by the paranoid former dictator Enver Hoxha dot the landscape — about 173,000 of them to be exact — including in places you’d least expect, like right in the middle of town. Roma — gypsies — prowl the roads on small garden tractors with scary-looking buzz saws bolted to the front, cutting trees that they sell for firewood. Yet the Albanian Riviera — the Adriatic coast — is beautiful, with abundant and delicious fresh seafood and luxury hotels at a fraction of the cost of more developed countries. The roads continued to delight, especially alpine Llogara Pass and a brand new, very fast and curvaceous stretch leading into Kosovo.

Tell most Americans you’re visiting Kosovo and you’ll likely get at least one raised eyebrow. It’s true there are parts in the northeast that aren’t the safest place to visit, given continued tensions with Serbia, and our tour route’s detour into Montenegro exists solely because it’s not possible to enter Kosovo from Albania and leave directly into Serbia (war and its aftermath, unfortunately, is a continuous theme in the region). But Kosovars are very friendly toward Americans (we fought for them, after all) and our night in the town of Prizren was memorable at the least for the massive platters of grilled meats presented to us at dinner.

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Kosovo, like Albania, is a predominantly Muslim country. This Ottoman Mosque, built in 1615, overlooks the river in the town of Prizren.

Speaking of meat, on this tour you will eat a lot of it. The cuisine in this part of the Balkans is…shall we say, challenging…for vegetarians, and nearly impossible for vegans. You should be comfortable with pork, lamb, fish, fresh bread and/or the ubiquitous salad of cucumber, tomato, onion and goat cheese. The upside is it’s delicious and can be washed down with local wine, all of it very inexpensive. In fact, one nice thing about traveling the Balkans is that your dollar goes a lot further than the more popular tourist destinations of Western Europe. Of course, as on all AMT tours your hotels, breakfasts and dinners are all included, plus a support van to carry your luggage. But because it’s so inexpensive, two weeks here doesn’t cost too much more than nine days in Western Europe. It’s a big riding vacation bang for the buck. So if you’ve got an adventurous streak and are curious to ride a part of Europe that many Americans have missed, put this tour on your list. 

The Intriguing Southeast Europe tour runs June 13-27 or September 6-20, 2020. AMT has also just released its complete 2020 and 2021 tour schedule; visit adriaticmototours.com.

Keep scrolling for more photos!

Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
We stopped at the Rila Monastery south of Sofia, Bulgaria, to appreciate its many colorful frescos and unique architecture.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
This “two lane” road’s center line seemed to exist mostly as a psychological barrier to keep drivers from just going right down the middle. With the exception of a couple of stubborn bus drivers, locals in every country were respectful of motorcycles and pulled to the right to allow us plenty of space to pass.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The Albanian Riviera was another surprise, with turquoise waters, white sand beaches and fresh, delicious seafood.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The group enjoys a lunch of fresh seafood on the Albanian coast, mere steps from the sandy beach. Photo by Niko Perosa.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Despite the seafood we were able to get on the coast, meat is a staple of Balkan cuisine, and nearly every meal included it in copious quantities, including this impressive platter of skewers, patties and steaks of beef, pork, chicken and lamb—along with french fries, fresh bread and salad.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Cold War history buffs and fans of Futurist architecture may choose to ride to the Buzludzha Monument on the rest day in Sofia. This building commemorating the foundation of the Socialist movement in Bulgaria was abandoned after the fall of Communism in 1989.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
Llogara Pass on the central coast of Albania gave us a taste of Alpine-style switchbacks. Photo by Niko Perosa.
Adriatic Moto Tours Intriguing Southeast Europe motorcycle tour
The tour group poses among the red sandstone formations and green forested mountains of northwestern Bulgaria, where we spent the night in the sleepy town of Belgradčik. Photo by Niko Perosa.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Spring Training: A Good Reason to Dust Off the Bike

BMW R 1200 GS desert
A ride south of Phoenix to the border warms the cold blood of winter. Photos by the author.

Spring (training) has sprung in both Florida and Arizona. As big leaguers work out the kinks of the offseason, motorcyclists can do the same in a migration to the lower left and lower right corners of the nation. There may be no better reason than spring training to unplug the battery tender, fill up with fresh fuel and check the air cleaner for nesting rats. 

Last week, I made my way to Arizona’s Valley of the Sun on my BMW GS to experience some of what Cactus League Spring Training has to offer, while also riding several fun loops outside of the Phoenix metro area. I planned my trip to include the two-day Innings Festival in Tempe, that serves as the mega kickoff to the Cactus League. The festival brings a long list of national musical acts and Major League legends to the Tempe Beach Park, to the delight of tens of thousands of baseball and music fans. 

 Innings Festival kicks off the Cactus League
The Innings Festival kicks off the Cactus League season with music and baseball legends.

In my case, between attending the festival and catching Chicago Cubs practices, I enjoyed a couple of great rides emanating from the metro area. One ride traced though the towering desert saguaro cacti south of Phoenix to the international border. The wide open spaces and warming desert air made for a fantastic reintroduction to the riding season.

The next day, after listening to the crack of the bat as Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo took batting practice, I cracked the throttle, making a loop east of the Valley that included Lake Roosevelt and some of the winding roads in Arizona’s mine country. I capped off the day listening to Jason Isbell and Dave Matthews at the fun and well-organized Innings Festival. 

There is still a month of spring training in both Arizona and Florida, so air up the tires, dust off the tank and head south. Motorcyclists need spring training too!

Arizona motorcycle ride
The winding roads in Arizona’s mine country are an effective rider “spring training.”

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo
1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo. Owner: Elwell Perry, Acushnet, Massachusetts.

Nobody seems to remember the company hired by Suzuki to advertise the Laredo model, but it certainly pulled out all the stops. The town of Laredo had a deserved reputation as a tough border crossing in Texas back in the late 1800s, and is rich in history. As well as a song called “The Streets of Laredo,” which is all about a dying cowboy; not sure that would be the proper way to tell people how much fun riding a motorcycle is, as motorcyclists were being called modern-day cowboys.

Suzuki had done a good deal of serious work in approaching the American market. At the start of the company’s business in the U.S., 1962, it offered a relatively ponderous 250 designed in the late 1950s, which had an electric starter, turn signals and a hydraulically actuated rear brake. All quite useful on a practical commuter bike.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

However, the next version, the 1966 X-6 Hustler, was quite different, with performance being the issue. The X-6 touted its six-speed transmission, the six gears focused on being able to stay in the narrow powerband that the two-stroke twin enjoyed. The all-new, perfectly square (54 x 54mm) parallel twin engine was rated at 29 horses at 7,500 rpm, which was quite astounding for a street-going 250. The heavy electric starter was dispensed with, and weight was an extremely modest 300 pounds wet, resulting in a top speed of 100 mph. Good bike, albeit a tad fragile, with busted gearboxes, slippy clutches and holed pistons high on the list.

As some riders may remember, this was when the AMA was trying to impose four-speed gearboxes on all models in national racing competitions.

Change is good, especially the kind that might attract customers. For 1968 the company upsized the engine to 305cc by boring the cylinders out to 60mm, adding 58 cubic centimeters to the cylinder capacity. The resulting 305cc bike came out in two versions, the low-piped T305 Raider and the street-scrambler styled TC305, with high pipes, knobbyish tires and a skid-plate. Not that such mods made much difference when on seriously dirty dirt, but the rugged look sold — rather like today’s adventure bikes.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

More essential changes involved making the tranny tougher by almost doubling the size of the gears. And slightly decreasing the compression ratio from the 250’s 7.3:1 to the 305’s 6.7:1. As well as enlarging the clutch plates and using thicker cork (when is the last time we saw a clutch with cork inserts?) to give the much-abused plates added longevity. These improvements added some 20 pounds to the heft of the engine/tranny unit. Overall wet weight, with 3.7 gallons of gas in the tank and almost half a gallon of oil in the Posi-Force reservoir, was almost 340 pounds.

This had all the essential Suzuki modernizations, with that Posi-Force oil injection system making sure that the oil got to the important lubrication points, rather than just mixing with the gas and hoping for the best. More importantly, the buyer that Suzuki was looking for had no interest in the messy business of personally adding oil to the gas tank. A vacuum petcock did away with the need to turn off the gas when stopped, a ritual the older generation was quite familiar with.

The 305 used the Vol-U-Matic induction system, a porting technique that allowed for a reasonable amount of grunt, or torque, to be generated by this middling-small engine. That was helped along by heavier flywheels, which served to make the engine less touchy when plunking along a dirt road. Tractable was a word often used by reviewers. Rotary valving was becoming much the rage in the late 1960s, but Suzuki liked the traditional piston-port design.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

The 305 was produced with a pair of rather large 32mm Mikuni carbs, compared to the 24mm ones on the 250. The engineers had realized that if they left the intake port the same size as on the 250, with the same stroke, the bigger carbs would allow for rapid filling of the crankcase. And the big gulps of air assisted in quickly jamming the fuel mixture through the ports and into the hemispherical combustion chambers. An amusing side effect was that this system, useful when dawdling along, created a major intake boom when the rider chose to twist the throttle all the way open. As one magazine put it, “…the roar is enough to rattle your very bones.” But 37 horsepower was claimed by the manufacturer.

The engine/tranny unit sat in a full-cradle frame, the tubular members making a full U as they came down from the steering head to go under the engine and loop up to the saddle, to meet with the three tubes running back under the gas tank. The 51 inches between axles provided for good control at slow speeds, and still reasonably capable when pushing the century mark on the speedometer. Though the rider might need a bit of downhill to attain 100 mph, as road tests of the era showed 95 to be about top. The fork was said to be a bit on the stiff side, while the rear shocks seemed soft. Probably much depended on whether one lightweight was on board, or two heavyweights. Good ground clearance was provided, with even the centerstand neatly tucked away.

1968 Suzuki TC305 Laredo

Good bike, well received, but Suzuki obviously felt the need for something new. The Laredo was only on the market for one year, with a few leftover Raiders sold in 1969. Replacing it was the Rebel 350…nice number, but the 305 engine had only been bored out another 2 mm, adding just 10cc, for a grand total of 315cc, not 350cc. Truth in advertising?

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Riding ‘Shine Country: The Tail of the Dragon and North Carolina’s Moonshiner 28

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort
Zeb and Bob Congdon at The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort before heading up the Tail of the Dragon. Photos by the author.

As I leaned into the corner, a stopped garbage truck appeared just ahead, hugging the stone wall on the right closely enough that I could just squeak by. Doing so revealed the gorgeous sight of a rock-laced, turbulent waterfall directly in front of me. These exciting moments were in the Cullasaja River Gorge of North Carolina’s State Highway 28, parts of it nicknamed “Moonshiner 28” due to its rich history of use by speeding moonshiners evading the revenuers. Everyone has heard of the Tail of the Dragon section of U.S. Route 129 in Tennessee and North Carolina — Moonshiner 28 begins at its southern end and is an even better ride in many ways.

North Carolina Deals Gap Tail of the Dragon motorcycle ride map
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary riding this portion of Moonshiner 28 after two days of enjoying nothing but amazing riding from where I started in Cherokee, North Carolina. But what had begun as a raw, misty autumn ride soon developed into an unforgettable fall-color riding spectacle.

In Cherokee, I camped in a KOA cabin along the Raven Fork River for two days of fishing. The cabin was a luxurious tent, tailormade for a motorcycle journey. Besides fishing, Cherokee has amenities and attractions like the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, a casino, lodging, eateries, a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I left the Cherokee campground on a misty, rainy morning, bypassing the elk refuge at the national park’s Oconaluftee Visitor Center and heading north on U.S. Route 441 into the park. It was cold and raw this November day, and the mist limited my vision. Taking the turnoff up to Clingmans Dome, all I could see were the clouds hanging in the valleys — the “smoke” in the Smokies.

View from the Foothills Parkway between Townsend and Chilhowee, Tennessee.
View from the Foothills Parkway between Townsend and Chilhowee, Tennessee.

I left Clingmans Dome Road, got back on U.S. 441 and headed for Townsend, Tennessee, to check out the Little River fishing potential. At Sugarlands Visitor Center I headed west on Fighting Creek Gap Road, becoming Little River Gorge Road. It merges with U.S. Route 321 in Townsend. Normally a great ride, on this day it was overwhelmed with park traffic, and I rode attentively.

Chilled and needing hot food and coffee, I pulled into a roadhouse in Townsend and wolfed down a medium-rare strip with eggs, home fries and coffee. Full and warm I headed off on U.S. 321 to the Foothills Parkway. The sun came out, allowing me to absorb Mother Nature’s continuous visual treats. The colors along the parkway were overwhelmingly beautiful.

The author’s BMW F 650 GS parked at Foothills Parkway Overlook between Townsend and Chilhowee, Tennessee.
The author’s BMW F 650 GS parked at Foothills Parkway Overlook between Townsend and Chilhowee, Tennessee.

Suddenly I was at the beginning of the Tail of the Dragon section of U.S. 129 in Tennessee. I had ridden it from the North Carolina side, but not the other direction. Sports cars and screaming sportbikes ply the road’s endless curves, so you must pay constant attention. Dragon riding is about turns, leaning, weight change, rhythm and smiling through 318 curves in 11 miles. Having conquered the Dragon, now a legend in my own mind, I pulled into Ron and Nancy Johnson’s Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, a mandatory stop at the southern end. 

Moonshiner 28 starts here. As I leaned and twisted down the Moonshiner I imagined Robert Mitchum’s 1950 Ford two-door sedan (actually a modified 1951 model) from “Thunder Road” screeching around the corners and hauling the moonshine to market. Riding along Cheoah Lake to Fontana Dam is quite fun, a simply enjoyable, sparkling and twisting lake road. I reached the dam and rode across it, stopping for pictures and picking up great riding maps at the visitor center.

Bob Congdon rides Moonshiner 28 along the Cheoah River, between Deals Gap and Stecoah, North Carolina.
Bob Congdon rides Moonshiner 28 along the Cheoah River, between Deals Gap and Stecoah, North Carolina. Photo by Killboy.com

Moonshiner 28 from Fontana to Franklin is not a make-time route; it is a rider’s enjoy-the-feeling route. Arriving in Franklin at dusk, I pulled up to the Microtel Inn & Suites, looking forward to a relaxing cocktail and a good night’s sleep. But I had forgotten that I was in the Bible Belt — finding that “moonshine” was a chore.

The next morning it was onto Mountain Waters Scenic Byway. I have come to love this 9-mile section of U.S. Route 64/State Route 28, but that morning was special. With the trees in full fall color and the cascading Cullasaja River Gorge on my right, it grabbed my soul. I enjoyed sunny, prime fall riding conditions on this scenic, twisty, color-laden river road. The Gorge is a part of the Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina, and on this part of the Moonshiner 28 the Cullasaja River tears down the gorge interrupted by cascading, tumbling waterfalls like Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Bust Your Butt Falls and, of course, Cullasaja Falls. Dry and Bridal Veil Falls have large enough pull-offs for multiple bikes. Dry Falls is particularly unique with a falls walkway and restrooms.

Bust Your Butt Falls
Bust Your Butt Falls is one of several waterfalls on the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway section of Moonshiner 28.

At Highlands, I continued down Moonshiner 28, crossing into Georgia and then South Carolina. No wonder moonshiners liked this road. You could quickly hit multiple state population centers!

Turning around, I headed for my destination, my brother’s house outside Spartanburg, South Carolina. I wasn’t about to pass up a continuing ride through the Smokies for Interstate 85. I got back to Highlands, picked up U.S. 64 east toward Brevard, U.S. Route 276, Pisgah Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. At U.S. 276 I figured seeing my brother was more important than the Blue Ridge. It would have to wait until spring.

As a senior rider, my bike rides mean freedom, being alone with my thoughts, rugged country and having a big grin on my face. A favorite ride has to have raw beauty, scenic rivers, intriguing history, meandering roads and mountains. It has to be all that to keep me coming back. This ride is a great journey; I appreciate being alive when I am here. I wish you the same in riding Moonshiner 28. 

A dragon stands guard at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.
A dragon stands guard at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Around the world with The Bear | Part 17 | Marseilles to Biarritz

Around the world with The Bear – Part 17

The King of Every Kingdom
Around the world on a very small motorcycle

With J. Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Last time we left The Bear and Annie after they arrived in Marseilles in France with their XS1100 along with fellow Aussies Neil and Millie, and now they explore some more and head to Biarritz.

There were no laptops back in the day, and I discovered that even portable typewriters are heavy. Too heavy for spoked Suzuki wheels at least….

A major sort-out followed and we sent three large, heavy parcels back home. My typewriter went – sadly missed; I hate writing longhand.

Then we loaded most of the remaining heavy gear aboard the XS which hardly seemed to feel the difference. We were all breathing more easily as we buzzed off along the coast, over the classy motorway bridge at Martigues and on to Arles for an excellent lunch.

It is difficult to imagine how such flat countryside can be so beautiful, but the Camargue, with its waterways, stands of golden reeds and herds of white horses, looked lovely. With the mistral at our backs, we drifted through the meadows and occasional stands of umbrella pine down to Les Saintes Maries with its little chapel that attracts thousands of Gypsy pilgrims every year.

The town centre still felt quite medieval with its winding alleys and little shops, but a huge modern holiday development all around rather spoils it.

In the sandy campsite we did a little more maintenance work on the bikes and I couldn’t understand why it was impossible to get the rear brake disc of the XS back between the calipers after I had replaced the pads. Lots of headscratching later, it occurred to me that I’d refilled the brake fluid reservoir as well. Sure enough, I’d put in too much fluid. The spokes on the GS seemed to be holding. We tapped them every day now.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Morning in Toulouse. The fog was icy and thick, and never lifted.

There was still aggravation in our little party as personalities clashed, and Annie and I took the opportunity to spend a couple of evenings by ourselves in a comfortable bar by the harbour, drinking kir and gazing into the fire. The bar mascot, a dachshund, kept us company. He had a very simple way of indicating that the fire was getting too low—he would crawl right up into the brick fireplace and look out mournfully.

We moved camp after some days of this rather heavily touristed environment; our new home was ‘La Refuge’, a tiny place in the town of Vias. On the way, Neil once more puzzled the locals by asking where the war was when he meant the railway station. His rather good French always seemed to fail him when he had to differentiate between ‘gare’ and ‘guerre’.

We also met a young German woman on a Honda 400/4, who calmly informed us that she was going down to The Gambia to sell her bike. Carrying very little gear, she had been freezing in her leathers for the last three days. We gave her some lunch and wished her luck.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

A bit of a wander along one of the canal towpaths in France.

Vias proved to be exactly what we needed – it was just a small wine and tourist village in the off season. With friendly people and the ‘Cafe de France’, where we became such good customers that the patron started buying us drinks, the place was cosy. If truth be known the free drinks were a result of his being unable to tell the difference between Australia and New Zealand. Every time we walked in he would burst into a big grin and say admiringly, “Ah, les All Blacks!”

We had a couple of barbecues on the beach and generally took it easy. Our bail bond insurance for Spain didn’t start for another eight days. I also had new tyres, Metzelers, fitted to the XS at the Honda shop in Beziers.

The rear wheel nearly reduced their mechanics to tears, and it took them three times as long as they’d quoted to replace the tyre. They swore they would never touch another XS 1100. I still don’t know why; I’ve replaced a rear tyre on that bike myself and it gave me very little trouble.

Feeling more relaxed, we continued to Biarritz via Toulouse. A sunny morning and pleasant lunch at the very beautiful mediaeval town of Carcassonne were followed by a freezing, impenetrable fog just outside Toulouse. With our heated handlebar grips, electric GloGloves and Motomod Alaskan suits we weren’t exactly cold—but we still couldn’t see. A campsite loomed out of the fog just in time.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

We replaced a couple of dozen spokes by the side of the road.

Our flysheets were frozen stiff the next morning, and we had to thaw them out in the toilet block before we could fold them. The fog was still just as dense as the night before. We crept through Toulouse, visibility a few metres. To this day I have no idea what the place looks like.

An hour later, the fog lifted and we had the sunniest day of the trip so far. Our run that day through the hills of Gascony was nothing short of idyllic. This was the home of cassoulet, Armagnac and foie gras, substantial chalets peering out of the little copses, and the snowy slopes of the Pyrenees blinking away on the horizon.

I kept seeing signs all day advertising ‘Chiens Bergers Allemandes’ and my mind kept twisting the translation to German Dogburgers, possibly competition for the American fast food chains. They were only selling German Shepherds, of course.

In a little village just before our camp at St Sever, we passed a small church called Notre Dame du Rugby. Now that’s taking sports to heart.

St Sever is on the edge of the Gironde and lies peacefully in a wooded valley. Our petrol stove was acting up, giving only a low flame when it would burn at all. We consoled ourselves with a few drinks in the bar/tobacconist/newsagents/shop in the village. Even this out-of-the-way place had an electronic amusement machine, featuring little clowns breaking balloons. I was interested to see that the last ‘human’ score had been twenty, while the clowns by themselves often racked up 30-35. Clever little electronic clowns….

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

But France in autumn is certainly not always cold and wet.

It was cold again that night, but not unpleasant, and the next day we were nearly at Biarritz when the back wheel of the GS collapsed once more. Oh dear.

We located a Suzuki shop in Bayonne, but they claimed they couldn’t help until the next day. When we pointed out that this meant our sleeping by the side of the road, they gave us the name of another shop in Biarritz. After much pleading, the chap there agreed to rebuild the wheel for us, but he didn’t think there were any heavier spokes available. We had to face facts. There was little point in laying out more money when the spokes would only break again. We had to buy a cast wheel.

After an elaborate series of phone calls, our friend in the bike shop arranged for the other shop to stay open for us and to accept traveller’s cheques. Neil raced back to Bayonne, bought the wheel, raced back to Biarritz, had it fitted with our wheel bearings, tyre and tube; and we put the wheel back on the bike.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Hmm, this wheel appears to have disintegrated…

By now it was nearly 10 pm, and we had a great deal of trouble finding an open campground. Tempers flared. When we did find a site, we agreed that we must talk our frictions out.

Annie and I spent a relaxing day in Biarritz, where we picked up mail and had a picnic out on the beachfront rocks. Then we all got together for our bit of group therapy in one of the local bars. It emerged that Annie and I didn’t really think that Millie could cope with this kind of travelling, and that she found me too bossy and overbearing.

We thought she complained and niggled too much; she thought we didn’t listen to her enough. We adjourned after a bit of healthy self-criticism, and things did improve quite noticeably for a while.

Spain is next, and we discovered that Australian passports can be less than useless there.

Source: MCNews.com.au

Dirt Roads: An Appreciation

pavement ends sign
When the pavement ends, a new kind of fun begins. Photos by the author.

Andy follows me across the border from Massachusetts into Vermont. We’re riding along a dirt road that cuts through dark, deep woods overlooking the Green River. As my Kawasaki hums below, the final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” repeats in my head:

These woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

It’s a warm August morning, not a snowy evening, but Frost’s silken words apply. For two days we are riding through the very landscapes that inspired Frost’s extraordinary descriptions of ordinary things. As the crow flies, Vermont is about 160 miles long north to south, but we’ll cover 321 miles before reaching our destination of North Troy. We’re on the Vermont Puppy Dog Route, which links unpaved roads from the southern border we just crossed all the way to the northern border with Québec, Canada. 

Stowe, Vermont
Your humble scribe stops to take in an early morning view near Stowe, Vermont.

This isn’t off-roading. It’s dirt-roading. Especially in Vermont, roads like these came about because someone had a destination in mind. They follow rivers along a path of least resistance, or hug the edges of pastures and fields, or take the shorter, steeper route up and over the mountains. They have names like Church Hill Road, Rabbit Hollow Road and Elmore Mountain Road. We’re not blazing new trails or attempting to conquer untamed hilltops, we’re just choosing roads no one felt the need to pave. And since they are often the only roads to certain locales, they take us through areas we’d otherwise miss.

Vermont motorcycle ride
Early morning sun begins to burn off the fog over this beaver pond somewhere in southern Vermont.

What my “Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer” depicts as dirt roads can vary in width, surface and state of repair, but these roads are maintained for public use. Some are graded hard pack wide enough for two pickups hauling horse trailers to pass with room to spare. Others are so narrow that one vehicle must give way for another to pass. A few are bumpy, graveled but navigable two-tracks. You might not want to ride your pristine Harley Ultra on these roads, but you don’t need a dedicated dirt bike either. Any scrambler or adventure bike is up to the task.

As we discover, sticking to dirt roads can present snags. In southern Vermont, the route comes to a locked gate, so we find another dirt road that returns us to the route a few miles on. Farther north, a farm road abruptly ends at a single-track trail of deep mud and big rocks. We backtrack and look for another gray line on the map. As Andy likes to say, it’s all part of the adventure.

covered bridge Vermont
Nothing says Vermont like a dirt road and a covered bridge.

On a motorcycle you already feel more involved in your transportation. When you ride long distances on dirt roads your connection runs deeper. There’s a different kind of mental focus than riding on tarmac. Our pace is slower, with posted limits typically just 35, and limited sight distances are the norm. Inclines and declines can be steep. Steering is more labor intensive, traction varies continuously and braking distances are longer. It’s actually a good way to practice braking control at the limit of lockup on my ’08 Kawasaki Versys, which lacks anti-lock brakes.

dirt road underpass
Dirt roads often go under railroads. The underpasses can get mucky.

We also encounter all manner of critters at close range. A bobcat scrutinizes us from its perch atop a stack of firewood. A fisher cat ambles purposefully across our path with its distinctive four-wristed gait. A docile, ungainly porcupine takes one look at us and promptly turns back. A barred owl perches high in a tree that is rooted low in a roadside ravine, making it head-high with me as it suddenly swoops into flight. 

Mid-state we find ourselves riding through horse country with stately manor homes and white-fenced pastures that remind me of Kentucky. Here we share the road with horse-drawn sulkies driven by nattily dressed people enjoying a trail ride event. (Ride slowly past horses…they often get spooked by motorcycles.) 

Vermont Puppy Dog Rout
Mission accomplished: Andy arrives at the northern terminus of the Vermont Puppy Dog Route.

As we near North Troy, Andy points out a gorge and we stop for a look. There are no signs, but the map describes this beautiful place as Big Falls State Park. In a few miles we reach the Canadian border. When we stop to reflect on our ride, Robert Frost again springs to mind. This time it’s the concluding lines of “The Road Not Taken”:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Go enjoy a nice long ride on dirt roads.

Lovejoy Brook Road
Lovejoy Brook Road follows Lovejoy Brook (imagine that) near Andover, Vermont.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Backing Up Science With a ‘Sanity Escape Loop’

Horsetooth Reservoir BMW motorcycle dog carrier
This overlook of Horsetooth Reservoir near the tiny town of Stout (population 47 1/2) is a convenient place to pause about three miles into the trip if I have to adjust my gear or if George needs a nature break. The “dogtote” shown was my original design, since updated. Photos by the author.

When winter comes and your motorcycle is parked in the garage with the cover on, and you have not been on a ride for some time, do you get restless? I know I do. I find myself dreaming of spring and planning long summer rides. I start reviewing packing lists, pouring over maps and reorganizing my gear. This helps, but it is not the same as riding. So, I also obsessively watch the weather for the chance to layer up and get in a quick ride. Where I live, I can get out once or twice per week during most of the winter months – ice in the canyon corners permitting. 

When time and weather are limiting factors but I still need to get out and ride, I have a short 40-minute loop I like to do. I call this my Sanity Escape Loop since it allows me to escape to the foothills west of town when I feel winter (or life) closing in. My escape route is only 30 miles or so, but that is often enough for me to relax. The ride takes me into the foothills west of Fort Collins, past Horsetooth Reservoir, through Masonville, and along Bobcat Ridge to the outskirts of Loveland, and back along Glade Road. Along the route, there is a roughly 10-mile loop allowing me to circle Bobcat Ridge and Glade Road if 40 minutes is not enough to relax. 

Masonville Colorado
Turning from Larimer County Road 38 to County Road 27, I pass antique farm machinery in Masonville as I head south along Bobcat Ridge.

A recent study funded by Harley-Davidson demonstrates motorcyclists are happier, their brains are more focused and their stress levels are lower after a 20-minute ride. I guess this makes my 40-minute Sanity Escape Loop twice as good! But seriously, this research backs up my belief that riding helps me maintain some semblance of sanity. And, it’s not the only study that’s been done that supports my experience. 

Research published in the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies explored why motorcyclists choose to ride, despite the dangers associated with it. Ten experienced motorcyclists ranging in age from mid-thirties to mid-seventies, with an average riding experience of 18.6 years, participated in this university-approved study. Responses collected in semi-structured interviews were analyzed for common themes.

All participants stated they ride primarily for leisure, because they enjoy it and it makes them feel better. Study participants shared that riding allows them to relax and escape their worries, with many stating that riding lifts their spirits and makes them happy. The participants also shared they are much more focused and aware of their surroundings when motorcycling compared to driving. The study participants credited their experiences riding in complex, dangerous situations, such as heavy commuter traffic, with helping them develop increased focus, situational awareness and road survival skills. These motorcyclists are keenly aware of the dangers posed by motorcycling and yet they choose to do it anyway because they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Most riders also preferred to ride on less crowded, rural or country roads than in crowded, urban and commuter settings.

Stout, Colorado
Stout, Colorado, has a claimed population of 47…and a half?

Though, if you do commute by motorcycle, you can take solace in the fact that it is helping keep your brain young. Research funded by Yamaha shows riding a motorcycle daily for two months improves several cognitive functions, including processing speed and visuo-spatial attention. These improved cognitive functions are utilized for rapid hazard detection and avoidance, skills that are essential to safe motorcycling. The improvements from daily motorcycle riding were similar to cognitive gains observed with the playing of daily brain training games. Such brain games are often used to help keep the brain young and delay the onset of dementia. 

Exercise science shows riding a motorcycle counts as healthy exercise too. Research shows off-road motorcyclists are more fit than the general public. Riding 2-4 times a week for six weeks increased participants’ aerobic capacity and muscle mass and lowered their blood pressure, blood sugar and body fat. The demonstrated health gains were greater than those usually obtained from walking 2-4 times a week. Wow – motorcycling can help keep your brain young and is healthier for you than walking! Who knew?

Horsetooth Colorado
A nice straight stretch between Horsetooth Mountain Park and Masonville, where I can open up the throttle and relax a little. Though, I need to keep my head on a swivel for wildlife. I have encountered free range cows, deer and turkeys along this stretch.

So, what does this mean? That you need to get out there and ride! You already knew that, but now you have science to back you up! Motorcycling is good for you – both physically and mentally. The physical benefits of motorcycling include increased endurance, increased lung capacity and increased core strength. Mental benefits include decreased stress, decreased anxiety and a younger brain. Overall, motorcycling can make you smarter, stronger, more relaxed and – best of all – happier. Motorcycling can even help you keep dementia at bay. But you cannot be complacent. You need to stay alert so you can continue to improve. You also need to practice and train to refresh your skills and then train and practice some more. 

So, the next time someone worries about you riding a motorcycle, you can tell them not to worry, science proves riding a motorcycling is good for you. Then hand them this article and invite them to take a motorcycle training course with you.

On a lighter note, when I want to further enhance the benefits of motorcycling, I bring along my Australian Cattle Dog, George. He has fun, I have fun and we make lots of people smile. I already know motorcycling is good for me, and I also know that having a dog is good for me – and riding with George proves it! Now go do your sanity ride. I just did mine twice. First on my own, and then with George.

You can find more information about George’s motorcycle travels, the author’s training of George, Opal and Ollie to ride, as well as hints, tips and tricks on training your dog to safely ride your motorcycle at: https://DogOnMotorcycle.com

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Around the world with The Bear | Part 16 | London to Marseilles

Around the world with The Bear – Part 16

The King of Every Kingdom
Around the world on a very small motorcycle

With J. Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Travelling two-up on an XL250 is okay for short distances, but for a proper trip you need a Yamaha XS1100! In Part 16, The Bear sets off from London once again, heading for France with Annie.


Scroll forward six or eight months. Annie and I had now enjoyed one winter in Britain, and didn’t want to face another. So the plans were made – we would go to North Africa for the cold months. Yamaha Germany very kindly offered us an XS1100 on loan, and we snapped it up.  It was taken down to Vetter Industries and fitted with a Windjammer fairing as well as panniers and a top box, turning it into the closest thing to a one-bike invasion force I had ever seen.

The Bear Around The World Part

The Bear Around The World Part

Neil and Millie, another Australian couple, decided to join us on their Suzuki GS750. This was fitted with a sports sidecar by Squire and the roomy luggage from Craven; Boyers also fitted their electronic ignition.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Wiring in the heated grips and the hot gloves for Mrs Bear in Telegraph Hill.

None of us had camping gear for more than the odd long weekend, so we spent a morning with the folk at Binleys Camping Supplies in Kettering and staggered out fully equipped. We were also sponsored by Everoak Helmets, by Derriboots, Nivea and by Duckham’s Oils. Thanks, all, once again.

It had taken a fair bit of work to get sponsorship, but a well-produced proposal and a carefully thought out set of benefits for the sponsors (mentions like this one), swung the odds in our favour, and we got just about everything we asked for. Mind you, the Yamaha, its fairing and luggage, and the Suzuki’s sidecar of course had to be given back after the trip.

At the beginning of November, badly overloaded and not really fully prepared, we rolled aboard the ferry to France. It was dark when we reached Le Havre, but we had little trouble finding the campground. Not that it did us much good for, just four days earlier, the site had closed for the season.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

An experimental first ride all the way to our favourite London pub, Dingwall’s.

We set up camp in the park across the road, dined on sandwiches we’d made from the remaining contents of our refrigerator before leaving London, and slept very well. I always sleep better when it’s free….

The road signs and our maps were rather confusing in the morning, so although we had intended to follow the by-roads to Paris we ended up on the autoroute. It was Sunday and the road was full of pretty bikes, all sharp and clean, and we felt rather out of place lumbering along on our overloaded camels.

The Bois de Boulogne campsite extended its usual welcome, with deep mud and inoperative showers. It’s not all bad, really. There are a lot of trees and it’s quite close to the centre of the city. I do wish they’d fix those showers. About half of them just swallow your token, burp and give you nothing in return.

Most of the others give you your few minutes of hot water, but there’s always one that’s stuck ‘on’ and therefore free. The procedure, therefore, is never to go into an unoccupied cubicle. Wait until somebody comes out of one and ask ‘C’est marche?’ before committing your token. If one shower has a queue in front of it, that’s the free one. Wait for that.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

This time it’s for real – here we are ready to head off on a seven month adventure.

If all the above sounds like too much trouble, imagine the frustration of getting undressed, putting your token in the slot without being rewarded with hot water, getting dressed, plodding over to the office to complain and get another token, getting undressed, putting your token… In 1979 the showers had been like that for at least eleven years, to my knowledge.

It rained during the night, and the top of the Lowrider tent Neil and Millie were using filled up with water, but surprisingly little seeped through. Neil and I spent the next day working on the bikes, finishing all the little things we should have done back in London.

Some people from a minibus camped next door wandered over and gave us the wonderful news that they’d just come back from Morocco and it had rained all the time.

After dinner, I found reassurance in a sip of my duty-free Glenfiddich and we once again donned our Damart gear to go to bed. It was cold enough to penetrate our down sleeping bags. A few days in Paris were fun, but the rain refused to let up and we pushed on towards the Mediterranean.

One of the alterations we had made to the GS was fitting it with GS1000 air shocks. As we rolled out of Paris, these proved to be underinflated, and as we could not work out how to get more air into them without losing oil, we changed back to the old units.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Neil is all ready for our embarkation on the ferry to France.

A wet day followed, with occasional glimpses of the lovely French autumn countryside as we rolled through the forests. We had a picnic at lunchtime—in an old disused petrol station at Sens. It was the only place we could get in out of the rain.

Somewhat further along and after dark, I switched the XS onto high beam coming out of a tunnel and promptly blew a fuse. A few hectic seconds followed – there was a corner somewhere out there – before I’d stopped safely on the gravel. The original 10-amp fuse was obviously not enough to cope with the extra load of all the lights the Vetter gear features, so I replaced it with a 22-amp one and had no further trouble.

What a ride! In the three days it took us to make our way down to the Med, we discovered just about all of the defects our equipment was to show during the entire trip. The Vetter panniers leaked a little, and tightening the locks only cured one. To be fair, Vetter told us later that our panniers had come from the only less than perfect batch they’d had.

The sidecar hood wasn’t entirely waterproof either, and the occupant complained that it was a little claustrophobic. The GS battery refused to hold a charge and the XS happily followed every white line that presented itself.

At one point I had to make a crash stop on the outfit, and the overloaded sidecar pulled me into the opposing lane, fortunately without dire results. At least the fairings proved their value; the Windjammer was excellent and even the little Corsair on the GS helped a lot in the rain. Tempers wore a bit thin, too.

Luckily we found good campsites all the way. One night somewhere near Lyon we even found a free flat. We had pulled up to ask someone about a campsite when they told us to follow them and took us to a half-empty block of flats. They shooed us into one of them and said goodnight. There wasn’t much furniture, but it was warm and dry.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part

Replacing the shock absorbers on the GS750 outfit just off the Paris peripherique.

It was a great relief to find some sun – not much, but some – in Marseille. We camped at La Ciotat after a run along the coast road, where we had another chance to admire the local bikes. Mostly kitted out as endurance racers, they all seemed to be piloted by riders bent on suicide. They were fun to watch.

Our spirits were restored by an excellent if horrendously expensive bouillabaisse, which we consumed with great gusto. Like Charlie’s and my French dinner in Chiang Mai, in Thailand, it was a great morale booster for all of us.

We spent a few evenings in the ‘Civette du Port’, a friendly little bar where we fascinated the waiters by playing Scrabble late into the night. Our campsite wasn’t very pleasant, and it was still so cold that we slept in our thermal wear every night.

A short run to St Tropez wasn’t terribly impressive, either. The coast road is plastered with ‘Private Property’ signs forbidding picnics, camping and even stopping. Ah, vive la France, sure. Renewed sunshine cheered us up again and we set off west along the coast in fine spirits. But France really didn’t seem to be for us.

Just past Marseilles, the GS suddenly developed a very flat tyre. Inspection showed four broken spokes, one of which had punctured the tube. The overloading was taking its toll. Neil and I respoked the wheel as well as we could beside the road, patched the tube and limped to the nearest campsite at Carry Le Rouet.

As if that last mishap had been the parting shot from our evil luck, things began to look up immediately. The campsite was comfortable and had excellent hot showers; a bike shop in Marseilles respoked the wheel for us in a couple of hours; and the mistral started to blow the rain clouds out to sea. I did get lost on the way back from the bike shop, admittedly, and saw most of southern France before I got back onto the proper autoroute….

Next instalment we meet a young woman who’s riding her 400/4 to The Gambia to sell it. Seriously.

Source: MCNews.com.au