Tag Archives: Moshe K. Levy

Winter Motorcycle Riding: Finding Big Warmth on a Small Bike

If you refuse to be deterred by the weather when it comes to winter motorcycle riding (but are perhaps stymied by the tech – or lack thereof – on your small bike), check out this Exhaust Note feature from “Moto Mouth” Moshe K. Levy that originally appeared in Rider‘s February issue.


Winter Motorcycle Riding Honda Trail 125
Winter doesn’t stop the author from getting out on his 2021 Honda Trail 125.

Sales of small motorcycles have been booming in the U.S. Their low prices, excellent fuel economy, playful aesthetics, and sheer riding pleasure make minibikes irresistible. My 2021 Honda Trail 125 is so addictive that I find myself hopping aboard its spartan solo saddle not just for local chores but for longer weekend trips as well.

Related: 2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS | First Ride Review

However, all that fun eventually collides against the limitations Mother Nature imposes on those of us who suffer cold winters. Normally, on my big bikes, I just plug in my 12-volt electric jacket liner and gloves and keep on going. But on small bikes like the Trail, there simply isn’t enough electrical capacity to run a full suite of heated gear.

Since parking the bike for the season is never a serious consideration for me, I developed a solution that is relatively low cost, readily available, functionally effective, and applicable for virtually any motorcycle with a marginal electrical output.

First, you need some battery-powered heated gear, which is abundant in today’s marketplace. I’ve had excellent luck with Warm & Safe’s Long Sleeve Heat Layer Shirt, which is powered by a 7.4V, 7.8Ah lithium-ion battery. For gloves, I like Klim’s battery-powered Hardanger HTDs, which operate on 7.4V, 2Ah lithium-polymer batteries. Both products feature multiple heat levels that allow the rider to adjust temperature as necessary, and they have held up well over multiple seasons of abuse.

See all of Rider’s new and reviewed gear here.

Indeed, heated gear is the only thing permitting your faithful, winter-hating Mediterranean columnist to survive arctic riding – at least until the batteries deplete! And therein lies the rub: To stay out all day in the cold, we need continuous power. Here’s how to get it.

First, we need spare batteries for all the heated gear we use. Manufacturers generally offer spares, as does Amazon. Always try to get at least as high an Ah (amp-hour) rating as the original battery – preferably higher. The higher the Ah rating, all else equal, the more run time you will get.

Next, we need to keep these spares continuously charging so they can be swapped in when the original batteries run down. We can accomplish this with a basic square-wave DC-AC inverter and a wiring harness to connect the inverter to the bike’s battery.

My typical setup inside my Trail’s top box is shown in the photo below:

Winter Motorcycle Riding

1. Sinloon waterproof cigarette lighter harness, available on Amazon for $9.99, which connects directly to the motorcycle’s battery

2. BMK 200W square-wave DC-AC inverter, available on Amazon for $25.99, which plugs into the Sinloon harness and converts the 12V DC from the bike’s battery to 120V AC

3. AC-DC battery chargers, included with the heated gear and plugged directly into the inverter, which convert the 120V AC output back to 8.4V DC to charge the spares

4. Spare lithium-ion battery for my W&S Heat Layer Shirt

5. Spare lithium-polymer batteries used in my Klim heated gloves

Both the harness and inverter are generic, and it really doesn’t matter which brands you use. (Some riders might already have the wiring harness in place, e.g., for a Battery Tender.)

Everything is secured in my Trail’s top case so things don’t shake around too much. All I need to do is flip the inverter to “on” to continuously charge the spare batteries while riding. Yes, it’s inefficient to convert power from the bike’s 12V DC to 120V AC and then back to heated gear’s 8.4V DC charging voltage, but this setup gets the job done with common, inexpensive components and requires no fancy wiring. 

Total draw on this setup is only about 32 watts, including inverter losses. That’s only about one-third of the draw of my 12V DC Warm & Safe jacket liner, so minibikes and even many older bikes with limited electrical capacity should be able to handle this load with ease. Mission accomplished!

Depending on the ambient temperatures and settings of the heated gear, I typically pull over every one to four hours to swap the dead batteries for freshly charged ones, allowing me to stay out all day in the cold – long after most other riders have parked for the season. For a true addict, there is no other choice!

To see a video about this setup, check out the Moto Mouth Moshe YouTube channel.

The post Winter Motorcycle Riding: Finding Big Warmth on a Small Bike first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: BMW /5 Series – 1970-1973

1972 BMW R 75/5 slash five toaster
1972 BMW R 75/5 “Toaster” owned by Arden White in Snohomish, Washington. (Photos by Arden White and Moshe K. Levy)

The year 1969 was a tumultuous time in the motorcycle industry, marked by the rise of the Japanese and the beginning of the end for the British. Amidst this backdrop of rapidly evolving consumer sentiment, BMW introduced its /5 (“slash five”) Series for the 1970 model year. In its three years of production, the /5 family of motorcycles reinvigorated the brand with its contemporary design and ushered in BMW’s fabled “Airhead” Type 247 Boxer Twin engine, variations of which would continue to propel the marque’s R-Series motorcycles for the next 25 years.

See more of Rider‘s Retrospective motorcycle stories here.

The /5 Series, built at BMW’s newest facility in Spandau, Berlin, was available in three variants. The R 50/5 (500cc) was the most affordable, the R 60/5 (600cc) was the midrange, and the R 75/5 (750cc) was the top of the line.

Compared to its predecessor, the BMW /2 Series, the /5 Series was a thoroughly modernized ground-up redesign. It boasted up-to-date 12-volt DC electrics complete with a 180-watt alternator, an electric starter, more powerful drum brakes, and a slew of other noteworthy upgrades. The frame was of tubular steel construction with a double downward cradle for the engine, similar to the benchmark Norton Featherbed. A rear subframe was bolted onto the mainframe and served as the upper mount for the twin rear shocks. Up front, the former /2’s Earles fork was replaced with a telescopic fork on the /5, signaling a functional change of focus from utilitarian sidecar duty to improved handling as a solo motorcycle.

BMW 247 Airhead flat-Twin R 75/5
The 247 Airhead’s flat-Twin configuration means easy access to most serviceable components.

See all of Rider‘s BMW coverage here.

Of course, no discussion of the BMW /5 would be complete without an examination of the Type 247 “Airhead” flat-Twin engine. Special care was taken by the company to design a simple, reliable motor that addressed previous concerns about the /2 mill. To this end, the 247’s chain-driven camshaft runs below the crankshaft, allowing gravity assist of oil delivery to the camshaft and eliminating the periodic complete teardowns required to maintain the former /2 design’s “oil slingers.” Two valves in each hemispherical cylinder head are actuated by the camshaft through followers, pushrods, and rocker arms. A stroke of 70.6mm is constant within the /5 line, with bores of 67mm, 73.5mm, and 82mm determining the displacement of the R 50/5, R 60/5, and R 75/5 respectively.

The R 50/5 and R 60/5 models are equipped with 26mm Bing slide carburetors, while the R 75/5 features 32mm Bing CV units. On all models, the engine power is transmitted via a single-disc dry clutch to a stout 4-speed gearbox and then to the swingarm-mounted final drive via shaft.

1971 BMW R 60/5 slash five
The author’s wife on her first bike, a 1971 R 60/5 with standard 6.3-gal. tank. Now with almost 100,000 miles, it’s still going strong.

For late 1973 models, BMW lengthened the rear swingarm by approximately 2 inches, resulting in the so-called “Long Wheelbase” /5. The tell-tale signs of a Long Wheelbase model are the weld marks on the final-drive side of the swingarm where the extension was added by the factory. The extra room allowed a larger battery to be located behind the engine and gave riders some additional clearance between their shins and the carburetors. To this day, /5 enthusiasts viciously argue over whether the sharper handling merits of the original short-wheelbase models trump the high-speed stability of the long-wheelbase versions.

Either way, at barely over 460 lb, the R 75/5 was one of the lightest 750cc bikes of the era, and with a top speed of 109 mph, it was one of the fastest as well.

1970 BMW R 60/5 slash five
Fred Tausch’s 1970 R 60/5, circa 2004. Today it resides at Bob’s BMW Museum in Jessup, Maryland.

Complementing these functional upgrades to its new motorcycle line, the /5’s aesthetics were also a spicy departure from the more somber BMWs of yore. Although initially available only in the white, black, or silver colors for 1970-71, the 1972-73 models were available in seven hues, including Monza Blue and Granada Red. Further shocking traditionalists, 1972 saw the introduction of the 4-gallon “Toaster” gas tank, which featured prominent chrome accent panels on each side. Though excessive chrome on a BMW was heresy at the time, today the Toaster-tank /5 is considered valuable to collectors, as it was only produced for the 1972-73 model years.

Contrary to the initial worries from BMW traditionalists that the company had strayed too far from its function-over-form roots, the /5 motorcycle family has earned a sterling reputation for anvil-like reliability. Being classic European motorcycles, the /5s naturally have certain idiosyncrasies, but overall, the design and construction are robust. In a testament to their supreme quality, these motorcycles are still often used as daily runners 50-plus years after their initial production.

Experienced owners claim that with timely maintenance, these bikes are nearly indestructible. In fact, properly running /5s with well over 100,000 miles on them are commonplace at BMW rallies worldwide. I met an owner of one, the late Fred Tausch, at a rally in 2004. Tausch’s 1970 R 60/5 had more than 600,000 miles on its clock and was still running when its owner passed away. Details are sketchy, but supposedly the engine was only overhauled twice during this remarkable service run.

The classic BMW motorcycle community is an active one, with abundant technical support and a well-organized network of enthusiasts (aka “Airheads”) who gather regularly to celebrate their favorite machines. Parts are still plentiful, though they’re getting more expensive as time goes on.

Ultimately, the /5 Series represented an initially dramatic but ultimately triumphant gamble for BMW. These motorcycles were not the cautious evolutions of the existing /2 designs that the brand’s faithful fans had expected. The /5’s newfound emphasis on performance and style, combined with significant price increases over the /2 Series it replaced, could have easily spelled marketplace doom. Luckily, that was not the case, and the /5s became a mild hit.

To hear more from Moshe K. Levy, the author of this article, check out Rider Magazine Insider Podcast episode 44

The post Retrospective: BMW /5 Series – 1970-1973 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Moshe K. Levy | Ep. 44 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Ep 44 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast Moshe K. Levy
Moshe K. Levy with a few of the motorcycles in his eclectic stable.

Our guest on Episode 44 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Moshe K. Levy, a motorcycle journalist also known as Moto Mouth Moshe. Moshe is a renaissance man in the motorcycle world. He’s written hundreds of articles and columns for motorcycle magazines, including RiderAmerican RiderMotorcycle Consumer NewsBMW Owner’s NewsOn the LevelAmerican IronBackroads, and others. Moshe owns and rides all kinds of bikes, everything from mopeds to BMWs to Harley-Davidsons. He restores old mopeds and motorcycles, he tests products, he’s a marketing executive at a technology company, and he’s a family man. We talk to Moshe about his protracted struggle with symptoms of long Covid, which prevented him from riding motorcycles. He found his way back from the abyss on a Honda Trail 125, which he wrote about in the February 2022 issue of Rider (link below). We also talk about how he got started writing for motorcycle magazines, the bikes he has in his garage, and what he loves most about motorcycles.
LINKS: Moto Mouth Moshe website, Moto Mouth Moshe on YouTube, You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda

You can listen to Episode 43 on iTunesSpotify, and SoundCloud, or via the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage. Please subscribe, leave us a 5-star rating, and tell your friends! Scroll down for a list of previous episodes.

Visit the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast webpage to check out previous episodes:

The post Moshe K. Levy | Ep. 44 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Overlooking Rondout Creek in upstate New York on the 2021 Honda Trail 125, and feeling better with each passing mile. Photos by the author.

After almost 25 years of riding, I came to regard my enthusiasm for all things motorcycle as an infinite source of pleasure, but little did I know just how crucial one specific bike – a Honda Trail 125 – would be in helping me recover from the sickest point in my life.

The story begins on the morning of my scheduled Covid-19 vax in February 2021, when, as luck would have it, I awoke with flu-like symptoms. Testing revealed I was positive, so I began my mandatory two-week quarantine at home. It felt just like the flu – no big deal. But 17 days after that positive test – well after the flu symptoms had disappeared – a new wave of symptoms emerged which would change my life indefinitely.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
The author and his bikes.

GOOD READ: “The Long Ride,” by Jamie Elvidge,
about a cleansing solo ride from NYC to Key West

The worst of them was extreme vertigo, an intense feeling of rapid dizziness, confusing disorientation, and a total loss of balance. Sometimes, moving half an inch in any direction would feel like falling off a tall building – my body would tense up, break out in a cold sweat, and then shake uncontrollably, which further exacerbated the vertigo. I was completely incapacitated, unable to perform even the simplest tasks autonomously.

Thus began the arduous journey back to normalcy, starting with learning how to walk again. It sounds farcical now, but walking speed was initially a challenge that took a solid week of practice to overcome. Stumbling forward at 2 mph felt more like warp speed, as my addled mind struggled to process motion like an old bogged down 386 computer. I had to stop every few feet to sustain my balance and reassure myself that, indeed, I was only walking! All the while, a persistent feeling of dizziness dominated every waking hour, punctuated by roiling headaches that could not be appeased.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Outfitted with a comfy aftermarket seat and a big top box, 12-to 14-hour days on the Trail are not uncommon for me.

These migraines were always aggravated by barometric pressure in the atmosphere, so if it rained, I was completely out of commission. The only escape was sleep. When I closed my eyes, bright bursts of a hot white color would interrupt my rest, like lightning strikes but with more pronounced durations. Any sound, no matter how faint, would immediately wake me. A strange new sensitivity to light compounded the symptoms, making any surroundings other than a soundproof, pitch-black room unbearable. It was a depressing period, to say the least.

During this early stage of the disease, I’d often stagger down to the garage to gaze at my collection of motorcycles. Each one of them triggered an avalanche of memories, beckoning me to recall better times. “Remember all the states we’ve visited together?” queried my BMW R 1200 RT. “Don’t you miss the saucy growl of my small block V-Twin?” purred my Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. “Don’t forget the winter you took me all apart and got me running again!” commanded my Yamaha YSR50.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
My favorite local loops on the Trail always revolve around the Hudson River, seen here from the peaks of Bear Mountain State Park’s Perkins Memorial Drive.

In those early post-infection days, the daydreaming in the garage vacillated between a resolute desire to get back in the saddle and a bleak hopelessness that I would never recover.

Over the course of the next few months, I graduated past walking and onto running, but only in spurts. I could drive my car again, albeit slowly. Eventually I dared to ride my motorcycles for short distances, if only to get the old juices flowing once more. But riding with “long Covid” symptoms was a profound handicap. The headaches and dizziness could burst like a thunderclap in my head, ferocious and debilitating.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Close to the shore on Henry Hudson Drive. A New York state of mind!

Most worrisome was the “brain fog,” which would appear suddenly, obliterating my ability to focus on anything for more than few seconds. It happened to me once while hustling my 600-plus-pound BMW RT through a mountain sweeper, where I wound up in the opposite lane facing oncoming traffic, unsure of how I got there. Other times, I would suddenly forget the basics, like which side of the handlebars the clutch lever was on. My brain was frustratingly dysfunctional.

Adding to these mental challenges were the physical trials. I’ve been riding successive generations of BMW’s venerable RT Series for over 15 years, but I suddenly felt intimidated by the size, weight, and speed of my 2015 R 1200 RT. Low-speed maneuvering was unsteady at best, and anything quick or technical scrambled my mental processing to the point of paralysis. It was a watershed period in my life.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Venturing off-road is an entirely new experience for me, but the Trail’s light weight and forgiving nature always encourage further exploration.

It took me many years of dedicated practice to achieve some modicum of riding proficiency, and it was exceedingly difficult for me to accept that many of my abilities had vanished. Riding my full-size motorcycles – once almost the most delightful activity I could imagine – had morphed into something nerve-wracking and dangerous. I knew I wanted to keep riding, but I had to slow down until my symptoms and skills both improved.

Since taming the twisties on my large-displacement bikes was out of the question, I had to find a way to pair what little was left of my riding skills with a suitable machine that was still a motorcycle. (In my mind, riding an automatic twist-and-go scooter would have been acquiescing to defeat.) Enter Honda’s Trail 125, Big Red’s rough-and-ready retro miniMOTO. Simple, lightweight, and slower than a tranquilized sloth, it was the perfect choice for my circumstance.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Purposefully riding away from the incessant traffic and distractions of modern society, one can find peaceful bliss off the beaten path.

Through persistent searching, I nabbed one and headed off in search of slow lanes through local hamlets and forests. It was here, on these solitary explorations, that the Trail began to nurse me back to health.

Regardless of our diverse backgrounds and brand preferences, we all recognize the therapeutic value that motorcycles provide. Some refer to what the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously termed “flow,” or the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in the moment, completely focused and free from all discursive thoughts. The late Rush drummer Neil Peart described the feeling of moto-motion as a subconscious reminder of a mother gently rocking her baby. Every one of us who has swung a leg over the saddle has our own individual reasons why two-wheeled moving mediation therapy just plain works.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
My maiden voyage on the Trail in August 2021, which also marks the first time I ever embarked on a mostly off-road route.

So it was for me on the Trail, ambling down rutted paths in the woods, scooting along serpentine bicycle paths, and focusing only on the basic rudiments of discovering how to ride again. Like relearning to walk, it was initially frustrating, but the diminutive Honda’s mellow personality encouraged me to just keep trying anyway. Wherever we were, it beckoned me to keep pushing: “Let’s go! Just a little further!”

It’s difficult to describe the character of an inanimate object, but the Trail never judged me for my mistakes the way my big bikes seem to do. We started out on local 40- to 50-mile loops, but before long, we were ripping through nearby states for 300- to 400-mile weekends. I felt like a real rider again, enthusiastically kicking the semi-automatic transmission through its four gears and unleashing all eight of the miniscule thumper’s stampeding horses as we bombed down the backroads.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda
Accessorizing the Trail to spruce up the appearance and add healthy doses of functionality, comfort, and storage cemented the bond between man and machine.

Granted, all this action was despairingly slow by objective standards – but it was engaging in the way that only a real motorcycle can be. This continuous engagement is what rebuilt my ability to focus on a singular task for prolonged periods of time – the very foundation of riding well. Thanks to the eager Trail, I was still in the game, still moving forward, and gradually building my confidence back up. According to the GPS, I never exceeded 59 mph on the modest Honda, but in terms of fun, I might as well have been leading the pack around the Isle of Man TT!

Encouraged by the progress, I outfitted my Trail with accoutrements to increase functionality and add some flair to its spartan workhorse aesthetic. A cavernous Givi 58-liter top case provides ample storage, while a cushy aftermarket seat, a wireless phone charger, auxiliary LED lighting, an Opmid gauge cluster, and toasty Koso Apollo heated grips make for a more comfortable traveling experience.

You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda

Molding this Trail as uniquely my own cemented the bond between man and machine almost as much as our rides themselves did. Ultimately, I’m certain I wouldn’t have recovered so far, so fast, without this bright red miniMOTO as a willing partner.

Today, I accept that Covid-19 has impaired me, perhaps permanently. My innate senses, mental processing, and physical reaction times still aren’t what they used to be, but I’m confident that over time they can be restored. Indeed, these days I find myself mixing in more rides on my full-sized motorcycles as I relearn how to pilot them competently again.

In the meantime, I want to sincerely thank Honda for imbuing this spunky little Trail with character – one that brings all the essential healing joys of wind therapy to the beginner and expert alike, even if it is in the slow lane.

The post You Meet the Healthiest People on a Honda first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com