New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve read some interesting articles regarding goals where different studies were cited that leaned toward opposite findings:

Option 1) You tell your goal to someone and they help hold you accountable to it.  This inspires you to stay on the straight and narrow and not falter.

Option 2) You keep your goals secret.  Saying your goal out loud makes it more real and your brain has the potential to say you’re almost there so you should quit now.  Why not?  I mean, you’ve basically completed the task, right?

Personally, I’m a bigger believer in this approach because I know the brain and your body do not like doing anything that threatens the status quo.  Don’t believe me?  Pick a food you really like, but is probably unhealthy to eat and cut it out of your diet.  See what your brain does with this change.

All that being said, I think there can be personal resolutions and public resolutions.

Here are my public resolutions:

  1. Get a Grom.  I’ll admit that I may have jumped the gun a bit on registering the website and designing tee-shirts, but I know I’m going to get a Grom and I also know it’s the Grom that is currently in my garage (and currently owned by a friend).  It’s just a small matter of time.
  2. Make at least five substantial rides on the island to document cool places and things to see or do.  It’s the whole point of this blog and I feel lame writing “blog” posts instead of moto posts!
  3. Beat 2017’s mileage.
  4. Take the Grom off-road.  Maybe not crazy off-road, but there’s a spot here on the island that you can’t take a normal car, but I’m pretty sure you can take a bike.  I just have to go out and see for myself…
  5. Get Geared-up.  Motorcycle safety gear is expensive and I’ve given myself a year to get a good set of riding clothes to help keep me safe on my travels.
  6. Take lots and lots of pictures.  I’ve got some cool stuff in mind and I’m sure some of it will end up here, but all of it will end up on my Instagram.
  7. Go on at least one group ride.  I generally ride alone, mostly because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, but I’d like to give it a shot and see what all the fuss is about.
  8. Make some new friends along the way.

I have more that I want to do, but I feel like putting anything else on myself would be a recipe for disaster and I have so much to do with this list and my actual job already so we’ll just say that anything more than this will be icing on the cake.  At the end of 2018, we’ll see how this list worked out!

What about you?  What are your resolutions?

The Next Generation

A little about Oahu, HI: It’s tight.  Space is limited and land is at a premium.  As such, yards are typically small if they’re there at all, and houses are usually pretty close to each other.  The house I’m renting is actually in the middle of a quad-plex of houses in a neighborhood where everyone lives in quad-plexes.  There is grass and trees, but it’s more communal than anything else.

On the plus side, most of the houses in the neighborhood have garages (which is good news because bike thefts are prevalent in the island) so I have someplace safe(r) to store my Ruckus.

That said, when it’s time to work on the Ruck, the garage door goes up so I can have light, a breeze, and a view of my kids who are usually playing with the other kids of the neighborhood in our yard.

One thing I noticed as I did various projects with my Ruckus is that the kids – aged four to ten-years-old – were always curious as to what I was doing.  I try to be a friendly guy, asking questions about their lives while I’m wrenching away and taking the time to explain what it is I’m doing if they ask.  I even let them help with the easiest tasks that have the least amount of risk in case their parents come by and freak out about the possibility of little Johnny ruining something by over-tightening or dropping a part or tool.

The kids almost always enjoy it and when they come over to play with my kids the next time, they usually talk about what their parents said when they explained the adventure they had working on their friend’s dad’s motorcycle (they don’t differentiate between scooters and motorcycles).

Pro tip for non-parents:  If you ever have kids or are around kids, be careful what you say and do as they will absorb and regurgitate everything to everyone at the worst times.

My son after helping fix the droopy forward pegs on my Ruckus.

A lot of the stories the kids relayed to me went something like “my dad said he would love to get a motorcycle, but Mom says no,” or “my parents say I’m never allowed to have a motorcycle because they’re too dangerous.”


And understandable.  From a non-rider’s perspective, riding is an unnecessary risk that doesn’t have enough reward to justify the danger, but most riders know this is just ignorance on their part.

I try not to counter what parents say.  It’s not my place to tell them motorcycling is as dangerous as you make it, or defensive driving is the name of the game, or something like that.  They’re just kids and I don’t want them to doubt their own parents when it comes to something critical like safety just like I wouldn’t want a parent to counter something I taught my kid about something.

That said, I do explain that motorcycling is dangerous, but a lot of things are and everyone needs to figure out what’s right for them at some point.  Then I ask them to hand me the ratchet or a bolt and help me out.

Motorcycles are something for everyone to tackle individually.  People need to figure out if they want to ride or not.  But by letting a kid help out with a project, you might inspire them to pursue mechanics down the road or they might look at motorcycles more seriously after having some of the mystery taken away by helping re-jet a carburetor or something.  At the very least, they can get their hands a little dirty and go home with a cool story for their family or friends about how they helped build a motorcycle and feel proud of themselves.

You never know.  Sharing your motorcycling passion with the kids around you might help inspire a whole new generation of riders and modders.  It doesn’t take much, either.  Just being friendly has a huge impact on a kid.  I remember being at a parade as a child and seeing a bunch of Harleys ride by.  I gave the throttle motion and a rider saw it, revved his engine like crazy, smiled, and waved at me.  I was on top of the world with happiness and excitement.  Even a wave from a motorcyclist when I was riding a bicycle made me feel awesome!  I’d ride home brrrrrrrrrr-ing to myself pretending I was on a real bike.

Motorcycles and motorcyclists get a bad rap a lot of the time and the only way to change that is by being a positive example to those around us – by being the change we want to see.  I can’t think of a better way that has more impact than by being friendly with the next generation of potential riders.

How To Fix Declining Motorcycle Sales

There have been a LOT of articles that’s come across my feeds about declining motorcycle sales, so I figured I would offer fixes for every position possible ranging from the legislative to little ol’ us.  
Check it out:
1) Less expensive parking
     Most of us take up so little space.  Just let us park in the dashed parking for free or half-price in…
2) Dedicated motorcycle parking
     Want to make parking more efficient for everyone?  Dedicating some spots to motorcycles only will free up more spaces for cars and inspire people to ride more.
3) Access to off-road trails on government land
     Why NOT let people ride through their own country?  Hire rangers for districts to make sure the land isn’t being abused and you would ALSO help eliminate some unemployment!
4) Legalize lane-splitting
     Want to help save an industry with a law?  How about inspiring some jealousy from the cagers who can’t move to the front of the line at lights?
1) More technology in bikes
     Even standard USB phone chargers would be cool.
2) More low-CC bikes for beginners
     Companies are acting like handsy teenagers too eager to get the main attraction.  Instead, they should offer multiple options for the natural progression of safely moving through CCs, finding the right one for them.
3) More ads in mainstream media
     Have you seen the motorcycle ads in motorcycle magazines?  That’s preaching to the choir.  Instead, there should be SIGNIFICANTLY more ads in primetime on mainstream shows.
4) Less lifestyle, more pragmatic ads
     Speaking of ads, how about making ads that explain WHY you should be interested in motorcycles?  High MPG, easier parking, easier commuting in town, etc.  The ethereal is all well and good, but you have to have reasons – real reasons – to get into motorcycling.
1) Offer the first complete service free
     Get the customer acquainted with your service department and friendly crew.  Most shops make money from the service department and giving the first experience for free would be a wise investment.
2) Offer classes on basic motorcycle maintenance
     It may seem counter-intuitive, but a customer would take this action as selfless and will be even more inspired to call you when things go wonky on their bike because they know you aren’t trying to rip them off.
3) Offer more group rides
     Why don’t stores offer more group rides?  Poker runs?  Even staying in the parking lot and doing gym khana?  Get the people to the store, offer coupons or door prizes and help get your supply sold!
4) Demo days
     I’ve read that some dealers straight-up refuse to offer test drives.  How is someone supposed to feel secure buying something as expensive as a motorcycle on word of mouth and cool pictures on the Internet?  Offer some demo days and get people on the bikes.  Differentiate not only between companies, but style (adventure bikes, sport bikes, cruisers, etc).
1) Ride to work as much as possible
     Let the folks around you see the motorcycle as a practical vehicle instead of a toy you only bring out on weekends when it’s nice outside.
2) Be patient and answer the dumb questions
     Everyone has dumb questions.  Answering these questions will inspire interest and confidence from a potential rider.
3) Lay out the safe, logical way to go from never riding to riding safely
     People like checklists.  It makes any task feel more attainable.
4) Ride with them and be a mentor
     Tell them what they’re doing wrong, ride with them until they’re comfortable and they’ll pass this on to the riders that they end up inspiring as well.  Try to be as supportive as you can with their decisions.

Automatic Motorcycles

Automatic transmissions are a pretty interesting thing to think about.

On one hand, they let you focus all of your attention on the road and your ride. You focus on your speed, your apex, your attack angle, and you have the capability of focusing (more) on the world around you. You don’t have to worry about what gear you’re in or stalling.

And around town, not having to worry about sudden gear changes would surely be a weight off your mind.

On the other hand, maintenance would almost certainly be more difficult (if not impossible) for a home mechanic which would mean higher costs for repairs and less of a personal connection to the bike.

And fans of manual transmissions swear up and down that it eventually becomes second nature. Like breathing.

On the third, alien hand, an automatic transmission is less intimidating to new riders. Whenever I would think about learning to ride a motorcycle, it always seemed like a tall order. You’re learning to ride a bike at speeds faster than you’ve ever gone on a bicycle AND you have to learn how to drive a manual transmission? It can be a bit scary.

But let’s take a break from motorcycling and think about cars. Manual transmissions have been moving from the standard to the exotic for the last few decades and now it’s hard to find normal cars with sticks.

And wouldn’t you know it, the sales of motorcycles is also down…

Look, I know correlation isn’t causation, but I think I’m onto something with people having a hard time thinking it’s worth it to learn how to ride a dangerous vehicle AND learn how to operate a manual transmission at the same time. If you switch some stuff around in the statement – or hell, just leave it as it is – it starts to look a LOT like an unnecessary risk.

I also know that motorcycle sales probably don’t mean much to you because you probably already have a motorcycle. Or motorcycles. But motorcycle sales could indicate new or renewed interest in the sport, which would mean more riders on the road (even if they’re only out on the weekends) and isn’t that what we want as motorcyclists? Aren’t we tired of cagers and people who aren’t looking out for motorcyclists? As a motorcycle safety rep, I tell people all the time that they should take the MSF Basic RiderCourse even if they never want to ride a motorcycle, because it’s just as terrifying as it is fun and you walk away with a newfound respect for motorcyclists. Or perhaps you just get familiar with the vulnerability that motorcyclists permanently live in.

Believe me, even if that wasn’t a factor, we would still want more motorcyclists on the road. Everything that motorcyclists say they want from lane-splitting to free parking to adventure trails staying open (or re-opening) would be more easily accomplished if more people – particularly the people who write the laws – were riders.

I know motorcycling is kind of like a little club of suicidal commuters straddling the line between lone wolf mentality and hive thinking but if it was less exclusive, it would only benefit us.

And automatic transmissions are probably the biggest and easiest way to do it. You take away half the limbs you have to use, the (probably) new concept of driving a manual, and focus solely on riding and you’ll get more people throwing legs over (not through – THAT’S a scooter) bikes and joining us on the road.

If only people would stop comparing them to scooters or kids’ bikes and trying to make the riders feel bad about wanting to experience something cool in their life.

On the fourth hand – holy smokes, how many hands does one have? – only knowing how to ride an automatic transmission WILL result in a lower likelihood or being able to use any motorcycle to escape from the shadowy government agencies that are tracking you.

At the very least, it will limit the pool of used motorcycles you can choose from when you decide to add to your stable or replace your bike when you decide you’re up for a change.

Which brings me to my last point: you might get bored.

I mean, I doubt I would. I’ve driven automatics my whole life and ride a scooter – a real scooter, not a motorcycle with an automatic transmission you elitist swine – so I don’t think riding an automatic bike would be too bad. I think I would be thrilled enough working on my cornering ability, and just, you know, riding around.

But I’ve never claimed that I’m difficult to please or entertain.

And I think Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) is the best solution to this whole issue. You can choose to shift gears if you want or you can relax more in automatic mode. There’s no clutch or gear shifter so you have to use thumb and finger switches. Honestly, I think beyond the Grom, a DCT might be in my future. I could keep it in automatic when riding around town where the shifting would be constant otherwise, and then switch to manual when I want to have a more spirited ride away from the constant stop-and-go.

The DCT would also be easier to teach the kids when they become riding age.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that automatics are better than manuals or vice versa. I think that motorcycling doesn’t really have wrong answers (except for trikes – they’re just… they’re just the worst regardless of if the two wheels are on the front or the back) and we should focus on the rider instead of what the rider is riding.

Unless it’s a trike. If you’re going to take up the whole lane because you can’t balance on something, just buy a Jeep so you don’t have the same safety requirements.

In the end it’s all about what you really want. If you want motorcycling to remain an exclusive club with ever-shrinking numbers because people aren’t willing to risk life and limb on something that’s completely foreign to them until companies fold up and die, then we should keep harping on how traditional is the only way to go.

But if you want more riders and more acceptance from people – if you want their money to go into supporting the thing you also love – then maybe it’s time to stop harping on automatics and disrespecting the riders who chose that path. Because it really does come down to choice and just because other people choose a bike that you don’t like doesn’t mean you should hope on the opportunity make fun of them.

Again, unless it’s a trike.

Best and Worst of 2017

I wasn’t going to do this, but Fuzzy Galore said on her blog that I should and I am a sucker for data and milestones.  So let’s dive in!

2017 was a weird year.  I would say that it was easily one of the worst I’ve had to slog through.  There were some pretty serious medical issues that went on within the family and that was certainly something to endure.  And living in Hawaii and dealing with them dusting off the legitimate nuclear alarm sirens wasn’t the most calming thing in the world.  Hurricanes happened.  Nazis happened.  Who would have thought that Nazis happening was going to be a thing?

Anyway, focusing beyond the world’s happenings, things weren’t so great in the family either.  This was a genuinely rough year, filled with all sorts of depression, anxiety, and uncertainty.

On the other hand, 2017 was pretty great because it was my first year on two wheels!  I bought my Honda Ruckus, crashed it less than a minute after gingerly pulling the throttle and learned you have to lean AND turn the bars.

I had all sorts of thoughts run through my head as I pulled myself and my scooter up.  I was filled with doubt and shame because everyone – literally everyone I work with that has ever operated a motorbike of any sort – said that scooters are super easy and, if you can’t ride that, you shouldn’t ride anything.

And here I was, brushing my elbow and leg off and trying to get away before a neighbor called the cops.

It was beyond interesting to basically learn how to drive again as a 33-year-old.  I had the same instincts I did as a kid learning to drive a car (mainly “we probably shouldn’t do this.  I mean, how hard is it to walk everywhere?  Walking’s healthier anyway!”), but I was old and experienced enough to realize this was just instinct and, over time, I would get better.  It was just a matter of fighting through it.

My riding this year was particularly interesting for me to turn over in my head a bit as my motivations changed a lot.  I bought a scooter because it was cheap and I needed a commuter vehicle to get to and from work.  I was ONLY going to ride to and from work (two miles one way, give or take).  I was going to make modifications, but wasn’t going to get into the guts at all – strictly bolt-on stuff.

But then I got my Ruckus and the bolt-on stuff was so much fun I had to progress and eventually found myself taking apart the carburetor (it’s easy, though – definitely nothing to be scared of).  I found myself wanting to ride on weekends to practice and this turned into riding to lunch or someplace that WASN’T work.  I took the Basic RiderCourse (a requirement for operating a scooter in my line of work) and realized that it would probably be smart to learn how to operate a clutch and gears, which meant I should start looking at real motorcycles.

I was so smitten with the idea of riding, that I convinced one of my best friends to get a bike and he ended up with a Grom.  A Grom that is stored in my garage as his condo doesn’t have motorcycle parking (but makeS up for this with plenty of motorcycle thefts, though).  I’ve been looking at it for almost a year now and, when he outgrew it, I was there to tell him I’d make him whole again cost-wise if he sold it to me.

So right now it’s like I’ve got a Grom on lay-away.  That’s pretty exciting.

I tackled the Ruckus stretch which, while there were plenty of pictures to guide me through the process, took a LOT longer than I expected and was a huge hassle.  I definitely made some mistakes and plan on getting a new rear frame shipped out next year to help make me feel better about the job.  I won’t lie: I’m excited and not excited about this.  I’m definitely excited to do a  better job on the mods, but not excited at all about either the process or the fact that my friend and helper will have moved away by then.  Not cool.

Ultimately, though, the coolest thing to happen this year was just falling in love with riding.  I’ve always wanted to ride motorcycles and after the initial nerves started to wear away, I started to feel like this was something I should be doing.  You know?  Like in the movies where someone has a talent they didn’t know about?  But, instead of a talent, it’s more like an affinity.  Until I started riding, I had no idea how much I would love it, but once I got into it, I found out I’ve never loved anything as much beyond the standard wife and kids.  I had gone 33 years THINKING I loved various activities, but I found out the truth this year.

The second-coolest thing is becoming a proselytizer for motorcycling.  When I finished BRC, I started going around at work talking to people.  “Do you know how to ride?  Do you WANT to know how to ride?”  The ones that did go would ride to work and we would ride together for lunch or I would ride behind them as they went out on longer rides in unfamiliar territories.  A lot of them were also under the mistaken impression that they were just getting a commuter vehicle before the love of riding set in and they started to branch out.

I’ve gotten three coworkers to go to the course, two of which bought bikes immediately after and seeing them smiling as they take off their helmets and knowing it’s because I wouldn’t stop pestering them about just how flippin’ GREAT riding is is (unsurprisingly) very satisfactory for my own ego.

As far as the world goes, I don’t have very high hopes for 2018.  I see a lot of 2017 happening all over again with more deaths, more scares, and more crap.  But there are some glimmer of hopes if only small and incredibly personal.  I’ll get my Grom.  I’ll explore the island of Oahu on it (and write about the trips here), and hopefully get more people to at least go to the BRC if only to become more aware of what motorcyclists have to do to ride and maybe drive their cars a little smarter.



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Honda Ruckus For Sale

I’ve decided to sell my Ruckus.

It’s not that I don’t like it.  I really do.  I loved learning all sorts of new things and building my confidence while transforming the looks of the bike.  It’s a genuinely cool scooter that turns all sorts of heads and is fun to ride around.

But there are issues.

Well, there is issue (singular): Hawaii.

Hawaii is moist and salty and I live pretty close to the water, which means everything corrodes.  Everything.  Even stuff that shouldn’t corrode is doing so.  We have these metal ghosts that are painted.  You put them in the ground and leave them there for Halloween and during the month that they were outside, they rusted completely.

My bike is no different.  Some of it is rusting VERY quickly and that’s a real bummer.  I’m going to have to order a new intake bracket from MNNTHBX to prime and paint to replace that one that is currently being eaten through by the elements.

I also plan on getting a new rear frame and headlight bracket not only because they’re rusting where I ground off the turn signal mounts and the rear light mount (and foolishly didn’t prime and paint), but because it will give me the opportunity to try the mods again and make them prettier.  I’ll admit I was excited and, as such, in a rush to see a finished product and the result was that I didn’t take my time and do it right.

But I will.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself (and you, I suppose), I just don’t want to deal with Hawaii’s ridiculous safety inspections.  They don’t like exhausts that can get loud unless they’re OEM on bikes like Harley Davidsons (surely this has NOTHING to do with the fact that the Harley shop has so much pull motorcycle-wise on the island). They don’t like LED lights.  They don’t like integrated lights.

Sure, you can find shops that will pass you on a safety inspection, but they’re all different with different requirements, winks, nods, etc.  It’s just not easy enough and a bit too cloak-and-dagger for me.  My original goal was to stretch it out and turn it into a bike inspired by the 1959 Cadillac hearse from Ghostbusters.  I’m part of the Ghostbusters Hawaii Division and we do some events where kids come out and I thought it would be cool for them to see something like this that was easy to sit on and get their picture taken.  I was going to make it red and white and it was going to get attention.  And when it DID get that attention, I wanted it to be on the up-and-up.  When the cops would pull me over (and I’m positive I would get pulled over), I wanted the bike to be legitimate so there wasn’t even a chance of anything beyond a friendly conversation about the mods and the goal of making people a bit happier.

But with such a huge pain, I’d rather just sell it to someone that thinks it’s fun to do these things and I’ll move on to something a little less cool-looking and a lot more legal: making a Grom Ghostbusters-themed.

Where the Ruckus was going to be a complete transformation, I plan on just painting the plastics on a Grom and calling it good.  Maybe finding a fender eliminator that’s legal here.  And bar-end mirrors.

But that’s it.

I plan on taking the Grom just about everywhere and I don’t want to deal with the legalities and specificities of areas as I ride through, nor do I want to be concerned about the prospect of bringing it in for an inspection.  I have enough to worry about.

I still feel like I’m giving up on something that I don’t really want to give up on, though.  The Ruckus is really cool and I have nothing but love for it.  I think used Rucks should be in every high school that is still fortunate enough to have vocational classes.  They take up less space than cars and more kids can get their hands on them while dealing with simpler, less intimidating parts.  Similarly, I think they’re fantastic projects for parents and kids to tackle together.

And they are fun to ride.

Still.  I think the headache of Hawaii outweighs the joy of working on the bike, so I’ll call it quits.  Maybe in the future, if I’m in a state that is less rusting and more understanding with safety stuff, I’ll work on a Ruckus with my kids.

But until then, anyone want to buy a Ruckus?