More Riders, Please!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am new to motorcycling and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, perhaps my outlook might be valuable as an outsider.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to motorcycling in the US. There are falling sales and fewer riders. I’ve read multiple articles and posts about how to turn this around in the US and a lot of that work has been handed to organizations outside of our direct area of control. So what can we do as motorcyclists? How can we get people riding again?

Well, I think a good starting point is doing what made me want to get into riding.

I don’t mean that to sound self-absorbed, but consider this: I grew up seeing my dad ride his Harley occasionally. I have fond memories of riding on the back of it as a kid. In my teens – the formative years where things start to set – I was obsessed with the popular motorcycle shows on Discovery not for the drama, but for the awesome motorcycles.

And I still didn’t get into motorcycles until I was thirty-three! I had all the makings of an avid fan, from being brought up in a motorcycle-friendly home to loving whatever motorcycles I saw.

So where was the turning point and how can we replicate it with other riders?

A) Ride to work. All the time.

My dad rode his Harley if two things were occurring: 1) it was the weekend and 2) the weather was nice. When you grow up seeing that, you begin to wonder just how practical a vehicle is if you can’t ride it in the rain or cold.

But one day during a winter in San Antonio (cold but not snowy) a coworker came up the stairs in his winter riding suit. I remarked something like “you must be nuts,” and he patiently responded that if you have the proper gear and ride safely, you can ride whenever you want.

Suddenly motorcycles started to seem like a viable option.

I saw him ride to work almost every single day and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’m the only one that would work on, either. If someone sees you ride to work almost every day, they can take their time finding out who you are, building a relationship, and asking about why you ride when it’s cold or wet outside and you can tell them all about how great riding is.

B) Be friendly.

Honda might have said you meet the nicest people on their bikes, but the rest of the media has a fascination with portraying bikers as very unsavory folks.

To combat this, just be as friendly and patient as you can. Everyone has questions and when you’re patient and friendly, people are more likely to ask the questions that will ease their mind about riding.

While you’re at it, feel free to lay out the logistical path to safe motorcycling. You can tell the prospective rider that they can, for a small fee and the cost of a helmet and some gloves, take the Basic RiderCourse to see if they like riding before even looking for a motorcycle of their own. You can be the voice of reason and caution when it comes to what kind of motorcycle to cut their teeth on. And you can definitely be the voice of safety when it comes to gear.

As a guy who loves checklists and milestones, having someone lay out the whole process from training to riding meant the world to me.

C) Follow Up

I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with new riders, but I can guarantee that a new rider would appreciate it if you rode around with them a time or two in order to get more comfortable with their bike and their skills. Go out to lunch or a ride along an easy route. Talk to them about what you notice and offer constructive criticism to get better. Be encouraging.

This will all help get a rider on a bike, safely riding, and establishing a love of the hobby and they can pay it forward with the next rider because you set such a good example.

Early Morning Ride Challenges


Sunday is usually a rough day for me since it always starts the same: I wake up way too early.

I think this is from years of conditioning, knowing that I need to be able to sleep Sunday night if I want any hope at all of being a functioning human on Monday. There were many weeks in high school and college that I learned this lesson the hard way, so I started to wake up earlier on Sundays to help guarantee earlier bed times that night.

But sometimes I wake up way too early.

That was the case this Sunday, when I opened my eyes for the day around 4:30am.

After scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, not really liking it but just killing time, I started to think about motorcycle challenges. I just downloaded Rever, a motorcycle app that tracks your rides and stats like average and max speed, distance, time, etc. There are challenges that pop up and I am probably never going to place in the top 10 while living on Oahu since they’re all location or milage-based.

Or, I should say, the only way I would ever place is if they made a challenge about hitting landmarks on Oahu. Then I might have a shot.

Anyway, some of my favorite bloggers are the ones that have done long distances on bikes that were definitely not meant for going long distances. They did it slowly, chipping away at the goal until it was accomplished and I’ve always liked this.  That’s how I approach these riding challenges.

It made me wonder what my longest ride had been and whether I could break that record before I had to be home to take my daughter to ninja class.

So I got up, drank coffee, and watched the sky slowly light up. I need the daylight since it’s less likely I’ll be pulled over for not having a license plate light in the daytime (I’ll get to it, I swear).

Once it was bright enough, I took off. I wasn’t looking to just get miles, but more to see how long I could hang out on the Ruckus and not get a sore back.  For funsies and science! 

I took usual routes and then branched off when I noticed a road that I had never been down. I explored and saw some stuff that I had never seen. I took my time going down these roads, excited to get home and mark up a map that I’ve been using to track all the places I’ve been on the Ruckus.

I found some rough roads I don’t plan on going again, some sketch roads that I thought I might not technically be allowed on, and some cool places for pictures. Overall, I had a great time just driving around, but eventually I had to go home.

When I pulled into the garage I had logged 2:07:24 and 39.4 miles. That’s a long time for a short distance, but I still had fun. I checked Rever and saw that I had moved up in my challenges, but it wasn’t as drastic as I had hoped. Currently I’m 145th in the odometer challenge of September, but the top 10 have insane numbers.

It was still worth it, though. I didn’t hurt at all, found out I could ride over two hours and be fine, I felt that kind of amazing that you feel after a good ride, and I enjoyed increasing my own stats.

While I’ll probably never place in a Rever challenge, I do enjoy taking part in them. I love riding, but the challenges create even more pull to get outside and see stuff, even if it’s just pushing your own limits.

So I thought maybe I’ll make my own challenges based on my own riding. If my current longest ride is about 2:08, can I ride 2:38 and, if so, will I be in any pain afterward? What about 3:08?  4:08?  If I rode 39.4 miles in 2:08, how many miles could I ride in the same time if I focused just on getting as many miles as possible while doing the speed limit in a small space?  Certainly more than this ride since I went down slow roads to see new stuff, stopping to take in the view at times, but how much more?

These are the questions that have me excited for the work week to be over so I can have fun breaking my own records and adding to my own challenges.

I’m stoked for the next long ride!


The Walk of Shame

I’ve been tearing my Ruckus apart and putting it back together now for months, stretching it out, inadvertently lowering it, having to deal with the issues that popped up, and troubleshooting the new ways it was behaving based on modifications I finished.  You can’t do something without it effecting something else down the line and it is an exercise in patience to work your way down that line, slowly making sure that everything is good.

It’s especially frustrating when the bike goes from not running well at all to running okay.  I’ll admit that I’m quick to latch on and say “finally!” and try my hardest to ignore the knocks, pulls, and random noises until it just gets too irritating to bear any more and then it gets wheeled back in the garage for an unknown amount of time while I scour the internet and ask for help from local gurus who are familiar with the Ruckus.

The biggest issue that has come up with the Ruckus involved more airflow and the mixture with gas in the carburetor.  I had to increase the size of the jets, but re-jetting was a scary proposition.  I did it, though, and learned that it wasn’t the bear I imagined (I think this is a solid life lesson here), and have re-jet multiple times since.

Because that’s the thing with re-jetting.  It’s a process.  It involved putting in a new jet, going for a ride, taking notes (or using a tach if you have one), returning home, and doing it all over again to either go up or down a size.  It’s important to realize that, even if it’s running well, it might be able to run a bit better with a different jet.  And then you realize you went too big and bring it home to pull it all apart and put in the smaller jet again.

Like I said, an exercise in patience.

I won’t bore you with the process of re-jetting the carb on a Honda Ruckus (this is going to eventually be a site about travel and the Grom, after all.  Once I get my Grom!), but know that it involves a screw that you open to empty a small fuel reservoir.  When you’re done emptying it, you close the screw and carry on.  When you put everything back together and turn the bike on, the reservoir is filled with fuel.  This won’t be on the test, but it will come into play later.

I had been experiencing some pulsating that I chalked up to not quite enough fuel in the mixture and decided to bump up a jet size.  The worst-case scenario had me going back down.  Not a big deal.  I changed the oil and re-jet the carb, leaving the bike in the garage overnight.

The next day comes and I am supposed to go on my first group ride.  I was very excited, but knew that due diligence needed to be performed and the bike needed a test run.  I tried to start it and it would catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Eventually it caught and, with some throttle goosing, got going.  The fuel light immediately came on, but I average 119mpg and the light comes on with .3 gallons left so I had plenty of miles to go before I actually needed gas and this was going to be a short test drive.

I drove out to the other side of the base.  It was a quiet morning since it was Sunday, and the streets were practically empty.  It was great.  When I reached the other side of the base, I did a U-turn and started back.  I would hit up a gas station and then go off to the group ride.  It was going to be a blast.

But then the bike started to cough and die.

Out of gas.

I was literally feet away from the furthest point from any gas station on base.

I pulled off to the shoulder and took off my backpack to start stowing my gear.  I took my helmet off, stowed my gloves, put on my sunglasses (helmet has a sun visor), and took off my long-sleeve shirt.  When I got off the bike, I noticed that the kickstand ate through the mixture of sand, dirt, and silt.  Even if I could get the bike balanced on it, it wouldn’t be long before it tipped.

But then I remembered!  They talked about this at the Basic RiderCourse, specifically about kickstands eating through hot asphalt and getting stuck or the bike tipping over.  You can buy these special plates/discs to go under your kickstand, but they’re expensive (about $20), perhaps not really needed (in that situation), and easily stolen.  My instructor said he was riding with a friend on a hot day and they pulled into a parking lot and his friend grabbed one from under someone else’s bike and put it under his kickstand instead.

The basics of it didn’t require a ton of investment, though.  You’re just talking about a greater dispersal of weight.  So I just tucked a Smucker’s jelly jar lid in my backpack (after washing it, of course).  It did the trick.

Side note: the lid worked like a champ but my kickstand poked a hole through it by the time I returned, so it might be a one-time use kind of thing, but it’s still cheap and comes with free jelly!

I also had sunblock in my bag (which was definitely needed) and a battery charger and cable in case my phone died.

The reason I mention these things is because they genuinely made me feel better about the situation.  I had gone from feeling miserable about my impending doom of a walk to get gas to feeling more or less okay because I won’t get sunburned, I have sunglasses, the bike will be fine while I’m gone, and I don’t even need to worry about my phone.

I started walking and after a couple of miles, my wife got back to my text and came to meet me.  I filled up .498 gallons and she took me back out to the bike.  I emptied the whole can into the gas tank and took off to the gas station to top it off and proceeded to put in .964 gallons.  It’s a 1.3 gallon tank.

I got home and the whole bike stunk of gas, but I figured that might be the bigger jet.  I later went out to get some flour and when I got home figured something was definitely wrong and noticed the small puddle of gas under the bike.  I cleaned up what I could and turned it back on, staring at the fuel line.

The fuel line was good.

The top of the carb case started to get flooded with gas, though.

And that was when it hit me.  The reservoir screw.

I tightened the screw and went for a ride.  Everything was better.  The bike started right, it felt good, acceleration (what little there is for a 49cc Ruckus) was there, and the smell was gone.  When I parked for a bit, a guy jumped out of his car and asked to take a picture of the bike.

Everything was good.

But what an embarrassment.  Add to that the fact that it killed my mileage stats dropping the mpg from 119 to 97.2.  I lost .5 gallons going seven miles.

Not cool.

So it was a day of lessons learned.  I’ll probably never make the carb screw mistake again.  I realized the importance of having some small things in your bag to make your life a little better.  I learned that Smucker’s jelly lids are pretty handy to have in your bag (the lid I used was from marmalade and I can’t help but wonder if the lid from their far-superior grape jelly would hold up better).

And I learned you can’t make it to a group ride if you’re doing the walk of shame for gas.

Maybe next time.

Riding Mentors

The sun had recently risen and we were on the road.  It was my first time riding with anyone since I began using this mode of transportation and, as such, I wanted to stay behind my friend (who is far more experienced than I am) as much as possible.  We were riding under the canopy of Hawaiian trees that are trimmed to cover the roads and provide some shade.  I was the picture of attention, with my eyes darting from speedometer, to the road way ahead of me, to a brief glance at the more immediate road hazards, and then to my mirrors, and back to doing it all over again.

I watched as my friend, riding a Triumph Speed Triple R, adjusted himself into more of an upright position and took his hand off the left bar to relax a bit.  We passed plastic road pillars that emerged to introduce a new lane going in our direction and keep us separated – at least for a little while – and I saw my friend’s left hand reach out and come within an inch of touching one.

He wasn’t trying to hit it – he was just enjoying the ride.  He wasn’t in a hurry and he was very relaxed about the whole event.  He was alert and taking in everything, but he was also experienced and calm.

I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck.  I was worried about the times when I was in the lead when I knew the way to our destinations better because I didn’t want to lose my bud or look like a total idiot somehow.  I was worried about the times when I was behind because I wanted to maintain a good enough distance that any mistakes I could possibly make wouldn’t transfer to emergency actions on his part, but I still wanted to ride with my friend and not be a football field away from him.

My grasp on the handlebars was tight and exhausting and I’m sure it would have been fun if it weren’t so nerve-wracking.

We pulled off for breakfast and knew we were going to separate so I could watch my kids at gymnastics.  Sitting there eating, the fun began to soak in.  It felt like leveling up.  I began to calm down and realize that we had made it to our destination.  We had ridden around and no-one was injured.  I did it.  And, if I could do it once, I could do it again but maybe the next time I could do it with less of a death-grip on my bars.

That was months ago and I’ve ridden with him since.  We’ve gone out and pushed my skills as a rider a bit more each time – never being dangerous, but just trying to get better. It wasn’t a prescribed academic course with sections dedicated to shoulder-checking or doing U-turns – it was just riding and the lessons came naturally.  He would go close to my speed, but stay ahead of me and I had to safely keep up, safely changing lanes and occasionally leading to a different spot.  It was never hard, but it was always a slightly larger challenge than the last time.  I don’t even think he was aware that he was teaching me.

But since that first ride, I realized that we need more mentors in our riding lives. Someone who knows way more than you and is willing to share their knowledge in a non-judgmental way.  The kind of person who will make time for a new rider to answer all their dumb questions and maybe take them out to a parking lot to help nail down the stuff they learned at their safety class.

Also, the type of person that will insist you take a safety class.

They should be the kind of person that will ride with you at your speed and where you’re comfortable and slowly push you to a better level of riding – not the idiot who pushes you to do stupid things.

Most importantly, though, they should be someone you want to emulate.  I wanted to emulate my friend, who exuded confidence and alertness.  I wanted to develop my own skills to be that calm in my riding and knew the only way to do that was to get out there and ride better – not just ride more – with a focus on developing my skills and learning from my mistakes regardless of how big or small they are.

Maybe one day I can be a mentor for someone else but I know I never want to stop learning how to ride better.

The end goal of all of this is to ride with your friends, but to make everyone around you safe and strong enough in their riding that they won’t get hurt and you could ride with them for even longer.  When we push an atmosphere of education and safety, we’ll build the motorcycling ranks and have more riders out there and there is nothing wrong with that!

The Beginning

Aloha! This is the first post, so let’s cover the basics:

Who am I?

I’m just an average guy. I’m in the US Air Force (and the views and opinions expressed here are my own and not to be misconstrued as representative of the Air Force) with a couple of kids but only one wife. I’m new to riding and love it, but when I’m not riding or working, I’m usually playing ukulele or guitar and trying to get my jazz chops up to a passable level.

What is this?

The best way to look at this blog is a travel diary. It’s not the most personal document in the world, but it’s also more personal than a travel guide. Facts and figures are sure to pop up, but it won’t be quite so cut-and-dry as most travel books. The goal is to include riding routes, pictures, stories or reviews of the places I go, and overall documentation of the adventures waiting out there.


Well, this is called the PLANET Grom, but that’s an aspirational title. Right now it’s more like The Hawaii Grom since that’s where I live (and it’s tough to go on a road trip to a different state here).

When will this site be updated?

Updates will come as they can – as the stories happen. I had a blog a while ago that had a thrice-weekly posting schedule and after a while I ran out of things to say or opinions I hadn’t shared yet and this was around the time that blogging became nothing more than a job (and it didn’t pay nearly well enough to be considered a GOOD job). Because of this, I’m in no rush to try and force posts out, but they’ll come as they happen and hopefully the quality will speak for itself.

Why is this a thing?

Do you know what I love (beyond asking questions and not expecting answers from readers)? I love travel stories. I tear up books told through the lens of someone experiencing something or motorcycle blogs documenting huge trips. That personal experience is what motivates me to ride more – to ride further. I want to experience more because I think I’m inside just a bit too much and I want my kids to see these adventures and hopefully be inspired themselves when they get old enough to ride. So I’m doing this for me.

That being said, if someone wants to tag along virtually and read my stories, I’m stoked to share. And if someone wants to vacation to Hawaii and re-tackle a route and see the same sights, that’s cool too – honestly, I couldn’t imagine a bigger compliment.

I hope you stick around and read some stories or subscribe through whatever means you want and I genuinely hope you enjoy it.

Take it easy!