Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life as an XXL

One of the strange things about being tall is that you look around the world at the rest of the people and your mind forgets that you are a different size than everyone else. Of course, logically you know that you need to buy your clothes in the tall man's store, that you have to duck your head walking through some doors, and that you have to pick your cars and motorcycles based first the few vehicles that fit. That said, in your mind's eye, you are just like everyone else.

Usually, I am reminded of reality by a photo of me and normal people. This time, it was a little web site,, that puts a virtual paper doll in your size on a variety of motorcycles to let you see how you fit.

I really enjoyed this website, but I couldn't help but think that there were a lot of bikes that looked like mini-bikes with my paper doll on the bike. Here is an example with a Moto Guzzi V7 and my head sticking out of the top of the picture. Having your hip at a tighter than 90 degree angle is a bit cramped and the knee is rather tight as well. I wonder if my shin would clear the cylinder head. Oh well. I guess if it were to be a Guzzi, it would have to be a Stelvio.

Thanks to the anonymous author of the cycle ergo website. I love the chance to virtually sit on a bike and appreciate the variety of bikes offered. I would love to see even more choices.

I not only like the ability to see riding and standing positions of knees and body, but also to get a sense of my center of gravity relative to the foot peg. To me, that speaks to a sense of control when the relationship is right.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helmet Making Video

I have recently been working on painting my Shoei motorcycle helmet. Nothing artistic, just a bright color for safety. Still, its all hand work. Sanding, masking, and painting.

Along comes Webbikeworld with a video of manufacturing helmets at Nolan in Italy. I found it fascinating and especially like the robotic sanding and the automated painting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

People you meet on a Motorcycle, Part 4

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent a couple of days based out of Tellico Plains, TN on my recent motorcycle trip south. Its a cute little town that sits at the edge of a plain on the western edge of the Smokie Mountains. It looks like it has been in decline for a while, but recent gains in tourism are starting a rebirth in Tellico Plains.

While there, I met Mike who is an example of the town's rebirth. He and his wife moved up from Florida to start a motorcycle outfitter in downtown Tellico. Since then, they have opened an ice cream store across the street and their grown daughter as moved up from Florida to find work in Tellico. Its nice to see growth in a little place like this, even in the heart of a recession.

One night, I went to strange little place for dinner. Imagine a food court in a mall, except that there is no mall, just a small building in a field at the edge of a small town. There is a common eating area with picnic tables inside and out. There is a vendor selling hamburgers, another beer, another pizza, and outside because of the smoke, a family selling barbecue.

I decide to try the barbecue and, while I am outside waiting for my meal to be prepared, a local pulls up in his old Chevy Suburban, sort of like this one.

Out of the truck steps a guy who looks like he could be playing in ZZ Top, a tall thin man with a long white beard and wearing denim coveralls. Also tumbling out of the truck are his 2 dogs, 4 foot tall Maramduke dogs with spots that look like a cross between a Great Dane and a paint horse.

Of course, everyone knew this guy and the lady gave me my food and then excused herself to go visit the dogs. I went into the building to find a little shade and eat my barbecue. A few minutes later, the local with the beard sidles up beside me, bends down so he can talk quietly and tells me, "I've got something really good here for you to taste." Surprised by this offer, I said no thanks and went back to my meal, but I couldn't help but wonder what I was being offered. If someone wanted to create an image of a moonshiner, they could certainly use this guy for a model.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Switching Styles

This post is in honor of Mike Weaver, a former Chrysler inmate. Mike grew up on dirt bikes and is a natural at riding them. He once told me that it took a very different style to ride a dirt bike and a road bike. He tried a road bike for a while, but he said he just couldn't adapt his riding style and felt like he was always doing the wrong thing. In the end, he sold the road bike before he hurt himself.

I spent a couple of nights in Tellico Plains, TN and a couple of days riding around that part of the Smokie Mountains. This area is famous to road bikers for the "Tail of the Dragon" and the Cherohala Parkway, both of which cross the mountains in a nice combination of curves. Frankly speaking, I found the "Dragon" to be far over-rated, a case of good marketing over a good road, but then the 4 radar cops, the 30 mph speed limit, and the line of bikes all in a row probably colored my opinion. The Cherohala on the other hand is just grand.

The same area is famous to dual sport bikers for the large network of gravel forest service roads, mixed in with a few single tracks, that cover the mountains. Even more interesting, are the roads that go back and forth between paved and dirt. These roads left a wonderful impression.

A Matter of Style

On a road bike, you lean into the corner. The faster you go around the corner, the more you lean. As you go faster yet, you shift your body off the inside of the bike so that the bike is at a little less lean angle while the combination of you and the bike remain balanced.

On a dirt bike, you don't have enough grip to lean into the corner, yet you need to lean the bike to turn efficiently. The result is that you stand up, lean the bike into the corner, while keeping your center of gravity somewhat over the tire patch.

The problem is that when you have been used to riding pavement and you come to some dirt, your instincts are all wrong. I had been riding twisty paved roads for 3 or 4 days when I came to my first long section of dirt road. Boy did I feel like a klutz. It took 20 minutes riding on dirt to get even a little comfortable. Then, switching back to pavement took another 5 minutes or so to remember the right thing to do. However, by the end of a couple of days of switching back and forth between pavement and gravel, I was switching styles with the best of them.

My advise to Mike is to get a dual sport bike next time, the bikes response will be more familiar to you. Most of them are hell on wheels on a twisty paved road with good mixed surface tires. Although they are too heavy to be much good off-road in sand and mud, give them hardpack and they are still a lot of fun. Then get on a road like Citigo Creek where you can practice, practice, practice.

The obligitory photo of a rock strewn creek, this time Citigo Creek, TN. This shot is fairly far up the road where the road has changed to gravel again.