Goals for 2019

Like in 2018, I have some goals for 2019: Goals for what I’m going to do for the good of motorcycling in 2019 and goals for myself and my love of motorcycling.

  1. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a new bagger. Why? Nothing’s wrong with Red Sonya except that Polaris is no longer making Victory. Plus, well, who doesn’t love the excitement of a new bike when they can afford it? Once the dealers are doing test rides, I’ll be picking a new two-wheeled freedom machine and writing about the experience.
  2. Get one person their first motorcycle: I have someone in mind who’s very close to joining the life.
  3. Participate in ABATE Bikers in the capitol day. More information coming in a podcast soon.
  4. Take lots of video: watching bikers on youtube helps get me through the winter months.
  5. I need to get Mrs. Roadrunner on her bike. Like, a lot. Why should be obvious, but additionally…
  6. Late in 2019 I will start planning motorcycle trip around Scotland in 2020, riding its famous NC 500.
  7. I’m going to camp more than I did in 2018.
  8. This year I’m planning to ride:
    1. To either Colorado Springs or Pocatello to visit family. On the way could be Deadwood, Needles Highway, Cheyenne, Beartooth pass…
    2. The Hurricane Highway in the UP of Michigan
    3. US 2 in Northern Wisconsin
    4. The Hoka Hey off year event.
  9. And of course I’m going to keep spreading the idea that motorcycling is mindfulness.

That’s a lot of fun for a working guy with kids at home, but I’m willing to try. Additionally I’ll probably hit some of the yearly motorcycle events like the Slimy Crud Run, Momma Tried, Brewtown Rumble, The Milwaukee Rally, and other small scale goofing off.

Looking forward to a great 2019. I’ll see you on the road.

The Biker with the Electric Car

I haven’t been following the Harley LiveWire much, nor any of the other electric motorcycle options. Why?

Because I’ve been following electric car development for just over 10 years, I know where battery tech and the electric charging experience is at, and I’ve had experience with a Tesla Model 3 for a while now.

Story time: I recently attended a board of directors meeting for ABATE of Wisconsin in Wisconsin Rapids. Given the cold weather (more on this later) that meant a single charge (310 miles under ideal conditions) wouldn’t do it round trip. A stop at a Supercharger in Oshkosh on both legs of the trip was in order. Some quick facts based on the state of battery & charge in 2018:

  • Lithium Ion battery tech at this level does not last as long if you fully charge & discharge it every time. The suggestion is no more than 80% charge for daily community, only 100% for road trips.
  • On a NEMA 15-50 (dryer outlet) at home, you’ll recharge around 30 miles per hour of charge.
  • On a standard 10 amp/110 volt circuit, you’ll charge 1-2 miles per hour of charge.
  • Going faster and accelerating quickly uses a lot more juice. This is true of gas as well, but we tend not to think of it.
  • Cold weather decreases the range of lithium ion batteries for reasons we won’t explore here.

So, hitting the cruise control at 75mph at dawn when it’s 15 degrees outside meant the 80 mile trip to Oshkosh from my house took the battery down 120 miles of ‘range’. No worries, I pull into the Tesla Supercharge at Oshkosh and plug in. This is a specialized 80w circuit that piles in well over 100 miles per hour of charge. At least at first…

  • The closer you get to filling up a lithium ion battery, the slower it charges.

I’m able to nap a little bit, but I’m there for a lot more than an hour before I’m approaching full. Having seen what a lead foot did to my range, I slow down a bit and head to the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids and my ABATE meeting. There’s around 180 miles of range left as I park.

  • The battery will drain about 1% per day in ideal conditions, and more when it’s cold.

Sitting in the board meeting, I can see the battery range dropping. Quickly. It’s still between 15 and 20 degrees outside. 180 miles comes and goes… 170 miles comes and goes… 160 … range is dropping by the hour and visions of being towed back to Oshkosh are dancing in my head. I ask the hotel if I can plug in outside and someone graciously fetches me an extension cord. The bleeding stops, we have a great board meeting, and I drive home the next day.

I have good reasons for buying an electric car, but my two-wheeled freedom machine will be a gas-powered American V-twin for a long time to come.

Tesla has had 10 years at the breakneck Silicon Valley pace to build a nation-wide network of proprietary charging stations. The stations are meant to be able to get you “about anywhere” with their lowest range car, which is 200 miles. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks the LiveWire will have this kind of range, or that Harley will build a nationwide network of chargers. People who don’t realize how much tire inflation, wet roads, cargo weight, aerodynamics, acceleration, and hills affect their energy usage might be in for some difficult rides.

I ride to get away. In order to reach critical mass, companies are building electric infrastructure closest to where most people want to go most of the time. That’s the opposite of where I want to go on two wheels. I also stop in less than 200mile increments to stretch and sunscreen: adding in staggered charging station stops would make long trips painful. How fast will it charge? I don’t want to stop for a minimum of an hour every time.

For urban riders and those who primarily commute, electric bikes might be an option. I’ll be burning dead dinosaurs for a long time to come.

Brewtown Rumble 2018

On Sunday, June 3rd, the Roadrunner attended the 4th annual Brewtown Rumble in Milwaukee, WI.

The Brewtown Rumble is a ride-in vintage motorcycle show. It doesn’t matter the make, model or condition of the bike. It just matters that you ride it! Everyone is welcome – riders and motorcycle enthusiasts alike.
The Rumble also features live music, a pin-up show, vendors and food from some of Milwaukee’s best cafes, restaurants and food trucks.

This is the type of event that’s just good for the soul. It’s been a shitty winter, and while I’m already 1400miles into the riding season, it still feels like I’m shaking frostbite off. It was a great day, and I got there early to help set up the Abate of Wisconsin booth. Last year this even was up in Pabst Park which is a fine outdoor venue and very “Milwaukee”, but moving to South 5th Street this year was a fine move. In terms of a home base, you could do a lot worse than the Fuel Cafe in Walker’s Point.

 

In addition to all the vendors and bikes, I found a new friend here today: God’s Outlaw. These guys were playing covers of Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, and Hank Jr – and they sounded good. It sucks going on at 11:45 during a bike show that started at 11, so they didn’t have much of an audience but I’m keeping my eye on these guys. Check their music out on Amazon. Every song these guys played is in my playlist when I’m on my bagger.

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I ran into a lot of people I knew, and have ridden with, and that’s an odd feeling. It’s good to have people, to feel like a part of a group. To feel you have something to contribute to a group. As someone who’s been a barely-social-outcast-weirdo his entire life (even among bikers, already a fringe group) it’s beyond strange to run into people I know at an event with thousands of people and hear “Hey, Roadrunner!” randomly while I’m taking pictures. There is a lesson here that I’ll write about more in the future: if you show up, and you do the things, and you’re not an asshole, you will become part of communities.

There’s not too much else to say about events like this. It’s all about the bikes, isn’t it? So many of these bikes are obviously labors of love: carefully maintained machines caressed into staying alive by people who cared. Maybe it’s been their machine for decades, or maybe they have a romantic connection to an engine that’s as old as they are, or maybe they bought a bike from an era they grew up watching racers on.

Maybe it’s just a big smile riding down the road on something that no one else has anything like. Here’s to you, vintage riders! Cheers to the organizers of the Brewtown Rumble for making my day on a Sunday in early June.

 

Helmets don’t cause spine injuries in a crash

I support your right to ride free, and that includes your personal choice of whether or not to wear a helmet. Among our long history of legislative wins at ABATE of Wisconsin is defeating helmet laws. Whatever you decide, though, it should be based on facts. There’s some odd “tribal wisdom” in the biker community that wearing a helmet makes you actually more likely to get hurt in a crash. Some people quote anecdotes and some make some questionable claims about the laws of physics. Well the latest study says quite the opposite.:

“The results of this study demonstrate a statistically significant lower likelihood of suffering a CSI among helmeted motorcyclists. Unhelmeted riders sustained a statistically significant higher number of vertebral fractures and ligamentous injuries. The study findings reported here confirm the authors’ hypothesis that helmet use does not increase the risk of developing a cervical spine fracture and may provide some protective advantage.”

You can read the whole study here. Ride educated, ride free.

Mama Tried 2018

Merle Haggard said it right: Mama Tried to raise me better. She busted her ass, yet here I am drinking beer, getting tattoos, and working the ABATE booth at Mama Tried 2018.

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From the site:

Mama Tried Motorcycle Show is an indoor invitational that connects motorcycles and builders to fans and riders alike. Keeping the fire stoked all winter long. The Show features over 100 motorcycles from builders of all calibers—flat-tracker, hill climber, chopper, and bar hopper.”

Last year’s show was the best kind of dumpster fire. It was in an old warehouse on the Milwaukee River and it was unseasonably warm: even fair-weather riders road in.

Rode in. February. Milwaukee.

I was sure this year would be calm and under attended by comparison. Not only was it actually cold, but the ancient and storied venue of the Eagles Ballroom is owned by an ancient and storied Milwaukee family that will never allow $2 cans of Pabst to be sold in their hallowed halls. No sir, beers were $7 and up. I was wrong about attendance: at times on Saturday the venue was at capacity: one person had to walk out before one person walks in.

The Spectacle

I try to walk into this show with my wannabe-journalist hat on. My first question is for all the vendors: Hey you in the Vance & Hines booth: do you get enough action here to make it worth it for you? No matter how I asked the question, every vendor said yes. Every “biker lifestyle” clothing seller, accessory maker, and crew there to promote their own future event was happy with the the turnout and fan feedback.

Yes, every moto brand that’s been creeping on your Facebook wall was here.

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The Bikes

I just want to ride my bike. I tweak it some, I pay for parts or paint, I adjust my highway pegs. That’s me, but I can really appreciate the labor of love that goes into the custom bikes on the floor. There’s a lot of history and craftsmanship to admire. Just seeing the bikes is worth the price of admission. This is not the place to come look at the new Milwaukee 8 engine or Indian Chieftain. These are show bikes and bikes kept alive with pure love and willpower.

 

Extras

On top of the usual stuff, there’s some cool extras. The Build Moto guys have a great mission and they’re worth checking out. Milwaukee loves live music, we are home to one of the largest outdoor music festivals, so there’s always going to be a band at any event in Brew City.

Working the ABATE booth, trying to get people to care about motorcycle rights, drinking some microbrews. It’s not a bad night. Of course it kicked my “When will the roads be clean so I can ride?” vibe up to 11, and that’s a big part of events like this. It’s the same with any kind of conference or gathering: you may learn something, you may meet people, you may buy something useful. What you really leave with, though, is a reminder of how much you love this. And if you’re the RoadRunner, you also sew a new patch on your vest.

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What about us?

Note: this was shared on Facebook, but I’m re-posting here for those that don’t do social media.

WHAT ABOUT US?
Why the Bikers of America Cannot Continue to be Ignored or Forgotten

I’ve held the position of Vice-President of Government Affairs for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation for roughly 18 months. And during those months I’ve sat in countless meetings, congressional hearings, public information sessions, symposiums, conferences and breakout sessions which have covered a gamut of issues that affect riders. Anything and everything from ethanol to self-driving cars to road design and infrastructure, I’ve sat, listened and taken detailed notes. However, during the last couple of months I’ve started to uncover a deeper (and darker) underlying message in my meetings. I’m not one for conspiracy theories so I won’t suggest that my theory is the product of some sort of anti-motorcycle secret society, but what I am beginning to believe is that the future of riders – our future – is questionable.

I say this because as I’ve sat through these meetings and conference calls, my takeaway increasingly becomes that the U.S. population at large, just doesn’t give a shit about motorcycles. We’re ignored or perhaps forgotten. We’re relegated to the category of recreation. And dangerous recreation at that. We’re swept into the same column as shark cage diving, or bull running or cliff base jumping. And though I have no problem with any of those recreational activities, riding motorcycles is not the same. It’s not even CLOSE to the same! Though many of us ride for the fun and the thrill of it, our bikes also get us from place to place. Unlike swimming with the sharks or running with the bulls, riding a motorcycle is a form of transportation. Motorcycles get us to work, to the post office, to the dentist. So why, in America of all places, are we forced to say again and again and again, what about us?

There is surprisingly little research done about the benefits of riding motorcycles. And I am not talking about benefits to the rider. You ask any one of our MRF members and they’ll tell you that riding is cheaper than seeing a psychiatrist. So lets put that aside for a minute and talk about the benefits to society. In Europe several years ago, there was a study done to test mobility – that is moving from point A to point B. They looked at commuting routes from outside major cities and within major cities as well as rural areas over varying distances and compared the mobility of a motorcycle to that of a car. And out of the fourteen tests they conducted to measure mobility, the motorcycle won 85% of the time. So in other words, a motorcycle is more likely to get you to your destination faster (and not just because you’re speeding).

The impacts go on from there. Another study (also in Europe where motorcycles are better viewed and accepted as a legitimate form of transportation) showed the impact of what might happen if just 10% of cars were replaced by motorcycles. Time loss for all vehicles would decrease by 40%. That means a quicker commute for everyone whether they are on a motorcycle or not. And with less cars on the road and less sitting in traffic, that means an impact on emissions. Though I have not uncovered a comprehensive study on the specific issue of reduced emissions and motorcycle usage, a case study by Transport & Mobility Leuven (yep, Europe again) stated that, “New motorcycles emit fewer pollutants compared to average private cars (less NOX, NO2, PM2.5 and EC, but more VOC). They also emit less CO2. Total external emission costs of new motorcycles are more than 20% lower than average private cars. On the section of motorway between Leuven and Brussels, total emission costs can be reduced by 6% if 10% of private cars are replaced by motorcycles.”

There are other benefits too. Things like fuel efficiency; most bikes get as many miles per gallon as a car if not much more. What about infrastructure? Right now, the Trump Administration is currently figuring out how to raise $200 billion to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure which is in dire shape in some parts of the country. What may have helped our nations’ crumbling infrastructure? A motorcycle’s lighter touch could mean less wear and tear on a bridge or a road than a heavier, wider-set vehicle.

Given all the aforementioned benefits, you’d think I’d hear some praise from non-riders. Instead, I hear a lot about noise pollution. And that’s when they even talk about motorcycles. In many cases, they aren’t. Take the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); when they put out their initial guidance on autonomous vehicles and potential policies and safety factors, motorcycles weren’t even mentioned. They revised the document a year later, and though they did mention motorcycles, it was in the context of what vehicles NHTSA has jurisdiction over. Where it was blindingly not was in the section that has to do with the ability of this technology to identify and respond to objects on the road. Interestingly, the guidance names cars, trucks, pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. But not motorcycles.

Another instance of riders being forgotten (or ignored)? The newly minted U.S. version of Vision Zero, called Road to Zero. It’s a program with an admirable goal – to completely eliminate deaths on our nation’s highways in 20 years. The program spends very little time or resources on motorcycle and related issues in every meeting I’ve attended. Even the logo can’t be bothered to contain a motorcycle rider.

It is estimated that there are more than 300 million powered two-wheelers in the world. These are substantial numbers, so when it comes being viewed as a legitimate form of transportation, why are riders having to fight for a seat at the table? And an even bigger question is how we can change this dynamic? I don’t have the answers, but I bet if enough of us put our heads together we can start to chip away at the problem targeting not just society as a whole, but the different segments that contribute to this pervasive problem. From policymakers to media to public interest groups and everyone in between, we need to make sure that riders everywhere, regardless of what patch you hold or bike you ride, deliver the message that motorcycles have a place in the future.

Megan Ekstrom
Vice-President of Government Affairs & Public Relations
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation