Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Gifts

Passing around gifts 
Please, get yourself a nice cup of mulled cider, make yourself comfortable in your favorite place to read, and enjoy: "Don't Date a Girl who Rides Motorcycles" and, "10 Reasons to Date a Woman Who Rides a Motorcycle"

Winter Warmth
In the last month during the morning and evening commute I've gone from just wearing the electric pants and jacket (padded, good insulation) but not plugging into the bike's battery to riding always plugged in. I'm wondering if other 650 GS twin riders have noticed what I see on the temperature gauge - a consistent set of numbers in the 40 degree range: 41.9, 42.8, 43.7, 44.6, 45.5, 46.4, 47.3, 48.2, 49.1. Did the manufacturer wire in the 0.9 increment changes? I have not seen a reading of, say 43.3, or 45.0. I mentioned this to another 650 twin rider - he only pays attention to the temperature gauge when it is flashing at him, which means ambient temp is near to or below freezing. He's seen his gauge go down to 22 degrees. I've seen my gauge up to 107 and down to 31.8 but never in the twenties.  I'll be able to collect more temperative data for the 30's in January. 

The last couple of rides were without heated grips - not sure what's going on, and, worse, the failure is intermittent so the bike's in the shop and will wait until the shop's electrical problem wizard returns from his holiday break. Yes, I could just ride with heated gloves and not rely on the grips but I'm twitchy about electrical problems - I won't be able to focus on just riding because I'll be wondering what else is just a breath away from failing.  

Seasonal Conspicuity
I've been riding over a year with the Lunasee lighting on my wheels - trouble-free, that is, even though the conspicuity is not specifically legal, I have had no problems with highway patrol cops, and, the components of the system are working great. Here's my original post,  a comment on installation for a BMW GS 650 twin, and a comment from another happy Lunasee customer who got a thumbs up from a law enforcement officer. When your wheels are glowing, you stand out, you are visible. I believe I've made my commute during the winter more safe. Best of all my bike looks very, very cool. 

Be warm, be visible, ride safe! Talk to you in 2014.
~ Cecilie

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How do you define define "eye catching" in motorcycle advertising?

I'm late to party so if you have already seen Asphalt and Rubber's August 2013 post about MotoCorsa, a Ducati dealership in Portland, Oregon, you can go back to your email. 

MotoCorsa did a photo shoot with a nice looking female model but instead of running the advertising Asphalt and Rubber passed. Asphalt and Rubber is one of the few moto blog sites that doesn't corral eyeballs for their webstats with seductive female poses - it's not blog-worthy. MotoCorsa did a second photo shoot, recreating the female poses with men from the shop. Okay, now we have something blog-worthy. The side-by-side comparisons are fabulous. The folks at MotoCorsa have a great sense of humor, and, these guys are real men to partake in making a statement like this. Have a look, show your friends, have a good laugh. Good job, MotoCorsa. How about making a calendar of the male models?  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hope for the economy - rumblings for return of a Femmoto-equivalent event

2004: on my Honda F3 track bike in Turn 2, Spring Mountain track, Pahrump, NV. Photo ©

In the Summer of 2004 I was well into an expensive habit, a track habit, a need to put myself on ribbon of tarmac and push myself to my limits. For a couple of years I was riding weekend track events, once a month for six months during the year. Lest you think I was a speed freak, keep in mind a comment made by fellow who was much, much faster than I will ever be. The track event was at Thunderhill on a typical roasting hot summer day. He was a large fellow, still in his track suit, sweat pouring off his head - he had come over to my group's pit to give me encouragement in a carefully worded comment: "When I was riding at your pace, I was not nearly so smooth." After attending the September 2004 Femmoto event in Nevada it was clear that hanging off my bike was what I needed to do if I wanted to go fast, and hanging off my bike was something I was not comfortable with. In July 2005, I circumnavigated the US and have been hooked on long distance touring every since. The formative lessons in how to be a safe, aware rider came from those two years at the track.  

Bonnie Strawser started Femmoto as a women's-only track day. She developed it to include fund raising, donating over $40,000 to breast cancer research in addition to being a showcase event for bike manufacturers. The Femmoto track events (2001 - 2008) were specifically designed to put women riders on the track and introduce them to different types of bikes. Motorcycle manufacturers would bring a their trailer trucks loaded with bikes. You could sign up to play on six different bikes in one day. [link to old journal pictures] Yes, the bikes were too tall for some of us but it was a track, you weren't going to be stopping until you were ready to get off the bike. You rode your laps, got the feel of the bike, and when your time was up you rode into the pit, you waved your legs to indicate that you needed to be "caught". Some kind person would point at you, indicating you were to ride slowly over to them, and they would hold the handlebars of the bike so you could dismount with confidence.   For getting women to their next riding level, Femmoto was a phenomena because of the sense of community each event created. Here's an excerpt from my old frames-based journal from that track day

Maybe I'm naive about the financial motivation for including men in the event but I interpreted the fact that the event evolved from a women-only track day in 2001 to a women-only-on-Day-1-men-welcome-too-on-Day-2 by 2004 as a demonstration of the positive on-track culture change that Femmoto was able to accomplish. In the pit next to my group's pit at the September event was a guy with his M4 Augusta, exactly the kind of guy/bike that I would have expected to hear griping about later for making an inconsiderate inside pass and generally being a jerk. What is remarkable to me is that I remember nothing special about Day 2 when both men and women were on the track. I'm sure Mr. Augusta was riding in the A group (not the intermediate group I was in) but remember, there was a majority of women at this event, word of inconsiderate behavior would have spread like wildfire. The only griping I heard at that 2004 event was about some of the young cocky female riders.  

Fast forward to 2008. The economy was in trouble; track event attendance was disappointing. Femmoto hasn't been run since. Now it's 2013 and the economy is warming up. RevGirl (aka Heather McCoy) is running a survey to see if there's any interest in running a Femmoto-like event again. Please note that I said "Femmoto-like", see Heather's disarming disclaimer on her survey.

AMA's International Women's Motorcycle Conference last ran in July of 2012 and before that in 2009. The economy simply hasn't been able to support more frequent women-focused events like Femmoto or IWMC. Heather McCoy wants to know if we and our wallets are ready to run a female-rider-focused, bike manufacturer showcase event so please take a moment to answer her 10-question survey and do pass the link on to your rider friends. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

My side of the visor

image credit:
Today's ride included:
  • A fallen bicycle that stopped a car short on the highway, with four cars dominoed behind, all with their turn signals going. A 100 yards down the road, a camper on the shoulder with one bicycle hanging oddly from its mount. Did the mount break? Did the cable securing the bicycles come loose? The driver is walking back - he will have to cross two lanes of highway traffic to retrieve the bike from the third lane, and, get back. Someone is / must be calling 911. 
  • An SUV that seemed to guide itself by bumping off the the Bott's dots on the left side of the lane. No, I did not look into the driver's window to see what the problem might be, I got the heck away.
  • A beater car that was determined to outrun me going up the hill. Really? You want to waste gas trying to move that heap up this long grade at this speed? Knock yourself out, buddy, it is all yours. I moved to the slower lane.
  • The BMW 1200 GSA rider who always waves from the other side (he's going south, I'm going north). I feel bad when I see him too late and can't wave back.
  • The merge from Highway 680 to Highway 880 - a "perfect" merge is crossing four lanes of traffic, signaling of course, both blinker and raised left hand, in one clean arc, coming into the far right lane at a sweet smooth angle, executed politely. The merge gods give me one or two perfect merges a month. Today was "one".
  • The black Porsche Panamera - I'm checking it out, the driver is checking me? my bike? out.
  • The white Tesla. We frequently leave work at the same time. We don't work at the same company. Gull-winged Mercedes Benz or Tesla Model S. Dream on, girl, dream on.
  • That fermented waste smell that wafts from Fremont southwest towards Milpitas. I prefer fermented waste to benzene. It will be interesting to smell Spring 2014 - is the benzene a seasonal  waft or just occasional?
  • A big red rig who caught up to me at a traffic light - the driver leaned out of his cab to look at my pannier. I acknowledged his interest with an uplift of my helmeted chin, he grinned and waved to the unseen face behind the dark visor.
Why the "Eternal Knot"? The symbol is one of the Tibetan eight auspicious symbols signifying cause and effect, the union of compassion and wisdom, and the interrelation of all phenomena. 

It's my way of invoking the powers that be,  "As I ride in this circus, please, don't let me do anything stupid."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Vote for Being Selfish

In 2012 I was splitting my time between Silicon Valley and Raleigh, North Carolina for a contract job. It was one of those fabulous opportunities that you drop everything for and get on a plane.  As my contract was coming to an end, the word got out that I was riding solo back to California. One fellow, older than me, commented that he had always wanted to ride across the US, but family responsibilities kept him close to home. That's a comment I've heard a lot over the years. I looked him in the eyes and confessed my  selfish need to fulfill this dream. He nodded and we left it at that.

It is now a year later and there is no extended summer ride in my plans, this year or next. Learning to ride off-road? Those plans have been shelved for several years. Riding from Istanbul, Turkey to Xian, China? That used to be the top item on my bucket list but now it is archived. Why? My health. My primary focus is just getting my health to be stable. I ride to work when I can - it's a 70-mile round trip. Some weeks I can ride three times a week and car pool the other two days. Some weeks I can't ride at all, the mental acuity isn't what it needs to be and the physical awareness, that sense of perceiving through your fingernails, skin and hair, that's dulled so I either car pool, take the car, or work from home.

I started feeling "off" in 2005. After getting patronizing responses from four doctors, male and female, I found a nurse practitioner who practices in the functional medicine paradigm who didn't dismiss me, "Oh honey, you live and work in Silicon Valley, you're just stressed out. Here, take these pharmaceuticals and the symptoms will go away." It wasn't just the process of menopause that was slowing me down, I  learned that I have been poisoning myself for most of my life with foods I'm genetically allergic to: gluten, soy and dairy. My gut was so inflammed from the allergic response to eating these foods that I had stopped abosrbing nutrition from any food I consumed. My endocrine system was out of whack from the shift into menopause, my neurochemistry was out of whack because I wasn't getting enough sleep because my hormones were wonky, and because I was unknowing starving myself. The inflammation had spread from my gut to my heart muscle, I was a heart attack waiting to happen.

Long story short, I acquiesced to pharmaceuticals to rebalance my hormones. The nurse practitioner is working with my insistence on a program of "food as medicine" and supplements to address root cause, not just symptoms.  I went cold turkey off of gluten, soy and dairy. As soon as I stopped eating foods I am allergic to, the cause of the inflammation of my internal organs went away. Recently I had to add quinoa and some legumes to the ineligible list because my body reacts to them poorly. Even so, the years of red-lining my adrenal gland to compensate for lack of nutrition and sleep has resulted in poor thyroid and metabolic function. Translation: I am tired a lot, and I don't ride when I'm tired. Let's not even talk about how depressing it is not be able to ride. 

It is possible to come back from this kind of depletion. I'm working on it. There's a part of me that wonders if I will ever get back to learning to ride off-road, it is hard not to beat myself up for being insufficient for the task. I beat myself up in the garden these days.

I'm really really glad that I was selfish last year and rode solo across the US because had I waited, assuming that I could do the trip "sometime soon", it isn't clear that I'll be able to do that kind of a ride in the future. It is good to be alive, it's even better to be alive and healthy and able to ride.

Make your plan, prepare yourself and your bike. Make your promises. Take your kid. Go. Ride Safe. Live.   Be Well. 

"You may delay, but Time will not." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Electric Motorcycles: Environmental Bragging Rights or Not?

I noticed that Mike Werner of MotorBiker was doing an extended test ride of the Zero DS electric motorcycle. Three of the in-production electric motorcycle manufactures are on the west coast of the United States; Zero and Mission Motorcycles are in California and Brammo is in Oregon. I'm proud to living on the west coast - we do think differently here but much as I hate to admit it, buying an electric bike won't put a green mohawk  ("environmentally friendly" tiara) on my helmet. Just because a motorcycle is electric doesn't mean that no harm came to the earth. Brammo, Zero, and Mission Motors are all being run by people with impressive dedication to use of recycled materials and alternative energy sources. Bikes from these manufacturers are using Lithium-Ion batteries. When I first started thinking about getting an electric bike, I thought that even though they might cost more up front, because I wouldn't have to pay for routine powertrain maintenance and there would be no gas expense, I would save money in the long term ownership of the bike. That's probably true. Brammo's 2009 "green" calculator does a good job getting a potential buyer to feel good about how they might reduce their carbon footprint. It's simple to be green, just reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use a Lithium-Ion battery, right? Not necessarily.

The recharging hassle, distance restrictions, and initial cost of electric vehicles are not what's keeping me on the fence. When you think about the batteries think "resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, fresh water toxicity, human toxicity" from the activities of mining the raw materials, processing the ore and manufacturing the battery. I didn't see any mention of a company-sponsored recycling program on the Mission Motorcycle, Brammo or Zero websites. In balance, I can't say that an electric bike is "better" than a fossil-fuel bike from an environmental impact perspective. It seems absurd to compare the worseness of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and strip mining for copper and aluminum, both of which are components in Lithium-Ion batteries. Just trying to optimize for emissions neutrality with a battery doesn't acknowledge the enviromental impact problem. 

I want to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum so I keep an eye on the electric and hydrogen powered bike world.  Here are three electric motorcycles available for purchase now. None are version "one point oh". I'm not an early adopter as a general rule, and, I had two sphincter tightening experiences with my first release BMW F650 CS (discontinued model) due to electrical problems. Having your bike surge or cut out on you is not good. I spend a lot of time on highways as a commuter - I'm twitchy about reliability.

Zero Motorcycyles - DS Model See Mike's review - he's loving the bike and is being honest about pros and cons. Don't miss the picture of a Zero DS in front of a pink cathedral on Day 5

Zero DS 

Brammo offers the Enertia and Empulse models. The Enertia model is great for the urban (non-highway commuting) rider. Honestly I think the Enertia is kinda funny looking, but I was seriously considering buying one in 2011. Brammo's investment in their racing team has done a lot to keep electric bikes in front of the riding community. Here is Team Brammo racer Shelina Moreda with her Brammo Empulse TTX race bike at Thunderhill.

… and here's the racing page for their Empulse RR model. Here's what a stock Empulse looks like:

Brammo Empluse 2013

Mission Motors' Mission Motorcycles - For the sport bike riders among you, drool over the Mission R and Mission RS models. You will need very deep pockets for either of these bikes, but it is free to look.   
Mission R model

As for what's coming, if you can suspend belief for a moment, here's a tongue-in-cheek video for the 2014 BMW GS Electric Motorcycle concept video. It's silly. 

BMW came out with the C Evolution electric scooter in 2012 in Europe. The C Evolution is supposed to come out in the US in 2014 but at 14HP it isn't going to help me on my hour-long highway-based commute which requires speeds of around 75 mph. 

I have faith that human ingenuity will get us to environmentally sustainable personal transportation. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Five Factors of Concentration

How many of these apply to your daily ride?
  • Applied attention - initial direction of attention to an object, such as at the beginning of your ride
  • Sustained attention - staying focused on the object of attention, such as remaining aware of an entire ride from beginning to end 
  • Rapture - intense interest in the object; sometimes experienced as a rush of blissful sensations
  • Joy - gladdening of the heart that includes happiness, contentment, and tranquility
  • Singleness of mind - unification of awareness in which everything is experienced as a whole; few thoughts; equanimity; a strong sense of being present
All? Yeah, I thought so. And yes, these are the factors for steadying the mind for meditation. I just love the term used for skittish attention, "monkey mind". If you want to know more, get this book from the library: Buddha's Brain - the practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom. Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Richard Mendius, M.D. New Harbinger Publications.