Sunday, July 27, 2014

Upgrade your motorcycle gear! Mid-season boot review.




Every time I get into a new car these days, I notice how much is changed or improved over the car I've been (until now) so happy with.  Besides that “new car smell”, there are tons of advancements, from electronics to power increases. The same is true of motorcycle gear.  It gets better every year. 

I've had a pair of Alpinestars boots for about 2 years and they've been great.  Alpinestars is a company that knows riders and how to make great products for them. I've never been unhappy with the older pair, that is, until I got this upgrade.  It's like stepping out of a Toyota and into a Mercedes-Benz.  I got this new pair of boots from Motorcycle House.

 
 

 

The first thing I noticed was NO MORE LACES. I HATE laces when riding.  Do you know how many times I've managed to loop a lace over a shifter and not been able to put a foot down at a stop?  We only learn from our bad experiences. 

The Alpinestars S-MX 1 boots have a full zipper on the inside of each shoe that allows easy entry.  The strap across the front ensures a comfortable fit.


Heel protection is great, as are the toe sliders on the outside edge of each boot.  These are comfortable street boots, but look to be built for track duty.  

 

Like many of you, I ride to work when I can, and the choice of shoe is important from the standpoint that I have to wear these all day and not stand out too much to the management team.  I wore these just this past week on a hot day and found them to be ALL DAY COMFORTABLE.  On my ride home, I enjoyed the cooling air that the fabric front allowed to circulate through the boots.

These boots look great, are purpose-built and are comfortable to wear all day long.  I almost forgot to mention the small heel is perfect for hanging off your pegs to give your legs a bit of a rest on a longer ride.  As always, Alpinestars raises the bar for riding gear.  These are a great value for anyone looking for a comfortable riding boot, but who may not need the protection of a taller boot.





Enjoy the second half of the season.  A little more heat still to come and then on to much cooler weather.  

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ALL DAY SUCKER

Perhaps it's the kid in me that thinks of an all day ride in these terms. I can't ever remember having one of these dentist's 401Ks as a child, probably because my parents were too smart to let me overindulge in pure sugar.  I had too many cavities as a kid, so maybe they were too broke from all that dental work to acquiesce to my juvenile demands.  Now, as an adult, the controls (or lack of them) fall squarely on my own shoulders. This past Sunday's all day ride was an all day sucker.  A 10, if you will.   

After a leisurely breakfast, Ms. Rocket and I rolled the bikes out and pointed them west.  We had a loose plan to ride northwest to Rutland, Vermont.  I had been there a year ago looking at a small tow-behind camper, the T@b Little Guy trailer.  The missus hadn't seen one up close and, even though they didn't have any new units for sale, except for a hail damaged one, it provided a destination on the other end of some great roads.

With a late start and a goal of "lunch" in Rutland, we were hard-pressed to make good time.  Long about 12:30 or so, Stephanie declared that she was "a bit peckish".  I knew of a good diner just on the far side of Hogback Mountain, so we stopped.  Seemed like all the holiday tourists were waiting for a table, so we strode up to the counter and plopped ourselves down onto some available stools.    A quick bite, and one or two too many iced teas later, and we were down the road again.  It was already a hot day and the over consumption of liquids was a recurrent theme that day.  I felt a bit like Whizzer.

The day was sunny, very warm and dry.  At an earlier stop, I could feel the sun beating down on the back of my neck.  We were dressed suitably, wearing all mesh gear and jeans.  No exposed skin to get a burn.  

The roads were largely unobstructed.  Any time we passed through a town we did notice a bit more traffic than usual, but it was a holiday weekend after all.  I love the roads in Vermont!  Once you get into the mountains, it's a constant winding back and forth and over and down.  Our pace was good, spirited at times, but respectful of the traffic and conditions.

We eventually arrived in Rutland, mid-afternoon.  The Italian restaurant I had in mind was in another city.  We used Yelp to find the Vermont Tap & Ale House and had a great butter and garlic pizza, which is really just cheesy garlic bread pizza style.

We found the RV dealer a few miles down the road.  We took a cursory look at the sold units and the pock-marked one.  The prices are off-putting, close to $20,000 for the luxury of standing up and a kitchen.  I liked the coffin on wheels for half the price, but I doubt I'd dump money into another depreciating asset.

Pointed home, we had a minor disagreement over the route the GPS selected.  By then, we were already hot and tired and too full of caffeine.  A couple of miles of radio silence sorted me out and we cranked the throttles and rode into New Hampshire again.   Sadly, one of our favorite roads, Rt 123, was a mess.  The bumps and cracks from the past few harsh winters have torn up a once-great scenic road.  Now, it was hang on and slow down.  Too bad.

One last gas stop (and bathroom break, I was fully hydrated!) and we were almost home.  All told, just shy of a 300 mile day.  Lots of sun and twisty pavement.  A 9 hour day and still plenty of sunlight when we arrived home.  Ah, the joys of summer riding!

I hope your holiday was independently wonderful.  Now is the time to get out and ride.  Make yours a safe one.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day weekend and the new Honda VFR 800


It's Monday morning and I should be preparing for the work day.  But, it was a great Father's Day weekend here for me and I wanted to share a few photos of the new VFR 800, from Honda.

Old Blue was getting a much overdue spring service (it's practically summer).  Still, you wouldn't know it from the recent weather.  With inspection stickers due to expire at the end of this month, and me riding towards a valve adjustment, it was time.

Lucky for me that, as I was picking up my bike, I noticed a fork lift truck carrying a crate containing the new Honda VFR800.  This is a redesign of the bike which is a huge favorite of mine, since owning the (then new) 2002 model from 2002-2007.

I was fortunate to catch the mechanic uncrating/building this and he allowed me to take a few photos.









I left the dealership happy to have seen this new version of a bike I love.  With my bike home and Ms. Rocket's bike being serviced, I had to return to the shop again in the same day.  On the short two-up ride there, I noticed that my turn signals were acting up.  As I rode up to the shop, I saw the service manager Eric who had helped me just hours earlier.  He took a look at the issue and hopped on my bike and rode it into the service bay.  Moments later, he returned with the brand new VFR, announcing "problem fixed".  We chuckled and I took the opportunity to sit on the fully assembled (base model) bike, just to test fit it.  Yes, it still feels good to me, after riding a big, comfortable cruiser for the past seven years. 



As I think about my #nextbike, I want to give this bike serious consideration.  Other contenders are the VFR1200 and an ST1300.  Nault's Powersports has a new 2012 model in black, marked down $3000.  But I think that bike is more than I want or would use on a regular basis.  Thoughts?  I like the idea of trading down to a lighter, faster bike as I move forward.  I ruled out the 'Wing F6B simply based on size. 

After a brief discussion about the value of my bike in trade, I think the next step is to demo this bike and maybe one or two others.  Most likely, I will wait until the start of next season.  Plenty of time to do my homework.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The future of battery technology is here TODAY!



After a very long winter, the sun shone long enough for me to consider taking my bike out from under wraps and testing the new Shorai battery.  My bike has been parked since late November and I can normally expect to have it out again by late March, in most years.  The winter of 2013-2014 wreaked havoc on the east coast and the midwest, and I am relieved to finally get back on the road.

I got the Shorai battery, along with a charger over the winter months.  My bike’s old, heavy lead acid battery was on a battery tender in the bike all winter long.  A few days before last weekend I pulled the new Shorai battery out of the box, along with its tender, and set it up to charge.  The batteries come almost fully charged but, as I had the time, I wanted to make sure that I started the season with a fresh, fully-charged battery.  

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you plan to use a Lithium-ion battery for your motorcycle, make sure to buy a charger/battery tender that is made for this type of battery. It IS possible to overcharge one of these NEW types of batteries using the OLD types of chargers.  Make sure you upgrade your charger!

Shorai makes a tender that clicks into place effortlessly, through the use of a connector. There’s no guess work, no need for clamps on terminals.  It’s a “smart” charger, as well, and gives full indications of the battery status and when it’s completed.  Mine was fully charged in about 4 hours.


Saturday dawned with the promise of a near-60 degree (F) day and a short HONEYDO list.  For kicks, I rolled my bike out of the garage to fire it up, only to find that the old battery, which had been on a traditional tender, was DEAD.  Morte. Finito. Unreal.  The dang charger had been glowing green at me for the past 4 months or more.  So much for old technology!  Now to pull that dead weight out of the bike.  If you’ve ever tried to finagle an old, heavy battery out of a battery box with just your fingertips, you’ll appreciate how much fun I had.  With the old battery out of the way, the new unit slipped easily into place.  

The Shorai LI technology allows for a battery that is a fraction of the weight of a traditional batteries.  This is critical for anyone wanting better performance out of their motorcycle.  I can see how this weight advantage/savings would be critical to anyone doing any racing, or simply with a sport bike and looking to maximize their top speed.  On my cruiser, laden down with a heavy tool kit (and other baggage), the weight savings are appreciated, but less necessary.

Shorai provides everything you need to install the battery.  I hit a small snag on the install though.  The negative terminal connected easily but, when I got to the positive terminal, I saw that the positive lead had tabs around the edges, to assure a good connection.  Shorai provided adapters (see below) to allow for different mountings at the terminals, but none of these were a perfect fit.  I knew what the solution was; it just took me a half hour of fiddling (and to be sure that I had no other options) before I bent two of the tabs up and out of the way.  I finished the job by capping the charger cable end and attaching that to the bike with a zip tie.  Now, if I ever want to charge this battery, all I need to do is to reach into the bike and pull out this cable. Easy!  With the new battery installed, my bike fired up as if it had just been run.


Once the battery was installed, I set about putting the seats back in place and doing a light cleaning, to remove the accumulated dust.  While the bike could have used a good soapy wash, I was too eager to get out while I still had time.  I took a 30 mile ride on some local back roads, just to see how the bike was running.  Everything was great and, in my mind, I knew that I was 5 pounds lighter (thanks to the new battery) and therefore that much quicker.

If you want to lighten your load, improve your track times or just upgrade to the latest is battery technology, look into what Shorai has to offer.  There’s a battery for just about every motorcycle make and model and something for your other toys, as well.

I hope it’s a very long riding season this year.  We’ve waited so long since our last rides that I feel like I never want the riding season to end, ever again.  I’ll see you out on the road soon.

If you want more info on Shorai batteries, click the link in the first paragraph or use the QR code below.  If you have any questions about my experience, let me know in the comments field and I will get back to you. Thanks.  Have a safe riding season! 

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The best (made up) story I never got to tell...




I had this thing removed from my forehead this past week, frozen off with liquid nitrogen. It had started as a rough spot, barely larger than a pimple, above my right eyebrow, and before I knew it, I had this darkish discoloration that looked more like a scar than anything.  I let it go for a couple of years but, as I regularly see a dermatologist, was not overly concerned. Sun damage, she said.  So, I let it go.

End of 2013 rolls around and I go in for my annual derma check-up and we discuss the “spot”.   I tell the doc I’m tired of it and she tells me that she has to biopsy it first, to make certain that it’s not cancerous.  I agree, she jabs a needle into my forehead and numbs me up. Before I know it, she’s putting a stitch in my head above the eyebrow, and I go home with a Clifford the Big Red Dog Band-Aid protecting the new wound.  Good news, it’s NOT cancer.  But I walk around for a week with a stitch in my forehead telling everyone that my wife stuck me there with a fork (like in Hot Tub Time Machine).

Later, I have to go back to get this thing frozen off.  No Novocain this time, she just whips out her little spray gun, the size of a small butane torch and sprays the area a couple of times with the freeze ray.  It stings a little and then it burns a lot.  I go on my merry way, watching this in the vanity mirror of my car, getting redder and redder.  I read all the notes and take good care of this but still see it changing into a prominent scab above my manly (hairy) eyebrow .  I figure I need a story, should anybody ask.  So, I concoct this semi-believable tale, for just such an occasion…Yet nobody asks.  Here it is, for whatever reason (fun?).

Office Manager:  “What happened to your forehead?”
Me:  “My wife stabbed me in the head with a No. 2 pencil.”
Office Manager:  “WHAT???”

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve (2013) and we’re playing Pictionary with two other couples and we’re having a few drinks.  What the heck, it’s New Year’s Eve, right?  We’re all competitive but having fun and making fun of each other’s bad guesses and generally having a good time.  It’s getting louder and louder but everyone’s laughing and enjoying themselves.   It’s our turn and Stephanie is doing the drawing.  The clue is “melanoma”.  She starts to draw these squiggly lines.  She draws an arm, with a spot on it.  I call freckle.  She shakes her head no and keeps drawing.  She draws an irregularly shaped blob and I’m calling out anything.  Blob, poop, you name it.  The clock continues to wind down and finally she draws a lower case “c” and right next to it she draws a capital “C”, and points to the larger letter.  There’s three seconds left and she’s tapping the pad madly with the tip of the pencil expectantly, fervently.  I’m out of ideas at this point but, just as the timer buzzes a neuron somewhere deep in my brain fires and this idea rushes forth (FOR THE WIN) and I shout out “C--T!”     And that’s when she stabbed me.

Seriously, it would have made a good story for the office (you don’t know my office) but, alas, no one asked me.  The scab will be gone by next week and I’ll never have had the chance to make people gasp, laugh and wonder.  Except perhaps for you, dear reader.  Happy New Year.  Don’t forget the sun block.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Last ride of 2013

This year didn't turn out like I had planned, riding-wise.  At the start of the season, there's SO much hope and anticipation.  You tell yourself that you're going to be that guy who rides every day and to everything.  Like the stereotype of the newly-released convict, we tell ourselves that we're going to "party" with our bikes non-stop.  Reality is the bitch-slap most of us get.

I didn't ride to work every day, I had too many excuses.  Don't tell Andy Fine (of Aerostich), but I copped out.  It was too wet, or too hot or too something. As the season wore on, I told myself that the bike was there for my convenience.  And sometimes, it just wasn't convenient.

As the season wore on, and everyone's schedules got more hectic, it just became a whole lot easier to just ride with Ms. Rocket and/or to add Pinkie into the mix.  That's Ms. Rocket's Honda VT750 below, a reliable little bike.


Weekend riding is another thing. We had lots of great weekends with friends, our informal crew.  The last remnants of the Amherst (NH) Motorcycle Club are still about, and that's who I rode with yesterday.

Knowing that I ought to winterize the bike, I was concerned that both bikes had been sitting for about a month.  Yep, late in the season was when things got crazy for me and I didn't ride much, after an epic weekend to New Brunswick, Canada to ride with Faceyman, Luc and their buddies.  That was the highlight of my summer and a trip surely to be repeated.

When I bumped in Manny, he mentioned a ride on Saturday. Here was the perfect excuse to burn off that stale gas.  With temps forecast to be in the mid-50s, we had the perfect day for a last ride.  Arriving at the meeting place in the center of Amherst, we stood around for a bit.  Not many bikes out at that hour.  Ray, the ride organizer, was there on his H-D, and we waited for Manny, chatting while we waited.


We headed west, towards Vermont, riding the hilly, twisty back roads of New Hampshire.  Our indirect route to Brattleboro gave us lots of scenic back roads.  We passed ponds and lakes covered in skim ice.  The chilly morning finally gave in to a sunnier, but not overly warm day.  Still, we were properly dressed for the weather and only stopped once, for a cup of coffee and a bio break.  The first place that we stopped was a small convenience store/gas station which sold (among other things) gigantic Snickers bars and Reese's PB cups.  I was tempted, but didn't feel like dropping $14+ on a candy bar and the inevitable diabetic coma.


We eventually made it to Brattleboro and the Whetstone Station, a brew pub sitting above the CT River. Food was okay, the beer was better.  After a leisurely lunch, we played Beat the Clock, to get home before dark.  Of course, that didn't mean a direct route home, just a quicker pace.  In the shadows, cast by the large pines, the temps dropped quickly.

Both Ms. Rocket and I had the opportunity to put our braking systems to the test yesterday.  Mine, on our way to the meeting place, when an inattentive cager pulled halfway across an intersection, without checking for oncoming (me) traffic.  A little skid, some unfriendly gestures and words in my helmet, was all.

Similar for Ms. Rocket, as we crested a hill into the midst of a recent car wreck, the car still sideways across the road with the occupants trying to sort out what just happened to them.  She did a great job of stopping short of Ray's rear fender.

We made it home before dark, after making one last stop to top off the tanks. Today, I'll add fuel stabilizer attach the battery tenders.


So, there it is, the season is done.  All that's left is to clean the bikes and cover them.  I wrote less this year than I have in many years.  Maybe I rode less too.  I'd need to get out the service records to confirm that.  I had some great rides with great friends, though. And that's what this motorcycle thing is all about, anyhow.

Until next time, next year or until I start to fantasize about that cross-country ride (I'm reading Ghost Rider, by Rush drummer Neil Peart), I'll see you.  In the meanwhile, you can find me on Twitter or Facebook.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket






Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revisiting old haunts/April 2013

Winters are long in New Hampshire, no one who lives here would disagree. Most make the best of it, by keeping active with winter activities, like skiing, snowmobiling or ice fishing. For motorcyclists, winter is the dreaded season, interrupted only by the occasional motorcycle show.

If you're a native resident, you probably don't mind the natural selection of insects that are common to this area. When I first moved here, the locals referred to "black fly season".  Being from Connecticut, we have your average pests but I had not heard of these before.  Let me state right here that Black Fly Season signals the start of riding season, in New Hampshire.

From Wikipedia: 
A black fly (sometimes called a buffalo gnat, turkey gnat, or white socks) is any member of the family Simuliidae of the Culicomorpha infraorder. Most black flies gain nourishment by feeding on the blood of mammals, including humans, although the males feed mainly on nectar. They are usually small, black or gray, with short legs, and antennae. They are a common nuisance for humans, and many US states have programs to suppress the black fly population. They spread several diseases, including river blindness in Africa (Simulium damnosum and S. neavei) and the Americas (S. callidum and S. metallicum in Central America, S. ochraceum in Central and South America).

These suckers make an attempt to fly into your eyeballs, nostrils and ears, as well as alighting in your hair, biting and swarming.  Doing a "preflight check" of your bike becomes a cardio exercise if again, you're not "from around heah".



Three of us set out for New London, NH for lunch at Peter Christian's Tavern.  It's on the outskirts of the Lake Sunapee region and has been there since the 1970's.  My wife astride her trusty Honda VT750, Jerry aboard his Ultra and me on Ol' Blue.  We found the back roads to New London largely empty.  Lots of bikes were out but they all seemed to be headed in the opposite direction.  We traveled about 55 miles, or so. 

Our waitress Kate was diminutive in stature but a giant when it came to good service.  The decor was dark and woody and it looks like it's not seen any improvements since it was built.  My wife worked in the area at a summer camp, while in high school and she says it looks virtually the same.


The food was good, the service was fine and after a hot cup of coffee, we opted for the high speed highway route home.  All told, we probably ran about 120 miles or so, a good warm-up ride for the season.

The bugs only last a couple of weeks and then they're gone for another whole year.  Hotter and drier weather on the way and it looks like I can ride to work all week long.

Stay safe this season.  Watch out for the distracted drivers.  Today's was a gal fishing a cigarette out of the pack while moving along at about 45 mph.  I got her attention and made her back off.  Watch out for the idiots.

Another season is officially here.  I'll see you on the street and I'll probably throw you

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket