Motorcycle

zoom cbr600rr 01 Clara is back to life! After standing in the back of the garage in San Diego for years, blocked by flooring, and then in a storage unit in Denver for months, she finally is legit in Colorado and the weather is cooperating. All hail the Girl!

One of the first things I did was familiarize myself with motorcycle riding rules in the state. I knew that California is fond of bikes and the lobby there (formerly: here) has worked hard on making motorcycle riding safer and more expedient, resulting in changes to the rules of the road. Motorcycle riders can ride on any HOV lane (unless expressly forbidden), can ride in staggered formation (one rider to the right, one rider to the left on a single lane), and most importantly, can share lanes with other vehicles.

Lane splitting is one of those things that people have strong feelings about. Car drivers generally hate the motorcycles that come out of nowhere to their left and right, while motorcycle riders know the most dangerous thing to them (us) is drivers not noticing us (well, short of alcohol, a no-no if there ever has been one on a bike). Driving between cars, I can say from experience, is much safer than driving next to a car, because the latter case opens up the possibility of the car changing lanes into you. Also much safer: when you move between standing cars at a traffic light. You are safe between cars, but being the last vehicle in line is hugely unsafe, because drivers notice the car ahead of you before they notice you.

In any case, I went to the web site and found there are only three sections, each with minimal information. Helmets are not mandatory for anyone over 18, but eye protection is required. (Frankly, anyone who rides a motorcycle without glasses, goggles, or a visor should be sent for urgent mental health checks.) Lane sharing is illegal, full stop (grumble). Bike passengers have to have foot rests available and have to use them (something tells me someone's feet got caught in a wheel at 80 mph...). And finally, no towing of bikes while riding, in a vicious attempt to single-handedly destroy the Funny or Die Darwin Awards Category.

I am a little unhappy about the lane sharing agreement. At the very least, I would have wanted to be able to ride between cars to the front of a line, considering that my reaction time on the bike is a lot faster than a typical car. But I can live with all of it. What struck me as very odd and very wrong was this quote:

In 2006, 65% of fatally injured motorcycle riders were not wearing a helmet in states without all-rider helmet laws, compared with only 13% in states with all-rider helmet laws. (NHTSA, 2007)

Read more: Lies with Numbers

Every motorcyclist knows them: those traffic lights that remain red until a car or truck triggers a green phase. They have sensors embedded in the road surface - you can usually see them as circles or octagons covered in tar. The idea is that it's pointless to turn a light green unless there is actually someone on the road to take advantage of that green.

Well, my sense is that those sensors are relatively old - I'd say from the 80s and maybe 90s. I guess at the time, they seemed a good idea. Nowadays, though, two-wheeled traffic is increasing and these sensors cause real problems.

Cyclists do mostly fine, since they can step off and push the pedestrian buttons on the side of the road. That solution is not perfect, of course, since it requires one to get off the road onto the sidewalk. Also, this doesn't work where pedestrian traffic doesn't go the way of road traffic. For instance, if the cyclist wants to turn left, instead of waiting for a green on the left arrow, (s)he may have to cross the intersection in two tries.

For motorcyclists, the problem is much bigger. First, we cannot simply leave the bike on the road while we push a button, nor can we ride the bike onto the sidewalk. Second, walking the bike across the pedestrian walkway is just not feasible.

Read more: Forever Red: What to do at stop lights that don't change

It used to be the case that I could ride for about 230 miles before I started thinking about buying new gas, but ever since I returned from Hawai`i, it's been only just about half as much and I am wondering what caused the change.

At first, I thought it might be tire pressure (although even on bare rims I should be able to do more than that). I went to the gas station down the hill, who had air but no pressure gauge, and added a little. It made a huge difference: the bike got all bouncy, like a racing cycle fresh from the shop! 

Read more: Mileage

I had parked the bike at a motorcycle parking spot to go to the barber. James buzzed my hair shorter than usual, making me look about 15 years younger (I was actually carded for the first time in many years!). I get back to the bike, and the bag is flying up straight. I circle the bike trying to find out what happened, and a guy comes out of the store behind it. He tells me the bike flipped over, and that he and someone else lifted it back up.

At that point, I already assumed there had to be something wrong. Motorcycles usually don't fall off like that, and it takes quite a push to throw a 600 over. I circle once more, and just when I am about to decide everything is fine, there it is: the footrest broke in two. Fortunately the outer part is small, but it's really annoying that someone would cause that kind of problem and then simply run away.

Now I know why my insurance treated me to a $1000 estimate for yearly comprehensive! 

When I jumped on the motorbike yesterday morning, I realized I had left the key in the ignition, with the lights turned on. As I twisted the key back and forth I had to witness how my once roaring bike had gone numb on me. There was no way to coax the purring engine into doing anything other than being a cold block of cast iron.

At least, I knew what it was... I left in my car to help Elizabeth move, returning some time in the late afternoon. Then it was time to get the starter cable and the instruction manual out. I would repair the battery myself. (Btw: did anyone notice how weird it sounds when someone files battery charges???)

Read more: Running Out of Juice...

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