I was looking at the console on my Kawi a lot on this ride.
Forty miles out of town and there’s some green fluid dripping. Oh, no! There’s no mistaking coolant, and on a day with temperatures in the 90s this could be seriously bad.
I had been up to Loveland to demo ride some BMW motorcycles, one of which, the R1200RT, I loved. Now headed home to Denver I stopped in Berthoud to visit their museum and see the current exhibit on Floyd Clymer, the renowned racer and publisher of motorcycle repair manuals. Floyd was a local boy who made good. Ready to leave, I was getting back on the bike, my ’99 Kawasaki Concours.
I’d caught just a whiff of the coolant earlier but didn’t think anything of it. I figured somebody else must be leaking fluid; it never occurred to me that it might be coming from my bike. Now that steady drip, drip, drip had my total attention.
What to do? Did I dare to ride it? And how could my Kawi be giving me trouble? It’s the bike that had always been 100 percent reliable, unlike my 38-year-old Honda that knows it’s 38 years old.
I decided to chance it, with my eye glued to the temperature gauge and ready to shut it off immediately if the needle started to enter the danger zone. With luck, running the bike at highway speeds would keep everything cool and the drip would abate. But if I got into the heart of Denver and hit a traffic jam there could be trouble. I’d have to play it by ear.
I pulled away and headed down the road and everything was fine. The needle stayed well on the cool side. I stayed in the right-hand lane, took it easy, and checked the gauge about every 30 seconds all the way to Denver. Coming through downtown on the highway the traffic flowed smoothly and things looked good.
Santa Fe Drive would be the next hazard. It’s a major road with only a few stoplights, but could I get through them all on the green? And what would that needle do if I did get stopped?
One by one I made it until I reached the last light I had to go through. It turned red. It seemed like it was red for a long time. And the needle started climbing. And climbing. “Oh, please let me just get to Joel’s shop. I’m only two miles away now.”
Finally the green and I was moving again. The needle didn’t drop but at least it stopped climbing. Joel was out front as I pulled in, turned the key, and got off.
“Joel, I’ve got a problem!”
No need for a big explanation; the drip told the whole story. A problem with an O-ring, Joel told me. He’d have it fixed that day, and once again I got lucky. In four days I was headed for Sturgis on that bike. If that O-ring had failed four days later . . .
Biker Quote for Today
Live life to the fullest. Forget drama, depression, and all that kinda crap. Be a happy person now!! Go for a ride!!!
You climb through the Big Thompson Canyon heading west out of Loveland with the river crashing down through this jagged granite gorge. Worthy of the ride all by itself, the canyon is just the appetizer as U.S. 34 continues through Estes Park and then the entrée is served: Trail Ridge Road.
Crossing Rocky Mountain National Park over the Continental Divide, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous motorway in the United States and a must-do ride for motorcyclists coming to Colorado. Reaching 12,183 feet at its highest point, the road stretches for more than 8 miles above 11,000 feet, well above timberline and offering spectacular views and its own brand of weather.
Warning to bikers: Do not dress for summer on this ride, even if it is blazing hot down lower where you’re starting out from.
You enter the park and loop around West Horseshoe Park, passing throngs of tourists with cameras blazing away at a flock of bighorn sheep. The sky is blue above but the dark, threatening clouds you’ve been eyeing all morning sit ominously to the south. Keep going.
But you can’t ride this road without stopping, so you pull over at several of the many turn-outs, especially Rainbow Curve, where the entire valley and the winding road you’ve just ridden are laid out below you. This is why you brought the camera.
The climb continues and then you’re above timberline, and two things demand your attention. First, the road is torn up for resurfacing, leaving loose sand and gravel in many places and just generally lousy road everywhere else. Second, the wind has picked up, that threatening cloud is now not far away at all, and the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees. Time for extra layers and gloves.
You loop along above timberline, through broad sweepers, up and down tundra-covered hills, and through a narrow notch cut through rock on one particularly steep curve. You’ve now passed the highest point in the road, and coming around a curve you descend a bit to the Alpine Visitor Center. Time to go inside, get warm, and have a bit of lunch.
Sitting in the restaurant at a table by a window you peer down the steep drop below you, watching a marmot scamper across a snowfield that never melts. Clouds the color of a nasty bruise now hang directly overhead and it would be raining except that it’s too cold to rain. Instead, tiny frozen raindrops tinkle against the window and ricochet off the rocks below you.
Forty-five minutes later the valley below you is completely obscured by clouds but overhead the sun is trying to poke through. You head back to the bike and pull out the rain gear because the road is now wet and there are still clouds to be wary of.
Down you ride, around Medicine Bow Curve, and then you parallel a canyon far below for several miles. Just over Milner Pass there is a crowd pulled over and there are elk with huge racks grazing and sparring. Time again for the camera.
From there the route is down, down, and down, and you exit the park. The town of Grand Lake glides by as do Shadow Mountain Lake and Lake Granby. U.S. 34 ends just west of the town of Granby, where it meets U.S. 40. From here its either west to Steamboat Springs or east over Berthoud Pass and back to Denver. East it is.
Biker Quote for Today
I ride because when everything in life is wrong it’s the only thing that’s right.
I just don’t like not having at least a windshield.
I was pretty ignorant when I bought my first motorcycle but there was one things I was sure of: I didn’t like getting pounded by the wind. So one of the very first things I did was go to a parts shop for wind protection. I asked to see fairings and mentioned that I really wanted a windshield; the sales guy rolled his eyes and asked which it was, did I want a fairing or a windshield?
Truth is, I didn’t know the difference. I thought they were pretty much two words for the same thing. Wrong. A windshield is essentially a curved piece of clear plastic that blocks the wind. A fairing often covers up much of the front end of the bike, has compartments for storage and installation of electronics, and provides much greater protection from both wind, rain, and flying objects.
I bought a windshield that day, for my Honda CB750 Custom. Years later, when I bought my Kawasaki Concours, it came with a full fairing as part of the package. I still don’t like getting pounded by the wind.
A lot of guys think very differently than I do. For many, a windshield or fairing ruins the look of the machine and that’s what they care about, at least more than they care about the buffeting. Others actually seem to like the wind blast, considering it part of what motorcycling is all about. I just don’t get it.
For one thing, it’s work to ride fast when the wind is beating on you trying to throw you back off the bike. Additionally, for example, right after I bought the Kawi I went riding with the guys and of course they wanted to test ride it. So John and I swapped bikes and I rode his naked Honda Shadow. Not only was the wind uncomfortable for me, without a fairing or windshield it also blasted my eyes behind the glasses I wore for eye protection, making them water profusely. By the time we stopped to trade back I could barely see and the sides of my face were streaked with the tears that had left trails back toward my ears. Give me my own bike back!
I do understand that on some bikes with lower seat heights you actually sit down more into the bike than on others, and the front end and aerodynamics reduce the wind blast. I experienced that when I test rode some Triumph motorcycles. Even without wind protection they were comfortable until I got up to 70 mph, and at 70 the blast was not as bad as on other bikes at much lesser speeds. But if I ever buy a Bonneville I’m still going to put a windshield on it.
In recent years, manufacturers have made big strides in making windshields more attractive, as well as easy to install and remove. Harley-Davidson, in particular, offers attractive brackets that allow you to do either in about two seconds. That makes it easy for the guys who want to cruise around town without the windshield, but do want to have one when they travel.
And that would include people like my buddy, Bill. He decided to go with that type of system when he bought one of his Harleys, but after giving it a try he decided he still liked traveling without it. Later, however, with a newer, different Harley, he has finally concluded the fairing really is kind of nice. I still just don’t get it why he preferred no fairing for so many years. I never will.
Biker Quote for Today
Life is not waiting for the storm to pass . . . learn to dance under the rain.
So this is probably the best helmet I’ve ever had. It’s certainly the most expensive. But hey, you know the saying: If your head is only worth $5 then buy a $5 helmet. Otherwise . . .
Not the best picture I could have come up but this is my new helmet.
The helmet is a Shoei RF-SR. And I’m happy to say I already need to clean the visor.
So how do I like it? Well, it’s kind of mixed. It is certainly the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever had. My first was a Bieffe and it pressed on my forehead and gave me a headache after wearing it awhile. Since then I’ve had several others and while all have been serviceable, the two I’ve been using the last few years are by far the noisiest I’ve ever owned.
This was one of the selling points for the RF-SR. Eddy McCarty at Fay Myers says Shoei makes the quietest helmets on the market.
So maybe I was expecting too much. Yes this new helmet is much quieter than the old ones but it was not as quiet as I hoped. Of course, what I really need to do is go for a ride with one of the old ones on and see if it now seems much noisier than the Shoei.
Eddy also talked about the ventilation and that is another thing I may have had too high expectations. The RF-SR has vents at your forehead and matching vents in the rear. Riding on a hot day I could feel that flow of air across the top of my head and it was welcome. But the rest of my head was very hot. I suspect that is in part a result of having a better helmet than I’ve had before: With better padding and better fit there is simply not as much room for air to move around inside the helmet. When you have padding pressed right up against your cheeks there is not going to be air flow past your cheeks.
The one thing that is terrific about this helmet, however, is the built-in pockets for communicator speakers. In all previous helmets I have had to do my best to locate the speakers in any recession existing, and usually ended up with them rubbing against my ears. I think all new helmets now come with spaces designed to take speakers and keep them away from your ear and therefore comfortable.
Removing and installing the visor is a two-second job with the RF-SR. Several of my old helmets–most notably my Bieffe and HJC–made these operations so difficult as to be almost impossible. I busted the whole mechanism on one of them one time just trying to get the visor attached.
So there are a couple things I’m not as thrilled with as I had hoped but I do like the idea of having an actual high quality helmet finally. If in a few weeks I find I’m not so thrilled–or find myself much more pleased–I’ll make note of that here.
Biker Quote for Today
She’s got a wide seat, a couple of saddlebags, smokes like a fiend, and doesn’t mind being call a hog. What a hottie!
Living in Denver I am well acquainted with just about any day ride you can make from here. But I was up in Eagle this week visiting my friends Willie and Jungle and they decided to take a day ride. Oh, that puts a very different perspective on that idea.
I had ridden up there the day before and just took I-70 so as to get there. I was disinclined take the slab home, however, so it fit my plans perfectly to accompany them on their ride to the point where I would peel off for home.
Leaving Eagle we stuck to old U.S. 6, paralleling I-70. Who wants to ride on the interstate when you don’t have to? U.S. 6 does get very urban, however, when you get to Edwards (we were headed east) so we did jump on the big road there, just for two exits, to the Minturn exit.
Then it was U.S. 24 over Tennessee Pass to Leadville, and down over to Buena Vista. Certainly I’ve been on that road more than once before but it is not a common route for me so it was very nice to be out there.
As we reached Buena Vista and turned east on U.S. 285 it occurred to me that for Willie and Jungle, this stretch must be a piece they don’t get to often. I mean, they never go to Denver and that’s where this road heads. For me on the other hand, this is an extremely common stretch of road that I traverse probably at least a dozen times every year.
So we headed east and stopped in Fairplay for lunch. They could have gone north there over Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge but these people are serious riders and that would not have been a long enough ride. So we continued east from Fairplay over Kenosha Pass and down to Grant. This was where we parted. I continued east to Denver and they turned north over Guanella Pass to Georgetown and then headed west to Eagle on I-70, with a side-trip planned to go over Loveland Pass, rather than through the tunnel.
Of course, living in Eagle, Willie and Jungle have numerous day trip options. I have ridden with them other times when we went to Leadville, down to Twin Lakes, over Independence Pass to Aspen and Glenwood Springs and then back to Eagle. Also over to Wolcott and up to Toponas and over Gore Pass, then Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs, and back to Eagle.
Whereas, living in Denver, as I do, the first part of nearly every trip is just getting across town to get into the mountains, and then coming home I’m largely restricted to the two major routes, I-70 and U.S. 285. But I suspect wherever you live it gets to be the same old, same old, riding the same routes again and again. Anybody want to swap houses for a year so we can both explore new roads?
Biker Quote for Today
Some important things in life just require a deep breath and a long ride with friends.
Electric Zero motorcycles on display at Fay Myers.
Judy and I have spent a good bit of money on motorcycle gear in the last year or two and pretty much all of it has been at Fay Myers. The truth of the matter is, we’re buying from Eddy.
Eddy McCarty works in gear sales at Fay Myers. We don’t shop at Fay Myers because we love that store or think they have the best selection and/or best prices. We shop there because Eddy is the best, most knowledgeable sales guy we’ve ever met. Not only does he have an encyclopedic knowledge of the products, he is personable and accommodating and also entertaining.
We got to know Eddy when we bought our newest communicator set, Sena SMH10s. As I noted in a blog post then, “It was my good fortune to hook up with Eddy at Fay Myers because Eddy spent a lot of time with me and was exceedingly knowledgeable.”
Later we went back to get a new helmet for Judy. Once again it was Eddy who waited on us and once again he impressed the heck out of us with his expertise. He helped Judy pick just the right helmet and then he did the installation of her communicator in the new helmet, a task that took him at least 20 minutes and probably would have taken me an hour.
Now, just last week, we were back again. We knew we wanted Eddy so we stood for 5-10 minutes just waiting for him to wrap up what he was doing. And he sold me a new helmet, and once again he did the installation of the communicator. And while all this was going on he entertained us with discussions of topics as varied as deodorants and a tongue-in-cheek petition to ban water (ask him about that!).
We don’t typically grow attached to the sales people we deal with, but Eddy is absolutely an exception. Next time you’re at Fay Myers try to get him to help you out. Eddy is special.
If we feel vulnerable on our motorcycles, how vulnerable must scooter riders feel?
I have no idea what led up to this but I caught the very end of an ugly encounter on Wednesday.
Following my surgery in March I am now going to rehab sessions three times a week over at Porter Hospital. I was heading north on Downing, getting near Porter, when my eye was caught by the unusual motion of a scooter heading south.
The guy on the scooter was pretty interesting all by himself. He was wearing a helmet and for a jacket he wore a Mexican-style serape. Kind of odd looking. But that was not the point.
The point was that there was a pick-up right behind him, very close, and as I watched the scooter came to a very abrupt, very unstable stop, and as the pick-up blasted on past him the obviously angry rider threw up his arms in a middle finger salute. Holy crap, what just happened?
Of course the supposition is that the pick-up was crowding the scooter. Maybe he was not going fast enough for the pick-up driver’s sense of urgency or whatever. Whatever the case I’d say it’s pretty certain the guy in the pick-up was being a total jerk.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Heck, one time I watched as a guy in a pick-up deliberately pulled up slowly behind a motorcycle and tapped bumpers. The rider pulled forward and the guy pulled forward again and tapped his bumper again. Deliberately. Just being a jerk. Why do people do things like that?
I’ll never know the details of this vignette over by Porter but I will remember for a long time what I saw.
Biker Quote for Today
The only way to see the sunset is to ride into it.
For starters, once you get up to the buffalo overlook exit from I-70, it appears U.S. 40 merges at least for a few miles with I-70. But where does the road go on either side at that exit? I figured I’d find out.
First I went to the south side. The road to the left seemed to go into a housing development; I turned right. Right away there was a sign announcing Genesee Mountain Park, one of Denver’s mountain parks. Have I ever been here before? And does this road go anywhere beyond the park? Time to find out.
Things started looking familiar very quickly and I concluded I had indeed been here before, but it was either 40 years ago or perhaps only 30 years ago. So it was like a first visit.
The road climbed its way up Genesee Mountain to picnic areas, with signs for a trail, but then came to an end. Second question answered. Gonna have to backtrack. Heading back down I was surprised to look off to my right, to the east, and there was the Sleeper house. In case you’re unacquainted, this is a futuristic-looking house that was featured in an old Woody Allen movie, titled not surprisingly, “Sleeper.” But there it was, down below me, over on the crest of the next ridge. I’ve only ever seen it from I-70.
So back down to I-70 and across. Where does the road go over there? Does it go through to somewhere? I only remembered that I had been that way once before, also around 40 years ago, when my friends Jerry and Diane got married up there.
It didn’t take long. In about a tenth of a mile the road curved around to the left and there was the church they were married in. And beyond that there was a dirt road going to the left, a road into another housing development to the right, and a gate into a private property straight ahead. No choice but the interstate.
I passed the first exit on the slab, the Chief Hosa exit, and got off at the Evergreen Parkway exit. Crossing the interstate, I took the first right and was back on old U.S. 40. Now the highway curved far away from I-70 through some really pretty country. And I encountered a surprising number of bikers who also know of this road. It does come back to I-70 going up the east side of Floyd Hill and then loops down to meet U.S. 6 at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon. I turned left, with 6 feeding onto I-70 and took that up to Idaho Springs.
At Idaho Springs I turned up Chicago Creek on CO 103 to go over Squaw Pass. It wasn’t long, however, when I smelled smoke and then noticed that the air around me was filled with a blue haze. Clearly there was a forest fire somewhere. Was it ahead of me on my route? I continued, assuming that they would have the road blocked if that were the case. As the road climbed toward Echo Lake I got a more expansive view and could see there was smoke filling the air for miles around. I learned later it was a fire over by Silverthorne.
Now the riding got really nice, and considering the hot weather down on the plains, it was very nice to find myself chilly.
Eventually, of course, I ended up down at Evergreen Parkway, took that to Evergreen and down to Morrison and back home. About 130 miles and a really nice down out on the bike. I love when that happens.
What if that blue Honda suddenly–and quickly–moved into the lane to its left? That’s how it was for me except there weren’t all these other bikes ahead of me.
On Thursday last week I took my first ride after more than two months, thanks to bypass surgery, and it was not without its very own moment of excitement.
My timing (bad timing) was such that I was homeward bound up I-25 in the middle of rush hour. There was a bit of stop and go but mostly we were moving pretty well. Of course, you know how it is in that kind of traffic. If you want to change lanes you need to act quickly when the opportunity presents itself. And a woman in a Nissan Altima did just that.
I’m sure she looked in her mirror and saw an opening and jumped on it. What I’m also sure she did not do was to do a head check–turn her head to see for sure that the lane was clear and nobody was in her blind spot. And guess who, at that particular instant, was indeed in her blind spot.
So I’m cruising along trying to maintain a distance between myself and the car in front of me so I’m not constantly braking and accelerating and with no warning whatsoever this car next to me starts moving decisively into my lane . . . which is where I am. We were probably going between 30 and 40 miles an hour and I had to brake hard to let her get ahead of me. I braked hard enough that I nearly stalled the bike and with no speed the bike started to lay down, such that I put my left foot out to hold us up. Plus, this meant I was veering into the adjacent lane to my left.
I got it all stabilized and got moving again and I could hear the guy behind me blowing his horn long and loud. I knew he wasn’t blowing it at me, but at the woman who cut in on me. After a moment I was able to move into the right lane and I sped up to pull alongside her. I shook my fist at her and blew my horn, and meanwhile the guy who had been behind me–a guy in a CDOT tow truck–was right behind her blowing his horn. She just stared straight ahead: I see nothing. I hear nothing.
Then a minute later the tow truck guy pulled up alongside me and rolled his window down, yelling to ask if I was OK. I gave him a thumbs up and a nod of thanks.
So yeah, first ride after being off the bike awhile and already some excitement. I only wonder if I would have been more alert to the intention of this driver if I hadn’t been away from riding for so long. I’ll never know, but that’s all the more reason I want to get in a good 1,000 miles this month before we take off on this Canada trip. I always want to be at the top of my game when I’ve got Judy on behind me.