Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day, 2010

I had the privilege again this year to be able to pay my respects to the veterans who lay at rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

I arrived an hour or so after dawn and already folks were there visiting their family and remembering them as they lived though they are gone.  Old Glory flew along the roadways within the cemetery and every grave had its own small version of the colors.   I rode around until I located section number 44 where my closest thing to a personal connection to one of the cemetery's honored dead is buried.

His name was Brian J. Joiner, Staff Sergeant, United States Air Force and son of a friend of mine from my days as a contractor at United Airlines.  Brian left us while serving this great country of ours, last year on October 21.  I was privileged then to attend his military funeral and this year I found his permanent gravestone where during my last visit there had been but a temporary paper marker.  LINK.

Rest in Peace, thanks for your service

Flanked by Army men, Brian is in good company

I had some difficulty finding Brian's gravestone I am sad to report.  My last memory of his grave site had been with his grave being the outer row of grave markers for Section 44.  What saddens me is that Brian's grave row is now six rows back from the outer edge of Section 44, as other servicemen and women have given their all for our country and now lay at rest with Brian.  Section 44 appears to be filled up.

Section 44 at Fort Logan National Cemetery

I paid my respects, quietly said my thanks to Brian and his fellow residents of this hallowed ground.  Natasha and I then quietly rode out of the cemetery along Omaha Drive to Kenyon Street. 

I hope you had a good Memorial Day and hope you remembered why this day exists and the price that's been paid and continues to be paid.  My thanks to all Veterans past and present for your service.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Furniture shopping on the Eastern Plains

Today the boys and I were "encouraged", after subtle hints and nudges failed to convey the message into my tiny brain, to go off and leave my loving wife with a quiet house for her to enjoy.

So, off I went with Patrick in the sidecar.  Miles, my younger son, had previously left on his push scooter thing to go visit with a neighborhood pal of his his.

Patrick and I rode over to the nearby mall to one of the mega book stores and whiled away a bit of time; him perusing books in the kid section and me looking for good titles to check for at the local public library.  Yeah, I'm cheap.  I used to buy books but would never read most of them again, so I figured, what's the point right?

It was close to 1:30 PM when Patrick and I wandered on over where Miles was hanging out.  I gave his friend Paul and brother Andrew a short ride in the sidecar, just around the block since neither boy had ever ridden in a sidecar rig.

The boys' friends then had to go prepare for their trip to Cheyenne, WY this afternoon to go see their uncle for Memorial Day.  I bundled the boys together into the sidecar and we went home to fetch Miles' ski helmet which is more robust than the bicycle helmet he'd been wearing to play with the scooter.  (The ski helmet is good for up to impacts of 60 mph).

This is how I fit both boys in the sidecar, one rides in front of the seat on a cushion located on the floor

I stayed on secondary roads and such and eventually we arrived at the undeveloped plains area near the Blackstone Country Club Community.  The boys gave me this weird look as they saw me leaving the pavement but they were soon enjoying the bumps and dips on the dirt trails.

They don't appear to be having fun, do they?

So the other day, my loving wife had mentioned that she wanted to replace the old sofa in the basement (that she picked out by the way) with a new one.  The boys and I spotted this old couch someone had dumped out there in the plains (dang swine) and it made for a good picture and the title of this posting.

A new couch their mom

We continued riding the dirt trails, dipping in and out of the low spots, the boys enjoying themselves.  Miles more than Patrick as he preferred to read the book I'd bought for him while we rode along.  Soon we were as close as we could get to the Aurora Reservoir and I took this shot of the two maniacs:

Sidecar Monkeys

Continuing on, we explored more dirt trails that would eventually lead us back towards the paved roads.  On the way though, we found another dump pile, this time the remains of a bedroom set and what looked like a perfectly good door and door frame!

Miles' new bedroom set and bedroom door

 Here's Miles goofing around with a couple of "candy canes" he'd spotted

We ran out of trails to explore though and we went off searching for a snack.  We found burgers and fries at a local "Good Times" burger joint.  A fitting name as we'd just had a pretty good time just rolling about the prairies on Natasha.

Beautiful weather here in Colorado as you can see, hope you got some riding in!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Ride to Pikes Peak but no ride to the top

Pikes Peak was opened all the way to the top yesterday, Friday May 28.  I thought to myself, cool, time to take Natasha up to the top on Saturday, today.

After a few chores around the house, I left just before 9:00 AM and made my way south by way of CO83 which takes one through the towns of Parker and Franktown and then it's just two lane highway all the way to Colorado Springs.  It was very windy, I was fighting a headwind all the way down and at times was barely able to make 45 mph as one steadily gains altitude on the way to the Springs.

 Pikes Peak from the scenic overlook alongside I-25, just south of the Air Force Academy
Natasha's ignition module overheated apparently, had to spray it down with water after removing the plastic cover, then it started right up.

I got to the Springs and using the Interquest Highway, made my way to I-25 which I got on for a few miles of slab riding to the Cimarron Street exit which is also the exit for US24.  That's when things started falling apart.  There was a line to get off the slab and it was slow stop and go traffic for  quite a while until I finally cleared the boundaries of Colorado Springs and passed by Manitou Springs.

Some canyon highway riding saw me go past the Cave of the Winds tourist attraction and finally I turned off onto the road that leads one to the Pikes Peak Highway.  I was approaching the tollbooth station and had my hopes crushed when I saw the handwritten sign by the window:  "Pikes Peak Road is open 15 of the 19 roads to the top, high wind warning!"

Well, I wasn't going to pay the $12 to only go up 15 of the 19 miles up to the top of Pikes Peak so I u-turned and spent about an hour exploring the hill roads of Manitou Springs unsuccessfully trying to find roads leading up into the hills surrounding Manitou Springs.

I did swing by the Cave of the Winds attraction to get the shot below, didn't do the tour.

Near the Cave of the Winds Tourist Attraction

I stopped to call the Pikes Peak Ranger station again and now the recording said that they'd closed the road at the 13 mile point!  Apparently the winds had gotten worse.  Natasha chose that moment to refuse to start up again, more spraying of water on the really hot ignition module and she started once again.  These ignition modules have known issues with heat and the day sure was a warm one.  I guess Urals prefer cold weather!

At this point it was almost 1:00PM and I still had a chore to do at home so I headed back.  I basically reversed my route outbound.  Oh, and the headwind I'd battled all the way south, it apparently reversed itself and I battled it all the way north as well!  Still, it kept me in my riding gear nice and cool in spite of the warm weather and sunny conditions.

Made it home with no further incident, not sure what to do about Natasha's propensity to not start when it's hot outside, guess I'll ride without the plastic cover and just spray the module down if it overheats!  Annoying.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vintage Iron at Bob Ohman's Old Bike Ride #8

This past Sunday was a gloriously sunny and warm day in Golden, Colorado where the Norton Colorado Motorcycle Club sponsored the Eight iteration of Bob Ohman's "Old Bike Ride"

The DAU (Denver Area Uralisti), almost in its entirety, met up near the Golden Hotel where the Old Bike Ride would start from and we cruised into the street area next to the hotel in a stately formation of four Urals.  Our motorcycles were not "old enough" per se to ride the ride but we figured since the design really has been unchanged since the late 30's, it was OK to show up to spectate.  I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed seeing the motorcycles in person:

The DAU Fleet is in.....

A lovely example of a Norton


BMW R90 and a Moto Guzzi

Harley Davidson Flat Head, from both sides
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

Another shot of the red hot Moto Guzzi

British Springfield Arms (BSA) and a Norton

A very nice condition BMW /2
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

My first look at a Chiang-Jang Sidecar Rig, this one with a BMW R90 Engine
These rigs are made in China from plans bought from the Russians, who then moved onto making the 
present day Ural design sidecar rigs.

A magnificent example of a Vincent Black Shadow

A BMW /2 Sidecar Rig, with fitting passenger
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

Note the dog's "doggles"

A closer look at the BMW /2 Tug, check out the turn indicator on the grip!

The man with the plan: Bob Ohman, here giving the Rider's Briefing just before the ride started
Awesome job organizing the ride Bob!  Thank you.

Most of the DAU in attendance waited till all the vintage riders had roared out of the vicinity of the Golden Hotel and we rode over to the twin rock towers which mark the entrance to Lookout Moutain Road off of 19th street in Golden.

Since the plan by the riders was to ride to the top of Lookout Mountain and rally at the Buffalo Bill Museum, we knew they would return back the way they went up and we could capture the following pictures.  Sorry about the quality, I apparently have to practice shooting fast moving objects more!

Here's DAU member Steffen and his wife Jody onboard their Ural Retro, coming off of Lookout Mountain

The red hot Moto Guzzi winging its way down the mountain

Another sidecar rig coming off the mountain, the tug appears to be a BMW K100, not sure who makes the sidecar

The iconic R90S

The Chiang-Jang proving it can hang with the other motorcycles

One of the two beautiful Vincents that made a showing for this OBR
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

Here goes the BMW Sidecar Rig, dog happily gazing at us as they zipped by

The classic looking BSA motorcycle and rider zooms by

A vintage Honda makes its run up the mountain

Following closely behind the Honda, was this pretty yellow Ducati
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

The DAU as we prepared to leave for lunch

We're always looking for new members!
photo courtesy of John aka SPAT

Here's last years report and pictures of the Old Bike Ride #7

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zero Motorcycles: my first experience with electric motorcycles

This past Saturday, I had a chance to ride one of Zero Motorcycle's electric motorcycles.  They were giving folks who showed up near Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium short demo rides in order to help promote their product.

I showed up and chatted with Ken Bingenheimer, the National Motorcycle Examiner, who was also there to do a writeup of the electric motorcycles.

Here's Ken on the Zero S Model

I spent some time talking to the folks representing Zero Motorcycles, trying to get a feel for these quiet machines as I at the same time watched demo riders weave through cone obstacles and generally ride up and down the courses laid out for them in the M parking lot for Mile High Stadium.

Here are the S (Street) and DS (Dual Sport) models next to each other.

I chose to rode the DS model as its similar outline to the BMW GS models was close.  That however was basically where the similarities ended.  These things are QUIET.  When my turn came to get on the DS demo bike, the rep was explaining the controls to me.  As he finished, I had to ask him: "Is this thing on?"

The motorcycle has no vibrations when on, your only indication is the computer display being on as far as I can tell.  It's only got one gear, no clutch lever to actuate and no engine braking.  Just twist the throttle and off you go!  I'll admit I found myself reaching for the shift lever with my left foot (there wasn't one) and having to just roll off the throttle and use brakes instead of relying on engine braking for some cornering maneuvers.

Did I mention these things are quiet?  I swear I could hear my keys clinking around and hitting some spare coins I had in one of my riding pants' outside pockets!  Seriously though, all you hear is the muted murmur of the tires rolling on the pavement and the wind in your helmet.  It was an unnaturally quiet ride as I worked my way through the cone courses with no problems.

The bikes are so light (their MX dirt bike is about 110 lbs without the battery, about 160 lbs with it) that their handling in tight spaces and turns was very easy.  The DS model I rode was pretty tall, I had to be on the balls of my feet to balance it when stopped; but I am told you can get lower seats for them.

Two Zero S models,  with a MV Augusta motorcycle in the background, belonging to one of the folks who came for a demo ride.

I believe this is their lightest and smallest model, the Zero X, for dirt riding only.

Everything has been done by Zero Motorcycles, out of Santa Cruz, CA, to lessen the weight on their motorcycles.  I asked them the price of their hi-tech, lithium-ion, proprietary technology batteries and they run at around $3000 each!  The reported range for these vehicles targeted at commuters is about 50 Miles for their street and dualsport models and about 40 miles for their off-road models.  You ride to work, plug it in to top off the battery, and you then ride home with a battery that fully charges in about four hours.

The Zero DS, the model I test rode

Jay, a co-worker friend of mine had told me about these demo rides being given by Zero Motorcycles.  He showed up around 1:00 PM ready for his demo rides.  He seemed to have quite a blast "silently roaring" up and down the parking lot range on the MX model; this after he'd tried out the S model as he's mainly a street rider.

Here's Jay getting his instructions on the cones course as he gets ready to ride the Zero S Street Bike

The MX model has a high and low torque setting.  Jay reported it was pretty zippy when in the high torque mode, which is selectable at the push of a button and a reset of the computer.

Here's another demo rider, enjoying the S model as he negotiates the cones course.

The "heart" of an electric motorcycle is, in my opinion, the battery which powers it.  They're pretty large in size but not that heavy, around 50lbs or so.  Chuck, the dealer rep for the Denver area, showed us how easy it was to swap batteries on the MX model that he owns:

Note the easy connectors and manageable size of the battery

You basically remove the retaining bar, uncouple the electrical connectors and slide the battery out the right side of the motorcycle.  Put in a new one and you're ready to go!

Here's the MX model with the battery out, that small round object is the "engine" which drives the rear wheel!

In sum there's much more information at Zero Motorcycle's website about these outstanding electric motorcycles of theirs.  I believe they target folks who have commutes within the 60 mile range of their quiet machines but dirt riders take note, these things are awesome off road as well!

They make no noise.  Chuck who rides his electrical motorcycles in the Vail area, told me stories of riding with a friend, each on an electrical motorcycle and being able to carry on a conversation while riding!  He told of being able to sneak up on deer and other wildlife as well since the bikes are so quiet.

The word "unnatural" came coming into my head and in my conversations with folks at the demo rides.  These electric motorcycles are definitely a "paradygm shift" in the world of motorcycling.  Their quiet operation, zero emissions and cheapness to operate are sure to make them a hit among folks tired of high gas prices and wishing to project a smaller carbon footprint.

As a final kicker, there's Federal and State Tax Credit incentives here in Colorado for those of you thinking of purchasing one of these quiet machines.  The figure of $5100 total cost, including tax credits, was bandied about by several folks that day.  The machine retail for just shy of $10,000.  Definitely something to think about.

Will I be getting one?  Not for now, I need longer range capability for my kind of riding.  As technology improves and range is extended on these things, who knows?

Much more information and specs are here on Zero Motorcycles' website.