"BRIT IRON" takes you behind the scenes at
July 2012 - Issue #30
IN THIS WEEK'S ISSUE:
DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME - On the street, that is. Yep, I fell off my bike!
RIDING TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD - BSAOCNC's Annual Triples Ride.
MY YOSEMITE TRIP - A week of riding Harleys in God's country.
MY PROJECT BIKE - In a perpetual state of limbo.
WIERD STUFF - A motorcycle for the handicapped?
DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME!
I've been riding since I was about 14, took a 20-year break in the middle, but I've pretty much been riding my whole life. And while I've fallen many times while riding in the dirt, I've never been in a wreck or even fallen on the street. Thank goodness I wasn't going to fast. And as strange as this might sound, thank goodness I was on my Harley.
I was on the BSAOCNC's Triples Ride on Saturday, July 7th. As part of a 106-mile loop, we were headed up Mt. Hamilton Road from San Jose to Lick Observatory. There are literally 1100 curves in 27 miles, so you build up much speed, and we were usually climbing. It was one 20 mph hairpin after another. I was filming with my helmet cam that day, for an upcoming YouTube video, so I was riding near the back of the pack, trying to film the Tridents and Rocket 3s ahead of me. The other non-Brit bikes were behind me.
IT ONLY TAKES A SECOND
Somehow, and I'm still not sure how, I must have lost my concentration for a moment on a particularly tight left-hander, I went wide in the turn, got inset some slippery sand or gravel or something, braked too hard with my front brake & my front wheel slid out from under me. The bike slid briefly on its left side, me with it. It came to a stop on its side, my left leg under it. I instantly looked behind me to see one of my riding companions on an 02 Honda Interceptor sliding to a stop just inches behind me. We both had banged up left knees, but we managed to get up. He was OK and so was I. He'd been following to close in that corner to avoid me, so he laid it down.
I needed help righting my bike (the pig weighs over 700 pounds). My windshield got bent up and scratched up, my clutch cover (called a "Derby Cover" in Harley parlance) was gashed up but not leaking, I had a small dent in the front-left corner of my tank where the windshield bracket hit it, and my shifter was bent up like a noodle. The latter turned out to be the only problem that might prevent me from finishing the ride.
GOD BLESS CHASE TRUCKS
Everything on a Harley is built out of heavy steel, not aluminum or magnesium, or composite like most modern bikes that are worried about their weight. Apparently Harley doesn't think much about the weight of its motorcycles, they just want them to stand up to punishment. And that they do, I can attest to that. However, this toughness was working against me now, because I couldn't straighten out the shifter. About this time, the chase truck that was following our group showed up, we rummaged through the tools and found a large box-end wrench which allowed us the leverage to straighten it out well enough to work.
THE RIDE MUST GO ON
I was fortunate that a couple of other rides stopped, and a complete stranger coming the other way in his car, and of course, our historic Chase Truck Crew. They helped me get squared away and on the road again. We caught up with the Triples at Lick Observatory on the top of Mt. Hamilton. They were duly concerned and all glad to see I was alright. My concern was more for the poor fellow who went down on the Honda behind me. Maybe he shouldn't have been following so close, but I shouldn't have fallen. His bike was all scratched up and his knee a little bloodier than my own. But he was a good sport about it, and despite all his protests, I bought him lunch at the Junction. It's the least I could do. 3 weeks later, my knee still hurts. I'm thinking of having it X-rayed just to make sure. One moment of distraction and all kinds of nasty shit can happen. Every time I go out & see that dent in my tank, I get sick to my stomach. Dumb ass! Oh well. I guess it's like my Dad always told me: "Look where you're going, don't go where you're looking!"
RIDING TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
BSAOCNC's ANNUAL TRIPLES RIDE
You've already heard about my own personal misadventure on this ride, but the ride itself is well worth talking about. The Triples Ride is an annual ride sponsored by the BSAOCNC (BSA Owners Club of Northern California) themed around Britain's ground-breaking 3-cylinder motorcycles of the late 60s & early 70s, the Triumph T150 Trident and the BSA Rocket 3, both 750s and very similar, yet different. 13 of them showed up for this ride, ranging from fully-restored show bikes, to well-worn originals.
106-MILE LOOP THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS
I met the group at Rabers in San Jose, then we drove through town into the East Foothills and up Mt. Hamilton Road. It's famous for having 1100 turns in just 27 miles on its way up to the Lick Observatory (owned by UC Berkeley) and home to what was once the world's largest refractor telescope (there are bigger ones today). From there we continued on to The Junction, a cool little bar & grill out in the middle of nowhere. We had lunch then continued on up Mines Road for some more twisties, until we came out in Livermore's wine country. From there I peeled of for Pleasanton and the rest of the group went on to San Jose, where they started. All in all, it was a great ride, despite falling off my bike. The BSAOCNC is a great club and a wonderful group of people. I always have fun with them, and the rides are always excellent. They do a great job of organization and yet keep it light and fun. For more info go to their website at www.BSAOCNC.org. And for a more comprehensive article about this ride, along with some great pix of Brit Triples, click here
RIDING IN PARADISE
MY WEEK IN YOSEMITE
Every year some friends of mine (my Harley buddies) do a weeklong camping trip in Yosemite. This is my third year now. We met up in San Jose on Sunday morning, June 17, 10 bikes in all, one on the trailer of our Chase Truck. The shortest route to Yosemite is due east and takes about 3 hours. But that's not for us, no sir. We headed south through Gilroy, east on Hwy 152 through Pacheco Pass, and across the Central Valley on little roads and highways. We wiled our way through the hills, stopping in little burgs along the way with names like Snelling, Hornitos (Spanish for "Little Oven"), and Colterville. Of course, we sampled beers in each. And to add to the fun, one guy's bike kept breaking down, 4 times in all just on the way up. The trip up took 9 hours. But what a ride! It's honestly my favorite part of the entire week. But it was a hard ride, and a hot one (105 degrees, that day), and I was very glad to reach the cool trees of our campgrounds.
LIVING IT UP IN THE FOREST
While I call it 'camping', we actually stayed in small cabins (no plumbing through, for that you used the shower house). Every day we rode out and went to some other gorgeous locale, Yosemite Valley, Bridal Veil Falls, Glacier Point, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Groveland, and more. Every night we'd cook out, and do a little drinking. Some more than others. But it was all in good fun. A great bunch of guys and a great trip, with some of the best riding I've ever been a part of.
After 10 years, the group is thinking about other destinations than Yosemite, next year. It's gotta be within a few hours of the Bay Area, have civilized camping facilities (ie: showers, bath rooms, and hopefully cabins) & have lots of shade, and hopefully water. Any suggestions?
PROJECT ROYAL CLONE
Not much to report. I've made almost no progress lately. My engine is still at Rabers waiting for final assembly. I've started painting the last few parts that go under the seat (battery box, coil bracket/tool tray, etc.), and that's about it. But, I've been getting some other projects done and out of the way that I needed to do first, and also to make room to work on my Triumph project bike. Hope to have more to report soon.
A MOTORCYCLE FOR THE HANDICAPPED
When I saw this bike, a late-model Harley Road Glide, something caught my eye. It was a Handicap License Plate. I had to take a quick photo of it (license number obscured) because it struck me as, well… weird! I mean, how can a guy who is handicapped ride a bike like this? Am I missing something? I can see a handicap plate on a trike perhaps, because a lot of old bikers who can't hold the bike up anymore retire to trikes, because they just aren't ready to give up riding altogether. Good for them. But, if you can ride a big bike like this, or any motorcycle for that matter, do you really need to park closer to the store? Isn't that for people who have mobility problems? If I'm off base here, please inform me & put me in line.
PLEASE READ MY COLUMN ON EXAMINER.COM
As you may know, I'm now a Motorcycle Correspondent for the Bay Area for Examiner.com. I've written several articles on bikes so far. I get rated by the number of people who read my articles and give back good feedback. Please, if you get the chance, please visit my page on Examiner.com, and tell your friends about it. Here's the link:
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And above all, enjoy the ride...