Get on your bike and go away.

“Get on your bike and go away. Go far enough so that your bike is the only familiar thing is sight.”

-Maynard Hershon, Open Wide, City Bike, March 2010

I was riding my bike home from work this morning and passed three guys on their motorcycles going somewhere. Then I passed a guy on a Harley. He was also going somewhere. I suppose I was going somewhere too, but I was actually commuting. The difference of course, is that I’m just riding repetitively from one place to another and back again. Mr. Hershon calls that using a motorcycle as a “tool.” I’m inclined to agree.

Logging in to BARF with spring in full swing I see the pages filling with the usual posts about weekend exploits on 9, other rider’s poor abilities, and questions about who stacked on Skaggs. Mostly ignoring those threads for some with a less chance for predictable conversation, I began to wonder…

Where were those guys going this morning? Were they headed to Skaggs? Berryessa? The coast? Where else? As I pondered all the possibilities the answer floats into my mind. It doesn’t matter where, so long as it’s somewhere else. No, not the selfish “get away from me! Locals only!” crap, but “I hope they’re headed somewhere new.” Somewhere else. The Bay Area has so many good roads, California with tens-of-thousands of miles of ‘em, and the Western States with untold new adventures, why would anyone settle for the same thing day in, and day out?

I thought about posting a challenge of sorts, to see who could post a picture from this  upcoming summer from the farthest geographical location s/he rode to. Then I realized I don’t have a big trip planned a would surely lose to one of those hardcore types in the Sport-Touring and Adventure Riding sub-forums. Nobody wants to post a challenge if there’s no chance of winning it ourselves, do we?

Over a deli sandwich on this wonderous spring day, sitting under the umbrella in the sprouting garden, I opened the latest issue of City Bike to one of the few articles I hadn’t read and it was all spelled out for me- my thoughts written by someone far more  capable of putting meaningful words to use, saying pretty much what I was thinking.

He said “Get on your bike and go away. Go far enough so that your bike is the only familiar thing is sight.”

I would have said it slightly differently, but it means the same thing. I would have said “Go somewhere else.”

As in, “take a chance and go somewhere you haven’t been, might need a map, and certainly don’t know anyone.”

Mr. Hershon’s article says it way better than I can, and you should read it. But until you find a copy (it’s not available at yet) think about that excitement you had when you first started riding. The newness of the experience. The freedom and independence you felt. You can still have all that. All you have to do is “go somewhere else.”

Or as Mr. Hershon put it:
“Get on your bike and go away.”

Sonora-Yosemite Loop

Here’s one from the Archives.


Okay, so I’m a little ambitious on this one. Last Saturday opened up on my schedule. When I bought the BMW, I was sponsored into the Central California BMW Rider’s Club. I hadn’t met any of them since joining, but had been getting the newsletter and they seemed like a pretty good bunch of people. I decided to go to the Sonora Meeting and then join them for the ride over the pass to Bridgeport, or actually the Virginia Creek Settlement. I didn’t want to make it an overnighter so I could spend Sunday with Gab, so I made it a loop, as above.

Bike in Garage at work:

I took off  just before 08:00 and went out 80-580-something80- I 5 for a mile-120- 99 for a mile- then 120 again. In Manteca, just off the freeway I came upon a guy riding a BMW and pulled up next to him. I asked him if he was going to Sonora, he nodded yes and okayed that I follow him when asked. Whew. I knew how to get to Sonora but only had a semi-detailed map on the location of the meeting. We rode a casual pace to the Pine Tree Inn, where the meeting was. Lots of BMW’s in the lot:

Yeah, that big blue bike is a BMW!

We left Sonora at 12:30, and rode a few miles up to Dardenelles, where we re-grouped and continued on. I was told by the president of the club, before we left Sonora, that this is a “casual club.” She indicated that I should “find my own pace” and not expect to ride in formation “like some other motorcycle clubs you might know of.” Then she smoked just about the whole club going up the hill. I found my own pace. Not the fastest, but not the slowest either.

At Dardenelles we somewhat split up. Some of the club members were going to stop near the top of the pass for a little detour. While I would have liked to take the time, I thought that I would loose some daylight, since I was riding back to Sonoma via Yosemite Valley. So I skipped it. But I did stop on the way up the pass when I got stuck behind a really slow car, and took a few pictures. Here’s one of them:

Steep, eh?

And the pass:

What a great day to be out.

I went down the backside of the pass at a very conservative pace. It is so steep, my knees were bumping into the fairing every time I hit the brakes. I almost stained my underwear when my front wheel washed out a little on some fine gravel, but I recovered and rode away with only a little adrenaline rush. (whew- I was going slow, so it probably would have been more of a “get-off” then a crash. But nevertheless, I didn’t want either.)

The lower part of the highway, before 395, and 395 itself (with exception of Bridgeport) are some pretty high speed pieces of road. So as not to disappoint anyone, I made some time. Not that it would have mattered to anyone but the Highway Patrol anyway, I was El Solo Moto at this point. In fact I blew right past a huge grove of backlit maples(?) with their leaves turning yellow. It would have been a great picture, but by the time the thought crossed my mind, I was here:

Mono Lake Baby! For scale, take a look at the highway in the bottom right corner… (I got a guy on a Yamaha who was riding with a different group to take the picture. In exchange, I took one of him in the same spot with his camera!) Kind of a weird angle to the shot, I look like I’m leaning waaaaayyyyyy back.

I dropped down the hill to Mono Lake and then Lee Vining, topped of the Gas, and drank some water. No wind anywhere along the stretch. I was prepared to be battered, but no, 70 degrees and calm. Great riding temps.

I went up over Tioga Pass where I discovered that a Motorcycle is a “Single Person” entry, and not a “car” and only paid $10 to get into the park. Cars have to pay $20.

I stopped in Tuolumne Meadows for a while and wandered down by the stream to let my buns have a rest. Then at Olmstead point I took a couple of shots:

I was warned by some guys in the club, way back in Sonora, that the guys in the “little green trucks” looked down upon “passing left of the doubles” and speeding. So I took note. I only passed where legal… Most of the time. I figured that this late in the season there wouldn’t be too much tourista action. Boy was I mistaken.

I had planned to ride into Oakdale for dinner, but by the time I got over to Crane Flats, the sun was in my eyes and I was having a hard time seeing into the shadows. I also noticed that at a low sun angle, the face shield on my helmet is like a mirrored magnifying glass. It shows me the pores on my nose very well. Anyway, I decided to eat in the Valley, as going there would put the sun at my back and some food in my belly. It would take enough time to let the sun go down.

No caption necessary.

October is the month. You know, the one where Half Dome it lit long after anything else up at that end of the valley. I figured this out by the number of people lined up with cameras on tri-pods.

I went over to Yosemite Village for dinner. This late in the season, only Degnan’s Loft is open after 5. I knew I should have gone to the cafeteria but oh, well, no time savings going over there now. I had a small pizza and a coke, then split.

On the way down the hill I discovered something about the bike that I had heard from other owners but not yet experienced. When it is dark, I mean really dark, and you are cornering the bike, you can’t see the road. The low beam has a horizon about 50-60 feet in front of me, and the high beam is like a spot that illuminates all things directly in front of me, no matter how far away they are. Together, they produce a well lit inverted “T” shape on the road. Which is fine for going straight, but when I lean the bike over for a corner, the road is in the unlit section. (It looks like I will have to get accessory lights after all.) Luckily, there was a quiet Harley going down the road a ways in front of me, so I sped up in the straight-aways to catch up and rode the rest of the way to Groveland behind them. Their headlight was more diffuse, very bright and I’m sure, not as nice to be coming toward if you were traffic in the other way.

No pictures, the sun is down.

I dropped down Old Priest Grade, and rode into the valley, got gas in Manteca and went home. It was really uneventful. The whole trip: 550 miles. Not bad for one day.

Scooter Upkeep, Part 2

Well, finally some follow-up for you guys. Thanks again everyone for the tips, tricks and advice.

Over the past little while, parts have filtered in and this morning that last little bit came together.

On my last post, you may have read that I was going to leave the clutch in and worry about it later. Maybe you didn’t read it though, because I just read it and it’s not in there. What am I thinking?

Well the clutch came out since it’s not much more work once the rear end is all apart. Look closely in this picture and you might see where a clutch would hide amongst the 36 years of grime, oil slop, exhaust condensation and other unknown detritus:

I did a lot of scraping and cleaning to make sure all the loose stuff was knocked free and clear of the cover before I opened it. Somehow I managed to not pull the entire lump and give it a good scrubbing, even though it clearly needs it.

Perhaps I’m used to motorcycle parts prices, specifically BMW and KTM, but the kit and tools to rebuild the clutch were dirt cheap. I got stumped briefly by the wire retaining clip that holds the disc that covers the clutch nut on, but thankfully I figured it out before breaking or bending it. The clutch rebuild itself went so quickly I forgot to take pictures. The clutch compressor tool is slick. I’m gonna keep that around, even if it is another 36 years until I use it again.

Here’s the clutch installed and ready to go:

I gave the clutch cover a thurough cleaning and marveled at it’s simple engineering to get oil on the brass button. I made sure the vent worked properly and didn’t even get all three of the bolts tightened down before I realized that I forgot to put the brass button back in.

The rest of the assembly was just cleaning the old parts and installing the new ones:

I love the details of old machinery:

I got talked into some fancy-ass synthetic 30w gear oil. It’s supposed to make the scoot shift better and all that stuff. For the life of me though, all my fancy funnels and hoses and proven-over-time methods of getting oil into their proper places couldn’t help me here. I had to fabricate something new. I love it!

This morning, I finally get home from work and get a chance to run over to a local machinist. I got references for this guy from some of my VW friends and he said he could do my out-of-round front hub so that brakes wouldn’t shudder. His garage is one of those places… Shavings on the ground, mills, lathes, drill presses and other stuff I’ve never seen before surrounded by engine blocks, con rods, heads, crank shafts and buckets of old burnt valves. He tells me “it wasn’t too bad but it’s perfect now.” I shell out $20 for a 36 year old front hub that has been cleaned and turned to the point where it might pass for new, go home pop it on, make some minor adjustments and set up for a test ride.

I took a couple spins around the neighborhood to bed the brake shoes and see if I needed to adjust the clutch. Let me say, it shifts like a dream. I don’t know if it’s just because of the clutch work or some of it is the new oil, but I have to say that I don’t even remember it being so good… and I’ve been riding this scooter off-and-on since 1985. The new brake shoes and turned hub on the front give me linear lever action and improved stopping power without all the shudder that used to accompany the typical front-end-dive. And the rear? Well, no oil where it shouldn’t be yet.

I gave it good wash and scrubbed off all of my greasy fingerprints then propped it back up on the stand for a quick wax. There are sections on this bike that still shine like new, it’s too bad it’s seen some fairly poor care along the way, there’s no way to clean up a lot of the rust.