Tag Archive for riding

Lenore: Back on the Road

Lenore’s front brakes began to squeal at the end of the last riding season. I thought about taking her to a mechanic, but I knew that could get expensive, depending upon the problem. I mulled it over all Winter, and finally decided to man up and tackle it myself.

After a little research, I knew it had to be bad brake pads or it was time to bleed the brake line. One surf through Amazon and I had pads on the way for under twelve bucks, shipped. Tell me I can make that happen through a mechanic!

Shortly after that I picked up some DOT4 brake fluid for around five bucks and two lengths of plastic tubing for a buck and a half. Tuesday afternoon, my eldest son and I went to work.

Well there’s your problem!

The old brake pads were definitely shot. I couldn’t tell how much pad they had left before removing them because I didn’t know what I was looking at. Once I got them off the caliper, I could see they were just about down to bare metal.

We inserted the new brake pads, then we bled the brake line. All in all a piece of cake, and I love that the bike came with all of the tools we needed. My son even learned a few things in the process, and for once it was more than just creative cussing.

Good as new!

I took her for a test drive that night. Brakes worked like a champ! Less than twenty bucks and I’m back on the road. Next up she’ll get a bath, a fresh coat of chain lube, and an oil change, and all will be right with the world.

Now the weather just needs to behave.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Lenore: Free at Last!

I busted Lenore out of the garage at last.

Lenore is free at last!

“Freeeedooooom!”

It’s about time, too. Most of the Spring Break weather sucked, and the rest was a matter of not having the time and running the Rugrats everywhere.

Today I rolled her out, fired her up, and checked the chains, cables, and lights & signals. I rode her down to the gas station to fill up her tank and check her tire pressure, and then I took the long way home all around town to get some wind and work the throttle a bit.

Even that short ride felt great. The little things came rushing back: the feel of looking through and leaning into turns, the tiny catch in her upshift from 1st gear to second, the sweet spot to throttle on between gears. Finding that sync with the machine? That’s Zen, my friends.

Here’s hoping I can stay out of the cage for a while.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Surrounded by Idiots

Many of us feel this way all the time anyway, but if you’re going to ride a motorcycle, you have to behave as if it were true.

In Peoria last week, a woman turned and ran straight into a motorcyclist. He landed in the hospital in critical condition. They mention a head injury, but don’t mention whether he wore a helmet. No excuse was listed for the driver of the car, but I imagine it was your typical “I didn’t see him” response.

In California, another pinhead tried to use his smartphone to record video of a group of bikers, and he knocked two of them down in the process. In response, they knocked him around and threatened him with a knife. I’m not going to say that’s the right way to handle it, but given the incident, I’m not surprised.

Start Seeing Motorcycles

I’ve been forced to keep my own cool twice this year already.

First, a young woman tailgated me coming out of town. The speed limit jumps from 35 to 55, and I tend to be hard on the throttle so I was right up at 55. I had a turn coming up in a half mile, though, so saw no reason to go any faster until she tried to drive her little red POS up my tailpipe. I put my signal on well ahead of time so she knew I’d be slowing down, and instead of passing me, she just stayed glued to my bumper. I thought about stopping right in front of her, then walking back to have a little chat, but I imagine she’d have freaked out and run me over in self defense. Instead I hugged the shoulder and did my best to stay out of her way when she rocketed past me at the intersection.

In another in-town incident, a van started to back out of a driveway. It was some distance ahead of me, but not far enough that, were I driving a car, it would have been safe or smart to back out. I let off the throttle and covered the brake and clutch, and sure enough, the van showed no intention of stopping. So I stopped, and I watched as an elderly woman eased back out of the driveway, backed toward me, and stopped about eight feet in front of my front tire. Then she just sat in the lane.

And sat, and sat. I don’t know if she saw me and panicked, or thought I was going to pass her, or just got distracted and had something else to do. Someone in the passenger seat finally snapped her out of it and she got rolling… only to stop at the intersection. She had no stop sign, but watched the truck to her left—who did have a stop sign—sit and wait for her to make up her mind. Finally she crept around the corner to the right and drove way. I just shrugged at the truck driver and rode on by. He seemed to get a kick out of that.

These are the people we all share the road with, whether we’re on a bicycle, a motorcycle, or in a car. The nice thing about riding the motorcycle is I’ve become more alert even when I drive the family grocery getter. I’ve spotted and slowed for things the Wife hadn’t noticed. I’ve become better at predicting when someone is about to do something stupid, like yesterday when a woman raced ahead of our van, then swept across our lane and into a right turn lane.

If I’m rolling up on someone at an intersection and I don’t make eye contact with them, I assume they’re about to screw me. Illinois may be a helmet-optional state, but I don’t drive out of town without one. When I get my hands on the Bell Drifter DLX I’ve been eyeballing a while, I intend to wear it even on the short trips.

I see riders all day every day. Thousands ride together without incident. The odds are probably in my favor. However, I’m going to pad those odds out as best I can.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Merely This and Nothing More

A couple rode a Harley Sportster down my street today. Envy struck me hard. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been missing my bike more this winter than I have in the past.

Shadow at Sunset

Get a good look, 'cause it's going to be a while

It could be as simple as I rode more this year. The Wife went back to a full-time job and needs the family grocery getter more often, even on weekends. Or I could be spoiled by the convenience of having it around, and now that winter’s set in I have to adjust plans around transportation and give up a few things, like today’s karate tournament.

Whatever the reasons, Lenore’s locked up for the season and I already miss her.

I’d like to buy cold weather gear and be done with it, but I’m not convinced that’s a good idea with the ice coming and the idiot drivers out there. It’s also a safe bet I can’t afford the decent stuff. As such, I’ve been trying to get my motorcycle fix elsewhere.

For example, today I browsed the bike magazines on the racks at Barnes & Noble. A lot of them are not for me or are boring, but a copy of Street Chopper caught my eye. In the first few pages I saw a pictorial by rider/photographer/blogger Josh Kurpius and decided I had to have it. There are a lot of photos in the magazine in general, many of them the kind of photos I’d like to shoot myself. Time to keep a closer eye out for bike shows and rallies in my area.

I most look forward to visiting the International Motorcycle Show’s Chicago stop in February. A friend and I drove up this year and we had a blast. We’ll be able to check out bikes, maybe pick up some new gear, and if the weather cooperates, we’ll be able to count down to the start of riding season a month or so later. Priority purchases for me this year include rain gear and maybe a new half helmet, with a bike lift close behind.

Yesterday I spent some idle time on YouTube and found this amazing vid:

Unreal. That bike weighs somewhere north of 600 pounds, and he whips it around like a featherweight fiberglass sport bike. I hate to think of how many spills he took before he got it right.

I’m not looking for that kind of skill, though. I just want to get out on the road. I miss the focus.

I miss the warmth, too. Summer riding means it’s also nice enough to sit outside with a cigar. I’ll be missing out on that for the next couple of months as well. People think we’re kidding when the Wife and I talk about moving to Hawai’i, but we’re not so sure. We couldn’t pull it off right now, but the time will come.

Which means I best keep punching out some fiction.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

We’re Still Out There

Moto Photo 1

I thought this would be a good time to remind folks that despite the sudden rush of cool weather in the Midwest, motorcyclists are still out there.

I’ve read about two accidents in the past week, both of which could have been avoided had a car driver been paying attention. The excuse, of course, is “I didn’t see him.” I think the problem is more selective blindness than obstructed view, however; people look for cars, don’t expect to see a motorcycle, so it doesn’t register. Bam. Problem is this could easily be a bicyclist or a pedestrian, which could be even more dangerous.

This is also on the heels of two deaths in Peoria. In the first instance, some asshole in a hurry crossed a painted lane divider on War Drive in Peoria, a spot where he really had no business trying to pull off a pass no matter how clear traffic appeared. He hit a motorcycle coming the other direction and killed the driver.

In the second instance, a drunk smashed into the motorcycle stopped at an intersection, then drove away. The motorcycle driver and the passenger were killed. The memorial items placed at the intersection include a stuffed neon rain jacket with the words “Can you see me now?” printed on the back.

That’s not to say the motorcyclist is always at fault. We heard—and saw the aftermath of—an accident just a few months ago. The idiot rider thought he had a good opportunity to open up the throttle on his crotch rocket, so he ran a red light and raced down Sheridan. Only problem is an old man saw the red light and pulled out of a store parking lot, right in front of the rider. Bam. The guy was fortunate he survived, as he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

The point is keep your eyes open, folks. Don’t just look down a street and think “Any cars?” Look for anything. Motorcycles, bikes, kids on skateboards, a troop of monkeys, whatever. You don’t know what’s around the corner, and if you’re in a hurry, that’s when you miss things.

See you on the road.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Free At Last

The weather looked sketchy Friday morning, but I decided to chance it and busted Lenore loose. By lunchtime, we had a gorgeous day. I rode her out to a restaurant with some co-workers.

Look who I set loose

Lenore with the dust and cobwebs blown off.

It’s about time. I had the first-ride jitters as I rounded the first corners, wondering if I’d be rusty at all.

Then I opened up the throttle and removed all doubt. Damn it felt good to ride again.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Riding Season & Religion

The weather around here really went to crap in May. Those of us who ride motorcycles were able to get out early thanks to some warmer weather in April, but most of this month has been dreary, cold, and rainy with the occasional storm. We could have toughed it out (and I spotted a few guys who did), but after being spoiled by the early warmth most of us just sat around and stared out the window.

It’s easy to spot riding season in Illinois because you start seeing motorcycles everywhere. In the central and southern parts of the state, there are a lot of wide, open roads to cruise, and you’ll see riders of all ages and genders riding just about every style of bike there is from cruisers and sportbikes to trikes and touring bikes. The yellow ABATE “Start Seeing Motorcycles” banners start showing up along the busier roads, and the local dealerships start running out of stock on their less expensive models.

This is also when you start seeing “blessing of the bikes” ceremonies. This is like a small rally where the group will get a priest or a minister to say a prayer and put a blessing on everyone’s bike.

Blessing isn’t really my thing, but I do think it’s an interesting part of riding culture. It reminds me a bit of the way Shinto priests bless electronic gadgets like cell phones so they don’t get lost, damaged, stolen, or suffer some other misfortune. If they feel safer or more comfortable on their bike, then more power to ‘em. (Provided, of course, they don’t go overboard and think they’re invincible.) I only learned about them a year or so ago when I found a riding club in Bloomington, IL, held them frequently, and it turns out they’re a very common practice.

In fact, somebody put one together the next town over. I thought about checking it out and taking some pictures but I had to be out of town that day. Too bad, as it might have been fun to see. I would have rolled through the line if only to talk about it, though again it’s not something I put much stock in (my own superstition is naming my bike).

Maybe next year.

Though I guess I better take that Flying Spaghetti Monster sticker off my bike first…

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It's Ridin' Season!

Im back, baby!

I'm back, baby!

I’ve spotted more and more bikes on the road the last week and a half or so, too. Some guys put on their chilly weather gear and even hit the roads the first weekened of March. Every time I spotted a bike, I got excited and more than a little jealous. (And felt silly until I learned a friend of mine gets the same giddy feeling.)

I haven’t taken her out of town yet, but I’ve taken her out a couple times to get her blood going and to make sure everything’s running in tip-top shape before we get out on the road. Opening the throttle, leaning into the turns, shifting through the gears… it all came back to me. After a few minutes it felt like I’d only put her away last week.

Of course, next week we’re supposed to get rain and cold again. Argh. Summer can’t come soon enough!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Don't Leave the Garage without Pants

Riding pants, that is. Ruben Torres has been running a series of articles on his Better Motorcycling blog about protective riding gear, most recently a summary of protective pants. He makes some good points, and I have to admit, proper riding pants are something I’ve been putting off. Part of it is expense, and part of it is I think it’ll be a pain in the ass to haul leather chaps around (and I’m way too big to be wearing leather pants all the time).

That doesn’t make a good excuse, of course. I wear a helmet, boots, and a leather jacket and gloves most of the time, so it’s pretty silly to neglect my legs. I’m looking at installing crash bars on Lenore, but they’re only going to do so much. Maybe they’ll help prevent a crushed ankle, but they’re not going to stop asphalt from tearing into my ass like a cheese grater if I take a slide. Over the winter I started browsing the web for crash gear just for grins, and I stumbled across Draggin’ Jeans on Amazon.

Made by Fast Company, Draggin’ Jeans are denim jeans lined with Kevlar. In a slide, the denim may give way, but the Kevlar layer holds up and prevents shredded flesh. I’ve been hesitant to buy because I wasn’t sure how well they’d really hold up, but Ruben’s post prompted me to look them Draggin’ Jeans again. This time I hit YouTube and found a good video of guys putting Draggin’ Jeans to the test:

Better them than me. There’s a longer video here, which also offers a better look at the denim damage.

Looks good to me. May have to start rubbing some pennies together and see if I can’t land a pair.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Lady in Black

’03 Honda Shadow
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

Here she is, the lady who’s already drawn a few envious stares from folks around the neighborhood.

I’m still surprised she’s as clean as she is for being six years old, especially since the folks at the bike shop referred to the previous owner as a kid. There’s a tiny chip in the paint on the tank and a scuff on the top exhaust pipe, but other than that, she’s spotless. I’ll be trying to get those touched up before long.

I already have a few ride invitations, too. A co-worker has an ’03 Shadow 750 ACE, and we plan to ride down to Peoria’s Burger Barge in the coming weeks. Another friend has an ’07 Shadow, and he told me about a couple of groups he rides with. I’m sure this bike will be much more comfortable on longer runs and able to keep up with a group, so it may be time to give that a shot.

Eve, meanwhile, has been doing her own flirting from the front yard. A few have stopped to check her out, and there’s been an offer of a trade, but nobody’s decided to snap her up yet. The surprising thing is my insurance rates actually go down with a second bike instead of up, so I won’t be heartbroken if I have to hang on to her a bit longer.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

"You're Gonna Need a Bigger Bike"

One of my co-workers has a Honda Shadow that I’ve envied for a while. Its 750cc engine is three times the size of my bike’s engine, and it outweighs my bike by about 150 pounds. I asked him how different it felt from my bike. He promptly handed me the keys, so I took her for a test drive.

Boy was that a mistake. Because it was terrifying? Nah. It’s because now I want a bigger bike.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my bike. However, strong winds blow me around more than I’d like, and the narrow tank leads to sore hips and inner thighs on extended rides. My bike’s comfortable up to about 40-45 miles per hour, but I hit 55 and she starts to feel a little shaky. It’s not so much a feeling like I’m going to fall over, it’s more like Scotty’s in the tank screaming “I cannae hold her together, Captain!” and the not-so-warp drive is going to fly apart.

The Shadow was a whole new experience. I felt like I was sitting on something of substance, and the wider tank and higher seat made for a comfortable fit. There was no choke to play with on startup, and her throaty growl had a very different voice from my Virago. I had to lean her a little harder to keep the tighter turns, but she felt a lot steadier despite the heavier weight. I didn’t get her much over 40mph, but when I did I hardly noticed it. (I probably should have taken her out on a back road and opened her up, but I get real nervous driving other folks’ cars, much less their motorcycles.)

That said, the differences in the controls also surprised me. The brakes weren’t as touchy, and the foot shifter had a more tangible click between gears and across neutral. The biggest difference was in the clutch lever. On the Virago, I let it out most of the way before first gear engages and the bike starts rolling. On the Shadow, I hardly had to let up at all. There aren’t many things more embarrassing than killing an engine twice at a stop sign with two guys watching from a nearby yard. Fortunately the engine kicked in and drowned out their witty remarks as I rolled off, thus sparing my pride a bit.

All in all, I decided I definitely need to get into the 650-850cc range for my next motorcycle. It’s a lot more comfortable, and probably better suited to my frame. Now to see about selling some more books to pay for my engine lust…

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Riding Responsibly

The Rugrats Ride
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

This right here is exactly why I always where a helmet.

I know people who feel helmets interfere with their vision and hearing, so they feel they’re safer without a helmet because they’ll have a better chance to avoid an accident. I also know people who think a helmet will save their life but leave them a vegetable, and they’d rather die than have that happen.

That’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t feel helmets should be legislated, but I’ll always wear one.

First of all, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so for my family. I think there are more cases of helmets saving lives and preventing (or at least limiting) head injuries than there are instances of riders left in comas. It’s like the seatbelt argument: sure, there are instances where seatbelts have done more harm than good, but they’re in the minority.

If I’m going to take up something like riding, I need to be as safe as possible for the sake of my family.

The second reason is a name: Ben Roethlisberger. Remember his motorcycle accident? It was a low-speed crash and probably not life-threatening. However, he wasn’t wearing a helmet, and his head went through a windshield. Welcome to the world of reconstructive surgery. I’m not a rich starting quarterback, so I doubt I’d have been able to afford all the surgery and to be arguing with insurance companies over what gets paid for and what doesn’t.

Given I’m more likely to get hit in town at low speed, I’ll stick with the helmet and protect my ugly mug as best I can.

See you on the road.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.