Thursday, July 18, 2013

The USA's 10 best motorcycle roads, by Carla King

A great road is a great road, but if you’re riding a motorcycle, you’re looking for something special: twisties, vistas, turnouts, that perfect stretch of smooth tarmac, and biker-friendly stops that make getting there most of the fun. Here are 10 of the best roads across America for an unforgettable motorcycle journey:
1. Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1): 1700 miles from Astoria, Oregon to San Juan Capistrano, California
This undisputed champion of road trips presents beaches, cliffs, redwood forests, sleepy seaside towns, hot tub B&Bs, and world-class dining along a ribbon of winding, undulating road that (between RVs) can provide thrilling sport riding and contented cruising. Stop at the frequent turnouts, and don’t miss wild Olympic Peninsula, rustic Big Sur, Hearst Castle, bikini-clad Malibu, or biker-friendly Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.
2. Appalachian Mountains: 770 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Deal’s Gap, North Carolina

This four-in-one magic mountain ride begins with Skyline Drive in Virginia, a 105-mile run along the ridge of the Shenandoah National Park, conveniently connected with the Blue Ridge Parkway for 469 miles of smooth roads and sweeping blacktop. Ride east to Tellico Plains along the Cherohala Skyway (Hwy 28) descending into Tennessee backcountry. Loop back via Hwys 360 and 72 to Deal’s Gap, and take on the internationally famous 11 mile Tail of the Dragon and whip through those 318 curves for some bragging rights.
3. River Road, (FM 170): 120 miles from Terlingua to Candelaria, Big Bend, Texas
Farm to Market 170 is all smooth heavenly pavement along the Rio Grande through the Big Bend’s Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem with its mountains, canyons, badlands, and stunted forests, and even grandma’s Buick can handle the 17 mile off-road loop through the Valley of the Gods. But if you’ve got a dual-sport, you’re going to be in heaven. Once it reopens (progressing well at the time of writing), you’ll be able to ride on a boat over the Rio Grande at the Boquillas Crossing for a short jaunt for lunch on the Mexican side of the border.
4. Going to the Sun Road: 50 miles in Glacier National Park, Montana

Before this two-hour, 50-mile ride over Logan Pass was completed, it took visitors several days to get through the park, which speaks of its height and contortions. Watch out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and pull over at the Jackson Glacier Overlook to take in the most spectacular scenery in the park.
5.  Beartooth Highway, (US 212): 68 Miles in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Squiggle along for a couple of hours over the highest highway in the Northern Rockies as it twists and turns its way up to 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass in Wyoming. Stop to take in views of glacier-laden peaks, alpine plateaus dotted with lakes, waterfalls, and lush forests in one of the most rugged areas in the lower 48 states.
6. Highway 12:  124 miles between Bryce Canyon National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Take a psychedelic sunset ride into fantastical sandstone rock formations, canyons, deep blue lakes, and pine forests and all the curves you might expect. Swish along to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Boulder Mountain, and Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest.
7. Coastal Highway 1:  170 miles from Kittery to Bucksport, Maine
Detours, not twisties, along Maine’s 3478 miles of coastline is the point here. The oldest highway on the east coast is dotted with over 60 lighthouses, countless cute towns, antique shops, lobster shacks, and almost 50 peninsulas to explore. The highway connects with many other scenic routes, including a ferry ride to Nova Scotia.
8. Overseas Highway (Hwy 1), Florida, 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West
Put your sun screen on and cruise out onto a narrow stretch of road made of bridges atop a living reef in the turquoise Straits of Florida sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Join the margarita-saturated tourists in tropical paradise and enjoy the biker-friendly atmosphere. Salt air, sea food, and slow speed get you onto island time in no time flat.
9. Route 66: 2200 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica
On just about everybody’s bucket list is Route 66. Ride all 2200 miles of this history lesson smothered in kitsch, or just grab a slice or two, like the pies you’ll find in endless supply at the many biker-friendly stops between Chicago and Santa Monica.
10. The Great River Road (Hwy 61): 2,552 miles from Itasca State Park, Minnesota to Jackson, Louisiana
GRR 61 is a single route created in 1938 to highlight the 10 states bordering the great Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its termination in Louisiana’s Cajun Country. Local riders from all 10 states flock to ‘their” section of the road, whether it’s lined with meadows, cypress swamps, thick forests, limestone cliffs, or wildlife refuges. Industrial areas are easily avoided.
Carla King is an adventure travel writer who specializes in riding cranky indigenous motorcycles around the world. She is author of the Motorcycle Misadventures series of books and live internet dispatches from the road. Wherever she is, you can always find her at

ABS - Would it Have Saved Him?, rmickey mouse channel on youtube.

New GIVI Helmets for 2013, perfect for BMW riders

GIVI has announced two new helmets that will hit US markets in 2013, both based on the HPS (Head Protection System) X.01 modular concept. The “Tourer” and the “Explorer” feature fully detachable chin guards, allowing both to be open face or full-face depending on conditions. The GIVI Tourer comes with an Adventure-style peak that can also be removed to give the helmet a more traditional, full-face street look. The Explorer is without the peak of the Tourer, but comes with two different chin guards, one designed for the colder winter months and a summer guard to allow for increased ventilation during dry, hot days. Each has an integrated sun visor, removable and washable interiors and both are DOT certified. MSRP for these lids is listed at $329.

Chain Maintenance is Easy when You Know How, courtesy of WhiteHorse Gear

If you ride a big twin Harley-Davidson or a BMW, you are familiar with belt- or shaft-drive motorcycles. These drive systems are quiet, clean, and require hardly any maintenance at all. But chain drive is still king in the motorcycle universe. It's simple, efficient, cheap to build, and lightweight. Better yet it allows you to easily change your gearing to suit your needs. But chains require simple routine maintenance. Sadly, most of them rarely see it!
We think most riders would actually enjoy doing their own chain maintenance, if they only knew how. It's not complicated and it doesn't require a million dollars worth of special tools. When your drive chain is properly serviced, your riding will be more enjoyable, your bike will be more reliable, and you'll spend a lot less money on replacing chains and sprockets well before their time. We routinely get well over 20,000 street bike miles from a chain and sprocket kit. Motorcycles that spend time wallowing in mud, sand, and water are much harder on chains, so they should be serviced more frequently and logically expect shorter service lives.
OK, where to start? All you need to know is: C-L-A. What's that you say? It's CLEAN, LUBE, and ADJUST. When your chain is properly cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted your drive system is working exactly as designed and you'll actually feel the difference in your riding. Your parts will last much longer too. Check your chain condition at least every 600 miles. Most often it will only need to be lubed. Other times maybe it will need to be cleaned and lubed. Much less frequently it will need a full, CLEAN, LUBE, and ADJUST. Here's how to do it all.

  1. CLEAN

This is the part that puts off most riders. Look at all that nasty goo! What are you supposed to do with that? Clean it! That's what! First, if your bike has a center stand, get your bike up on it. It's much easier to work on your chain when the bike is vertical and twice as easy if it's vertical and the rear tire is off the ground. If you don't have a center stand, consider getting one or a Condor Pit Stop-Trailer Stop to hold your bike safely in the upright position. As an alternative, the Big Boy Wheel Jockey is a great product that allows you to turn your rear wheel fairly easily with the bike parked on its side stand. At this point it's a very good idea to have a piece of scrap cardboard under the entire length of the drive chain to catch any greasy bits or dripping cleaners and lubricants. Old pizza boxes are perfect according to Mark Zimmerman, author of one of our most popular books, The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance. He's right!
Next, you will want to remove the chain guard. Often they're secured to the bike with just two or three easy-to-reach fasteners. Make a note of which screws go in which holes, as they might not be the same. Be sure to use the right tool for the job. We don't want to see anyone trying to remove a #3 Phillips screw with a #2 Phillips screwdriver, OK? When the chain guard is removed you will have access to the upper "run" of chain. With Park Tool mechanic's gloves to protect your hands and with eye protection on your face, bunch up some clean rags under the chain and then spray cleaner onto your chain. We like Motorex Chain Cleaner extremely well but in a pinch you can also use kerosene in a heavy-duty spray bottle. Try hard to keep any cleaner from going anywhere but on the chain and rags. Watch the grime melt away! Cool, huh? Gently brush with your Grunge Brush which is adjustable for different chain sizes, then repeat the spray, brush, and wipe process until you're happy with the results. Give that section of the chain a final wipe with a clean rag.
Then, rotate the chain to bring a still-grungy section into easy reach and repeat the process. If you have a center stand, you can easily turn the rear wheel to rotate the chain. If you don't, you'll probably need to roll the bike a short distance. Before long you've got the entire length of the chain equally clean. At this point, the more anal-retentive among us will usually wipe the entire chain down, one more time with a final clean rag while blowing it off with some low-pressure compressed air. This isn't completely necessary but it makes us feel better!

  1. LUBE

Most modern drive chains have special grease sealed inside the rollers. This grease is kept inside, where it belongs by rubber O-rings, X-rings, and other letter-shaped rings. The O-rings also keep water and abrasive dirt out and that's why modern drive chains last so very long. If any of the rubber rings become damaged, or worse, fall off completely, the chain will be toast in short order, so keep an eye on them. While the lion's share of chain lubrication is built right in, there's a bit more that needs to be done on the outside.
Grab a can of a high-quality chain lube like Motorex Racing Chain Lube with PTFE. Shake the can vigorously for 60 seconds after you start to hear the rattle of the mixing ball inside. Playing some Steve Miller Band on the iPod sound dock helps with this process immensely in our experience. With the little plastic hose or "straw" inserted in the spray nozzle, apply chain lube directly onto the lower run of chain where the rollers meet the rear sprocket. It's vital to use the straw to get the lube where you need it and not where you don't. You don't want to lube your tires or brakes. Also spray the point where the inner and outer links meet on both sides of the chain. Rotating the wheel will assist with lubricant penetration. Gently wipe off any obviously excess lubricant that is trying to drip off the chain. Then, allow the chain to dry for 10 minutes or more. Your chain should be looking very happy at this point. As a rule of thumb for street bikes you may want to reapply lube to your chain every 500 to 600 miles. Depending on the conditions in which you ride that could be more or less often.


As the rear suspension moves up and down, the chain tension changes as well, so it's essential the chain slack be set correctly for your comfort, control, and safety. Every motorcycle has a specified range of proper chain slack, which can be found in the owner's manual. Sometimes a sticker near the swingarm might also list this vital data. A chain that is too tight will ruin wheel bearings, itself, and who knows what else. A chain that is too loose could jump the sprockets, locking the rear wheel, or it could even punch a hole in your engine. That's never a good thing.
With the motorcycle on its side stand or center stand, locate a point on the bottom run of chain roughly halfway between the front and rear sprockets. Some of us have a piece of tape on our swingarm at this exact spot for reference. Pull down gently on the chain and with a tape measure held against the floor or swingarm, see how far the chain moves from the lowest to the highest point you can achieve. If that number is in range with your owner's manual spec, you're done! Clean up your tools, properly dispose of the dirty rags, and go for a ride. You probably won't need to do another thing to your chain for 500 miles or more.
If, instead, your chain tension is out of range with your owner's manual specs, no worries. Let's get 'er fixed up. You will need tools to loosen the rear axle, to adjust the chain tension adjusters on both sides of the swingarm, and a way to properly tighten the rear axle. It's a good idea to have a torque wrench so you know the rear axle is tightened correctly. If your rear axle nut uses a cotter pin, you should have a few spares of the correct size on hand at all times. It's never wise to reuse an old cotter pin. Once you familiarize yourself with exactly which tools are needed to adjust chain tension and where you keep those tools, it's a breeze to do. Our chief garage rat has green electrical tape on the two sockets he uses for most chain adjustments. That way he can grab them off his socket storage rail quickly without even needing his glasses!
The specific procedure for adjusting chain tension on your bike should be found in your owner's manual. It probably reads something like this... With the motorcycle safely supported on its stand or in the Condor Pit Stop-Trailer Stop, loosen the rear axle just a bit. Loosen it only enough so the chain tension adjusters can easily move the rear axle. Then only a tiny bit at a time move one chain adjuster and then the other on the opposite side the same amount. Moving the axle toward the rear of your bike tightens the chain. Check your chain tension. Repeat as needed. When you're in range, perhaps slightly to the tighter end of the correct range, you're good. Be sure your chain tensioners are evenly adjusted and locked (if they have lock nuts). Finally, tighten your rear axle to the proper torque setting and install a new cotter pin if your axle uses one. Look carefully to be sure the adjusters did not move as you were tightening the axle. As a final check, on your center stand or Big Boy Wheel Jockey watch your chain roll over the trailing end of the rear sprocket. It should track down the center of the sprocket and not track to one side or the other.
With your chain CLEAN, LUBED, and ADJUSTED, your bike will respond to throttle inputs correctly, it will be much easier to ride, and you'll save a lot of money on prematurely worn chains and sprockets. The quality time you spend massaging your bike during chain and other types of maintenance is a wise investment in safe, dependable performance. Plus you have the priceless satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Get on a Motorcycle and Get Lost, by Robby DeGraff

Get on a Motorcycle and Get Lost, by Robby DeGraff

Pick a road, ride, ride and continue to ride. Pass through towns you’ve never heard of, or counties you never knew existed. Stumble down dirt paths and side roads to discover old buildings and relics of the past. Pull over on a hillside to gaze upon the miles of hilly farmland. Ignore mile markers, turn your phone off and hide your watch. None of that matters right now. Throw out fears of ending up in a new place, break out of your comfort zone and just go. Wave at strangers mowing their lawns, sitting on the patio at a roadside steakhouse and of course other motorcyclists. You’ll see signs trying to sell you rhubarb, chain saw sharpening and home-made wooden sculptures of anything you could imagine. Ride until bugs cover your helmet’s visor, the rain gets unbearable or the need for more fuel comes into play. If the road you’re on ends, turn around and find a different way. Just keep riding.
 out on your motorcycle and get lost. Forget the maps, forget the Foursquare check-ins and forget the GPS. Just, get, lost.
I started riding about two-years ago, when I returned from living in Saigon, Vietnam for four months. Over there, motorbikes (scooters) and motorcycles dominate the roads. It’s impossible to live without one. Riding around on the back of friends’ 50 cc Hondas, Suzukis and various knock-off brand motorbikes, weaving at the helm through the chaotic streets of downtown Saigon introduced me to the two-wheel lifestyle. You get scared, absolutely terrified, riding around with millions of other motorbikes and motorcycles just inches from you. Traffic patterns seem frantically confusing at first, but after a few minutes, time just seems to slow down. The thick, exhaust-fume filled ai dissapears, while the buzzing engines and honking go to mute.  Then you realize, that stampede of two-wheelers flows almost orechestraly and uninterrupted. It’s sheer brilliance. 
Upon immediate arrival back into the states, I took a basic motorcycle rider safety class, a valuable decision, and went on to buy my first motorcycle. Wrenching in my parent’s garage while home from college holiday breaks, I returned it to prime running condition. With any classic engine-bearing machine, stuff will break, but thankfully repairing motorcycles is often inexpensive and easier then learning to use chop sticks.
After fixing a blown starter clutch this past spring on my thirty-one year-old Honda CM250C  (yes I’m a sucker for old-school Japanese bikes) I set out on a ride. Eager to feel that sense of open-road adventure again, I picked a random direction and rode on, regardless of where  it plans to take me. Motorcycles offer an unparalleled sense of freedom and serve as a key tool to exploration. They can traverse roads and paths that cars often can’t. When you’re on a bike, you’re free. Free from cell phones, obnoxious passengers, automatic climate controls, yelling GPS navigation systems and local radio stations that fail to deliver that promise of ‘fresh variety, all day, everyday’.  Getting lost is what starts an adventure.
You’ll experience weather’s games first-hand. It’ll be colder for a brief stint and then 15 degrees warmer moments later. There aren’t any windshield wipers to clear your view, or tightly-sealed windows to protect you from harsh wind. Semi trucks look bigger from a bike, gusts of crosswind can raise the hairs on your back and those potholes will swallow your bike’s front tire if you’re not paying attention. This is part of the adventure, the ever-learning adventure. That’s why I do it, because it makes me a better rider every time I get out on two-wheels.

The feeling of pure exploration and getting lost is incomparable and addictive. If you haven’t tried it, I implore you to learn how to ride, and get out on a motorcycle. And wear a helmet, you’d be an absolute fool not to.

The World is Flat T-shirt on

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Motorcyclist's Guide to the Best American Ride

Motorcyclist's Guide to the Best American Ride Presented By
"Motorcyclist's Guide to the Best American Ride" infographic brought to you by BikeBandit.