Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Talk Back #131 July 2013

“English” Don Cornwallis 
3/30/60- 5/13/13

It truly sucks that I have to write this. I’ve known Don was under a death sentence with a bad liver for a few years now. In my view another victim of government health care where bureaucracy picks and chooses who lives and who dies according either their bottom line or disapproval of a particular lifestyle. And Don had a particular lifestyle that’s for sure.

Back in the old Iron Horse in the nineties, I would read about what Don was up to, what he did with Psycho Cycles, what he was doing with SD Cycles in New York City and I thought to myself “That is the life for me, building bikes, raising hell and generally living life to its fullest”. The stories continued into THBC when it was formed after the demise of Iron Horse in 1998, by then it was the “Bayonet Brothers”, Don and Indian Larry living larger than life and, to use his expression; “kicking new holes in the world”.
With all that in mind, I jumped at the chance to attend a weekend party out at Flynch’s place on the Indiana/Kentucky border that Don was going to attend also. Don was three years younger than I and he looked it back then. He and Andy Hoffer were doing the New York City fish out of water act on the farm and I have great memories of that visit. It was also life changing for me. I told Don that he was doing what I wanted to do and he took the time to talk me out of it. “This isn’t what you want” he told me, “This is a hard life with more lows than highs and people are lining up to either screw you or replace you. It’s a constant state of hustle.” We continued the conversation and he totally convinced me I should take a different tack in the motorcycle world. For that I will always be grateful.
If the last name “Cornwallis” sounds familiar, it should. Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) was 1st Marquess and 2nd Earl Cornwallis. Best known in this country for his defeat at Yorktown, the last important campaign in the revolutionary war. General Cornwallis was a pretty good General and the British didn’t penalize him for the loss.In fact he accomplished more as the British Governer-General of India and as the Viceroy of Ireland. By all accounts, a pretty successful dude.
So this was the family Don was born into. Teenage boys often rebel against their parents, but Don turned it into an art form. Don’s father was an Earl, but Don’s behavior was a factor in the Earl cutting Don out of the will. Don got himself into a fair amount of trouble running with a ‘crew’ around London, he thought it prudent to get the hell out of there and go and to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps and attack the colonies! Initially as a drummer in a rockabilly band.
One thing led to another and in 1989 he and Steg set up Psycho Cycles and the rest is history. Well, almost... If it hadn’t been for Don and his constant pushing, the setting up of the Bayonet Brothers with Indian Larry in 1996, I’m not sure the world would even know who Indian Larry was. I’m not saying Larry’s talent wouldn’t have shone through eventually, but Don for sure raised the profile of the NYC choppers scene. Bikes that Don built captured the essence of the time, culminating in the world famous (because he made sure it was) “Babylon Taxi”, the black and yellow checker paint and gobs of attitude were instantly memorable.
After the demise of Princeton Publishing (and with it Iron Horse) the focus was no longer on NYC quite so much.Yeah, Don and Larry and Paul Cox were still knocking out some great stuff, since they were no longer right down the street from a magazine, it was down to Don to keep up appearances by writing and photographing great bikes for The Horse. Had Don stuck around long enough to be caught up with all that “Biker Build Off” hoopla, I’m convinced he would likely have been a household name, he came to life when you pointed a camera at him.
Don went back to the UK, I don’t quite remember the circumstances that led to that decision, but I knew he was working on a kickass Triumph Trident café racer that he named the “Slimy Limey”. He finished the bike but then had a bad wreck on it. He was laid up for a considerable amount of time after that and was lucky to have survived. It was about the time Don had been recuperating for a while that both his parents began to need help. Don looked after his parents until they died, some of you will be able to relate to the long struggle, physically, emotionally and monetarily that this long, drawn out process can be. Don was still not physically well himself, he developed the liver problem that would ultimately take him from us, but he stayed with mother and father until the end, all the while knowing he was still out of the will, with little to no help from his siblings. When Don found out he was not going to get any help with his liver, he decided his best chance was to return to the USA and try and raise enough funds to finance a liver transplant himself. 
His plan was to rebuild the Babylon Taxi and then auction it to raise hopefully enough money for the procedure. When he announced his intentions, people started offering parts and Steg, who had moved Psycho Cycles to the North West offered to help out with the building, it would be like old times. 
When Don arrived at Steg’s, the problems with using donated parts began to surface. The Shovelhead engine soon developed problems and eventually Don moved to Indianapolis to try and get everything together so it all worked. He ended up replacing the engine with an Ultima Shovel while he sent the original off to be rebuilt by renowned hot rod engine guy Tony Mohr. I ran into Don in Indianapolis last year at an event. I was a little shocked by how much he’d aged, but I suppose it had been ten years. I probably didn’t look too much younger myself. Later that summer, Don was set up at the Smoke Out XIII. The heat was brutal and it took its toll on Don, I was worried then that he didn’t look at all well. That was followed by Don being rear-ended while riding the Taxi II in Indianapolis. He broke a few bones and of course the cops blamed him for the wreck. Shortly afterwards, he moved out to Arizona and set about getting the Taxi back on the road. He pushed himself too far this time.

Don was the real deal. He was instrumental as well as influential on the chopper scene and leaves a host of media for everyone to see. Check out TheEnglishdon on YouTube, there’s a bunch of his work right there. He was loyal and generous to a fault and I was proud to call him my friend. I, for one, will miss him.

Talk Back #130 June 2013


OK, quick quiz, three things happened in 1939 that would have a huge impact on the custom bike world. The Triumph Speed Twin was introduced in 1938, so that’s not one... The Knuckle came out in 1936 so that’s not one either. Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and England was drawn into World War Two, but in this case that’s not relevant.

Give up? OK, the answer is that three people were born this year, people who would influence custom bike building from the sixties onward. I, of course, refer to Sugar Bear, Ron Finch and Arlen Ness. This is as diverse a group as you could come up with but I don’t think you can discount their contributions over the years.
Admittedly, Arlen Ness has strayed away from what a lot of us consider aesthetically pleasing since the mid eighties. Ron Finch’s customs over years are definitely... unique. Sugar Bear has refined his style over the years, but remains probably the closest of the trio as far as sticking to the original concept.
Mr. Ness has undoubtably had the most financial success. Starting out as many do working out of a garage, painting motorcycles in San Leandro California. He began producing parts for custom bikes that he was able to showcase by ‘recycling’ the same 1947 Knucklehead over and over because finances wouldn’t stretch to a different bike. His early work was radical for the time and very influential. According to Irish Rich on our online forum recently when we were discussing the 1973 iteration of the Ness Knuckle: “As far as his style, he was right up there in the forefront of the Bay Area style of bike, and for ‘73, that bike was pretty much state of the art for that area.”
Personally, after the 57 Chevy-ish “Ness-Stalgia” little of his work has appealed to me. Especially his work with Victory and those rocket-ship looking baggers, but that doesn’t diminish the impact he has made over the years.
Ron Finch also made a name for himself making custom parts for choppers. Starting in 1965 with Finch’s Custom Styled Cycles in a building that was only a thirty minute ride from our Global Headquarters here in Michigan. In 1972 they moved to the Finch Castle in Auburn Hills and it became a showplace for Ron’s unique vision. I never did see the original shop, but the building was legendary for its decor. It’s a Home Depot now, but Ron started on new digs about twelve years ago and continues to add on to it on a regular basis. We did a little feature on it in issue #120. Ron Finch is just a different kind of guy, his mind doesn’t work the way anyone else would expect and at the same time he always has a smile and will take to time to chat. Pictures of him from the 70s and recent shots are eerily similar. If it wasn’t for the grey hair now, you’d think he had his own “Dorian Gray” portrait in the attic... or maybe he just looked like he was in his seventies forty years ago.. I dunno. He’s a great guy though and his parts are still bought and sold on a regular basis, even though he doesn’t actually make them any more. You can still see his springers and carriage tail lights etc. floating around on eBay and such.
Sugar Bear gets a lot of ink in this magazine, but it wasn’t always so. Sugar Bear was building kickass bikes that were actually meant to be ridden, but he never got the recognition he deserved in the motorcycle press of the day because of the dominant ‘whites-only’ attitude that prevailed for the first twenty five years he was in business. While most other springer manufacturers were content to not worry about the effects of rake and trail when fitting long front ends, Sugar Bear devised a system of different rockers that corrected trail for any given rake. Most of you probably associate him with the big #4 rockers that his long front ends usually have, but the Baker Drivetrain Panhead has the #1 rockers, my Triumph chopper has the #2 rockers and Sugar Bear’s most beautiful creation “Gorjus” has the #3 rockers. If anyone has a reason to be bitter about his treatment by the press, it’s him. Thankfully, he’s not, he recalls his mentor Benny Hardy telling him that he’d better just do this for the love of it all, because there would never be ‘mainstream’ recognition. Luckily on that point, Benny was wrong. People are still lining up for one of Sugar Bear’s springers. I believe he’s the only one of the three that still hand builds parts the public can buy.

They are all going to hit 75 this year, they deserve to be able to slow down a little but that doesn’t mean they will and their drive is what generated the influence they’ve had over the years. There have been many others of course, but I think you’ll agree these three are real stand-outs.

Talk Back #129 May 2013

My First Harley

I’m sure many of you have interesting stories about the first Harley Davidson you ever bought and this is mine. The one major difference here is that I just did it. Most longtime readers know that my main ride for the last decade or so has been my faithful Shovelhead but although I built that bike with a greater percentage of Harley parts than the factory uses these days, it was registered as an ‘assembled’ bike in 1998, not an HD.

Over the years following the first registration, the Shovel became less and less an HD by percentage of parts. The original 1981 cases had to be replaced with S&S cases, the original Panhead FatBobs were replaced by an aftermarket King Sportster tank, the original Superglide rear fender was replaced when Fabricator Kevin chopped half the original Panhead frame off to hardtail it and so on. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that a Harley Davidson is only a real Harley Davidson if it still has all the factory parts... far from it. I’m just trying to illustrate that my Shovel was not registered as such and over the years has became less so. The flywheels remain 1981 HD however.

So... I’ve bought my first Harley Davidson.

I’m sure some of you that remember my editorial a couple of issues back, referring to the ‘lure of the new bike’ might jump to the conclusion that a brand new rubber mount Twin Cam now sits in my garage, or noting that elsewhere in this issue concerning the installation of a Baker TTP primary on my Shovel which now includes the provision to bolt in a starter, would indicate that because I am going to be 56 this year, I’ve given up on the kickstart equipped motorcycle. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
My first Harley Davidson is a recent score off Craigslist, a motorcycle that started off life as a 1953 FL. Of course it’s been screwed with by everyone that had a dull screwdriver over the last sixty years, but I’ve finally got the base for my seventies style longbike I’ve been dreaming about.
The claim was, of course, that the engine had been rebuilt (aren’t they all?), however the front engine mount is broken, so I’m going to have Dan Roedel pull the engine down to check it out and I’ll have the cases repaired then. It has a polished four speed that seems sluggish when rotated, Dan is going to look at that at the same time. May just be ye olde oil in there. The back wheel looks great. It’s for sure OEM and mechanical. If I can find a way to use it, I will. In fact I’d like to use as little new stuff wherever possible on this build. The big exception with be the Sugar Bear springer I’m going to use, which will necessitate Fab Kevin hacking up the Wishbone frame somewhat. The bike came with a long Wide Glide with the OEM front brake and hub laced to a 21” front wheel. I wish I could use that front wheel, but the hub with the brake installed is just too wide for the Sugar Bear rockers. The oil tank has several dents, so I may have to replace it. I’ll be looking around for a cool king and queen seat and other 70s goodies. There’s a genuine British SU carb installed (loosely), but I’m disturbed  by how far it sticks out.

Although I’m pretty excited about this project, I have to remind myself that it’s going to take a while. Kevin is backed up with stuff for the forseeable future, but once the frame and engine is done I’m going to attempt most of the other stuff myself. Realistically I’m not going to make too much headway with this until later in the year. Never fear, as soon as I make substantial progress, I’ll be documenting it here in The Horse! I can’t wait!

Talk Back #127 February 2013

Goon Control.

There’s been an awful lot of speculation in the media lately about the supposed increase in violent gun-related crime. I thought this issue I’d take a stab at why I think this kind of thing occurs.

It’s the price you pay for having the third largest populated country with this amount of freedom. There’s 315 million people in the USA who are free and can do pretty much whatever they want (comparatively speaking). There’s everything from mildly pissed off people to the mentally ill to truly evil people out there. The vast majority of us will never encounter these people. USA is #12 on the list of countries with the most gun deaths per capita. Switzerland is only four below us. Right now, the media will want to go nationwide with crimes that in early December were just part of day to day living. 
10, 228 people were killed by alcohol related automobile deaths in 2010. Do we need prohibition back? Ban all cars? Prohibition did not work because alcohol consumption was ingrained in the society at the time. And still is. If all ten thousand were to die on the same day, there would be an enormous hue and cry and more stringent laws passed the NEXT DAY. But people will still drink and drive. Using the same logic as they apply to gun control, you would expect people popping up on MSNBC within moments proclaiming that ‘nobody needs a car that can do more than 70 mph” and introduce legislation to limit available horsepower in new cars and motorcycles. Totally ignoring, of course, the personal responsibility of the drunk drivers.
I’ve seen an estimate of 270 million privately owned firearms in the USA. These are all internet numbers from Wiki and other sources, but the number doesn’t surprise me. Sounds like a lot, but that’s less than one for every person. Add to that, the pesky 2nd amendment and it becomes clear that any new restrictive laws would ONLY affect the law abiding person. Criminals, by definition, ignore the law. There are way too many guns around for laws to have any effect… short of a house to house search and seizure, which would end up… messy.
It’s sad the tragedy at Sandy Hook is being used as a springboard to further political gain. The talking heads on television love to sit there and point at other countries with totally different populations, logistics and constitutions for the purposes of saying “see, it works here”, offering up simplistic solutions that make people feel that they are doing something because they care, because they are brighter than the rest of the population and are ready to savagely attack anyone who points out their folly. Does anyone believe this wouldn’t have happened if the Clinton-era so-called ‘assault weapon ban’ had still been in place? Or even the new yet-to-be-revealed laws? The AR-15 in question ‘looks’ military when in reality it functions just the same as any other widely available semi-automatic hunting rifle. Semi-Automatic seems to be widely misunderstood, it seems that the anti-gunners can’t get it into their head that all these do is fire one round at a time like a lever or bolt-action rifle. They are better described as ‘auto-loading’ guns. 
Although it happens fairly often, the media never reports the good that can come from carrying a weapon. Many people have avoided being robbed/raped or killed because they were able to defend themselves. Most criminals like easy targets, staring down the barrel of a gun convinces them to look elsewhere.
If you need more evidence that just having new laws will not work, check out the ‘war on drugs’ once. Many are illegal for many reasons, some of those reasons make sense, a lot don’t. Still, they are illegal. Does that mean they are now impossible to buy?
Meanwhile the government mandates things like airbags ‘for our own good’ (and insurance company contributions) when there have been many injuries and even deaths because of airbags.
What’s the answer? There really isn’t one. As I started this off, 315 million people with whatever percentage of crazy bastards that comes with. No amount of laws or pious pontificating by politicians or 24 hour news cycles showing every picture, talking to every parent is going to make any difference whatsoever.
On a personal level, I have a Concealed Pistol License and I carry my pistol every day. It’s no big deal, many citizens exercise that right. I don’t think it makes me a more of a macho man or some kind of a Billy Bad-Ass. I have a family, I have children and a wife. It is my responsibility to protect them to the best of my ability. That includes protecting myself, if we’re out and some nutcase decides he wants to make some sick name for himself by shooting innocent bystanders at the mall or wherever, I (and probably several others) will be able to do something about it, something other than just cowering in a corner and hoping for the best.

If we need to do something, it should be more awareness. Awareness of mentally ill people. Awareness of thugs that want to take what you have. Awareness that even through all this, the freedom that allows this to happen is also what makes this the best country in the world.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Talk Back #126

The lure of the new bike.

I turned fifty five this year. No big deal I guess, I can order from the senior menu at Denny’s now, my beard is almost totally white and catching a glimpse of my reflection in mirrors scares the shit out of me. As a child, I always had lung problems. Bronchitis was a constant companion and really didn’t improve a whole lot as I aged. I’m at the point now where it’s pretty much all downhill from here. Yeah, I could improve things with a better diet and more exercise and such, but that’s not going to help with the creaky joints, arthritic hands and the daily fight to get enough air into my lungs.

I’ll be honest here, I’ve always been a little derisive of people who ‘sell out’ their choppers and buy some stocker bagger later in life so they can keep riding in comfort. I suppose that makes me hypocritical because lately I have been considering a (gasp) new bike. I’ll admit there have been times, when I’ve had to kick the Shovel 100 times to get it going, that I sometimes think I’d be better off just having a modern bike that I could just hit the button and go. I know the Shovel only fails to start like that when there’s a problem somewhere, bad gas, fouled plug, dirty points etc. When I get it back to the house I can usually figure it out and get it back to one or two kick status. As most of you know, I do have a ‘stock’ bike that I can use for carrying a passenger when the need arises, my trusty 1982 Triumph T140ES. So my newest bike is thirty years old and naturally, the Lucas electrics on it are giving me the usual problems. The clutch has been finicky lately and it has a tendency to overheat if I keep it at 70 for longer than 15 minutes.All fixable stuff of course, it’s just a matter of finding the time. I had Brian of Manx Motors replace the alternator, so hopefully it’ll keep charging the Antigravity battery properly now.
When I test ride new bikes, I always take into account whether I could live with one of them in my garage. Usually, it’s easy to dismiss them because I always already had bikes to fill the role. 
I think even the most ardent chopper jockey has times when they think maybe it would be nice to have a modern bike at their disposal, usually during a period when the other rides all have problems. Let’s face it, if you have multiple bikes, it’s really difficult to keep them all in tip-top condition. This one needs tires, this one needs bearings somewhere, this one needs a trip to the junkyard...
Back in the day, when i had one bike, it was simpler. You can concentrate on one and keep it up. You even get time to clean it once in a while, but I seem to have a problem in this respect... I can’t give up my project bikes.

I guess it all comes down to the “Bar Hopper” thing. The perception that choppers are only good from hopping from bar to bar on sunny weekends. This is the same as the old “Café Racer” tag, bikes that were race-styled but only good from racing from one transport café to another. If you accept this premise, then it’s perfectly OK to have a late model bagger sitting in the garage next to your chopper. One for fun and the other for ‘serious’ riding. Hammer and I have pretty much proven (as has many others) that you can use your chopper for long distance riding and still have a great time doing so. 

Really, once you reach my age (or thereabouts) you start feeling like you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, so why not have have a new Harley-Davidson FLHAEIOU and sometimes Y to just jump on and run to the store in comfort? Passion, that’s why. It’ll be a cold day in hell that I buy a new bagger (or even slightly used) because I can’t handle riding my chopper any longer. The day that happens they will be real close to shoveling dirt on my face anyway.

But back to the point, I could see myself picking up a new bike, either a 1200 Sportster, a basic Dyna or a Triumph twin to have that element of über reliability at my disposal. If all the chops go down at once (and it’s happened) there would be a backup plan that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen on. Not that I really care what others think of me, but I put it in the same category as being seen with a “Sons of Anarchy” colors shirt.

You know what I mean!

Talk Back #125 December 2012

Winter project time!

This being the December issue of The Horse, Project Season is well under way here in the frozen north of the USA. The mandatory downtime dictated by the ice-covered roads is traditionally the time when we make those improvements we’ve been thinking about all riding season. If not improvements, then maybe repairs of problems that weren’t serious enough to stop riding, but certainly was enough of a concern to limit distances or cause many prayers in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere!

There are also those hardy souls who are beginning their Amateur Chop Off bikes (hopefully I’ll have it all sorted out by the time you read this). Only a few short months before wide-eyed idealism gets T-boned by grim reality of trying to build a bike with a deadline. It looks so easy on TV. I mentioned earlier in the year I was building my own ACO-type project just so I could get a taste of it. The bike was not done when we had to leave for the Smoke Out, but I could have trailered it there and it would have made the ten miles on the mandatory ride to the Rock. The charging system was not working and it took me a few weeks after we got back to sort that out. The bike would have made the run on a freshly charged battery.

This year, I’m not sure which way to go.

The Shovelhead is running great, tires are good, brakes work fine etc. The only thing I’d like to do is replace the primary drive with the Baker TTP setup. Well, that and completely rework the bike to accept a thirty-over Sugar Bear front end and a sissy bar with king and queen seat... but I have several problems to overcome, not least of which is the potential destruction of the VIN sticker, which is the only number on the frame, placed there by the State of Michigan in 1998 when I finally got it registered. That and the amount of money such a conversion would cost.

I have a 1968 Triumph 500 that already has a rigid frame, I’ve slowly been working on bits and pieces. The inside of the engine and trans looked like it had been at the bottom of a septic tank since 1970. It’s such a shame because things like the bottom end has never been apart, the rod bearings were standard size, the actual crank journals didn’t look bad at all. I had Brian, out at Manx Motors have the crank reground for me. The sludge trap was surprisingly clear, indicating there wasn’t many miles on the engine at all. I have a way-cool Lowbrow peanut take for it and I have my eye on a Factory Metal Works stainless exhaust. What I don’t have, is wheels or a nice front end. 
The main problem I’m having, is trying to get myself to work on it. I originally bought the project to put together for Nurse Nut to ride. The 500 is fairly light and pretty forgiving. When I got the Hondamatic and decided to go that way instead, the 500 was put on hold. Nurse Nut LOVES the Hondamatic and so it makes me doubt she would ever ride the 500 when it’s finally completed. So, I guess I could ride it, yeah? Well, yeah I could, but I have a pair of running Triumph 750s right now, the 500 will feel like an oversized moped to me. This is the main reason I gave my oldest daughter the Triumph 250 project a few years ago. These bikes are pretty cool, but not my favorite. I COULD put it together as a Stampede bike, although the rules allow Brit 650s, so it would be silly to go for the more underpowered version. I really don’t know if my ass could take doing the Stampede anyway. I don’t mind riding long distance, but my biggest trouble is usually ass pain after about the third day of 600 mile sprints. Maybe if I lost 80 pounds...

Project financing is always a problem. I could budget this part for this month and that part for next month and such, but stuff like three kid’s birthdays, all the Christmas stuff and the usual unexpected car/furnace/replicator blowing up and requiring half the mortgage money to fix will no doubt conspire to foil my plans.

The biggest problem is drive. I don’t really have the drive necessary to buckle down and get the 500 finished, although I will be working on it as time and finances allow. I’d like to work on the duplex framed pre unit in the corner. But that’s looking like big bucks.

What I could really get into, is building a cool longbike, Sugar Bear front end, S&S Panhead with Baker primary and transmission. The drive is there for that one, but the finances are not, I’m guessing that’s something I share with a lot of the readers.
I know, I should just stop whining and get on with it and I probably will.

Good luck to all of you with your winter projects.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Issue #122 September 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

I shouldn’t have to mention that motorcycling, generally speaking is a dangerous thing. And really, that has always been part of the attraction, flying down the road at silly speeds wearing tennis shoes, blue jeans and a T shirt on some cobbled together contraption built by some crazy guy in his shed, nothing feels as good and at the same time, you KNOW what will happen if that nut you forgot to red loctite backs off at just the wrong time... and it isn’t going to be pretty.
There is, of course another completely separate segment of motorcycling that believe in ATGATT. This annoying acronym stands for “All the gear, all the time”. 120º out? Only going to 7-11 1.5 miles away? No excuse, the multi-buckle boots, the armored knee leather pants, the armored elbow and shoulder leather jacket and the full face helmet MUST be worn.
Now those guys have perfectly sound logic and reasoning as to why they do this, they want to have the best chance of surviving a wreck as possible, they have the facts and figures to back up their arguments and will always point to the guys racing bikes for a living that fall off at 200 mph and then get up and stroll nonchalantly back to the pits for an iced tea.
So, why do I not ascribe to that theory? I have family and loved ones to whom it would be devastating if I were to splatter my unprotected body across the interstate. I’m sure some of you readers would miss me for maybe an issue. Maybe it’s pure laziness, I would probably rather jump into the air conditioned truck on a hot day than climb into all that gear. I LOVE the freedom of just putting on the shades, kick and GO! I don’t think I’ve put the helmet on in Michigan since they repealed it earlier this year. I don’t think I have some secret desire to live the rest of my days with a feeding tube in my mouth and family members arguing about who gets to pull the plug.
Clearly, the best protection is afforded by the full face helmet. But I’ve never liked them, the distortion of the shield, the affect on peripheral vision, the dulling of the ambient sounds around you, the weight on your neck, the ‘oven’ effect when stuck in traffic, hell even the lack of smell annoys me, and don’t get me started on the fun of sneezing while you have those things on. In reality, even when there was a helmet law in Michigan (and all the other states we have run in), I only wore a ‘novelty’ beanie helmet anyway, just for the appearance of legality so I wouldn’t be hassled by the ‘man’. Any sort of comfort one may have taken from the protection of such a cheap device would be at best wishful thinking.
The reality (as I see it) is that the ATGATT guy probably wouldn’t be any better off than me if a minivan ran into him, but I feel I have a better chance of hearing, seeing and reacting faster without all that stuff on.

This brings me to the point that prompted me to write this editorial in the first place... it had become a LOT more dangerous out there in the last couple of years. I am, of course, referring to the cellphone impaired driver. Now, I know lots of people that can drive perfectly fine while talking on the phone, but you do see a lot of drivers out there that cannot. After a while, you get used to looking for them with their hand to their ear, careening the minivan through the parking lot as if they were a Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. As annoying and dangerous is this is, most of us have adapted to it. What is getting worse, however, are the damned texters.
If you’re cruising in traffic at all, scan the drivers side mirror on vehicles, if you see the tell-tale look down.. look up quick.. look back down... look up real quick being repeated over and over, you know this drive had no idea of what’s going on around him. I saw a hidden camera report that showed teenagers checked their texts every 30 seconds and had no second thought about replying while driving. I have no great words of wisdom about how to solve this one. It’s already illegal in a lot of places, but that’s not going to stop most people and we know it. I know people who think it’s perfectly fine to endanger the lives of others while texting or updating facebook because they ‘can handle it’. Well bullshit!
Listen, I’m no safety nazi, I don’t give a crap if you wear seatbelts or not, only run a questionable back brake or think that shorts and motorcycles are a great mix, if you’re texting/surfing/updating FB etc. while driving, you’re a damn menace, right up there with the repeat drunk driver and probably deserve it when you run into the back of the parked big rig.

So watch for them, we need to limit injuries to when we are doing stupid shit on the bikes, let’s get back to when we were our own worst enemy!