Monday, February 29, 2016

Cue Tom Petty - the waiting is the hardest part

Get it? Spring..... around the corner.... Hahaha!!
This might literally be the toughest time of year for motorcycle enthusiasts that live in the frozen tundra for six months out of the year. Lately, where I live, I've been getting teased with warmer spring-like weather one day, only to have the temps plummet to -5°F for the low two days later....

But, while we're still waiting, now is the time to start going over what you should go over on your bike before that first spring ride. There are quite a few websites/blogs that will give you mostly the same information:

  1. Read your owners manual - you'd be surprised at just  how much information is in there!!
  2. Fuel - hopefully you filled your gas tank with treated gas so that it would stay fresh. 
  3. Battery - Harley batteries are sealed, so you don't need to check the acid levels. And if you've had your bike on a battery tender all through winter, you're doing good! Just do a quick check and make sure there's no corrosion building up. 
  4. Oil & Filter - did you change these before you put your bike to bed? If so you're good to go. If not you should do it now.
  5. Controls - check your cables for fraying and correct adjustment, throttle for smooth movement, pedals & levers for breakage.
  6. Tires - where the rubber meets the road is the most important part of your ride!! Check for proper inflation, and that you have enough tread depth. Showing 'wear bars' on your tire but don't have the money to spend for your bike's new shoes?? Stop and think of the real cost that you could pay....
  7. Lights - do they all light up?? Check that the low & high beam, running, turn signals, emergency and brake lights are all working.
Familiar with T-CLOCS? It's an acronym to help you remember what to check before going out on a ride - and it doesn't hurt to check out your cage (aka car) also. Here's a checklist from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation just for you!!

But, THE MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY PRECAUTION YOU CAN DO NOW IS to check over your Motorcycle Insurance Policy. "Oh, I've got the required insured amounts for my motorcycle - I'm good!!", but sadly you probably are not.

Unfortunately I lost a dear friend last year in a motorcycle accident. He and his wife (each on their own bike) had traveled to South Dakota and were celebrating the 75th Year of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally when he was struck by a cager and killed. Since then his widow has been an advocate for proper motorcycle insurance coverage.

AND know your Motorcycle Insurance Coverage
The person that hit my friend also had the required insurance amounts for her vehicle, that is the minimum insurance amounts, but nothing more. In New York State those minimum amounts are $25K bodily injury per person/$50K total bodily injury if more than one person is injured. Did you know that the average Life Flight (when the rider/driver is flown to the trauma center) is $15,000? Then add in emergency room, surgical suite, and hospitalization costs.... These minimum amounts have not kept up with the increasing medical costs. 

Sure my friend's widow could sue the cager that hit her husband, but chances are slim to none that she'd receive any settlement before the driver declares bankruptcy. Do you know the saying, "You can't get blood from a stone."? That applies here.

So what can you do? Check out your Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist coverage levels. This is what my friend and his wife both have - and it's what saved her from financial ruin. UM/UIM is what kicks in after the coverage limits from the other at-fault motorist are reached. And all for what is usually a minor increase to your insurance bill - but again, consider the true cost of not having this type of insurance coverage .

Check out these articles below for more information. Or - better yet - go over your insurance policy with your insurance agent (or attorney) and ask him/her to explain everything!!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Risk versus Reward and "Pucker" Moments

Customers will sometimes ask me how long I've been riding and my reply is always the same: It depends on when you start counting. Technically I started riding at age five - riding horses. It wasn't long after that I graduated to bicycles and dirt bikes (did I mention my dad wanted a boy?). In my teens I started riding street bikes but I didn't have the "M" endorsement on my license till 2009.... (oops!)

F.X. Caprara Harley-Davidson also sells other brands in our dealership - Arctic Cat, BRP - Can Am, Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo, and Honda motorcycles, ATVs and power equipement. So sometimes I'll hear about a customer's near accident, going into the reason they gave up riding a motorcycle. I won't forget the last customer I talked with (but he won't be the last) who told me that he gave up riding because of his job:
  • Him: "I just couldn't ride anymore after seeing what I see doing my job."
  • Me: "What do you do? EMS??"
  • Him: "I'm a State Trooper." (who was looking to buy a new jacket to wear while riding his snowmobile)
  • Me: "Wow - really??" 
  • Him: "Yeah, the risk of what could go wrong on a motorcycle is just too much."
  • Me: "But you ride a snowmobile now, and I know I just heard of a snowmobile accident over the weekend where the rider had to be airlifted out!!"
The risk of something bad happening to us just going about our normal day-to-day are probably more than I want to know. Slip and fall, kitchen accidents, something falls on you, poisoning (not by your spouse's cooking!), and choking - and that's all before getting out of the house. Then calculate in your commute to work, your work environment, and going out after work to dinner and a movie - we're just piling the risk on!!

I'll be honest, I've had a few of what I like to call "pucker" moments (because you usually get that "oh sh*t" moment where everything in your body tenses up - or is that just me?) while riding my motorcycle. And Bikers are quick to tell you: It's not a matter of if you'll go down, but a matter of when you'll go down. But there's one instance in particular that I really didn't see myself coming out on the other side. 

On a Sunday morning I was riding on the interstate, in the slow lane, on my way to work, and had just checked my speed - 72mph. Then, about 50 yards in front of me, my greatest fear jumps out from the grassy median in the middle of the highway: an adult doe.... PUCKER!!! I do a quick assessment: she's going uphill and not full speed yet and I'm in 5th gear about half throttle. I decide not to hit my brakes because I don't think I can stop in time - I twist the throttle of my bike instead and try to cross in front of her.

Now obviously I'm here talking about it, so it wasn't all that bad. But at the time, one of my thoughts running through my head was, "I don't think I'm going to make this...." And then my next thought literally was, "Well, at least I'm going out doing something I love!" This contest between myself and the deer came out a draw - I did get my front wheel ahead of her but she rammed her head into my left knee, spraining it. By the grace of the Gods, I did not go down on my bike. By the following Tuesday, ignoring doctor's orders, I was back riding my motorcycle, leg brace and all.

So yeah, there are undeniable risks that come with riding a motorcycle. But for me and most Bikers I know, the rewards are so much more. When we're riding our motorcycles, we see, smell and experience things in a completely different way. When you're in your car, looking through the windshield, it's like you're watching TV. On a bike the 'window' is gone - you're using your body to move the motorcycle, both hands and feet to control it. Riding a motorcycle you're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene.

Add in all the friends you'll meet, some of which will become like family, and it's really easy to start to understand why I ride. Then I'll invite you to try it out for yourself - living life that is. Because doing what is fun will always come with risks, but the rewards are better than sitting at home on the couch. 
L to R: Queen Mother, Nance, Me, Black Widow, Halo and LoLo 
And, in case you think I'm the only crazy one, check out The Risks of NOT Riding a Motorcycle

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Love In The Little Things

It may surprise you that even the stereotypical biker does love lots of things. And with Valentine's Day just the other day, I'm going to share five of those little things Bikers love:

  1. The way it smells fresh right after a rain. Riding on your bike, not only do you see more than you do in your car, you smell a lot more as well. Right after a rain when the whole world smells clean and wonderful is a favorite.
  2. Living in an area that sees snow and ice half of
    the year, Bikers love, love, love that first ride come spring time!! The sensation of having the bike underneath you, feeling the motor running, the twist of the throttle.... That first ride of the year is something we all anxiously await.
  3. Going from one lean angle to the next as we negotiate a "S" turn. This is the reason why so many bikers plan rides down the Tail of the Dragon each year. 
  4. The "Back Roads" - often when we travel it's not about how fast we can get there or even what the shortest route is. Bikers love the two-laned back
    roads with little traffic, lots of scenery, and an openness to clear your head. 
  5. A good party with great friends after the ride. Of course you probably guessed that already!! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Challenging the "norm".....

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company announced today on their Facebook
page that they, along with Rolling Stone Magazine, are going to NYC for Fashion Week. One normally wouldn't put the Fashion Industry together with Motorcycling. After all what does a bunch of clothes have to do with how a Harley runs?? The answer is: A lot! Coco Chanel said it the best: Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.

Back to the Beginning:
The industrial age came along and suddenly everyone is going faster and farther than ever before. Best to have some protective gear/clothing for the safety of the rider - leather jackets, tall boots, goggles and the like. Not very glamorous but practical. 

The King shall ride:
Go forward a couple of decades and the second world war, soldiers are back customizing surplus motorcycles they got from the military. Throw in a couple of celebrities on bikes and now what these bikers are wearing is beginning to be seen on clothing racks. "Press Week" - the precursor to Fashion Week - begins in New York City and continues till the early 90's. Held in separate lofts and studios all over town, it proved difficult to get around and see all the designers.

Here and now:
For safety reasons (a ceiling collapse), the fashion industry looked to put everything in one spot and #NYFW was born. Today clothing inspired by the Motorcycle Industry can be seen in numerous designer collections. Don't believe me? Check out Helen Mirren dressed in biker chic; or this jacket from Ralph Lauren. 

This gives rise to the argument that HDMC - an industry icon in it's own right - be part of this spring ritual. Sure our leather jackets and boots protect the rider AND they look good too. Our Motorclothes (a term coined by Harley) have been built by riders, for riders - clothing to help keep the rider warm in the cold or cool in the heat. All of that makes for a more enjoyable and safer ride. Plus there's lots more clothing with a "Bar & Shield" tag - denim, hoodies, button up "garage" shirts, hats, scarves, wallets/purses, jewelry and more. 

Customers coming into FX Caprara Harley-Davidson for the first time - maybe to check it out for themselves or to grab a gift for a friend - are sometimes amazed at the amount of clothing we do have. They thought we just sold motorcycles! I'll begin talking with them only to find out they've always loved Harley motorcycles and want to learn how to ride someday. My reply: "It all starts with the clothes!!" 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How Bikers Survive The Winter Months

When your passion is living a life on two wheels, but you live in an area where snow dominates the landscape four to six months out of the year, you learn certain survival skills. Some of us are fortunate enough to roll down south during the winter months, and/or some of us are lucky enough to live in the warmth year round, post pictures and status updates that the rest of us live vicariously through. But there are other crafty ways we in the north circumnavigate, and they are:

Making plans to escape:
There are numerous motorcycle rallies throughout the year: from Daytona Bike Week to Laconia, from Laughlin River Run to Sturgis, and all the small town rallies in-between. Our own local bike rally, the Thousand Islands River Run will be in it's tenth year, as well as the NY H.O.G. Rally will be in Alexandria Bay this July. Bikers are planning and plotting where and when they'll be riding to this upcoming season.

Windows into other worlds:
Thanks to the invention of the internet and then YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc., we can now watch and re-watch our favorite motorcycle TV shows and movies. Wild Hogs, Easy Rider, CHiPs, The Wild One and - of course - Sons Of Anarchy. If we can't ride then we'll watch other people riding.

Out and about:
Riding ATVs and snowmobiles - for some of us just the fact that we are outside and moving (and not in a cage (aka car/truck)) is enough to help us get through. The local Harley Dealership will usually have events throughout the winter as well. At FXCHD we had a paint party last month and this month we have a few workshops, a vintage sled show and a chili cook-off.

Adding that special something:
One of the plus sides to living in the northern states is that it's easy to use the 'down-time' to customize and/or upgrade our motorcycles without losing any riding time. Now is the time of year most of us have our bikes up on a lift adding new exhaust, a sissy bar backrest, doing an engine upgrade, adding extra speakers to your sound system, or even just maintaining our bikes (like maybe that new rear tire) so we're ready to spring from winter's lock down. Last year Jeff, FXCHD's Master Technician, put Screamin' Eagle 204 Cams into my bike; this year she got new jugs!!

Saving some dough:
Motorcycle travel is definitely a less expensive way of travel, but there are still expenses that can rack up. Hotels, dinners, gas, gear and the like - bikers tend to save some extra money now to help offset the expenses later. Another way we save money is by checking our riding gear - making sure we have everything we'll need out there on the road and that it's in good repair. Rain gear, leather jacket and chaps, helmet, gloves and goggles - the old adage holds true: it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.