Monthly Archive: February 2016

10 Essential Tips for Your First Motorcycle Road Trip

1. The road is longer than you think

The first day of my trip was a relatively short ride between the cities of Athens and Statesboro. It was about a three-hour ride, and at the end of it, I met a friend for dinner and drinks, then spent the night before my big push to West Palm Beach. While three hours on the road was no big deal, the drive from Statesboro to West Palm Beach was more than twice as long. When I was planning the trip, six or seven hours didn’t sound horrible, but for someone who had never ridden a motorcycle for that long, actually doing it felt like an absolute eternity.

If you aren’t accustomed to riding for more than just a few hours, don’t jump right into a road trip. Try taking some practice rides to get used to being on a bike for longer periods of time. Experienced riders regularly go on much longer trips than I did, but they’re just that – experienced riders. The more prepared you can be for how endless six or seven hours is going to feel, the better.

2. Windshields are great
Getting my start riding mostly in the city, I didn’t see much use for windshields. My foolish, young mind thought they ruined the look of the bike and were for the kinds of people who ride from Miami to Seattle on $60,000 customs. For city riding, I still prefer the look of a bike that’s as naked as possible, but once it’s time to hit the highway, I am fully aware that my position on windshields was entirely wrong.

Feeling the wind blow as you ride is one of the most wonderful parts of riding, but two or three hours at 75 or 80 miles per hour gets exhausting. Five, six, and seven hours into riding, it’s even worse. As I slowed down to 65 miles per hour to give my arms a rest, I realized that not only did I need to work out more, I needed a windshield if I was ever going to do this again. If you’re looking to road trip, save yourself the exhaustion and spring for a proper windshield.

3. Get your position right
As a male of average height, average weight, and average proportions, I never put much thought into my riding position. My bike was comfortable enough, and who was I to challenge Honda’s decision to set it up the way it did? Well, I was wrong. By the time I arrived in West Palm Beach, I had so much back pain that getting a deep tissue massage could have been considered a medical expense.

If you’re going to take a stock motorcycle on a road trip, getting your seating and riding position right is going to be incredibly important. You probably want to buy an aftermarket seat, and you might even want to consider a back rest. Someone might make fun of you for using a back rest on your bike, but who cares? If it makes you more comfortable, it’s worth it. You also want to get some highway pegs and make sure your handlebars are adjusted to be as comfortable as possible. The more comfortable your bike is, the more likely you are to ride it long distances again.

4. The weather constantly changes
There’s an old running joke that on any motorcycle trip, at some point you’ll end up hot, cold, and wet. Despite the fact that I was only driving from one state to another state, it was crazy how true that joke ended up being. Even though the temperature never got excessively hot, my safety gear conspired to roast me like a Christmas ham. When it inevitably started raining, it was a relief for the first few minutes, but before long, being soaking wet started to get old. By the time the rain stopped, I was absolutely freezing and desperate for some sun again. When the rain stopped, and the sun returned, it was only a matter of time before it felt like I was being steamed alive.

Even if the weather is supposed to be perfect, make sure you’re prepared for weather that isn’t. Well-ventilated, waterproof equipment will make the hot parts cooler, the wet parts dryer, and the cold parts warmer. The parts between extremes are amazing, but you have to be mentally prepared for a little discomfort if you’re going to hit the open road. You may even need to be prepared to change clothes a few times.

5. Earplugs are amazing
No one ever told me how loud it is to ride on the highway, but let me tell you – it’s so loud. Wearing ear plugs on the highway might be about as cool as wearing ear plugs to a rock concert, but there’s nothing cool about losing your hearing. At the very least, take some with you. If you don’t like riding with them, you can always take them out. Having functional ears by the end of your trip is going to be important though. You probably want to wear them at least part of the time.

6. Technology makes things better
Being entirely alone with your thoughts for hours on end is a very interesting experience, and I highly recommend most people try it sometime. That said, if riding long distances is going to be something you do regularly, embracing a little technology will probably make those rides better. A helmet equipped with Bluetooth, for example, can link you to your phone and not only play music but receive calls, follow GPS directions, and allow rider-to-rider communications.

If you’re using a cell phone for anything from making sure you don’t get lost to playing music, touch screen-capable gloves are also a great idea. The piece of technology I most wished I had, though, was cruise control. Some people think cruise control makes a motorcycle too much like driving a car, but being able to reliably maintain a constant speed for long periods of time helps keep riders safe and discourages cars from dangerously passing a bike that’s accidentally slowed down a few miles per hour.

Make the best choices you can, but don’t be afraid to add some modern technology to your riding experience.

7. Rest more than you think you should
My original plan was to take a break every time I filled up for gas. My Shadow had a highway range of about 150 miles per tank, so stopping once a tank sounded like a pretty good plan to me. It was not. In fact, it was a bad plan. Especially on my way home, I had to stop much more often than once per tank. Taking time to drink some water, have a snack, stretch your legs, and relax your back is a necessity.

Not only will several hours of riding wear on your body, it will also wear on your concentration. The last thing you need is to space out at 80 miles per hour and miss that a driver is about to do something stupid or reckless. Cars on the highway want to kill motorcyclists just as much as cars in the city, and you need to be awake, alert, and focused on your ride. Even if you don’t necessarily need to rest early in your trip, do it anyways to make sure you’re still feeling good by the end of the trip.

8. You get gross
Roads are nasty, disgusting places, and by the time you reach your destination 10 hours later, a lot of that nasty, disgusting stuff will be on you. You will have sweated more than you thought you did, your deodorant will have long since worn off, and somehow, you’ll have dirt and grime in places that you could have sworn were covered by your jacket and helmet.

If you have plans of riding 10 hours and then immediately grabbing a nice dinner, you’re going to want to rethink those plans. Either pick a place that’s popular with local riders and probably less fancy, or make sure you have time to squeeze in a shower before heading out. That first shower after a long ride, by the way, is going to be an absolutely heavenly experience.

9. Port St. Lucie, Fla., thinks it’s too good for Waffle House
When you’re hungry and worn out from the road, there’s no better restaurant to choose for dinner than Waffle House. A cup of coffee, a side of bacon, a big plate of hashbrowns, and a few fried eggs will make anyone feel at home, rested, and relaxed. Even better, Waffle House is used to all kinds of people pulling in for a quick bite, so a few worn out riders won’t turn a head.

Unfortunately, if you try to eat dinner in Port St. Lucie, you won’t find a Waffle House because there isn’t one. If you head back to Fort Pierce, there are two, but in Port St. Lucie, there are zero Waffle Houses. Why is that? I have no idea. I guess nobody bothered to consider providing delicious short order cooking for the city’s residents.

10. I’d do it again in a heartbeat
I may have had no idea what I was getting myself into when I left, the last several hours of my ride home were completely miserable, and I had painful knots in my back for weeks, but despite all that, I would take a motorcycle road trip again in a heart beat. I’d make sure I was more prepared this time, I’d prefer to do it with friends, and I’d make sure my bike was properly set up for a long ride, but there’s really no better way to see and experience the country than on a motorcycle.

As my friend who pushed me to go said, there probably isn’t going to be another time in my life that I can take off on a whim and ride to Florida for a week. That’s an experience mostly reserved for young men, but it’s an experience I don’t take for granted. Maybe with a little more planning and foresight, I’ll finally be able to do the whole East Coast on a bike.

FIVE TIPS FOR RIDING A MOTORCYCLE IN THE RAIN

What exactly are those things that you should expect when riding in the rain, and how should your riding vary? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Choose the right gear
A good waterproof rainsuit (two-piece or one), gloves, boots, and perhaps an electric vest, can keep even the most persistent storm from soaking you, which is the first key to enjoying a day spent in the rain. Generally, waterproof gear such as this means extra warmth, but if you need even more, consider wearing layers, but multiple thin ones rather than one thick undergarment, as those layers can be easily removed one at a time as needed.
Another oft overlooked piece of the gear puzzle is the helmet, which should be equipped with either an anti-fog visor, breath guard, or even a visor with electric defrost function. The nights are obviously longer during the winter, so chances are your commute will be in the dark—a clear shield is a must, as well.
Whatever combination of gear you end up with, make sure that it doesn’t intrude on your riding or distract you in any way. For example, you can’t work the controls with frozen fingers, but an extra-warm pair of gloves may be too bulky and not much better. Similarly, a neck warmer may be nice and toasty but limit you from turning your head enough for a shoulder check. You may have to search to find the right gear, but you should be able to find a nice balance between comfort and practicality for the conditions you intend to ride in.
Finally, if your winter riding includes commuting, keep a change of clothes ready at work—just in case.
Tip 2: Ride smoother and smarter
When riding in less than ideal conditions, you must change the way you handle the motorcycle. Throttle adjustments need to be made smoothly and in small increments; use less lean angle; gradually apply your brakes and get your braking done early, so that in the last bit of the braking zone you are not forced to stab the brake lever.

Tip 3: Be wary of intersections
We all know about the oils in the pavement that surface after a rain, but what about the oil that was already there? Any place in the road where cars come to a stop will have a higher concentration of the slick stuff. The rain makes it worse. You may not be able to spot this while riding, so it’s best to decrease your speed when approaching intersections. Don’t run yellow lights, because if you have to turn or brake quickly chances are you’ll encounter a traction problem.
Also, when stopped at a red light, check the rear-view mirror for cars that could slide into you from behind. Similarly, double your following distance so as not to be surprised by cars stopping suddenly in front of you.
Tip 4: Watch out for manhole covers and sealer pavement
Two things we’ve noticed that drastically reduce traction during wet weather are manhole covers and sealer pavement, which are both almost like black ice when it’s raining. When traveling in a straight line they pose less of a threat, but you should still be scanning well ahead and looking out for either as you turn the bike to enter an intersection. If and when you do encounter either of these traction inhibitors, check first if there is a line that you could easily take around them. If not, resist braking or accelerating hard and roll over them without making any aggressive inputs.
Note that in case you do have to change your line or turn over a greasy section, it’s important to keep your hands relaxed on the clip-ons and don’t lean the bike any more than necessary.

Tip 5: Find a dry line
Although this may seem obvious, it is amazing how many people we see riding in an area of the lane that is wet even though an adjacent area is dry. Dry pavement offers superior traction and maneuverability, so make sure you continually place yourself in the driest section of the lane.

Tips and Tricks for Finding the Source

There are many car smells. Some of them may be normal but others such as a musty car odor or car mildew smell can be a sign that something is the matter. The best way to eliminate the smell is to determine its cause, fix it, and then go about deodorizing your vehicle, as smells will become trapped in fabric. Some of the nastier car smells include gym socks, sulfur, rotten eggs, burnt paper, and a gas stations to name a few.

Gasoline Smell

Most of these are related to a leak. If your car smells like a gas station then there is a leak in the fuel tank vent hose or the fuel injection line. This is very dangerous because gasoline is flammable. Many times if you have an old car, pre 1980, then this smell can be normal but for modern cars this smell is an issue.

Rotten Egg Smell

If you get a rotten egg smell when the engine is running, this is due to the compound hydrogen sulfide. There is a small amount of sulfur found in gasoline. When the gas travels through the catalytic converter, it will be transformed into sulfur dioxide, which does not smell. So if the sulfur is not being transformed and smells, then your catalytic convertor is broken.

Smells like Burnt Carpet

This smell normally occurs when you have been hitting the brakes very hard or have been using the brakes a lot. This burnt smell occurs when the brake pads become overheated. This can be normal if you have been going down a steep hill and riding the brakes. However if this occurs with normal driving then a brake caliper piston has seized which creates a dragging brake. You also could have left the hand brake or parking brake on.

Maple Syrup

The maple syrup smell is from a leak of ethylene glycol. This can occur when the engine has warmed up or if it is shut off. Ethylene glycol is very toxic and can come from several places, including an intake manifold gasket that has failed, heater hose, radiator hose, or failed cylinder head. If the maple syrup smell is very strong outside of the car, then you probably have a radiator cap that is leaking. If the smell is particularly strong inside the car then there is a problem with the heater core.

A Gym Locker

Most times the smell of an old gym locker is related to the air conditioner and heater fan. You probably have mildew growing in this system. There are several ways to get rid of this mildew but the easiest step is to turn off the air conditioning and run the fan on high. This will dry out your system.

Hot Oil

You may get an odor of hot oil when the engine has warmed up. This occurs when oil has leaked onto the exhaust manifold, which is hot. This type of hot oil smell is very acrid. If the hot oil smells like French fry oil then you have a crankshaft seal that is leaky. You will notice the leak on the pavement under your car as the oil can spray all over.

How to Soften a Stiff Leather Car Seat

leather car seat can enhance value and beauty to a car. With proper care, they can last into vintage age. It’s important not to get leather soiled, soaked, or let it dry out, but if you have leather car seats that have become stiff, there are some remedies.

Remove the leather seats from any area that is extremely hot or cold, or excessively dry or humid. You may want to remove them from the vehicle to begin restoring the leather. Before you place anything on the leather, think of it as your own skin. Chemicals and heat can harm or crack it. Improper cleaning can also remove finishes and colors.

You’ll need to wash the leather to clean the dirt deep in the pores and to remove any stains before applying conditioner. Conditioner will soak in deeply and will drag the dirt in as well, if not removed first. Be sure to use quality products, as some leather cleaners can actually damage leather. Avoid leather care products that are alkaline by nature. These products can further dry and eventually crack the leather. Also avoid petroleum distillates, silicones and waxes that are fire hazards. Some cleaners leave a residue or darken and harden the leather.

A good leather wash will safely clean and lift out embedded dirt. It should have beneficial lubricants to soften the leather. Cleaners that don’t need to be rinsed out and are removed by wiping straight off are best. Also, a cleaner that will enhance the original leather color without changing it is preferred. Always try to work on a sample first, or in an area that is not seen in order to learn what the results will be.

When fully dry, use a quality leather restorer/conditioner to gently massage the stiffened leather. A pH-neutral product is recommended. Apply the conditioner with a sponge or soft cloth (never use paper, it will cause scratching). Leather absorbs just what it needs. The conditioner should soak in, and then disappear. You should not need to wipe it off. If you apply too much, it will stay wet or greasy. A good conditioner will penetrate deeply to the center of the leather to nourish and lubricate its fibers. A pH neutral conditioner will not interfere with the natural acidic quality of the leather. Instead it will increase its softness and life in general.

Cleaning, restoring and conditioning should be repeated every three months to keep the leather strong and supple. It is important to replace oils that are lost, or the leather will eventually dry out and begin to crack. You may wish to add a protective shield or water repellent to provide protection from the elements, or from spills.

Keep your car in a dry location, out of extreme temperatures of heat or freezing cold. On warm days, crack the windows. Even if it’s only 70 degrees outside, it could easily heat up to 100 degrees inside. Use shades on the windows to keep the sun from beating down on the leather seats which will eventually fade and crack the leather.