Non Cogito, Ergo Splat.

February 3rd, 2006 by mnscooter

03 February, 2006 Temperature: 26 degrees F (-3°C)

They will chisel that into my tombstone one day…

“I didn’t think, therefore I crashed.”

After yesterday’s beautiful ride, and a late-night blogging session, I wasn’t expecting the return of Old Man Winter this morning. I awoke late, skipped the news, and rushed through my morning routine. It is Friday, after all.

On my way to the garage, I noticed it was drizzling. Looking out at the road, I saw that the pavement was wet. No big deal. Or, so I thought.

I opened the garage door, and there was the Baron, battery charged and gas tank full, ready to go. That’s when I stopped thinking, and just went through the motions. Key in the ignition, I pressed the button and pulled the lever and the Baron started up. I left him idling as I wheeled him out of the garage. Then I closed the garage door, plugged in my heated vest, climbed aboard, and twisted the throttle. We rolled down the driveway and into the street. Then I steered and leaned into our right turn and… Zzzzinnnngggg!!! Scrrrrssssccchhhhhhhhh!!!

Sounds I know only too well. That’s twice now, this season.

The Baron lay there on his side, idling patiently, while I scrambled to my feet. Nothing hurt but my pride, I carefully picked him back up while trying to keep my feet underneath me on this street cum skating rink. What looked merely like a wet road was actually a textured plain of glare ice. The right side mirror had turned in it’s mount. I turned it back. That scraping sound I heard was the chrome exhaust heat shield ablating it’s plating on the pavement. (Ohh, say THAT ten times fast!)

Remounting carefully, I put my feet out and we rode slowly to the first stop sign. Squeezing the rear brake only, we slid to a crawl, but since there was no traffic coming, I finessed the throttle to continue on at our snail’s pace. This was going to be a long ride.

So, what did I do wrong? Got out of bed, is the first thing that comes to mind.

Watching the news is always good for a clue or two. Like, “Freezing drizzle has been falling in Saint Paul since three a.m., so be careful on the sidestreets out there.” –or, “Traffic is backed up at several locations, due to icy roads and spinouts.”

Hearing that, I might have walked out to the street, as I do on some mornings, and actually tested the traction with my bootsoles. But I was in a hurry today, so I didn’t even turn on the television.

What else? How about the fact that my mind was twenty-six point three miles down the road before we even got out of the driveway? Fridays are like that sometimes. I want to plan my day so there are no surprises which might interfere with the coming weekend. So I let Captain Cognizance steer the ship while I scheme over the map table. Not good on a dry day. Potentially fatal this morning. Auto-pilot doesn’t work on a motorbike.

I’ve learned these lessons before, but experience breeds overconfidence, and today I was a fool. When we ride, we need all of our faculties concentrated on the task at hand. Sometimes we get lucky, but it is sheer folly to count on that. Last time, it was the onset of hypothermia. But this time, I have no excuse.

You know, I’ve just realized that what I did this morning was attempt to “drive” the Baron to work. Hah! My state of mind and demeanor were exactly the same as if I were sitting behind the steering wheel of my pickup truck. The physical rituals of operating the scooter have become ingrained in my muscle memory. So the active part of my mind turned to more complex tasks, leaving a dumb animal at the handlebars.

Alright, I’m done bludgeoning myself. No real harm was done, and I learned my lesson… again. This afternoon, the sun came back out, and we had a pleasant ride home. It was colder, around twenty-one degrees (-6C), and there was just enough ice on the road to make things interesting, so I didn’t do any sightseeing.

I’m taking the weekend off from this blog. The International Motorcycle Show is at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend, and I am going on Saturday. Sunday, I’m visiting my folks and taking care of family business. By Monday, I will be ready for whatever new tricks Old Man Winter can dream up. Stay tuned….

Groundhog Day?

February 2nd, 2006 by mnscooter

02 February, 2006 Temperature: 43 degrees F (6°C)

Can you believe this? It’s Groundhog Day, the very beginning of February in Minnesota, and we are enjoying springtime weather. It feels like April out there!

Normally, I would be reporting single digit lows and highs in the teens. Today, when I awoke, it was twenty nine degrees (-2C) at my house, and rising fast. Our ride to work was uneventful. The Baron and I purred through the darkness like a wraith. The slush had vanished overnight, leaving the roads dry, salty, and sandy as usual. We left early enough to avoid most of the traffic, and I arrived at work in a peaceful, relaxed frame of mind. Just perfect for what the rest of the day had in store.

The sun came out around noon, and you could feel spirits rise throughout the building. A lot of folks went out for lunch, leaving their brown bags in the `fridge.

I saw smiles on faces that normally wear no expression at all. I don’t know what that subterranean rat out east saw today, but everyone who ventured outside our building certainly saw their shadows…and they were glad.

It appears our existential gravity took the day off. Before I knew it, quitting time had arrived, and I found myself facing an early ride home in the sunshine. Does it get any better than this?

I also remembered the memory stick for my camera, and that was stowed safely under the Baron’s comfy seat. With the sun rather low in the western sky, there were some beautiful images to capture on my way home.

Rolling down Golden Valley Road, we stopped at a railroad bridge with a curious history. This bridge spans a dip in the road which frequently catches a truck driver out. The large clearance sign you see here is almost brand new, but already it has been damaged by an inattentive or overconfident trucker, who rammed his trailer into the span when he thought he had room to squeeze under.

Low-la Bridge-a-duh

In the five years I have been commuting on this route, I have seen that sign replaced three times. I can’t recall if it has ever read more than eleven feet, eight inches. You would think they would fudge it a bit over time, as truck after truck came to grief there. But knowing typical bureaucracy, you have to suspect they just ordered an identical replacement and sent the crew back out to clean up the mess once again. That’s called “government job security”.

Of course, if you look at the road underneath that bridge, you realize that they probably spend their whole budget for this section of road on replacing the clearance signs. If I don’t make it home from work some night, come look for me in one of those potholes.

After I stowed the camera, we rolled on down to the Mississippi River for the scenic portion of our nightly journey. I don’t often get off work this early, so the sunlight was especially dramatic on some of the landmarks along the opposite bank.

Along the way, I spied another scooterist in my rearview mirror. I slowed down so that he drew abreast at a stopsign. We spoke for a moment, but then we were blocking traffic, so we moved onto the plank road in front of the Mill Ruins Museum.

This fellow’s name is Alex. He was riding a TGB (Taiwan Golden Bee) 101S, in blue and black. This is a 50cc, sort of dual-sport scooter which I had test-ridden before I discovered the Red Baron. My impression was that it didn’t seem adequate for the punishment I intended to inflict during this project. These small scooters are limited by law to a 30 mph top speed, and that would not do on Shephard Road.

It seemed to be running just fine on this beautiful day, however, and you can ride these little ones without a motorcycle endorsement. Alex rides occasionally in the winter, but he tells me the thing just will not start in temperatures below thirty-one degrees.

I wish I had thought to take his picture, but I could feel the sun sinking lower in the sky, and I wanted to get on to the other scenery along my route. Who knows when we might get another day like this.

So I told him about this blog, and hopefully he will visit us. Alex, if you do, leave a comment with your email address, and maybe we can go for a ride along the river sometime.

The Baron and I continued on down West River Road, stopping here and there to snap a photograph. This one, for instance, is just under the 35W bridge.

Take the low road... trust me.

That’s a freeway I might have been sitting on at that very moment, had I elected to drive my pickup truck through the winter. It is a three-to-four lane affair, with otherwise normal people driving like psychopaths, trying to shave a few precious minutes off of their commutes. It never works, but apparently it is worth risking other people’s lives, as well as their own, just to try. I don’t go there anymore.

Further on, we rode beneath the trees where the strange, vast multitude of crows are roosting this year. It was here that I witnessed an incredible sight: There was a flight of four Canadian Geese in perfect, disciplined formation, amongst a maelstrom of these flying hooligans in their black feather jackets.

“Caw! Cawww! CAWWW!!!”, they cried as they swooped and dove at the interlopers.

But calm as you please, and faster than the crows could follow, the geese continued on their unerring vector towards… who knows what? They probably had a payload to drop on a golf course somewhere.

What a fascinating ride…and I wasn’t even halfway home. We crossed the river at Lake Street, and I got thumbs-up, peace signs, and “whoo-hoos” from folks out for a stroll along the parkway paths. This is more reaction than I have seen in months, and all because the sun decided to make a statement tonight.

Saint Paul Skyline

We rolled down East River Road, past the brewery, and down a maze of residential streets to the High Bridge. There, I parked the Baron and took this one last shot of the Saint Paul skyline, as promised. You can see the 1st Bank Building there, standing proud amongst it’s lesser neighbors. I elected to leave out some of the more modern structures in this shot, as they never feature in my mental pictures of Home.

I missed First Thursday tonight, due to previous family commitments. But my ride home was definitely one to remember.

Slip-Sloppery

February 1st, 2006 by mnscooter

01 February, 2006 Temperature: 32 degrees F (0°C)

This morning, the Baron and I didn’t depart until daylight. We received a couple inches of snow overnight, and I wanted to wait until the plows had made at least one pass on the sidestreets. Besides that, I thought I should get a photo of the Saint Paul skyline that I described the other day, so those who don’t live here would know what I was talking about. It’s best to have at least a little ambient light for that.

Well, the streets were filled with dirty brown slush when we rolled out of the driveway. Perfect slop for the cars to shower us with. Then, when we stopped at the High Bridge to take my photograph, I saw this message on the screen: “No Memory Stick”. Sure enough, I had left that little critter in the stick reader, attached to my PC at home. Alrighty then. On with the journey, we will get that shot another time.

The sidestreets were a challenge. Snowplow coverage had been spotty, and some of my favorite curves had a sloppery mixture of slush over ice. Now, don’t go running for your dictionary. “Sloppery” is my own conglomeration of sloppy and slippery. I do this sometimes, just to confound editors and infuriate grammar geeks. But it works, doesn’t it? I’ll bet you knew exactly what I meant.

Over by the Ford Plant, there are two curves which form an ‘S’. They are a lot of fun to take quickly on dry pavement, but in sloppery conditions, you really want to slow down. Approaching the left-hander this morning, I planted my foot and rolled on the gas, expecting our usual 3-point drift. To my considerable surprise, I found the front sliding first, then the rear, and then the front again in an uncoordinated slither which had us heading for the curb. I stayed with it, and we straightened out six inches from a minor disaster. That woke me up.

We slowed for the right-hander, and once we got going straight again, I reached around to pull the seat cover out of my… er, well, you get the picture. Pucker factor engaged.

The Eskimos have something like thirty words for different kinds of snow. This morning I learned that I shouldn’t play around in sloppery conditions. Surely we can add this word to our northern vocabulary. I’ll call Webster’s… I’m sure they’ll get right on it.

Clean for a Day

January 30th, 2006 by mnscooter

30 January, 2006 Temperature: 29 degrees F (-1.6°C)

Well, the Baron finally got his bath. After all the excitement on Friday, I just didn’t feel like spending the entire evening outside with the bucket, brush, and hose. So I put it off until Sunday, and then brought him to a self-serve carwash. I was very careful with the pressure wash nozzle, avoiding the axle areas and around the rear drum brake. I even brought my own towels to dry him off afterwards.

When we left there, it was snowing. It snowed all day, with only an inch accumulating.

Clean for a Day

I took this photo as soon as we got home, knowing that he wasn’t going to stay clean for long. I sprayed Boeshield on all exposed metal surfaces, so he would be protected from the salt and crud on our commute this morning. That was a good thing. We got drenched by road spray and brown slush all the way to work.

Poetic Justice, or A Trap Well Sprung…

One of the hazards we scooterists face on the roads, any time of year, are people in cages driving too fast. This morning, a young fellow in an older econobox roared up behind me on East River Road. There was ice and snow all over the road yet, and I was riding a cautious 25 – 30 mph. The speed limit on these parkways is 25 anyhow. He watched me drag my foot through a few corners, saw us slide around a bit, but still he stayed within a car length of my rear tire. If I had fallen, chances are very good that he would have run over me. In retrospect, I should have pulled over and waved him by. But the way it turned out was soooo much better…

Topping the rise before the Lake Street Bridge, I saw a car parked in the shadows underneath. It wasn’t full daylight yet, but I know these roads and the denizens that prowl them. This was an unmarked Saint Paul squad car, parked in a perfect ambush position to catch vehicles on radar as they crest the hill. I glanced at my speedometer, and let off the gas, but didn’t touch the brake. Mr. Impatient behind me floored his accelerator and swung out to pass, in the no-passing zone. He must have been doing 45 mph when that unmarked squad lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I couldn’t believe the number and brightness of the lights they managed to hide on that car! Red, white, and blue, all at the same time. Kind of patriotic, don’t you think?

He pulled Speed Racer over and let me go on my merry way. He sounded peeved when he yelled over the intercom for the driver to stay in the car and shut his door. I chuckled all the way across the bridge, and most of the way to work. That one’s gonna cost him.

Okay, so I’ve had my brushes with the law too. Most of them happen when we are young and dumb, but my record has only been clean for about five years now. I know exactly what this guy was thinking, and exactly how he felt when he got busted. Been there, done that, got the mugshot to prove it. Still, he WAS dangerous. Maybe he’ll learn a lesson from it. Maybe not. But it was good to have the Boys in Blue on MY side for once.

Commutus Interruptus

January 29th, 2006 by mnscooter

29 January, 2006 Temperature: 32 degrees (0°C)

So there we were, tooling along down Shephard Road on a sunny Friday afternoon. The work week was over, and the Baron was singing his turbine song, running close to redline at almost sixty miles-per-hour.

I know I said we were going to slow down on this road, but the combination of clear, dry pavement and the beautiful blue sky had a sort of narcotic influence on my state-of-mind. Since my mind controls my throttle hand, there was nothing else to do but twist it to the stop.

The only warning I had that something was amiss was when we began to slow down, and then the drivetrain started to jerk a bit. Suddenly there was no drive at all, and the engine screamed for a moment before I shut everything down. We coasted to the side of the road, and I pulled off my helmet and gloves to inspect the damage. I knew what it was, as I have read about this happening, but I never expected it to happen so soon. We changed the drive belt back at 3,600 kilometers, and the previous belt showed only a little wear. At 6,400 kilometers, this belt failure was premature. Then I found out why: the rear tire was flat again.

A flat rear tire causes lots more stress on the drive belt. It is a great tribute to Kenda that I hadn’t noticed the tire losing pressure. I had hit a few sharp bumps at speed, and one of them had caused the patch to come loose. That’s my best guess, anyway.

There are a series of nice corners on East River Road before you enter Shephard, and there was no feeling of “squishiness” in the suspension this time. So I figure this had to have happened when we hit the Big Dip or one of the many little frost heaves on Shephard Road. Either way, my carefree commute was over, and I faced a mile or so of pushing before I could reach the first place with a phone.

Cars, trucks, and SUVs passed us by, with nobody even slowing down. Had someone stopped, I could have used a cell-phone to call AAA for a tow truck. I wouldn’t have taken any more of their time, but they didn’t know that. If they got off work early, they sure as hell didn’t want to spend any of that stolen time helping some dork on a scooter. Had I broken down on a Harley, I’m betting somebody would have stopped in very short order. Especially if they had the H-D Bar and Shield sticker on their vehicle. That’s part of the Biker’s Code, don’t ya know?

I don’t own a cellphone anymore. I got tired of carrying an electronic leash, and I don’t like paying for something that I use so rarely. But these days, with payphones disappearing, I have to accept the fact that I will inevitably face these situations. Everyone is expected to have one, and if I don’t, then this is my own damn fault. What did people do before cellphones?

I peeled off my jacket and piled it on top of the milk crate as I pushed the Baron up the hill. Then there was a downhill portion and I was able to sit there and coast for awhile. Eventually, we covered that mile and came to the intersection of Shephard and Randolph. There’s a business there called Bonfe’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning. I parked the scooter in their lot, and walked right in the front door.

The nice lady at the desk directed me to the phone in the breakroom, and I called Triple-A. We keep AAA coverage mostly for my wife’s car, but last year we added motorcycle coverage when I was taking ever longer trips for my “Backroads Diary” column. I didn’t know at the time that I would be riding a scooter through the winter. Serendipitous, no?

The flatbed arrived in about an hour, and Dennis the driver took me back to Baron HQ in Plymouth. There, crew chief Lorne and I worked together to re-patch the tire, with a plug this time. Then he changed out the drive belt while I gave the final drive cover a good scrubbing in the parts washer. We were back on the road again within the hour. It was still sunny and warm, and now I could enjoy my ride home all over again. Now there’s a happy ending for you.

Everyday Beauty

January 27th, 2006 by mnscooter

27 January. 2006 Temperatures: embarassing… 43F (6C)

What a glorious Spring day! Who would believe, in Minnesota, in January, that we would be looking at weather like this? Incredible.

It was forty-three degrees this morning, when the Baron and I set out for work. I brought my electric vest with me, but I wasn’t wearing it. Ditto my snow pants. They were packed away in my stylish salmon (it’s NOT pink!) milk-crate, bungied to the luggage rack.

Why bring them at all? The Windsock and Crystal Ball Guild were in solid agreement that we would see record high temperatures today.

I could have pulled that unsightly mess off the back of the Baron and enjoyed an extra mile per hour at speed, and maybe two miles per gallon on our commute. Perhaps old age and caution is creeping up on me. Maybe it’s just the potent force of habit. I just don’t trust this weather. I feel like I’m dreaming. Anyway…

We had a pleasant ride this morning. With no hazards on the road surface, I was able to look around and appreciate the beautiful scenery on my carefully-planned, and long-refined, slow route to work. As we crossed the High Bridge, the sun was below the horizon, but there was a deep blue glow in the sky which silhouetted the Saint Paul skyline, and my favorite landmark, the 1st Bank building.

Think of the 1st Bank building as Saint Paul’s version of the Empire State. It was the tallest, for awhile. When other buildings surpassed it, they were soulless, glass-and-steel monoliths.

I remember watching that “1st” sign flash on and off as we approached Saint Paul in the family station wagon, way back in the 1960’s. It was a touchstone of my young existence, and it always let me know when we were close to home.

The rest of this slow route follows the Mississippi River as it meanders through our Twin Cities. It isn’t a straight line, by any means. But it does display the very best scenery our home has to offer. Some of the most dramatic natural features are carved by rivers, as anyone who has visited the Grand Canyon can verify. Along the Mississippi, we see bluffs, caves, and waterfalls with beautiful parkland running right down to the water’s edge.

The architects who designed our cities were obviously inspired by the river. They built their best structures along it’s banks. Today, on our way home, the Baron and I visited the Stone Arch Bridge. This is just downstream from Saint Anthony Falls. There is a lock and damn system here that passes a lot of barge traffic during the warmer seasons, but it is closed during the winter.

The Baron at the Stone Arch Bridge

We pass this stuff every single workday, but we have never stopped to really appreciate how beautiful it is. It seems I am always concentrating on the road or the traffic, even though this is a sparsely-travelled parkway. Highway habits die hard.

There’s no stopping on the way to work, anyway, because the clock is ticking, and that’s the bossman’s time. But on the way home, with the sun shining bright, life resumes it’s proper pace. Especially on Friday.

Today, we stopped long enough to take some photos, and then continued on towards home. It was an unbelievably gorgeous day, so you just KNOW something had to go wrong. It did. But I will tell you about that next time. For now, just enjoy the pretty picture….

Rapid Recovery

January 26th, 2006 by mnscooter

26 January, 2006 Temperature: 26 degrees F (-3C)

Yesterday, the Baron got his groove back. After a comprehensive tune-up by my trusty crew-chief Lorne, the cold-start problem is a thing of the past, and he runs as good as new. This morning, I barely touched the starter button and he settled into a nice, steady idle. So, what was the problem?

Well, it turns out that my daily runs to redline (and beyond!) along Shephard Road and sometimes Highway 55 were stretching the valves a bit. They hadn’t been checked or adjusted in 6,000 kilometers, so it all makes sense. The choke was not at fault, nor was the carburetor. It’s just that, when the engine was cold, the valves were not sealing all the way, and we weren’t getting adequate compression on start up. It is so nice to have him running perfectly again.

In the future, I think we will avoid the highway altogether. It adds nothing to my daily ride, and only subtracts about five minutes from my commute time. That’s not worth beating the crap out of this valiant little powerplant. I think I will slow down a bit along Shephard Road as well. This project is challenging enough without causing unnecessary strain to the Baron’s noble heart.

There is definitely some symbiosis going on here, because I feel better today as well. I’m not completely over this bug yet, but the earache is subsiding and my sinuses are starting to clear up. The sun is shining, and it is supposed to warm up to springtime temperatures today. That probably helps a little bit too, don’t you think?

Since we are embarking on the second half of our journey next week, I am going to treat the Baron to a good wash and polish over the next couple warm and sunny days. Then you can look forward to some more photos in here. I’ve been too ashamed to even bring the camera along lately, as the Baron is looking awfully tough these days.

Well, I am coming to the end of my daily “blunch” (blogger’s lunch) break, so I am going to have to sign off now. The Baron and I, along with this blog, will be back up to full speed tomorrow.

Milestone Maintenance

January 25th, 2006 by mnscooter

As of this morning, the Baron and I have clocked over 6,000 kilometers of winter riding together. Since winter is about half over, I consider this a milestone. We have commuted together every workday this winter, except for that one day when I had to return the rental SUV I used for the long audit trip to South Dakota. We have never missed a day due to weather or mechanical issues. Not bad for a machine the “traditional scooter community” said would fall apart underneath me.

Today he is going into the Baron HQ shop to get a thorough “physical” and see if they can figure out the cold-start problem. It’s also time for his first valve check and another oil change. I was going to ride him over there, but when I pulled into the lot at work this morning, the rear end felt “squishy”. Upon inspection, I found a small piece of metal embedded in my flat rear tire. So I called up my trusty Baron pitcrew, and they are going to send an ambulance. (Funny, but it looks exactly like Lorne’s truck!)

I’m still sick myself. The virus, or whatever it is, has settled in my left ear. It’s been decades since I had an earache, but it hurts every bit as much as I remember. If I’m not over this by Friday, perhaps I’ll take off early from work and get some maintenance done on myself.

That’s it for today. This blog will get better again when I do…

Sick Days

January 24th, 2006 by mnscooter

23 January, 2006 Temperature: 6 degrees F (-14C)

It seems I have caught the upper respiratory bug that has been making the rounds at work. People there have been hacking, coughing, and sniffling for about two weeks now, and the symptoms hit me hard this weekend. This is what happens when companies combine vacation and sick time into “time bank”; nobody is willing to stay home when they’re sick. So we all get to share our germs with each other.

Strangely enough, the Baron has developed a breathing problem of his own. The automatic choke has stopped choking, and he is very hard to start. I replaced the actuator, but that made no difference. We are going to Baron HQ tonight to get this sorted out. No sense both of us being sick.

It was a cold ride this morning, after the luxurious temperatures we have enjoyed lately. We didn’t stop for coffee, because we were running late, and my feet were frozen numb by the time we got to work. That’s not going to help me recover. I suppose I could hijack my wife’s car for a couple days, until I get over this, but I’m too stubborn. As long as the Baron will start, we’re riding. We’ll just leave early enough to allow for a warm-up stop.

GOOD NEWS: Our local Ford plant, the one I mentioned on Thursday, has dodged Ford’s first round of plant closings. Our governor is working with the company to find a way to keep them running, with alternate fuel vehicles or whatever. I wish them luck.

That’s all I have for today. Survival mode is engaged, and I am just going to gut it out for awhile until I feel better. Friday’s post is generating some pretty good discussion in the comments section. You might want to check that out, if you haven’t already.

Flatulent Friday

January 20th, 2006 by mnscooter

20 January, 2006 Temperature: 28 degrees F (-2C)

So here we are at the end of another long work-week. You know, I used the days of the week in the blog headlines just so this one would coincide with our Loud Pipes discussion. Clever, huh? Of course, I’m lying…

It’s funny how these things work out, though. I wasn’t really planning on discussing this, ever, since everyone seems to have a strong opinion on the subject. Have you tried to change anyone’s mind about anything lately? People just won’t budge these days!

But I did put that bit in at the end of yesterday’s blog entry, so let’s get this over with.

Now, I’m not going to bore you with statistics here, mostly because I am too tired and lazy right now to do the research. What I will do is throw my own opinion out there, the result of thirty years experience with various motorbikes, and open the comments section for discussion. Let’s keep the tone civil, shall we?

The first question I have to ask is: How loud is LOUD? Noise laws vary from place to place, but I’m pretty sure an open-piped Harley is illegal just about everywhere from a decibel-count standpoint. So are most of the performance exhaust systems sold to sportbike owners, with the caveat right there on the box: “For competition or off-highway use only.”

Even when I roadraced at Brainerd International Raceway, they tested all the amatuer classes for exhaust noise. I forget what the cutoff was, but they were serious about keeping the noise down, as the resort and cabin folks were starting to complain. I could run a set of Termignoni carbon-fiber mufflers on my Ducati 900SS and still race, but that same set of pipes would set off car alarms as I rode down the main street of Brainerd. It was kind of funny, the first time it happened, but then I thought about how that car’s owner is going to feel about motorcycles the next time he pretends not to see one on the road.

Ever notice how Newton’s third law undergoes a subtle change in traffic? “For every action, there is an opposite reaction, but it ain’t always equal.”

For the moto-commuter, another factor comes into play: the neighbors. How well-liked are you going to be in your neighborhood when you kick your vintage straight-piped Norton to life at 5 a.m. on Monday morning, for your Ride To Work? Here’s a clue… this is how noise ordinances are created, and tightened up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I dislike the EPA standards for any kind of motorbike emissions, be they noise or exhaust gas. They have done more to hobble motorbike performance and increase costs than almost any other single factor. Why do you think the stock exhaust is the first thing to get scrapped when a rider starts to modify his ride to suit his tastes? Even mileage suffers when the exhaust system becomes restrictive and heavy enough to meet EPA standards. There has got to be a sensible compromise out there, but like everything else these days, it has become a political football. Why can’t we set an efficiency standard instead?

But let’s get back to the bumper-sticker issue here. Do loud pipes actually save lives? Personally, I don’t think so. For every motorist shocked out of her catatonic daze by the passing thunder of a pack of Hell’s Orthodontists, there is another one somewhere else who ran into the back of a garbage truck while watching a Starboyz wannabe wheelie past on his race-piped Ninja.

The basic assumption about exhaust noise; that the sound will tell a motorist where you are even if they don’t see you, is faulty. Have you ever heard of echoes? We ride in the city, we ride through the forests, and we ride in the canyons where sound waves bounce all over the place.

Here’s a scenario… I’m on a twisty mountain road, on my loud motorbike, when I run up rapidly on the back of a slow moving camper. My exhaust exits on the right side of my bike, which is where the rock wall is. As I whack the throttle to pass, the tourist swerves left, right into me! –running me off the road and over the cliff. What does he tell the investigating officer? “I heard this guy coming up on my right, so I moved over to give him room!” The very echo of our loud exhausts just may be the cause of our own demise.

So, how do we solve this? I think the solution is elegantly simple. Build an exhaust system that is efficient, yielding the best mileage and performance, and yet is pleasing to the ear. If you can hear what your motor is doing, you feel better about your ride. But you don’t have to force it on everyone else within a mile radius. That’s just anti-social. If you’re looking for attention, get yourself a Nuclear Tangerine riding suit.