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03.10.06

Shake your Bike
by Deke Tailpipe

Every now and then ya just gotta pick up your bike and give it a good shake! You'll be amazed at the stuff that drops out... keys, bolts, screws, combs, tools.

Problem is - most bikes are several times your body weight. Unless you have a few huge buddies standing around willing to help, a body's got to use a little creativity. Looking back on times things have shaken loose of bikes of mine or my riding buds' rigs - I have a few questionable, but effective suggestions.

There's the dropping-on-the-steep-banked-road approach. This discovered by one pal of mine while attempting a 180 degree turn on a steeply banked country road, going back in search of our group's 'tail gunner' fallen' behind. (Now that I think of it, every time we go back for our lost 'tail gunner' someone drops their bike... maybe we're not gonna go back for him anymore! - Anywho - this tip-over produced a missing bolt he had searched for for hours after an engine swap.

Slightly more dramatic would be the topple-in-a-ditch method, discovered by yours truly on an otherwise great day. I had done my first illustration for the NASCAR race at Sears Point and rode down to Vallejo to take a picture of the billboard it was up on - the first time I had ever seen my artwork on a road sign. Realizing what a great shot it made of my old Honda 750 with the sign in the background, I crouched to frame the shot and noticed my tool bag was hanging off to the side behind the seat. Still looking through the viewfinder, I reached out with my boot, nudging the bag back into place. As I prepared to click the shutter, I thought to myself, Why's the bike getting smaller in the lens? As my head eliminated the possibility of my somehow moving backward, I watched the bike oh-so-f##king slowly pitch over and down the embankment. That I found my long lost 10 mil box wrench "thrown clear" ( like a car crash victim in the old days ) was less than the thrill it might otherwise have been. I loved that wrench... don't ask me why.

Then there's the camp-gear-driveway-flip-over. If you find just dropping your bike on the road to be unsatisfying, or just ineffective, pack for a two week road trip - pull the bike out of the garage and lean it over on the kick stand. Oh yeah... ya have to kick the stand down only half way. Gives you just enough time to climb off and watch the show. Never saw the under side of my old goldwing's motor so clearly before, or since (knock, knock). Hey... my pocket comb! - Hey... fluids leaking, fluids leaking!

If you really insist on sh#t-loosening techniques that don't entail dropping, tipping or plummeting try the time honored pothole gambit. Most effective when snuck up on (try to keep your tongue out of the way of your teeth) at slightly-above-legal speed. After two hours of watching a buddy search for his bike key (not exactly an uncommon scene - though rarely over 10 minutes) we realized that my old ignition switch would plug into his bike (same makes and I had installed a tank top ignition). Later that ride he hit an especially sneaky pothole and something shiny and blue skipped along beside me for a second. Remembering his keychain was blue, I pulled over and ran back for it. I was sitting on my bike, twirling it on my index finger as he came back to see what had happened.

There you have it - just a few options for anyone who's ever lost anything around their bike. Some more dramatic, some a bit less painful to the wallet. Like it or not, if you want to see what the gremlins have jammed into the crevasses of your machine, ya got no stinkin' choice.

Pick up your bike and shake it!

You're welcome,

-Deke

In case you care…

In case you care, these quips and blurbs are my contribution to our little electronic rag. Who the hell is Deke Tailpipe? He’s the ghost in my machine, I guess you could say. The insidious secret ingredient in my psychic stew that manifests itself as a sort of itch at the back of my soul that builds in intensity every moment I’m not out on the road. Deke is that quirk in all of us that runs with the wind and sucks us along with, just fer sh*ts and giggles.

Long live Deke!

I dusted off a couple of old pieces I wrote years ago, probably in some snotty mood or other, and finished up a blurb inspired by a 1997 road trip through the desert and a Haiku experiment from a teaching seminar I took one winter that I rode to on my bike. Lastly, the first mindless rant of my semi-regular e-pinion column: Road Noise.

You’re welcome.

The Biker Elite (from 1996)
by Deke Tailpipe

The "Ties that Bind" groups of people are all well and good,... God knows humankind can use all the excuses for unity and pride we can get, but, holding oneself or ones group above others for any reason (especially for your possessions) is just bullshit... plain and simple!

The true measure of riders isn't what we ride, but rather, that we ride.

In my book, someone who rides a beat-up old 200cc rice-burner 365 days a year is a hundred times the biker that the fair-weather  "street-profiler", on his or her precious off-the-rack Hog covered with after-market chrome and leather and wearing the latest LogoClothes, will ever be!

Granted, there are those grass-roots old-timers (with grease under their fingernails that will still be there a century and a half after their bones are dust in the ground) who have actually earned the right to cop an attitude. Still, the best of them have ridden all kinds of bikes in their collective eons of riding experience and know in their road-bitten hearts that what defines a rider is the extent to which they suffer from (and rejoice in) addiction to the open road.

I don't know, when it comes to Hog-Snobs, which I find the most annoying... the bona-fide, long-time Harley owners or the increasingly swelled ranks of the swelled-headed Wannabes. You know the type...those who ride on the backs of bikes, or worse, those who wouldn't know American Iron from Rice-Clones (or Vespas for that matter) if one ran over them (wishful thinking?), yet still parade around in "Live to ride..." rags and other such wannabe attire. Those who have to ask "Is that a Harley?", and if it's not, say something pithy like "Why don't you get a real bike!". Actually, I guess the latter wins that dubious trophy hands down!

Then there are the "Rubbies" (rich urban bikers) as they have been dubbed. Frankly I'm sick of taking attitude off of people on bikes with five-figure price tags and triple-digit odometer readings. I'm sorry, but, not all of us have twenty grand to throw at a bike (Hell, I remember when you could buy a brand-new Ferrari for that! ).

  My current ride, a lovingly resurrected 20-year-old vintage Goldwing, has barely $1,000 invested in it (including the original purchase price). It's a beautiful machine now that I removed all the factory decals and do-dads, buffed and polished aluminum and chrome and gave it a tasty two-color pearl fade paint job. It's perfectly set up for my cross-town / cross-country, carry-everything who-needs-a-car riding needs. I ride it year round and she has never let me down or left me stranded...(knock wood).

Before you get the idea that I'm an anti-Harley elitist or a Poverty-snob, you should know that in my quarter-of-a-century or so of road riding I've owned several makes of motorcycle (including a '52 Panhead old-school chopper when I was 18) and only my starving-artist financial status currently limits my bike collection to one. In fact, if I were to win the Lottery tomorrow (more wishful thinking?) I would probably buy any number of Harleys, new and vintage. But, just as certainly, they would not be the only marque in my collection nor would they be my regular ride (at least not for long haul riding).

My point here is that when I rode a Triumph, I didn't think "Trumpets rule!"...when I rode a Honda it wasn't because I thought "Hondas are the greatest"... When I rode my Panhead I didn't look down on all those non-Harley-ridin' wimps. I'm not saying you shouldn't be proud of your ride, whatever it is... I'm just saying: Why don't we all just 'get a life', appreciate everything and everyone for what they really are and just get over all this crap!

 Ride on brothers and sisters.

(Author's note: I currently ride a big, shiny V-twin (not from Milwaukee) and I still don't care what anyone rides, but I don't get much attitude these days.)

HARLEY MYSTIQUE vs. the RICE-CLONES (from 1996)
By Deke Tailpipe

  Let's start off with a couple of crutial points that seem to elude most Hog-snobs and Wannabes when the issue of "Harley-clones" is discussed.

  #1...The "classic" look of the V-twin engine, tear-drop tanks, fat-tires and massive valenced fenders was not the brainchild of the original Harley-Davidson factory... it was simply the design style of the times. Harley was merely the only manufaturer to retain most of these elements over the years... and it damn near buried them until the family reclaimed and resurected the company in the 80's.

  #2... Even though the current "Heritage Soft-tail" models have the "official" Harley-Davidson marque, they too are merely 'clones' of the original classics and are nearly as loaded with tell-tale concessions to modern times as the Japanese cruisers. Even the "chopper-styled" models are reminicent of a "look" made popular not by Harley-Davidson, the company, but by basement customizers using only the most elemental parts of the original machines (frequently, but not exclusively, Harleys.)

  Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to dilute the legacy of the only American Motorcycle to survive the test of time. Nor am I cutting Willie G and company's phenominal turn-around of a company on it's deathbed. God knows there may never be a sexier sounding machine in my lifetime, but the overhead valve / air-cooled / split-case V-twin configuration is an antiquated design. Even the slightly more state-of-the-art belt drive is only a minor concession to efficiency.

  For many riders, design features like overhead cams, liquid cooling, shaft drive and one-piece case-and-tranny configurations are desirable, if not an absolute requirement. Currently these individuals looking for classic or chopper styled bikes have to look to the Rice-clones (as I hesitantly refer to them). 

  Personally, I think H-D is missing the boat by not offering a line of more state-of-the-art machines, in addition to (rather than replacing) the current "Evo" design! After all, virtually every major manufacturer has at least two  or three engine configurations in it's line. Wake up and smell the consumers, boys.

(Author's note: As we all know, Milwaukee finally did take a stab at the liquid cooled, overhead cam engine in the V-rod.)

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Or
(More Self-indulgent Ramblings of an Aging Cycle Gypsy) -circa 1997
by Deke Tailpipe

    Snap a picture of this... Scene is the  wide-open nowhere of the Nevada High Desert. My eyes contentedly following the hypnotic winding of two motorcycles on the road ahead, packed to the clouds with camp gear and their riders. The latter being two nefarious individuals who happen to be my riding buddies... brothers of the road, partners in grime, fellow goofballs. Its the eighth day of our nine-day 'Get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge' ride and also birthday number forty-five for yours truly. Three days of unrelenting triple digit  temperatures and the emergency road-side tire repair of the previous day, not to mention the tent-flattening 60 mph sand storm that evening are nearly gone from my thoughts as we climb, steadily higher, into the greener, cooler Sierra foothills.

This year's micro-odyssey had taken us across four states, nearly 2,000 miles and counting, through some of the most desolate and some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes this, or any other, continent has to offer. We had seen Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon...  traveled the Extraterrestrial Highway past the infamous Area 51. It was in the surrounding emptiness of that place, sailing along the arrow-straight desert asphalt, that my companions and I were treated to a low-level fly-by of a B-1 bomber and its six fighter escort; the likes of which Air-Show addicts would kill to see. As we watched the entourage virtually scraping the rugged landscape, suddenly one lone fighter came straight at us down the highway, low enough to qualify as oncoming traffic. The ominous metallic bird-of-prey cocked sideways at the last second, its pilot showing off his pearly whites as he roared past.

    Spectacular lightning storms had loomed all around our campsites at night, torrential rains inundated our destinations. And then there was that late afternoon we ran a gauntlet of fierce squalls, pounded by gale-force cross winds, negotiating a narrow corridor in the storms while lightning strikes impaled the desert valley on either side of the highway. All this with barely a drop of moisture making contact with either bike or body throughout the entire trip.

    A mind tends to wander free and aimless on long rides, lost in the spirit of the moment. On this particular afternoon my own sun-fried grey-matter, like the escalating landscape, is finally showing signs of life...and I find my thoughts drifting to things marginally profound. The significance of the noble and piercing glance of a rare Golden Eagle is not lost on me. Swooping effortlessly overhead, its majestic flight sweeps my thoughts toward matters of the human condition.

I've come to see road trips like this as a microcosm of human interaction... a mini Passion Play on wheels, so to speak. And this one has been no exception. Whenever people place themselves (or are placed by fate) in an adventurous journey, the need for interdependence and the inescapable companionship of the road inevitably bring a multitude of issues to the fore. The most significant difference between travel by motorcycle and virtually all other forms of conveyance is that each traveler is self-contained. Where travelers by boat, plane, auto or train are confined to the same vehicle, cycle-gypsies have the dubious option to cut'n'run at any time. Continuing in one another's company is always a moment to moment choice.

Its been said that to really know someone... travel with them.  It is, in fact, a genuine acid test of friendships (or Jack-acid test, if you will), frequently making or breaking relationships. On this particular escapade, I found myself playing the role of mediator to two guys with somewhat divergent approaches to the ride. One, new to long haul touring, reminded me a bit of a young pup, racing around checking everything out, ready to change direction in a heartbeat. First lagging behind, then racing ahead and missing exits he didn't know were coming up. The other, an old hand at road trips, doing the tired old hound routine, sticking to the plan, poo poo-ing this and poo poo-ing that, raggin' on the pup. Me, not giving a rat's patoot, stuck in the middle.

I think critical mass was finally reached the morning the pup caught scent of the Grand Canyon. Never having been there before, he was determined to go there. I mean, "We're so freaking close, right!" To which the hound, who had been there several times, said somethin' like "its just a big f***ing hole in the ground." Next thing I know, one third of the group is headed west, another third east and me standing there thinking, what the Hell just happened?

The particulars of the next few hours are a bit of a blur, with a sitcom's worth of miscues, wrong turns, passing one another in one direction and then the other, capitulations and screw-yous (I actually hear the soundtrack for old Keystone Kops movies in my head when I think back on it.) Ultimately finds all three of us on the wait list for overflow camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. About then a couple of cute young Canadian gals walk up to the park ranger we're talking to at the booth and say that several of their group left early and that there was plenty of space for anyone who might be waiting. Long story short... stayed two days, recouped, regrouped, loved it, good time had by all.

Life and camping... never a dull moment, huh?

I guess, what I'm going for here is this: The hound and the pup are there for a reason. Hound keeps us on track; the pup keeps us alive. Use 'em right and life is golden, use 'em wrong and it all goes to crap!

Ride on

Ode to the First Scratch
By Deke Tailpipe
 

God Damn,  Coc#s*!king, Muthaf#*!ing, Piece ‘o s*!t, ~#*! , eat my #*!!~ ?%**#, kiss my royal *&%## *@##*,…

You know the rest. The painfully familiar sound spewin’ out of your very own piehole immediately after that infamous FIRST SCRATCH in what you used to consider your brand new bike.

I’m not sure which hurts more, the discovery of the nick, dent or scuff that some parking lot Bozo left you or the f*#k up you did yourself! Dropin’ a wrench on a fender, jerkin’ on the front brake in gravel or off-roadin’ it on your low rider custom.

Doesn’t matter… ‘twas inevitable quoth the Devil.

Unless you treat the thing like a piece of garage sculpture, its gonna’ git messed up a bit…  sooner or later. There is, however, a curious sense of freedom that comes after. Provided you let yourself get over the initial shock. No subsequent damage ever has the same effect on you as the first (That’s right… it’ll happen again. Get used to it). Think of it this way… now it’s the REAL DEAL, not some hot house flower. After all, how tough can a guy look who ain’t got no scars… eh?

Haiku Project*
By Deke Tailpipe

Flying in cold rain

Wheels dancing on wet  pavement

Wind lifts my tired soul

*(Written in reflection upon the motorcycle ride to a teaching credential class I was taking,
and running late for, at U.C. Berkeley as an in-class project)