Weather: Sunny and Springlike, perfect for testing scooters.
Yes, I know… I’ve been slacking. At least, as far as my readers are concerned. But the big boss of Baron Motorcycles is over in China right now, visiting the factories, and he needs input on how to improve the 250cc models. That input comes from me, so I’ve been riding the wheels off these things for the past few days.
Extended, high-speed runs were needed for fuel flow and cooling system testing. Loved every minute of that. Creeping along in stop-and-go gridlock for at least a half-hour? Did that too. Hated it. But we had to see how the cooling system performed at the extremes. Gridlock is easy to find, now that we have entered the season of road destruction.
I had a nice chat with a fellow driving a big old Ford pickup truck, while sitting in that sweltering traffic. He asked me what kind of mileage I was getting. I told him, “Between 60 and 70 mpg, depending on how hard I’m riding it.” After an amazed shake of the head, he asked the next, inevitable question: “How much does one o’ them go for?” I told him the price of the model I was testing at the time. Another headshake.
“That’s it!”, he said. “I’m gettin’ me one o’ them. This pig I’m drivin’ gets 15 miles per gallon, tops. At three bucks a gallon, it’s killin’ me every time I fill up! Now it’s cuttin’ into my beer money. That’s the last straw!”
I had to laugh… Are the uptown scooterati ready for rednecks riding Barons?
But, in all seriousness, this is exactly what our economy needs right now. Inexpensive transportation for the working class. Something they can buy without a second mortgage, and maintain themselves with reasonable shadetree mechanic skills and basic hand tools.
It’s not about “Lifestyle” for these folks; it’s about getting to work without breaking the bank. It’s about not being enslaved by the oil companies and the auto industry. The environmental benefits and reduced traffic hassles are just icing on the cake, far as they’re concerned.
Even with gas at three bucks a gallon, I still see lines of SUVs with one single occupant, stuck in the road-construction gridlock, guzzling their fuel just to run the air conditioner and radio. Nattering into their Nokias to let someone, somewhere, know that they are running late.
This is America, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, and it isn’t a pretty sight.
The latest excuse for raising the price of gas is that the Chinese are trying to get more of it. Well, no kidding. That’s because big business in this country has sold out the American worker and sent all its production equipment overseas, where the cheap labor is.
But most of those workers over there aren’t driving or riding to work, unless it’s on a bicycle. Usually, they live in barracks or dorms close to the factory, owned by the company they work for. How can freedom-loving, home-owning Americans compete with THAT? (Here’s a hint… We CAN’T!)
But this is not a political blog. It’s supposed to be about the joys of riding a motorbike to and from work. You can get your political fix, spun in whichever direction you prefer, on a thousand other sites.
Sometimes, however, you just can’t avoid the subject. It’s like the proverbial 800-pound gorrilla, sitting in the middle of your living room. Try as you might to avoid him, you are bound to trip over him from time to time. It is, after all, the nature of the beast. But back to motorbikes…
I rode Frogwing this morning, because I slept later than usual. “How does that make sense?” -You ask. Well, at this later hour, all the yuppies think they are being clever by avoiding the freeways and driving their stinking SUVs on MY river roads! On the scooters, I have to try and sneak around them, whenever a suitable gap appears, and hope that I have enough power to pull it off. Also, I can’t see around or over them on the scooters.
Enter Frogwing, my urban assault motorcycle. On Frogwing, I have a very bright headlight, and gobs of torque to exploit those sudden gaps in traffic. Standing on the pegs, I can see over all but the most obscene yup-mobiles, better to spot those gaps and plan my moves well in advance.
They watch me doing that in their rear-view mirror, and I can see the Fear in their eyes. This is a Good Thing. I have even added a large “Marines!” bumper sticker to the front of my fairing, to amplify the intimidation factor. I don’t need loud pipes to get noticed on Frogwing, but after almost forty thousand miles, his stock exhaust is pretty snorty.
We were able to squirt around a whole bunch of these little convoys this morning, and made it to work in less than an hour. Our ride home was similar, but for one interesting moment: Crossing the Lake Street Bridge, I encountered the Wednesday Night War Protest. Almost every Wednesday night, the protesters gather on this high-traffic bridge to wave their anti-war signs at passing motorists.
When they saw my very tactical looking KLR with “Marines!” emblazoned across the front, well, there it was… The Fear again. Only this time, I honked my horn a couple of times and flashed them a peace sign. They broke out in cheers. Yeah, I know, there’s that gorrilla again.