Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Motorcycles

I think that what I miss the most about not having control over my legs is riding the motorcycle. If you read my first post, a metastatic tumor on my spine partially paralyzed me.

The solitude, speed and pure pleasure of riding over Topanga Canyon to the beach at Malibu, and back into the Valley via Las Virgenes (Malibu Canyon) Road has been one of the most pleasurable thing I have done in years. You feel like no one can touch you. The experience is almost religious. Sometimes I would take PCH all the way to Port Hueneme and then come back to the Valley.

It's funny to think that the most important thing for me, aside from seeing my boys, is being able to ride the bike again.

I bought a 1997 Suzuki VS800 (pictured) with 7,860 miles on it for $3500 right after the Fourth of July 2008. I paid way over bluebook for it ($3,500), but I had been looking for a 800cc Suzuki for several months. This was about the time that gas was nearing $5.00 a gallon in Santa Barbara, and there were none to be had. Every ad I responded to had been sold immediately. The bike shops were not even getting that size of bike in trade. Everyone was hanging onto them. When one shop called me and told me that they had taken one in trade (after a few months), I grabbed it. I figured, wtf, it was something I had wanted to do for a long time.

Almost exactly 30 days later, my legs became paralyzed. By that time, I had put over 2000 miles on it, and had several rides of over 100 miles. The previous owners averaged less than 700 miles a year (assuming the bike was sold in 1996), and I was doing 2000/month.

When I told my sister Marianne that I hoped I would be able to ride the bike again, she said that she was afraid that I would kill myself on it. I am not suicidal (it's a religious thing), but I told her that it would probably be better than the slow lingering and very painful death that awaits me down the road.

I have also come to the realization that I would rather have Mike and Alex (the Orme twins) ride motorcycles to school than bicycles. I have known more people killed on bicycles than motorcycles.

When you get hit on a bicycle, there is a large velocity difference. What seems to happen the most is that the driver of a car going 45-50 mph doesn’t see the bicycle going 10 mph on the side of the road and slams into the back of the bike, or turns into it.

The motorcycles biggest threats are cars turning into its path. Left turns at intersections, or right turns right in front of the bike. The closest calls I had were cars in front of me slamming on the breaks on country back roads to make u-turns.

I learned that your best chance of avoiding a crash is to increase your visibility. A white helmet and very light colored jacket help a lot. The shop owners tell me that wearing chartreuse colored vest (light neon yellow green), like the guys working on the side of the road really works.

I went with the Olympia Recon jacket in khaki and the KBC FFR Modular Cruz Helmet, which is wonderful. The jacket has armor panels in the shoulders, elbows and back (like a skater wears, but inside the jacket). I could not find an all white modular helmet in my XXL size. The Jacket is light enough to get me seen, and when I go into a restaurant, or a store, I can unzip the arms and leave them with the bike. I lock them with a cable lock through each arm. I also leave the entire jacket with the bike this way. To steal the jacket, you would need something to cut the cable.

The helmet is great in that you flip up the face to get a ¾ helmet, which makes filling up with gas, or just walking with the helmet a lot easier. It is also easier to put on and take off.

As you must notice, I am bored not being able to walk. Anyway, Alex/Mike, I hope you take a bit of this advice if you get a bike, or inherit mine.

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