Under The Wire

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Do you – does anyone – doubt for a moment that if motorcycles were a new invention, they’d never be allowed?wire lead 2

Try to imagine the presentation to the Department of Transportation.

Inventor: I have designed a new type of vehicle that is light, agile and extremely fuel efficient. It is relatively inexpensive to manufacture as compared with an automobile, so it can be sold for much less than the price of a typical automobile. It is also simpler and the parts are more accessible, so it is easier to service. Allow me to demonstrate the …

Government official: Wait a minute. It looks like it would just fall over. What about occupant protection? Will there be seat belts? What will happen to the person riding this contraption in the event there is a crash?

Inventor: Gyroscopic forces balance it while in motion and when it is standing still, the rider merely puts both feet down. I assure you it is very manageable. The nature of this vehicle is such that seat belts and traditional methods of occupant protection such as crumple zones and so on don’t apply. However, this vehicle compensates in a very real and meaningful way by dint of being more capable of avoiding accidents due to it being so much smaller and lighter than a car, and therefore much more maneuverable. For example, it only occupies about a third of the width of a traffic lane – no more than the width of a man’s shoulders, really –  so when a car in the next lane over inadvertently turns into the lane occupied by my vehicle, it has more room to move laterally – and so is more likely to be able to avoid an impact. Also…wire bike 2

Government official: But what if there is an accident? Isn’t it true the person riding your proposed vehicle is more apt to get hurt? Isn’t your vehicle therefore fundamentally, inherently unsafe to operate? You mentioned the high power-to-weight ratio and rapid acceleration capability. Is that really a good thing? How will people in cars react to this vehicle of yours? Will it scare them? And anyhow, can be people be trusted to operate this vehicle? It seems to me it’s expecting a lot – perhaps too much for the public good – to permit a vehicle that demands so much in the way of skill to operate. We don’t allow just anyone to fly an airplane, after all… .

And so it would inevitably go.

Be thankful, then, that motorcycles preceded the Age of Universal Government.

The government has made it illegal for passengers to ride in the bed of pick-ups  – and is trying to make it illegal for a dog to ride inside a car if he’s not in a carry box or restraint of some kind. New cars must be able to withstand impacts from the front and side (and now, off to the side) that would not and could not ever be withstood by any motorcycle . . . unless it became a car.wire safety pic

Imagine – if you can – what they would require of a would-be motorcycle inventor today before he could legally sell his machine to anyone, or even operate it himself on the government’s roads. As they say in Little Italy: Forget about it!

Bikes are only allowed – to use the government’s odious language of slavery – because their invention and widespread use predates the government’s outright assertion of ownership of our persons. When bikes first appeared about 100 years ago, the government’s claims were more modest. Mostly, the government just wanted your money – like any other mafioso. So long as you paid Don DeeCeeolo the demanded tribute, your life was still your own. You were still – more or less – free to do with it as you liked. That included bolting/welding an internal combustion engine to the frame of a bicycle and inventing the first motorcycle.

It was allowed – because the government had not yet got around to becoming our parentis, in loco.

Bikes – like so many other things that slipped the noose – did so only because they got in under the wire. They exist as a sort of anachronism, a throwback to a less totalitarian age, simply because it’s too much trouble, politically, for the government to outright forbid them. Like guns. Like freedom of speech.

That doesn’t mean, of course, there hasn’t been some probing and reconnoitering. Some precedent-setting – with a view toward the future. Air bags – and ABS – are already on the agenda, the latter having become fairly common in recent years. Have no doubt such things will eventually become mandatory. Likewise various “active” safety features, “black boxes” and such like – all already part and parcel of every new car purchase. Wait a while, I’m telling you. wire lead

At some point, a “mom” will front for a group demanding an end to these dangerous contraptions. Think it can’t happen? Did you ever think – ever dream – the government would ban sodas? Tell people they’re not allowed to smoke in their own homes? Force them to hand over money to privately owned, for-profit cartels – in the name of their “health” and “safety”?

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may – and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Paranoia has become depressingly predictive these days.

Throw it in the Woods?

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    • @8 – I am just the opposit. I have never seen a Honda shaft break, and mainenance is 6oz. of fluid change every 5-10,000. Chains are a constant maintenance headache for me and last maybe 15,000 miles unless you baby them. They are well over $100.00 for the good ones, and the sprockets need replacing from time to time as well. Although all the dirt bikes still run chains, so there must be a reason.

      • Garysco, I have never owned a Honda so I don’t know much about them specifically. I suppose if you are trying to double their HP though, a shaft is limited in strength by it’s housing and a chain and sprocket can be increased in size. I have lots of experience with hypoid gears, have come across instances where torque,hp and size of the hypoid gears had to be increased, i.e. the axle housing must be changed for a larger one. I was watching some monster trucks many years ago and all of a sudden I realized they were using the exact same axle housings and planetary gear hubs that were exactly the same thing as my 4 WD Case tractor. I started paying attention at that moment and found out they all used them and did so for many years.

        I learned long ago if you want to go a long time with a replacement chain you need to replace both sprockets since that worn chain has worn the sprockets to a set and a new chain will soon be worn to that same set, prematurely, to the old sprockets. When the chain is worn enough to replace, do the entire package and forget it for whatever it’s life normally is.

        • Agreed Eight. A worn chain is murder to new sprockets. Usually, the chain wears first, then the front sprocket, then the rear. Usually about 3 front sprockets wear out before the rear one, due to its number of turns.

          Shaft drives are heavier but require less maintenance. Reason they don’t put them on dirt bikes.

        • Hi Eight (and Gary) –

          I’ve owned several Hondas, including two with shaft drive. Never had any problems and I think you’re not likely to have any problems unless someone didn’t change out the lube at reasonable intervals or didn’t keep the case topped off. Other than that, they are known to be very long-lived and undemanding.

          • eric, thanks, that’s good to know. I intend to look for Silver Wing’s since I know Gold Wing’s are pricey. All the bikes discussed I assume(never assume)have good resale values????

            • Happy to, Eight!

              The GL500 and GL650 ‘Wings have increased in value during the past few years. You certainly won’t lose any money on one.

              Other “plus” stuff to weigh in this bike’s favor:

              Extremely easy/cheap to maintain. You can do a valve clearance check in 15 minutes with common hand tools and no major disassembly required.

              The shaft drive will last forever provided you change the gear lube every few thousand miles – and this job takes less than 10 minutes and all the tools you need are a crescent wrench and a catch pan. (Sockets are helpful but by no means required).

              The V-twin (very similar in layout to a Guzzi) is a brilliant piece of engineering – and known to be durable and rugged. Hard to hurt one.

              Some important differences between the 500 and the 650 that make getting a 650 preferable:

              * The 650 is almost a 700 – and is noticeably stronger.
              * The 650 has an electric clutch fan and a car-type water pump – the 500s have a mechanical/engine driven fan (parasitic drag) and a friction-type seal for the water pump that requires splitting the cases to service.
              * The 650 has a better front end; larger diameter forks and a different air spring set-up.

              But, both versions are very cool – and have quite a following, because they’re such ridable bikes.

              Same goes for the Kz900 (and 1000s), by the way.

              Great bikes, with lots of personality – that don’t need a lot of hand-holding. Just throw a a leg over – and go!

          • I have a BMW K100RT (1986) ex-police. Have had the drive shaft break at the uni-joint, probably because the cops treated it as trash. On the freeway, middle of nowhere. Well, about 30k’s out of Seymour.

            Luckily, I managed to get hold of my Army unit and get a tail-loader truck to come get me. Replaced that trip with the Honda. Just one of those things.

          • @Rev – As much as I like BMW GT’s & RT’s (especially the new ones) some models always seem to have clutch ($$$) and drive train issues. Not nice from a company that charges so much for their products.

            • I’ve never owned a BMW, but what I gather is: The older ones (’70s and ’80s) are excellent, durable bikes – if a bit on the heavy and slower side relative to same-era Japanese bikes. The current/recent stuff is exceedingly over-teched and these bikes are both much more expensive to buy as well as to maintain than a current/recent Japanese bike.

              Anyone out there who knows BMW bikes care to chime in?

    • @8 – “All my driving will be 75+ so a long legged bike is best suited”

      If you’re serious about sustained speeds at or in excess of 75 mph, have a look at the 1st generation Suzuki DL1000, aka the V-Strom. Originally designed for the German sport-touring market, the big DL is equipped with tall gearing from the factory. 6th gear is deeply over driven, meaning the engine is still relaxed at an indicated 90 mph. The bike is equipped with chain drive. This allows the owner to change one or both sprockets if a different drive ratio is desired.

      The Strom’s 996cc V-twin engine was used in the late TL1000. It has been retuned for better midrange. The engine’s sport bike DNA is still there, though. It revs very easily, and it will never be a happy tractor. Lots and lots of info is available on the Stromtrooper website. Good luck.

  1. Eric,

    I agree that many people are risk adverse to an unreasonable extent. Nevertheless, if they are rational…… even the boldest people will determine what risks they are willing to assume, based upon a realistic assessment of the risk/reward ratio.

    Motorcycles are economical, maneuverable, and need less space to navigate or store.

    On the other hand, their ability to haul cargo is severely limited. Exposure to the elements limits or eliminates their utility in foul weather. Lack of enclosure means the operators body is intimately involved in any collision. No matter how skillful a motorcyclist is at avoidance, the risk per mile of suffering injury or death is much higher than when in a car.

    So a lot of car drivers who have just as much courage as any motorcyclist have simply decided that motorcycles aren’t worth it.

    Unless one needs very cheap individual transportation, or gets a major rush out of bugs in the teeth, open air biking, the risk/reward ratio just doesn’t make sense to the free market.

    • Hi Mike,

      I don’t disagree with the jist of that.

      But having a bike as an adjunct to a “cage” (car or truck) can be both a smart move and a fun move.

      I put a big dent in my gas bills by riding (rather than driving) as often as feasible. Two of my bikes get mileage comparable to a hybrid car’s mileage – one of the bikes does better. I probably save a few hundred bucks a year this way. Over time, this adds up to a significant savings.

      Also, a faired bike with hard bags can carry home a few grocery bags’ worth of food – and the fairing provides a surprising degree of protection from the cold and wet, making it realistic (not torture) to ride in all but the most extreme conditions.

    • MikePizzo – I realize that motorcycles have a reputation for being “dangerous.” So do guns. But both are merely inanimate objects subject to the behavior of the operator. If you are a rider (and by that I mean that the bike feels like a part of your body) and remain constantly engaged and vigilant you are probably far safer than the average “cager” despite the steel shell, air bags and seat belts. It seems to me all of the safety features of the modern automobile, along with the cushy ride, sound deadening material and electronic doo-dads make cagers too comfortable and therefore complacent. Complacency breeds contempt and that contempt leads to easily preventable accidents. I tend to be just as vigilant in a “cage” as I am on a bike for the simple reason that I am a rider. It really does cross apply. And I tend to be especially aware of and even defensive of other riders.

      When I am on one of my bikes and see someone that looks like they are about to do something stupid in a cage I preemptively flash my lights, honk the horn or take evasive action before I’m forced to. I position myself at all traffic lights so I can do an emergency lane split if some yahoo with a cell phone implanted in the side of their head doesn’t appear to be slowing down behind me. I’ll pull in between the cars ahead and let the “cellular clover” hit one of the cagers. Try that with an F-250 or even a Smart Car. It ain’t gonna happen; you’re gonna git rearended and I have plenty of friends and family that have experienced that very thing.

      Do I think I’m immune to accidents on a bike? That it can’t happen to me? Heavens no! I know good and well I’m just as susceptible as the next guy. That’s why I’m hyper-vigilant when I ride. I want to be able to ride the next day and the next and the day after that. What I find interesting though is that more people pull out in front of me when I’m driving my Miata than when I’m riding a bike. Weird.

      With regard to inclement weather, there’s gear for that if you live north of Tampa. And as Eric points out, even my “gas hog” bike gets 41 MPG. So a little cold weather gear will pay for itself by extending your riding season; if it snows, ices over or drops to the single digits, then I break out the cage. Yes, carrying capacity can be an issue. So I try to plan my commutes to take the car when I need to pick stuff up from town and get it all in one trip; especially when it involves my full size pickup truck. Even without the saddle bags and trunk Eric has on one of his bikes, you’d be amazed what you can stuff into a back pack or strap on a luggage rack. It just requires a little resourcefulness and imagination.

      Mike, motorcycling is not for everyone. There’s no question about that and my advice to anyone who wants to ride is if the bike doesn’t feel like a part of you, an appendage of your body, don’t ride. If you are a negative person or have a sense of doom, get off the bike and sell it. A negative attitude or belief can kill you easier than a positive attitude can keep you safe. Back years ago a friend of mine and fellow airman kept after me to help pick out a bike. He was a novice rider and didn’t have the “triple digit addiction” so I recommended a Yamaha XS-650 as good all-around commuter. He took the MSF course, bought that bike and after a couple of weeks told me “I really love riding man, but I just know this bike is gonna’ kill me.” I told him “Don’t say that Bob or even think it. You could bring it into your reality. You’ve got believe you’ll ride safely and be careful.” But I heard the same song from him a couple of more times and warned him again. It wasn’t even a month later that he was supposed to meet us out to shoot a little pool after work. He didn’t show. The next morning when I went to find him and razz him about wimping out, one of the guys in his shop told me was dead; killed in a motorcycle accident on his way to meet up with us. There is no question in my mind that his negative attitude about riding was instrumental in his death. So if you have reservations about it, go with your gut, don’t ride.

      • Boothe, I stupidly have a thing now for wanting another bike but don’t want to spend any more than I have to on a fairly large bike, maybe a sport /cruise bike not above 1000 cc’s but preferable around 750 cc’s. So what’s a good buy out there generally speaking. If someone had a 750 cc bike for sale and said it was reliable, got really good mileage, very reliable but also could produce 500 bhp if you want to twist is hard enough, I’d probably never see that good fuel mileage or anything else after I’d used all 500 hp for probably the first and last time. As anyone who knows me could tell you, what ever a vehicle could do I’m going to probably get slightly more from it than that. I’m trying to find a bike that’s not a Ninja but handles like one with a decent fairing available for it. I ride in hog and deer country that will ruin anything. So what? A 9G KW and just think of it as a bike? REally, back in the early eighties Suzuki made a killer 600 that was bullet proof reliable like a sewing machine, no more so. I could stand a part and pieces do it yourself bike.

        • @8 – If you can break away from the Harley attitude l like the 91 – 03 Honda ST1100. Dependable sport/ touring bike with good cold weather protection for about $3,000.00 these days. I had one that Race Tech re-did the suspension on. It would take a vary good rider on a much newer sport bike to out do me in the mountains. If spending your kids inheritance – get a new Kawasaki Concourse 14 and hang the F on. 🙂

          • Garysco, think cheap, no Harley, reliable. I did a search for H-14’s, found plenty for sale, one in Fl even $5,000 but many for $7-10,000. I don’t want a really fast bike, been too long since I road and I can’t help myself when it comes to anything that moves, I find out how fast it will go. Thanks, I’ll check them out, had lots of friends who owned them and they just keep on buying GoldWings and for good reason, they’re really nice.

            • Morning, Eight!

              The ‘Wing is a nice bike, but prices (even used) are often higher than reasonable because of the “aura” of the Goldwing (similar to the Harley Aura).

              The Kaw Concours is a really nice bike – and you will probably find a better deal on one, too.

              And if you want a fun/cheap rat bike that does 85 percent of what a decent used Goldwing does for half or less the cost, look around for a GL500 or GL650 Silverwing Interstate. I have an ’83 ‘650 – and it’s easily one of the most enjoyable, versatile (and cheap) bikes I’ve owned to date.

          • eric, a smaller Honda sounds good. I weigh too much to get a really small bike, kill it’s performance. I liked the sound of the $1,200 somebody paid for a used cop Kaw. I’m guessing those bikes still have the fairing, other accessories. I want some protection from wind and bugs, don’t know how much it would help hitting a hog though.

          • @8 – The old Kawasaki KZ1000p “chips” cop bikes are old school cool and comfortable to ride. But they can be a leaky maintenance headache. I forgot about the old CX & GL500 and 650 “silver wing”. Like the old Pacfic Coast 700’s I think they were underpowered and so-so gas mileage, but Eric could straighten me out if I am wrong.

            • Hi Gary,

              I actually own one of both (Kz900 and GL650 Interstate) so can offer some personal experience with ’em.

              The KZ only leaks if it has dried out cam cover seals (the “half moons”). Ditto the seal at the tach drive cable where it bolts to the engine. Fresh seals are readily available and inexpensive. These bikes are strong performers – even by today’s standards. And the big Zed air-cooled four was overbuilt – and is extremely reliable.

              The GL is not a hot rod, but the V-twin spins to 10,000 RPM and has good low-end torque and enough hp to keep up with today’s traffic. The chief negative is the 5-speed (non-overdrive) gearbox, which keeps the revs at highway speeds (70-75) at around 4,000.

              Gas mileage is very good – I almost never see less than 50 MPG, regardless of how I ride.

          • Garysco, is that a chain drive bike? I know some of the Yamaha’s back then were shaft drive and thought some of the Kaw’s were too.

          • eric, garysco, thanks to both of you. All my driving will be 75+ so a long legged bike is best suited. I know Honda’s will rev and continue to do so till the cows come home(to your cow pasture eric, hey, you might try riding one that long, free cattle)but having one revved up continually bugs me. I suspect longer legs would be a big plus in the heat too. What sort of mileage does the Kaw get? I used to get low 30’s out of my Zuk but it got nailed pretty hard on a regular basis.. I used to meet the B&W’s at cruise speed, 120 or so and just watch them disappear, never had one turn around…and what for?

          • @8 – “All my driving will be 75+ so a long legged bike is best suited”

            Take another look at the old ST1100. Seven gallon tank, 43-50 MPG, and will run all day at 80+. I went 8,000 miles on one cross country trip and to Canada on mine. I would still have it but it met a kamikaze clover’s drivers door at 30MPH. Many still run well and are for sale with well over 100,000 miles on them.

  2. Although motorcycles slipped in under the wire of government prohibition, they are not immune to the laws of the market. Most of the motoring public (including most of those who have the mental and physical abilities to ride them very well,) tend to avoid motorcycles like a really bad idea. 😉

    • Morning, Mike!

      Yup. It’s part of the risk-aversion conditioning that’s Cloverized the country. Now, I don’t advocate recklessness; I am talking about living life – which necessarily entails the possibility of something not going well, some of the time. Risk-aversion conditioning is a sort of neurosis that eschews any action or activity that could conceivably result in some harm.

      Thus, guns are fearful things – to be strictly “controlled.” Motorcycles are almost as bad – but are still allowed only because there’s a stubborn but numerically significant portion of the population that adamantly refuses to imbibe The Fear. But the same principle is operative.

      It’s a function of Mom Culture. The whole “Baby on Board,” safety-uber-alles mentality that emerged in the ’80s and began to get real political-social traction not long after that.

      It’s easy enough to blame feminism – that is, women – for this. But the fact is men enabled it, pushed it just as aggressively. Do they not deserve their slice of the blame pie, too?

      It’s not genitals that determine who’s a Clover.

  3. dom, my best friend and I both bought 2 racing karts each(something the old ladies could do beside getting drunk and such) in ’79 I think. We spent a week breaking them in and then saw on the news the local track we intended to race on was being torn up and turned into a dirt track. Guys at the motorcycle shop acted like it was all news to them. We rode them on the FM roads instead but the oilfield was booming and out my way we’d be racing doing about 80mph, their top speed, and cars would come up behind us doing 100mph or so and get right on top of us. It’s not so great being able to see only bumper and grill on a big Chevy or Olds or pickup. I have still never raced my own kart, don’t even have them anymore.

  4. Some may want to ride a mobility scooter that goes over 70mph. Or a go kart that does 180mph. Why not?

    Mobility Scooter

    Go kart on the road

    • Tor, when I was growing up a company used to make a 1/4M go-cart with a JATO they claimed would do 150mph in the quarter. Natch, I wanted one bad.

    • Every time I watch one of these kart videos I can’t stop for about 20 mins. I daydream the entire time about getting involved and one of my own.

    • Ed, I always wanted to ride/drive one but never have. Two wheels steering, steering wheel, one in back driving, I’m there. Trike=XXX

  5. “Do you – does anyone – doubt for a moment that if motorcycles were a new invention, they’d never be allowed?”
    Yes, I have a bit of doubt.

    The Can-Am Spyder, a road legal snowmobile-with-tires and a blood relative of the motorcycle, is arguably a new invention. Here they are and here they remain, looking preposterous and selling well enough to support their continued certification, production and importation. That this unique machine enjoys multi-national legal sanction does suggest that motorcycles, as something “new”, might indeed have a small but fighting chance of successfully negotiating the byzantine bureaucratic vetting process…in ANY country where the Spyders are currently allowed to operate on the roads.

    This is a subject that I’ve independently considered, as a mental exercise. I think I’d enjoy the fight, were I a principal in this otherwise hypothetical scenario.

    • I think you contradicted yourself here. The only reason the Can-am Spyder is legal is exactly because it is a snowmobile with tires. A real bike needs a kickstand. The Can Am Spyder is a “I’m a yuppy with too much money, and who is too much of a whimp to ride a real bike, so I’ll pretend to be a biker by buying this thing instead” motorcycle. Not to mention it looks like a toy, just like all the bullcrap smart cars and hybrids. Except the Honda civic and accord hybrids, kudos to Honda for actually making them look like a normal car…too bad they’re about 20,000 dollars out of my price range and have way too many electronic controls :'(

      • Oops. I think I misunderstood your comment the first time I read it. Sorry about that.

        I truly hope the “government” (I put it in quotes because I really mean “society” aka “the people I am amongst when I walk outside my front door”) teaches young people, preferably in high school, how to ride motorcycles. I suppose what I mean by that is, I hope the “government” starts to actually give a shit about humanity, and doesn’t just force feed “us” bullshit.

        Meh, I’m out for the night.

    • “The Can-Am Spyder, a road legal snowmobile-with-tires and a blood relative of the motorcycle, is arguably a new invention. ”

      Three wheeled vehicles in different configurations have been around for some time.

      I would argue that the Can-Am is not a new invention. Not only have three wheelers been sold around the world in these different configurations for some time, there’s been laws on the books in most US states regulating them for some time(usually as motorcycles).

      Personally I think they fall into the same characterization that Eric writes about, in that if they truly had never existed before they wouldn’t exist in today’s regulatory climate.

    • Hi James,

      As others have already pointed out, I think you’ve effectively argued the opposite point.

      Snowmobiles are not new inventions; they predate the “Safety State.” As you’ve stated, the Can Am is a kind of road-going snowmobile … that’s trying to pass itself off as a motorcycle.

      Also, I agree with Jacob that the Can Am is not a motorcycle. By definition.

      Motorcycles are motorized cycles.

      The Can Am is not and never was a cycle. It is a three wheeler. Shares no ancestry, not even conceptually, with motorized cycles. Scooters and Mopeds are (as you put) blood relatives of motorcycles. Single track vehicles that trace their common origins to bicycles that were motorized.

      The Can Am is something else.

      And it is not a converted single track vehicle (as in the case of trikes). It is a three-wheeler by design.

      If anything, it is an exemplar of the type of vehicle the Safety State encourages. The sort of vehicle that motorcycles would be forced to be, if they were newly invented, before they’d be allowed.

      Think about it. The three wheel layout is “safer” – no need to balance (and less need to learn how to lean in the curves). It is more crashworthy, being bigger and heavier.

      And of course, it costs 2-3 times what a new motorcycle costs.

      • I think overall it is the spirit of riding a non-nanny state controlled vehicle that is what really matters. While the Spyder may not technically be a motorcycle it along with some other vehicles like the Stallion and the T-Rex, still requires a MC License to use it (license is another debate) and do provide a pure open road experience that cannot be had even with a sports car convertible.

        Some states are now allowing LSV (Low Speed vehicles) on the roads as long as they stay under 35 mph. Golf Carts and electric vehicles fit this bill especially here in Flori-Duh. I was just at the AIM Expo in Orlando the other weekend and found a really neat vehicle LSV out of New Mexico by OreionMotors (.com) – If I had a spare 15K I would have bought it on the spot. Basically it looks like a mini Hummer that can go on or off road – while it is classified as a LSV on road and limited to 35 MPH (assuming the PoPo has eyes on you) the rep assured me it was capable of 60+ off road. Cjeck it out.

        Anyway, a Spyder may be ridiculous expensive and not a motorcycle but when I am 80 and can’t hold up my full dresser – I could see owning a Spyder…maybe.

        • Agreed, GW –

          I have nothing against the Can Am, either. After all, I’m a Libertarian! People should be free to ride/drive whatever floats their boat, so long as they’re not causing harm and so long as they don’t expect others to “help” them buy it.

          • eric, GW, just as long as I don’t have to ride one. I drove/rode one a few years ago supposed to be one of the best, Colo. manufacturer I think. Nothing is logical. There are no natural tendencies as in leaning a bike or anything else. I would have been more comfortable with a steering wheel on the thing. I told my old college roommate I wouldn’t be bothering him to ride it again. He said it took a bit of getting used to. That was an understatement.

  6. Eric – I think you’re a bad influence on me. All this gun-vernment resistance, thumb in their eye motorcycle talk got my blood up again. I was scanning the local Craigs List postings when I came upon a pristine dark green 1974 H2 over in Breese, Illinois for $6500 OBO. Wow! I’d love to have it…but after careful consideration, I’m searching for a deal on a “ZX14.” From what I understand, with one of “those” you can be home enjoying an adult beverage by the time Officer Friendly gets turned around to come after you. Heck, I’d even drink to clover’s health (may he be covered under Obummercare) while the pipes and engine were still ticking, hidden from view in my shop. 😉

    • I hope so!

      You ought to check out that H2 – the price is extremely fair if it’s in excellent (or even very good) condition.

      The ZX14 is all but untouchable – in the right hands. 180 hp (IIRC) and a near 200 MPH top speed, stone stock. Nine second 1/4 mile.

      Leave ’em squealin’!

  7. Great write up Eric. You also have highlighted why there will likely never be another “Model T” event in the United States unless the nanny state is dismantled or blows up on its own.

    • Thanks, Nick.

      And, I agree in re the Model T (and more broadly). Outside of a very few areas not yet stifled by regulations and controls (electronics, for instance) there has been stagnation and stasis and I expect this will continue to become more and more apparent as time goes by.

  8. But what about pushbikes? Those 2 wheel contraps with skinny tires?

    One day I saw this young boy trying to turn a bike without using the brakes in a field of gravel. The bike and boy ended up on the ground, blood oozing from both arms. He ran to Mommy, screaming and crying. Mommy wiped the blood, put on bandages where necessary, and sent him back for another go. That boy was me at age of 4. I learnt real quickly that loose gravel is not conducive to sharp unbraked turns on a bike.

    Many many years later I was walking with my aunt on her farm. She had a little boy she was watching for her daughter. He fell on the dirt and started crying. She said in a loud voice: “get up, get up, I’m not going to get you up, stop crying get on your feet and walk!” Once the boy realized she wasn’t going to pick him up, he stood up and started walking and stopped crying.

    These days, if this happened, both adults would be in front of a judge, and most likely I would have been removed from the home of my “uncaring” mother.

    BTW, when are bikes going to be banned? They are just so dangerous [and so dammed expensive to fix.] And trikes, well those are just a disaster just waiting to happen to a poor child with undeveloped motor skills. Just imagine trying to get these devices on the market today as a new product!

    And then there are sleds, wooden beams on a metal framework, no steering, the ability to go fast on ice and snow, laying on your stomach, hurtling downhill to that frozen lake………………………………………………………………………

    lmao on this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cynical me

  9. Absolutely true.

    And one more reason why every able bodied man should own and ride a motorcycle. It is – and always has been – a thumb in the eye of the safety nannies and gubbermint statist do-gooders everywhere.

    Not only that, but being a biker allows you to use the State’s stupid laws against itself… Consider:

    Imagine walking down a typical metropolitan street wearing a mask or a balaclava that covered your face … or wearing the same in a bank or at an ATM. How long would it take for you to be surrounded by heroes with guns?

    And yet, every time I ride my bike, I park my bike and make a point of walking down the street wearing a full face helmet, or half helmet and balaclava. I make a point of wearing them while I do my banking at an ATM just to see what happens. Every time … absolutely nothing!

    It’s totally fun to ride around in complete anonymity, face completely concealed from all cameras… why? Well, because the government *demands* I do 🙂 Hehehehe.

    And consider this … If the environ-Mental-ists had principles they would lobby for tax breaks and incentives for motorcycle ridership. If bikes replaced single-occupant vehicles, it would drastically decrease greenhouse gasses. A simple fact. Yet you never hear Greenpeace lobbying for more motorbikes. Why? Motorcycles rankle hypocritical enviro-facists everywhere.

    They hate them. They fear them. And I love it.

    • Hey Jax,

      “It’s totally fun to ride around in complete anonymity, face completely concealed from all cameras… why? Well, because the government *demands* I do 🙂 Hehehehe.”

      Pure brilliance!

      I salute you, sir!

      • Well, nothing would happen at an ATM, but try and get served in a bank or servo. But it’s very useful for getting off camera tickets because they can’t prove it was you. Just say you swap bikes on rides with many of your friends so it’s impossible to tell who was riding at the time.

        The burden of proof is on them.

        Worked for me once. Now they don’t know where I live since the bike hasn’t been “registered” for about 10 years they no longer have a record of it. Camera fines end up in a black hole.

        I wonder how they’d treat me if I wore a full face burka while banking.. 😉

    • Jax, just think what traffic and pollution would be like in Asia and India where the bike reigns supreme, not to mention the fuel consumption. I have been threatening to buy another bike for years since my mug graces the thugscrum offices in full facial recognition mode from the county to the federal level. I don’t really care for Harley’s but old man, black full face helmet(I Need a new one, old Nava has deteriorated on the inside)ridin a Harley…..almost ubiquitous.

  10. Actually, Eric, the exact same principle would apply if the automobile were just being invented today. Some of the arguments used 110 years ago would be used today, such as “It’s too fast.”

    But some of the insidious arguments that would come up today would parallel those used for guns: “What do you need a motorized vehicle for? Don’t you know that their only purpose is to kill, maim, and cause mayhem? Why, crooks would use these newfangled automobiles to commit crimes and run! Think of the children!”

    • Too true Ekram. Back in England, the first autos were limited to 4mph and had to have a guy walking alongside with a red flag to warn pedestrians. Utterly ridiculous – but that’s England for you.

      • In a couple of U.S. states at the turn of the last century, laws were passed requiring that a lit Roman candle accompany every automobile on the road. One wonders what the next 21st Century version of this will be?

        • I’ve heard some of these examples about the fears of autos in the early days. But the difference today is, the fears almost always win out. In the early 20th century, there was still some ability among the PTB to weigh risks against rewards and, to some degree, permit progress. These days, even the remotest possibility of risk can serve to veto an idea or invention. I think the changes are mostly the result of the feminization and nannification of our country in the last 100 years. Our culture has become hysterical and neurotic.

  11. I am wondering about the political push on bicycles these days.
    I recognize that first and foremost it is an anti-car movement. But behind the anti-car movement is a movement against uncontrolled, unmonitored transportation.

    Like motorcycles the safety nannies have been after bicycles for decades. So the result have been silly styrofoam hats and endlessly more complex roadways. The roadway complexity fits the anti-car agenda by making driving more painful. But underlying it are the irrational fears of the so called dangers of bicycling.

    The political forces are also aiming to pit motorcyclists, bicyclists, motorists, and transit users against each other for road space. They are breaking up road transportation landscape into factions that battle each other in the political landscape. The only winner of such a condition is government. Everyone else ultimately loses.

    My guess is that they are going to eliminate or capture each form of transportation one by one. They have largely captured transit. They are getting there with the automobile. Next comes the motorcyclists, then the bicyclists. Lastly walking. Not that they aren’t working on all of them at the same time of course. Now people are being arrested for walking while under the influence for instance.

    Once the cars are fully controlled the safety push will be made to ban two wheeled transportation. As that is going on transit will be cut further and further back. Eventually we mundanes will be living our lives within the radius we can walk from our homes.

    • “I am wondering about the political push on bicycles these days.”

      Here in Oz we had calls some decades ago for bicycles to be “registered”. That idea fell like a lead balloon, but helmet laws eventually prevailed, because drunk or inattentive drivers were running them down.

      Not that these helmets help much against anything more than road rash. 6AM one morning I was driving an Army truck into Muswellbrook and came across an accident scene between a bus and bicycle. Rider under a tartan blanket on the road, bicycle folded in half and almost unrecognisable, helmet scattered in many pieces to the wind.

      I didn’t see it happen, but I bet one of these two things were the culprit:

      It was dark and the bus driver couldn’t see the rider (yellow bike frame – lights unknown), or the rider was swerving all over the place as they often do, possibly riding with a mate two-abreast as usual.

      There’s only one reason I watch the Tour De France, is because of all the crashes. Some riders are absolutely useless – even in a straight line, considering all their experience.

      There’s Beach road in Melbourne that attracts huge amounts of “sport” MAMLs (middle aged men in lycra) clogging the entire lane for many miles 3 abreast. Bloody nuisance even if you’re stuck behind them on a motorcycle.

      • Revo, I’m just waiting for the day I see a bike rider run a red light and get cleaned up by a car or motorcycle. Adult bike riders show no regards for the much bigger and metallic objects that inhabit road systems. And they never use the road lanes, they prefer sidewalks instead. More elderly people they can knock over!!

        • to5, I’ve seen one get cleaned up and that was 40 years ago when we were courteous and don’t ever want to see it again. In the sixties and seventies bicycles, fairly much ten speeds took off and every election we’d see bike paths or bike lanes get shot down. Of course Detroit and Big Oil were feeding our most craven instincts so we traded for Corinthian leather and a never ending payment cause cars didn’t last for crap in the 60’s, 70′ or fairly much the very end of the 80’s. I wish I could post it. Yesterday I came across a ’48 Chevy pickup that had been change quit a bit. Now it’s an extended cab, dually, but don’t know what drivetrain since it’s owner was driving a truck and not around. I’ll keep trying with the pic.

  12. Gyroscopic forces balance it while in motion and when it is standing still…

    You’d lose the typical bureau-rat at this point. Once you begin digressing into the realm of simple science, the eyes would glaze over and the defensive realization that knowledge and common sense are about to trump any bullshit that comes out of said bureau-rat’s mouth would have them shutting down your presentation immediately and kicking you and your invention out into the street.

    • Actually, gyroscopic forces only stabilise motorcycles properly at rather high speeds. In lower speed handling, stability relies on the inverted pendulum being only mildly unstable so that trained reflexes are fast enough to let rider control make the whole rider/machine system stable without causing fatigue. Also, it turns out that, at the right speeds, a properly designed bicycle layout can be self stabilising even without gyroscopic forces; I don’t recall the links off hand, but there are pages describing it out there (try googling “holonomic” and “bicycle”).

  13. Yes! Great article, thank you for sharing this.

    I recall reading one of your comments a few months back where you mentioned “if motorcycles were never invented, and they were created today, the government would never allow them”. And it’s an excellent point, one that I think will help wake up another handful of open-minded people who aren’t yet “awake”. I think about this all the time (my only “personal” vehicle is my motorcycle), good to see a full article about it.

    I would also like to add that riding a motorcycle (I’ve only been riding now for just under 2 1/2 years, it has made me a MUCH better car/truck driver. Before learning how to ride a bike I thought it would be extremely easy to learn (and it kind of was)…. but the vulnerability I felt on two wheels surrounded by traffic was absolutely terrifying in the beginning. (not to mention, the first time I ever attempted to ride a bike before I took a 3 day motorcycle safety course, I popped the clutch and had the bike land on top of me, I still have a scar on my right leg from where the hot pipes of that Harley burned the hell out of me…) but now I’m comfortable riding.

    That said, I hope more people take the leap and learn how to ride a bike if they don’t already know. The motorcycle safety course I took (and I imagine the others are very similar) was insanely easy and very informative, and it’s really empowering to do. Also, no lame ass seat belt laws to obey when you’re on a bike! (not to mention the amazing gas mileage, and just the overall fun of riding what I sometimes refer to as a “jet ski on paved roads”.

    • “I would also like to add that riding a motorcycle (I’ve only been riding now for just under 2 1/2 years, it has made me a MUCH better car/truck driver.”

      Exactly Jacob. Grabbermints and road safety advocates don’t understand this point. The sheer vulnerability of bikes in the hands of inept morons that zone out while travelling is their own downfall, because mainly car drivers (not truckies) don’t pay any attention to bikes and clobber them regularly.

      I’ve been riding on the roads some 28 years now. It gives you faster reaction times and trains your eyes to a wider field of view. Something that’s absolutely necessary, including the very strong suspicion that nobody’s seen you and every car is likely to impede your movement by running you down. It also teaches you to treat wet roads like black ice and speed limits as if they were suggested, considering riding among a pack of cars can be lethal as described above.

      Regarding the article, I posted a while back that some 3 decades ago I saw a cartoon in an Easy Rider mag, where a guy wearing leathers and helmet was at the counter of some DMV, and the bureaucrat behind the desk says:

      “So.. You want to register a vehicle with only two wheels, one headlight and metal protrusions all over it?”.

      Guy in helmet was holding a picture of a motorbike. Classic. I’ll never forget it for the irony.

      Motorbikes wouldn’t pass the bureaucratic “safety” (read: nanny or control) nonsense these days. We can only thank Pierre Michaux, a blacksmith in Paris France, who can be traced back to 1867 for the first motorcycle – steam powered of course.

  14. Don DeeCeeolo! Hahahaha!

    The Cosa Unidos Nostra Terribile (our terrible united thing) is a criminal syndicate on the Potomac River on the East Coast of America. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering.

    Each group, known as a “town”, “city”, “county”, or “state”, claims sovereignty over a territory, in which it operates its rackets.

    Its members call themselves “the honorable”, “mayor”, “commissioner”, “governor”, “senator”, “congressman”, or “president”, although the public often refers to them as “mafiosi”.

    The Cosa Unidos Nostra Terribile’s (CUNT) power comes from its reputation to commit violence, particularly murder, against virtually anyone and get away with it. Through reputation, CUNT deters its enemies and enemies of their clients.

    It allows its gang members to protect a client without being physically present (e.g. as bodyguards or watchmen), which in turn allows them to protect many clients at once.

    Compared to other occupations, reputation is especially valuable for a CUNT, as his primary product is protection through intimidation.

    The reputation of a member of the Cosa Unidos Nostra Terribile is dichotomous: he is either a good protector or a bad one; there is no mediocrity.

    This is because a CUNT can only either succeed at an act of violence or fail utterly. There is no spectrum of quality when it comes to violent protection. Consequently, a series of failures can completely ruin a criminal syndicate’s reputation, and with it his national protection business

  15. If the motorcycle HAD just been invented, I wonder what the production version would look like by the time the bureaucrats and safety nazis were done with it. I’m imagining a topless, windowless Smart Car, and with the driver encased in bubble wrap.

    • I imagine it would be a bit like flying an aircraft. Without the super duper Gov’t sanctioned Permit to operate, you’d only be allowed to drive a 49 cc or less.

      And the super duper Gov’t sanctioned Permit to operate would be as easy to get as concealed carry is in D.C. or N.Y.C. or L.A.. That is – IF – you lived in an area that hasn’t outlawed BB guns. Then, it”s no 49 cc for you!

      That wooden one in the first photo looked wild. Yeah, there’s no way they’d let that on the roads today.

      It’s much the same as the stories I’ve heard about SubWay Sandwich shops, and Arnold -The Terminator – Schwarzenegger’s first brick laying company(?) The originator of SubWay and Arnold both said with today’s regulations there’s no way they could have opened up today.

      So sad that it’s by design and on purpose.

  16. Geez (hypothetically speaking) even if they were to allow such a new fangled contraption – they would probably want to require some sort of Gov’t sanctioned Permit to operate such a speciality vehicle and ofcurse special insurance…


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