Latest Reader Questions: Bike ABS & Dead Gas Gauge in SUV

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Here are the latest reader questions, along with my replies!

Bill asks: I’ve been riding (motorcycles) for well over 40 years.  I’m thinking of replacing my current bike, an ’03 Honda VTX-1300S.  The bike I’m considering is the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob, a belt driven 107 cu. in. beauty that looks like it’d be a blast to ride (I’ll miss foot boards and heel-toe shifter, but that’s the way it goes). My question is this:  What is your take regarding ABS on bikes?  It took me by surprise to see it’s an option.  It seems odd to me that anyone would want it since braking is so much a part of skilled riding.  However, it’s all over the web as the best thing since…  well, y’know.  (Remember how Honda tried to make automatic transmission bikes back whenever?  Failed utterly.  Riders wanna ride!). I know you’ve been a rider somewhere around as long as I have, and you know much more about vehicles overall than I do.  Any thoughts are very welcome.  Any thoughts on the bike I’m considering buying too! Thanks very much. You’re a rare light in our benighted vehicular times. If Diogenes drove a car he’d be searching for you!

My reply: I dislike ABS, whether on four or two wheels. Yes, I know. There are saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety advantages, including (on a bike) having linked brakes and so locking up the front or rear wheel is avoided. And yes, I concede that ABS can reduce stopping distances for most riders, most of the time.

Most bikes with ABS allow the rider to disengage the system, which is necessary on a bike at times (e.g., when negotiating gravel on an incline).

So why don’t I dig ABS?

Well, for openers, one of the reasons I like to ride is that bikes are not peremptory. As cars have become. You are in total control. The bike is just a machine, no computer nannies – assuming you have one without. I grant that ABS is saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafey. I don’t care. I prefer the more hairy experience of being completely in control of my bike, that it’s my skill and judgment which largely determine whether the shiny side stays up.

Secondly, I like bikes to be simple, durable – and most of all, easy to maintain myself. ABS adds expense and complexity. It necessarily involves computers, sensors and an ABS pump, etc.

No thanks. I have 40-year-old bikes in the garage that are still as sound and ready to ride as they were 40 years ago. I doubt any new bike with all the car-like electronic crap will be functional 40 years from now – or even 20, for most of them. Like cars, they are becoming disposable appliances.

I’ll keep my old stuff!

On the new Harley: The above criticism applies. It’s a fine bike – while new and under warranty – but once not…

But then, I am a weirdo who likes carbs… four Mikuni or Keihins sucking air is one of my favorite sounds!

Nancy asks: I have an old Chev 1 ton dually (1976) that runs great but I don’t know how fast I am going or how much gas I have in it. The dual tanks work so when I run out on one I switch and fill up the the other. Problem- for hauling a 3 horse Gooseneck ( at least 10,000 lbs and likely up to 14,000+/-) I really need a newer truck but don’t know which (gas) ones to put in the “consideration” column. Diesel is out because I won’t be hauling enough to make it cost effective. I do want enough truck to haul mountain grades although in SE Arizona there aren’t too many of those but I still don’t need to be crawling on the uphill.  What year(s) and engine/tranny configurations would be best  in this situation.  Appreciate your response and I heard you this am (4-15-18) on KVOI with Charles Heller. Enjoyed the interview on the show.

My reply: Well, my first thought is – why not fix the gauges in your ’76? The system in that truck is as simple as it gets. There’s a fuel sender in the tank(s) and that goes to a basic electric fuel gauge in the dash. Every part you need is readily available. EVen if you have to replace everything, the cost/effort is not much. Shouldn’t be more than a couple hundred bucks, tops.

Much, much cheaper than a new truck or even a decent used one!

If you’ve decide you just need something newer, I’d still recommend something old(er). I’ve written before about the “sweet spot” of car (and truck) design, which was – roughly – late 1990s-early 2000s.

Vehicles made during those years had technology – such as fuel injection and overdrive transmission – but not excessively complex/expensive technology. They also do not have Big Brother technology. All the new (and recent) stuff does.

I particularly recommend any late-90s/early 2000s Chevy Silverado 1500. Superb trucks, with superb V8s and tough drivelines. The Fords are okay but their engines not as good. The Dodges have good engines but their transmissions not so much and their bodies seem more rust-prone.

Hope this was helpful – and keep us posted!

 . . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. My neighbor just picked up a 200? RWD Suburban with 454 dual TBI & anti-slip rear, so there are still some good trucks w/nice towing options out there to be found!


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