Thursday, November 18

2 Wheels 2 ... Everywhere ! Thanksgiving

Next week we Americans celebrate our iconic holiday of Thanksgiving. Yes my Canadian friends, I realize that you had your Thanksgiving last month. I suppose that’s because it’s already the dead of winter in the Great White North, what with blizzards, meters of snowfall, and polar bears walking the city streets. But I digress. Thanksgiving is traditionally the time to express thankfulness and gratitude for all the many blessings of family, friends, relationships, bountiful harvests, or just about anything else for which you happen to be grateful. As motorcyclists, we too have much to be thankful for. I thought I’d take this chance to go public with my 2010 list of motorcycling specific items for which I plan to give great thanks. And perhaps celebrate with a nice glass of wine (or several.)

The past couple of years have not been the easy, if you know what I mean. Being a motorcycle dealer in the best of times is a pretty tough deal. A great number of us probably know of a dealership or two that didn’t make it. Heck, there were whole motorcycle brands (Buell?) that didn’t make it through this economic downturn. And yet, there were dealers who somehow, through good management, foresight, karma, luck, or who knows what, are still here to serve our needs. Their stores are still open for our Saturday visits. They are delighted to have us come by and swig down their free coffee, distract their sales staff with our questions and inane conversation, and (oh yes!) sell us their particular brand’s latest object of our affection. And make no mistake there are lots of new “objects of affection” coming from the manufacturers. Especially the ones that are still true believers in our obsession with motorcycles. Have you seen what’s coming from Triumph, BMW, Yamaha and Kawasaki for 2011? Geez, even Suzuki (who didn’t bother themselves with a 2010 product line up in the US) has new Gixxers in the pipeline! Thank you motorcycle dealers for keeping the faith and still being here for us!

Highway departments and the various State Departments of Transportation don’t usually get much of our respect. No question, a great deal of this is well earned. Broadly speaking, the state of repair of this nation’s highways is not something that warrants any special thanks. However there are a couple of dynamics that give me reason to consider the glass half full. First there is the further proliferation of HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle – for those of you not living in urban areas) lanes that are open to motorcyclists. That’s good news that further leverages the efficiency that motorcycling brings to those of us who commute by bike. There’s another enhancement which, in my mind may even be better yet. Toll roads without toll plazas/booths! OK, they’re toll roads, right? And we inherently hate and avoid them whenever possible. I get that. But sometimes toll roads are simply one of life’s necessities. Stopping a motorcycle at a booth to fumble for coins (in the dark or in the wet or when bundled up for chilly weather) is a nuisance unimaginable to motorists in (dare I say?) cars. Transponder systems, like EZ Pass here in the Great Northeast, are better but they still slow or even stop all the traffic. But wait, the future is here now in some areas. Yes they’re still toll roads, to be sure, but with no toll booths, no slowing traffic, no wild merging or lane cutting immediately before and after and no ticket takers. Just cameras that capture your license number and, a few weeks later a bill arrives in the mail. Roads like the Northwest Tollway outside Denver have it now and it’s expanding. It just makes life easier for motorcyclists whose fate it is to travel toll roads. Given time, more of these are gonna come your way and for this I am grateful in 2010!

BMW introduced ABS to motorcycles in the mid 1980s. It was pricey, didn’t work so well in some situations, and some of the early systems had a few, shall we say, “issues” with durability. No so today. The way that ABS (or for that matter traction control and other cool electronic systems like “quick shifters”) is proliferating throughout the motorcycle industry is a great technological miracle of our age. I personally know riders whose bacon has been saved by ABS and I’d bet that you do too. The population of ABS bikes has grown enough that statistics can be compiled showing the ABS contribution to overall motorcycle safety. And it has contributed. I am profoundly grateful to the manufacturers for offering this feature on an increasing number of bikes. And I am grateful to all of the underappreciated egghead engineers who dreamed this stuff up in the first place! Cheers and thanks to all of you!

Watch the Weather Channel almost any day now and you’ll see them. Great blue arrows originating in Alberta (it’s in Canada, where they already had Thanksgiving. See the first paragraph) and symbolically sweeping frigid air masses into the Northern portions of the United States. For those of us living in the northern tier (I am one) this fall season historically meant putting the bikes away for the duration. “Drag out the battery tender!” “Where’s the StaBil?” “Damn, the season’s over and all we can do is count the days till March (Or April. Or May.)” But wait. Maybe that’s no longer true. We live in the era of heated “stuff.” And for this I am profoundly thankful. Everything from heated grips (now available on lots of bikes as factory equipment) to heated seats (also available as original equipment – eh Gold Wing guys?) keeps us riding when the temperatures fall. Likewise, I am eternally grateful that Gordon Gerbing, toiling away in his little shop in Washington, got the whole heated garment thing so absolutely right that we can now ride year round should we choose. Gerbing’s gear can keep every part of your anatomy, from fingers to toes to neck, toasty warm in even the most foul weather. Those near-hypothermia experiences from my college riding days are just now “fond” memories. At Thanksgiving 2010 I give thanks for the ability to ride year round with my heated “stuff.”

That’s it, my 2010 motorcycling Thanksgiving list. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. (By the way, feel free to comment and add your own items!) In any case I hope that next Thursday you’ll take a moment to reflect on your riding year, your experiences, and magic you enjoy as a motorcyclist. Whatever is on your list, give thanks because what we all enjoy on our bikes is surely a special gift! Ride safe!

Jack Broomall is a lifelong motorcyclist and a friend of RevZilla. His motorcycle adventures have taken him across the North American continent several times, to Alaska, the Alps, the United Kingdom and the Isle of Man. He is a member of the Iron Butt Association and also owns a number of motorcycle Land Speed Records at the Bonneville Salt Flats where he is a member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. He has been known to do occasional restorations of his favorite bikes from the 1970s and enjoys track days as well. Jack writes his “2 Wheels 2..Everywhere!” stories about the motorcycling life on a monthly basis or whenever the mood strikes.

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