MY INSURANCE EXPERIENCE
So, I crashed my Goldwing November 18, 2017 and I won’t get it back until first week in February 2018. That sucks! Therefore, I’d like to “blog” about my experience with “insurance”.
About 4 years ago we reluctantly left a popular insurance company; a company where you had an insurance agent, someone you call if you would ever have an incident that required a claim on your insurance. All of my adult life I have had an insurance agent. And in 40 years only called my agent twice for claims.
After doing some research, I discovered that I could save about $1,300 a year if I switched to GEICO. That is significant money to save. I dove deeper into the possibility of switching to an insurance carrier where there didn’t seem to be a person that would be my agent. My concerns were the following: I won’t have a personal agent, who will I call? Second, GEICO seems to be all internet based, will I be able to sign up? Last and very simply will GEICO be able to perform?
I called GEICO and the person on the phone was VERY helpful in answering all my questions. On that conversation I decided to move 3 cars and my house to GEICO. The savings was the motivating factor. Up until November 18, 2017 I never needed to call GEICO. The bills came to my email account and I paid with a credit card. When I bought a motorcycle in May of 2017, I added it to my GEICO policy. Pretty simple.
Now, let’s go back to November 18, 2017 when me and my Goldwing hit the ice. Read “NTSB Report: Stupid Pilot” a few posts ago. This will give you the situation I was in. My motorcycle was just crushed by a late model Tahoe and was unable to be ridden. After a few minutes of letting the mayhem settle down I walked to the side of the road, pulled out my phone and opened the GEICO app.
This was the beginning of actually going through a claims process with GEICO. I must say now, my experience with GEICO has been fantastic … not sure how it could be better. However, I think it’s best if I go through some of the details so you can see for yourself. GEICO has been unbelievable and I would like to describe some of the highlights of my experience with you. A special note: GEICO has not paid me or endorsed or knows anything of my blog and what I am writing about.
Once I collected myself after the accident I pulled out my phone and touched the GEICO app. Once opened I touched the menu button that called GEICO. The lady on the other side of the phone answered with a pleasant voice and said, “How can I assist you?” I told her that I had been involved in an accident and needed my motorcycle towed. Here first response was, “Are you okay?”. I thought that was a good question from this huge insurance company. She asked a second time, “Are you sure you’re okay?”. Again, she was very nice and personable; sounded concerned about my wellbeing. I said I was fine again. She then said she had called the tow truck company and they should be to me in about 45 minutes. She then asked what had happened. After my description she again said she was glad no one was hurt and asked if there was anything else she could do. We concluded our conversation.
The next day I was home and again called GEICO. They had my accident information. My question was where do I take the bike for repairs. The answer; anywhere I choose. On Monday I get a call from my GEICO claims adjuster, Jon. We arranged a time to meet at the repair shop. (Note: I took the bike to Fred Cummings Motorsports(FC) in Bakersfield, CA and will blog about my experience there as well … it was great!).
I towed the bike to FC on Tuesday and meet Jon. He took time to explain the process and what to expect. Again, a very personable young man that has been very patient with my questions (sometimes a lot of questions) throughout the entire process. Jon begins looking at the bike and comparing broken parts to a parts list on his tablet. He spends about 40 minutes going over the bike and entering information. This is the first estimate and there will be additions as the bike is repaired and more parts are discovered needing replacement.
Jon tells me he’ll be right back as he goes to his car. He comes back with an estimate for FC and a parts list. The last thing he provides is a check to FC for the initial repair list. FC is paid and they can begin work. Again, Jon was great in sharing with me the process and what to expect.
A few days later FC needs approval from GEICO as there are more parts needed after the tear down of the Goldwing. Jon goes to FC and discusses the need for more parts. Jon takes some additional pictures. He goes to his car and comes back with a revised part list and another check. Jon called me and told me all of this and continues to answer my never list of sometimes irrelevant questions. Again, Jon has been great throughout this process.
About a week later I get a call from GEICOs liability guy, Mark. Mark’s responsibility is liability issues; who is at fault and who pays. Mark, like the other folks at GEICO, was very good at explaining what he does and proceeded to ask me about the accident. He asked several questions and then said he’d like to record my statement. He seemed to think that based on my statement and the police report that the driver of the car that hit the Goldwing would be at fault. This means that their insurance company would end up paying for the repairs and the $500 deductible.
Mark told me that the other drivers insurance company would be calling for a statement as well. A couple of days later the other insurance liability guy called. He was not friendly and the entire recording took about 2 minutes and a quick goodbye.
A few more days later I get a call from GEICOs payment recovery person, Rita. Again, amazing customer service. Her responsibility was to collect the money from the other insurance company. Rita explained to me that the other insurance company has refused responsibility and now the claim goes to arbitration. Rita shared that this is very common and that the facts lend to the ruling being in our favor. Rita says she will keep me in the loop but the process will take about 90 days.
My take aways so far: 1) All of the people I spoke with at GEICO thus far treated me as a “friend” not a “number”. 2) All of the people I have spoken with at GEICO were great in answering my questions. 3) Every time I asked a question through the website I received a call within a very short amount of time! And last, I feel like I have “my personal team” striving to get the best possible outcome for my “STUPID” accident.
Where are we today?
My accident was on November 18, 2016 and today is January 11, 2018. It will be another 3 weeks to get my bike back. That’s nearly two and half months! What’s the problem?
There are 3 parts the GW needs. These parts are nowhere to be found in the USA. They have had to be “manufactured” and shipped. This means that the bike won’t be fixed until the end of January. So, I called my adjuster, Jon. My question was, in a effort to speed the process up, if I went out and found the parts needed could they be used? Jon called FC to determine their ideas. Jon said as long as they are OEM parts FC would use the parts. I called and talked to 4 parts suppliers around the country. The same message, out of stock and they have to be manufactured. Then I called Jon back and asked if I could pay for expedited shipping … he kindly said, the parts are coming from Honda JAPAN! He said that it would be impractical to do. I agreed.
So where are we now?
All the parts are in except for one. This one part is on a container ship on it’s way to FC. They should receive the part near the end of January and then 16 hours of labor. I hope to get the bike back by the first of February.
GEICO’s website is amazing. It’s super intuitive and easy to use. From the mobile app to the website, it’s really simple to use. I switched to GEICO a few years ago with some uneasiness. Now, after working with my “team” I’m absolutely convinced moving to GEICO was great. I would suggest that if you are not with GEICO, consider GEICO … from my experience I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Should You Wear the Gear?
Having ridden motorcycles for such a short time I have come to my final conclusions regarding the wearing of safety gear while riding. My “opinion” might surprise some, but in the end, you’ll have to agree with me 😊.
So, let’s start with wearing protective gear or not wearing protective gear has got to be an individual choice. Certain states require the use of a motorcycle helmet. In those state, you need to be wearing a helmet. Other than that, if you chose not wear a helmet in states where not required, don’t wear a helmet. I get it … the open air, the sense of “freedom” … the idea of being able to do what you want … you should have the right not to wear “safety” gear.
As I have looked around and observed what riders wear it seems that many wear a “uniform” of sorts. For example, you may see the Harley Davidson riders with maybe jeans, heavy boots, some kind of a leather vest, long chain attached to their belt loop and wallet, perhaps a colorful bandana and a helmet that covers the basic top of the head. The BMW guy/girl is in matching pants and jacket, full faced helmet, sitting up tall. The “crotch rocket” rider, they are a special bunch. I have seen them bent over their bikes in shorts, tank tops, tennis shoes and helmet splitting lanes at 70 mph and then others in full racing leather attire. I think it’s kind of cool that almost every rider has “riding clothes”, an individual style that works for them. Again, I think all should wear whatever makes them feel good.
Now, let’s talk about “my people”, the Gold Wing riders😊. Similar to the crotch rocket group. You see everything. Many wear the open faced helmet with dark sun glasses. They wear a dark colored vest with all kinds of metals and awards attached. The shirt under the vest is usually a bright color like red, blue or yellow. Most wear jeans and boots. If they have a rider, they usually match. Others wear a protective jacket, of course, matching the passenger.
Again, I feel each should ride with what makes them feel good! “Wear All the Gear All the Time” or not, whatever makes you happy. No one should judge another for what they wear. Just be sure to tease the Gold Wing rider with a one piece suit!
What do I do?
Let me just say it now and then justify my choice. I wear a full-face helmet (modular) and an Aerostich R3 suit with Tourmaster boots. There, now you know I wear a uniform. Let’s back up and let me share why I choose to wear what I wear. By the way, I am not paid by anybody to use these products.
When I started riding I researched all that I could about the “dangers” of riding. It seems like the latest US data is from 2015. There was something like 8.5 million motorcycle riders in the US. In that year approximately 5 thousand died in motorcycle related accidents and 40 thousand more were injured in a motorcycle accident. Based on those facts (approximate numbers), there is a 99.5% chance you will not be injured or die in a motorcycle accident. Or there is less than a half of one percent chance of being injured in a motorcycle accident.
With the statistics showing how few motorcycle riders get in accidents why worry about the gear? That is a great question! Here is my answer for me: motorcycle crashes and airplane crashes are similar in that when either happens there is often pain/suffering and often times death. For me, I choose to wear the gear to simply offer some protection from the unlikely fall or crash.
Road rash. This is often harder to recover from than a broken wrist, collar bone, arm or leg. Road rash can take up to a couple of years to heal. There is lots of pain, potential for horrendous infections, skin grafts, etc.. The pictures of road rash are atrocious! Google “motorcycle road rash” and look at the pictures … why not protect your skin? It just makes sense to me. Again, I feel each rider should wear what they want … choose your own uniform, whatever it may be. For me the Aerostich R3 provides great protection from road rash in case of a slide. There is other great gear that provides protection from road rash, I simply like the Aerostich suit.
Broken bones. I have read that there are a lot of broken collar bones in motorcycle crashes. The bike slides away and while hanging on to the grips you land smack dab on your shoulder and pop goes the collar bone. Why not wear gear that provides a type of shoulder pad to give you a chance to save the collar? My first riding jacket had a shoulder pad, however, it was very thin and weak … it might have helped. Again, not trying to sell the Aerostich, but, the pads in the R3 are substantial enough you actually believe they will protect you.
Pads in the elbow and knee area are also important. The knee and elbow seem to take a beating with almost every fall at speed. It just seems like a good idea to have some kind of padding in that area. I added hip pads to my Aerostich suit. Why not? Do you not hit your hip every time you fall? I also have the back pad installed. Maybe a bit of over kill …. It just makes me feel good to have this suit on!
Another reason why I bought the Aerostich is the idea of a one-piece suit. The R3 slips right over your clothes and takes 15 seconds to get on and off.
Let me conclude by reiterating that I feel every rider should wear whatever makes them comfortable. Riders should be free to choose to wear gear or not and that includes wearing a helmet. For me I feel super comfortable wearing all the gear (almost) all the time😊.
Let me know what you think … leave a comment.
Can’t Ride for Another 2 Weeks!
What I’m about to “blog” about will only be understood by the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of motorcycle riders. If you don’t ride motorcycles you will never get it. However, if you read this as a non-motorcycle rider … go easy on me. And if you want to understand … get a bike and go ride!
I read a saying that goes like this; “I love to ride and hate to arrive!”. I so get this adage. Even after riding 5-7 hours … I hate to stop. It is just magical to be on the road riding a huge bike, enjoying the sounds, smells and environment. It is a great feeling riding a motorcycle.
Due to my inexperience and stupidity my 2008 beautiful Goldwing has been damaged (see previous blog: NTSB Report). It’s been 15 days since the bikes injuries and another 14 days (probably a little longer) before repairs are made and I get the bike back!
Let me try to explain what riding is like. First, there seems to be a low-level adrenaline rush when you’re riding. While I have never done drugs, it might be like having an I.V. with adrenaline being pumped into your veins at a slow but steady pace. Maybe that comes from some of the danger of riding. Mostly I think that rush comes from the control you have over the machine. Using the throttle with your hand is so different than using your foot to step on the gas in your car. Having to lean your machine to one side or the other to turn … so much fun! A nice high speed turn, leaning over WOW! it just feels good! (I’m not talking about dragging a knee around the corner … just riding on a long curve). Riding up in the hills when you are constantly moving the bike by leaning left then right and doing it over and over … THE BEST! Cruising on a highway straight for miles … even that is awesome! Lots of time to get into that Zen zone … just thinking about life! There is always a small little adrenaline rush riding.
Second, riding a motorcycle, you are exposed to the environment. Most people enjoy riding in a convertible car … to feel the air and experience more of the environment; more so on a motorcycle. On a motorcycle you are totally exposed to the environment. The various smells … it’s unbelievable. When you ride from the city to higher elevations … the smells change from 1,000’ to 9’000’. Riding through farm lands the smells change dramatically. Temperature changes are most notable. In my car I set the temperature to 72 and no matter where I go the automatic climate control keeps the car at 72 … it could be 100 outside or 30 … it’s 72 in my car. On a bike you can feel the change of only a few degrees. You are “one with the environment”😊. My bike has a very cool wind screen … I don’t get the air directly in my face … but, I can still feel the air swirling around … again, it’s just being in the environment that is so fun.
Third, you are alone with your thoughts. Yep, for some of us that can be dangerous 😊. Even while paying attention to all the things you must consider while riding, riding is a great time to sort things out in your life. The constant drone of the motor is hypnotic … it’s the song that says everything is good in life! This is going to sound dumb (I’ve been accused of that!) but, when riding … you and the engine kind of communicate … the motor hums and says “I’m feeling good!” At times I will listen to the radio when riding … it’s good. But, for me the very best times are when the only sound is the engine singing, feeling the air around you and just thinking about how lucky I am to be riding this beautiful Goldwing!
Attempting to quantify the high I get from riding my Gold Wing is somewhat difficult. For you riders, I’d enjoy hearing your comments about why you like to ride … why you’re addicted! Please share.
Since I’m grounded for another week or so, my next posting will be about “gear” … wearing safety gear; jacket, pants, helmets, gloves, etc. I have some ideas that might surprise you …
Total Pilot Error!
This little blog post is going to be about being a really dumb rider of a 950-pound Honda Gold Wing. The story about to be shared has been analyzed for hours and questions have been answered. If after reading you’d like to comment with phrases like: “You’re and idiot”, or “I can’t believe you can be so dumb”, or “What were you thinking?”. Well, I get it. This is a story about bad thinking and planning; maybe someone can learn from my stupidity. So, here we go …
The proposed route from Springdale, UT to St. George
I planned a trip to leave my home in Bakersfield, CA and ride to Utah. First night staying in Springdale, Utah near the south entrance to Zion National Park. Next day ride through Zion then up Hwy 89 to SR-14 to I-15 up to Cove Fort crossing over 70 back to 89 and back to St. George (about 440 miles) then ride home from there the next day. Would be a good ride.
The day finally came. I leave at 6:15am from my house. Ride through Tehachapi, CA to Barstow, CA. Lots of wind during that leg. About 30 mph, kind of quartering tail wind. The 950lb GW handles the wind remarkably. Get gas in Barstow and continue to Las Vegas, NV. I-15 to Vegas is a fast road! The GW cruises really nice at #$mph. Pass Vegas and stop in Mesquite, NV. Get some gas and food. Leave heading towards St. George, UT. Pass St. George and ride pass Hurricane, La Verkin, Virgin, Rockville to Springdale, UT. Get a hotel, dinner and sleep.
This first day of riding was great! I love the ride. Between Littlefield and St. George you get the first glimpse of amazing rock formations. Absolutely, amazing. I have enjoyed traveling to a destination so far away and in a different state. Going to bed; I was excited for the next days ride.
It was clear and 30 degrees when I started this moring at about 7:00am. Springdale is beautiful! Rock formation/mountains all around … things you don’t see every day. I started on my second day warm and cozy with my heated jacket, gloves, seat and grips. Just after passing the town of Springdale you are in Zion National Park. If you go to Zion and you are not awe struck … go to a doctor immediately and get checked out! Best 10-12 miles I have ever ridden! Pictures do not come close to the feeling of riding a big GL1800 around the nice curves, through awesome tunnels at Zion.
Exiting Zion on highway 9, I’m heading towards Mt. Carmel Junction (HWY 9 and 89). It was these miles where I was missing the first signs that I should choose another route. I pass about 50 buffalo with snow/ice on their backs (never seen that before). Along this road there seemed to be chucks of “glass” along this path every so often. Now the temp was about 20 degrees (again, I was warm and comfortable). The “glass” was actually ice broken out of the lane divider reflector indentations. The reflector is set in the asphalt creating small caverns where water (from rain) settles. Then at night or day it freezes into ice. Cars run over the center line and shatters the ice which spreads to the highway.
I arrive at Mt. Carmel Junction, UT … a really small but cool little town. Stopped to get gas and continued north on HWY 89 about 30 miles looking for SR-14. HWY 89 is another great road to cruise.
Arriving at a little (itsy bitsy little) town, Gravel Pass at SR-14. Turing left I begin my journey to Duck Creek Village and on to Cedar City. I get to Duck Creek Village … again, I love these little communities out in the middle of nowhere. I stop after passing the town to adjust something on my bike. THIS IS WHERE THE STORY BEGINS.
Stopped at the side of the road I noticed there was “frost” on the sides of the roads. Never gave it a thought other than it looks awesome. Let me say, I am in no hurry to get anywhere. I’m simply enjoying riding into new places and experiencing new routes to tour. I didn’t know it then but I was at 8’500 feet being at Duck Creek. I put it in gear and took off.
After a few miles the frost was actually snow, but the roads were clear. Again, I’m in no hurry just simply enjoying riding in beautiful Utah. The weather is sunshine, beautiful blue skies, outside temp 25 degrees. After a few more miles the snow now had accumulated in the middle of this two-lane SR-14, however, the lanes were clear. I continue a few more miles and now I need to ride in tire tracks to avoid riding in the snow (maybe ice?). Again, up to this point I am enjoying EVERTHING about this trip!
After another mile or so my nice wide tire tracks begin to shrink to about 10 inches … a little further down the road they are now 5 inches. Now I’m concerned.
At this point I move right from comfortable to “I’m in trouble”. The small tire tracks I was tracking in disappeared and there is no sign of dry pavement. It is all slippery ice.
The road at this point is all white/grey … completely iced over. I feel like I’m riding on an ice skating rink. I was riding slow
… maybe 20-25 mph. I was trying to come with ideas that would make my situation go away. There was a high probability I was going to fall … I knew it and was expecting it. I did not think I could stop … I felt I could slip into the snow-covered ditch and I didn’t know what could be under the snow. I for sure could not turn around without falling. I kept moving along for about another quarter mile. Up ahead about 100 yards was a flat looking turn out. I decided to aim for the turn out and then stop safely or lay the bike down … best idea. THIS IS WHERE THE POO HITS THE FAN.
How fast is a “blink of an eye”?
As I aimed towards the “safe place”, in faster than a “blink of an eye” the bike and me were sliding on the rink! The best of my recollection, I must have been traveling between 10-15 mph. The GW slid about 10 feet I slid about 30 feet. I don’t remember the bike falling, but I was feeling the entire sliding action on this unbelievable slick ice. I landed on my knee, then hip and elbow then slid most of the way on my back, head up. I had recently purchased a “super riding suit” (I’d like to talk about gear in the next blog) and it did its job above and beyond the call of duty!
After standing up and making sure I wasn’t injured I walked carefully to the bike … the motor was already turned off. So, there I was standing over my bike alone in the middle of this two-lane road, SR-14. Let me reiterate that I was completely uninjured.
The Gold Wing was uninjured as well. It was resting on the “bracket/bars” that do a remarkable job of keeping the other parts of the bike from getting a mark. I have lifted a Gold Wing from the ground in the past; dry flat ground. I tried this day … there was no way … no grip … the road was so slippery (think ice skating rink).
I decided to
call for a tow truck to get me and the bike to dry ground. At this point before I called a 4-wheel drive pickup drove up the hill and stopped to provide help. The lady pulled over at the spot I was aiming for some 5 minutes earlier. I started walking towards her as she was walking towards me. She apologized and said she didn’t think she could help. I agreed and at this point it gets really, really, really bad.
This lady and me are talking on the side of the road about 75 yards up from my bike. An
SUV (Tahoe) coming the other way, going too fast for the conditions approaches. We both give her the “palms down” slow down sign. She hits the brakes and it was on! The Tahoe slides by us with wheels locked. I’m sure the driver looked ahead and sees the GW laying perpendicular in the middle of the road. The driver (I think) is trying to avoid the motorcycle laying in front of her. She chooses to try and steer this Tahoe to the left. As the SUV begins to track to the left the back end begins to fishtail towards the middle of the road. The speed of the Tahoe at this time didn’t appear to be faster than 25 mph (just a guess). The lady I’m standing with and myself are holding are breaths … not for the GW … but, scared to death as to how this is going to end for the Tahoe. The back end of the Tahoe fishtails and the back tire/bumper area slams into the front cowling of the GW. Parts go everywhere and the bike is spun 360 degrees and ends up on the side of the road.
It gets worse.
Once the back end of the Tahoe hits the motorcycle, the force of the impact shoves the Tahoe’s back end around to the left and she is sliding perpendicular on the road heading straight for a small pickup truck coming the opposite direction. The pickup drives (controlled) into the ditch … avoiding the Tahoe by 10 feet. The Tahoe seemed to try and accelerate away from the pickup. Now the Tahoe is heading straight for the right ditch. The Tahoe slams head straight into the ditch with an awful thud sound, continues through the ditch and knocks down a tree with another horrible cracking sound and disappears from sight.
It became all very quiet. The lady I was standing with began calling 911 and I started walking slowly to the Tahoe. In the passenger seat of the pickup truck in the ditch was an off duty EMT, she got out of the truck immediately and began crossing the street, slowly. I arrived about 30 seconds behind the EMT. The young lady driving the Tahoe was certainly traumatized but, uninjured. The airbag had certainly worked.
From the time we first saw the Tahoe to the crash was only about 15 seconds. Within 10 minutes the fire rescue crew was there. Amazing how fast they arrived! The driver of the Tahoe had to exit the passenger side after two firemen stressfully forced the door opened. She walked away from this awful accident uninjured!
During the next 30 minutes we saw 5 other cars slide into the ditch! One of these 5 cars slid off the road traveling about 20 mph right into a tree! No airbags went off, the driver exited her car upset … because she had just bought this brand new car 2 days earlier!
During all this I called my insurance carrier (GEICO) … they were amazing and have been during this entire process. A tow truck came for me and the bike. After getting the
GW loaded we headed to Cedar City, UT, 10 miles away. The tow truck operator was really great! He drove me to a U-Haul rental shop where a U-Haul truck and trailer was waiting. The operators of this U-Haul store were great! Above and beyond the call of duty! They got the bike in the trailer and strapped the GW down for the 7-hour trip home. This really was not their responsibility … great folks!
At this time, it’s been about 4 hours since my fall. I’m in the U-Haul, no radio and spent the next 7 hours traveling from Cedar City, Utah to Bakersfield, CA going over and over my morning trip and why I fell.
If I were in an airplane, the NTSB report would say “Pilot Error” was the cause of the accident. Indeed, it was! I had so many warnings to turn around that I chose not to listen. It wasn’t because I was going to be late to somewhere. I didn’t have anything to prove. So, let me share with you what I believe happened, the signs I ignored and why I got into trouble.
The purpose of the trip was simply to go on a long ride and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of riding the Gold Wing. Riding for the pure joy of riding! Those of you who ride understand this “obsession”.
The first sign I didn’t get … the “glass” on HWY 9. This is the sign that says, “Hey, Danger … it’s really cold outside and while you are enjoying this safe ride now, beware, watch
for more ice.” This sign was completely missed … my thoughts were … the “glass” looks kind of cool (pardon the pun).
The next sign came at Duck Creek Village. I’m stopped, adjusting my bike and I see snow on the sides of the road. The message was … “Hey, Danger … it snowed last night and while this looks really nice … there is slippery stuff all over.” My thoughts were the scenery looks awesome! This is great, it’s cold outside, the “roads” are clear and I get to enjoy this ride. And I put it in gear and take off.
There is snow between the two lanes. A HUGE sign! “Danger, do you see this! There is ice/snow on this road … what are you doing?!” My thoughts were … this ride is getting more and more beautiful all the time, I’m not going to cross the road and ride on the snow … I’m a good pilot!
A few minutes later there is snow in my lane, but the tire tracks are clear. Now the signs are down right in my face shouting, TURN AROUND! “Hey Stupid (stopped calling me Danger), you have got to be kidding! You are now riding in tire tracks to avoid the snow and ice covering 50% of the road … you’re going down!” My thoughts were … I’m in the tire tracks and I think the roads will clear up just a little way up the road. However, this was the first time I began thinking about an exit plan, but continued????
Now the tire tracks are narrowing quickly, but still there is about a 10-inch tire track. The message now is, “Danger, you’re truly and idiot! I have asked you to stop and go back several times and you are too stupid to read the signs, no more signs for you!”
The narrow tire tracks are gone. Disappeared, in what seemed like an instant. I am not riding on snow, I’m riding on ice. The bike beneath me is struggling to stay upright. I’m in this situation for about quarter mile and I’m feeling like the pilot that is in the air wishing he was on the ground. I don’t feel I can make a U-turn without falling. It feels like I would fall if I stopped. Gravity was pulling me into the right ditch covered with snow … what’s beneath the snow … cannot go there. My thoughts are accelerating trying to figure out what to do. In between my brain trying to determine what to do there were some potty words being shouted in the helmet. Up ahead about 100 yards was a flat turn out. I’ll get there lay the bike down or not, call a tow truck and presto back to riding on dry roads.
Just as soon as those thoughts crossed my mind I was on the ground sliding … game over!
In summary, what got me were two big things. First, my inexperience in understanding weather and riding. I simply didn’t think the cold temps and a little snow would bite me. Secondly, I’m a bit of an explorer, let’s keep going to see how far I can go before I turn around. I wasn’t doing this to see how good of a rider I might be … just wanted to see what was up around the next curve. Unfortunately, once I determined I had gone too far … I had gone too far.
The 2008 Gold Wing is in the shop for repairs. Should be a couple of weeks before ready.
This event gave me some great appreciation for the little saying: “At least no one was hurt”. I never felt like I was going to die or even get injured … I was traveling very slowly. I know freak things can happen, but, this was not life threatening, therefore, this incident does not count as one of my 5 lives (which I have 4 left).
Now you know the story.
Thanks for reading!
Finally, I hooked up with some other Gold Wing riders. Clearly inviting myself to join a few GW riders I had a night of many firsts riding motorcycles … GW motorcycles! At the end of the day it was one of my best days riding.
As I have said earlier in this blog I made my share of mistakes riding and am willing to share my mistakes and what I have learned in hopes that other new riders can learn from my mistakes. Let me share with my first ride with other GW riders.
Desiring to ride with other GW pilots I went to Facebook and found a post from a local GW’er. After contacting him he got me in touch with another GW’er and just like that I invite myself to join 4 GW’ers on a ride.
First time riding in a group and first time riding with all Gold Wing riders! I have been looking forward to this day for about a month. I feel like I have some experience so that I won’t embarrass myself and hopefully some skills that I can ride with a group. Danger Dave is up for anything!
I commit to meeting this group for a ride. It’s a dinner ride up to Glenville, leaving at 5:30pm. At this time of the year sunset is about 6:00pm. So … obviously, this is going to be a night ride … like dark outside night ride. I have ridden in the dark before … on nicely lighted streets and straight freeways. This ride is going to be 200+ turns up a mountain road and 200+ turns down a DARK mountain road!
The group is meeting at a Chevron gas station about 5 miles from my house on a Thursday evening at 5:30pm. The meeting place is in the direct opposite direction of Glenville 5 miles from my house at what’s going to be the worst traffic I have ever seen on a motorcycle. I leave my house at 4:45pm to give me plenty of time to get gas and travel 5 miles. I stop at a gas station near my house, get gas and back on the road at 4:50pm. Now it begins ….
Entering the freeway to go 4 miles to the exit I see that the traffic is stopped (5 o’clock traffic). I make a decision to take, what I think, a shorter way … at least by time. I immediately exit to a shorter FWY that goes cross town (HWY 204). I travel about a 1/2mile and BAM! traffic is stopped. I’m in line behind a car … stopped. I feel the pressure to not be late … first date and everything … just can’t be late. What am I going to do?
Another first. I made a decision when I started riding that I would not “lane split”. You’ve all seen it or have done it. Traffic on the freeway is slow so to speed your trip up you “simply” drive between lanes; or better said you drive between lots of cars that are stopped or moving slowly. The riders that do this are nuts! They are putting themselves in a very dangerous position! Dumb, dumb, dumb! I would never lane split!
Well, I really had no choice … the traffic was stopped … if I waited in line … I wouldn’t get to the meeting point until 6. So, I made the only decision possible … yep … I pulled in between the only two lanes and rode between all of those “parked” cars. It wasn’t my fault, I was a victim and had to do it😊. This was my first experience “lane splitting”.
There really was a lot of room between the two lanes of cars. I was traveling no more than 10 mph and the cars were either parked or moving at 2 mph. So, there I am on Eleanor lane splitting slowly. All of a sudden, I hear this motorcycle revving its loud engine right behind me! Again, very sporty bike (crotch rocket) … using the engine like a horn … scared the daylights out of me! I gingerly pulled into a lane and let him/her pass. I made my turn and proceeded to make it the gas station with 5 minutes to spare.
I actually felt very comfortable lane splitting. Probably because the traffic was literally stopped for most of my time between lanes. I don’t see me lane splitting at 40 mph when the traffic is going 25 mph. Unless of course I’m going to be late😊
I pull into the gas station and there are 4 guys with GWs. This is going to awesome! I get off my bike and meet 4 GW riders. Super friendly and welcoming. After about 10 minutes of chit chat … mostly me finally being able ask GW owners about GWs, we got on our bikes and fired them up …. well, they are Gold Wings … you really don’t “fire up” a GW … you simply start it (and they start every time😊).
Each of the GWs have a CB radio … and so does Eleanor. Everyone switches to channel 2 and off we go. I’ve never used the CB on my bike … this is the first time using the CB! It was great! Although my push to talk lever wasn’t working too well … but, good enough to say “10/4 good buddy”!
The 5 of us jump on the freeway. I must say this being my first time riding in a group it felt great! Particularly a group of GWs. Another first.
So, we are now at the stop sign before we start the 34 mile ride up the mountain to Glenville. The first 5 miles of this ride I usually travel at 60-65 MPH … the first 5 miles have gentle curves that are very enjoyable. I’m the 4th rider in line in our group tonight. After less than a mile we are going about 70 mph … ok. Soon we are traveling at 75 mph … another 1st … yikes!
After about 20 miles it’s almost dark. It was by my account the fastest trip I have ever made to Glenville … by a long shot! We pull to the back of the restaurant exit the bikes and go inside. Our time at the restaurant was great! These 4 guys were so cool! I’m the new guy but felt like I was part of the group. I made a comment that this trip was really fast. The 1st guy, that led us up the hill, says “oh, we were taking it easy tonight … we were slow tonight”! Are you kidding!!!! It was then I was wondering how in the heck am I going to get down this hill with these speed racers when it is pitch black outside.
I learned during dinner that most of this group has 100s of thousands of miles on Gold Wings. They have been riding for 20 and 30 years. As a reminder I’ve been riding for 5 months with my proud 10,000 miles of experience … which I realized was absolutely SQUAT! All the time thinking I was getting some good experience … I learned I have sooooo much to learn. I have much to learn about riding.
It was a good hour eating and chatting. This group rides like I want to ride … A LOT! I must add that as I was enjoying the conversation I was equally concerned about the ride home. Seriously, it is dark … 8:00pm. We leave the restaurant and saddle up the GWs. Again, I’m the 4th guy in line with one rider behind me.
Before I go any further in the story I need to share with you a saying that a good friend of mine shared with me years ago when all four of my boys were at home. It goes like this: “Every time you add a boy to a group of boys, the IQ of the group goes down by half”. He also added, “There doesn’t seem to be an age limit on this saying”. So, there are 5 of us “boys” … therefore the IQ of the group might be around “not a lot”! I literally have this saying in mind as I fell in line as we all started down the mountain in the darkness.
One other personal item I need to add. I have weird eyes. I had Radial Keratotomy surgery 25 years ago. This is years ago when the doctor slices your eyeballs like a pie and after have great vision. Couple of negatives about the surgery is that 20-25 years later your eyes fluctuate … a bunch. For me, there are days I have 20/20 vision and days where I wear 2.00 and 1.75 contact lenses. Another kind of negative is that when you see lights, particularly at night, there is kind of a starburst effect. The light seems to be bigger than it actually is. My sight this night was average at best, glad I was following.
We take off from the restaurant. And to my liking the trip down was slower than the trip up. Visibility isn’t all that great … no hi beams so as to not blind the guy ahead of you. Therefore, I simply followed the guy in front … I was back about 50 yards. When that grouping of red lights on the rear of his GW moves to the right … I’m guessing we are turning to the right, I follow. The dumb thing about what I was doing is that I would have followed him wherever those red lights went … even off the cliff!
We got down the mountain without incident. There was some good conversation on the CB and all was great.
I will say this about my first time in a group, first time riding up and down the mountain in the dark, first time using my CB, first time lane splitting … it was one my top 3 days of riding! I loved the people! I loved the ride at night and the CB chatter was amazing. Now that time has changed and is dark by 5:00pm, I’ll be making many more trips up the mountain … albeit, a little slower than my first!
PS: I actually never said “10/4 good buddy”. I actually said “Oh S#$T” a few times, but, I don’t think the CB was transmitting!
You’ve got to love the twisties!
The curves you ride going up to the mountains are referred to as “twisties”. Motorcycle riders, for the most part, enjoy the twisties. It’s really awesome to lean into a corner and let the bike turn. When you get the angle just right, with the perfect speed … it’s a good feeling.
Of my nearly 10,000 miles in 5 months of riding my Gold Wing probably half of those miles I’ve ridden on the twisties! It’s just where I live that the rides I take are mostly in the foothills and mountains. Refer to an earlier blog “Five Lives … One Gone”. I’ve learned a lot about riding the twisties. I have read countless articles and watched too many YouTube videos on the skills needed for riding the twisties.
Certainly, my first thousand miles is different than my more recent thousand miles. Initially, I learned that slow is always the winner. As you ride more and more you begin to increase in skill: speed and lean angle increase and you look for new twisties to experience. I’d like to share what I’ve learned in my young motorcycle experiences. Feel free to criticize my thoughts and feel free to agree with my ideas. Here we go!
After me nearly ending my motorcycle experience on my first few miles of twisties, I began to more closely analyze riding the twisties. Here is a summary of what I’ve learned:
- Drivers of cars cross over the center line way too often.
- Motorcycle riders cross over the center line way too often.
- There is safety in staying away from the center line.
- The middle/right side of the lane is your safe zone.
- Practice riding in the right half of the lane.
Many years ago, I was into triathlons. Part of the triathlon was riding bikes. As a bike rider you realize how close cars, trucks (traffic) come to hitting you when you’re riding on your local roads highways! It’s amazing! It’s like drivers don’t see you and really don’t care to see you. Ask any cyclist about how close traffic comes to killing them … it’s unanimous. Once I began cycling and seeing how close people came to me, the next time I drove near a cyclist I gave them ample room … moving into the other lane if possible. It’s called sharing the rode!
As I began to ride motorcycles I couldn’t believe how many cars cross the center line when makings left turns on the twisties! It really caught me by surprise how many left front tires cross the line … into MY LANE. I get it! I’m pretty sure I never realized I was probably doing the same thing. It’s easy to do. As a motorcycle rider you are making a right hand turn around a blind curve and BAM! a car is there driving the opposite direction with a tire over the line! Scares the poo right out of you! Yes, drivers should never cross the yellow line … but, it happens. So, what do you do?
I began to ride twisties from the middle of the lane to the right side of the lane. I practice this and do this whenever I’m riding twisties. It does a couple of things. Frist, keeps me further away from oncoming traffic and still being able to practice getting better at entering corners at the correct angle to hit the apex and exit smoothly. Albeit, “my lane” is narrow, I can still practice those skills. Second, by staying on the right side of the lane (as a habit) while taking a right-hand curve, I get a little cushion in case I enter a little too fast. Instead of riding into the other lane; my mistake is moving into the left had side of my lane. This practice has saved my bacon too many times to count.
Twisties are really enjoyable!
Cars cross over the center line but, motorcycles do too! It’s been my experience riding up to Glenville and neighboring roads a million times that it’s the more sport touring bikes (crotch rockets) that can get into trouble. Those bikes can certainly handle curves faster than my heavy Gold Wing, but, I’ve seen this at least 10 times. Bikes coming in hot trying to make a right hand turn and drift into oncoming traffic (right at me). I get it … these guys and gals are having fun. But, as a practice I stay on the right side of my lane almost always … it just makes me feel good!
The other thing I have learned about twisties is that riding 30-40 miles on twisties takes it out of you! Twisties takes a lot of concentration and anticipation. This is why I think twisties are so much fun … it takes all of your riding skills … you need your mental game and your physical game. After a long time on twisties a few miles of straight works good.
The motorcycle safety class taught me about the idea of dirt/debris/gravel on corners. I’ve seen a lot of that in my short motorcycle career. Where does that dirt/gravel come from? One of the roads I travel has open range cattle. I have seen cows come down super steep hills dragging dirt with them all the way down covering the road. Trucks pulling trailers around a right-hand curve that has gravel on the inside of the lane that is dragged onto the road by the towed trailer. Gravel from freshly paved roads. The other weekend I rode to Lake Tahoe. Ran over some ice … not good! Not sure how I didn’t fall … but, wow! is ice slick! When coming upon gravel, sand, dirt and ice …. Slow wins the race. Slow down to be safe … not only on twisties, but almost every area of motorcycle riding slowing down saves injuries.
My next blog will be my thoughts on riding gear. The weather is changing and it’s getting cold. “They” say you need rain gear and gear for cold weather riding. Another great subject to learn about!
New Tires after 8,100 miles!
There is a ton of opinions on tires for motorcycles. Regarding Goldwings there are as many opinions about tires as there are tire sizes. What brand of tire is a great discussion, so many opinions as to why one brand is better than another. Should you ever go the “dark side” (putting a car tire on the back). If you want
to talk about air pressure …. wow … that discussion only comes second to wheel weights or beads for balancing.
Let me add here that I love reading about this stuff as it relates to my riding a Goldwing. After reading countless articles, viewed to many YouTube videos to count I have come up with MY opinions to all of these tire questions. Am I an expert? Only as it relates to what I’m doing … yes. And the great thing about my expert opinions is that they can be changed …
So let’s start with tire brand. When I took Eleanor (name of my 2008 GL1800) to the shop for tires, brakes, oil change and all around check up the guy asked me what tires did I want. At this time, I knew so little about any of this I ask for his suggestions. He said the Dunlop Elite 4 was a fairly new tire with good reviews and there was a $90 rebate. I said ok, put on the Elite 4s. I asked how he would balance them: wheel weights or beads? He said they only do wheel weights. Again, I said ok. Had he said “beads” I would have said yes to that as well. At that time I had not formed an opinion and was very comfortable with wheel weights.
Most of us know how wheel weights work. They are those little pieces of metal stuck to your rim to balance the tire. Very common for cars. Another way to balance motorcycle tires is to place little tiny beads in the tire that move around as the tire moves. Once the tire begins to spin the beads move around so as to balance the tire. The subject of balancing tires can be very passionate. Beads vs wheel weights, people swear each works and each doesn’t … kind of funny.
New Dunlop Elite 4 installed, balanced with wheel weights and new valve stems, out the door: $530.51. The rear was $208 and the front $170 (add taxes and $90 for installation). Like new car tires, new motorcycle tires feel really good underneath you! I pick Eleanor up with my only experience riding 50 miles from the purchase to the Honda shop. On that first 50 mile ride I noticed that sound when turning; the kind of a roaring sound from the rear scalloped tire. With the new tires … so quiet and extremely smooth.
So, what have I learned? After riding for a little over 4 months Eleanor is in the shop as we write getting new tires. After 8,100 miles I’m replacing the tires. While the center of the tire has plenty of tread the side walls are becoming smooth … the tread is wearing out on the sides. Surprised that I needed to replace the tires with so little mileage I reflected on my first 8,100 miles to see what could have caused the low mileage.
As shared prior I live in a great place to ride motorcycles! One of my favorite rides is from my house to Glennville, CA. It’s about 80 mile round trip, 70 of which are very twisty miles. The personality I have forced me to count the turns on one of my trips to Glennville. At the end of a one-way trip there were over 200 turns. That’s about 200 turns in 35 miles or 400+ turns in 70 miles. It really is beautiful ride. I’ve made this trip in the past 4 months probably 18 or more times. That’s about 7,200 turns! As with most riders I love the twisties! Add several trips to coast from Bakersfield via highway 33 and 58 (beautiful roads!). Rode to Ponderosa, CA a few times … lots of turns! I think the soft outside tread of the Elite 4 simply wore out due to so many turns. Had I cruised to the east coast and back a few times, probably get 15-18k on the tires.
In addition, my first two weeks of riding I probably practiced stopping fast 20-30 times from different speeds. This can’t be great on tires, even with ABS. I checked my air pressures regularly; at least twice a week. Front at 36 and rear at 42. That seems to work fine.
You can see by the pictures …. I probably could have gone a few miles further on the tires. As I talked to a few more experienced riders I decided to put new tires on … new Elite 4s. There is so little actual rubber touching the road on a motorcycle that I’d rather error on changing the tires too soon as opposed to too late.
I had no reason not to go with the Elite 4s. They seemed smooth and worked great in the turns albeit, not long enough for my expectations. I have talked to several riders who replace tires at 7-9k miles. Again, to me changing too early is better than too late.
Next blog posting we’ll talk about what kind of riding gear I’m using … again, more opinions than stars in the sky!
Five Lives – One Gone
For the last two weeks while Eleanor was getting tuned up, I was going to motorcycle class, I was also reading a couple of books on riding motorcycles. In addition, I researched and read about motorcycle accidents and deaths. Reviewed a few reports on the “dangers” of motorcycle riding.
Riding motorcycles and flying airplanes are similar in many ways. When you are the pilot of an airplane or driver of a motorcycle there are a lot of things going on that must be paid attention too, often simultaneously. For example, in flying an airplane you’ve got to control the plane; this includes watching your airspeed, compass heading, turn radius, looking out the windshield for other airplanes in the sky that might be near you. Plus, you must watch your engine temperature, terrain, raising and lowering flaps and landing gear at the correct times. There is a lot going on when flying a general aviation aircraft.
Riding a motorcycle is similar, there are a lot of things you must do to be successful. You’ve got to be able to balance the bike (particularly at slow speeds), you need to shift gears at the right time, manage your speed, constantly be looking ahead of you for obstacles like people, cars, curbs, animals, condition of the road. And if all is managed correctly you will enjoy a great ride.
The most important similarity of riding motorcycles and flying airplanes is that if either one crashes it is usually painful. Plane crash – motorcycle crash …. Best case scenario some skin might come off … worst case, you die.
Having read about some facts of motorcycle riding and that there are some inherent risks involved I decided at the onset of riding motorcycles that I would give myself 5 Lives. You heard that a cat has nine lives …. FIVE seemed to be a better number for a 60-year-old guy starting to ride bikes.
Today, I wasted one of my five lives …. Bummer.
My first day riding.
Got on the Gold Wing and rode over to a large vacant parking lot to practice riding the bike at slow speeds. Starting, stopping, slow riding and turning at slow speeds. I spent a
bout 30 minutes riding at no more than 15 miles per hour. Practicing the necessary skills I was introduced to from the Safety Motorcycle Class. After many turns, lots of stop and goes I decide to ride up to a place called Glennville, CA. Glenville is about a 35 mile ride one way. The two lane road is very smooth and very twisty. There are turns of every size … nearly 200 turns. It is a wonderful ride with great scenery.So … I start my ride to Glennville on this 950lb Gold Wing. The first few miles was going very well. Making good turns feeling like I’m totally in control. Not going fast … at least I didn’t think so 😊. About 8-10 miles into the ride there is part of the road that is strait for about a quarter mile with an uphill angle. Once you reach the peak of this hill the road bends to the left. I was probably going a little too fast because it surprised me that it turned slightly to the left. After you go straight for another quarter mile you make a 90 degree left turn. Up to this point in the ride all was good.
n the first 10 minutes of riding my confidence was booming (falsely). After the 90 degree left curve you ride for about another 400 yards and then there is long right hand turn. This is where my motorcycle days almost ended. I was clearly going a little too fast for my skill level (beginner on a 950lb beast!). The right hand turn increases in turn angle as you go through the turn. I entered the turn good (too fast), but the turn got a little tighter, the turn began to become a sharper turn and I wasn’t prepared. As I was unable to control the bike I drifted across the center line into the other lane while I was trying to slow down … totally out of control (if only for a few seconds). The moment I crossed the center line a White Wrangler Jeep was coming the other way …. I crossed the center lane right after passing the Jeep … total luck! As I was moving back into my lane (through the curve) I narrowly missed the second car, a red Ford pickup whose driver had big eyes! I came within a nano-second from hitting the trucks front bumper! This entire event took a total of no more than 3 seconds. All I could say was s#$t, s#$t, s#$t, s#$t! I know I messed up big. Clearly was going too fast for my skill level and frankly, I was lucky not to have been hurt! One of my 5 lives is gone! I have 4 remaining.
After stopping at a turn out and understanding what I had done I continued my trip to Glennville and then back home. I was riding much slower and allowed many cars to pass me by.
What were the mistakes made? 1) Chose a rode that was clearly to advance for my skill level. This was my first 10 miles. Maybe I should have gained some experience on a less curvy rode. 2) I clearly over estimated my skill level. I was like a student pilot trying to fly a Boeing 747! 3) To fast! It’s about the journey not the destination. Slow down and enjoy the ride!
This blog is depicting events that have happened early in my riding career. Today is October 2, 2017, the event in this blog took place May 26, 2017, the first day of my riding days. During the past four months I’ve logged nearly 8,000 miles. I am hooked on riding! I enjoy riding more than I ever thought imaginable. I’ve learned a lot about riding during the past 4 months and will share the great rides I’ve taken and the things I’ve learned. Stay tuned!
Marks’s Best Advice – CMSP
“Eleanor” (the name of my 2008 GL1800 Gold Wing) is at the motorcycle shop getting some work done. New tires, oil change, battery and repair of a leaking front seal. It will be ready for pick up in a few days. However, before I can pick her up I need to attend the Californian Motorcyclist Safety Program or CMSP. I initially received the information about CMSP from Mark at the local Harley store.
Taking the CMSP class does a couple of things … for starters it gives some great fundamentals to work on after the class. Second, you will get a discount on your insurance after passing the class and third, successfully completing this class replaces the regular practical test you would need to take at the DMV to get your license.
This class is three days! Friday night from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. This first class is all book work. Saturday, is on the ‘range” from 12:00pm – 4:30pm. The range is a huge parking lot at a local college in Valencia, CA. Then more class time Saturday evening from 5:30pm – 8:30pm. At the end of the class you take a final written test. The third day, Sunday, on the range again from 12:00pm – 4:30pm. The end of the third day on the range you take a practical test of driving the motorcycle based on the skills you’ve learned from the range lessons.
Looking forward to going to the class I began to think what a huge waste of time this is going to be. I’ve ridden motorcycles … dirt bikes as a kid, a couple of big bikes 25 years earlier and I brought Eleanor home sum 60 miles without incident! I’m good enough … I don’t need this class! But I kept hearing Mark’s words … “Even if you know how to ride this is a great class, I recommend that you take the course before you start riding!”
Now, having successfully completed the CMSP, I will confirm that I am so glad I went! It was time well spent. Our teacher for the weekend was a lady named Charlie (she is part of the Top Gun Motorcycle Training Centers). Charlie was passionate about motorcycle riding. She averages about 30,000 miles a year. She rides in rain, daylight, darkness, long distances, short distances and more. She was a terrific teacher. She made the classes very enjoyable.
The “range” portion of the class was awesome! About 12 of us students on smaller bikes (150cc to 250cc). The motorcycles we used in the range were light and easy to ride. Anyone can take this class … no experience is necessary. We were taught skills like turning, hard braking, swerving, stopping, clutch work, U-turns, significance of turning your head in a turn and much more. While it did seem a bit basic (which that is what it is designed to be) I gained a lot of knowledge that was able to bring to the real world of riding Eleanor!
In conclusion, if you are interested in riding motorcycles I strongly encourage you to visit Top Gun (http://www.topgunmc.com), it is money well spent!
All the preparation is complete, it’s time to ride!