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Safety Nazis & White Knights

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Safety Nazis & White Knights

There’s a group of people out there on the internet who seem bent bound & determined to ruin it for the rest of us, and they seem to be especially vocal in motorcycle pages, forums, and groups. You know who I’m talking about all those Safety Nazis & White Knights that are ever so eager to either protect you from yourself or to protect others from you.

Let me vent a little here, nothing drives me crazier than for someone to post a video or a ride report and say something like, “ I was cruising along on I-20 into Alabama at about 80 plus,” or the video camera catches a glimpse of a speedometer that’s a little north of the posted speed limit. Not because I mind a competent adult driver exceeding an often arbitrary speed limit, but because I know that the next post or two will be some jerk who will write a two page sermon on the evils of speeding and how he or she always drives 1 mph under the speed limit because they are saints, while the rest of us are horrible evil criminals who want chaos to reign, as we meet our end in a fiery blaze of glory leaving our children as orphans and taking as many innocent people as we can straight to hell with us. We do realize that excessive speed on the roads is dangerous but in most places you are much safer to move with the flow of the speeding traffic than to become a rolling roadblock. Quite frankly most of the speed limits in America are lower than they need to be especially on interstates and a lot of highways out in the boondocks, not for any real safety reason but to enhance revenue collection. I could go on and on and yes I will admit there are places where restrictive speed limits are reasonable, and that there is such a thing as driving way too fast. What exactly defines driving way too fast has more to do with road conditions, traffic, condition of the equipment and the skill of the operator, not necessarily some numbers nailed to a post beside the road.

I wear my helmet almost every time I sit down on a motorcycle now. At one time I would not have been caught dead on a motorcycle with a helmet but now when it’s time to mix it up in crazy commuter traffic or hit the road for a long haul not only is a full face helmet on my head, but I’m wearing a full riding suit with boots and gloves even in the heat of summer. At high speeds for long distances it’s actually far more comfortable. Even so I support the right of free adults to make that decision for themselves, and I really don’t care if you agree with me or not. As I said earlier I wear it most of the time, but on the odd Sunday morning my wife and I will take a long slow ride down the rural 2 lane roads that surround our country home without brain buckets. Sometimes we can go 20-30 miles at the time without seeing another vehicle. Yes I know it’s more dangerous than riding with a lid on, with the possibility of wildlife collisions, tire blowouts etc. but it reminds us of what it was like to be young and care free. Don’t preach at me, the kids are all grown, we have excellent health and accident coverage that we pay for and yes life insurance too as do the vast majority of riders that I know. Not to mention my equipment is immaculately maintained and I WORK at keeping my skills up and even improving them. These quiet country cruises we share together actually have very little risk and we minimize it well. Can’t deal with it? That’s your problem not mine.

Sometimes I can be a bit of a Safety Nazi & White Knight myself, on the subject of distracted or drunk driving but I try not to get too aggravating about it except that I’ll say these two things are almost guaranteed killers, usually of some innocent bystander. If you want to take the risk of offing yourself I’m actually cool with that, try to have fun in the process, but don’t take me or any other innocent people with you.  Even with the way I feel about these two things the World Wide Web has introduced me to folks who get so totally unhinged and paranoid about distracted driving that it’s enough to drive me to drink. For example there is one person who inhabits a certain Facebook group and watches for some someone to make a post about GPS, phone, or camera mounts so that he can preach the same stupid sermon over and over. For example when I posted a picture of the Ram mounts installed on the handlebar of one of my scoots, this fool was the second person to see it and he went ballistic on me.

Ram Mounts On Honda Helix
Ram Mounts are the best.

This is a double ball mount that hold my dash camera off to one side for a good view of the road, (I use the Midland XTC btw) and the other side holds my phone or GPS unit at a height where I can read my map and follow the navigation arrows without taking my eyes off of the road. No phone calls or texting while moving, just navigation. I actually regard texting and talking while driving as a hazard but using navigation apps or gear are not as long as you are not programming your route while on the move. In fact it may even make a trip in unfamiliar territory safer because you do not have to scan every single street sign to find out where your next turn is. I don’t miss the paper map in top of the tank bag one bit, the eye level GPS screen is much better and much safer.

Now let’s move on to another despicable creature that tends to inhabit the various for sale groups and websites on the internet, the White Knights protectors of the innocent consumer. Any time someone posts a price for any item that they feel is even a dollar too high the White Knights swoop in like a pack of vultures to fresh carrion to savage the seller and tell the whole world what a crook he is and try to besmirch his or her online reputation by telling everyone who will listen what a crook the seller is. In the last year a couple of the assholes have come after me for ads that I’ve posted to the point that I will not use any Facebook sale pages to sell any motorcycle or parts. Unfortunately the keyboard sociopaths dwelling in their parent’s basements or the unscrupulous online seller trying to shut down his competition by making them look bad will hammer the hell out of you. Here are 2 real stories that happened to me.

Example number one the Sportster; I bought a 65-70% complete Evo Sportster basket case. The complete engine was all there including the carb, along with frame, triple tree, miscellaneous, except for the wheels one fork leg, and sheet metal. At the time of purchase I took a bill of sale from the owner stating that the bike was an 883. So when I got home I took some pictures and posted it online for $1200 bucks. Yes that was high but I fully expected to be negotiating that price, nobody in their right mind would pay asking price for a project bike or parts pile. Too bad that time I posted it, a bunch of those pesky assholes pounced, posting that I was a rip off artist and a bunch of other crap so I got tired of their shit and pulled the ad. Over the next few days I got the paperwork straightened out and the bike turned out to be a 2002 XL1200, and I sold it to a coworker for a most excellent price far below $1200. It took him about 2 months to put it back together and now he rides it to work 2 or 3 times a week. So next time you see one of these “White Knights” giving an online seller hell, jump on his ass tell them if they want to buy, make an offer otherwise SHUT THE FUCK UP. Somebody out there missed a sweet deal on a 1200 Sportster from me because of these assholes.

Another time I bought an engine side cover for a Honda CT70 from an online seller but then traded the project before using it. My purchase price was 65 dollars plus shipping. The part is still in the original packaging, so I figured no problem right? Wrong! Some asshole who is an online parts dealer specializing in Honda Mini Trails, used his personal FB account to state that I was asking way too much and then he provided a link back to his aftermarket dealership website showing the same part for $50 and basically insinuating that I was trying to rip people off. Screw assholes like that, I paid $65 for it (from a real Honda dealer) and was simply trying to get my money back, and not a penny more. BTW I still have the left engine side cover that fits on a Honda CT70 and yes I will sell it to you for $50 plus shipping. It’s not correct for the early models but it will work if you are just fixing a rider. Next time one of these so called “White Knights” gets online and tries to slander me I think I’ll sic a lawyer on them even if it costs me 20 grand to do it just to teach them a lesson.

It would be possible to go on and on but even if I do expect to recoup my investment in motorcycles and parts every once in a while but this is mainly about having fun doing some things that I love to do. Since I don’t make my living doing this anymore I don’t have to put up with assholes.

Until next time I wish you happy riding, wrenching, & horse trading.

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Biker Speaks. A Parable for the Modern Motorcycle Lover

Warning; When I wasn’t looking someone slipped a couple of naughty words into this one. No f-bombs, gratuitous sex, or boob pictures though, sorry.

 

Imagine that you are gathered with a group of your fellow motorcyclists, be you a group of yuppie cruisers, hipsters on retro style bobbers &café racers, hardcore chopperheads, or restoration junkies. Everyone is standing around, taking a breather, checking out each other’s bikes, telling interesting half-truths & just generally having a great time in the way that only a bunch of bikers can. The sun is bright; the beer is cold, and the ladies beautiful. It is truly a perfect day as long as no asshole decides to ruin it for you.

Somehow there is just one brief moment of silence and I heard it, far away in the distance the howl of an ancient four banger breathing out through a quartet of totally baffle free drag pipes. The exhaust note is raspy & uneven, and you catch the whirring sound of a loose cam chain, all obvious signs of deferred maintenance that would kill a lesser engine, but as we all know, some of these old SOHC 750’s will never die no matter how ratty they get.

By now the whole encampment has heard the sound and is looking up the winding road coming down the mountain to see what matter of machine is headed towards them. Some are commenting about how rough it sounds, others somehow seem to be watching in fear as if it may be some kind of hipster/yuppie/brand loyal purist eating dragon coming to consume them.

<old school Hipster eating Chopper>

It finally flashes into sight coming around the curve, a creature from another time, impossibly long, the rear wheel bouncing up & down in an ancient Amen Savior plunger frame. The front tire too bounces up, down, left and right as the rusty peeling girder front end rattles and shakes with each imperfection in the road surface. The bushings in the girder are shot & so are the steering head bearings. There is no way this thing should be moving so fast, especially on this twisty road, but it is.

As it approaches our group the rider lets off the throttle and downshifts, causing the engine to backfire on the overrun, blam! blam! blam! as flames pop out the ends of the exhaust pipes, that appear to have been fabricated from metal conduit 40 years ago. Small animals & nervous people immediately begin plotting escape routes, after all sensible people are afraid of folks who ride deathtraps like this.

The paint job was obviously gorgeous a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away but has now suffered several decades of weather beating and a million miles of hard riding. Every top surface was chalky, and crazed with cracks, looking as though hundreds of overlapping cobwebs had been deposited on the tops of the frame, tank, & rear fender.

On the sides you could still see the remains of a gold base coat topped with green & red kandy paints, sprayed through chicken wire to simulate scales. Back in the day a pretty good 70’s air brush artist had written the letters FYYFF on the sides of the tank in black and purple colors, tee shirt lettering style. Modern day neo rat riders immediately snapped pictures in hope of finding a way to re-create this patina on their next project. The engine side covers had been chromed at some point but had become sand blasted & peeling, as were the rims. Most of the spokes, bolt heads, & all four exhaust pipes where coated with rust. A fantastically ornate king and queen seat that is a work of art in its own right, despite being threadbare & worn reclined against a 3 foot high trident shaped sissy bar with 3 rusty spear points aimed at the sky.

Rattling to a complete stop and switching off the engine and the fuel tap, the grizzled old rider swung out the side stand and leaned the bike over to park it. Looking on as open mouthed & slack jawed as the rest of the crowd I couldn’t help but notice a tiny golden trickle of gasoline dribble down to the edge of the oxidized velocity stack on the number one carburetor forming just enough of a droplet to catch the sun’s rays like a tiny jewel in a rusty can, but not a big enough dribble to actually leak out onto the ground.

The rider himself, was a fascinating creature, he rode helmetless without gloves, with just a leather club vest covering his torso. Of course this caused a great murmur of disapproval amongst the safety nazis in the group. Although when astride his magnificent steed he seemed much larger than life, standing on the ground before me he was just man of just below average size. Bald on top with 2 foot of long grey hair on the sides, he sported the pointiest goatee I had ever seen and a finely waxed handlebar mustache. His bald spot was covered with a tattoo of a spider web, & a POW-MIA flag graced his right shoulder.  Despite his diminutive physical stature, he gives out the overwhelming sense of confidence that only a man on a mission that knows he’s doing the right thing can posses.

Next our mysterious stranger unstraps a wooden box from the sissy bar of his motorcycle, throws it on the ground in front of us, steps up on it, and in the most corn fed southern accent you ever heard in your life says, “Hey y’all we need to talk about some of the crazy shit going down in the motorcycle business sometimes.”

I’m sure that most of you younger folk have heard of this newfangled thing called the internet and that giant worldwide marketplace called ebay. It seems that a man can find almost anything he might need to survive, motorcycle parts, vinyl records, silver, gold, knives, heavy metal posters etc. In fact about the only necessities you can’t get there are guns and ammunition because the owners are a bunch of politically correct pussies that don’t see the necessity of such things like we do, but I digress let me get back on track here. Lately I’ve noticed an alarming tendency of people to put things up for sale at what is called a “no reserve auction.” But when the item sells for less than they expected they just don’t ship it, or if the item doesn’t get up to a certain price by the last day they cancel it. I’ve actually had both of these things happen to me lately and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. I was actually planning to bid on one original vintage European motorcycle but passed it by for a different motorcycle only to have the shop that was selling it cancel the auction in the last 5 hours. If I’d known the sum-bitches was lying about the no reserve auction I would be the proud owner of a 75 Jawa right now. Instead I got a pocket full of pissed off & another shop on my list of places not to buy anything from.

Now all of you know more about the workings of the internet than I do, but apparently not everyone understands how an auction works. First off if you have a certain dollar amount that you have to have for something, you should never ever use a low starting bid, no reserve auction to sell it, never. Either you pay the fee for a reserve auction or set your starting bid at your bottom dollar price & let it go up from there. If you do screw up, use a no reserve auction and sell something for far less than you thought, man up, take the beating, & learn from your mistake. I’ve done it a time or two before I learn’t better. Also all dealers selling bikes should disclose all fees & taxes up front in the auction listing. The same goes for dealers craigslist ads too.

Now let’s speak about selling motorcycles without titles. Decent honest people know that in most places you can’t register a bike without a title. Now if you live in a place where you can register an old bike without a title I am genuinely happy for you, but in all honesty the only way you can get any money for it will be to sell it locally. Even if I lived in one of these states, for any bike that was less than 25 years old and/or worth more than 3 or 4 thousand bucks you should still insist on enough paperwork to ensure that the current owner is the legal owner.

In the rest of the states stop trying to get full price for them, without the proper legal paperwork they are either just a pile of parts, or if dilapidated or unwanted enough just plain old scrap metal, and should be priced accordingly. People constantly say, “You can get a title.” Well that is an expensive maybe at best. In my home state of South Carolina there is a process you can go through for vehicles over 25 years old. You fill out forms, send in pictures & money including sales tax for the purchase price, then you take it to the DMV office where they inspect it to be sure the serial number matches what is on your paperwork. They then run it through the database and if there is no current title for it in existence & it has not been reported stolen, they will issue you a title. If the vehicle is not running at the time you will be given an off road use only title no matter what kind of bike it is. So once you get it restored you have to trailer it back to the DMV for a second inspection, and pay a second title fee to get the off road brand removed. When you count the time off from work this can run several hundred dollars. So to me, even a good running fair looking bike without a title is only worth ¼ to ½ as much as the same bike with a title. It’s gotta be cheap enough that I can take the chance. A rusty, locked up, old rice grinder that has no visible good parts on it or is of no collectible value should be weighed and sold by the pound at your local scrap yard. A number of you don’t even have the options that I have here in S.C. As for the title service companies there are many reputable ones out there, but even so you are still looking at hundreds of dollars in some cases to get paperwork. The last quote I got from one was ten or twelve years ago and it was nearly $300 then, and I am sure the price has not gone down any. Some states may have laws against using out of state title services so be careful and find out if yours is one of them.

The most dangerous thing I have ever seen in an ad is a seller whom actually said that he would not provide a bill of sale for a motorcycle he had with no title. His price was actually reasonable enough, that I might have bought it to part out, but there is no way I am ever going to bring home any motorcycle frame of any kind without either a title or a bill of sale to prove that it was purchased legally. The same goes for a Harley engine because some states will issue a title on the engine. If you won’t give me any paperwork to prove I bought it, well FYYFF I’m not going to buy it. Big Bubba down at the grey bar hotel ain’t near as fun to snuggle with as my old lady. Remember kiddos if you can’t at least get a bill of sale or receipt to show the man if he asks for it, walk away.

And finally, I guess we (myself included) should quit picking on the hipsters so much. Yes I know with their funky brakeless one speed bicycles & queer eye for the straight lumberjack style of clothing, they do make easy targets. But come on; give them some credit for their role in the current café racer, old school skinny tire chopper & bobber revival. They have dusted off a bunch of cool stuff from the past & are helping to insure its future. Plus without them, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer might have disappeared for good.

<bikers and hipsters too>

Then the old timer stepped down off of his soap box and the crowd cheered, although I don’t know if it’s because they enjoyed the lesson or just because the old man finally shut up. After he strapped the box back to his sissy bar, a rosy cheeked young man, with a long beard, in a flannel shirt handed him a cold PBR that he sipped on while chatting with the curious bikers who wanted to take a look at his ancient steed. When he had polished off the brew he crushed the can between his hand and his forehead and tossed it in the general direction of the nearest trash can, straddled his old chopper, twisted the grip three times and with a mighty heave on the kick starter fired it up. Once again the crowd turned to see and just as he rolled out of the exit, they all raised a cold one in a salute as the prophet sped away to the next gathering to preach his message of honesty, fair dealing, staying out of jail & caring for your fellow man.

 

Happy Trails Y’all