Motorhead Coffee

vagabond blog: thoughts from the saddle

Beer And Biscuit Run: Asheville

“Are we there yet?” Ah, the famous cry of the young traveler, having spent far too much time sandwiched between brother and sister, surrounded by half-empty pop bottles and Laffey Taffy wrappers, only wanting one thing; for the adventure to come to an end. “Please let us be there!” For some people, especially the young, travel is mostly a boring, time-killing endurance contest. Sure, they want to go somewhere new, but they want don’t want the journey that goes along with it. Having driven 4 young children on a 2,400 mile trip to Florida and back at least a dozen times, I can totally relate.

When it comes to bikes trips, though, it is a different story. The journey is the trip. Travel is the point, Watching the asphalt disappear below your wheel is whole reason you are on the road. I don’t get to take nearly as many motorcycle trips as I would like. Well, let’s be honest, “as many as I would like,” would be about 30-40 weeks out of the year. Probably not realistic. I usually settle for a few long weekend rides and a week long trip once or twice a year. For the past few years my weekly destination has been the same: Asheville.

Sometimes I start in West Virginia, roam over into Virginia and wander down the Blue Ridge until I end up in Asheville, but lately I have spent the entire week there. There are hundreds of miles of great roads in the region, and by making my home in the same spot every night, I’m able to also enjoy the unique lifestyle of this mountain city. I come from Bloomington, Indiana, basically an aging hippy, college town. Now I live in Louisville, a city that prides itself in “Keeping Louisville Weird.” Asheville has them both beat and then some. It is “funk on steroids” and I love it. Not to mention the 11+ microbreweries and all the great food.

19 days from now I will be heading to Asheville one more time. I may spend a few days there, or the entire week, only time will tell. Either way, I will be enjoying the…

BISCUITS

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THE BEERIMG_2640

but mostly THE ROADTail-of-the-Dragon-2

Shrunken head and Mardi Gras beads
Hanging on a rearview mirror on the beach
Keepin’ their eyes on the open road
No tellin’ where that son-a bitch goes”

Later,

Shep

Part Time, Full Time, No Time

This is the blog wherein I give business advice that I completely ignore myself. “Do as I say,” so to speak.

In 2007 I purchased my first commercial coffee roaster, formed a DBA called B-town Beans, and proclaimed myself a business owner. I had low overhead, low expectations and no intention of quitting my day job. I was just out to have some fun roasting coffee. I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly competitive person. However, once I started selling coffee and getting some wholesale accounts, the business took on a life of its own. I got addicted to success and growth. The more accounts I landed, the more I wanted.

Lovely Sight

Lovely Sight

Somewhere in the second year of business I decided that I would no longer put my personal money into the business. Up to that point, I had funded everything with cash from my day job. Somehow, things worked out. By year three I was not only not putting my money into the business, I was making money. When I finally sold out to a competitor, I saw for the first time that I could actually build a business that could replace my day job. In retrospect, that is exactly what I should have done.

I always knew when I sold B-town that I would be back in the roasting business some day. It’s just one of those things that clicks with me; I can’t walk away. However, I did not think I would be back in business this soon. I launched Motorhead last year, partly out of desperation to find some peace of mind and sanity, partly because I missed the work. There were a few things I swore I would not do if I started another coffee business. The first thing I didn’t want to do again was use my own money. So far I’ve broken rule #1. Right now I need to spend about $27,000…anybody want to invest?!68546_476706369065823_557043684_n

The second thing I said I would not do again was to go into business part-time. By the time I sold B-town, I was working around 80-90 hours a week. I worked every day. I came home from the day job and headed to the shop. I stayed there, roasting, packaging, delivering until about 7:30-8 each night. I ran the business all day Saturday, all day Sunday…and my motorcycles collected dust and my gear got tangled in cobwebs. When family or friends came to visit, I said, “Sorry, I’ve got to roast coffee.” It got a little old. When the business sold, I took a promotion in Louisville with the same company. Basically, I chose Corporate America safety over the risk and reward of entrepreneurship. And I hate Corporate America. I hate Goliath; I’m a David kind of guy. But…I sold out for the easy path, a decision I will always regret. Now, here I am again, working the day job, with even more hours than before…and trying to roast coffee part-time. Some people never learn!

I don’t normally watch the show “Shark Tank.” I have only seen it once or twice. I just happened to catch an episode earlier this year while I was in the hospital waiting for my daughter to deliver my newest grandson. There was a Dr. on the show who came to present an idea. She had a good idea. The panel appeared interested. When questioned about how she planned to proceed, she made it clear that she was not going to stop practicing medicine. She would hire others to make the business work; she was not going to give up her safety net. One of the members of the panel said something that rang in my mind for days; “If you don’t believe enough in your idea to commit to it, how can you expect us to?”

So, my advice to those of you who want to be in business for yourself is this: once you’ve done your due diligence and determined you have an idea that makes sense, a product or service that the consuming public wants, step back for a minute and decide how much you really believe in it. Enough to wade into the water without a life jacket? I’m not talking about being stupid and abandoning all common sense. I’m talking about committing. Taking a chance. Removing regrets. Generating a plan to build your new life…and dedicating yourself to it, come Hell or high water.

Listen, it will never get easier. There will never be a better time. You will talk yourself out of it until one day you will look back at life and say, “Well shit. I’ve wasted the one thing I can’t get back… time.” Nike says, “Just Do It.” I’m not saying, “Just Do It,” but if you do decide to “Do It,” then, do yourself a favor and …and Just Do It!

Me? Who knows. I need $27k and a building. I’ve got a couple locations in the general area that I wouldn’t mind setting up shop in. One in Indiana, the other in Kentucky. Certified organics on the offering list again. Wholesale mostly, walk-in retail, maybe. Establish a market in Florida eventually too. Name? Not Motorhead. It would likely be reduced to a private label of the larger business. If I ever decide to “Just Do It,” you will know: just google Black Sheep Roasting. If a website comes up with my ugly mug on it, “I did it!”

Black Sheep Roasting logo_hi res jpg

Later,

Shep

 

Free to be Me

Author’s disclaimer: the following blog contains vulgar language. Read at your own risk.

A few weeks ago, my cousin Tom sent me this photo. Along with it, he made the statement, “It is a miracle we survived!” So true. IMG_3094

Before I get into the story behind this and many similar photos, let me introduce the players. On the left is my Uncle Kenny. Often referred to as “Whitey,” Kenny was the baby of the family. My dad affectionately called him “Kenny Boy.” Next to Kenny is my Uncle Clyde. Clyde was one of the most entertaining people I ever met. As a kid, I loved to listen to Clyde talk and tell stories. They were never boring. The young fellow seated next to Clyde is my cousin Tom, Clyde’s boy. The man on the far right, wearing the stocking cap and looking a bit soused, is my dad. To Kenny, he was “Chawlee.” To me, he was “Pop.”

Now, before you get the wrong idea, these three guys were, in my book, awesome men to be around. They were depression era children who grew up very poor and learned to make their own way. The stories were endless and the experiences turned them into very resourceful, and occasionally naughty, men. As adults, they all had decent jobs and wonderful families. Oh sure, we were all “colorful” at times, but name me a family that isn’t?

I assume the photo above was taken in Uncle Clyde’s truck camper. From the looks of the clothing, we were on a deer hunting trip in Brown County, Indiana. Or, it could have been a deer scouting trip. Basically the two were the same thing. The only difference was when you went scouting, you didn’t bring guns. Otherwise, the routine was identical: park the camper (or stay in the cabin we owned) and watch our dads and uncles “transform.”  With the women gone, wives and daughters, they were free…free to be the base creatures they were born to be…men! They didn’t need no stinkin’ zombie apocalypse to get in touch with their primal self; they just needed to go on a “guys only” deer hunting trip!IMG_1465

First out was the beer. When that wasn’t doing the trick, the hard stuff came out, usually Brandy. And the cigars. Even the ones who didn’t smoke would grab a cigar and toke away. Once they got to that point, there was no holding back. The stories flowed, the laughs could be heard a half mile away. And the language. At home I rarely ever heard my dad cuss. Maybe an occasional “damn.” Actually, I don’t even remember much of that, which is surprising, since my dad was a sailor. IMG_1415But when they got together…the words started flowing! And I don’t mean the “wimpy” cuss words; I’m talking the big guns. Yep, when these three musketeers got together the word “fuck” flowed like a river! It was “fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything!”

So, as you can see, Tom and I learned from the best! Aside from Dick Tracy or the Green Hornet, these three guys were as close to being my heroes as anyone. I adored each one of them and looked forward to deer hunting season every year. It was one of the highlights of my youth.I may have only been 10 or 12 years old, but when we went on these excursions, we were one of the “guys.” And fishing trips were just like hunting trips!

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Now, I can imagine, some of you might be thinking this is horrible. “What a terrible influence!” “They probably scarred you for life!” Hate to disappoint you, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Riding around the Brown County hills in Kenny Boy’s tiny Ford Bronco, listening to Cincinnati Bengals football, eating Vienna Sausages straight from the can, in all their sloppy gel, and watching our dads get loose and tell stories they wouldn’t tell us at home, was awesome! And it did not scar me.

I enjoy craft beer, but I have not been drunk since 1982. Seriously. Living in the land of bourbon, I have enjoyed visiting the distilleries and sampling the goods. Just like craft beer, it shares a common bond with coffee roasting, a passion driven by an artisan effort to produce something unique. I have 7-8 bottles in my cabinet, more of a “collection” than a stash. I rarely touch it. Not really my style. And I’m not much for cussing. Sure, the occasional “bad” word comes out, but its usually for storytelling purposes, or for effect.

I have not smoked since about 1980 or so. No interest. However, if I am on a trip on my bike, all alone, enjoying the solitude of the road, there is a “chance” you might catch me with a bottle of beer or a flask in my hand and a half-smoked cigar in my mouth. No one is there to tell me I can’t, to guilt me into being what they want me to be. No one there to look in shock when, as the 800 miles in the saddle brings home the pain in my shoulders and tail bone, I pull the cigar from my mouth, sip the beer, stretch and, quietly under my breath, it slips out…”fuck.”IMG_0929

Later,

Shep

Why I’ll Never Win A Latte Art Contest

When it comes to a cup of coffee, my preference is black (well, I wouldn’t turn down a shot of Bourbon Cream either). When it comes to espresso drinks, my preference is simply straight shots. I’m not much of a latte guy. Rarely ever drink a cappuccino. No interest in a Mocha. And definitely no “frappucinno” for me. To each his own, just not my style, which is funny since I just bought a new espresso machine for the house. As you can guess, the steam wand on this machine is not going to get a lot of use. IMG_3127That is just one of the reasons I will never win a latte art contest. Here are a few others:

1. I don’t work at or own a “coffee shop.” Never have. My endeavors in the business have always been wholesale roasting. I have never spent hours pulling shots and steaming milk.

2. I can’t draw, or paint or do much of anything considered “artsy.” No way I could possibly pour milk in the shape of  swan or buzzard or any recognizable thing.

3. I would not have the patience to steam and pour pitcher after pitcher of milk. I don’t like the mess.

4. I don’t really care, which brings me to the final reason:

5. I can’t really take coffee “competitions” seriously. As much as I love coffee and roasting and enjoy the product, in the end…it’s coffee. I mean, I can’t ever see a barista competition becoming an Olympic sport. Then again, maybe I’m just jealous.

I’ve never been to any coffee competitions or conventions or “throw downs.” Probably never will. Guess I’ve always been a bit of an outsider or an outcast…and I’m okay with that. latte-coffee-art-kazuki-yamamoto-george_10g-twitter-3

Later,

Shep

My Old Friend

I have a bad habit when it comes to motorcycles. I trade often. I mean, over the past 40+ years I have changed motorcycles more often than some people change their mind! There are a few simple reasons for this. First of all, there is a constant stream of new and exciting motorcycles hitting the market. They are coming out faster than I can keep up with. I can easily think of a couple dozen bikes, both  new and old, that I would love to own right now. Since I am not rich, I have to trade to change. Those who say, “You can only ride one bike at a time,” or who think that all bikes are alike, just don’t really understand. They are not all alike. They all have 2 wheels and an engine; beyond that, the experience can be very different. Aside from the smorgasbord of choices, I suppose boredom is another reason for my short term ownership habit. I get bored easily…with just about everything. I prefer to live life in short bursts, with change in between.

Knowing how fickle I can be, let me introduce you to my current garage:IMG_3210I’ve only had the Vstrom and Scrambler a few weeks, but the Street Triple has been mine since 2010, which must be some sort of record. I’ve got about 600 miles on the Scrambler since I bought it and probably 400 on the Vstrom, so I’m still formulating opinions, but so far so good. Since I picked the two newest ones up I have not ridden the Street Triple at all. That is, until today. I went to start it a few days ago and it let me know it was feeling neglected! The brief ride today was enlightening and made me ponder the question: “If tomorrow my world went to shit and I had to return to one bike in the garage, which one would I keep?”

With that question in mind, lets call this a lighthearted review of these 3 machines. I will start with the Vstrom. First, let me say that I would never have even considered looking at a Vstrom if my friend Matt had not encouraged it. The bike was not on my radar at all. Sure, I knew it was a good machine. I knew it was a bargain machine. I knew it was a do it all bike with a cult following and that it was very practical….maybe the most practical bike currently made. But it’s not exotic, classy, performance oriented or attractive. In fact, the only thing it is really good at is being “pretty good at everything.” And very affordable. Can’t really knock that. So, after a brief ownership period, what do I think?

The Good

1. I was looking for a traveler; a bike that could do 500+ mile days in reasonable comfort. I believe I got it. Very relaxing machine. I’ve only done a 300 mile day on it so far, but judging by how I felt, I’m pretty sure I could get on this bike at 4 in the morning, point it south, and get off 17 hours later in Naples…and still be able to walk!

2. Nice motor, plenty of power, even though the actual HP is low.

3. It isn’t a beauty queen, so I won’t be nearly as concerned if I tip this bike over, or run it down a muddy road or ride a week in torrential rains. I might cry if I got a Duc or MV Augusta caked in Alaska mud!

4. I can’t really find any glaring problems. The bike just works. It even handles pretty well, especially considering it is wearing a set of “Death Wings” for tires.

The Bad

1. The brakes suck. Especially the front brake. I’m hoping new pads will help.

2. Yes, I can tell it is a “bargain” bike by the quality of some components, but really, I bought it to ride…hard and long, so I’m not worried about that.

3. The motor is great, but pulls a bit different than my other bikes. The Triumphs both have a lot of meat down low. With the Vstrom it is going to take a bit to figure out what gear I want to ride in, particularly on twisty roads.

So, what about the Scrambler?

The Good

1. Looks are killer. Everyone wants to look at it and talk about it.

2. It is easy to ride. Relaxing even. It gives me an excuse to quit being “Ricky Racer” and just enjoy the ride.

3. Love the engine. The lumpy twin is very cool. And the torque? Pulls like a tractor. I love riding this bike.

The Bad

1. Looks are killer. Everyone wants to look at it and talk about it. Can’t get out of the parking lot!

2. The bars are too wide for me. Yes, I know; if I was “man-sized” it wouldn’t be a problem. I need some new bars.

3. It is too quiet. Seriously. I’m not a loud pipe sort of guy. I don’t like the extreme rumble of some machines at all, however, I do like it when a special motor, like this one, is allowed to express itself. It has an Arrow 2 into 1 on it now. With the baffle in it is too quiet, robbing me of the wonderful thump this motor makes. With the baffle out, it is extremely loud. Too loud. I need a solution.

That leaves the Street Triple. The only other bike I ever came close to owning as long as this bike is a Ducati Multistrada. And there is a reason for both. If tomorrow I had to go back to one bike, it would, without hesitation be the Street Triple. After riding it today, I was instantly reminded of just how great it is, at least to me. After riding the other bikes, my first impression of the seating position of the Street was this:photos.demandstudios.com-getty-article-251-182-77293941_XS“Ready, set go!” High seat, low bars, nothing in front of you but the road. Yep, feels good. Feels like home.

The Good

1. The motor. The motor. The motor. Had to say it 3 times, one for each cylinder. Awesome. Smooth. Powerful. Meaty. Strong. No, it’s no Hayabusa. Nor is it a Super Duke or a BMW S1000R, but for a 675 with a dry weight under 400 lbs, I couldn’t really ask for more.

2. It looks good.

3. It still excites me, even after all this time. As soon as I get on this bike, thumb the starter, wick the throttle and listen to the music those Arrows make, I’m in love. And lust…and lust can get ahold of you…and take control…and cause you to do stupid things! I want to ride this bike faster, and harder, and faster, and harder.

4. It feels like a quality machine. Solid. Well thought out.

5. It fits me.

6. It is more versatile than you think. It has carried me on several 500 mile slab days. Like it or not, argue all you want about what a bike can and can’t do…the Street Triple can do anything I want it to do and still leave me with a smile.

7. Handles very quickly and effortlessly. Shift in the seat and you are turning!

The Bad

1. The seat. Horrible for me. I have had 3 other seats on it…all of them sucked. Give me a good seat and I will ride this bike to the end of the road…and back. Suggestions welcome. Already tried the Gel, a Sargent and an inexpensive custom job.

2. Only 130 miles before the fuel light comes on. I’ve read some guys say they get 200 miles out of a tank. Apparently I’m doing something wrong.

3. Suspension is a bit stiff for some roads, particularly when traveling distance. A bump on the Interstate can knock me totally off the seat when at speed.

That’s about it. No, it doesn’t have much wind protection, but I’ve gotten used to that and don’t really mind. Not much luggage capacity either, but I use Kriega bags and can travel for a week. I might end up with some Bags Connection or Givi hybrid bags eventually that I can take off and on when I want. None of those limitations keep me from believing that the Triumph Street Triple is the finest motorcycle I have ever owned. DSC_01614 years of ownership, countless trips to Asheville and back…the Street triple feels like an old friend.

Later,

Shep

Showing Off

Well, as of late Sunday night, I’ve got a new grandchild, so I thought I would take a moment and, like any proud Grandpa, show them off a little bit.

Number One: Aston, aka, the “live wire!” Aston is my first grandchild. To say that Aston is active would be a massive understatement…Aston makes the Energizer Bunny look lazy! I have yet to see a video of Aston when he was not running, jumping, flying through the air, dancing or just generally flailing around. I have also rarely ever seen him without a smile on his face. Oh, I’m sure his mom and dad might disagree, but to me, he is one happy boy…and that makes me happy too! IMG_3099IMG_3100IMG_3098Number Two: Grant, aka, “Nana’s boy.” Not sure what the deal is, but Grant seems to be most content in my wife’s arms…not so much mine! Where Aston seems to go with the flow, Grant is more of a,”I want it and I want it now” kind of guy. What I do know is that Grant kept me on my toes before he was born. He enjoyed giving us false alarms and a few scares. Since my daughter and son-in-law are 5 hours away, we kept bags packed for weeks. Grant is only about 5 months old, so I can’t tell you a lot about him yet…personality to be determined! One thing for sure, his smile can melt grandpa’s heart. IMG_3095IMG_3083I’m sure you didn’t pick up on the subtle implications, but Aston and Grant’s dad has a bit of a fetish for exotic motor vehicles. Aston is more obvious, but Grant (whose initials are GTB) is a bit more obscure. I will leave it to you to figure that one out.

Number Three: Lyla, aka, “heart stopper,” because her delivery experience caused my heart to stop on more than one occasion. I won’t share the personal details here, but let’s just say little Lyla had me wringing my hands for days. But she is here, she is healthy and so is my daughter. And at 6lbs, 2 ounces she is considerably bigger than we were expecting her to be. I’m giving thanks for all of the above. IMG_3174IMG_3149What I’m really looking forward to is having all three in the same place at the same time! I can’t wait.

Later,

Shep

I am my Father

photo (17)I have to face the fact that I have become my father. Speaking of which, that’s him in the photo above on the right, tobbogan hat and red plaid flannel shirt, hoisting a Flastaff. I posted this photo for two reasons: an intro to my thoughts today…and a teaser for the future. I will share the details of the picture in an upcoming post. Be forewarned, or filled with anticipation, but it will be a bit “rough, vulgar and revealing.” If you don’t want to read “swear” words and have your image of certain people crushed, then don’t read the future installment called, “Free to be me.”

I spent the morning tinkering with my motorcycles. I took the GPS mount off of my Street Triple and put in on the Vstrom. Pretty simple job. When I was done, I came into the kitchen where my wife was cooking. As I reached into the fridge for a bottled water, she said, “You are bleeding.” Huh? What? Where? She pointed it out and I looked at my forearm. Sure enough, a couple long scratches and a scrape, all pooled with blood about ready to drip to the floor. Never even noticed. They were minor, as you can see, but the first thing that came to my mind was my dad.photo (16)

My dad was about 33 years older than me, so in the photo above (that’s my cousin Tom in the photo, not me), he would have been mid-40’s.  If he had grown up in my generation, where we put a name or affix a disease  to every human trait, he would have been labelled a “workaholic.” If he wasn’t at work, he was home working. And it seemed that every time he went outside to work, he would come back with scrapes, cuts and blood all over his arms. So, when I say “I am my father,” I mean I am at that age when:

1. Every time I do something, I get cut and bleed.

2. If I grow facial hair, I immediately look 15 years older.

3. If I lose weight (and I need to), I look 15 years older or like I have a terminal disease

4. Women in their twenties think I’m gross or pervy, or both.

5. Women in their thirties think I remind them of their dad.

6. Women in their forties, well, my wife is in her forties, so maybe, just maybe I’m not “one foot in the grave” to all women in their forties, but probably to most of them. Hopefully not to my wife!

7. Women in their fifties, they just don’t care.

8. I am not the center of the universe anymore…technology and life values now belong to the generations following me.

9. My youngest daughter  and I have just about the same age separation as my father and I did…and I’m pretty sure I’m just a nuisance to her!

It’s not all bad though:

1. My grandchildren think I’m cool and fun!

2. I can get away with being an “old bastard” if I want to…it’s what people expect!

3. I don’t have little children, so I can pretty much do anything I want, almost any time I want.

4. I can retire in a few years, and I still have a pension plan.

5. I get a kick out of dismounting my sporty Triumph Street Triple after strafing some corners or other such hooliganism, pull off my helmet to expose my gray hair and wrinkles, only to see the look of either surprise or disappointment in the face of those nearby. “You were expecting Brad Pitt?” Oh wait, even he’s turning into an old man…only 3 years younger than me. No comparisons please!

Later,

Shep

Fast, Slow…and the POPO

Uh, yeah. I’ll get to that in a minute. Just got back from a 250 mile ride on the Vstrom. Call it a “test ride,” as its the first real ride I’ve taken on the bike since I purchased it several weeks ago. If you recall, I was looking for a “traveling” bike to go with my Street Triple. While the Triple is pretty comfortable to me, I was hoping for something that would handle serious miles without entering the realm of the 600lb sport tourers or ADV bikes.

After looking at all sorts of machines, I pulled the trigger on a nearly new, locally owned Vstrom 650. My father-in-law loved his (affectionately known as the “BumbleStrom”), although I never took it for a ride. Maybe because, unlike him, I didn’t have shoes that matched the black/yellow paint scheme!

I knew there was a pretty large cult following for them and figured everyone couldn’t be wrong, so I decided to give the bike a try. Aside from that reasoning, there was some hidden agenda as well. I tend to ride on the “aggressive” side of things. There are plenty of people who ride faster and harder than me, but I tend to lean toward the spirited side of riding most of the time. I also don’t like “stopping to smell the roses.” I just want to go. Those two habits need to be broken. I need to learn to slow down a little and I need to learn to stop. I was hoping a smaller, slower, more sedate machine would help me accomplish those things. And, I felt like I needed to find out if I”m too hung up on the brand of the machine, as opposed to the actual act of riding.

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Well, what did I learn today?

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1. It doesn’t matter what I ride, I ride it too fast! I was about 25 miles from home when I came to an intersection, turned right and headed toward Louisville. A cop pulled out from the other side of the road and passed me. As I usually do, I looked down to check my speed. I had just left the intersection so I wasn’t really concerned about speeding. Sure enough, I was doing about 45 in a 45 zone. No worries. In my mirror, I saw the cop turn behind me. Never gave it a thought…until I saw him come up behind me with a blue light special! Really? What the heck? I pulled over, shut off the bike and pulled off my helmet. As he walked my way, he said, “You were doing 73 in a 55.” What? “I just saw you in front of me and when you passed I was barely doing 45!” I thought, What kind of scam is he running here? I bit my lip and decided to wait and see what he said when he came back from his car. He gave me my license back and said, “I”m going to cut you a break today, just a warning.” So, I kept my mouth shut, and then realized they must have had a speed trap set up down the road and another cop had spotted me and radioed ahead. Geez.

2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I was stopped at a coffee shop in Danville, Ky, when guy pulled up on a custom trike. He got out, walked over to my bike and said, “That’s a good looking bike.” Huh? I looked for his dark glasses and red-tipped cane, but didn’t see either. Really? I never expected to hear anyone say that about a Vstrom.

3. The nicks: the front brake is too weak, not enough feedback. I knew that already and can probably help it some. The tires suck, which I also knew already and can easily remedy. I found a nice, twisty, Kentucky ridge road and, while traversing those corners could never decide what gear I wanted to be in. The redline is 10.5. Vibes creep in at about 7.5. The real power seems to be between 6-7k rpms. Hitting those 35-45 mph corners, it seemed I was either a gear too high or a gear too low to hit the meat of the motor. I eventually got used to it though and it became less of an issue. That’s pretty much it. No, its not particularly pretty. It won’t get the attention my Street Triple or Scrambler get. No, it doesn’t have the fit and finish of a Euro bike. No, it doesn’t have monster power or torque. No high tech gadgets either. None of that seemed to matter as I ticked off the miles today.

4. The good: I wanted a travel bike. One that could eat miles for breakfast and keep rolling through lunch and dinner. One that I could climb on Saturday morning in Louisville, Kentucky and lay my head down Saturday night in a New England fishing village. I may have found it. It works. Watching the gas gauge, I kept thinking, “Is this thing ever going to move?” Over 200 miles on a tank no problem. The seat was absolutely perfect for the first 100 miles. It wasn’t bad for the next 150 either and I am notorious for hating seats. No ugly vibes unless you revved high, as mentioned above. The mirrors give a good view and are rock solid clear at all times. That doesn’t happen often. Plenty of power, plenty of comfort. The Mastad bracket took care of the buffeting: 80 mph, faceshield up, no problem. Handled well; in fact, put some good tires on this thing and I would have no worries tossing it into a corner. The suspension isn’t great, but it didnt’ bother me. Besides, I’ve got the Street Triple in the garage if I feel the need to abuse a corner.

As of right now, I’m happy with the purchase. For $5,000 I feel like I got a lot of bike. I believe it will do exactly what I bought it to do. For now, I’m going to put a Pelican case on the luggage rack and some engine and tank protectors up front. Heated grips and maybe stronger handlebars…and then I’m just going to ride the piss out of it. The big test for a guy like me will be, do I become bored with it? I will let you know as time goes on.

Those of you with Stroms that have 60, 70, 80 thousand miles on them did so for a reason. I think I’m starting to see why.

Parting question: I’m thinking of doing a “decalechtomy” on the tank. What do you think? Remove it, or leave it?

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Later,

Shep

Breaking The Rules

I have a confession to make: I broke the rules. I purposely rode my newest motorcycle in a manner in which it was not originally intended. Yep, I’m a non-conformist rebel.

Some folks in the motorcycle community are so rigid. There are a surprising number of riders who believe you have to have a certain type (or brand) of motorcycle to engage in a specific style of riding. For example, some time back I did something I rarely do; I posted a question in a motorcycle forum. I was asking for advice on a small shield for my Street Triple that might create a smoother air pattern than the one I currently use. Now, mind you, I wasn’t asking about adding a “barn door” sized shield. Nor was I attempting to turn my Triple into a Gold Wing. I was simply looking for a slightly different shaped screen than the one I already have that might deflect air more efficiently. What I got was, “You bought the wrong bike!” Well, I beg to differ. Considering the fact that I’ve owned it for 4 years now and have many thousands of miles on it, and have taken it all over the Central US, I sort of doubt that. My philosophy on bikes is that you can do any type of riding you want to do on whatever bike you choose to ride, some are just more focused than others. A sport bike can tour, it just won’t be as comfortable as a touring bike. A touring bike can handle a gravel road, it’s just a bit more of a handful than a dual sport machine.

That brings me to my latest purchase, the Triumph Scrambler. DSC_0221I’ve been looking at the Scrambler with a lustful eye for a couple years now. I am drawn, in part, to its styling. Nostalgia also plays a role. No, I never owned an old Bonnie or any other Triumph from the 60’s or 70’s. However, my brother did own a Honda Scrambler. I have romanticized the style ever since.DSC_0218

I’ve already got sport riding covered in the form of the Street Triple. My recent purchase of the VStrom 650 (ride report to come soon), covered the long distance travel base. I bought the Scrambler as a local rider and meanderer…my idea of a cruiser. However, my maiden voyage on the bike turned out to be anything but a cruise. With the exception of my test ride, my first real venture on the Scrambler was a 400 mile Interstate journey at speeds of 70-80 mph. Not at all what I had in mind and certainly not what the Scrambler’s designers saw as the purpose of this machine. So, for all those who say you can’t travel on a Triumph Scrambler, I say, “Oh, but you can!”

Here is what I can tell you after taking a long first ride on roads I never intended to travel while aboard this machine: 58 hp is more than enough. I have had bikes with almost 3 times that much horsepower, but I never for one minute found myself saying, “This bike doesn’t have enough power.” It cruised easily at 80 mph. And comfortably. No vibes. Mirrors were crystal clear at all speeds. It never felt pushed. I was riding on the solo seat and it was much more comfortable than I ever thought it would be. It was not an issue.DSC_0220

No heat from the Arrow pipe. The suspension was softer than my Street Triple, but for my 160 lbs, it was not a significant issue. Tires? Well, unfortunately, it has Trail Wings on the rims. I’m not a fan of these tires. My VStrom has them as well, so I look forward to changing both. With that said, I leaned the bike fairly hard on a few occasions and didn’t have any concern.DSC_0217

On the down side, the bike is heavy. Truth be told, you only really notice it when you tip the bike up off the sidestand. Once underway, the weight is not so noticeable. The steering feels heavy at low speed until you get accustomed to it. And the bars are pretty wide. Yes, I know, that’s the idea…it’s a Scrambler. I will probably replace those eventually with narrower bars. Black ones of course. The combination of no wind protection and the wide bars were the only real distraction to the 6 hour road trip. Running at 55 I don’t think it would have been an issue at all, but running near 80 all that time did, admittedly, wear on my neck a little bit…and I’m used to riding “naked.”

In my opinion, the bike is a beauty. I specifically wanted the matte green (because I’m too cheap to buy a new one in matte blue!). It has almost all the accessories I wanted: Arrow pipes, solo seat, Dart shield, engine guards and skid plate. I will probably add handguards and some day, a Claude built sidecar.DSC_0214

I read somewhere recently, in regard to the Scrambler that you can’t go anywhere in a hurry. They didn’t mean the bike wasn’t capable; instead, they were referring to the fact that they could not go anywhere without people stopping them and asking them about their bike. I discovered this to be true already. I was stopped at a gas station on the ride home and two gentlemen approached me. The first guy looked at the bike and said, “They are making a comback aren’t they? Triumph.” I thought, “They’ve been back for a while,” but I just said, “Yes,” He and his friend began to reminisce about the bikes they had in the 70’s. As much as I enjoy talking bikes with other people, I finally had to excuse myself and slip away. Just yesterday I climbed  on the bike in a parking lot and pulled out. A young “hipster” looking guy walked past me, turned my way and watched me roll in his direction. As I got closer, he began to talk to me. He practically “forced” me to stop. While I held up traffic he said, “They are making a comback, aren’t they? Triumph.” Seriously, he said it. Twice in two days.

What do I think of the Triumph Scrambler so far? Love it. Great looks, great fun. Nope, I don’t plan on making it my traveler or my sport bike, but if you dare tell me it can’t do either of those things…I’m going to prove you wrong and do both!

Later,

Shep

On the Road to Cleveland

Road trip! I’m headed to Cleveland in a couple hours. No, not going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although I’d probably enjoy that. It’s not a coffee trip either. That only leaves one reason that I can think of to go to Cleveland…surely you can guess. Yep…

Scrambler_zps8b344e75Finally bought a Scrambler! I’ve been wanting one for a couple years. Tomorrow morning, I make it mine. The matte green paint is my favorite version, and I ended up finding 3 for sale. This particular bike had many of the accessories I was looking for, so I just couldn’t say no. Actually, I did say no. But my wife encouraged me to change my mind…no really, she did. So, I blame her! Damn, I have a good wife!

I had planned on a “fly and ride,” but that just wasn’t working. There is only one thing I don’t like about living in Louisville; the airport sucks. Prices are much too high. When we fly to Florida, we drive to Indy and fly from there. I wasn’t willing to pay the price, so we decided to do a “drive and fly.”

It should prove interesting tomorrow, as my maiden voyage on the Scram will be a 360+ mile ride home. I have no idea how good or bad that solo seat is…but I’m about to find out. Looks like I might get into rain too, all in all, what motorcycle riding is all about: adventure.

I wanted the Scrambler for a couple reasons. First, I will admit to being a bit of a Triumph fan boy right now. My Street Triple is one of the finest bikes I ever owned. It just fits me so well. I love the sound of the Triple. And I love the sound of that 270 degree twin crank of the Scrambler. It even sounds good with the stock exhaust, so just imagine the music this Arrow plays. No, it’s not powerful. That’s not the point of this machine. Speaking of the point, after I ride it a year or so, I plan to make a change to it. I’ve been bitten with the sidecar bug. My new sidecar friend Dave warned me that the Scrambler is not going to be a powerful rig, but since I decided not to pursue my original intent for the vehicle, I think it will be fine as a dual sport styled, back road hack. IMG_0092I’ve got to get ready to head out; ride report to come soon. I guess the only question I have left is: “Who is going to come help me ride all these bikes?”

Later,

Shep

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