It’s Not Really A Farkle, But….

This isn’t really an end of year farkle but it is an end of year safety item.  The new style BMW 49 liter top case has a spot at the top that you can install the optional LED brake light and then have the dealer program the motorcycle’s CAN bus electrical system to recognize the light.  Let’s just say that with the price of this option that BMW is quite proud of it.  To make the option work you need to have the top case that’s pre-wired for the light and the central locking system.  My case isn’t.  But I got to looking at where the light goes and the nearly flat black piece of plastic and thought I could do something to make the motorcycle more visible from the rear.  I came up with the idea of red reflective tape.  So today I took the plastic part off the top case (there are only 4 torx screws involved) and found that to get the flat part out you had to break the mounting rivets that were plastic.  So what I did instead is made a template of the opening with masking tape and then trimmed it up and carefully removed my template.  I then pinned a length of red reflective tape to a board and put the masking tape template right on the tape.  Then with a hobby knife, slowly and carefully cut around the template.  Since the template is made out of tape, it doesn’t move around on the reflective tape.  Then I carefully applied the red reflective tape on the flat part.  But while applying it I found that it’s not as flat as it appears and you can get bubbles along the edge at the slight curve.  Patience in smoothing them out helps but I imagine heating the tap with a hair dryer would help even more.  I didn’t think of the hairdryer trick until I was through.  So now I have red tape up high in the top case and when headlights hit the tap it “lights up” red.  Without the red tape there would just be black plastic there.


The red reflective tape up high in daylight.

The red reflective tape up high in daylight.

The back end of the motorcycle and high, red reflector with flash.

The back end of the motorcycle and high, red reflector with flash.

Categories: Safety | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Motorcycle Trip That Wasn’t

We, or rather a group had to cancel a motorcycle trip that was scheduled for tomorrow.  Every fall my Blue Knights Chapter plans an overnight trip to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge & Resort in Stecoah, NC on their last weekend before closing for the season.  Well, that weekend was supposed to begin tomorrow but Mother Nature really threw us a curve this year.  You see, here in the southeastern U.S. we’re expecting back to back arctic cold fronts to come through.  The first one has already passed and dropped temperatures to the mid 50’s (F) for highs here.  As I type this it’s 49° F and overcast up at the Iron Horse.  Tomorrow’s high temperature is now forecast to be 36° F!  We were already prepared for cold weather and that wasn’t scaring us off.  But the second front is bringing moisture with it.  Tonight at the Iron Horse it’s supposed to begin raining and then after midnight that rain will be changing to snow.  It’s now forecast to continue snowing in Stecoah until about 5:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.  The National Weather Service isn’t saying it could change to snow but that it will change to snow.  The Iron Horse is in a valley so they won’t be hit with as much snow as the slightly higher elevations but they’re still forecasting between 1 and 3 inches of snow in the valleys.  That’s not exactly motorcycle friendly weather.  There was an idea to ride up in cars but as we get closer to the Iron Horse, the roads are more rural and less traveled.  The Iron Horse had also called our trip’s organizer concerned with the weather and guests travelling to them.  So it looks like we’ll have to wait until at least the spring of 2015 to head back to the Iron Horse.

Categories: Safety, Trips | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Preserve Your Hearing

Seriously though you do need to preserve your hearing.  For quite a few years I’ve suffered from tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  It started out as something I’d occasionally hear.  But during the past couple of years it has gotten increasingly worse; even to the point that I wouldn’t hear things at time.  That, coupled with a hearing loss made for some very frustrating times.  In some restaurants, I couldn’t follow or even hear conversations.

So what caused my tinnitus and hearing loss?  Well you really can’t put a finger on it.  It could’ve been an injury, disease or illness or prolonged exposure to loud noises.  Could it have been working on and around steam engines, yes real steam engines when I was young?  Probably.  Concerts?  Sure.  Working in a mechanic’s machine shop when I was young?  Sure.  Riding a motorcycle even with a full face or open face helmet?  Sure.  Working as a police officer riding a motorcycle with one of those “half or shorty” helmets (most of it on a Harley Davidson that the muffler baffles somehow got punched through)?  Probably.  Riding my own motorcycle with a half helmet?  Probably.

But we get older and want to preserve what he have.  Just over a year ago I started wearing ear plugs when I rode the motorcycle even though now we wear modular helmets.  I experimented with 3 kinds.  I tried the roll up foam ones but the always felt like they were coming out.  I tried the home kit where you mold them into your ear but those seemed like they muffled everything except wind noise.  Then I tried some thing called ETY Plugs from Etymotic.  The ETY plugs were comfortable and blocked a good bit of wind noise and due to their design they allowed for intercom use and even conversation off the motorcycle at fuel stops.  They’re reusable and about $13.00 a pair.  I’ve using and cleaning the same pair for a year now.  They do pull some “stuff” out when you remove them but just clean them with a damp cloth.  The funny part is that the audiologist I go to has brochures for these ear plugs and recommends them.  She actually discourages the use of foam plugs but admits that “they’re better than nothing.”

Fast forward to this summer when my primary care doctor referred me for a hearing test.  They told me that they might be able to help with my tinnitus through something called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT.  Here’s the simple explanation: you don’t hear the hum of the refrigerator because it’s benign and you’re used to it.  But you hear it now because I mentioned it.  TRT tries to get your brain to ignore the tinnitus by using other sounds, usually “white noise” of some type.  Silence is your enemy with tinnitus too.  TRT wants some sort of low sound to used all the time (tv, music, etc).  There’s sound apps for smart phones and tablets you can use too along with headphones or ear buds.  I found that even listening to a low white noise with ear buds, I could hear more conversation.  But you can’t always do that.  I even used an inexpensive sound machine at night but was told to get one you could play all night.  That sucker really helped at night!

But in the long run I ended up getting hearing aids that have sound generators in them also.  Luckily my hearing loss is not that bad so they (and I) hope these will work.  The hearing part on mine are only 8 channel and mainly enhance voice sounds.  But the sound generator gives me a low, constant white noise to merge with the tinnitus.  Believe me that the white noise is almost un-noticeable as compared to the tinnitus.  I’ve now worn my new hearing aids for a day and a half.  During the tuning process in the audiologist’s office I noticed an immediate difference.  For me they seem to be a worthwhile investment and Donna thinks so too.  But no you can’t wear them while riding!  Think of it, they may only make the damaging sounds louder!  The audiologist says that’s when you put in the ETY plugs.

The morale of the story here is to do something to protect your hearing.  It’s not that hard to do.  At minimum wear ear plugs when riding or mowing the lawn (I wear the old-fashioned ear muff style phones from the pistol range when mowing the lawn).  Once your hearing starts going away, it does not normally come back and there is no cure for tinnitus.

If this article helps just one person on the way to hearing loss prevention or gets them to use ear plugs then it’s a successful article!

Here they are!  The quarter is for size reference.  The silver parts go behind and on top of my hears while the wire loops into my ear.  The other plastic part helps secure it in and on my ear.

Here they are! The quarter is for size reference. The silver parts go behind and on top of my ears while the wire loops into my ear. The other plastic part helps secure it in and on my ear.

The hearing aids are barely noticeable.

The hearing aids are barely noticeable.

Categories: General, Safety | Tags: | 5 Comments

Biker Or Motorcyclist?

I rode back home from Florida today.  Not long after I got on Interstate 95 I was presented with two examples of “biker or motorcyclist”.  A biker can ride any kind of motorcycle and so can a motorcyclist so this has nothing to do with what kind of motorcycles they ride.  In fact, today both the biker and the motorcyclist were on the same make of motorcycle.

Biker:  I was in the center lane and could see a motorcycle slowly coming up in the left lane.  As he pulled alongside I noticed right away it was one of the Harley Davidson Hard Candy Customs and had the bobbed rear end, forward controls and mini ape bars.  It was actually a gorgeous motorcycle.  The rider had on a “pudding bowl” helmet and his feet splayed out.  He just had a look that made me think I’d smell his cologne as he passed by.  I gave him a wave and he looked over, didn’t wave or acknowledge in any other way than looking.  Then he opened up his throttle and pulled away, apparently wanting to let me know that he was a member of the Volusia County Loud Pipes Riding Club.  Oh the bars or poker runs that bike has been too!

Motorcyclist: It was less than 10 minutes later another motorcycle slowly came up in the left lane.  The rider of this motorcycle had on one of those “Captain America” helmets and a worn leather jacket.  The bike was an older Harley Davidson Electra Glide.  This motorcycle had been ridden hard and put up wet many times.  You could tell this motorcycle had some miles on it.  It looked worn but not abused.  It had what looked like a sleeping bag and other luggage lashed to the back seat between its rider and a king tour pack that looked like it was on crooked.  Then it happened.  As we rode along side by side for just a few seconds, we both waved at each other at the same time and he nodded his head at me.  He slowly kept pulling away, maintaining his speed.  Oh the stories from the road and travels that Electra Glide could likely tell.


Categories: Daytona, General, Safety, Trips | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment


The Magic Carpet’s front tire after yesterday’s ride. There’s no tread left on the right like there is on the left!

I knew we were getting close to needing a new front tire.  But I didn’t think we were this close!  Before we went on our ride yesterday I checked the tires like I always do.  The front tire was getting close to the end of its life but the wear bars had yet to come to the surface and still had some tread above them.  In fact, in a picture I took with the flash when I put the LED bulbs in the motolights, you could see the tread from a distance.  That was only 8 days ago!  Imagine my shock when I went to plug the battery tender in and noticed the front tire looking like it does in this picture.  Not only had we made it to the wear bars on the one side but we went way past them on yesterday’s ride.  I guess when you approach the end, it goes really quick.  The tire in the picture has 17,157 miles on it and is a Metzeler ME880 Marathon that is rated for the BMW K1200LT.  The Magic Carpet is grounded until it gets a new front tire.

Metzeler and Bridgestone are the only tires made that are rated for the K1200LT.  I’ve heard Avon makes tires but since they’re softer (and stickier) they wear out quicker so I have no interest in them.   I’ve used the Bridgestone BT020 Battleax on the front before but only got about 8,000 miles out of it.  So it looks like I’ll be calling Ken’s Motorcycle Tires in Woodstock this week to check prices and order a tire.  Ken usually comes pretty close to matching online tire prices but offers a significant savings when mounting tires purchased from him.  In other words, if I buy the tire online and bring it to him he charges more to mount it.  It seems fair enough to me.  I’ll check prices on the Metzeler and the always lower in price Bridgestone and weigh the mileage differences against the balance in the checkbook.  It can be a complicated mathematical formula.

Categories: Maintenance & Repair, Safety | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Let There Be Light

4W bright white LED on left, 50W halogen on right and the HID low beam above.

4W bright white LED on left, 50W halogen on right and the HID low beam above.

The Magic Carpet has Motolights on it.  I really like the triangle of light they provide.  The right side light had stopped working and it was because one of the pins on the bulb had broken.  I had also found that the light housing was loose.  Now I know, Motolights will replace the bulbs for free.  But, you have to find them at a show or contact them and then pay shipping for the bulb.  At an open house at BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta, I already did have the right bulb replaced by Motolight a few years ago.  Besides, it’s no big deal to get a bulb as a it’s a standard MR16 12V bulb available at any home improvement store.  In the process of replacing the bulb I found out that I had a 35W bulb on the right and a 50W bulb on the left.  I was out of balance!  I had already been thinking of replacing the bulbs with LED ones anyway but while both were still working it was a low priority upgrade.  I found a post on BMWLT.COM about low cost LED replacements.  The dealer was a place called Dealextreme and they’re in China.  Now before anyone gets all huffy about buying American I can assure you that had I gone to a home improvement store the name brand bulbs I purchased would’ve come from China anyway.  A few people at BMWLT.COM had ordered from them already.  I felt even more confident ordering as I was using a “gift” debit card from my healthcare provider in case the card got compromised as there was only a few dollars left on it anyway.  I was going to replace both bulbs and found the 4W (watt) bright white LED MR16 bulbs and they were only $4.90 (USD) each.  So the two bulbs were only $9.80!  That’s less than half of ONE LED bulb at the home improvement store.  Oh, the order also qualified for free shipping.  I already knew the free shipping would take a while but took advantage of it anyway, I wasn’t in a rush.

I ordered my bulbs on the afternoon of September 11, 2013 and was sent a confirmation email and that they would ship soon.  The next morning on September 12, 2013 I had an email that had been delivered overnight that my order had shipped.  Today, on September 21, 2013 the postman delivered the bulbs.  I’d say not bad, getting here in 9 days getting here to metro Atlanta, GA from Shanghai, China.  It took just a few minutes of sitting on the floor in the garage on this rainy day to swap the bulbs out.  The new ones are nearly an identical match to the HID low beam headlight in color temperature appearance.  Not a bad deal for under $10.00!  They do ship worldwide too.  The photo above shows the comparison between the old halogen bulb and the LED replacement.

Until next time, ride safe!

Categories: Accessories, Safety | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Thank You Officer Myers!

It seems that a lot of motorcyclists really dislike drivers who text and drive.  I most certainly don’t, in fact I wrote a blog entry earlier this month about a personal experience with a texting driver.

A local Atlanta TV station did a news story today about Officer Myers of the Gwinnett County, Georgia Police Department who has written 800 tickets to texting drivers this year.  Officer Myers also happens to be a motor officer.  You can see the story on the WSB-TV site at this link.  Officer Myers even tells you what he looks for.  Poking the screen more than 10 times?  You’re not making a phone call then.  Using your phone’s GPS feature?  Can’t do that either as it has to be a stand alone GPS.  You see here in Georgia you can’t text message, email, web browse or use a web based application while driving or even stopped in traffic.  You have to pull off the roadway to send that important Tweet or Facebook update!  In other words, the only thing you can legally do with your cell phone while driving in Georgia is to make a phone call.  Now this much I will tell you having been a motor officer myself for a number of years is that you’re amazed how much you can see into peoples cars while you’re next to them on a motorcycle.  WSB-TV also offers the raw video they used to produce the story and you can see it here on their website.

Oh and this isn’t a new law here in Georgia either, it’s 3 years old now.

Thank You Officer Myers!

Categories: General, Safety | Tags: | 2 Comments

How My Motorcycle Saved My Life

Yesterday morning I was riding on a residential road (not a neighborhood street) near the house on my way to meet a vacationing motorcyclist for ride when my motorcycle saved my life.

I was on a straight section of this road and not in a curve or on a hillcrest.  The entire length of road has a nice double yellow line running down the middle.  It was a cool (for early September in Georgia) and overcast morning.  I had on my headlight, the moto-lights, a white helmet and a hi-vis jacket.  Overcast skies seem to make hi-vis gear “pop”.  There was an SUV headed towards me from the opposite direction.  I then noticed the  SUV was drifting into my lane!  The closer it got, the more it came into my lane!  Since I was on the motorcycle I was able to move over to the right side of MY lane to get out of the way of the oncoming vehicle that had crossed the centerline.  As the SUV got close I blew my horn (our K1200LT has what sounds like a BMW car horn and not the little “meep meep” of most motorcycle horns).  The driver seemed oblivious.  I then noticed clearly she had both her wrists resting on the top of the steering wheel and was holding what sure looked to be a cell phone and poking at it as she passed.  Although she was in my lane she was not close to me.  But,  had I been in a car, she surely would’ve hit me head on or at least side swiped me going the opposite direction.  So since I was on a motorcycle I was able to give her both lanes of the two lane road.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself “If you were in a car, you would’ve been big enough for her to see you and it wouldn’t have happened.”  It is a good thought but it’s wrong and here’s how I know why.  For starters, a motorcycle is a licensed and registered motor vehicle, pays taxes and tags and is therefore entitled to the same laws, rights and restrcictions as other vehicles.  Second, there was another vehicle on the road behind me.  It was another SUV and they had pulled up behind me at the stop sign and like me had made the right turn on the road and was behind me a bit.  The SUV behind me either had their headlights or was a General Motors product with daytime running lights.  As the approaching SUV passed me, I then heard another horn behind me.  In my mirror I could see the SUV that was following me was partially in the grass and the SUV that had approached me was still partially on the wrong side of the road.  I expected to hear a crash but didn’t.

It became very apparent that the woman driving the approaching SUV was reading or sending a text message.  She was so enthralled by the message that she didn’t realize she on the wrong side of the road and therefore not nearly struck not one, but two vehicles.

Here in Georgia it is illegal to text and drive.  But no one cares and does it anyway.  In fact the law is very clear in saying you cannot read, create, compose, reply to text messages or email or perform web browsing unless you pull out of the roadway to do so.  How about that?  Georgia even threw in web browsing.  Most people seem to think it’s OK to text while stopped in traffic but no, off the roadway is what the law says.

What makes this such and issue?  What makes the text messages so important?  I personally know of someone who says it makes them a better driver!  I’m sorry but anything that makes you take your eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel is distracting you from what you’re supposed to be doing; driving your vehicle.  They can complain it’s their right.  Bull!  Driving is a privilege and not a right, courts have long ago decided that.  And to use that privilege you have to obey the laws.  I know someone from the United Kingdom and the whole country is hands free.  That’s right you can’t even hold your cell phone to talk!  The police can’t even hold a radio mic and use push to talk buttons on the steering wheel.  Even a driver who is slightly impaired by alcohol is at least trying to drive good to avoid getting caught!

Please wait until you get to your destination to start those text messages or do like the law says and pull off the road if they’re that important.  Not texting while driving is more than just a good idea, here in Georgia it’s even a law.

Please feel free to share this post, especially with those who give excuses why it’s not dangerous to text and drive.

Categories: General, Safety | Tags: | 3 Comments

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