Sunday, March 10, 2013

Impressions of my first real ride

I took my bike out on the road for the first time this morning. It was an exhilarating, terrifying, wonderful experience.

I had to use a fair amount of brainpower on shifting gears, braking, etc but I still had a few moments where my head was clear and the road was mine for the taking. For those of you who know me well, this is why I've been obsessed with things with wheels and motors so long.

I first started searching for this feeling when I started riding my bicycle as a kid. It was all I cared about when I learned how to drive. It's back now.

The terror and thrill of learning how to control a moving vehicle is fleeting. Once you're comfortable, it's business as usual. But while it's there, it's incredible.

However, the real joy of the road comes once it's gone. Once I'm comfortable riding, once I don't have to think to shift and it's second nature to brake with my foot and my hand at the same time, that's when it will once again be just me and the road.

I can't wait.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rucksgiving Ride 2012!

I take some small bit of pride in saying that the cold weather Thanksgiving scooter cruise that eventually became known as Rucksgiving was my idea. I thought it would be fun. A lark, a small adventure to cap off the long weekend. For any readers who were lucky enough to participate in our little escapade, you already know that we got a little more adventure than we bargained for.

The weeks leading up to the ride were exciting, to say the least. There have been studies that claim that human beings tend to be happy and more excited when looking forward to something than when they actually have it. This I believe is true. It seemed like every other day, someone was on Total Ruckus or our local Facebook group Scoot301 commenting on how excited we were or making suggestions on the route or logistics. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we had about 12 riders coming in from all over central Maryland. Things were looking good. We had a route planned, multiple checkpoints for people to meet up and ride to the central starting point, and a place to park trucks for anyone transporting their scooter. Multiple posts were made rehashing all the details, and everything was looking good.

What followed could definitely be described as an educational experience. Here are some things I learned.

Assume you're getting half the number of participants  

I've seen this time and time again, and I don't know why I assumed this time would be different. When an event is being planned, just assume that half the participants are going to cancel at the last minute. When you're riding with custom vehicles, there's always going to be a few people who can't get their new setup running in time. Add in the jobs and families, and it's really no surprise that dropouts occur. Friday night we were down from 12 riders to 9. By meeting time, we were down to 6 brave riders ready to face the cold. Even if your meet gets cut down to only a few, you're still going to have a great time, so don't worry, just relax and have a blast.

Keep your cell phone on and check it regularly

Even with the multiple posts, we still had riders asking at the last second where to meet, where to park, etc. Just part of planning a ride. If I had ignored my phone, we might have missed out on a rider or two. Fortunately, everyone made it and we left (relatively) on time.

Cold weather is a bitch

We all knew it was going to be cold. That was part of the fun. But even with everyone prepared, most of us were pretty damn cold after about an hour. If you're heading out on your first cold weather ride, do your best to be prepared, ask for advice from people who've already done a few, and assume you're still going to be cold anyway. If you're doing a car cruise, curse you and your heaters.

Murphy's Law will get you eventually

During the ride, I somehow lost about 5 mph off my top speed. At some point during the ride, I just got slower and could not figure out why. The other guys tried to keep it slow so that I could keep up, but inevitably, everyone started creeping further and further ahead. I completely lost sight of the group a few times. It's definitely not fun being the slowest guy in the group, but it's gotta happen to somebody. Of course, the very next day, my bike ran normally. Figures. I was definitely disappointed with my bikes performance, but the prize for worst day ever goes to Edwin, whose 125cc swapped Ruckus fried an ignition coil 90 minutes into the ride, right while we were waiting for the ferry. With no chase vehicle, the ride had to come to a close. He and I waited, exploring the C&O canal for two hours while the rest of the group rode home, grabbed a truck, and came back to pick us up. Seems like good old Murphy had it out for us that day.

So how did the ride go overall? Great. And terribly, at the same time. It all depends on perspective. Our ride did not go as planned, but it was definitely an adventure, and that's what we had come out for. 

Until next time.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tips on Cold Weather Riding: Part 2

Wow. I had a lot of good response to the article I posted last weekend. So much, in fact, that I decided to post a follow-up featuring various tips I've gotten in response to the article, along with any commentary I might have to add. For responses I got from the Total Ruckus forum, I'm going to use the screen name of the submitter. Let's jump right in.

  • "Use Gore-Tex" from Habits1979. Great point. The more windproofing your gear has, the better, and in that same vein...

  • "Use snowboarding or hunting gear" On the Facebook page, Stitches and JB pointed out that hunting gear and snowboarding gear would both be very effective in blocking wind and providing insulation, Stitches went on to point out that snowboarding gear has a certain degree of abrasion resistance in the event of a crash. 

  • "Wear a full face helmet" Total Ruckus member ruckva pointed out that I neglected to mention a full face helmet is almost a requirement for cold weather riding. He also mentioned that there are options for those riding with an open face. But really, just get a full face helmet if you don't already have one.

  • "Get some $60 Wal-Mart coveralls" Pyrogen on Total Ruckus bought this suit and swears by it. Any type of full coverage, such as a motorcycle suit, jumpsuit, coveralls, etc are a great choice, because they trap all of your body heat. I highly recommend this option. I just switched over to an insulated work bib this week and it works great.
While we're on the topic of cold weather riding, I think it's necessary to address a suggestion I keep hearing. I don't know who came up with this originally, but a few people have suggested wearing latex gloves underneath the riding gloves as an added layer of insulation. Don't Do This! The latex will make your hands sweat. This will make frostbite more likely, and will increase tissue damage if frostbite does occur. Here's a good little testimonial from Total Ruckus user ranwanimator.

"I would actually recommend against the latex gloves. They end up trapping the sweat/moisture against your skin which can accelerate frostbite damage if it gets exposed to the cold. I have actual experience with this particular scenario after wearing a pair of nitrile gloves under knit gloves on the recommendation of a co-worker. The daily temp had dropped much farther than I was prepared for and I had to make do to get home. My hands ended up far colder and pretty painful by the time my 30 minute ride was over. Temps were in the high 40's. 

Moisture is your enemy in the cold."

And with that, I'm going to go watch me some football. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and I hope to see you riding out there. Stay tuned for a writeup on Rucksgiving 2012 this weekend, and don't forget to like my page on Facebook!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tips on Cold Weather Riding

With a post-Thanksgiving scooter cruise coming up next week. (Rucksgiving 2012!) I figured I'd share some of my limited experience riding in cold weather for anyone who hasn't really attempted a serious cold weather ride before. What I'm looking to do is give some advice on how you can dress warmly without having to buy a bunch of expensive gear. I can't show up to work and stomp around in motorcycle boots and leathers all day, so I came up with some ways to keep warm while riding while still being able to dress like a normal person.

Personally, I haven't ridden on a longer cruise in cold weather before. That said, I have a fair amount of experience camping in cold weather (used to be in Boy Scouts,we camped every month no matter what.) and I still daily drive my Ruckus on about a 40 minute commute, at temperatures that vary from 30-40 degrees. If you have any knowledge or tips to share that you feel should be mentioned, please post in the comments section. I'm always looking to learn, and I'd be happy to make some edits to add new info. All the information I'm posting here is assuming that you're riding in a temperature of between 20 and 40 degrees fahrenheit. If you're looking to ride in colder weather, good luck to you.

Let's start by discussing the potential dangers of cold weather, especially when riding. There are two things to be concerned with when riding in the cold; hypothermia, and frostbite.

Hypothermia occurs when the human body's internal temperature drops. This can happen even at temperatures above freezing. The best way to prevent hypothermia is simple. Layers of insulation, especially around your core.

Frostbite is perhaps more dangerous, if only because it can sneak up on you. Frostbite occurs when the cells in a localized area of your body actually freeze and die, causing permanent tissue damage. Frostbite is nasty, and not to be taken lightly. Do a Google image search for frostbite if you're curious. It's not pretty. Because of the windchill that occurs when when riding, it is also possible to get frostbite at temperatures above freezing. The best way to prevent frostbite is to make sure that all your extremities are covered, especially your ears and fingers.

Now I know some of you guys are thinking 40 degrees is nothing, but take this into account. If you're riding at 35mph, which is the average speed you're going to be hitting if you're on a stock Ruckus like I am, the wind chill will drop that 40 degrees fahrenheit down to 28, which is cold enough to easily get frostbite and/or hypothermia, especially when riding for a while. If you're taking a 15 minute ride over to your buddy's place, wear whatever you want, you'll probably be fine. But on an extended ride, such as the 3 hour-plus cruise I'm riding next weekend, your body temperature will start to drop, and it will keep dropping.

Take a look below at my current commuting outfit. This is what I wear when I ride to work in the morning:

This setup is what I use for dry weather between 30 and 40 degrees. On the high end of that range, it's a little warm. At the low end, once the temperature is below freezing, it's just barely enough. Ride in the cold for a while, and you'll quickly notice that the difference between above and below freezing is pretty big.

Starting at the head, I wear a thick hoodie, and tuck the hood under my helmet. While this definitely works, I recommend a ski mask. It's a lot more effective and can fit under tighter-fitting helmets. Underneath that I wrap a scarf. The scarf is important. Without it, I get a blast of cold air right on my throat. Not fun.

Over that hoodie, I wear two warm jackets. For me, one jacket is not enough, especially since both jackets are kind of loose-fitting. You can experiment to see how much you need around your core, but remember, if you let your core get cold, you're one step away from hypothermia.

On my hands, I wear a pair of leather riding gloves, with a pair of thin felt gloves over them just for a little added insulation. You can easily just wear a pair of ski gloves, although if the temperature is below 30, you'll want to add a pair of stretchy knit gloves underneath, which you can easily find at Target, WalMart, or even the dollar store.

On my legs, I usually just wear jeans and thick socks. This works well enough for a 40 minute ride to work, but it gets pretty damn cold on my legs towards the end of it, and can take half an hour or more to warm my legs back up once I arrive. I do not recommend just wearing jeans for a 3 hour ride. Seriously. My balls get pretty damn cold, and I don't want to lose them. You have two easy options. Either wear thermal pants underneath your jeans, or wear ski pants over the top. Either way, your future family remains intact.

That's about it. Please let me know what you think in the comments and on the Facebook, and look forward to a full account of Rucksgiving 2012 next week!


Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm Back -An apology

I'm going to go ahead and say this right away.

I'm Sorry.

It feels weird to say it. I don't even know if anyone's gonna care. I'm sure no one even feels it's necessary, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. Here's why.

When I started this blog, I had big plans for it. It wasn't just a place to feature cars. It was a place to promote my artwork, and hopefully a way to eventually monetize it. It was a bit far fetched, but I wanted to give it a shot. I also wanted a place to write about one of my loves in life, namely cars.

Over time, like most of my grand ideas, it petered out and I lost interest. The creative demands of drawing and writing began to be overshadowed by the more mundane demands of emailing people over and over again in order to secure interviews, spec sheets, and photos of their cars. Also, to my surprise, I found that I needed more variety in my writing. The weekly features were a lot of fun at first, but writing only features grew tiresome after a while.

I never actually "gave up." I chose to take a break from writing the blog over a summer a couple years ago, and just never really got back to it. It was always one concern or another that kept me from going back. The main problem, of course, is just that I am inherently lazy when lacking the means to motivate myself.

There is one thing I didn't consider, though.

The Fans. You guys.

I am actually pretty insecure about my abilities when it comes to writing, or really, anything that requires a subjective assessment of my abilities. I had a hard time believing that anyone was reading what I was writing. You guys proved me wrong.

I don't even know how many times in the past couple years I've had people asking me when Clean was coming back. It was a post on the Facebook page just the other day that finally drove me over the edge. The urge to write was becoming overwhelming, but there was something else. I realized that over time, I had actually begun to accumulate fans. People who actually read my work, enjoyed it, and looked forward to more. After making that realization, I felt pretty bad. I let you guys all down. On some level, you guys made enough of a personal investment to remember my writing existed, and actually check back for more from time to time. It doesn't sound like a lot, but with the amount of distractions at our fingertips everyday, it means a lot. And I intend to repay that investment from now on.

Clean is going to differ a bit from it's old format. For one thing, cars are not going to be the only subject matter anymore. Over the past year, I've bought a Honda Ruckus that I've fallen in love with. To reflect this, daily-driven custom scooters and bikes are going to be a big part of the subject matter here. Also, while I'm looking forward to writing new features, I'm going to be writing a lot of non-feature articles. Just random pieces on the highs, lows, joys, upsets, and technical nitty-gritty of riding and driving. Look forward to my upcoming piece on dressing for cold-weather riding.

That's all I have to say for now. To those of you who've stuck it out all this time, thank you.

And welcome back.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Corrazy Corrado

Featured this week is a nifty little VW Corrado I spotted on the Grassroots Motorsports forums. This model is owned by Jay Roberts of Atlanta. Jay wanted a Corrado ever since he first spotted one in a dealership in 92. However, like so many others, he couldn't afford the high price tag, and settled on a Golf. Years later, Jay, now older and wiser, owns two of them. Jay jumped on the opportunity to grab this week's feature car from Charleston, which he then proceeded to drive back to his place in the rain, with bald tires and malfunctioning ABS.  And sometimes we wonder why it's difficult to explain our hobby to outsiders.

Jay's mods are simple and functional. Dare I say Clean? Bilstein Coilovers, Momo steering wheel, pulleys, a K&N filter, and an aftermarket exhaust that came with the car and hasn't yet been identified. "It sounds like a Borla" says Jay. The trusty VR6 provides reliable transportation to his job as a TV broadcast facility tech, and performs occasional autocross duty. Chalk up one more car I wish I owned. Maybe someday.

We've all heard the name VR6 thrown around before, the VW R32 had one, so did a GTI, but what is it? It's an engine best described as a really narrow-angle V6. So narrow, in fact, that it only has one cylinder head. At the time, this engine was revolutionary, sporting excellent balance and 6 cylinders in a very small package.Unfortunately, while the engine is still in production, the car it first sat in is not. While the Corrado VR6 was by all accounts excellent, it simply cost too much for most people who'd want to buy it. And there's your fun fact of the week.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Clean Lives Up To It's Name

With the engine bay of my little Civic covered in oil and in bad need of a scrub, the detailing tools available at my house just weren't cutting it. It was time to bring in reinforcements. And that meant a trip to the DIY car wash.

I decided to make the longer trip over to College Park with my friend Jason and his 2010 GTI. And wow. That place is quite an experience.

College Park is a relatively small city, mostly known for playing host to the University of MD. Judging by the car wash, it's also a car town. I was not prepared for the sheer number of cars and people. All of them were there just to clean their cars. And we're not just talking about a quick spray in the cleaning bay and a once-over with the vacuum. No, they had the same idea I did. There was a whole line of cars being given a thorough interior and exterior detail with various cleaning, polishing, and shining formulas. The pics may give you a general idea of the number and variety of cars on display.

There were family minivans, luxury sedans, muscle cars, compacts, Modified and stock. We were all there for the same reason. It was hot out and we thought "Why not take the car out for a cleaning?"

Well, why not? My car looks better than ever. 3 hours, one wash, spray wax, engine degrease, vacuum and wheel polish later, I'm finally done. The engine bay looks much better now (Maybe I can finally find that oil leak) and the rest of my car looks phenomenal. Not sure what to do with your afternoon? Experience the warm fuzzy feeling of kinship with your fellow car owners at your local car wash.