AHHH! April in Ohio!
The road grit encrusts your spokes as you sail on down the road dodging chuckholes and debris left over from the Winter road treatment. Though you might have snuck yer scoot out for a few miles ride during a break in the off-season weather, now you’re ready to put some serious mileage on ‘er. You smell that fresh, clean air [unless some local farmer is fertilizing his field and even THAT makes ya smile] and you think to yourself how glad you are to get in the wind again. To most of us riding IS an addiction and that first ride of the year is way better than any drug. It’s like scratching an itch ya haven’t been able to get at for months. Now ya wanna scratch that itch until you bleed!!
As you slide around slag covered corners and notice that those train tracks you’ve ridden over countless times seem a little harsher than they used to be, ya get chilled and you realize maybe ya shouldn’t have left the house in just a T-shirt. Yes kids, it time once again for Bummer’s annual “Spring Safety Talk”. Though most of you probably know this stuff, I’m sure there’s a few newbies out there who might need to hear about it.
It’s a given that we’re ALL eager to get on the road again. Each year at this time I try to remind you that although you might have been riding for years, ya need to be aware that your riding skills might be just a wee bit rusty and that your scoot might need some attention after standing on it’s kick-stand for the past few months.
Each Spring we find ourselves rounding corners that have tri-angles of whatever the Hell that stuff is they put on the roads all winter. For the past few years I’ve noticed that it’s sometimes greenish-blue in color and doesn’t dissolve for a long time. That’s why they use it. It’s also very slippery, like riding over a pile of marbles [it’s probably some kind of carcinogenic nuclear waste]. So, be extra-careful on your cornering.
Holes and cracks in the road appear overnight [some deep with pretty rough edges] from the constant freezing and thawing. These can bend a spoked wheel or crack a mag wheel, and THAT can lay ya down in an instant. That freezing and thawing also causes railroad tracks, manhole covers and other road features to shift and THEY can give ya a surprise too.
Make sure you check your tire pressure, and if your tread isn’t up to par, replace your rubber. Your tires need all the traction they can get on those slippery, salt and ash covered roads. And tighten up those loose nuts and bolts. In my young and dumb days I once headed merrily out of my garage one sunny Spring day forgetting that I had taken my fat bobs off at one point during the winter and put ‘em back on without tightening ‘em down again [I was probably just in a hurry for some reason and put it off for later]. The right tank actually fell off the damned bike as I was riding down the road! The broken fuel line splashed gas all over me and the bike before I got her stopped. Of course it would have been a far uglier incident than it was if something would have sparked! Now my nuts are always tight. Whaaat?!! What are you smilin’ about?
Check both of your brake fluid reservoirs, front and rear. If one of them is down more than a smidge, find out why. Check your tranny oil. While yer at it, adjust your chains, both your primary and rear if necessary. If there’s too much play that can’t be adjusted out, replace them. [By the way, a lot of people carry a master link for their rear chain on their key chain for roadside emergencies. If your bike has a belt this is a moot point, but there IS a quick fix kit for belts you can carry in your bags].
If your battery is old or hasn’t been maintained well, ya might need a new one. Cold start-ups are hard on a battery. I discovered something called a Battery Tender [now there’s a few different brands] some time ago. Ya don’t even have to take the battery off the bike in the Fall with these babies! They kick on and charge automatically only when needed all Winter, then shut off when the battery is fully charged. The manufacturers give ya a little harness to put on the battery posts and you leave it there permanently. So ya just plug yer bike in and forget about it until ya wanna ride, then ya unplug it and go. More importantly, battery tenders are also the best thing you can do to keep your battery lasting way longer, so they’ll pay for themselves in just a few years. They’re only about $15 to $35 depending on the brand ya buy and how big your battery is.
Now, a lot of people think we wear leather coats, chaps and gloves just for warmth. But as you know it’s also a very effective heavy, second skin protecting us from road rash. Most of us have countless stories of skin, and even limbs, that have been saved. Dress appropriately. Ya don’t wanna end up sliding down the blacktop without protection! Besides, it might be sunny and warm when ya leave the garage, but it can be raining, foggy, cold, sleeting and even snowing when yer coming home on any given April day in Ohio. So bundle up even though ya might be eager to ride absolutely nekkid. At least until it’s warmer and this Spring transitional period passes and all that road crap is finally washed off the roads. THEN ride nekkid. Tell the cops I gave ya my permission and encouragement. They seem to blame me for everything anyway.
Most importantly, like I’ve mentioned before, car and truck drivers who haven’t had to look out for bikes this past winter just ain’t used to it. So watch out for THEM. Keep a little distance between you and the car in front of ya. Ask any trucker and they’ll tell ya to back off at least until you can see their side mirrors. If ya can’t see their mirrors, they can’t possibly see you behind them. And YOU keep an eye on YOUR mirrors and watch the traffic behind YOU. If somebody’s on yer ass, move to a different lane or pull over ‘til they pass. Every time you pass a car sitting at a cross road or getting ready to pull out of a parking lot, driveway or on-ramp, slow down and watch ‘em like a hawk. Go ahead and be a little paranoid. Ride as if every car and truck you see is out to get ya, and maybe they won’t. Just like every Autumn most cagers [car drivers] have to re-learn how to drive on snow, every Spring they have to re-learn to watch out for two and three wheelers. It’s not their fault exactly, it’s just that most of the driving public is retarded. Remember THAT and keep it with you. It just might save your life.
OK….Enough of that. In case you’ve been wondering what my qualifications are for being such a “know it all” [besides being an old timer], I guess they’re my assorted scars and my missing spleen, which was lost one Spring day long ago due to left-over road cinders. Now for some outright bitchin’…...
Have YOU sent the “Forward” explaining ABATE and our desire to increase our membership from my Feb. column to all your internet friends? Have you spread it around by posting it in yer favorite taverns, bike shops or other businesses? Have you considered sending it to newspapers, magazines or whatever? Do you even know what the Hell I’m talking about? Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone out there even reading this stuff. I’ve only had 2 [that’s TWO] requests for it by Email in response to the column, and that was two months ago [thanks Vic, thanks Mig].
Anyway, if ya haven’t, please go to our state website and read “Chain letter from Bummer”. I don’t know how many might have gotten it from the state website or received it from others, but I hope it’s still moving around the internet. We really DO need to grow a bit folks. The percentage of ABATE members versus the number of registered motorcycles in Ohio is absolutely ridiculous. There are over 634,500 licensed motorcyclists in Ohio. And we have less than half of 1% of them on our roster. That’s less than one out of every 200 licensed riders in Ohio! To be honest, that’s embarrassing and we ALL should be ashamed of it.
Also, It’s been a recurring concern that our organization doesn’t attract younger riders. If you can think of some way to accomplish this, tell your local ABATE officers, call the state office or Email the website. We NEED fresh faces. Young, tender, supple…OUCH! [Julie just smacked me in the head]. I mean, ANY organization needs fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Some of the things we do might need to be changed, and a lot of us [to be frank] are getting too set in our ways. The phrase “Business as usual” should never be applied to a growing, vibrant and effective organization. And to be that way [growing, vibrant and effective] we should perhaps rethink a few things without ever forgetting who we are and what we’re all about. Give it all some thought. Take some suggestions to your next ABATE meeting or get hold of your officers. As always, YOU are ABATE.
Finally, one more thing. I was talking to an old friend the other day who used to be a dedicated member of ABATE but stopped being one when: [1.] the magazine didn’t go out for 3 or 4 months back in ’04, [2.] at that time the website was down for quite a while, and [3.] this guy’s specific county was put on hold due to staffing problems. Of course all of these might be pretty good reasons to hang it up, especially when they all hit at once. I’m sure it pissed off a lot of people. But NOW our new editor, Kari, is doing one Hell of a job with the magazine, as is our new web master TJ on the website. And that former member’s county is now up and running again. Like I did with him, we HAVE to reach out to these “expired” members and tell them that THAT WAS THEN, and THIS IS NOW. We’ve lost so many members during that particular time of major screw ups that even if we just get back some of THEM, we’d be WAY better off than we are. So when ya talk to a former member, convince them that this is the NEW ABATE.
If YOU are not a current member and you’re just reading someone else’s magazine, join us and c’mon along for the ride. ‘Til next month…..
Adios muchachos and muchachas,