Recycling oil and filter is a no-brainer

There was a time before recycling went mainstream when people would dig a hole in their backyards and throw just about anything in it.

Got some old insulation you can’t use? Bury it. Old lead-based paint? Bury that, too. Used motor oil? Dump it on the ground.
A back yard wasn’t particularly necessary. I can remember the scene outside the local auto parts store when I was a kid. Grown men drained motor oil in landscaping planters. Used filters were strewn about the parking lot.
Flash-forward a few decades and such behavior is almost unheard of. It’s getting better because of widespread awareness that dumping – whether it’s an old couch or used car batteries – is bad for the earth.
Nowadays, places like auto parts stores and quick-oil-change businesses are helping out by collecting used motor oil at no charge.
At least that’s what I was told by the folks at They are all about educating motorcycle riders about correct ways to dispose of oil and filters. Since many of us do our own mechanical work, they want us to known our options.
I decided to test the system. I took a gallon jug of used oil and an old filter down to my local Pennzoil quick lube place to see if they’d take it. Guess what? They did. First, they told me to drive around the side of building. Then an employee came out and asked for my zip code. I gave it to him and he grabbed the jug. He was just about to walk off when I reminded him about my filter. He took that, too. No problemo.
Overall, it was a hassle-free experience. I’d recommend it to anyone. For more information about oil recycling, check out the links at

Who needs Viagra when you have a motorcycle?

Can’t say I’ve ever experienced a two-year erection from any of the three BMWs I’ve owned.
For me, riding such sensible German machines has always had about the same loin-stirring effect as a kiss from my grandmother. And she’s been dead for 15 years.

Boring boxer or ...

But the unflagging condition is exactly the claim by a California man who is suing BMW of USA and aftermarket seat makers, Corbin-Pacific, in San Francisco Superior Court.
The plaintiff maintains he’s suffered a constant erection since a 2010 road trip on a bike equipped with the special seat. Ridges designed for comfort instead led to the hardship that has made getting dressed and going to the bathroom a problem, his lawyer said in published reports.
The science behind what’s termed by doctors as a “severe priapism” is clear – blood gets trapped in the penis from prolonged contact with the seat, rendering it unable to return to its flaccid state.
But metaphorically speaking, it seems odd that it would happen on a BMW. BMW riders are more likely to fall asleep or die of old age than spring into a posture of masculine readiness.
When I think of bikes with strong arousal factor, my thoughts usually turn to more manly mounts. Maybe a Harley or a stripped-down racing machine. Ducati, for example, sells a bike called a “testaretta,” which, if I’m not mistaken, refers to some anatomical part that is red.

... terrible triple?

My own experience with groin-stiffening machines is limited but distinct. I’ve ridden Harleys and Ducatis and owned so-called “hooligan” bikes – Triumph’s Speed Triple and Kawasaki’s ZRX1200r.
Looking back, I’d have to say my “chubbiest” moments came on the Triumph. I stared at the sleek, black, bug-eyed machine for hours the day it arrived from the shippers. Its three-cylinder engine had an unmistakable growl that made my heart race.
But love is fleeting. One morning during a triple-digit run down the freeway, the Trumpet choked on the tip of spark plug and came to a grinding halt. It survived major surgery but the majority of my bank account didn’t.
My feelings waned after that. A guy from Sacramento offered a trade for his cobalt-blue BMW and I took it. I remember the look in his eye when he fired it up and drove off. Major wood.
I was happy with the deal, too. As I rode home on my well-engineered, if not boring, BMW, I took comfort in knowing this bike would never leave me stranded. I could take it cross-country tomorrow. It had smart features like locking bags and a saddle that didn’t make your butt numb after 50 miles.
And suddenly, I felt a tensing down below.

Happy hands and the open road

There are a lot of things that bug me about my fellow motorcycle riders.
One thing that really gets under my skin is the practice of greeting other riders on the road with the stupid little two-fingered wave.
It’s not that I’m antisocial or afraid to take my hands off the bars. It just seems insincere. And lame. Why don’t we wave to cars, for instance? Don’t most of us drive cars, too?

Sign of my times

And everyone knows you don’t wave to every person on a bike. If you’re like most people you’re selective. You wave to people in your “tribe.” Harley riders wave only to Harley riders. All others confine their greetings to non-Harley riders.
Then there are people (like me) who don’t want to wave but feel obligated. I feel guilty when someone waves at me and I blow them off, which I do sometimes.
So here’s an idea, one that’s been said by others before me: stop waving. Don’t do it. No mas.
Let’s save our mutual admiration for the cantina down the road where we’ll buy each other beers.
That said, there are some meaningful hand signals that we all should continue to do, especially when riding in groups. You see a road hazard, you point it out for the rider behind you with a hand or foot. Speed trap ahead? Slap the top of your helmet to warn oncoming riders. Turn signal left on? Open and close your fist to the person.
And there are many others. Perhaps one of the oldest and most expressive signal is one I’ve been using since junior high. Piss me off enough and I’ll show it to you.
Or, you can check out this website, which has a great guide to hand signals. Here’s the link:

Married with a motorcycle on the side

My wife isn’t what you would call a huge motorcycle fan.
She doesn’t enjoy riding. And she’s not crazy about the fact that I do.
It’s not a matter of fear or safety. Sometimes I get the feeling she’d like to see me crash. Just a little. Something to teach me a lesson. Maybe leave a small scar.
No, her issue is one of money. Bikes are expensive. Every dollar spent on parts or gear is one less dollar to throw at our bills. Or a Hawaiian vacation.

Warning: Threesomes not conducive to marriage

Because I want to stay married, I don’t push it. And when it comes to owning bikes, I buy used and stick to just one.
It’s a bit of a problem because it is so hard to find a bike that’s good for everything. Dual sports will always come up short on the street, crotch rockets aren’t comfortable for long distances and cruisers are boring. Sport-touring bikes seem a logical middle-ground but I’ve found they don’t quite satisfy either.
My wife, meanwhile, is not the least bit sympathetic to this conundrum.
And she’s not alone in her indifference. Fellow riders are constantly grousing about their inability to spend freely. To achieve the Ducati-BMW-Harley trifecta.
Of course, many spend money secretly. And the all time champion of such deceit is a riding buddy I’ll call Tom.
Tom, a painting contractor, developed a small fetish for Buell motorcycles when the
manufacturer announced it was ceasing production.
At a dealer close-out sale one sunny afternoon, Tom wrote a check for not one but three Buells, putting a more than $30,000 dent in his bank account with a quick stroke of a pen.
For some reason it didn’t occur to him that his wife would soon be wielding her own pen over a stack of divorce papers. As a stop-gap measure, he had the bikes delivered to a rented storage unit until he could figure out how to break it to her.
But instead of coming clean, he just … kept the bikes at the storage unit. Forever. Whenever he wanted to ride, he would make up an excuse and head for his bike pad. Kind of like he was having an affair.
Maybe that’s what we’re all doing in some small way.

How not to buy a used motorcycle

It sounds too good to be true — and it is.
The description of the nifty sport-touring bike hits all the right notes: One-owner, garage-kept, low miles and dirt cheap.

One man's garage queen ...

My heart leaps as I guide my cursor to the tiny pictures on Craigslist and scan the posting for a phone number.
It’s perfect. Just what I am looking for. And it’s only an hour’s drive away.
So I call. Get the dude’s voicemail. Leave a message. Is it too early on a Sunday morning? Nah.
I settle in to wait for his return call. But after staring at my cell phone for five minutes, I jump in the car and head in his direction. He’ll call me while I’m on the road and I’ll get first dibs on the fine machine.
Sure enough, my phone rings a half-hour later and it’s the dude. He’s willing to show the bike right away. Sweet!
I ask a few quick questions, scrawl an address on a piece of paper and hang up the phone.
I’m feeling very good about this. And before you know it I’m at the exit.
That’s when the fun starts. The neighborhood is dicey and dude’s house is no different. A couple of slammed Civics and a ridiculous monster truck are out front. There’s an empty bottle of malt liquor in the gutter. I knock on the door and dogs bark.
Could a decent bike come from this?
The dude appears. He’s about 20. He says, “Hello sir. The bike’s over here.”
He lifts a tarp and there it is. It’s hard to recognize as the same bike in the pictures. But it is the correct make and model.
Close inspection reveals the bike’s got several major oil leaks, bald tires and lots of little scratches and dents – the kind that don’t show up in pictures. The exhaust looks modified and the rear fender looks like it was cut off with a hack saw. The license plate is mounted vertically, under the fender well.
Within 60 seconds I’m ready to leave. I don’t even want to hear it run, much less test ride it.
The dude is talking, though, and I don’t want to be rude. He’s explaining a special modification that increased the horsepower. Something about a dyno test.
“This thing is faassst,” he says with a knowing smile.
I act impressed, nod approvingly when he fires it up and then … say good-bye.
“I’ll call you.”
Of course, I’m lying and I feel a twinge of guilt as I put him in my rearview mirror.
But more than anything I’m kicking myself for my impulsiveness. I didn’t ask enough questions up front and violated my own used-bike buying rules. Insist on pictures. Ask about maintenance records. Never, never buy from young, wannabe-racers. And try to stick to bikes in fancy-schmancy neighborhoods.
As I drive home I think of these things. I’m going to get this right.

Test-riding a midlife crisis

I thought I wanted a Harley. But two things happened.

First, I saw the price tag for used bikes. The going rate for a late model Road King in the Bay Area is upwards of $12,000. At that price you’ll get something that’s 7-10 years old with no less 20,000 miles on it.

$13,000 fixer-upper?

It’s a hard reality borne out on in weeks of Craigslist research. There are a few “bargain” Road Kings to be had for as low as $7,500 but you get the impression they’re tired machines that have hauled one too many fat men on one too many poker runs.

It gave me pause, especially considering the relatively short lifespan of a Harley.

Still, I was not deterred in my pursuit of the mighty Hog until one other thing happened.

I rode one. Or three, actually.

Salesmen at two local dealerships were kind enough to hand me the keys to three bikes: a 2002 with 25,000 miles for $9,000 and two ’05 Road Kings – one with 35,000 miles and the other with 64,000 miles — for about $13,000 apiece.

My impressions were not good. Coming off a BMW, it was immediately apparent that these bikes are not built well. It seems Harley uses cheap materials and things don’t fit right. Cables aren’t routed well and sheet metal seems tinny. Function is an afterthought.

Certain American cars of the 1980s come to mind.

Riding a Road King is no less a disappointment.

The 2002 rattled and coughed as I wrung it out on a country road. I instantly ran up against bike’s rev limiter. And I wasn’t going much over 60. The newer bikes were slightly better but they too seemed clunky and slow. The one with the lowering kit scraped its running boards in the parking lot.


I voiced my concerns to the affable salesman, who nodded as if he’d heard it before.

“True, true,” he said. “But you gotta remember, you’re not just buying a bike here. You’re buying a lifestyle.”

As he spoke, an elderly couple in leather chaps and vests strolled by. They started talking to another guy wearing a black Harley T-shirt.

I’m not looking for a new lifestyle, I thought. I’m looking to ride. And you know what? A Harley just won’t do.

Taking the Harley leap

The big decision is upon me. Should I buy a Harley and abandon a lifelong allegiance to bikes that go fast, handle and run well? Or do I plunk down my dough on more of the same?

It’s a choice I never thought I’d consider until recently. But it’s one I’m facing nonetheless.

For most of my riding life I’ve felt secure in the knowledge that sport bikes of Japanese or European manufacture were superior to the classic American cruiser. They represented a style that suited my quest for speed and dependability while setting me apart from the leather vest-and-black-T-shirt crowd.

My future?

But after more than three decades of riding the “right” bikes, my thinking changed. It’s hard to pinpoint when it happened. Maybe it was last fall when I was hunched over the tank of my BMW on a lonesome back road in the Arizona desert. Or it could have been more recently when a birthday sent me squarely into middle age.

I don’t know, but suddenly a Harley sounds pretty good to me.

Sure, it’ll be slow and unreliable and scrape its running boards around every turn. I won’t be able to keep up with the crotch-rocket set. Hell, they won’t even ride with me. They’re dis-owning me as we speak.

But I don’t care. I’ll be riding in comfort. I’ll be in Hog heaven.

Still, I have doubts. The prospect of owning a rolling boat anchor with about half the horsepower of my usual bikes gives me pause. Then there are the neighbors. Will they complain about all he noise?

Perhaps the biggest concern is that I’ll become like all the other Harley people. That I’ll start wearing Harley logo clothing and doff my full-coverage helmet for something out of Hogan’s Heros. Maybe I’ll sport a leather-billed cap and develop a fondness for chaps.

Well, I hope not. Then again, stranger things have happened.

FRTHO: Moving beyond LOL and LMAO

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I’m posting a link to the Taoist Biker’s glossary, which reveals, among other things, new ways to be profane without offending your grandmother. I especially like his no-nonsense definitions of common expletives and his unwavering allegiance to southern universities.

Click here and have yourself a chuckle:

Riding the corkscrew in my back yard

I have the good fortune to live between two race tracks.

One’s the real thing with bleachers, paid admission and corporate sponsors jockeying to rename the place, seemingly on a weekly basis.

The other doesn’t have the high-profile or the big-money backers. It’s not even a real track. It’s a two-lane blacktop.
But Skaggs Springs-Stewart’s Point Road, or just Skaggs, as the locals call it, is the place many prefer.

The winding ribbon of asphalt stretching about 35 miles from Lake Sonoma to Highway 1 is the perfect spot to drag a knee or pin the throttle on a long straight. Its sweeping turns, elevation changes and noticeable lack of cars have helped it achieve a cult following.

Regulars congregate at the bridge

Much of Skaggs is a lonesome back road that narrows as you get near the coast. It’s slow-going and rough in places. You get the feeling the county road crew hasn’t been out there in a while.

But the first 10 miles is wonderful, track-quality stuff. People come from all over the Bay Area and beyond to ride it. YouTube videos are plentiful and the road is mentioned on riders’ forums everywhere. Comparisons to professional tracks abound.

Always wanted to ride Laguna Seca? Here you go.

On weekends, sport-riders in full leathers gather at the bridge at the 10-mile point. They swap stories about crashes or close-calls with cops while puffing cigarettes and swigging sports drinks. Their bikes cool in the shade next to a guard rail plastered with motorcycle stickers.

Many ride back and forth in a continuous loop, the roar from their engines echoing through the hills. Others are just passing through on their way to other adventures.

It’s beautiful country. When you’re not going 80 you might even see a bit of it. On the other hand, taking your eyes of the road for even a second can be foolish. Everyone in this crowd seems to know someone who’s been maimed — or worse.

Still, no one is wishing they were some place else, like Infineon or Sears Point or whatever it’s called. Who needs a real track when you have all this?

The beautiful thing that is lane splitting

I’m an addict. I admit it. There’s nothing I can do.

I’m hooked on lane splitting, the grin-inducing and perfectly legal maneuver that allows me to escape my otherwise grid-locked existence.

Ex-squeeze me!

The fun is two-fold. First, I can avoid traffic jams and the misery that comes with breathing car exhaust and melted plastic fairings.

More importantly, I get to whiz by everyone else in a high-speed slalom that is part down-hill skiing, part Indy 500.

It’s always just a bit scary when you’re sneaking up behind a car, poised to shoot the gap. There’s the possibility that a driver might change lanes suddenly or slam on the brakes.

And some cars are harder than others to get around. The Ford F-250 pickup with its hyper-extended mirrors is my least favorite vehicle to come across. And for some reason, hybrid drivers appear to be somewhat unpredictable.

But I’ve had no incidents so far, knock on wood, except, of course, for a ticket for going too fast between cars. The CHP officer who wrote me up said a bike is not permitted to go 10 mph faster than traffic when lane splitting.

Yeah, right.

I guess I’m just fortunate that it is allowed at all. California is one of the few states to permit it.

Anyway, here are a few tips and observations for successful lane splitting:
1. The ideal time to do it is when two cars are side-by-side. That way they can’t change lanes.
2. Be smooth. Don’t swing out wide before and after passing cars.
3. Pass cars quickly and before they notice you, if possible. It leaves less time for nervous drivers to hit the brakes or swerve.
4. Watch for sudden lane-changers in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
5. Be nice. Don’t act like you’re entitled. Drivers are watching you and they’re bigger than you.