Martin Luther King Day Ride

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Martin Luther King Day 2015

Took the bike out for a ride to Alice’s Restaurant at the famous Four Corners where Route 35 and Highway 9 cross in Woodside, California. It’s been about 3 months since riding Gwen, my 2009 Triumph Street Triple. My job has been too taxing and busy and the holidays too fatiguing for enough weekend energy for a leisurely ride. Today is Martin Luther King Day — and the third day of a long weekend.

Alice's Restaurant on Skyline Blvd., Woodside, CA, not the same as the Arlo Guthrie song.
Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Blvd., Woodside, CA, not the same as the Arlo Guthrie song.

Motorcycling with sane precaution takes a lot of preparation. It’s not like having a car in which you can keep a bottle of water, have a snack, put on or take off sunglasses, or turn on the heat if it’s cold. Riding on a highway, a rider must expect the air to feel 10 to 20 degrees colder than the actual temperature. If it’s beautiful at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, a rider at least needs a jacket — unless he is a reptile.

Today, the temperature is in the 50s. When I left San Francisco, it was 52. With a wool tank for a base layer, a long-sleeve thermal, a cashmere cardigan zipped up to my chin, and a leather jacket also zipped up and buttoned all the way, I started getting frozen fingers after being on the road for 40 minutes. Part of the cold came from riding through fog along Skyline Blvd. Now it’s 57. Blue sky has started to stamp through the layer of floating moisture above.

As usual, riding is dangerous. Gwen needed 5 PSI of air in the front tire and a couple in the back. On a pot-holed street at 25 miles per hour, the bike bounced like a ball. After a fillup, we were on the road.

Gwen is a good-looking bike. Probably the prettiest I’ve ever ridden. Because of this, I’m more afraid of lying her down (crashing) than any other bike I’ve had. I took the turns of Skyline Boulevard rather slow, like a car.

If you’ve never operated a motorcycle, and you’re driving behind or ahead of one in a car, it’s good to understand how a safe motorcyclist might ride.

A moving motorcycle can not slow down in the middle of turn. Doing so would cause the bike to lose traction, skid, and possibly crash. It can only slow down while traveling with its wheels inline. The bike will slow down, maybe brake before a curve.

A moving motorcycle can accelerate while on a curve. In my opinion, this is the most fun part of riding on twisties (tight curves, like 10- to 25-mph curves). Because of this, you might see a motorcyclist slow down a lot before a curve, especially if there are vehicles in front of him, so that he can accelerate through the curve without rear-ending the vehicle in front.

At Alice’s, I had hot chocolate, a bowl of chili, some pleasant conversation with a couple other motorcyclists, and a mug of tea. Wrote a few paragraphs of this blog, and then hit the road.

Riding is much better and more fun on a full stomach.

I took La Honda Road toward the Pacific Ocean. The curves on them were much easier to ride than Skyline where it was impossible in some places to see how far the curve went. But on La Honda Road, the trees were more sparse with no raised berms or embankments blocking the view of the curves.

A good motorcyclist while riding on curves will look ahead as far as possible on a curve. This enables him to know how much he needs to lean. Unlike an automobile with front wheels that turn in order to make it curve, a motorcycle’s wheels stay in line. If a motorcycle’s front wheel turns while it travels at speed on the road, it will lose traction, skid, and possibly crash. To give a motorcycle as much traction as possible and keep it upright, its rider must lean his body in the direction of the curve while pressing the handlebars to keep the wheels inline. Another reason for seeing ahead is to avoid hazards such as animals vehicles pulling out from driveways, or slowed or stopped vehicles. In order to slow down while on a curve, a motorcyclist must get his bike upright and tracking as straight as possible so that he doesn’t lose traction, skid, and crash. This might mean heading off the road if the road is congested and he is going too fast.

A four-wheeled vehicle can slow down while on a curve. A motorcycle CAN NOT.

While on La Honda Road, I got my bike legs back and took the curves faster, about 8 to 10 mph faster than the yellow recommended speed signs.

It was a good Martin Luther King weekend. It started with watching Malcolm X, and ended with a trip to Alice’s Restaurant, where there is always a cool crowd of people from all different backgrounds. That’s another great thing about motorcycling — it unites people.

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