I met Carl (virtually) on a motorcycle forum. Think of him as your average, every day, mid-life motorcycle crazy. He agreed to answer my various questions. Lots of great thoughts about riding. He also has assembled one of the most impressive personal motorcycle sites you’ll ever find: loads of ride reports, maps, pictures, and more. Enjoy.
Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do, do you have family, that sort of thing.
Hmm, first off I’m a gamer. I’ve been playing War games, Role playing games, Board games, Computer games and such since I was a kid. I got in to Dungeons and Dragons in 1976, about the same time I started riding motorcycles.
I’m an official computer geek. I’ve been doing stuff with computers since 1979 or so when I was plunked in front of a computerized typesetter while in The Army. Within 6 months I was teaching the guy who had originally manned it for 2 years how to do neat stuff and eventually streamlined the process, saving money and increasing productivity.
Combining D&D and computers is what got me in to the field. I wrote a few programs to help me with gaming. Not the graphic stuff you see nowadays but more gaming aids. Character generation, monitoring, and stuff like that.
(It’s important, bear with me 🙂 )
When I left The Army, I rambled through a couple of jobs. Selling cars and working as a security guard. In both cases, I was also working on computer programs to help make the jobs easier. I created a salesman’s tutorial. You’d enter in data from brochures and it’d “flashcard” you to help you memorize facts. I created a security program so you could quickly look up vehicle information on folks approaching your post.
From there I started getting jobs as a programmer. First assisting a surveyor with their programs, then working on funeral home software, and even a small program for a local political party (don’t recall who but it was a simple survey type program).
From programming I got to PC installation and LAN configuration. Then I administered LANs. Then started Unix administration.
Now I’m a Team Lead and Senior Unix Administrator for Intrado. The servers I manage are part of the country’s emergency 911 infrastructure including the Amber Alert system. I only worked here for 4 months and was given a raise because of my valuable contributions to the servers.
I have two daughters from my first marriage. The older one is a computer geek just like dad and lives in Portland Or. The younger one stepped away from computers and lives with her husband in Fredericksburg Va.
I met Rita online. She was living in Denver and I was in Virginia. We chatted, exchanged e-mails, and then got together. I flew out to Denver to visit, we met again in Florida, and then she moved in with me. We got married on Halloween, 2000. She has a daughter, also in Virginia.
Do you remember your first bicycle? Is there a good story about it?
Oh yea. We were living in Chula Vista Ca. My first bicycle ride was short. I started going parallel with the curb, then swerved right to the opposite side of the street, wobbled around back to the other curb and ran straight into it going over the bars. My first highside 🙂
When did you first ride a motorcycle?
My uncle raced Bultaco’s and I lived with him and his family for a year. I was too chicken to get on the back of the bike because he was nuts, but was fascinated with it. He “gave” me a junker with “blown seals” (I had no idea what a blown seal was though). I sat on it but we never actually worked on the bike. When I rejoined my parents, I asked about a bike but they said “not in my house”.
After I got out of high school in 1976, I joined The Army. At my first post I wanted a bike. A friend of mine rode a Honda CB450/4 and offered to teach me how to ride. I don’t recall how we got my first bike to the abandoned barracks where Maurie was going to show me how to ride. He gave me some quick lessons on how to stay up and be safe.
After I got my license, I waved at him once and he gave me a piece of his mind on keeping both hands on the handlebars. I also attended the required post Defensive Driving Course taught by a Maryland State Motorcycle Police Officer. He did his best to scare the life out of all us riders with horrible pictures and stories.
What was the first bike you owned?
A Yamaha 250. After a couple of months, I was ready to buy my first brand new bike. I rode the Yamaha (which needed a tune up and was throwing a bunch of smoke) down to the dealer in Maryland and traded it for a Honda CB360T.
What do you own now?
2002 Suzuki Hayabusa
2001 Suzuki SV650S
1989 Honda TransAlp
1976 Honda CB750 (Chopper Project)
Wife has a 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 650 (I list it because I also ride it from time to time).
How many miles do you expect to ride this year?
Including commuting and all my bikes, maybe 20,000 miles.
How would you describe your involvement with motorcycling now?
Learning and trying to help newer folks with the answers I’ve received and learned over the past few years. Planning long rides to great areas in the country (ours and Canada). Learning how engines and motorcycles in particular work (I’m doing my own wrenching for most everything).
What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?
Initially it was my Uncle Rod. He raced Bultaco’s, lived in a big Addams Family type house and had a hippy type lifestyle. Initially it was just because it was fun and inexpensive. My friends were riding and I liked being part of a group.
Now I ride because it’s a lot of fun and challenging. I ride year round in all sorts of weather. I tour all over the US and Canada including places people think a sport bike shouldn’t be riding.
There are times when I’m a little wiped out at work or home and get on the bike and the cares of the world are whisked away with the breeze.
Did you have to make any sort of deal with your wife?
Not really. We did have some discussion but I think she thought I wasn’t going to actually do it. She said she was afraid that I’d turn into one of the stereotypical Harley riders she sees riding around. I told my first wife and this one that I’d been riding before I met them and I was going to ride. She responded by getting a largish sized life insurance policy on me
The funny part is that she says I’m surprisingly safe on the motorcycle.
Does she ride with you?
She does ride on her own bike. She’s somewhat short and doesn’t like sitting on the back of the bike. She also has a back condition so her feet have to be at a precise angle with her pelvis and bouncing around on the back of the bike doesn’t really help. That’s the reason she started riding her own bike.
What do you think about when you ride?
When commuting, I’m generally either enjoying the view; the sun rising behind me and highlighting the Rockies can be awesome on some mornings, or trying to keep some yahoo from running me over while they’re yakking on their cell phone. Sometimes I’m thinking about work or an upcoming event or ride.
When touring, my mind generally swirls in work and home related stuff for a day or two, then it settles down in to looking around, checking the gas tank, enjoying the road and music, and all the stuff that goes along with touring.
This is perhaps an indelicate question, but how do you think about the ‘dangerous’ part about riding?
I’m very conscious of how risky it is to ride. I wear an Aerostich one piece textile suit or Alpinestars one piece leather suit (when on the track), full face helmet, gloves, and ankle high Harley Storm boots. I have a 132db air horn on the Hayabusa and use a headlight modulator. I read forums and dissect accident reports to see how I would have reacted in those situations. In general, my riding doesn’t fall into the majority of motorcycle accidents I’ve read about. I’m aware that one of the biggest problems is the inattentiveness of cagers and the inability of them to see bike riders. I have the headlight modulator and air horn to help with that. I pay particular attention when approaching danger zones such as where folks will turn left in front of you. I adjust lane position to be the most visible. Most of the time I make an effort to get out of traffic clumps so I’m not in a position of danger. In riding, I’m always scanning; looking at drivers, making sure I don’t sit in their blind spots if possible and being extra aware when I’m forced to. I always look around to see where the next problem might come from.
It sounds like I’m spending all my time alert for the slightest danger. But really all that takes a very small part of my riding thoughts. I’ve been surprised a few times, for example recently I was surprised when a driver who was slowing down in the left turn lane decided he didn’t want to be at that light and pulled back in to traffic. I was able to slow down without incident in part because I was paying attention. Even though it was a surprise, my constant scanning for trouble had me reacting quickly and out of danger before it was a problem.
I guess in general I’m just very aware and try not to worry about the risks involved. My wife says I’m very optimistic and act like it’ll all work out in the end 🙂
What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time? I’m thinking about the “mid-life” rider now?
TRAINING! Training training training training training.
Even if you’ve ridden a lot before, things change. When I started riding again (Harley Softail), I was surprised by the number of close calls just in the first 6 weeks and there were 2 or 3 incidents where if I wasn’t paying attention, I might not be here now. A friend who was riding pulled me aside and said that I was riding wrong, even though it was right when I stopped riding.
The Defensive Driving Class (required for riding on the Army Post) back in 1976 stressed staying to the left of the lane and away from the cars so you had time to react. But nowadays, cagers are even more distracted than they used to be and you need to be a little less defensive and a little more offensive. My friend pointed out that I should be riding in the right side of the lane, closest to the cage in the lane to the right. Because as long as you’re watching, the guy in front of you isn’t going to affect you. Same with the guy behind. I can’t tell you the number of times in riding that I’ve seen cars move over to the shoulder because of suddenly stopped traffic. If you’re on the left, that leaves you open to being hit. But the biggest danger is the inattentive cager to your right. Stay behind his rear bumper so he has a chance of seeing your headlight in his mirror and when you pass, pass aggressively.
Take the Basic Riders Course. Then the Experienced Riders Course. Then look in to some of the schools that are probably in your area. Here in Denver there’s a school that for $250 or so will take you to the next level in riding.
What bike would you recommend (and why)?
For a first bike, something small and light, so you can be confident and think about other things. And used. Even folks getting back in to riding should get a smaller used bike to start. There’s always someone behind you waiting for you to get familiar and when you’re comfortable, you can move up to a larger bike.
My wife decided to go with a Honda Shadow VLC when she started riding because of the seat height. It was her second bike. After wobbling around and even crashing it once, she moved to one of the larger scooters (Aprilia Atlantic) and eventually a Honda Metro. We attended a Sport-Touring.Net national meet in Colorado and one of the lady riders came down from Seattle on a Honda Interceptor (250cc). Rita started checking out the sport bike side of the house and found a Kawasaki Ninja on Craigslist. Even though the Ninja has a taller seat, it’s narrower so she could still flat foot and it’s light so she could concentrate on riding and not on trying to keep it up. In just one season on the 250cc Ninja, her confidence raised up significantly and now she’s on a Ninja 650 and sometimes I have to zip up to catch her
After that, it’s whatever fits your style of riding. I’ve ridden the Harley around the country and found my back didn’t like the seating position. I had the Goldwing and again, my back hated it. I rode around quite a bit on a GSXR750 and ride my SV650 and neither are really meant for any sort of distance. The best one for me has been the Hayabusa with Heli-bar risers. It’s been the most comfortable of the bikes I’ve ridden over the years. My back isn’t jarred by road bumps and with the risers, I’m not leaning on my wrists.
I’m not saying folks just getting back in to the game should get a Hayabusa or Ninja ZX14 but something that’s comfortable for you. For me it took a few bikes before I found it.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?
Last year my wife talked me out of taking the Hayabusa up to Alaska by letting me get the SV650. I bought it with the intention of doing some track riding. I’ve been learning how to ride better on the Hayabusa and getting more speed out of corners with more stability and control (I’d read the Total Control book). I tried taking it to the track but for the smaller track that’s available to me here in Denver (a go cart track really), the Hayabusa was a tad heavy. The first time I took the SV650 on the track, I got my knee down all the way around the track. Not only was I excited about it, a friend from the local group was there taking pictures and he got several so I have nice memories as well.
If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?
There are just so many great places to ride, it’s hard to really pick a good single destination. And experience would depend on what you are excited about. Some places I’ve been since I got back on two wheels:
- Jasper/Banff National Park in Canada
- Labrador Canada
- Apache Highway in Arizona
- Rt 44 in West Virginia
- Mt. Washington and Mt. St Helens in Washington
- Coast Highway, north of San Francisco
- Rt 149 in Western Colorado
- Peak to Peak Highway in Colorado
- Glacier National Park in Montana
Basically just explore. Break out your map book and go ride.
If someone handed you a blank check and said “go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?
I like my Hayabusa. At the moment, I’d just get another one. When I told my wife I was approaching 68,000 miles on the ‘busa, she said “well, it’s about time for another bike then.” I told her that instead, I’d rather refurbish the Hayabusa and maybe put in a “stage one kit”. Something to soup it up just a little.
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Tags: Bultaco, Yamaha, Kawasaki Ninja 650, AlpineStars, Aerostich, first motorcycle, sport-touring.net, Hayabusa, Jasper, Banff, Apache Highway, Rt 44, Coast Highqay, Rt 149