Breaking in a new motorcycle

Look online for how to break in a new motorcycle, and you will find more opinion on “the correct way” than you asked for. Of course, there is always the manufacturer’s instructions, which can be found in the owner’s manual. My best guess is that the engineers who designed it know the best method for proper break in.

So that’s the method I am following for my new Kawasaki KLR 650: keep it under 4,000 RPM for the first 500 miles, and then under 6,000 RPM up to 1,000 miles.

It requires some miles, and of course roads. Yesterday, I cruised out to the dealer, Clinton County Motorsports, just to say “hi.” And then, I managed to find a little gravel to test its stability. I was very pleased.


The more I ride this KLR 650, the more I like it. It’s going to be a great exploration vehicle.

See you on the highway.


Allan Karl begins his World Rider book tour

Round-the-world adventure rider Allan Karl kicked off his WorldRider book tour in Columbus, Ohio, recently. Speaking to several different groups, signing books and talking with patrons, Allan, delighted the crowds with tales of his adventures.


His book, Forks: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection, is unique in that it not only tells the stories of his travels, but also offers up recipes from the countries he visited in his three-year, five-continent motorcycle adventure. His plan is to offer a sampling of a recipe at each of his stops. In Columbus, with the help of one of the local restaurants in the North Market, he offered a Fattoush salad to the audience. The recipe comes from the Middle East.


Allan plans to visit many more cities in the USA in the coming months. Check his web site for a location near you. WorldRider.

See you on the highway.


Facebook vs. Helmet Time

Frankly, trying to make a decision while reading Facebook posts and comments is a terrible idea and could be a disastrous influence. For Facebook, not only wants to get in our minds, it was recently announced they were using posts and comments to influence emotions of users. Now, I’m all for social research, but that just doesn’t seem right. I have a better solution for decision making—helmet time.

Helmet time? Yes, helmet time. What is that you ask? Well, helmet time occurs during a motorcycle ride and the helmet does double duty as your “thinking cap.” It can be very productive, and it’s safe because you’re wearing the proper gear including a helmet. You won’t be answering the phone or texting. It’s just you, the road, and the thoughts in your head, and empty roads can be some of the most productive places.


For some time now, I have been struggling with my motorcycling efforts. I have wavered back and forth between selling what I have and buying a second bike. The bike at the top of that list is a new Kawasaki KLR 650. I’ve always wanted one.

Within the past couple of weeks, I have gone to the dealer to buy one. The first time I went, the one sitting on the floor had just been sold. The second time I started out, I was riding the V-Strom, and the farther I rode on this fine motor bike, the more I questioned why I would want anything else. I even had a check in my billfold. That’s how close it was. I never arrived at the dealer. Of course, I shared this with my wife, and she suggested I wait a week or so to see if it’s really what I want to do—buy another bike. It’s been two weeks, and I have been perusing through all the KLR 650 Riders Group posts, photos and comments on Facebook.

This morning, I put a fresh blank check in my billfold, and headed up the highway on my trusty V-Strom towards the dealer. The smoothness of the bike, the effortless pull of the engine, the knowledge that this bike truly gets 60+ miles-per-gallon. It has taken me everywhere I wanted to go—without issues and without worry about whether or not it will get me home.

Eastward I ride, thinking about this motorcycle and how it meets all my needs, and the “thinking cap” starts its process … again. My conclusion—again—why would I want to ride anything else. Where would another motor bike take me that this one can’t?

Just east of Morrow, Ohio, on Route 22/3, I reach the intersection of SR 123. To continue towards the dealer is straight ahead…. I turn south to follow more twisty roads before turning back towards home.

I put the blank check back in the checkbook, and I pull up my Facebook account to delete one or two motorcycle groups that were wasting my time and my more important helmet time.

See you on the highway.


SideStand Up: the end of an era

Recently, I participated in the chat room and listened to the last episode of an online radio program/podcast of “the world’s largest motorcycle podcast,” SideStand Up, hosted by Tom Lowdermilk. It was a sad moment, but also one of accolades and congratulations, for Tom and his crew were ending on a high note.

Sad because it has come to an end, and all the friends made will no longer have a place to meet, listen and learn. Joyous, because it has been a great ride.

Tom has provided a valuable service to the motorcycling community by addressing current issues as well as interviewing travelers. Keeping up on industry trends, association activities, and the exploits of motorcycle travelers around the world. Last night, it became very apparent that SideStand Up is a global program, as people called in from Australia and South Africa. Yes, global.

Is there anything out there now or on the horizon that will fill the gap? I can’t think of any. There are a few motorcycle podcasts out there, but nothing that compares to Side Stand Up.

The regular hour and a half program lasted more than three hours—three hours of conversations, most memorable moments, hilarious stories, and of course best wishes for the host and founder, Tom Lowdermilk. Clearly, it was an emotional evening for Tom. I got my chance to add my kudos when at the end of the program, Tom asked listeners to dial in and talk. So, I did.

The next day, I had travel plans to drive to Illinois, and I managed to arrange a quick stop in Indianapolis to give Tom a big hug and wish him well. Reminiscing about the previous evening, he was still trying to hold it all together.


I asked Tom for two things: a photo and a quick comment. He said, with a little waver in his voice, “It was a wonderful six years. It was the best. Some of the best years of my life.”

Thank you, Tom. You did good. And, we are all the better for it.

See you on the highway.


You can download the final episode from iTunes here: Side Stand Up, Episode 930.


Helmets, helmets and old helmets


Some riders have two, three, four or more motorcycles in the garage. I have one. But, I have four helmets in the closet. Two of them get used regularly. I decided recently to take the oldest one for a spin, and it re-opened my eyes to a different view.

I bought that open-face helmet in 2004 when I bought my 2004 Honda Shadow Spirit VT1100. Black bike. Black helmet. I even wore a black leather jacket and rode in black cowboy boots. Even though I was wearing a helmet, I looked the part of a biker. I bought a red/black rain suit to repel a little rain.

Good rain gear and apparel, along with waterproof bags, keeps everything dry.

Eventually, I decided that black was not the color to enhance being seen by drivers. And, that open-face helmet was not the best one for riding in the rain. I started to upgrade my gear about the same time I started looking for an adventure bike. At the time, I was writing a few stories for a motorcycle travel magazine, and it never failed. I’d get out there on my tour, and I would end up on a gravel road or riding in the rain. Every ride. I learned that long distance rides in the rain an open-face helmet is not the best choice. So, I upgraded my helmet and jacket before my next feature tour article. I was still riding in the rain, but better protected from the elements.

Intersection of Illinois SR 84 and US 20, east of Elizabeth.

Making the adjustment from an open-face to full-face helmet took a little doing. I like the breeze in my face, and often ride with the visor up. The new helmet provided a narrower view like looking through a port hole. It’s harder to see the full landscape with a full-face helmet, but I knew I was better protected, and decided to wear only the full-face. My old helmet started gathering dust in the closet.

In my search for riding gear that increased my visibility to other drivers, I finally purchased that adventure bike, a yellow V-Strom 650, and a new graphic helmet that lasted about 30,000 miles. The seal around the visor gave out, and so that was was replaced with a new graphic helmet, another HJC. I also upgraded my riding jacket to something brighter.


When the bug bit to buy another helmet, I decided to try a modular helmet. The modular is very nice. Flip it up, put it on, flip it back down before you start rolling. It’s easy on the glasses, and all of us who wear glasses know what a pain in the butt full-face helmets are if we’re wearing glasses.


It seems to me, that the visor on the modular has an even smaller portal on the world. It’s probably the design to accommodate the flip-up mechanism. There’s only so much space to work with.

These helmets have taken me safely to beautiful landscapes across the USA—the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the deserts of Arizona, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, crossing Puget Sound on the ferry to Seattle, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great River Road along the Mississippi River, the Natchez Trace, Tail of the Dragon, the Ohio River Scenic Byway, and the many small towns and farms dotted throughout the Midwest. All beautiful landscapes in their own right. All through the portal of a full-face helmet.

And that brings me to yesterday’s ride, when I decided to dust off that open-face helmet and take it for a ride. I have not worn it since I replaced it in 2006 with my first full-face helmet.  It’s a little worn after loaning it to my brother for a couple of years. The chin strap is frayed. The liner has never been washed because it’s not removable. The visor was replaced at some point, so it is not scratched—clear as … well, clear as glass. In all honesty, the helmet should probably be replaced. What is the life expectancy of a motorcycle helmet anyway?

As I slipped that black HJC CL-33 on my head, I found it to be remarkably lighter than the other helmets. My glasses were not an issue. Because there was no helmet protruding to protect my chin, the field of view was wide, so wide in fact, I could not see the edges of the helmet. It was like having an unimpeded view of the world around me and yet my head protected. Even with the visor down, it was a new view. It gave me permission to look at the landscape differently as I motored down the back roads near my home. I could look down at the map in my tank bag without having to shift my head down—there was nothing blocking my view. Peripheral vision was fantastic. Everything caught my eye, and I wanted to take it all in, breath in the magnificence of being part of and one with the environment.

Now, you may be wondering where I’m going with this. ‘Is he going back to an open-face helmet?’ ‘Is he going to get all religious on us?’The answer is no, but not 100% no. I am still going to tour with a full-face helmet, because its protection is so much better. Wearing the open-face in rain, water comes up under the visor and sprays my face and glasses—not good for a safe ride or tour. And about that religion, it is always a good thing to enjoy and share a spirit-filled ride, and who hasn’t felt some euphoria on a ride some time.

My point is this: Sometimes, we need to go back and review our decisions, to try old things on again. The one thing we all share in motorcycling is the open road, to be part of the environment and the landscape—something we can’t experience within the confines of a car or truck. Putting on that open-face helmet gave me a renewed, different view of the landscape and reminded me why I ride—to see the open road and smell the flowers, the fresh cut hay, the rain in the distance, and the sweetness of the pines as I roll by.

Take time to smell the flowers, and remember the reasons you bought that scoot. And one other thing: don’t forget to wear your helmet.

See you on the highway.


P.S. While I was out riding yesterday, I saw a guy on a Harley riding past me doing about 30-35 mph, no helmet, talking on his cell phone with his left hand up to his ear, and right hand on the throttle. Yup. I asked myself, “Is he using a smart phone?”