It’s strange to realize there’s a beautiful forest right in our backyard here in Los Angeles, but it’s there. Thanks to Angeles Crest Highway, anyone can enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful views in the heart of the Angeles National Forest. It’s also a legendary road for motorcycle riders thanks to its snaking mountain curves and Newcomb’s Ranch, the mile-high biker-friendly restaurant/hang out in the midst of the pines. A huge portion of our forest was tragically destroyed in last autumn’s devastating Station Fire, closing Angeles Crest Highway for months and turning vast wooded areas into empty dirt. The road was reopened on November 30, 2009 but the forest is not the same.
Kawasaki has issued a recall on the 2009-2010 Ninja 250R, though only 250 units are actually affected. If you’ve bought one of these wonderful bikes, the best sport starter bike around in my opinion, huff it on down to your local Kawasaki dealer to have it checked out. The odds are very slim yours is one of the 250 (they probably sell well over 10,000 of these a year in the U.S.), but have them take a look anyway. Here’s a summary of the issue from the NHTSA web site:
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 09V464000
KAWASAKI IS RECALLING MODEL YEAR 2009-2010 EX250 NINJA 250 MOTORCYCLES. POROSITY IN THE ENGINE CASE COULD ALLOW ENGINE OIL TO LEAK, AND BE DEPOSITED ON THE REAR TIRE. A SMALL NUMBER OF UPPER ENGINE CASES FOR THE AFFECTED MODEL COULD HAVE POROSITY IN THE ALUMINUM CASTING. THIS POROSITY OCCURS IN THE VICINITY OF A PRESSURIZED OIL PASSAGE JUST ABOVE THE TRANSMISSION OUTPUT SHAFT.
ENGINE OIL LEAKING FROM THIS LOCATION CAN BE DEPOSITED ON THE REAR TIRE, CREATING THE RISK OF A CRASH.
DEALERS WILL INSPECT AND CHECK FOR LEAKS IN THE VICINITY OF THE SUSPECTED POROSITY. UNITS EVIDENCING SIGNS OF LEAKAGE WILL BE REPAIRED FREE OF CHARGE. THE SAFETY RECALL IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN ON OR ABOUT DECEMBER 8, 2009. OWNERS MAY CONTACT KAWASAKI AT 1-866-802-9381.
OWNERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION’S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), OR GO TO HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV .
The NTSA campaign ID number is 09V464000 in case you wanted to click the link and check for yourself. If you’re worried about Kawasaki’s quality, don’t be. A good manufacturer will have high traceability on everything they make. If they’re able to narrow this down to 250 or so specific bikes, that’s pretty damn good and means they’ve got decent quality assurance procedures in place to be able to trace issues like this. Of course this doesn’t excuse whatever happened to create the issue in the first place. It could have been anything from a bad batch of raw material to a procedural mistake, but the fact that they’re able to go back and narrow this down to a specific lot of 250 bikes is a good sign.
It’s been almost 30 years since Hurt’s research report on motorcycle accidents was published. Sadly, it’s the only definitive study of its kind. To say Hurt’s work benefitted us all is an understatement. You can read more about him and his report here:
The Hurt Report itself:
I notice a lot of new riders don’t wear gloves… and I cringe. If you think about everything your hands do for you and how different your life would be if they didn’t work right, it’s best to spend a little dough and protect them while you’re riding. I’m not quite the gear hoarder that some of my friends are so I can’t possibly review every glove out there, but I have used a few gloves the past few years that are still currently available: Joe Rocket GPX 2.0, Joe Rocket Speedmaster 7 and Icon TiMax (original). I thought I’d pass on some information about them in case you happened to be considering these particular gloves for purchase.
This is an updated post of my original Shoei X11 review back in April of 2006. I’m reposting it because Shoei recently released the X11’s successor, the X12, and right now you can get an X11 for a pretty good price. Well, a relatively good price anyway as this was Shoei’s top of the line helmet. Anyway, here’s the review.
*Update: our 2011 list is up! https://www.startriding.com/?p=769
The 2010 bikes are starting to roll in and it’s time to look at which ones might be better suited for those of you looking to get started. First things first though, I always recommend getting a used bike for your first one. Most new riders inevitably make mistakes and drop their bikes in parking lots or driveways; best to get this out of the way on a used bike instead of a shiny brand new one. Besides, used bikes are cheaper and can be resold for almost the same price when you’re ready to upgrade. For those of you who aren’t going to listen to my sage advice though, on to the new stuff.
Harley-Davidson has officially pulled the plug on Buell, ending operations for the only major American manufacturer of sportbikes. Erik Buell worked in R&D at Harley-Davidson many moons ago, then left to develop his own bikes. Eventually Harley-Davidson purchased a majority stake in Buell which is how we arrived at today’s announcement.
One of the best things you can do with your sportbike is take it to the local racetrack for a track day and open that sucker up. Once you’re out there flying down the straights and carving corners without cops, cliffs or SUVs to worry about, you’ll be hooked.
It sounds like a hassle to actually make it out to the track; I certainly thought so even by the time I bought my second bike. The good news is that it’s really not that difficult. It certainly takes some effort, but I had so much fun my first time out that the effort hasn’t mattered that much. Let’s take a look at what it takes.
Look at the back of most full-face helmets sold in the U.S. today and you’re likely to see a SNELL logo sticker. It means the helmet meets or exceeds the Snell Memorial Foundation’s standards for motorcycle helmets. Here’s a snippet from their (terribly outdated) web site, www.smf.org:
In order to continuously monitor the quality of helmets being sold to the public, Snell purchases and tests samples of currently certified helmets from the marketplace. These helmets are tested only in Snell labs by Snell technicians. Should a currently certified helmet fail, the helmet manufacturer must take corrective action to Snell’s satisfaction.
In other words, if you make a helmet and want to have that Snell logo on the back so you can tell potential buyers that your helmet is Snell certified (and presumably safer than one that isn’t), your helmet has to pass Snell’s tests. In the American motorcycling community, seeing the Snell logo on the back of a helmet is generally accepted as a good thing.
I went to The Streets of Willow Springs for a track day yesterday, a twisty 1.8 mile road course at the Willow Springs Raceway complex. For those of you new to the concept, a track day is chance to spend a day at the race track with your motorcycle. It’s not a race though, just open track time so you can test your skills and do some speeding without getting a ticket or having to worry about SUVs crossing over into your lane.
I’m going to post a track day starter guide later for those of you thinking about testing your road racing skills; in the meantime here are some pictures from yesterday. The first one is me; the rest are pictures I took of some of the “A group” (fast) riders. Note how some of them position their upper bodies differently; I’ll make a note on that in my track day starter guide.