End of the 2012 Riding Season; Many Changes!

Ok.  No suspense.  I traded the V7 Classic for another bike.  Last July I took her in for a 24,000 mile service to the local Dealer — TT Motorcycles – and told them to add change the tires and fix anything that they might find.  TTM is a small, family-run operation.  You wait for them to get to you, as everyone gets individual service and there are only so many bodies in the store.  Could it be more efficient?  Yes.  Would it lose some of its charm in the process?  Yes.  Be patient.

While I was there, I walked around the showroom.  They had a lot of bikes — many favorites.  A 1200 Sport.  Nice Monsters.  A Tuono.  Griso… There it was…

A killer little 2008 Orange Aprilia Shiver with 1800 miles on the clock.  I threw a leg over it.  hmmm.  fits… so nice….   I got off, and asked about the bike.  It was a one-owner, with actual miles, bone stock.  19 months left on the factory warranty.

I signed the work order and left the store.  The bike kept talking to me…  I no longer had that beastly commute on weekends between Chicago and Detroit as I had now moved to the area.  My commute was from Grosse Pointe to Farmington Hills, as I had begun consulting at Mercedes Benz Financial Services; a 70 mile round trip.  The Guzzi had 24,000 miles and was out of warranty.  the Aprilia had 1800…  The Aprilia had 77 horsepower….

It just gnawed on me for days.  I went back to the shop to see how things were going.  It was mid July and the shop was jammed with bikes in for work.  I hadn’t ridden in a week except for the Parilla, which was hardly a commuter bike for a 65-mile round trip.  I asked, casually, about the Aprilia.  He gave me the details.  I said that it was interesting, and “I wonder what the out-the-door” difference would be in trade for my bike.  He got diverted and we decided to talk later.

TT had my bike for 10 days.  I pressed.  He gave me a number.  I shot back, and we got close.  I saw a Suomy “Tattoo” Helmet that looked cool.  He said he would throw it in.

Deal.

My new Aprilia Shiver

My new Aprilia Shiver

So for very little money, I had a virtually new bike with warranty and a $500 helmet for a 24,000 mile bike.  And I’m back on the road.

me_helmet

…For three weeks.  I had just gotten back from the Mods vs Rockers Show in Cleveland where I had ridden the Parilla (and won Best European bike).  The show was held during an unbelievably warm spell there, and I found out that the little Parilla really likes to be run hard;  not go with too much stop-and-go traffic (I was riding with the mods).

I finally waved them off and met them at the location, with a quick blast around the beltways.  This show is on my list.  Great town. Really great people.

Parilla 250 GS Replica

Parilla 250 GS Replica

Upon my return, I continued commuting on the Shiver. All of a sudden I get the dreaded “Service” light, familiar to early Aprilia Shiver riders.  I checked the Aprilia forums, and it seems that this is a “rite of passage” for ownership of the earlier bikes.  Since it was under warranty, I dropped the bike off in hopes that it would be a small fix.

It wasn’t a small fix, but it was a “free” fix.  The boys at TT Motorcycles actually arranged a conference call with the Factory, TWICE, and they took voltage readings across the throttle settings.  Turns out the throttle bodies were bad, and they replaced everything within two weeks.  I think the amazing part of this story is how Piaggio has gotten its act together over the last 4-5 years and streamlined the ability to deliver parts to the customers in a reasonable time, and to work with the dealers to ensure that these same customers are happy and riding their bikes, instead of complaining about them over a beer to their friends that will be purchasing a bike sometime in the future.

Not much to tell about the rest of the riding season, as it involved a whole lot of commuting, nice morning blasts up the Lodge Freeway, and a couple of short trips around the area.  There was a great Britbike show, where my Parilla came in second in European behind a spectacular Ducati 750SS that was very, very, original.  Still, I rode (insert sour grapes) the 40 miles to the event.

It was a nice long autumn.

Paying the “Stupid Tax”

In early November I decided to get one last commute ride in before it got too cold.  The weather man said the high would be about 58°, and I looked at the weather, showing 38° in the morning.  I geared up and fired up the bike.  Rolling out of the driveway, I took a left onto Meriweather, and then a right-left on Ridge to get down to Mack.

That was the plan.  On the right-left “chicane” on Ridge, there were a few wet leaves that got under my front wheel, and just as I swapped my weight, I was skidding across the tarmac before I even knew what happened.  It was only a 5mph low-side, but it was just plain silly and embarrassing   I snapped off the brake lever, scratched the clutch cover, rubbed a tank bumper and plastic panel, and ground a little off the brake lever.  $250 in stupid tax.  Of course Piaggio had the parts in less than a week, shipped directly to me via my dealer.

Sometimes it pays to think a little before firing up.  I let my want get the better of my better sense, and paid the price.  I guess it was lucky I wasn’t on the freeway.

Another Guzzi

I have a couple of aggregation sites that I watch showing Craigslist listings over most of the US.  One of these showed a Moto Guzzi Stornello Sport in Indianapolis for $450.  I traded some emails with the owner, and just after Christmas I picked it up.  I promised Sheila that I would work on it after the kitchen is finished.  It is very complete, and after running the serial numbers, I found it to be a 1965 Sport America, surprisingly stock, but in need of cosmetics and some of the chrome bits and stuff cleaned up, along with a complete wiring harness.  Nothing scary.

stonello_1

stornello2

It’s all there.  17 inch wheels and all.  I can’t wait to fire it up this summer.  Trying to decide on a color scheme.  I think I have one in mind, along with a very stylized early 50’s Moto Guzzi logo.  Oh boy, it’s going to be a fun 2013.

V7 Classic with Norman Hyde “M” Bar Conversion

So I have been looking for more aggressive handlebars to put on my V7 Classic.  The stock ones were nice but I wanted a better “look” and also a little more weight on the front tires.  My Parilla 250 has VERY aggressive clip-ons that are fine for such a light bike; for the V7C I thought that something that was a little more upright but lower than stock might be the ticket.

I posted on a few forums, and many chimed in and recommended the Laverda “Jota” replica bars available from numerous places on the web.  They are fabulous looking setups, but I wanted to see exactly how little I could spend and actually get some really decent bars.  The other choices were “swan neck” styles, and I did consider them, and finally dropped them when I’d have to take the triple trees apart to get them on the forks.  Well within my mechanical skills.  Still, I want to make it cheap and easy.

A good friend recommended Norman Hyde “M” bars.  I didn’t have pictures, and I’d ridden and written about Triumphs, for which these bars were actually made.  The clearance for the M bars is a substitute for the “Clubman” bars on other cafe bikes.  I bought my bars on eBay for about $45 bucks, and a set of cheap, nice bar-end mirrors from Amazon for another $19 plus shipping.

Fit and finish were awesome.  Installed in about an hour.  The cables were a little crowded, but everything ended up fitting nice.  I discarded the bar end weights that came with the original bars, and I saved them to install on a friend’s Aermacchi project that I’m completing.  The bar end mirrors installed quickly, and the adjustability and quality were damned nice.  Allen bolts in two different sizes do the clamping and holding.

I gave it a short ride around the block.  Everything was tight, but it’s Detroit, it was February and it was dark and cold.  I pulled in knowing that the install was sound and everything worked well when riding around the block.

And then it rained and froze for two days.

When the weather finally broke, I pulled the bike out of my man cave and threw a leg over.  First thing I noticed was the narrower bars caused me to twist the throttle and rev the engine, which is uncomfortable, to say the least.  Glad to say that after a few days this has completely disappeared.

It’s been a few days’ riding now, and I have over 100 miles with my hands on the new setup.  In a word, delightful.  Slightly less wind blast than the standard posture, and waaaaayyyy more feel.  The front wheels dance under my direction like they have never done before.  Fast and slow corners are much more comfortable to set up and navigate through.  The new position and the bars’ size and shape compliment this bike so well that the first thing I’d do is ditch the stock ones and put these on.

Comfort is another area.  I ride big miles on the Guzzi.  It’s over 20K miles since I purchased it in August of 2009, with a couple of really miserable Midwest winters to keep me off the road for extended periods.  I require bars that are comfortable on my arms and keep my back in a nice straight posture.  The Norman Hyde “M” bars are exactly what the doctor ordered.

Oh, and bar-end mirrors for me and my new setup?

For the first time ever I can actually see exactly what’s behind me.  I don’t have to move my shoulders around to see traffic.  I don’t have to squint to make out what the size, density and speed of things approaching from the rear are.  No vibration, no wiggle, nothing at any speed or RPM range.

So I can see everything behind me, ride comfortably with even greater confidence, and rock a nice cafe bike look for about $75.  What’s not to like?

Moto Guzzi V7 Classic – 20,010 Miles and Time for some Mods

Where has time gone?  I haven’t written anything about my V7 Classic in more than a year.  I guess life and the enjoyment of life kinda get in the way, plus just actually getting down to business and writing something out can involve a little mental effort.  Funny thing, life may have gotten in the way of writing more articles about this wonderful Moto Guzzi small block, but it definitely wove itself around it!

A long weekly commute for 18 months.

I took a position as an Enterprise Architect Consultant in Detroit mid 2010, and started an 18 month long period of living in an apartment in Grosse Pointe Park, MI, for 4 nights a week.  Weekends were spent at home after making the 300 mile journey back to my home in Oak Park, IL.

I started work around May 1 2010, and, until the riding season ended in Mid October, I never drove a car in Detroit.  Most of the commutes were made on the V7 Classic, so I was making two 300 mile trips a week on the bike, and then 30 miles a day commuting, along with some very fun trips, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Outside of Jackson, MI

Outside of Jackson, MI

The Little Guzzi was awesome.  I only had to take the train back to Chicago on a few occasional weekends when the weather was too rough to ride, and even then I had a couple of episodes when I got caught in a downpour anyway. Continue reading

A Farewell to Chicago Vintage Motorcyclists

As I sit in my new living room in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, I can’t help but miss the motorcyclists and friends from Chicago Vintage Motorcyclists that helped me make my riding life in Chicago utterly fantastic.  One week in, and with the weather closing in, I expect that my garage will be much quieter than it would 3oo miles to the West-Southwest.  Those Wednesday Night Garage Nights were so much fun — I wish I had attended more.  Still, the rides to Southwestern Wisconsin, around town, Rockerbox, Mods and Rockers, Acetoberfest and others, it made the roads around Chicago more than bearable.

Chicago has very little going for it, motorcycle-wise.  No topography.  Few good roads.  REALLY lousy drivers.  6 decent curves in the whole town, maybe.  Still, a late afternoon ride with a bunch of friends in old BSAs, Triumphs, Hondas, a Vincent or two and a smattering of BMWs makes a cruise around the city like a nice weekend ride on the Isle of Man.

Enthusiasm counts.  The ChiVinMoto group exudes enthusiasm and love of the “perfect machine”.  It’s a truly American group, with no hierarchy, no “right” bike to have, and absolutely no class structure.  Income, education, race, occupation or age have no bearing once you throw a leg over the bike.  It’s about the ride, the machine and the comraderie.  Liberty, Egalitie´, Fraternity.  More American than any group I’ve ever been a member of.

Things I’ll miss most are the “Tiddler” ride for small displacement bikes held once or twice a year.  The great vintage bikes from Laverdas, Vincents and BSAs to great early Japanese bikes and BMWs airheads.  Rockerbox in Milwaukee.  Acetoberfest at Chad’s garage — Ace Motorcycle and Scooter Co.  And especially Mods vs. Rockers Chicago.  If you’ve never been to MvR, you haven’t made enough riding friends.

I remember riding back from a Slimy Crud Run a few years’ back, freezing my butt off and riding with a group that were better riders than I, and knew the roads of Southwest Wisconsin far, far better.  We rode as the sun went down, the cold sucking the heat from our bodies.  At each stop or intersection when it was time to make a turn, the leaders would stop and wait to make sure the backmarkers made it back to more navigable territory.  I remember when I finally got home I took a hot shower until I ran out of hot water.  My legs were still cool to the touch hours later.  Bliss.

See you all soon.  Keep shifting with your right foot and stay in the saddle.  You’re all wonderful people.

Comcast #Fail.

I know that I owe an article on my V7 Classic – it’s been 20K miles now and I’m ready to put it up for the winter.  I don’t want this blog to be about rants for service, but Comcast has been exceptionally bad.  I’ve had Comcast for the last 15 months in Detroit. I have DirecTV in Chicago. There is no comparison. Love DirecTV. Comcast…. Not so much…

Here is a transcript of my communication with Comcast’s customer service. My Issue: Channel 224 (FXHD) every week during the Sons of Anarchy show has gone out (3 weeks in a row). Only during this show.

RuthSCNV: Thank you for taking your time to contact us. I will be very glad to help you from here on. I hope your day is fine

RuthSCNV: Danilo, I certainly don’t want you to miss cable channel 224 that you are suppose to have.

Danilo: Well, I follow this show for years. For the last 3-4 weeks, the reception (sound and picture) have gone out. For this show only.

RuthSCNV: Let me try to pinpoint what the problem is and work on getting this fixed for you.

RuthSCNV: Danilo, since it is the only channel that is having a reception problem, it only shows that the network provider itself is having a technical problem with their broadcast.

Danilo: yes

Danilo: Every week at the exact same time.

RuthSCNV: The possible causes of reception issues also are loose cable wire connection and weak signal.

Danilo: Only this channel? None of the others?

RuthSCNV: Please ensure that the cables at the back of the box going to the TV are all tightened.

RuthSCNV: Yes, that could be possible Danilo.

RuthSCNV: Kindly try also to slightly turn the cables to ensure its fittings are tight.

Danilo: They are all tight. I haven’t changed the position of the TV or wires since the technician hooked it up 15 months ago.

Danilo: There is never a problem except at this time.

Danilo: and on this channel. All other channels are fine at the moment.

RuthSCNV: I understand that.

RuthSCNV: Let me check our Outage Board System about any common issue in FXHD channel.

RuthSCNV: Please give me a minute.

Danilo: no problem

RuthSCNV: Thank you for patiently waiting.

RuthSCNV: I apologize for the delay.

Danilo: what did you find out?

RuthSCNV: We do have a number of reports from our Customers having the same issue.

RuthSCNV: No worries because the network provider are being notified about this.

RuthSCNV: There should no longer be further steps needed for you to take from this moment on. This is already well taken care of by our professionals to fix it the soonest possible time.

Danilo: I’ve missed the last three weeks of the show. I pay $180 a month, and this is not satisfactory.

Danilo: Can you provide me with the closest office? I’ll turn my box in tomorrow and try a different provider.

RuthSCNV: Danilo, my apologies for the inconvenience you are having with your FXHD cable service.

RuthSCNV: I understand how frustrating this might be in your part as a customer, I apologize for the inconvenience.

RuthSCNV: I do very well feel how is it to be in the situation because I am also a customer when I am not at work.

RuthSCNV: It will be such a loss to Comcast if you switch provider.

RuthSCNV: Here’s what I can do.

RuthSCNV: Let me provide $20 credit adjustment in the account.

RuthSCNV: This is to compensate on the days that you were not able to enjoy the channel due to reception issue.

RuthSCNV: Would that be fine?

Danilo: Not really. I feel that if this were really a problem it would have been fixed the first week. I can’t believe that this has gone on for three weeks before any of your support staff would be made aware of it. There are very few shows that I receive through cable — I have internet options and I think that might be the best way to go. $20 is not compensation in this case.

RuthSCNV: I understand, I do really apologize on this.

RuthSCNV: What I can provide you now is the link for the Comcast Local Office Locator .

Danilo: thanks.It’s OK. It will make a good blog post.

RuthSCNV: Danilo, may I know what I can do for you now to be able to retain you as our Comcast Customer?

Danilo: I really don’t know. I’m just not getting value for the money. I’ll keep the internet service, but I think the cost of the TV isn’t really giving me the benefit. My bill for TV has more than doubled over the last year, and the service has deteriorated. I know that it’s not your fault, but cutting a $180 check every month and feeling like I didn’t get anywhere near the value, I don’t know what to say.

RuthSCNV: My apologies again about this issue. If only I could do something here in my end to control the situation and fix the network providers technical issue myself, I would glady do it to avoid inconvenient experience to our customers.

——–

I then got a link to find the nearest office.

Comcast, you’re the worst provider I’ve ever had.  DirecTV is miles ahead of you in price and in service.  They even have the HD channels in the right place, not CBS on 232.

Sigh — Sometimes You “Don’t” Meet the Nicest People on a Guzzi!

The day started off nice enough — cloudy, but mild temps in the 70s.  Good day for a ride from Detroit to Pentwater to meet up with my wife and daughter and celebrate a good friend’s 60th birthday.  No hurry to get there, either — I was an hour ahead of Sheila at least since she was coming from the Central Time Zone, and Chicago traffic would probably burden her further.  Mild weather and my bags packed, I decided to roll out and just get lost on the way to Pentwater, specifically our hotel in Ludington, and travel through some of Michigan’s back roads.

Wow.  So beautiful once you get off the main roads.  Rustic barns, silos, small towns with old storefronts, buildings that give you the sense of history;  Europeans have been traipsing all over the Michigan Peninsula for 300+ years, and I can see why.  At least in the summer, the place looks like Northern England — I’ll bet before the shipwrights completely deforested the island, especially.

This Friday being the kick-off to the Fourth of July Weekend, I was wondering what happened!  No bikes on 96 on the way out of town, but as soon as I turned on the back roads, they were everywhere.  I stopped at two gas stations and spoke with couples on HDs rocking easy through the back country, not a care in the world and very pleasant.  Especially true to this were the couple of riders and pillions in Oceana — they were from Oklahoma and had been travelling for a week.  Made the trip around Lake Michigan and were headed back to Chicago and then down Rt 66 to their home state.  Ear-to-ear grins on their faces — their wives mimicking with their air-adjustable seats and all the commo gear.  Making memories.

Michigan is bereft of diners.  They’re out there, but not nearly as ubiquitous as some of the other states I’ve lived in.  Finally found one near Hardy Damn for breakfast and time to sit out a rain storm.  Gotta look the name of that one up.  The owner rides, but his wife won’t let him park the bike in front of the diner — he was awesome for getting me directions from where I was to where I needed to be, since AT&T and Google Maps had me roughly 3 miles south of where I actually was.  Rode through wonderful lanes that were broadleaf-tree tunnels, nice curves with little or no rocks and dirt — the wet road and unknown traffic patterns kept the speed out of me — I just cruised through the turns, braking easy, leaning smooth and just blissing out until I had to get on Michigan 31 North from Oceana to Ludington for the final leg of the trip.

And that’s where things just got stupid.  For the first 5-8 miles on the Highway it was one lane with construction, but traffic still managed to move along at 60.  The fun started when it finally opened up to two lanes.  I was able to move through the stagger in the traffic since most of the cars in the left lane wanted to pass but, due to their size, had to wait.  I zipped in the wide gaps (most Michigan drivers are actually awesome — they are motorcycle-aware and let you in) and slowly made my way through the logjam — until…

Going to the right of a slow-moving mid-sized pickup with a camper shell, I suddenly realized that the driver had sped up and “shut the door” on me with a slow car moving in front.  At that point I moved in behind because I had nowhere else to go. I’m now uncomfortable.  BRAKE LIGHTS — I’m already braking and slowing trying to get distance from the bumper, and driver pulls a “brake check” on me — I look at in the pickup’s window and an woman is looking in her mirror at me and shaking her finger like “I saw you trying to get around me…”

Then she moves over into the right lane, I guess to let me pass.  I decide it’s time to drop the hammer and just get out of there.  Road rage has left me years ago — I’m too old to deal with drivers like this.  As I pull around her, I see her cell phone sticking out of the car as she’s trying to take a picture of me, wildly trying to stay in her lane — it’s time to get out of there.  I gesture to her with a number that let her know that she was #1 in my book and then scooted.

3 miles later I’m at the Luddington exit, pulling into city traffic — and there she is behind me with her camera!  I just ignore her.  Realizing that I have no idea where the hotel is and that I need to check in, I sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic and she sits on my tail.  I’m thinking that she has some road rage issues and decide that the better part of valor is to leave the situation; just get in the other lane, then make a right turn.  I get in the right lane, signal right.  She cuts off a car behind me and follows me down the street.  I stop.

She pulls alongside and sticks out her hand as if I’m supposed to shake it, holding her camera.  She blurts out her name is “Val”.  I decide this is too much.  I’m getting creeped out, feeling like in that old black truck with the cracked windshield and wild-eyed operator there just might be a loaded gun.  I’m on vacation and I need to get the hell out of this situation! I drop the bike in first gear, drive around a few blocks as she follows, then finally lose her.  Bike gets parked in the back of my hotel on the other side of town, opposite from where I was so if she’s still looking around for me, we’re not going to run into each other.

Oh my GOD.  Every once in awhile I run into people that have to act as “regulators” and control how other people act in traffic.  I haven’t seen one like this for awhile. Could I have handled it better?  Yes.  I should have backed off and let her get ahead of me, but I thought taking the first exit would have been enough. Sometines you just run into people that take great umbrage at motorcyclists having an advantage of getting through traffic easier — thank heavens that in California people like her can be charged with attempted murder.

Wherever you are Val, I can’t believe your life is so small and shallow, and you’re so mean-spirited.  You need to get some help before your road rage kills a less-experienced rider.

Dell ASAP Software. @FAIL @UNBELIEVABLE FAIL

So I’m writing this as I sit on hold, waiting to get some information about the Adobe CS5 Premier Suite that I ordered a month ago.  I received some kind of license certificate in the mail with absolutely no instructions.  Of course I called Adobe, and these numbers mean absolutely nothing to them, so I’ve lost an hour there, mostly on hold.

So now I’ve been on hold with Dell for 15 minutes.  Do they have hold music?  NO.  They have some cheerful, clipped female voice that asks me to continue to hold, and then they try to sell me Microsoft Office.

Then they try to Sell me SQLServer.

Then Adobe Creative Suite 5.

Then they tell me they have 150,000 title for favorable bulk licensing programs.

Then they tell me that they work with Federal Agencies, and tell me to get in touch with software accounting.  Good to know in case I ever work for the government.

Then they thank me for holding, and tell me that they value my business.

Then the string of completely annoying commercials, over and over again.,

And again.

And again.

Whomever decided that it was a GREAT idea that they could try to sell me software and services while I’m sitting on hold frustrated with the purchase that I have already made is a complete dimwit.  I hope your boss (who I’m sure you gave this idea to thinking it would further your career is reading this)  because you made him look like a complete douchebag.