Time to upgrade your ‘farkle’

March 11, 2014

By Joe Grove

As spring arrives, this old man’s heart turns once again to motorcycles and getting ready for yet another riding season, which means deciding what “farkle” (a combination of function and sparkle) to upgrade, add or delete.

As I was upgrading my hand guards and the power outlet, to better accommodate my GPS and cellphone charger, a neighbor stopped by.

Joe Grove Press proofreader

Joe Grove
Press proofreader

“How do you know what kind of motorcycle to buy?” he asked.

As motorcycles continue to gain in popularity, there are many people asking that question. In 1960, there were 575,000 motorcycles registered in the U.S.; by 2011, there were 8.4 million.

The answer to the question begins with a question. How do you envision using it? If you buy without answering this question, you will buy something that looks cool to you or something that is priced right, but whatever you buy will determine how you use it, rather than the other way around.

If you want to keep riding after the pavement ends, as I do, then you need a dual purpose bike. If you get high on quick acceleration and speed, get a sport bike. If you like acceleration, speed and touring, go for a sport tourer. If you’re just going to ride freeways on sunny days, get a cruiser.

Don’t forget to take into consideration maintenance and insurance. Motorcycle maintenance is expensive. I make sure my rides are old school enough that I can do my own.

To legally ride a motorcycle, you need an endorsement on your driver’s license. Before you go to the dealer to drool, take a basic Motorcycle Safety Foundation course (check the Washington Department of Licensing web site). The school provides the bike, and you find out if you are even cut out for it before you spend your money. In this state, if you complete the course satisfactorily, you have passed the requirements to get a motorcycle endorsement.

If you are an experienced rider, you might take the advanced MSF course, something that should be done every few years.

The number of motorcycle-related deaths has increased dramatically over the years, because the number of motorcycles on the road has increased. However, the number of deaths per 1,000 of registered motorcycles has gone down dramatically, in no small part because of the efforts of the MSF and its courses.

In 1990, it was .73 deaths per 1,000 registered motorcycles. By 2011, it was down to .54 deaths per 1,000 registered bikes. The largest percentage of those deaths involved riders who were inexperienced, unlicensed or had never had a safety course, or were not wearing helmets or protective clothing, or were intoxicated. Look after each of these issues, and you will have many more springs to upgrade the “farkle” on your bike.

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