By on April 8, 2016

softail

Didn’t we all have a good laugh earlier this week about the confrontation between a low-talent Florida motorcyclist and a low-IQ Fusion driver? Shouldn’t it be a lesson to all of us to never ride a motorcycle in Florida, even though we now know how it started and how it’s gonna end? What kind of idiot would deliberately go rent a motorcycle and ride it around Florida immediately after watching that video?

Well, friends and readers, I am precisely that kind of idiot.

Halfway through my recent trip to see Hiromi in Fort Lauderdale, I ditched my little humpbacked CLA250 rental in favor of a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail, courtesy of the fine folks at Eaglerider Fort Lauderdale. I’ve yet to have a bad experience dealing with Eaglerider anywhere in the country and this was no exception to that rule, even though I reserved the bike on a total whim about half an hour before and I also arrived at the same time as a group of nine Germans who wanted to pay for their rentals using European credit cards. Eaglerider even put a windscreen on the bike so my luxurious hair wouldn’t get ruffled.

The plan was to ride from Fort Lauderdale down to Miami for the afternoon, using Vanilla Ice’s favorite road, the A1A, all the way down. Obviously, since I’m alive, not incarcerated, and well enough to write this story, nothing serious went wrong during the trip. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to experience all of what Florida drivers have to offer, again and again.

Why, you might ask, did I pick a Heritage Softail? Well it was truly a whim on my part. I normally rent the Indian Roadmaster, which is a simply brilliant motorcycle. However, it seemed worthwhile to get something a little lighter and more oriented towards the low-speed crawl of the A1A in the sunny afternoon given that I expected to spend at least part of my ride without a passenger and I didn’t plan on exceeding 50 mph. The Softail that I rented was last year’s model with the 96-cubic-inch twin, not the revised-for-2016 bike with the high-output “103.”

I suspect that the Heritage Softail is very good at being a Harley-Davidson. It certainly looks the part. As an actual motorcycle, however, I cannot say that it impressed me. The drivetrain is deliberately crude, with a gearshift operated by two stomp pedals instead of a “normal” foot lever. Each shift sounds like something’s breaking deep in the “dogs.” The engine is loud but not tuneful unless you have the very long-travel throttle twisted the full 180 degrees or so. I used to think that the crouched-with-twisted-wrist attitude I’d see in Harley riders who were trying to move quickly in traffic was a total affectation. I now know otherwise. But even with your wrist cranked and your weight forward to get the bike to steer a bit, you still won’t be outpacing the average automatic-transmission Accord.

As a mechanical object, the Softail makes Kellee, my 1975 CB550, feel like a Ducati Pangiale in contrast. The modern electronic veneer laid on top of the basic design — fuel injection, a Casio-watch display for gear and tach in the middle of the tank speedo, a light-up “6” when you’ve reached top gear — doesn’t convince. Still, it’s an awfully pleasant way to do 25 mph down Beachfront. It’s easy to see and be seen. Lots of pretty girls and cool cars out there, from the Los Angeles 9.5 who was “slacklining” on Hollywood Beach to the new S600 Maybach that had been repainted in gloss silver and Minnesota Vikings purple and the rust-colored Aventador with which I shared the road for a few miles north of Miami.

During a previous motorcycle trip from Orlando to Vero Beach and back, I’d learned to fear and respect the elderly people who inadvertently split freeway lanes in LaCrosses and the like while choosing random speeds from 30 below the limit to 40 over. I eventually came to treat every interaction with every “old guy” car like it was the last ten seconds of a NASA sprint race, complete with sudden swerving and “iguana eye” simultaneous attention to the road and my mirrors. A1A in Miami is different. The old-person percentage is lower, although even in the home of Crockett and Tubbs that F12berlinetta you’re admiring is more likely to be piloted by a silver-haired retiree than a drug kingpin.

The real risk to a motorcyclist along the beach is all the young guys in fast cars who want to handle the frequent lane closures and stoppages that occur on A1A by hauling ass all the way down to said stoppage and then swerving back into what looks from the driver’s seat of an Aventador like an empty lane but which is actually occupied by something like a Heritage Softail. The only way to handle it is to look all the way down the road to your absolute limit of vision and make sure you’re not in the merge lane, or the one next to it, when said idiocy occurs. Is there a middle-aged Asian woman unceremoniously jumping a new CL-Class Benz off the curb into traffic in front of Trump Tower III? You need to be in the far left lane, not the center one. Can you see flashing lights ahead from a cop making an arrest in the center turn lane? Be assured that some mook in a 991 Turbo S is gonna run all the way on that cop’s bumper and then huck the wheel without so much as a cursory glance.

Truth be told, I’ve never seen so many expensive cars driven so badly at such low speeds before. It’s not just the old guys with their hats in their Corniches and it’s not just the youngsters with their coffee-colored skin and their solid-gold Omega Seamasters draped casually over the wheel of their Ghosts. It’s everybody, all the time, in everything from an Alfa Romeo 4C to a Macca 650S Spyder. The air is hot with the smell of automated clutches being slowly murdered by 85-degree stop-and-go. Cooling systems that were designed on a Friday and tested during fall in Castle Bromwich spit coolant at random intervals beneath the Harley’s narrow tires. The showroom windows have everything from third-owner Continental GT coupes to an actual F40.

All of this I’ve seen before, but you don’t really see anything from inside a car. Do we have time for a Pirsig quote?

In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

Like the man said. This is South Florida at its finest. And it wouldn’t be Florida at all if I didn’t have a few unpleasant interactions with my fellow motorists. A 991-generation Carrera droptop buzzed me twice trying to steal my lane, the second time earning a turn-around and fist wave from my female passenger. She must have scared him off because he hung back afterwards and tried a different lane. A blue Conti GT moved me over pretty hard once but it was clearly a case of blind-spot indifference. One woman in an older Lexus ES350 brake-checked me maybe four times in a row. The Heritage Softail is not renowned for its braking. You kind of have to plan it out the minute the speedo creeps over 35. I gave her plenty of space after her fourth surprise slam, at which time an S63 snuck in the gap and proceeded to brake-check me after the Lexus brake-checked him. You really can’t win.

What made the ride tolerable, and in fact enjoyable, was my decision to take none of it personally. I decided that nothing any “cager” did was going to ruin my trip to the beach. So when I finally stood in that water and let it soak my New Balances, I felt nothing but good about the whole thing.

After dropping my passenger off at the CLA and telling her to meet me back at Eaglerider, I got on the freeway for a moment and opened the Softail up through the first five gears. No helmet, no jacket — yeah, I was stupid. More than stupid. But there was something memorable about racing towards the sun on that deliberate atavism of a bike, swinging between lanes and hearing a brief skritch from the floorboards each time, knowing that I didn’t have the caliper swept area or lean angle to respond to any sudden moves ahead with anything but a slow grind of asphalt against brain pan, followed by immediate assignment of my 401(k) to my son.

So what. Fuck it. For a moment or two, I was Brando, I was Peter Fonda, I was Rusty Coones in the final season of “Sons of Anarchy.” You know what, that crummy little Benz was almost tolerable afterwards. I went to Ruth’s Chris for dinner. There was a fellow celebrating his 95th birthday at the next table.

“I don’t regret anything,” he was saying. “I’d do it again.” Me too.

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120 Comments on “Turns Out That Riding A Motorcycle In Florida Is Just As Terrifying As You Think It Is...”


  • avatar

    DONORCYCLES

    I fractured my ankle in China on a Motorcycle.
    NEVER AGAIN.

    From now on only heavily armored vehicles with very powerful engines.

    I need protection in all dimensions.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    heh. guy (who I consider my riding mentor) just bought a Softail identical to that last week.

    Oh, and the previous model year still had a 103 c.i. engine, but it wasn’t the “high output” one (whatever that means in Harley-speak.) The 96 went out in 2012.

    “The real risk to a motorcyclist along the beach is all the young guys in fast cars who want to handle the frequent lane closures and stoppages that occur on A1A by hauling ass all the way down to said stoppage and then swerving back into what looks from the driver’s seat of an Aventador like an empty lane but which is actually occupied by something like a Heritage Softail. ”

    and this, folks, is why autonomous cars are coming. Human beings repeatedly demonstrate that we’re too inattentive, careless, reckless, and stupid to handle the responsibility. Whether it’s the oldster who has the reaction time of a frozen insect, or the girl texting and snapping selfies, or the road-raging impotent fatass, or the 17-year-old guy who thinks the world is his racetrack, we’re all dangerous and incompetent.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      This was definitely not high output in any sense of the world. My CB1100 might as well be an Atlas rocket compared to the Heritage Softail.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        the air-cooled Harley engines are ridiculously under-square. definitely not made to rev. its redline is supposedly around 6,000 rpm but it runs out of breath far before that.

        it’s perfectly suitable for its usual task of lugging 900 lb baggers around. but sporty it ain’t.

        I’m curious to see how much power they left on the table with the RevoX engine in the Street 750.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Jack Baruth – your story shows why I’ve never been a fan of anything Harley Davidson. A rider on a bike, especially in traffic is a small fish in a predatory sea. Riding a Harley or any cruiser just means you happen to be a rather large and sluggish fish.
        My Harley riding buddies used to routinely say that the sport bikes I preferred were dangerous. They pointed to the insane top speeds. I argued that they were much safer because they could stop, turn, and go. I’ve saved my hide multiple times because of those 3 attributes.
        I preferred my street legal KTM620 on knobbies to any of those cruisers.

        • 0 avatar
          mason

          I don’t think there’s ever been a company that’s rode on the coat tails of their previous successes and fan base as long as HD has. Air cooled engines in 2016 is a bad joke. I just love listening to my co workers talk about how superior their Harley is, and the next minute trade stories about their P.O.S. bike overheating because they sat in traffic too long on a hot day. One guy actually had to shut his down and push it off the side of the freeway until traffic got moving again.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Ask Jack about the air cooled engine in his CB1100….

            The rear cylinder of a longitudinally mounted V-Twin, isn’t optimally located for cooling airflow, to put it mildly. Transverse blocks are a whole different animal, heat management wise.

            If Honda made more of a one-up, occasional passenger sized, tourer with that CB mill, it would be plain magical for the kind of mission described in this article. That engine is as peach as peach gets for anything short of outright hooning. And then some.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            I agree with Stuki. Air cooled engines are an issue in longitudinally mounted V-Twins.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Air cooled Harleys with fuel injection will cut fuel to the rear cylinder if the engine starts to get too hot and the bike isn’t moving.

            the rear cylinder heat issue is even worse on the Harley engines since they use fork-and-blade connecting rods, which means the cylinders are directly in-line with each other. AFAIK most Japanese V-twins use side-by-side conrods (or have a split crankpin) so the cylinders are offset from each other.

          • 0 avatar
            mason

            Liquid cooled blocks have an inherent heat shedding advantage over air cooled and even oil cooled blocks of similar design. I can’t think of one single reason why you would want anything else. Just cuz that’s the way it’s been done for 100 years and we dont wanna change the design isn’t good reasoning either.

            Unrelated but I just had to do a head gasket on an oil cooled Deutz diesel engine. This makes the third time a head gasket has let go in 11 years and I truly suspect high temps due to sustained high engine loads as the leading cause. Everytime I’ve torn this engine down I’ve verified the plane of the deck as well as the head. New TTY bolts everytime ($$$), proper sequence and final torque. Everything by the book. I thought I found the problem the second go round when I realized the fan clutch was bad and not locking up but 3 years later I’m in the same boat again. Airflow is mediocre at best, plenty of opening on the front end to draw it in across the cooler but everything more or less dead heads in the engine compartment. I’ve opened it up a bit in a couple of spots with a hole saw to try to get the air flow to improve. It really sucks having to clean oil up when that head gasket pops and the engine becomes a giant air pump. If your not paying attention it will drain the sump in a big hurry.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            @mason

            No doubt liquid cooled engines have better heat shedding ability than any air cooled one. Better both in the sense of sheeding more when hot, and also less before getting up to ideal working temps, in newer engines.

            But on a motorcycle like the CB, Honda is able to meet all emissions, run comfortable, and be long lasting, while still putting out 80 odd HP. Of course, a liquid cooled 1100 designed with the same care, could put out closer to 200. But, what’s the point?

            And the “personality” air cooled engines take on partially by the way their running temp varies with outside temps and driving style, adds to their charm. They’re not just digitally controlled rheostats. But instead sound, respond, and even feel a bit different day to day, minute to minute. Which makes them much more interesting.

            In cars like the old air cooled 911s and VWs, the same personality benefits are there, if to a lesser degree on account of greater isolation in general. But in those cars, you end up giving up too much in the way of expected “performance” for it to make sense to most in a daily driver. But not so in a bike.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Watch out for those most ticketed drivers driving Lexus ES!

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I had a rental Impala a couple weeks ago and went from Orlando to Vero and up and down the coast a bit. Coming from up north the drivers were terrible, just old people driving slow and erratically mostly.

    I’ve never understood the allure of Harley’s, they are crude, slow, loud and expensive. Even in my 40’s I’d still take a CBR or similar modern motorcycle although I’d never ride without a helmet and reinforced leather personally.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    File photo, (c) 1985

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think I was soured on the “Harley experience” by my jerkweed ex-neighbor, who celebrated his deplorable lack of penis length by riding the damn thing ONLY on Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m., and only AFTER revving it up on his driveway for at least five minutes.

    This routine only ended when he lost a leg after riding it drunk. Moron.

    In fairness, though, I’ve found that once they’re done noisily announcing their presence to everyone in a three-county area, most Harley riders are a lot more polite and respectful of the rules of the road than some of the crotch-rocket jockeys around here.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      They made a South Park episode about your neighbor.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      the Harley folks I know (who put thousands of miles a year on their bikes) don’t think much about people like your neighbor. Dentist/lawyer weekend warriors.

      I don’t have a loud exhaust on my Dyna. It even still has the catalytic converter in place.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        “I don’t have a loud exhaust on my Dyna. It even still has the catalytic converter in place.”

        And that’s a rarity. The Harley Experience is ALL ABOUT loud pipes – and leather coats with the big Brand Name patch on the back.

        It’s not riding; it’s posing – a display.

        If I sound a bit down on Hardly-Drivables, it’s only because I am. Years ago I worked in a remote corner of Michigan, alongside two fellow riders – BOTH of whom had The American Legend, complete with leather Motor-Clothes jackets and H-D Roadside Assistance programs.

        We were a bunch, me with my BMW R1200GS, whisper quiet, and them with…I don’t know the models. Cruisers, with all the computer displays. They STILL got only 35 miles a gallon – and even if they didn’t need to stop for gas all the time, they’d have still had to break to ease the monkey-butt.

        The noise off those things was tiresome to me, even, with them behind me.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I know it’s a rarity. I’m smart enough to know that “loud pipes save lives” is nonsense. I *did* change the muffler, but I just put on the dealer-option “Nightstick” which is still 50-state-legal. Same reason both of my Mustangs had moderate Flowmasters on them. I like the *sound* of the engine, but I don’t need it to be obnoxiously loud.

          but I wouldn’t single out Harley guys for this. I’ve been on Mustang forums and there’ve been a depressing number of people who have or want muffler deletes.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        JimZ, if you go back and read the comment, FreedMike never said his neighbor wasn’t a dentist or a lawyer. That’s your assumption.

        Dentists and lawyers can be morons too.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I have a neighbor with one of these, and he sounds exactly like this guy, except that fortunately his time for revving in the driveway is during the day on weekends rather than late at night. Drives like a butt, too. Not my favorite of the locals.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I have this neighbor too. Saturday afternoon is revving time, next to the garage. I’ve never seen him actually ride the bike though. And lucky me, his garage is right under my bedroom window.

    • 0 avatar
      strafer

      Harleys and cruisers in general lack the HP and handling to be ridden recklessly.
      Kind of like how you don’t see mini vans hooning around.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      FreedMike = a dirt biking buddy of mine had a Harley. He jokingly said that he sold it because it had a natural tendency to turn right at stripper bars.

  • avatar
    omer333

    C’mon Jack, I know you’re on holiday and the heat is miserable in Florida, but please rock the gear. Hawaian shirts offer very little in the way asphalt protection.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      This was NOTGPATT — None Of The Gear Part Of The Time

      This weekend I’ll have my Arai and my horsehide jacket on.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Riding with no gear is like unprotected sex – a bad idea even in the safest of possible circumstances.

      But damn, does it feel good to try it just once.

      On the other hand, pavement, even at 45 MPH, doesn’t. Been there, too – was glad I had a jacket, helmet and gloves at the time, but upset I hadn’t put on my full suit.

      • 0 avatar
        John

        Imagine running as fast as you can head first into a brick wall.
        If you are really fit, you can probably run 9mph.
        Now, imagine going 9+mph on a motorcycle with no helmet.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          I’ve had twenty-foot face-first falls onto concrete courtesy of BMX, almost always with no helmet.

          Doesn’t completely explain why I’m ugly but it explains why I didn’t go work for Google when I had the chance.

          • 0 avatar
            omer333

            I don’t think you would’ve liked working for Google, I know a few of the originals, they’re too liberal for you.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Funny that. I’ll happily ride my Harley in traditional style: No helmet, cut off shirt, jeans and engineer boots. For anything other than a long distance ride.

        Put me on a sport bike, and there’s no way I’m moving out without a full face helmet, and at least a perf leather jacket and gloves.

        There’s something very forgiving about the way a Harley rides. Meanwhile, a good sport bike is high strung enough to want to kill you just out of boredom.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @JuniperBug – even with leathers I’ve known guys who have gotten burns through their padded leathers. I’ve had bruises and “road rash” through my body armour on a few dirt bike wipe outs.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        Yup.

        The only time you need your gear…is the day you crash.

        I had a close call on this. Cross-country riding on my SR 500, mid-eighties. Hot August week. Wrecked on Day 2.

        I started out with the helmet, and coat and other sissy garbage, stashed in the duffle with my other luggage. Crossing into a helmet-mandatory state, I obligingly put the skull-cover on.

        Two hundred miles down the road, a combination of a truck, trailer, overcrowded cab, and brain-dead, dishonest young woman driver who was a family friend of the sheriff…locked up my fortunes. On the pavement at 48 mph. The helmet was busted.

        So was my knee, hip, elbow, ribs. Head, however, survived to see me into more trouble years ahead.

        Had I been riding Hollywood style, the book would have been closed back then.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      As you saying that the guys I see doing 90+ on the highway on Kawasakis while wearing a t-shirt and shorts are as stupid as I always think they are?

      Seems easier and much safer to me to simply get a convertible of any stripe.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Easier, safer, absolutely. And I eventually did exactly that. My Miata offers a saner kind of fun. It’s much slower in a straight line, of course, but much safer at 8 tenths (both because of the fact that there’s metal around you, and that a bit of gravel or a painted line aren’t enough to upset its grip). It’ll handily outcorner the average sport rider on the street.

        The problem with any 600cc or greater sport bike of the last 25 years or so is that the straight line speed is so great and so accessible, that riding them with any amount of self-control is very difficult, and getting overconfident is very easy. For someone who likes to play with the abilities of their vehicle, this is a bad recipe for the streets. Couple that with how much skill it takes to corner and brake properly at speed with them, and how easily the two postage-stamp-sized contact patches are upset by water, bumps, gravel, or inadvertent control inputs, and I decided that a sport bike is better suited as a track toy (someday) for me. These factors were a bigger risk to me, personally, than the behaviour of other traffic. (I don’t live in Florida.)

        But I’ll never regret the rush you get from being catapulted from 0-60 in about 3 seconds by what amounts to little more than a 12,000 RPM engine with wheels and a seat, and pitching the thing into curves at a 45 degree angle, knowing that a bit too much front brake can lift the back wheel in the air at 85 MPH, and too much gas can do the same to the front.

        For some of those Kawasakis, 90 MPH is 2nd gear on the 6 speed transmission, and happens from a dead stop in about 5 seconds.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          JuniperBug – dirt bikes are a great training ground for street bikes. You get used to a loose contact patch.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            I keep meaning to try it, but it’s not that accessible here in Montreal. I went through my adolescence mountain biking, and still have a pretty good bike sitting in my living room. Adding a motor can only make that better.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Funny that. After the wife’s death, and looking at plenty of garage space because I sold most of the motorcycle collection off to pay her medical bills, I traded my 924S on a Pontiac Solstice. I’d never owned a roadster, and figure that had to stop right now.

          Two years later, I’ve learned from 40 years of motorcycle riding that a convertible, of any kind, is no substitute for a real motorcycle. The Solstice went, and it was back to rebuilding a motorcycle collection.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            JuniperBug – I can see how living in a big city would make dirt biking more awkward. There are some pretty good dual sports out there from KTM. They are basically race bikes with turn signals. Even the Japanese have some okay 250cc bikes.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As a resident of these parts I often forget the cars I see daily are what many have only seen on TV or maybe under the lights at a car show. Last night I pulled onto I-95 behind a brand new white Bentley Coupe, while in my mirror was one of Porsche’s newest takes on investment funding. This weekend Barrett Jackson comes to town so anyone can find themselves in the glow of metal and glass normally reserved for the rich and famous. I’ll miss it this year as I’ve chosen to see just how rough Sebring really is.

    As for S FL drivers: the say Miami is a melting pot, half the residents come from some Caribbean Island were Sea Doos are more common then cars. The other half moved down from New York or New Jersey once the kids starting having kids. It is a strange and wonderful place. But I just keep reminding people of the hurricanes, oppressive humidity and alligators on the golf course. Thus I recommend the Carolinas… FL is all fully up on crazy, so please go somewhere else. This leaves the toll lanes clear and some extra spaces at the boat ramp for me.

    Glad you having fun JB, the weather this week has been perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      When I was in Miami, I kept having to remind myself that I was not in fact, in Cuba or Puerto Rico.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I grew up in Boca Raton, so it’s nice to finally hear someone say what I’ve been saying for all these years. When asked to describe florida, I always say there are 3 parts:

      Above West Palm/Jupiter is the south.
      Between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm is South NY/Jersey.
      South of Fort Lauderdale is South America.

      I’ve been gone for over a decade now, and it would be a hard sell to ever get me to go back for more than a week or so.

      • 0 avatar
        cbrworm

        I’ve told people that I drive north to go into The South, and that I can experience South America by driving about an hour and a half south and then east for a couple miles.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        There are two parts to me at least: the area from the beach to 1/2 mile in, and everything else. the beach areas are awesome, everything else is a crappy episode of Jerry Springer.

        • 0 avatar
          BobinPgh

          I have heard that one reason Disney makes a lot of money is because outside of the Disney “bubble”, FL is pretty much a dump. As for driving, I heard the Disney Magical Express bus driver complaining of how bad the driving was there.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      No no, Carolinas suck, do not come here. Go somewhere… anywhere else :D

    • 0 avatar
      aycaramba

      Word. In my time there in Broward, we used to call those retiring to the Carolinas “halfbacks.” As in they came down to FL, and then went halfway back. Been gone for about 8 years. Miss the weather sometimes, but not the people.

      I agree with duffman, my part of Broward was generally NY/NJ. Many of them, it seems, were the a**holes nobody up there wanted to keep.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    I live in So Fl and many if not most of the accidents involving motorbikes are caused by reckless riders who really believe the rules of the road don’t apply to them, I’ve seen it all, wheelies, zig zaggin’ through expressways, going in between lanes to get to the front of the line, tailgating to the extreme and most of all, speed limits only apply to 4 wheel vehicles

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      if it wasn’t for the vulnerability, I’d mostly prefer to ride alone. The thing which sours me the most about motorcycling is other motorcyclists. I haven’t seen so much cliquish, snobby, condescending behavior since I was in high school.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Vulnerability? I have trouble coming up with scenarios in which a group of riders is much safer than going solo now that cell phones are ubiquitous. Maybe if you’re riding through hundreds of miles of desert.

        I almost always rode alone and highly recommend it. The handful of times I rode in larger groups made me feel like I was defeating the purpose of riding a motorcycle. Riding with 1 or 2 friends was fun, though.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I mean in the sense that cagers are more likely to see multiple bikes where they might miss a lone rider.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          My worst crash was in a group ride. I mainly ride alone or with people I know and trust with my life.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          JuniperBug – I’m with you. I prefer solo riding. Group riding tends to create a competitive herd mentality. The poor riders try to keep up with the fast riders and get in over their heads. Sport bike riders tend to get more aggressive in packs. I’ve watched some spectacular crashes from the saddle. Luckily no one was seriously hurt.

      • 0 avatar
        izzy

        You mean one of these guys?
        YouTube Search: The 9 Sportbike Riders You Will Meet

    • 0 avatar
      Driver8

      Move up the coast and it’s even more Harleys and Q-tip piloted champagne gold Buicks and Camcords. Scary mix.
      Drive over to Tampa and it’s mostly squids….triple digits over the Howard Frankland back and forth from Ybor on Saturday nights or barnstorming early Sunday mornings before church up in horse country.

      Most weekends I75 is nearly nose to tail with a mix of mobile homes and Harleys.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      I’m at the other end of the state and find that the Harley riders, especially the really scary looking ones, are the best at riding their bikes. They follow the traffic laws by and large as they are passing through headed to bike week or wherever.

      It’s the kids on the Japanese pocket rockets that are the problem, they are, for the most part based on observation, stupid and reckless; I mean a real “Kill Me!” mantra.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I find it amazing that it’s even legal here to sell an 18-year-old dickwad a high powered sportbike for their first ride.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Yep, that dude with the patch on his back, the worn leathers, and the scary look . . . these guys have been ride 25, 30, 40 years. Plenty of time to not only lose the stupidity, but to gain the needed skills to stay alive and probably make them the best drivers on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      My experience as a long time S. Florida rider is that there is a small percentage of lunatic riders, and they frequently take themselves out without being a big risk to society. The real risk is people (not just old people) not seeing bikes and either turning left in front of them from the oncoming lane or just swerving into or across them because they are blind/deaf and have decided that they want to turn right (now) from the left lane. It is hard to ride safely down here, the odds of being taken out is very high.

      I also feel it is very important to have a bike with lots of power, awe inspiring brakes and nimble handling to help avoid these situations, as well as good protective gear from head to toe for the inevitable.

  • avatar
    Syke

    As much as I love riding a motorcycle in Florida, I’ll have to admit that my experiences are limited: To the Jacksonville-Daytona Beach stretch, and during that ten day period of Bike Week (early March). So I’ve probably got a bit of an advantage. I’m riding during the time and location of the year where the automobile is, if not in the minority, at least doomed to suffer parity with the motorcycles. And it’s probably the only time of the year when the car driver notices there are motorcycles on the road.

    And I center myself out of St. Augustine. Mainly because I love the town (down a couple of times of the year for re-enactments), and its a nice chance to decompress after an afternoon of too many wannabees and RUBbies in their nice shiny leathers. Plus the squids, who are definitely running crazier than the bikers.

    As to rating a Harley Davidson by mechanical aptitude. Sorry, you want mechanical perfection, get a BMW. Or if you want it in a crusier, get a Yamaha. I’ll happily stick with my ’87 Superglide, which I consider near perfection for the kind of running I use it for. Haven’t gone near a 21st century Harley yet, and odds are its going to be a long time before I own a Twin Cam. To me, a real Harley is a panhead, although a shovel or a blockhead are acceptable alternatives.

    And when I have the need to ride like a maniac, my Honda 996 Super Hawk takes care of my needs very nicely. A Ducati without the maintenance issues.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      To be honest, I don’t consider being in the midst of ten thousand vacationing bikers to be any safer than in the middle of an infinite number of cars. Daytona: BTDT, GTS, no need to repeat.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Nice story.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Zjz125

    I live in In Hollywood Beach and commute daily on a WR450 Enduro or a suicide shift sportster.

    A bike is a ticket to freedom and convenience in South Florida.

    Three Things Fix 90 percent of problems mentioned here.

    You must move faster than traffic, Staying in traffic flow leads to many of the problems mentioned here. Not Reckless but consistently move at a fast pace.

    Ride with a Purpose, and know where you are going.

    If another driver endangers you. Blame yourself and ask how do i avoid that next time.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    How are you suppose to change lanes correctly and legally when you drive a car? You look in the mirror and if you see it’s clear, you then shift your vision ahead, signal and make the change. When you have a zig zag biker coming up behind you, by the time you make the change, he will be crashing into your vehicle and then you get charged with the accident, even though you did what you were supposed to do, not expecting Evil Knievel to come up from behind, faster than traffic allows I know cause it happened to me. It ended up costing me a small fortune in fines and legal fees cause I had no witnesses

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    A couple possible slogans for the state commission on tourism in there.

    “Florida: You’ll never see so many expensive cars driven so badly at such low speeds”

    “It wouldn’t be Florida at all without a few unpleasant interactions with fellow motorists”

    “Florida: For a moment you can be Brando before your 401(k) is assigned to your children”

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Ach, Florida drivers. Blinkers are contraindicated for lane-changes. Ass-jack in the lane you want *will* move up just to block you. For funsies, or something.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    Regarding the Pirsig quote. It needs to be footnoted for the modern times to mean ‘riding with an open-face helmet’, which was all they had back when the book was written. Wearing a full-face helmet is akin to shrinking the cage to the size of one’s head – the numbing effect to me is significant.

    (I’m leaving the safety considerations out of this, obviously).

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Pirsig notes in the book that he rarely used his snap-on “bubble” because it makes him claustrophobic.

      I ride my visor up until the temp drops below freezing.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’m too much of a wuss to accept the risks of motorcycling, but the isolating effect of a full helmet is really noticeable during the times I’ve ridden 4-wheel ATVs. You feel very removed from the environment and I can understand why some feel the urge to ride without a helmet.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      ThirdOwner – “Wearing a full-face helmet is akin to shrinking the cage to the size of one’s head”

      Really?

      You gotta be kidding?

      I’ve taken a hit in the full faced helmet from a bumble bee at 65 mph and due to the goo had to pull off the road. I felt it in my neck too.

      Might as well ride naked since leathers can be viewed as a cage too.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        The periodic cicadas are hatching in my area this summer. Those are real fun to hit. They jerk your head back. Can’t even imagine what that would be like without a full face helmet.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    Wait, you mean people don’t drive like this everywhere?

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I’m reminded of one of my favorite South Park episodes dedicated to, um….”bikers.”

    Jack, don’t let these guys scare you. Buy more motorcycles. Ride fast. Ride often.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Except that they’re not bikers. RUBbies, yeah. Wannabes, definitely. Bikers? I don’t think so.

      Now those guys on the older Harleys, the ones that show signs of having serious mileage on the odometer? The ones who’s leathers are old, worn, and definitely not in the current fashion? The guys with the three piece patch on their cut, with the M/C square somewhere in that patch? Maybe even have this little diamond shaped patch on the front?

      Them there be bikers. Real ones. Guys who know how to ride. And pretty decent people, assuming you’ve got the guts to get to know them.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “Them there be bikers. Real ones. Guys who know how to ride. And pretty decent people, assuming you’ve got the guts to get to know them.”

        In my younger days I played in a bunch of road bands, mostly rock/pop metal, and occasionally in some pretty rough places. The bikers were always our friends, and if anybody tried to fvck with the band they got shut down and escorted out very expeditiously. They were like self-appointed stage security.
        I also remember playing in Daytona when bike week backed right up against the first week of spring break. Bike week was chill and just a good time. But the bikers rolled out on Sunday, the college brats rolled in, and then all hell broke loose (not in a good way). I missed the bikers very much :(

        I’ve known a lot of old school bikers, almost always good solid human beings.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Back in my sportsbike days (not that long ago), I referred to Harleys as “moving pylons”. Nothing worse than running into a stream of weekend riders out on some nice curvy road. Sigh. But, beyond that, “What made the ride tolerable, and in fact enjoyable, was my decision to take none of it personally”, adopting that attitude makes even the worst of driving offenses tolerable. After some egregious move I usually just mutter “If you knew how little I cared about you doing that, it would depress you for days”, and get on with life. But, after you’ve done things like coming down from Snoqualmie Pass in 37 degrees and raining in the dark (on my old VFR) and realized if you hadn’t been hugging the left side of the lane you would have nailed a tire left in the lane by some trailer, you get a little sanguine about merely being cut off in traffic.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    Ahh, the last minute lane change. In Toronto this is universal, partly because unlike in the US, the first indication of road construction is a cone six inches in front of the dump truck.

    Worse is the last minute lane-change OUT of the exit lane. Not as in “oops, almost missed that exit”, but as in “here, let me save 30 seconds by changing into and then out of the lane for an exit I have no intent of using.”

    This entitled and dangerous asshattery is so common that the authorities have taken to a new sort of two-line lane marking–a broken line on the left and solid on the right, to indicate that one may move into but not out of the exit lane.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I still have my Kawasaki Z750S, but at my age, I Harley ride it any more.

    More than the fear of death, it’s the fear of having to hire somebody to wipe my butt for months after a minor mix-up.

    But, I’m sure part of the elation of riding is getting home unscathed, having cheated death or disability one… more… time.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      No, the elation is the ride. If you’re going to obsess about cheating death or disability, do yourself a favor and sell the bike.

      Case in point. One mid-November evening 2014 I’m coming home from work, less that a mile from home when a deer bolts into the road two feet in front of me. T-boned the bitch at somewhere between 55-60 mph. Over the bars, of course, rolled three times and landed in the ditch at the edge of the road. The bike plants itself in the same ditch about three feet behind me.

      Take two deep breaths, start seeing what moves, starting with fingers and toes and working inwards. Everything works, nothing hurts (that’ll come later when the adrenaline wears off). Sit up, pull off the helmet,grab the cell phone and call the fiancée who’s at home. By this time other people have stopped, I find I can stand just fine.

      The house mouse pulls up, she’s got the 9mm from the bedside, upon ascertaining I’m ok she stops panicking and goes to take care of the deer. Meanwhile one of the guys who stops is a BMW rider from about three miles west of my place. He heads back home to get a trailer.

      The bike’s a mess. 1995 Triumph Trident that I’d owned since new, 117k on the clock. I can see we’ve had our last ride. Within half an hour we’re all back home, and the deer was given to the BMW dude. Least I could do for his bringing my baby home for the last time.

      Next morning, 0800, it’s back to work. Kick over the Harley and get back on the road.

      The day I can’t consciously do that, and start panicking over what’s around the next corner, it’s time to sell the bike. And buy my funeral plot – I’m dead.

      • 0 avatar
        mason

        Consider yourself fortunate to be topside, I’ve lost two friends to deer collisions.

        Actually, one to a deer and the other to a tree after he hit the deer.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        “Sit up, pull off the helmet…”

        Glad you were wearing one – were there any impacts to it?

        I’ve dropped bikes twice at around 40 mph when I was young and stupid (lost traction in both cases) – road rash, cracked ankle bone, visor snap on open-face helmet half gone due to contact with the pavement (would have been my skull).

        If that happened today, I’m sure my old bones couldn’t take it- I’m just being realistic about it. I may replace the bike with an old Miata (or similar) for tooling about in the summer (though a deer collision could be pretty bad in one of those).

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Why aren’t there more road rage shootings in Florida then? I thought that in America you’d get shot if you so much as looked at another driver the wrong way.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Only in da hood.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Former boss nailed a moose at night at highway speed. Ugh.

      I just can’t do bikes. I spent four days in a hospital after a solo bicycle crash at maybe 30mph when I was 16. Having two Nurse Ratchets hold you down while a third scrubs dirt out of your hide with a brass brush is an experience best missed. My Spitfire gives far more sense of being in the open than riding a motorcycle in full gear, and there is absolutely no other way I would ride one.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        A brass brush?! You’re not supposed to use the Civil War hospital!

        • 0 avatar
          rocketrodeo

          It’s called a debriding tool. It’s the penalty for making poor gear choices.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            It is best to put the person under general anaesthesia if you have to debride a large area. That or heavy narcotics and what we refer to as “conscious procedural sedation”. You still are awake but stoned enough not to remember or feel much of it.

            I had to deal with a guy once who was drunk and went down just wearing shorts, sandals and a tank top. He was a major prick and I got annoyed enough to point out to him that he was proof that the 3k I spent on riding gear was a sound investment.

            I never could figure out riding chaps since they provide little real protection. I was in an ER once waiting to see a Doctor after a rugby injury and the cops came in looking for a “biker”. They said they were looking for a drunk in chaps who crashed and planed all the meat off his ass.

            Those beanie helmets are another one that makes no sense.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “debriding tool”

            The nurse had to use one on the palm of my hand (after one of my drops) it was soaked in Betadine – I screamed like a baby as she ran that thing across my exposed flesh… the “device” looked a lot like the brush that you use to clean metal build-up from files/rasps.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            NEVER GOOGLE IMAGES THAT.

            Good god.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Back when I was toying with learning to rid a friends CB550 was the only thing I rode that tempted me. Dirt bikes, fun on a trail… but on the road? No. Kawi triples (it was ’80 – ’85) seemed demonic and malicious. The CB? If were going to ride, that would have been it. But I like my cage.

  • avatar
    Varryl

    In my AZ neck of the woods I see a lot of people riding with no gear at all, and I am astounded by their… let’s call it boldness. Based on what I have seen I wouldn’t be out there with anything less than the power armor from Fallout 4 while riding.

    I myself have missed seeing at least one bike guy in the last few years, and I felt so guilty about it I drove straight home to contemplate my life choices. I don’t like being that guy.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Driving of any kind in Florida could almost open me to the idea of a self-driving car. Almost.

    Spent the last few weeks running all over Florida with John, taking care of business and visiting his family. Our destinations included Fort Charlie, Cape Coral, Tampa, Orlando, Orange City, and Pensacola.

    I am quite used to Texas, Louisianna, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama drivers who have no clue how to use a turn signal, but they DO know how to use mirrors and how to check their blind spot(s). This concept seems totally lost on a vast majority of Florida drivers.

    Another issue, the inexplicable “Ill pass you, get in front of you, drop 10 mph and let you pass me back, then I repeat over and over until your head explodes or you exit, whichever occurs first” concept. Why? Why do that 15 times in a row to the same car? Its happened to me several times, even in other states with cars with Florida plates.

    I mean no offence to any Florida residents/drivers. It was just a very unnerving experience. I had no less than five near-misses, and witnessed about a dozen more involving other drivers. The I-4 highway in particular is horrible.

    And then there are the routes. The GPS gets confused and then started giving directions for roads we were not on. I finally turned it off and found my own routes via an atlas I had in the trunk, early 2000s style lol. I mightve put a few more miles on the odometer, but it was far easier and less stressful.

  • avatar

    I don’t scare easily in the automotive world, in controlled conditions…rally cars, track day, etc.

    Florida scares the crap of out me, IN A CAR. Elderly, stoned, any combination of the above. Sit in front of the Publix with a lawn chair and cooler, and just watch the parking lot action…entertaining AND scary at once. You could make an afternoon of it. Everyone argues, too.

    The lanes all have botts dotts to keep you in lane. On wide open highways in the sunshine.

    Observation from a decktop bar on A1A…I finally got certain harleys. If you weigh @350 lbs, and mama is over @225, you get a harley because it fits you. (odd to view cycles from above) Not that all harley folks are huge, but for a certain Florida subset, you aren’t fitting on a BMW or Ducati or any of the UJM.

    I’ve years of dirt under my wheels, but to go street in Florida ? I salute your bravery and strongly suggest kevlar and an international yellow vest.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I can’t believe you are required to wear a helmet riding a bicycle in Florida anot for a motorcycle.

    I’m currently in Miami and I must agree with Jack regarding the driving culture. I went on the turnpike to Orlando, then over to watch Elon Melon’s Falcon launch yesterday.

    Some of the geriatrics on bikes (and cars) should have their licences revoked.

    Oh, I’m renting a SLT 5.7 Hemi Ram averaging 14mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      There is no helmet requirement for adults on bicycles in FL – the statute is for children under 16 years of age, and afaik is rarely, if ever, enforced.

  • avatar
    Commando

    Jack, I beg you. Make this be your last ride. AMWIK.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Wow ;

    So informative .

    I’ve never been to Florida but until now I wanted to…..

    BTW : Harleys are not in fact vert good Motos but they do have their place , esp.PanHeads .

    I left wondering of maybe a FlatHead of KnuckleHead isn’t a ‘ real ‘ Harley then? .kinda strange that .

    ATG ! ATT ! too many are gone now to ever skip the gear .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Harleys are a time-warp.

      You know…

      …like the Beetle. Better cars come out. The hip and trendy and informed glom onto them. Conservative buyers stick with tried-and-true.

      For a time. The surpassed and recently-obsolete become more-and-more nonsensical…imagine, for example, selling an old VW Type 1 in today’s market. No WAY…maybe some sales the first year; but that market is shallow and quickly sated.

      Likewise, Harley. Significant, in development of the motorcycle…sure. But LONG obsolete. The V-Twin as a layout…has benefits; but its original purpose, cooling and heat issues, are long-gone.

      Tractorlike torque no longer has a place, either. Short-strokes, parallel-cylinders, water-jacketing, computer controls, high redlines, have all surpassed the Harley design book.

      As Ford would have been had they stuck with the Model T into the 1940s, Harley today is completely irrelevant – except as a niche supplier, a sort of Excalibur for motorcyclists.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Sounds almost as if youre talking about the Jeep Wrangler. They both still have an extremely loyal fan base and still sell well, although you can name any number of products that are pretty much better in every way.

        No, not saying the Wrangler has a direct compeditor (yet), but for the younger kid (male or female) who wants one simply because its “cool”, not because of its ability, there are far better choices out there. Yet, they still gotta have a Jeep Wrangler with big off-road tires and a lift kit so they can drive it only on paved roads and put up with its awful driving experience and the horrible MPG.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        .
        @ JustPassinThru
        .

        Yes , I do know , much better than most current H-D enthusiasts in fact .
        .
        I just drove to and from Phoenix , Az. where they had ‘ Arizona Bike Week ‘ and coming home across the I-10 I was passed by lots and lots of H-D’s , riders of all stripes (! WOMEN RIDERS !! YAY!) and stopped and talked to a few here and there .
        .
        As I said , Harley’s have their place , mostly touring slowly in straight lines and pounding the rider so badly they’ll sleep like the dead when they stop .
        .
        I rode Harley’s back when a PanHead or KnuckleHead was ‘ just an old Harley ‘ , restored both and rode the living crap out of them until I grew up and decided I liked going faster , especially in the canyons and mountains .
        .
        In the last few years I have noticed few broken down Harleys on the road side , used to be they’d litter the highways , this is a good thing , I remember in the late 1970’s near the end of the AMF days, they used HAMMERS to force the engines to fit into the poorly jigged frames….
        .
        Sad times indeed .
        .
        I can only recall my PanHead leaving me affoot twice , because I was too lazy to keep the chain properly oiled…
        .
        I’d _love_ to have a bone stock 1957 K Model for a hobby Moto , I’d peak and tweak it and ride the crap out of it as best I could .
        .
        Not all Harley riders and enthusiasts are pinheads who wear thin plastic nazi helmets , henna tattoos and insist on proving how small their dicks are by making enough noise to raise the dead . many are serious Motocycle Enthusiasts who simply love to ride the biggest goddamn Moto they can .
        .
        Those guys are true die hards and fly under most folks radar because they understand you can uncork the exhaust without pissing off everyone within twenty miles .
        .
        -Nate

  • avatar
    zipper69

    As both a life long bike rider and Florida resident I totally confirm all the aspects of the article!
    I rode bikes in both the UK and Europe. A VFR750 in UK gave me four offs in four years (every one a sudden lane change by a car in front).
    My Baby Darling in The Netherlands was a Kwacker ZZR1100 (orange and purple!)which was a big gentle hippo of a bike that eventually spat me off (four cracked ribs and a holed knee). Later I progressed to a Honda Pan-European (ST1100 in the US) which is almost the perfect grand tourer, smaller, lighter and more maneuverable than a Goldie it took us hundreds of miles across Europe in comfort and safety.

    Emigrating to the US I had never even held a car license but quickly realized that two wheels = sudden death. Our local Gulf Coast newspaper has a biker death virtually every day with two main causes; a car pulling out or turning left in front of them and excessive speed with minimum skills.

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