Inequality and privileges: Bikers are not immune (PV)

With the price of petrol passing the 5 Turkish liras (1.5 USD) per liter the small tank of my 600 cc single cylinder is now well above 18 US dollars or 16 Euros and it does not take me for more than 200 Km.

To cover the distance from home to Istanbul it will cost me around 80 Euros for petrol only plus maintenance, oil, insurance and personal expenses.

Let say 110 Euros if one can survive 800 K on solo sandwiches and water.

For half of this price I can fly from home (15 K from regional airport) to Istanbul SAW. I agree not as funny as riding but it makes one think.

And thinking I was in one of the first “spring” outing this March when I stopped at a road side quite capacious restaurant and I contemplated the 20 or more bikes parked outside: the total amount of capital represented by these vehicles would have bought the whole establishment and, in the words of one biker, maybe the petrol station attached to it.

Surely, the waiter serving us should have saved the entire salary for a period of three years to buy the cheapest of the bikes present.

25.000 Euros (at March 2017 equal to almost 100.000 Turkish lira with Gross Minimum Wage at 1.800 TL) will buy you in BMW Istanbul a new BMW GS Adventure. In theory and in practice a family of three with father as only worker must live four and half year on the same amount. It makes you think as it makes you think the contrast between the news from countries at war and the misery for families and children coming in the same TV program five minutes before the showing of costly and futile event as the Milano Moda fashion show. It makes one think and it hurts.

Still, buying the bike is not all: one can always put two and half years of the same father’s salary and buy (51.000 Tl) a more “modest” Suzuki V Strom 650XT.

Unfortunately, it looks like very few bikers today have a minimalist or parsimonious attitude when coming to accessory or “farkling”.

Without going to the excess of Iron Butt rider, who put (Summer 2014) in excess of 9.000 US dollars on top a brand new Honda ST1300A (just to “meet needs”) costly modifications are very popular: exhaust system, luggage system, communication system, GPS and entertainment system, saddle, lights, screen, protectors and carbon fiber (or titanium) parts are as frequent as Dolce Gabbana shirt in Portofino cafes.

The society of consumption, the “I have and I want more” showing attitude push the rider to buy the “perfect and ultimate” bike and then to change all changeable just for marketing pressure reasons.

A new exhaust can offer on improvement of 5/7 HP and the same result can be obtained with a dieting program cutting approx.10 kilos from the rider fat surplus.

Finally, “ride is coming and I have nothing to wear…” Riding gear is another great source of inequality where the song of the sirens takes the wear to new sublime levels of technology. The siren sings “more protection requires more money” and “higher price better protection”; it sounds familiar to people that must show a credit card, with funds in it, before being admitted to the emergency room of any hospital (survival of the richest as new natural selection).

With this attractive (and fallacious) song riders turn into medieval knights needing a lift to mount the saddle for the weight of the protections gear. After the air-bag I am waiting for safety belt on two wheels (and why not… the old idea of leg protector’s mandatory on frame). Inexpensive gear is now relegated to “entry level” and the competence is associated with great amount of money spent for dressing.

Inequality is the main source of conflicts, violence and instability. Frugality and sharing are out of fashion and flaunting wealth is now a major sport: biking was a simple and open-to-all sport where the brand of the helmet was not important and definitely not discriminating. Today we, the bikers, are protagonist of a subtle but not less evident discrimination, creating a social class of privileged people wasting for vanity.

“Charity rides” are not a solution but they are very rare in Turkey: maybe it is time for all groups to start thinking of giving back some of the joys we take from riding. Ideas?

Gear: Fashion and Style vs. Equipment (PV&AG)

Good friend Andy Goldfine, creator and owner of Aerostich gear, sent recently a piece of PR news that reflects my thinking in minimalist riding. You can say that this is Andy pro domo sua simply advertising Darien jackets and you will be partially correct.

Nevertheless, if you take out the justified pride for the product Andy created decades ago (when very few bikers were choosing textile gear) you will see that the need to sell more and more frequently creates ideas and opinion that do not have justifications in actual riding protection or comfort.

“There’s a lot of ‘noise’ in the rider-gear market space the Darien jacket section occupies, about how ‘new and improved’ newer jackets are. Companies making these kinds of jackets restyle them and revise them every year or two, telling riders that if three zippers are good, six or seven zippers is better. And that these periodic re-designs offer technical advances.

What all the ‘noise’ amounts to is fashion and style being presented in the guise of technology which is supposedly is rapidly ever-advancing in this area. Except armored waterproof textile jackets are not the same kind of technology as computers, or even motorcycles. Seven zippers are not better than three, if only three are functionally needed. What counts is ease of use, durability, fit and function.

The pioneering of this type of gear was done by Aerostich twenty and thirty years ago.

Since then, just like added decorative stitching on branded ‘designer’ jeans turns a pair of useful, comfortable and durable work pants like Levi’s 501’s into a fashion, all the noise about new tech in jackets is mostly fashion BS masquerading as technological improvements. It’s not real.

Classic black leather ‘zipper’ biker jackets have been popular world-wide for many decades. There are versions at many price points and in some circles this jacket has become a fashion cliché having little to do with actually riding a motorcycle. But for many riders it remains a great equipment choice that has changed only very slightly over the years — because it works so well. You’ll find the original versions of these jackets at Langlitz, Shott and several other pioneering leather companies. Similarly, you’ll find the original British waxed cotton Belstaff and Barbour rider’s jackets and pants still being produced in their original patterns because they also remain excellent functional rider’s gear.

The ‘latest-greatest’ is usually more style and fashion based, and the original equipment is nearly always more utility-tool based. It does not change from year to year any more than Levi’s 501’s. Many riders are unlikely to admit they are buying ever-changing fashion and style when they believe they are getting some kind of improved technology, but that is a truth.

Change of Mind

(Note: Paolo Volpara wrote this article in August 2010 as an internal OMM memo. I wanted to share it with you as I don’t think it is that internal. It is an interesting piece of reading about the philosophy behind OMM’s existence. It is also interesting to see how it is still valid today.. – Attila Algan)

When, in the now distant Turkey of 1998, we decided to start a group of riders we considered the idea of defining OMM as “Bikers with Brain”. We also designed a primitive logo that thanks to God and to a sense of aesthetic never saw the light. Similarly, we never used the tag-line considering it too presumptuous if not insulting. The message in any case was, for all of the founders, clear: brain is and remains the best accessory for the bike. An accessory for responsible and competent riding but also a tool for applying intelligence to our role of Bikers.

Motorcyclists, we know, are a strange breed: on one side we represent the extreme of individualism in a mass oriented society. We ride alone, we ride when other humans stay put at home, we travel isolated in our helmets.

On the other hand we are community animals: although my father told me not to speak with people I have not been properly introduced to, I do not mind to start chatting with a perfectly unknown person if he/she is on a bike.

Brain plays a big role in our individual responsibility toward fellow riders belonging to the community. As “good riders” we have an obligation to share our discoveries, to help the new comers into our sport, to support all riders in any possible form. For this reason, I have been always active in clubs or associations… for this reason years ago we founded One More Mile Riders Istanbul.

At the end, my dear friends, it is not enough to ride. We all should dedicate time, resources and efforts in sustaining the Biker Community, a group with no frontiers, no rules, no limits but with an active, creative and generous Brain. And with style. Nothing more depressing than few of the 2010 OMM favorite activities:

  • Envy among fellow riders and competition for power within the group
  • Repetition of concepts, forms and events in a liturgical fashion without new contributions (Theory lessons that repeat the 2004 script for the thousand times to an audience that already know the concepts by memory)
  • Presumption of being safe… professional… correct… expert… exemplary…
  • Teaching attitude without knowledge
  • Riding pretensions without curiosity and culture

All these mortal sins not only depress the content of what the club can bring to the community (no new ideas from OMM since 2005) but also bring the LEVEL of STYLE to the vulgarity of diamond encrusted underwear.

In this stupid way the class act of “riding OMM” became the plastic copy of a Biedermeier cupboard. No more style, no more brain, no more fun … but still one more mile.

What we need is a change of people or, if possible, a change within people.

By taking the initiative of considering the group the personal space for the creativity, the blank canvass for exciting painting, the block of marble with the statue waiting to come out.

OMM as the joy of new and exciting experiences born out from rider’s mind.

To do so all that is needed is a brain… and a bike (in order of importance)

175 mph (280 kph) on a pushrod 650 twin with 40-year-old parts built by Turkish engineer

I got an invitation to take a look at the achievement of a young engineer of Turkish origin who “obliterated the SCTA record (South California Timing Association) by 25 mph at the Mojave Mile, on an airport runway.

The article was signed by Mark Gardiner and it gave me the opportunity to revisit his blog where provides insight into motorcycle racing, history, and industry news. Isle of Man TT racer, Mark Gardiner is as well author of “Riding Man”

You can read the full of it at Revzilla while enjoy some selection”

“My friend Dan’s pickup truck rattled to a stop near a dusty bungalow in Shadow Hills, a neighborhood on the north side of Los Angeles, tucked up under the 210 freeway, with an inexplicably rural/small-town vibe. The door of the two-car garage was open. Maybe that was part of why it didn’t feel like L.A. to me. Whoever lived here wasn’t afraid of prying eyes seeing a garage full of tools and bikes.

“This is Alp,” Dan said. Alp shook my hand with less than total enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure whether he was shy or already worried that another journalist was probably going to get the technical details wrong. But he seemed to grudgingly accept that when your Triumph 650 goes 175 miles an hour, unfaired, strangers will show up, wanting to talk.

Alp Sungurtekin is 42 but doesn’t look it. He grew up in Turkey and Germany and studied industrial design in Istanbul, where he operated a tattoo studio. He moved to the United States in 2002 and got a job working for a naval architect. That might not seem like a good prelude to building motorcycles, but the R&D department where he worked had a full fabrication workshop, where he taught himself how to make the things he designed. With new skills in hand, he began building and racing Triumphs at Southern California Timing Association events…Over the years — and after making many, many land speed runs trying idea after idea — he formed his own notions of what a true land speed racing motorcycle should be. That tiny, tiny motorcycle was up on a work stand in the garage as I interviewed him. “This is an A-PF 650-class machine,” he said. “A means special construction, P means pushrod, and F means fuel. It’s a top fuel motor, running on 90 to 100 percent nitromethane.”

“Special construction” means it’s not a factory frame. Alp designed and fabricated the chassis himself, from chromoly tubing. It looks a bit like a vintage drag bike; too short, too light, and too lacking in rear suspension to fit in as a land speed racer… The motor’s built up on Thunder Engineering pattern cases…The head began life as a 1964 alloy Triumph item…

Land speed racers are generally pretty open about stuff you can see. They’re more evasive when discussing inner workings: porting, cams, mag timing… “It’s not a secret,” Alp told me when I asked questions about those things, “but I don’t talk about it.”

He had planned to run it at Bonneville, but the salt was lousy all last year. So he broke it in at the Mojave Mile, on an airport runway, where it obliterated the SCTA record by 25 mph. “People who are 50, 60 years old have been doing this for years, and they move the record up one or two miles an hour,” he told me. “You can imagine that I show up, with my funny accent…” His voice trailed off, but then he added, “There was this one guy, a BSA racer, with a streamliner. He made a post listing about 10 things that are wrong with my bike: the bore/stroke ratio, the angle of the inlet tracts… I told him, ‘Can you imagine if I did it right?’”

To put this in perspective, a couple of years ago, Shunji Yokokawa set an official record for the fastest production 600 cc motorcycle. That’s one of Honda’s top R&D engineers, on a Honda CBR600RR. He went 170.828. Alp went faster than that, on a motorcycle with a cylinder head, among other components, older than he is.

Alp pretty much always has a customer project or two in the garage, as well… For his next trick, Alp wants to break into the 200 Club on a partial streamliner powered by one of his 650 cc pushrod twins. That would make him the first guy ever to go that fast on a “sit-on” motorcycle (as opposed to a full streamliner). He’s already sketched out the bodywork, which will be all aluminum he plans to hand-form himself…

Bike is a drug that I choose…

Laura Buitron @chickamotorunner

I’m not ashamed to say that my soul was broken before I started this trip a year ago, I know a bike is “only” an object & there are much more important things in life that a material belonging. But my bike has being my cocoon, my safe home, what represents me, my solace, my challenge, the instrument that helped me to find myself & my path again … No matter where or what I’m riding, or even if I’m not riding; I know that riding is my therapy and helps me to be a better person … and I choose that drug & addiction over any other one!

ESSENTIAL LIBRARY: “one of the most widely respected books on safe street riding.”

Life is turning complicated and the technology that is designed to make every task easy adds more elements to the difficult equation. Then, man adds further barrier to simple, easy living. Planning a traditional ride from Istanbul to Katmandu is today a nightmare of” consulate paperwork and libido” submitting the adventurous rider to the will of presumptuous officials. All this may discourage the most adventurous and it instill the idea that the requirements for a two-wheels adventure are high, expensive and out of reach of most. Fortunately, we still have minimalist and luddites riding “on just an average smallish bike, with some simple luggage and gear, unsupported and independently, capturing in this way the most time-honored essences of motorcycling. This month two books on the same subject: Lightweight Touring Book” is a 14 pages of essential and reference information to keep on the bike if you are travelling solo, light and camping. “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook

By Chris Scott inventor of term “adventure motorcycling”. Bike mods, what to bring, as well as paperwork and riding techniques are all covered in this well-written and authoritative 6th edition book.


When not listed differently all books are available in English on line at Aerostich

  1. Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook to Better Motorcycling (available in Turkish at OMM)
  2. “Full Control” (available in Turkish at OMM)
  3. “Total Control: High Performance Street <Riding Techniques by Lee Parks (available in Turkish at OMM)
  4. “The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  5. “The Upper Half of the Motorcycle: On the Unity of Rider and Machine” by Bernt Spiegel
  6. “Bodies in motion” by Steven L. Thompson
  7. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig
  8. “Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well” by David Hough
  9. (and 9 bis): “Lightweight Touring Book” by Aerostich – “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook” by Chris Scott