Lobo Loco Rally

I just signed up for the Lobo Loco Scavenger Hunt on August 27th.  You can still sign up if you’re in Ontario and want to try a motorcycle scavenger hunt/rally.

It looks to be a good time.  You start off any time after 8am from somewhere in Southern Ontario and finish up in Hamilton by 4pm.  Dinner follows with the other rally contestants.  It’s $75 for the rally & dinner.

You try and hit as many way points as possible on your way to the 4pm meeting in Hamilton.  It should be interesting to see the various bikes and riders who sign up for this.

They include a video which explains how this type of rally works:

The sign up ends soon.  Act quick and sign up if you’re interested!

If  you’re still curious, they’re staging another one on Oct 15, 2016.  Follow the facebook page to see details.

They’re all trying to kill me, even when they’re not

It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in April and I’m pootling down a residential street in the town next to mine on my way home from work…

There is a kid, maybe nine or ten years old with a basketball in his hand, standing on the grass on that corner to the left.  A white, ludicrous-sized SUV (maybe a Tahoe?) is in the lane approaching me.  I’m doing about 40km/hr towards this seemingly innocuous scene when the kid (who is looking the other way and hasn’t seen me at all) decides to throw the basketball out in the street right in front of the SUV just to see what it’ll do.  You could see him standing there doing the math before he chucked the ball.

The Tahoe driver has that vacant I’m-in-a-giant-box-and-don’t-need-to-pay-attention look you see in a lot of SUV drivers.  Generally, the larger the box they’re in, the less they seem to care what happens outside it.  He suddenly keys in that a basketball is going to hit his precious status symbol, so he swerves out of his lane and right at me, except I’m not there.

A couple of things inform my ESP on the road.  Firstly, Conestoga’s Motorcycle Training courses did a great job of getting me to threat assess and prioritize what’s going on around me.  For less than the price of a decent helmet you get experts with decades of experience getting you started.  Motorcycle training courses should be mandatory for anyone wanting to ride on the road.  They give you the best chance to survive the often ridiculous circumstances you find yourself in.

The second piece is something that Matt Crawford mentions in one of his books.  He has a mantra he chants when things get dodgy, and I’ve found that it helps remind you to never, ever depend on the skills or even basic competence of the people driving around you.  When things get sticky Matt mutters in his helmet, “they’re all trying to kill me, they’re all trying to kill me.”  It’s the kind of gallows humour that most motorcyclists would find funny, but it’s also sadly true.

A few weeks ago a kid made a mistake in school but it was excused as an accident by one teacher because the kid wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt anyone.  Another teacher pointed out (rightly I think) that not properly preparing for a task, or doing it half-assed isn’t an accident, it’s incompetence, and that person’s intentions are irrelevant, they are at fault.  The word accident removes blame and makes everyone feel better, it covers all manner of indifference.  No where is this more true than on a motorcycle.  Any experienced motorcyclist will tell you that it doesn’t matter if you have right of way when you pull out and get clobbered, or whether the distracted driver that side swiped you while texting shouldn’t have been.  You’ll loose any physical altercation you have with a car (or a 3 ton Tahoe).  It’s on you, the rider, to avoid these idiots.

On a quiet back street in Fergus, Ontario I could very well have ignored the abject stupidity unfolding in front of me or spent my energy assigning blame, but I didn’t.  The child’s profound ignorance and vicious curiosity (great job with that one parents) along with the Tahoe driver’s distracted, indifferent approach to operating a six thousand pound vehicle could have very well ended me (80km/hr closing speeds between two vehicles won’t end well for a motorcyclist).  As it was, I’d pulled over to the curb and was stationary as the Tahoe went by in my lane, looking surprised and freaked out that his precious truck almost got hit by a basketball.

I could have gesticulated, but I just stood there at the curb shaking my head as the freaked out driver rolled past.  You’re not going to convince someone like that to be better than what they are.  The kid ran out into the street (he still hadn’t looked my way), and grabbed his basketball.  I could have talked to him, or eventually his parents, but there’d be little point to that either.  Blame is a waste of time.

Even when they aren’t trying, they’re all still trying to kill you, keep your head up.

A Day In The Shop

I took a day off from the enormous deck I’ve been building to work on the Concours.  After the initial clean up I got the instrument cluster off in preparation for a new speedo cable.  This looks like a pretty easy job.  The cluster is only held on with two bolts and the speedo cable runs directly from it to the front tire.  You slot the ends of the cable in and do them up and you’re off to the races.  Replacement cables only run you about ten bucks.

’94 Concours clutch lever assembly.  Those
little bolts that hold on the cover are 4mm
and hard to source (not much in the way of
metric bolts around here).  The clutch lever
meets up with a pin and various odds and
ends that connect it to the reservoir.

I’ve also removed the rather sad looking handlebar end weights and looked at the clutch lever.  The former owner said it was missing a grommet, but it looks like other odds and ends are missing as well from the lever assembly, which is remarkably fine boned.  I’ve looked up prices online, but there don’t seem to be any Canadian online parts sellers that work in this kind of OEM detail.

Considering the relatively low cost of the odds and ends I need (about $30), it seems silly to buy American and deal with customs hassles and shipping costs that almost equal the cost of the parts.  Even with dealer markup, my local Kawi dealer should be able to beat the shipping markup.

I finally got to the various fairing bits and panniers and they look to be in good shape after I got the cobwebs, mud and grime off them.

The current plan is to get the speedo operational, check other details and then put her back together again and take her in for a safety check.  If all goes well there I’ll begin the process of putting her back on the road.  With any luck I’ll get some miles on before the snow falls and then spend the winter stripping her down for a paint job.

The instrument cluster is a simple removal, two bolts
underneath hold the unit to a subframe.  The whole
thing is connected to the speedo cable out the bottom
and a couple of wiring harnesses out the side.
Many bits and pieces make up a
Kawasaki Concours.  The instrument

bezel (middle) cleaned up nicely after
a soak in some armourall.

I finally got the Connie up on the centre stand.  If there is a trick to that I’d love to hear it.  I ended up putting a wooden
ramp out back and man-handling it up it in order to get the stand down.

Connie’s Home

It’s a very Kawasaki garage!

The Concours is home.  After a long bath (engine cleaner and a deep rinse) she fired right up.  I like this bike, even when it’s covered in cobwebs and has been sitting outside for a year unridden it’s still got fight in it.  The engine has gobs of torque and pulls hard.  The controls are stiff, but the gear changes are very smooth.  Shaft drive seems like magic.

So far she seems to be as advertised: good mechanicals but a mess aesthetically.  Over the next few days I’ll be breaking her down and seeing what needs doing.  Hopefully there won’t be any surprises.

It’s a two bike garage now…
The Connie cleans up nicely


Project Bikes

I got a couple of nibbles on Kijiji from my ‘got an old bike in your shed you want to get rid of?” ad…

1979 Suzuki GS850, not running, asking $500


A review on this specific bike from the UK shows a lot of love for it.

Here is a history of the GS850 series of bikes from Suzuki.  It’s a touring bike and weighs in at around 600lbs.  With a shaft drive and that weight it isn’t exactly ideal as a cafe racer rebuild.  It is however air cooled and those pipes are lovely. Something other than a cafe racer could be

the goal.  This military style build is interesting.

As a bobber style bike with a saddle, the GS850 has some potential!



1986 Honda Shadow 1100cc, no info given, asking $500

Another big cruiser (many people seem to have these old lumps lying around).  Shaft drive, massive motor, covered in things.  Everything I don’t like in a motorcycle.



If these get customized, it seems to be along chopper lines.  I think I’m holding out for something a bit less, um, big.

Chain and Agony, or, the End of Local Parts Suppliers

I’ve got to admit I’m a bit pissed off.  After trying to wrap my head around chains and sprockets online I decided to buy locally and have a chat with the parts desk at my regional dealer.  Since it was my first time doing a chain/sprocket replacement I figured I’d pay the extra cost and get some face to face advice.

Trying to get details out of the parts-desk guy was like pulling teeth.  He seemed frustrated with my questions and didn’t offer up much.  I guess the logic there was, ‘just bring it in to service.’  I left paying over $300 taxes in for what would have cost me $240 online, but was none the wiser.  I was at least assured that these were the specific parts I needed.

After a series of confusing and frustrating situations, here is the advice I wish the parts guy at the dealer had given me:

The Ninja 650r uses a 114 link chain, he gave me a 120 link chain but told me this was the stock chain especially for my bike.  He’s not wrong, but he didn’t tell me I’d have to ‘break’ the chain.  Here is how I wish it’d gone down:

You’re going to need one of these to break and master link up a motorcycle chain. It isn’t expensive (about sixty bucks)

Parts guy: “I’m ordering you the chain size for your bike, but it comes with six extra links.  When it comes in I’ll get one of the guys to break the chain so it fits your bike specifically.  If you want I’ll even ask him to do it when you come to pick it up so you can see how he does it.”

He could have sold me a $60 tool (probably for more) and I would have left knowing what I was getting into, instead all I got was the exasperated face.  

When I hung the chain on the bike it was way too long (it was a 120 link chain going on a 114 link bike, but I didn’t know that at the time).  I had to go digging to find out why the chain ‘specific to my bike’ obviously didn’t fit.

This experience asks a larger question about brick and mortar stores versus shopping online: why would I spend the gas and time driving there and then pay the extra 20% for the experience if I can pay less online?  If there is nothing value added in me bothering to buy at full retail locally, then why would I do it?

Second up, I wish he’d have offered me some pragmatic advice for doing my own chain work:

Parts guy: “Is this your first motorcycle chain?  It’s pretty easy to mess it up.  I’d suggest going for a basic O-ring chain for your first go.  If you botch the job you’re only out fifty bucks and you’ve learned something.”

I ended up buying the bells and whistles X-ring chain on his advice, and then breaking it a link too short (after looking up how to do that on that paragon of customer support, the internet).  It’s an expensive learning experience breaking a chain so that it doesn’t fit my bike.  At least it’s still over 110 links and a 520 sized chain, meaning it’ll work on a lot of other bikes.  Now I’ve not got to decide whether to seal it up and wait for an ideal use or try and resell it (at a loss).

One way or another, I don’t think I’ll be driving down to the local dealer again for parts, I get my questions answered with more patience on the internet, which beggars belief.

Note:  a couple of days later I went online and picked up a basic O-link chain from the same Japanese chain manufacturer from Canada’s Motorcycle (35% cheaper than the equivalent chain from the dealer).  In a matter of moments the chain was on its way (free delivery).  It got here in the same amount of time it took the dealer to order it in (but I didn’t have to drive down to the city twice).  I’m all for buying locally and helping out the area economy, but if local business don’t realize how they can add value to a local buying experience, they’re going to kill it stone dead.

Note²:  maybe it’s only a motorcycle dealership thing.  I went to RONA to make an order for deck parts and they couldn’t have been more fantastic, same with Universal Rentals in Fergus, equally awesome customer service.  Are motorbike shops just too cool to care?

Note³: See the followup post on how to break/shorten/master link a new bike chain for how-tos. 

Naked Versys Ninja: Riding Many Demo-Bikes

At Kawasaki’s Demo-Day last weekend I threw a leg over as many different bikes as I could.  I’m looking for my second bike and I have an opportunity to make a much more educated decision this time, however my expectations didn’t always match my riding experience, although with my current crush they exceeded them:

Kawasaki Z1000

As pretty in person and a treat to ride.

I started on a bike I like so much I’ve got a poster of it up in the garage: the Kawasaki Z1000.  Riding a 1000cc bike spoiled me for the rest of the day.  You can be inattentive with gear changes and the big four just pulls away with turbine like insistence.  The wide bars made handling light and responsive and I didn’t find the gearing as twitchy as I’ve read it is.


The saddle most wanted.

It’s not often that someone you’re smitten with is as impressive in person, but the Z1000 rides as special as it looks.  It pulls hard, feels wonderfully poised and seems to enjoy moving as much as the rider, it has the same kind of cheerful internal combustion that my Ninja has.

Our 20-30 minute round trip down country roads and through villages put this naked beauty in its glory.  It’s a bike for riding not a bike for covering miles at speed, but if you’re looking for an interactive riding experience this is it.  As a solo riding machine that puts the focus on the experience, you can’t get much better.  It’s an emotional as well as a mechanically satisfying ride.  When I’ve been riding long enough that I can afford to insure one, it’ll be on my short list.

Kawasaki Versys

The big Versys with a wonderfully smooth four cylinder and a very neutral riding position.

I’ve been curious about the Versus for a while now, it’s Kawasaki’s all-rounder.  Before taking any out I was talking to the Kawi-rep and he said they get photos of people riding Versys to the ends of the earth, it’s a very capable all-round machine.

I’d initially only signed up for a 650cc test ride, but the rep was able to get me onto a VIP ride with the 1000cc, and I’m glad he did.  The big Versys is a tall bike with great wind protection, tall handlebars and comfortable seating position.  Like the Z1000, that big four is turbine smooth and pulls hard at any RPM.  It’s an easy bike to ride and doesn’t show its weight other than the somewhat awkward ride height.

My 32″ inseam just touched the ground but I couldn’t flatfoot.  On a bike this tall I’d expect more relaxed geometry in my legs when I’m on the pegs, but they were bent about as much as they are on my Ninja.  Short of getting on a cruiser I’m going to have to assume I’ll be folding myself onto most bikes.  If the foot pegs are high enough to allow the bike to lean into corners meaningfully then leg geometry is going to be bent.

The little Versys, a close cousin to my Ninja with the same engine and many shared parts.

Overall I found the big Versys a nice surprise.  It’s only 33 kilos heavier than the 650cc bike and has much more presence, comfort and wind protection.  This would be a bike that could cover long miles with ease, yet is higher off the ground and able to traverse even rough terrain.

I was talking to a rep from Rally Connex Adventure Tours about the Versys and he suggested it wouldn’t take much to create a Versys Scrambler.  His main concern was the soft underbelly full of exhaust pipes – with a modified exhaust that runs up the side high on the bike, the Versys might become a real RTW contender.

The little Versys was the one I was keen to try.  It has the same engine as my Ninja, which I think sounds great, is super efficient and offers great power to weight.  I expected a light, quick bike with a more neutral riding position suitable for longer rides.

I was surprised at how rough the little Versys was.  Perhaps I was spoiled by riding the bigger bike first, but on the ride home back on my own Ninja it had none of the buzziness of the 650cc Versys.  The seat was hard and high and the riding position is less leaned over than on the Ninja, but not by much.  When revved it I found a lot of vibration coming back through the handlebars and seat, to the point where I didn’t want to rev it and actually stalled it at a traffic light (my only stall of the day).  Perhaps it’s a new engine and it hasn’t been worked in yet, but the bike I was most curious about was the one I had the least interest in after the ride.  It was uncomfortable, felt under-powered and didn’t offer the more relaxed rider geometry that I was hoping for, a real disappointment.

Kawasaki Ninja 300

I would have signed up for a ride on the Ninja 1000 or the ZX-14r, the former because it has gotten good reviews as an athletic all-rounder, the later because it’s bonkers and I’ve got a crush on it, but instead I thought I’d try the Ninja 300 to see what such a wee bike is capable of.  It turns out, quite a lot!  Trying to keep up with everyone else on two to three (to five!) times the displacement was tricky until I figured the bike out.

The little Ninja is unbelievably light and feels weak until you get half way up the rev range, then that little motor comes to life.  Five minutes in I wasn’t letting it drop below seven thousand RPM, and I hit the rev limiter at a stratospheric 13,000 RPM a couple of times before I figured out how to keep it close by the sound of the engine (which is surprisingly smooth and eager).

The wee Ninja is a limited machine, no doubt, but when you wring its neck its also a very entertaining one.  It was nice to end my day of rides with such a pleasant surprise.

There was such a mix of bikes at this demo ride that I’m disappointed that I couldn’t try them all.  From the ZX-14r super-bike to something as relaxed as the Vulcan cruiser, I’m more curious than ever as to how all these bikes do the same job differently.  Even up the sports/adventure end of things where I did my riding, the differences in the bikes were astonishing.



As I mentioned before, if you have a chance to do a demo-day, I highly recommend it.  The experiences gained there make finding a bike that suits you a matter of fact and hands-on preference rather than faith and opinion.

Naked Lies

When you’re using digital tools to assist your writing process, you’re not only getting grammar and spelling support, but you’re also performing your writing process in a fishbowl.  It’s amazing how many digital natives seem to be unaware of this.  When you create online you’re creating in a radically transparent environment.  If you’re going to do something less than honest, it’ll show.

I had a series of plagiarism issues teaching elearning this semester.  In one case a student handed in the same thing copied off the internet in two different assignments.  Worst. Plagiarizer.  Ever.

Turnitin lights up copied text and links you to where the material came from online, very handy.

The Ontario elearning system has Turnitin.com built into it, so catching the plagiarism was a matter of opening the report, screen capturing it and sending it on to the student.  When it’s that easy, it’s not even particularly time consuming to call a student on copied text.  I often have students try to beat turnitin in order to show them how it works.  They leave with an appreciation of how easy it is for the teacher to wield and how hard it is for a student to beat.  It’s easier to just write it yourself.

When I catch a plagiarizer I usually just show them the report without explanation and then see what they say.  I’ve gotten some funny responses to this, like the time the rural Ontario farm kid stole an essay from an honours student from India.  When I asked him what a ‘chap’ was, he said it, “was a kind of stick.”  That’s some quality plagiarism.  To most English teachers it’s patently obvious when plagiarism occurs.  When a kid who appears to have a vocabulary mainly consisting of swear words suddenly starts dropping four syllable terms in picture perfect compound sentences, alarms go off.

Since we’ve gone to Google-docs it gets even more transparent.  A colleague told me about a student who handed in a suddenly perfect French paper.  She opened up the editing history and saw that the boyfriend had logged in (under his own account) and edited the entire thing.  When called on it the student said she’d had to use his account because she couldn’t get into her’s… but she’d shared the file from hers.  It’s hard to make lies stick when it’s all out there.

Until students realize just how transparent working online is, they are labouring under a huge misconception.  That misunderstanding is based on the false sense of anonymity they feel when they are online.  Because they feel that eyes are off them, they are more likely to push moral boundaries, but they don’t understand that digital processes are documenting their every move.

Here is yet another example of how ‘digital natives‘ fail to grasp the basic concepts that drive digital processes.  We shouldn’t be smitten with familiarity, we should be advocating for understanding… at least if we’re still trying to educate people (which may not be the case).  From that neo-lib point of view, the digital native is one of those magical assumptions that integrate digital technology into the very biology of our students, it becomes a fundamental truth we base learning on, but it’s just a convenient assumption that frees us from taking on the responsibility of understanding it ourselves.

Someone shared The Brave New World of 21st Century Teaching the other day in our teacher Facebook group.  I responded:

The subtext of 21st Century skills is the de-branding of educators as teachers and the re-branding of educators as facilitators. Edtech could be used to enhance pedagogy and individualize learning, instead it will be used to Walmart education into a process overseen by centralized administration and bereft of teachers, and it has the convenience of being much more ‘efficient’ (read: cheaper) than our current system.  It’s also more controlable than trying to manage a bunch of professionals bent on something as airy fairy as pedagogy.

Technology doesn’t appear to be moving the needle on student success, yet we’re pushing into 21st century skills as though they will resolve all ills.  I’m a strong advocate of mastering technology, but integrating it in ignorance is a disaster in the making.  It caters to exactly the kind of blind faith in technocratic neo liberalism that is infecting everything else.  When we adopt machines in ignorance we let their limitations become our limitations.  Those machines are all created and owned by very politically motivated interests.

For someone who has always been involved in the advancement of educational technology, it’s heart-breaking to see it implemented as a means of diminishing the teaching profession and placing human learning in the context of a software environment.  I’d always thought pedagogy would drive educational adoption of technology, but as in the rest of society, there is something much more sinister at work in digitization.

The constant downward pressure on freedom of information and the push to striate and own data (including the data users willingly give) points toward a dystopian and authoritarian end to our digital frontier.  The very processes that monitor plagiarism above can as easily be used to invade privacy, grossly simplify learning and itemize people for political reasons, and they are.

I’m glad it’s summer.  Time to put this down for a while before we walk straight into another round of manufactured austerity and digital marketing.  I wonder how much longer education can withstand these social forces.

Fighting The Urge for Sensible Compromise

I picked up my sprockets & chains today from Two Wheel Motorsport.  I then had a chat with Craig, who works there and was the head instructor on my motorcycle course at Conestoga College last year.  He mentioned the used bikes upstairs (TWM goes on and on, be sure to wander around if you go there).  I was interested in a Kawasaki Concours they had on sale because it’s a sensible touring bike.  Craig mentioned ‘upstairs’ when I was asking about used bikes.  I didn’t know they had an upstairs.  After getting my parts I went up and found a couple of dozen bikes and no one around.  Since I was looking for a sensible touring bike I immediately found this and took this:

I’m really bad at trying to be sensible.  I ended up buying my current Ninja because of the way it made me feel rather than the sensible KLR I was going to get.  When it comes to buying an appliance like a car I’ll be sensible, but a motorbike isn’t about being sensible and I don’t want to waste my riding time on bland compromise.

I met John the salesman and we finally found the Concours out back.  It’s not as big as some other touring bikes, but my knees are still pretty bent on it.  Short of getting some sky-scraper adventure bike I’m going to be bent legged on a motorbike, especially if it’s as road-centric as I want it to be.

I suspect the answer still lies in not trying to find a bike for all things, they don’t exist.  Instead, a couple of really focused bikes that do different things would do the trick.  Instead of trying to find an athletic road bike that two-ups my son easily, get a machine that caters to time with him and another for solo forays.

The other day a guy road by on a Triumph with a Rocket Sidecar.  I’ve still got a thing for sidecars.  Uralling or Royal Enfielding up would cover the vintage bike itch as well as the weird sidecar itch in addition to creating a very friendly shared riding experience with my son.  The other bike could be some kind of bat-shit crazy single seater that focuses entirely on me alone on the road (or track).  Or a café racer

I’m glad that Concours made a big wet noise in my imagination when I saw it with its C.H.i.P.s style windshield and acres of plastic.  A sudden, irrational urge to own it didn’t follow.  What it did do is clear up an important point:  don’t compromise on what you want a bike to do for you, you’ll only end up disappointed.

John the salesman told me the story of a kid who missed the bike he fell in love with by twenty minutes and ended up with tears in his eyes over it.  If I’m going to move on to another bike, it’s got to be a tear jerker.  I didn’t get into motorcycling for sensible, I got into it for an emotional connection to my machine.  Fortunately, that bonkers bike choice isn’t crazy expensive.  An ’06 bike with only 2400kms on it costs less than $7000 from Two-Wheel.

For another $7k I could pick up an almost new Versys and go about getting it kitted out with a cool sidecar from Old Vintage Cranks.  It’d be one of a kind on its way to being a multipurpose outfit that I could customize indefinitely.  For $14k I’d be into one of the most powerful two wheelers ever made and a truly unique go-anywhere 3-wheeler.

A Silent, Fast & Sustainable Future

Originally published on Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries in June of 2014:

The other day I swung in for one of my infrequent fuel stops on the Ninja.  As I was finishing up putting $18 of super into the tank, good for another 300kms, the guy across from me was bleating about how much it was costing ($180 of the cheap stuff) to fill up his massive pickup truck with chrome wheels and low profile tires (I won’t go into how wrong that is, suffice it to say that this truck wasn’t purchased to *do* things, it was purchased as a look-at-me-penis-extension – one that costs over two hundred bucks a week in gas).

His fill up would put about ten tanks in the Ninja, at 300kms a tank his single fill up would get me over 3000kms (!), and he has the nerve to stand there crying about how his inferiority complex has resulted in poor choices?  If gas doubled in price tomorrow I’d still be able to afford to ride.  I wonder what Bucky-look-at-my-truck would do.


I was reading Cycle Canada last night and came across a letter from a reader who (after extolling the virtues of cruisers for a long time) went on to sneer at the idea of quiet electric bikes, basically saying that they’d have to pry his Harley out of his cold, dead hands.  Many of those dinosaurs will soon be extinct and maybe then we can move on to forms of motorcycling that are sustainable for generations.  I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to ride my Grand-dad’s bike.  Wouldn’t it be cool to get to a point where our descendants can?  It would give me great pleasure knowing that we developed a form of motorbiking that is so efficient and undamaging that my great, great grandchild could enjoy it without worrying if it will irreparably damage the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of a nicely tuned engine as much as anyone (you can keep your farty exhausts), but if the internal combustion engine is the pinnacle of human achievement, we’re in real trouble, especially if we’re going to stuff the world full of billions of people who all want a giant pickup.


Way back in the 1990s I watched one of those Star Trek: The Next Generations that was dangerously insightful.  In the episode, Force of Nature, it is discovered that warping all over the place actually damages space.  It snuck up on you, but the allegory was clear – even if you love something (burning fossil fuels and making CO²), you can’t be blind to the damage it does.  What was previously a blind-love relationship with motor vehicles became more complicated for me after that.

Think gas is expensive now? You
ain’t seen nothing yet.
Welcome to the end of cheap oil.

Just recently I watched Cosmos and the episode they did on climate change was jarring.  Neil deGrasse Tyson demands something more than blind devotion to fossil fuels no matter how easy they’ve made life.  Ever the optimist, he states that in the next century we’ll build the last internal combustion engine as we move on to less environmentally damaging technologies (he’s an optimist, I don’t know if we’re that adaptive).  

If you ask most people to imagine a world without internal combustion, they can’t.  I asked kids in class a couple of years ago what they’d like to do when they retired in 2045.  One said she wanted to buy a Camaro.  I asked her what she intended to do with it, use it as a planter to grow flowers?  She couldn’t conceive of a world without cheap, plentiful oil, most of us can’t, but that world is coming.

“Though they run on fossil fuel, these
are digital machines” – Ewan McGregor
describing the lastest MotoGP bikes

Nothing thrills me more than seeing real change.  Formula One this year is using hybrid gas/electrical power plants and reduced the fuel from 176 to 100 kilograms per race.  The cars are faster than ever but the engines are changing how to drive quickly.  Instead of having to wait for a gas engine to rev up to peak output, the electric assist is providing instant, full torque.  Drivers are having to change how they negotiate corners because the power is instantly available.  The cars are also much quieter, you can actually hear the rubber squealing as they peel out of the pits (you couldn’t before over the howl of v8 engines).

I also caught some of the 24 Hours of LeMans.  The prototypes in that race used only electric power to enter and leave the pits.  They were eerily silent and people could carry out normal conversation as they went about their work, it was pretty awesome.  They are also faster than anything previously while using less fuel.  That’s the kind of future I can get excited about.

The McLaren P1 is an astonishing piece of engineering.  Over 30mpg and capable of well over 200mph.  It’s not just fast for a hybrid, it’s one of the fastest cars ever built.  The future won’t be slow, though it may be much quieter.

There are still people who keep steam engines alive because they love the history and the mechanics of the things.  They aren’t very efficient, and it wouldn’t be sensible to have everyone using steam, but it’s nice to see mechanical history honoured.  There are people who will keep gasoline engines alive.  They aren’t very efficient or sustainable, and it wouldn’t be sensible for everyone to have one,  but it’ll be nice to see that history remembered too.  For the rest of us (doofus with his pickup truck included), I’m looking forward to a quieter, faster, cleaner future.  In the meantime I’ll enjoy my 0-60 in under 4 seconds Ninja that gets more than 60mpg.  There is nothing like the minimalism of the motorbike to make the most out of every drop of fuel.