Friday, February 24, 2017

Buying a motorcycle - Riding in Style

I have been itching to buy a motorcycle for about 5 years and finally pulled the trigger. I had really wanted to get a vintage late '60's early 70's Triumph Bonneville or a same era BSA, but after looking for a number of months, I jumped on a Moto Guzzi California EV 1100. WOW!!! What a bike. There are a lot of things to consider when buying a bike.

1) How much experience do I have
2) What kind of riding do I plan to do
3) What looks like me
and of course the "less important" stuff:
4) How tall is the seat vs how tall am I
5) How much does the bike weigh

6) How much HP does the bike have vs my level of experience
7) Am I prepared to maintain a bike or do I want it to be new technology and "maintenance free"

The Cali is a big assed bike and I need to brush up on my skills so I enrolled in a motorcycle safety class which is the easiest way to get a license here in Arizona with little or no experience. Now this isn't a walk in the park and it is informative if not taxing. When they say rain or shine ... they mean rain or shine! I mean, it always shines in Arizona. Nope. Last weekend it was 40 degrees at 6:30 am when I showed up for class. It pretty much rained for 48 hours straight. Your requirements are a moderate fee and proper equipment including over the ankle boots, at least denims, a long sleeve shirt or coat, full gloves and a DOT approved helmet with eye protection. It's up to you from there. The school provides bikes (I had a Honda Rebel) which are manageable for beginners with plenty of zip for school and beyond and a low seat so you can quickly get your feet to the ground if you get into trouble. It has 234cc engine with 40 HP and can zip along around 70MPH. It only weight 320 lbs. with a seat height of just over 26" compared to the Guzzi at 1064cc, 74HP, 550 lbs., 119mph and a seat height over 31". Thirty one inches may not seem high but consider that this bike may feel like you're sitting on a bison!

The class consisted of 5 hours of "road work" each day (x2) starting at around 6:30a. It was raining and the first day I was wearing a pair of heavy Lee jeans, a pair of Doc Martin boots,  a long sleeve t shirt under a Speed and Strength armored flannel , a weather proof shirt and  Scorpion helmet . There are two really important factors to the protection that you wear. How well they protect you, and how they reflect your personal image. I mean, do you want to look like "Road Warrior", Johnny Strabler, Steve McQueen or you? The Road Warrior is perfect (if you want to look like a clown)! Brando is definitely bad ass but that hat has got to go!
Steve McQueen has the ultimate cool going on, but you need to find the perfect combination of cool and protection to suit your needs.  The flannel is casual for cool riding and provide full elbow, shoulder and back, Kevlar pads. The helmet has air vents that help to keep you cool and fresh air as well as a good fit, removable padding for washing, and an easily adjustable mask for when you may want it partially open (which I prefer most of the time). When I am wearing a jacket at all during my personal time, it's usually a flannel, denim or hoodie. Any of these works for me. A leather if I want to look a little more dressy. A good rule of thumb for accessories is, a little of anything is cool. A lot of anything is usually way too much. (ie, cowboy boots are cool. Boots and a hat are fine. Add a western shirt and you can probably get away with it. The three together may be pushing it.  Add the chaps or spurs... that's over the top (unless you're a stand in for a Western ... or a real cowboy). The same goes for your motorcycle gear... you get the picture.  Oh yeah. I never wore any of this protective gear years ago...but it's a different world out there. Unless you are riding in a perfectly insulated environment, you should definitely pad up in some way. Even leather jackets are now protected with Kevlar if you are going in that direction and less protective with double and triple leather and insulation in the critical areas if you prefer.

When shopping for a motorcycle, think about what kind of riding you're going to be doing and your experience level. If you are just going to buzz around the neighborhood and short jaunts back and forth to school, a Rebel (shown left), Shadow or Ninja (below in green) may be perfect. They will definitely get you where you're going. Sure there are other options. If you're looking at doing some off roading as well as highway I am liking the BMW F 650 GS. Enough zip and torque but again, it's a compromise bike. Not the best at either but works fine.

Just be aware that a bike with 600cc called a superbike may be a lot more bike than a 850cc bike just made for travel. The 10 year old "superbike" can be a bit less expensive, thus tempting because an old "superbike" may have been thrashed and it also isn't as "super" as it once was because there is always something more super therefore less desirable to the real speed jockeys. Another thing you may want to be aware of is getting sucked into the allure of the radical raking of some fine race bikes.
They look absolutely beautiful, but if you don't have the experience, they may speed you to a quick trip to the emergency room. Do I want one... you bet. It may be a while before I allow myself the opportunity to check one out. It may look like a toy... but it is a dangerous one! The aerodynamic styling is terrific for going fast but is more difficult to control under basic driving conditions and put you in a compromised riding position to get better aerodynamics. Don't fall!

So what decided me not to buy the British bike that I had wanted. I really started to think about how often I would be riding (mostly weekends) and how much I really want to work on my bike (I don't). Do I want electric ignition or kick start (electric). I can still get a Triumph, but I am in love with my Guzzi. Here's my best tip on gear. Check out Bilt's Iron Worker's line.
I picked up this denim and hoodie set. Price wasn't too bad. It looks great. It is absolutely my style, and the jacket is not only bad ass but Kevlar padded and the hoodie zips out as it warms up a bit.

Ride safe and have fun!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stylin' Edinburgh

So I've been here for a few days and have had a chance to settle in. Like you, when we book our trips, we check for the best deals on a number of sites. To our surprise, this time Expedia said, Congratulations, we not only have a hotel for you in Edinburgh , we have one for your entire trip... and it's free. Yes, free! I don't have a clue how this happened but we were awarded a room at the Northumberland Hotel . We typically like to stay at some place with "style" like the W Hotel but were looking for some alternatives this time. We quickly went to the site online and saw the Hotel. Not quite the W but we decided to check it out. It didn't look that bad...really. We've been here now for 3 days and it's really working out well. We really don't need creature comforts that much as we don't spend but a few hours in the hotel but let me give you the run down. There's no grand lobby nor fantastic dining room. You know what? We don't care.
They do have a breakfast set up if you want it and they will make a traditional Scottish breakfast for you if you ask. No elevator but we don't care. The corridors are narrow like an older building and that's fine as well. Our room size is fine, about 21 x 11 feet with a small bathroom/shower and closet. The aesthetics are "OK" but it works. There are two beds, a twin and a full but it works. They are serviced daily and are clean. There is a small desk and 2 chairs as well as a 15" TV with a maybe 20 stations and Wifi. If you are looking for a party room to invite over your friends or need a cool vibe, you're not going to like this. But if you want a warm, clean place to sleep and brush your teeth...take a shower, this may be your bag. Works for me. I'm here for the city...not the hotel. On the bright side, the Lothian (bus) is literally across the street. The first day we walked pretty much to the other side of Edinburgh and it is very doable from here if you are mobile (not physically hindered). Again, wearing  Merrell all weather hiking boots, Carhartt fleece lined jeans (which makes it real nice when the weather is in the 30's or 40's and windy but not so warm to smoke you out) and throwing on a Ermenegildo Zegna  cotton ribbed pullover and my   Ride jacket and I'm ready to go. I want to say again, it's not about brand names, it's about style and comfort. I've provided links and photos so you can see where I'm going. Don't forget your backpack (or bag of your choice). I like to be able to take off a layer and dump it into my pack when the weather changes. It's also cool to stuff in the occasional purchase to keep our hands free.

Here's a list of some of the places that I've visited and a few of my impressions:

Bars/Restaurants/ Coffee Shops

Advocate  was a very cool little sports bar. Went there for lunch and had a real good burger. The guy who helped us was extremely friendly and had lived in Canada for a few years. We are trying to sample local beers while we're here and he recommended Innis and Gunn and Brewdog Punk . Both were really nice beers and we really like the bar... even for a lunch place.

Southpour is a cool restaurant bar with good service and good beer. I had pork loin which was outstanding and Joker IPA , another Scotland brew which was quite memorable.

Whistle Stop was possibly my favorite of the pubs so far with really good pizza with exceptional dough. I drank Caesar Augustus Lager which was quite a tasty brew. This bar was quite like the bars I go to I'm the states. They consider themselves a dive bar but I'd say contemporary neighborhood bar. What I mean by that is they play multigenerational music but it's all good. It isn't a hit juke box but mostly music with some edge. I think that most every person in the place spoke with us recommending places that we should try. Very cool!

Starbucks Yes...there's Starbucks here too! It is totally Starbucks wherever you go.

The Redcoat Cafe This is a cool little stopping place when you visit Edinburgh Castle. It is located right on grounds and the food is hot and ready to go.

CafĂ© Vivo  We stopped here for a quick breakfast. It seems for the most part, over easy means fried eggs of any kind. I also had a berry scone that was decent.

Also, by the way and nothing against this restaurant or the tradition, it appears that the Scottish only toast one side of their bread. We had thought that we were doing something wrong at the hotel when we toasted our own toast at the hotel but now's on purpose!

McDonalds I don't often eat at McDonalds but I needed grub fast and a lot of places close before 10. The burgers were hard and the milkshake machine was not working. So much for McDonalds is McDonalds.

Shops and Sites
Royal Museum of Scotland
This is a museum that has a little something for everyone. There are primitives like African and Pre Columbian art as well as Mummys and costumes. You can walk around this place with your family and find something to pique everyone's interest. My favorite was the motor area where they had motorcycles, bicycles and Formula 1 cars. Yes, we had a pitiful go at driving a Formula 1 car on the simulator.
Calton Hill/Cemetery This is quite a cool place and well attended. This is a high point (in elevation) in the region that gives you great opportunities to see in all directions. It is also home of the massive, Athenian acropolis, Robert Burns Monument and Nelson's monument.

Edinburgh Castle This is a massive castle with a great opportunity to tour. You are provided with a free electronic tour guide upon arrival and provides substantial narrative on the Queen's (of England) summer home and the nature of her relationship with Scotland. Queens Gallery at Holyrood This is a really cool space with intelligent contemporary architectural details. Check out the art but check out the structural details.

One thing that really surprised me was the volume of small charitable thrift shops along Clerk on the walk into Edinburgh. There must be 15 or so 1000-1500 charitable shops representing Dogs, Cats, Women, Children, heart disease to name a few. One misconception is that thrift shops are for poor people. In fact they benefit needy people by the funds they bring in. I purchased a red plaid fleece lined hoodie for $5 to benefit the British Heart Foundation . It is a well know fact that many style setting celebrities frequent thrift shops to compliment their wardrobes. Give it a shot. Sometimes that old vintage shirt is much cooler than what you have now! Just don't go in and buy stuff because it's cheap. Then you just look cheap...unless that is your style of course!

One last place that I visited that really caught my eye was W. Armstrong & Son , Britain's largest vintage clothing emporium established in 1840. This shop had the goods. I was tempted by one black motorcycle jacket. It looked like it could have been worn by Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler in the film The Wild One. I mean, this thing was 50's old and cool.

There was no unnecessary fluff and the elbows were double padded in leather. If the jacket had been slightly larger, the lining wasn't worn and the zippers still seemed new, I would own it. But my style is not to buy stuff to fix. It would have been an impulse buy and one I really don't need. But it was a beaut!

So there is a intro to Edinburgh. I still have a few days here. I'm anxious to explore!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Travel In Style - Your Style - Travel Tips

I like to travel. Don't we all. But sometimes the logistics and details cause a lot of anguish. Here is one way to stylefully travel. My way. First you have to think of what you're going to do while away and what type of clothing you need to pack. What the temperature is going to be and what your margin of error is. My trip this time is to Scotland. Scotland in the winter. A beautiful place. So to plan out my attire I need to check with my mate on what plans she has for me that I need to accommodate for. She says dressed for dinner one day. Aside from that, I'm on my own. Perfect. Trip is 10 days so I need to manage a few things. Shoes, undergarments, shirts, pants and a coat...possibly a hat. Ok, now this is a bit of logic that I need to use to get ready for my trip.

First I see that it is going to be in the 30's and 40's and likely rainy so that will dictate my first direction. This posting is about travel so I'll address drawers and why in another post later but make certain that you have enough and call it a day.

Travel Day Shirt: I like to wear loose fitting clothing all of the time and have a preference style of shirt for winter travel.
In this case it's a charcoal colored Tommy Bahama silk and cashmere cable knit sweater with a short mock turtle neck. It's comfortable and relaxed looking but doesn't look like I am travelling in my sweats. I like to wear a shirt underneath for a number of reasons:

1) I really don't like the feel of sweater on my torso on a long makes me itch, but love how it makes me feel. The perfect solution is a nice fitting Underarmor stlye (this one is Reebock) athletic shirt.

2) Occasionally the airplane is a little warm and life is about comfort. Once in your seat if you get too hot, you could pull off your sweater and be comfortable in your athletic shirt. This isn't my preference, but it is a nice option to have.

Pants: I am a jeans kind of guy and have tried them all. I like different jeans for different reasons. This pair of jeans are nicely worn in (but not worn out) Levi 527 charcoal, boot cut, low rise. They just fit perfect. Roomy in the thighs and crotch but snug enough to stay up when the TSA requires you to remove your belt. The charcoal color makes you look just a little more dressed than blue but you are still in denim.

Shoes: I actually have a favorite pair of shoes for travel. They are made by Kenneth Cole and the only pair of KC shoes that I own. I think that they are 10 holers (5 holes per side for strings). I have had them for many years and hope they last for many more. There are a few reasons that I love these shoes.

1) They are comfortable (I could run a mile in these things if I wanted to)

2) They are innocuous ( they aren't in style nor totally unstylish)

3) They can pass for dress shoes for one day in a pinch (not evening wear but to a decent restaurant)

4) If you absolutely have to take your shoes off at the airport, they come off fast and they don't require retying for some odd reason. They of course should be retied to get maximum comfort but I could just as easily walk a mile without them being tied and they never feel like they are falling off. They hug my feet loosely untied.

Coat: Selecting the right coat for travel can be really tricky. I see a lot of different climates and do a lot of different kinds of activities. So I understand the importance of the right coat for me in any circumstance. One with style. So what did I choose for this trip? A have a really nice Ride Cell 10 snowboarding jacket in dark blue herringbone that fit the bill perfectly.

It has a high lined collar to protect from the wind, and is not only wind proof but water proof...expecting a lot of rain. It has Velcro sleeves to keep the wind from blowing up your sleeve (and a snow barrier on the bottom that you can snap is the wind is blowing up your bottom) and a lot of pockets. I particularly like the inner pockets, one in the lining for my passport and scarf and the one in the area of my chest between the zippers for my cell phone and sun glasses. Yeah, try to fish out your cell phone in the cold from your jeans... plus it's close to your ear so you can keep the ringtone down. It has super cool zippers in the rear pit area so that your torso can breathe if it gets a little warmer and a zip on hood if the weather gets really nasty. Zippers on the hip pockets are a nicety to secure stuff when your hands aren't in them... oh and of course there is a bottle opener. It will also roll up into a nice compact shape and only take up about half of your backpack if the weather gets nicer ... and it will.

Sunglasses: I never leave home without sunglasses. They are possibly one of the most important accessories any person can have. UV rated and Polarized! My choice for this trip are my Persol 2762.
These glasses are me. When I'm just walking around, sightseeing, shopping, lounging and want to feel my best, these are my go to sunglasses. They are really well made, the stainless inserts in the temples makes for an extremely comfortable fit and they just downright look great. I've heard it all. "Joe Hollywood. Got to wear his sunglasses even when the sun isn't out (during the day)".

Well, let me give you a hint. The eye doctors say that the sun can do more damage to your eyes in the day time when the sun is less visible because your pupils are open and you aren't squinting to keep out the light. Want to avoid cataract surgery (or at least defer it? Sunglasses...and not from the Dollar store!

Luggage: Who doesn't want fine luggage to show how successful they are when they travel? Me! Of course I have a really nice Magli duffel that I travel a few hundred miles in my car and want to treat myself but from miles of road in the airport I have learned one really good lesson.
Get a bag that is fairly light and looks like it would take a beating... and that is disposable. The airlines employees don't intentionally destroy your bags. It just happens. They handle millions of bags daily it's just a fact of life.

I have a Lucas roller bag with me on this trip and it's very much like the ideal bag (an army duffle bag) but with rollers. It has some cool pockets to keep your stuff separated and it rolls nicely but it has two really important qualities.

1) It's beautiful bright blue nylon and looks like no one else's.

2) It's not terribly expensive so when the trip's over or the next one, or the next one, when someone pulls the handle off or the wheel is broken, I throw it away. It's just a bag made to last a few trips and all of the abuse in the world isn't going to change that. Sure, I could get a Tumi bag for this purpose. Had some before ... probably still do. But when I see some ratty assed bag come out on the belt and I think, that poor fella can't afford a nice bag,... then realize my bag is just falling apart, I know I haven't spent much and I really don't care. I mean... it's just a receptacle to keep my cool stuff cool!

My carry on: Yes my carry on is my most important bag. I have a number to choose from but my go to bag is a red and black Tony Hawk backpack.

I typically put in this anything that I must have at my fingertips and that's it. Books, tablet, toothbrush, paste chargers, earbuds, music, fluids, a baseball cap and some travel food, maybe a sandwich of granola bars. Possibly a change of shirt or a light weight jacket on different trips. A backpack is a beautiful thing. This one has a really accessible side bungee for drinks or that cap if the weather turns. (I like to carry my Diesel beanee for cold weather and a small baseball style cap for light rain. Definitely not an umbrella guy. The bag zips open completely to give you access to the contents without dumping it all over the floor. Also really smart is a small pocket on the front that works for glasses and boarding passes and pens etc.  Shown on the right is the less used compartment which I typically reserve for my tablet charger and transformer. Saved for different trips, the Ghurka leather messenger bag can stay in my closet.

Travelling in style is a personal thing. Find your style, but keep it tasteful. You don't have to standout far to be outstanding!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What is Real Man Style (and do I have it?)

What is Real Man Style?

Real Man Style is mostly a lost art losing out to the notion of fashion, often confused with style. Real Man Style is a way of living. A whole life philosophy. The way a man dresses. The way a man carries himself. The kind of music he listens to. What he smokes. The glasses he wears. His accessories. His hair. The creme's he uses. How he shaves and why. What he does for entertainment. The relationships he keeps. His lady friends. His mode of transportation. His home. Do you get the idea. It's everything about him!

It isn't that a real man cares about all of these things. It's that a man with style, his own style, selects each item in his life with the care. The care appointed by him as it relates to his own being. How important is it to him.  How it makes him feel. Where he's comfortable and confident.

The look of confidence:

Here are a few men who appear to have great style... their own style. They dress like themselves. They could almost be identified by their look without their individual faces. Yes, sometimes brand names are a part of a look, but not because of the name, but because of the fit, the cut, the fabric, the texture. It isn't about how much they spend. It's about how they wear it! it's about how they live it!

Jason Stratham

OK. We've got a 50 year old man here that looks like he could hold his own with just about anyone. He looks confident, handsome and together. He doesn't always dress the same, but it always looks like  him. Crisp shirt, dark suit, aviator style sunglasses, one day stubble or is he really the guy in the marino crew neck pullover, stone washed black denims and ...aviators. Now I don't dig the Ferragamo's but we all have our weaknesses. I prefer Magli's for my slippers if I wear them. But this guy looks like a guy who know what he wants and gets it.

Jeff Beck

OK. Now we have a 70 year old man who has been going his own way for more than 50 years. Jeff Beck is renown for being the most creative and possibly most temperamental guitarist on the planet. This is a guy who was asked to replace Eric Clapton in the then top British band, "The Yardbirds" but when he thought that he was going to have to audition, turned around and started to walk home (before being chased down by leader Keith Relf and some assurance that there weren't going to be any auditions if he wanted the job). Asked to headline Woodstock but decided that he was done with the band and all of the touring malarkey before the show and retired to England. Fished no name teen singer Rod Stewart from a local pub to front his debut album which featured among others Ron Wood, Keith Moon on drums and John Paul Jones on bass and Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar and started the sound that Led Zep ultimately made their own. Oh yeah...check out Jeff Beck Group - Truth issued before Led Zep I. What's Jeff's style statement? Jeans and a t shirt... and of course a pair of boots. He rocks them.

But the Brits don't have a lock on style.

Kimi Raikkonen

 Check out this pad of Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen from Finland. Kimi's a 30 something party animal who has made a tidy sum driving race cars ($51 million a year salary), yeah...that's a lot of zeros.
Is Kimi a cool guy. They call him the iceman. He drives like a machine and stares at you with his stone cold stare. But this guy is passionate about what he does, and he does it with style. He get's crashed out of a race in Monaco... he doesn't return to the pit. He walks to his yacht and gets a drink. His job's done. Does he always dress in a suit...custom tailored. Hell no. Kimi would just as soon be lounging in his jeans. But he has style... his own style.

You're probably looking at this and saying,
"These just look like regular guys...with a lot of money.

 They are just regular guys with a lot of money!!!!!!

They have learned the secret of living their own style. You can do it with what you've got. Don't copy somebody else's style. Find what looks good on you. Find what you like. Live your own dream.

This one's mine!