Trust Counts In Online Vehicle Sales

A few years ago, my wife was in the market for a new vehicle. Her 1997 Chevy Silvarado was in great shape, but with the recent addition of our daughter to our family, a pickup truck didn’t quite meet our changing transportation needs. When we took the vehicle to the dealer, we got a low-ball offer on a trade-in. We had paid off the truck the previous year, so any cash would work to bring down the note in the new car, but the dealer wasn’t offering half of what we felt the car was worth.

After researching the estimated value of the vehicle on Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds, we gave it good detailing, took dozens of photos, and posted our Chevy on Craigslist. We considered posting on eBay, but back then I wasn’t as avid a user as I am now, and I didn’t feel comfortable with their auction format or commissions. I avoided the auto classifieds altogether because of the upfront listing costs.

The most important thing about Craigslist is to know your geographical market. While many of the good folk up in Elmira, NY (where we lived at the time) drove pickups, four wheel drive was a necessity due to the long, snowy winters. Our pretty two wheel drive Silverado just didn’t meet the needs of the local drivers (another reason we were looking to sell).

Ultimately, selling high dollar items like cars and motorcycles comes down to trust. We ended up selling the truck to my brother in Tennessee for a fair price, a little above Blue Book value, and a lot more than the dealer trade-in.

Today, I probably would ave given eBay more of a chance and taken full advantage of the nation-wide market that comes with posting there.

Video: It’s Alive!

After six months spent rebuilding the electrical system, the 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C bobber project is finally running. It took a few shots of ether to wake it up, but it’s rumbling along. I’ve removed the baffles and replace the air box with higher air flow cone filters, so it runs a lean. Next week, I’ll try rejetting with a Stage 1 and Stage 3 jet kit. And then, maybe, I’ll start cutting.

New Photo Gallery: 2012 Rolling Thunder – Ride of the Patriots

Ride of the Patriots is a lead-up to Rolling Thunder put together every year by Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA. About 6,500 riders gather together in Fairfax to ride a police-escorted parade rout to join up with about half a million more Rolling Thunder participants at the Pentagon parking lot.

Video: Ride of the Patriots – Rolling Thunder 2012

This was my first year to participate in Rolling Thunder, the annual event that honors our veterans and call attention to America’s POW/MIA. The demonstration is open to all motorcyclists, and starts at the Pentagon, with a trip around the National Mall. This year, according to “scuttlebutt” floating around at the event, there were about 475,000 participants.

Since I had no previous experience riding in Rolling Thunder, I decided to start the day with the Ride of the Patriots, a “small” group of about 6,500 bikers who meet along Highway 50 starting at Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, and then ride a police-escorted parade route to the Pentagon.

Line up started at 6:30 AM, with departure planned for 9:00 AM. I managed to make it over to Patriot by 7:00, and already the line of motorcycle stretched back more than a mile.

Walking the Line

I parked my bike, made a few new friends, swapped tales of cross-country adventures and motorcycle maintenance, made use if the facilities (i.e. the woods lining the road, since the line to the Port-O-Potties was a bit long) and then decided to hike up to Patriot to hear the presentation given by even organizers and local officials. I made it within about two-hundred yards of the dealership, but the packed crowd prevented be from moving any further.

On the way back, I decided to take a little video of the line of motorcycles stretching down the road and over the next hill.

The video stops at my bike, but the line of motorcycles goes on at least another mile.

There was a lot of waiting that morning, but when a parade of bagpipes marched by, I knew it was time to saddle up.

The Road to the Pentagon

I’ve ridden in small groups of riders, but never more than four a five, each of whom at had ridden with before. This was my first time meeting these people, and it was my first time riding in parade lines. I knew riding out to Fairfax that morning that I was in for a challenge, but the scope of this ride was pretty intimidating. I felt confident I could maintain formation and ride my lane, but I had no clue as to the experience level of the riders around me. One wrong move from anyone ahead could be disastrous for me and the few thousand people behind me.

Fortunately, I didn’t bite it or make any stupid mistakes to create a hazard for those behind me. I did see a few riders nearly wreck trying to give high-fives to onlookers, and I nearly ran over a jay-walker. Seriously, who tries to illegally cross a road while thousands of police-escorted motorcycles stream by? It was like Frogger, but I was the log about to crunch the frog. I won’t say I was’t tempted to hear what kind of crunch he’d make, but I knew the rest of the crunch would include me and a few hundred close friends.

Regardless of the one or two morons, the test of the ride was awesome.

The cheers from the people lining the parade route was extremely uplifting, and I grinned the whole way from Patriot Harley-Davidson to the Pentagon north parking lot.

We joined hundreds of thousands of other bikers, parked tire to tire in quarter-mile long rows, shut down our engines, and baked for the next few hours.

Going to the Extreme In a Small Way

20120726-123620.jpg A few years ago, I remember seeing “pocket bikes” everywhere. When I watched Freddy Rodriguez flee a zombie infestation on a diminutive crotch rocket in Planet Terror, I realized that the mini-bike has moved from fad to cultural phenomenon.

A few months later, I wasn’t overly shocked to one for sale in AutoZone, or to see mini-biker gangs participating in local parades.

But last spring, I was a bit alarmed when my four-year daughter found a pink pocket bike at Toys R Us and demanded it for herself. This wasn’t a wimpy 12v toy; it was a gas guzzling 50cc death machine with disc brakes and a chain drive.

So, of course she wanted it. It was just her size, after all, and pink!

But what few parenting skills I have kicked in, and I firmly told her: “You have to learn how to ride your bicycle first. Without training wheels.” I couldn’t fault her for the years and ensuing fit: she’s not the first Oden to cry over a motorcycle, and she wouldn’t be the last.

So, on another trip to AutoZone, I ran into a gentleman on what appeared to be an undersized sports bike or an oversized mini-bike. Apparently, there was an unserved niche in the motorcycle market: Extreme Mini Racers (XMR).

The first motorcycle I rode myself was a 50cc Suzuki dirt bike. This little monster was a serious motorcycle, but it was designed as a trainer for kids, not a real racing platform.

But these XMRs, with street tires and 110cc engines, are definitely targeted towards adults (a term I use loosely here) who have more spare cash than common sense, but not much of either. In other words, I want one!

New Photo Galley: 2012 European & Classic Motorcycle Day

I had the great fortune of taking my family out to the 2012 European & Classic Motorcycle Day. It was a beautiful (but warm) summer day, and I could have asked for a better way to spend it than wandering around a field of antique motorcycles.

I Brake for Working Brake Lights

100_0114I was first alerted to a problem with the brakes on my bike when I started slowing down to make the left turn into my neighborhood and was suddenly assaulted by a blaring horn an obscenities from behind me. The guy driving the express delivery truck must have been pretty mad, because I could hear him clearly over the rumpling of my Screamin’ Eagle, and inside my half-face helmet. I made a quick check of my turn signals (I new I hadn’t forgotten to press the left turn button), and everything checked out.

A few minutes later, when I was back at home, I ran through a quick check:

  • Did something fall off my bike and hit the other car? — No. Everything was where it should be.
  • Did I have anything offensive written on my clothing?— Nothing that would elicit more than a disapproving glare from my grandmother (then again, she was very open minded and tolerant).
  • Were my tail lights out? No. When I pressed the footbrake, it all lit up.

But…

I check the brake again, using only the handbrake, and tail brake light stayed dark.

When I took off the break lever, the pressure-pin on the brake switch (which the brake releases when depressed) was stuck in its housing. No amount of coaxing could get it out.

So I headed down to Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA, and picked up a replacement switch for about $30.00 USD.

I was a bit nervous about replacing the switch myself: I can turn a wrench and change oil, but electrical troubleshooting is a bit beyond me. But the replacement switch came with good instructions with lots of drawings, so I decided to go for it.

Removing the brake lever was a simple task, since I’d already done it to check out the problem. Removing the electical switch housing and getting in to the bad switch proved challenging because my wiring is run inside the handlebars, and there really was no slack.

The brake switch was completely burnt out and had melted itself in a locked position. I had to gently muscle it out of the housing.

When I go the new switch in, I found that the release button (the part the brake pushes in and lets out to trigger the brake signal) was jamming. I loosed the screw holding the switch in to give it a little play, and jamming ceased to be an issue. I suspect this is what cause the earlier brake switch to burn out.

After some close wiring work (at least it was close to me), I got the new switch in and screwed and bolted everything back together.

When I tested the brakes using the hand lever, the brake light lit up instantly.

Hopefully the express delivery guy appreciates my effort and won’t drop my packages in the mud.

DC Motorists Get Free Ride (And Parking)

DC riders and other motorists are enjoying free parking in the District today as the city observers Emancipation Day, April 16, 2012. DC Public Works will enforce traffic violations, but expired meters and residential parking restrictions will not be enforced. Learn more at the DC Department of Public Works website.

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Where to Park Your Bike In DC

If you’re planning to ride into Washington, DC this summer, whether for Rolling Thunder or just to see the monuments, you’re probable going to want to stretch your legs at some point, which means finding a place to park.

Most parking garages around the District don’t allow motorcycles, and while it’s perfectly legal to park your motorcycle in a car slot, the time is usually limited to an hour or two. The best option is to look for motorcycle parking. Some of these slots allow you to park for up to 12 hours, who’s is unheard of for cars.

The slots can be hard to find, but this DC Motorcycle Parking on Google Maps has a pretty good list of spots.

If you know of any others, let us know in the Comments below.

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DC Motorcycle Parking FAIL

I recently found out an interesting trick when trying to park a motorcycle in DC. To start off, there’s not a whole lot of street parking in DC, and most garages don’t serve motorcycles (i.e. the attend starts waving his arms around like a chicken being electrified, while yelling unintelligible curses in his native language).

I considered myself extremely lucky when I found a row of motorcycle parking just a block from my office, and there was still a space open!

I parked my bike and went to feed change into the old-school meter. Most meters in DC now work with Parkmobile app, or you can give your credit card over a toll free number. In the city, most meters are limited to two hours, but these coin-op motorcycle slots were good up to twelve hours!

So, I went around to feed the meter, and it has a great big “FAIL” on it.

I was running late already, so I locked my bike and prepared to eat the fifty dollar ticket I was sure I’d find upon return.

Later in the day I ran into my coworker who rides in on his crotch-rocket almost every day. I told him about the meter, and said: “Ah, don’t worry about it. Those meters are always broken. When you find one, you’re supposed to call a number and give the broken meter number. They may come and fix it sometime next year.”

So, if I your trying to park your bike in downtown DC, a FAIL is a good thing. But try to remember to call the number; I haven’t every gotten through due to “higher than expected call volume”, but now I always take a picture of my bike and the failed meter. Just make sure you get the meter number, or you may have a harder time getting out of those tickets…

You can report a Broken Meter by calling the DC Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311 or (202) 737-4404, or online using the District government’s Service Request Center.

Identify the meter by its unique meter ID number (located on the inside of the dome of single-space meters and on the front of multi-space meters) and describe the specific problem (i.e. coin jam, out of order, flashing fail, out of paper, etc.) A service request will be put into the tracking system, and you should receive a service request number.

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