Head-Light - From The Editor

Sometimes I really have to spin my wheels to come up with a topic for this column. Other times I might have a list of ideas that I have to choose from. And sometimes I get inspired to write when I ride.

We had our final editorial deadline for this issue last Thursday and I still didn't have an idea for this column. So with the weekend coming up I figured maybe I'd see or do something that would help get the creative process going, little did I know that on my 50-mile ride home on Friday, inspiration would nearly smack me in the face.

If you've never had the joy of riding a motorcycle on the Southern California freeway system, you are missing out; it can really test you mentally and physically. Aside from dealing with all the crazy drivers determined to clear up the roads by taking out motorcyclists, it seems many of the freeways have the same goal in mind as well. I mean our freeway systems have been so beaten up and "repaired" over the decades that you could easily taco a wheel from a pothole or have your front and rear tires track parallel instead of inline from the rain grooves, or should I say rain gutters. It doesn't help that I've slammed the suspension on my "Softail" Springer so any feedback from the roads is excessively exaggerated by hard jolts and continuous vibration coursing through my body.

As I was splitting lanes and trying to concentrate on planning my escape routes in case someone decided to suddenly go from one non-moving lane to another non-moving lane, I began to hear a rattling sound. With my head cocked to the side, I focused on identifying the source. I then used my left hand to quickly go over each bolt I could reach to see if anything was loose. Nothing seemed loose, so I found an opening in the traffic and darted over to exit the freeway. I pulled into a parking lot and ran my hands over every nut and bolt on the springer. Finding everything to be tight, I then grabbed the headlight to see if maybe it was shifting on its mount. As I lightly moved the headlight back and forth I heard the familiar noise. Upon inspecting the light I found about a 1/2-inch-long hairline crack in the shell right behind where the mount is riveted to the shell. More than halfway home and satisfied that I had found the source of the sound, I figured I'd use my hand as much as possible to help minimize the vibration on the headlight the rest of the way. I also made a mental note that depending on the damage I would have to either try and repair the crack or buy a new headlight shell when I got home.

I hopped back into the fray and began splitting lanes again. I then made one of the five freeway changes on my route, and the traffic opened up. Picking up speed and with my hand on the back of the headlight I noticed that the noise had subsided and my diagnosis was correct. With everything "quiet" again, it was back to keeping my eyes peeled for potholes and road-raging drivers and letting my body get back into sync with all the vibration. Then all of a sudden I saw this glare fly past the right side of my head, and another glare just barely miss the left side of my head. After doing my best Muhammad Ali impersonation, I brought my head back in line with the rest of my body and tried to figure out what these UFOs were that nearly took me out. The first thing that came to mind was that it was probably some debris that flew off the back of one of the millions of trucks on the road. The only problem with that theory was that there were no vehicles immediately in front of me and I had a good visual of everything in my path. These objects just came from nowhere. Then it occurred to me: the headlight.

While I was in the parking lot, I forgot to check the headlight trim ring bolt to make sure it was tight. Well, it was a mistake that ended up with my headlight puking its guts out on the freeway at about 70 mph and me almost literally becoming a head-light. When I got home and pulled into the garage, I immediately took a look at the headlight and sure enough the shell was empty, save for the wiring and plug.

Long story short, vibration can really take its toll on a motorcycle-especially on our wonderful SoCal freeways. If your bike is speaking to you, listen to it and inspect everything, then inspect it some more. And lastly, remember thread locker can be your friend.

Until next, time Eric