Home July 2010 Vol 10 - No 7
July 2010 Vol 10 - No 7 PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 06 July 2010 22:40
Article Index
July 2010 Vol 10 - No 7
2nd Editor’s Letter: When the Bell tolls
Bike of the Month: The Polar Beast
Motorcycle Diaries: Stars go North
Safety tips: Cluster or Solo?
Star Gazer: What is a Biker?
Pic of the Month: Taxi, Taxi…
All Pages


Editor’s Letter: The Members Respond


By Ben Harper,

Star Cruizer Co-Editor


As of this writing, the first issue of the Star Cruiser produced by the new editors has received over 2800 hits from over 50 countries, most of which have little or no ISRA constellations whatsoever. This comes as quite a surprise to me, as I did not expect such a response by so many people, both members and non-members, to our humble efforts. Thank you very much, all of you who have shown interest in the new format.


But as anyone will tell you, it is relatively easy to create interest in a new and novel idea, but it’s far more difficult to maintain that level of interest in subsequent examples of that concept. This is where you, the members and guests of this e-zine, are a necessary part of that success or failure. We want to hear from you, all of you, about your experiences and adventures where you live and visit. The whole world is waiting to hear from you and about you.


This presents an enormous opportunity for all of us to exploit our widespread membership, to share their individual experiences with the rest of the world, and in so doing, bring us all closer together, both as individual representatives of our space on this planet and as members of the finest riding association on this earth.


But to do so, we need to hear from you, so we can tell your story about what riding is like in your area. Please consider sending us a story about you, your friends, your Constellation, and what you do as ISRA members. If  you can’t write (or don’t think you can) send us what you can, and we’ll write a story around your information. And don’t forget to send pictures with the names of the folks in the picture, so we can print their names with the pictures.


This is all in fun, people. We don’t intend to make a big deal out of this, just highlight our members having a good time. If you are like me, though, you want to hear about other places and what ISRA members do there. So send in your stories, fellow ISRA members, and well tell your stories in this E-zine.


Again, thank you most humbly for the interest you have shown; we hope you and the rest of the membership continue to participate in what we believe is a good forum to share our experience and adventure that is the love of Star motorcycles. And we hope to hear from you as well. All stories will be given the attention to detail that we have shown so far, so let us hear from all of you, so we can show, in words and pictures, what the whole ISRA world is all about.



2nd Editor’s Letter: When the Bell tolls


By Anton Popov,

Star Riders Russia


“Once you hear this sound, you will never ever forget it”, a friend of mine told me. I heard it in June 2005 – the sigh of metal setting free from its human-made form… That day I’ve been using my brand new Drag Star 1100 Classic as a routine daily ride. I was going to a place I did not really want to go to… A family member discovered she was terminally ill so I had to get there in an instant and join her in her grief. Selfish as it sounds, but I didn’t feel ready, nor had I any time to sort that information out in my mind. As I was thinking that stuff over and over again, I found myself in a steep blind curve at an inappropriately high speed. Instinctively I pressed the rear brake. Sure enough, it made the bike run at an even flatter trajectory, crossing the white line. And I saw that truck in the very last second. It was a thin line – ten inches left from getting away intact, ten inches right from sinking into the grave. I hit the truck at a tangent.


It took me some time to call my friends, find out everyone’s busy or drunk, to phone the emergency tech help. But it took much more to wait for the tech vehicle to arrive. Many of you know how it feels: you sit dumb and frustrated, basically out of your mind. The truck driver helped me to lift the bike and left, so there was no one around. Several motorcycles passed, including a highway patrol, but no one stopped. In a while, a top-notch Mercedes limo stopped by. A man looking like a banker or a well-to-do official went over and asked if I needed anything. I don’t remember if I said a word back. Most likely I just couldn’t. But he set off and was back in 10 minutes handing me a bottle of water and a roll of paper towels to wipe the blood off my face. In another hour or so there stopped another guy on an old squeaking midget. He stood there distressed he could give me nothing, not even a napkin. But suddenly his face was lit up by an idea. “Hey, man, d’you smoke?” he asked handing me a generous joint. “Halleluiah”, was all I could answer.


All in all, there were two lessons I learned that day:

1. If you don’t want to get somewhere – you won’t. So be careful with what you really desire.

2. When the bell tolls, help comes from an unexpected direction, not from the people you normally count on. And you never know, what this help would look like.


You really never know.


P.S. To keep up with the editorial policy, I would add that safety equipment rules. Oh, yes it does! Without knee, shoulder and elbow protection my limbs would have been broken. And without a helmet there would be no one to write this piece of graphorrhea JBe safe!



Bike of the Month: The Polar Beast

Boomer’s 2008 Raider – Winner of July contest


Lets welcome the winner of ISRA July “Bike of the Month” contest – Boomer from Russia’s far North and his Raider! His bike is not only a beautiful piece of tech, but an enduring ride also. Read “Motorcycle Diaries” to see how the bike handled in harsh conditions of Russia’s Polar territories. Now here is what the winner has to say about his beloved machine:


“My bike is a 2008 Yamaha Raider brought in stock condition from the US in February 2009. I installed Cobra floorboards, Yamaha engine guards and solo luggage rack, Kuryakin grips and a bi-xenon light. I also took all the inner muffles from the pipes, so the sound is quite uncommon. Then I got rid of the license number plate frame and the rear turn signals, replacing them by similar Kuryakin pieces. The license plate now sits low on the right side of the bike. The front fender has a boar figure on it, with eyes glowing on the turn of the ignition key.


My impressions? Well… now I don’t know what to dream of. Don’t need anything else. Seems like the Japanese engineers produced an ideal machine – as if they got into my brain somehow and tailored the bike especially for me ))) I bought it in early 2009. There were only two such bikes in Moscow at that time and one in Krasnodar (a city in Southern Russia). There was no user feedback on this model, no impressions, no info really. Just some photos and a couple vids from Yamaha official site. So I made it a blind date for me, which one must NOT do!!! But I was lucky. I have a mild spine hernia, but I still ride a lot. I tried lots of bikes, but only raider gave me:

  • Exceptionally easy steering both at high and low speeds. I can handle it easily even when its still.
  • Comfortable riding position (at least for me): my back is upright or slightly leaned to the rear, arms are straight, while my legs are stretched forward and not bent. The saddle is sort of scoop-shaped and has a very comfortable waist support.
  • Crazy acceleration at any gear.
  • Excellent exterior: wide rear wheel, long fork with a narrow front wheel. In other words, is doesn’t look like a muscle bike ))

When I go out on a long-haul ride, I put on a Yamaha fast-release windshield. When I cruise in the city, I just take it off. Now I plan to have a wider rear tire: 240/10/80 instead of the current 210/10/80”.




Motorcycle Diaries: Stars go North

The northernmost bike meeting in Russia set up by an ISRA member


By Boomer,

Star Riders Russia


Hello everyone! I live in Severomorsk, a town 2000+ km north from Moscow and well beyond the Polar Circle. Last season I had an idea to ride out to see the Arctic Ocean shore. The only suitable place on this coast to visit on a chopper is a village of Teriberka. To get there, you have to ride about 80 km of something looking like asphalt and still more 45 km of dirt road.


Well, to be exact, the Arctic Ocean is 100 nautical miles away from the shore, beyond the boundaries of the Barents Sea… But a 10-meter altitude in a clear weather gives you visibility of 120 nautical miles. So – yes, you can see the Ocean after all! ))


A comrade of mine on a Honda VTX 1800 came from Moscow to join me on this quest. On the previous year the authorities removed the restricted frontier zone from the place, so entering there was not a problem anymore. A lot of folks on endurance bikes, both local and from distant places, rushed to conquer those lands. But no one before ventured this trip on a chopper, all the more on a Yamaha Raider and a VTX. We invited another guy with a car to load a 20-leter gasoline can, knowing there are no gas stations beyond Murmansk and that we would have to crawl 45 km there and 45 km back on the first or second gear at best. Then we waited for the skies to clear up, and set off. The weather was superb, it was 14 degrees Celsius – in other words, summer came to the Far North! ))



The further we go, the shorter the trees are. Plenty of stones, little lakes and moss everywhere.

Finally, we came to the dirt road. Here is the tundra territory, just moss, stones and a couple of riders. )) Feels like being in a sci-fi movie about Moon or Mars colonization.




The road goes up. Just like the Alps, only colder and dustier…



Now down on the first gear and up again… At some point we swapped our bikes. In my opinion, the Raider gets a much better grip on a descending road than the VTX.


And here are some artifacts of the Soviet era. They give a depressing feeling, especially knowing that people still live here.



Ok, here the road ends. We literally drag our bikes over the rocks. I had some tough time trying to control my Raider. The VTX is easier to handle on the stones, but harder to keep the balance.



And finally… here we are! Mission accomplished!



Out there is the open sea. The horizon is blocked by a thick shroud of clouds. At first we did not pay much attention to it. The air temperature is about 10 Celsius. We go down to the shore with bathing on our minds. But the water is bitterly cold and the stones are slippery, so there’s no safe way in.




After completing our quest we start to descent back from the cliffs. Gosh, was that hard!

While exploring the place, we completely forgot about the weather. Here in the North it can change completely in a matter of hours. The dark clouds that seemed so far out on the horizon, were already outflanking us. It grew colder, the wind has risen, the clouds were approaching really fast. The storm was coming.



We made our way back as fast as we could and we managed to outrun the weather. The 320-km trip (Severomorsk – Murmansk – Teriberka – Arctic Ocean shore and back) took us almost the entire day. Good for us that here in summer the sun never sets, so we could ride round the clock. The place we went to (and where the Star Riders Russia banner stands) is marked with a red flag on the map:



But this is not the end of the story. In late June 2010 we decided to go the same way again, especially that we had more people to join us this time. A trip to the Polar Ocean would be a real adventure for them! Only this time we decided to spend the night at the Ocean shore before going back. The route is the same, but the snow is still there at some spots. Mind that it is June, 20!




We are setting up our camp close to the shore.



But to get to the open sea, we had to take another small, but difficult spurt.




Our Constellation banner that I put on a cliff last year was gone. No problem – I put on another one.



Here is the gang))



After getting back to the camp, we decide to take a walk along the shore. I took my dog and my shotgun with me, just in case some game shows up.




Meanwhile, its 3:30 AM, but sun shines as if it were 11:00 AM ))




On our way back we met some genuine poachers on a real trike!



Then we go fishing. The catch is good: cod and crab. Everything is cooked on the campfire and eaten on the spot!))



Well, what’s the summary? A lot of new impressions, new acquaintances and some very positive chat over the campfire. All the guys that took part in this venture plan to come here again next year. Turns out, this was the northernmost bike meeting in Russia!!! So we decided to make this event an annual tradition and even made a patch dedicated to it.




Safety tips: Cluster or Solo?

Pros and cons of different group riding formations


By Benjamin Harper,

Star Cruizer Co-Editor


For years I have strongly advocated keeping a tight formation when riding in a group. In my opinion, this makes a stronger impression on other drivers than a scattered formation, and protects new riders better than riding as individuals.


However, I have had numerous discussions with several experienced riders on this subject, and I have learned several facts that I would like to share with the Galaxies in an attempt to give you a better choice than to just follow my point of view.


As I have stated before, a tight formation protects inexperienced riders, projects an impression of a large formation instead of individual riders, and lessens the inevitable bad driver from cutting off a part of your formation to “get ahead” in traffic.


There are some advantages to the more spread-out formation that need to be considered though. If you have a group of experienced riders, spreading the formation encourages more appreciation of the scenery through which you are riding, which is part of the reason we ride in the first place. As many of you already know, enjoying the landscape is a wonderful experience, and is part of the reason we ride Star motorcycles instead of high-performance, high-speed models.


Constellations also need to consider the safety advantage of spreading out on roads with heavy traffic. This formation allows for aggressive drivers to cut in and out of traffic, including your formation, without serious jeopardy to your members. Experienced riders who have ridden solo in the past are already familiar with this sort of driver, and can readily adapt to a group of individual riders as easily as a tight formation.


So, in conclusion, the choice is really yours to make. If your ride leaders feel confident about the riding skills of the participants, then a spread-out formation is probably just as safe as a tight group. As with most Constellation decisions, this one is yours to make.


I am pleased with the response to my previous letters on this subject, and encourage members to continue to offer their opinions to me. After all, even my forty years of riding experience do not mean I know everything there is to know, and I enjoy discussions with those who hold different opinions. This is how we improve our riding skills, and increase our cohesion as a riding association.



Star Gazer: What is a Biker?

See of you can tell the difference


By Ben Harper


I was in a restaurant the other day, and someone asked me if I was a “Biker”. This innocent question immediately brought several questions to mind as I tried to sort out what defines a “Biker” to me. "You there, sitting, scratching your  nose, you’re a biker”…


Some people would say that bikers are, not to put too fine a point on it, lowlifes who prowl around on loud motorcycles and indulge in criminal activities and illegal pastimes. This is the stereotypic biker image, and it is imitated by many riders.


There are those who would argue that the definition of “Biker” would include even those who ride sport bikes, and there are legitimate reasons for this position. Many sport- and sport-touring bike riders put many miles on their machines that others would find unbearable for long distance.


Many riders further distinguish between “Enthusiasts” and “Bikers”. Enthusiasts are defined as those who ride to a destination simply for the ride, and then return while bikers are those who ride to a destination, party for several days and then return to the origin of their sojourn. Perhaps this is the best definition of many of our fellow riders.


I have, for the better part of 35 years, lived my life as a "biker". I ride virtually all year through, including those frigid days when the thermometer here in Colorado drops below freezing. As long as there is no snow or ice on the road, I ride. Some people think me insane for such behavior, but most simply say, “That’s Ben”…


I am also a doctorate in Psychology and have served my country with distinction. I serve my community through charity work and donations to the less fortunate. I always live my life so as to bring good repute to myself, my family, and my associates, including those in the ISRA.


Does this lifestyle conform to any definition of “biker”? Hardly, and so what?

For me, being a biker and an ISRA member opens a whole new world of friends and fellow Star riders who share common bonds of friendship. The ISRA is a global family of good people who offer their time in a connection that other riders can only imagine. ISRA officers willingly volunteer their time to serve the greater membership, with no thought as to compensation or reward. Other associations must pay their officers to induce them to serve their groups, reflecting the kind of “What’s in it for me?” attitude that we in the ISRA don’t have to deal with.


So, definition or not, live your lives the way you want and concern yourself not with the perceptions of others. I can only suggest that, as ISRA members, we remember that in every facet of life we are representative of ISRA and should conduct ourselves so as to bring positive images of ISRA riders to the rest of the world that is so very quick to label us as “Bikers”.




Pic of the Month: Taxi, Taxi…

Motorcycles as public transport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


By Anton Popov,

Star Riders Russia


“Motorcycle excursions around the city”, the guy is shouting through a mouthpiece. He is advertizing his services are in most demand: on Vorobyovy Gory (in Russian meaning Sparrow Hills), a square with a panoramic view attracting hundreds of foreign tourists visiting Moscow and even more local motorcyclists. Another guy has a “Bike Taxi” label attached to his Suzuki SV600. But riders-for-money are still scarce in Russia’s capital, although the trend seems pretty clear. There are places in the world where two-wheel taxis are more common and are regarded more as a utility rather than a dangerous and freaky attraction. In Paris, France you could catch a Honda Goldwing to get to the airport or around the city’s heavy traffic. But that is no comparison to what I recently saw in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital. What you see in this picture is an entire row of bikes (typically 125cc Hondas) used as taxies. The place is favela Rosinha, the biggest favela in Latin America. Favelas are poorer districts supplying workforce for much of the city’s service sector. The 2000 census revealed that about half a million residents of Rio live in such places. Rio’s upscale districts are mostly located on flat land, while favelas cling to steep hill slopes. This factor creates a huge demand for bike taxis: for a couple reais (about US$1) you can get from favela’s border in the valley to the very top of the hill or back. This would take you about 5 minutes instead of half an hour on foot under the blazing sun. Taxi riders are organized in specialized companies and wear vests indicating the company’s name and telephone. There are hundreds of them cruising back and forth through Rosinha. Many people are reluctant to be photographed in favelas, so the guy in front turned his face away just as I put up my camera. For no particular reason – locals say its just an old habit of being on the safe side. Life in favelas can be difficult at times, and most of the people living here are decent and hard workers, like these riders earning their living by taking passengers up and down the hill.


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