There are those that will try to tell you that BMW’s type 247 boxer motorcycle engine is one of the indelible triumphs of the human species’ skill for mechanical engineering.

Now I have owned Type 247 Boxers for more total ‘bike-years’ than I have been alive, so I operate under no illusions that this design is absolutely perfect. With that understanding, though, I still feel no need to argue the point.

The human being that designed that motor, on the other hand, is itself one of the most incomprehensibly unreliable bits of engineering ever documented.

Now if such a statement brings you into direct conflict with some element of religious faith, which requires that man himself, being a product of some divine element, be himself divine, then I’ll offer you a sincere apology.

In my mind, though, that the human being is poorly designed, and generally functions suboptimally isn’t any sort of spiritual or ethical pronouncement.

I’m just calling balls and strikes.


Take my body, for instance.


Back in the end of February, we Shamiehs had the second funeral of one of our Elders in as many months. While preparing to make the second run up the New Jersey Turnpike, it was brought to our attention that our nuclear family had experienced a documented COVID exposure, and, given the Chronologically Gifted status of many of the funeral party, we tested.

We flunked.

We didn’t go to New Jersey.

I have received every injection in Pfizer’s Covid Catalog. Some twice.

So having COVID was no big deal.   I had some sniffles, and the muscles in my upper back locked up for about 3 days.

Piece a cake.

A month later, though, was a different story.

It’s hard to reconstruct exactly what went first, mostly because nearly everything else failed in short order. All my body’s connective tissue was 11/10s inflamed – no joints worked. I had been running a low grade fever for about three weeks, seemed to have no control over my perceived body temperature – “Is it HOT in here? Why am I so COLD!?!? (repeat) – and had the energy level of a newborn kitten. My brain felt like someone was dragging the brakes on my cognitive processes – most answers were taking much longer to come back from storage and an increasingly large number of requests weren’t coming back at all.

On Easter Sunday, after a nice ham dinner with the fam, Sweet Doris from Baltimore took a look at me across the table, squinted a little, and said, “Greggie, I’m taking you to the hospital.”

I’m sure that there were some really good reasons for not wanting to do that, but I couldn’t seem to remember what any of them were, and remembering them seemed like a lot of trouble.

By the time that Sweet Doris wrangled the family wagon to Frederick Memorial, landing me in the ER, every system in my body was having a full featured freak out. I seemed to have two or three different autoimmune responses going on at the same time and my bloodwork looked like the final exam for first year medical students  — my white count, platelets, C-reactive protein (an inflammation measure) blood sugar and PSA labs were all in the ‘dead guy’ ranges.  The ER docs operative theory was that I either had severe pneumonia or maybe leukemia. (I had neither.) They pounded me with the mother of all IV cocktails – 2 or 3 strong ones combined with some monster anti-inflammatory and a lot of saline.  

About three weeks after that, and a fair number of drugs, I’m about 45%. Oh, and down about 15 pounds.  

In the last six weeks, I’ve ridden a motorcycle perhaps 3 times. Each time I needed to strongarm myself to make sure I did it.

All three rides were restorative, and all three required that I take a brief nap afterward.  

All of the continued blood work continues to indicate positive trends.

Every day I feel a little bit better.

Where I’d like to be, though, is to be standing out in the garage next to my 850+ pound K1200LT and not worrying about getting it off the stand and into the roadway.

I’ll let you know.

Think good thoughts, eh?


This winter — here in Maryland — has been, except for four piercingly bitter days, the mildest that I can remember.

We haven’t had Snowmageddon, or Snowzilla, or Snowpocalypse, or The Snowvent Horizon. Heck, I’m not even sure we’ve had enough snow to provide for one Baltimore Style Snowball (with marshmallow, please).

Normally, the lack of snow and ice on the roadways would mean that opportunities to ride would multiply. Momz Nature, though, has been heavy on rain, and cold, and fog. Frederick County’s weather, in short, has been like every day in Wales.   While I can do 36 degrees and raining, it doesn’t mean I actively seek out opportunities to ride in those conditions.

So I dream of slightly warmer (and dryer) conditions, and retreat into the shop to ensure that the machine will be ready for adventure before I am.  

Triumph Paul and I had been plotting and scheming to spend some time on the MidAtlantic Back Country Discovery Route last fall – he’d even gone so far as to buy and revive a well-used KLR 650 just for that purpose – but a few unplanned mechanical events and a few more unplanned human life events had combined with an early change of seasons to leave both of us with BDRus Interruptus. Now at least I’d had the entire dark, damp winter to turn that trip over in my head, and to make fervent entreaties to the Weather Goddess that a warm early spring would make amends for the early onset of the cold last fall.

A lot of preparation for a journey is spiritual – the desire for the process, the hunger for the effort – has to be developed so that the rider is prepared to meet that moment, to able to live in that moment, when it finally arrives.

Preparing the machine, in that context, is clearly the easy part.

The dreaded ‘SERVICE’ indicator had been showing on the dashboard of the F800GS Adventure for more than a few weeks.  Try as I might to not think about it or be bugged about it, I’d finally reached the point where my self-control had been breached, and I was well and fully mental at the nag warning The Legendary Engineers of Germany had placed directly in the middle of the GS’s small rider’s display – their intention had been to produce precisely that effect and it, unsurprisingly, had worked perfectly.

It helps to understand the mind of the customers for your product, eh?

Net/net – in the terminology of One’s Local BMW Motorrad Service Center – it was time for a full annual service.

Oil changes are never exactly thrilling, and this one was no different. Fortunately, I’d been the technician on the previous service, so I was likely to avoid some of the drama associated with folks that had never read the fastener torque table in the factory shop manual. 

It only took about 3 minutes to loosen the four nuts on the rubber mounts on the oil pan and the three allens that fasten to the front  bracket, and pull the bash plate from the bottom of the frame.  

Once the armor was off, I used the GS for its own ladder, thumbed the bike’s Rotax twin to life, and headed out to get things heated up and ready for service.  I took the tiny loop up The Pike and back down Saint Marks Road – just enough distance at a low enough speed to get the bike’s thermostat open, oil warmed through, and some heat into the links of the drive chain.  After coming back in off of Burkittsville Road, I hopped down from the bike, slid a drain pan underneath, loosened the dipstick, spun out the drain plug, and hopped clear as the contents of the sump whooshed into the pan. 

I gave the oil filter a quick twist and it spun clear — letting the galleys leading to the pump join their brothers in lube at the bottom of the basin.

I’ve come to the conclusion my mechanical methods are strictly ‘old school’. These methods didn’t start out that way – they were new when I got ‘em, but like a lot of things they’ve become antiques during use.

One of those ‘old school’ methods is give an engine enough time for the dirty oil to really drain. Being patient also provides the benefit of an unallocated block of time to access and reset the bike’s service computer.

Old school? Meet new school.

I popped the saddle off to get to the ODBII connector, and then got the big surprise.

As a species, the common field mouse has never met a BMW motorcycle airbox that did not look like a luxury condo.  Airheads, bricks, F bikes… they’re all prime real estate.

The common field mouse and I are, unsurprisingly, at war.

And this winter, the war has been sustained, total and utter carnage.  I’ve been baiting a pair of traps every night, and most nights I dispatch a mouse. There is a flowerbed next to the shop in which many of their tiny brethren have been laid to rest.

Olly, the RPP Shop Dog, who has dog DNA we’ve been assured were terriers, bred to be ratters, has been noticeably absent from the fray.

Sweet Doris from Baltimore feeds our birds out back. The millet seeds that started showing up – around front — in our camping gear, and then in the tool roll shared between my airheads told a story, and that story was weird, and spoke of the determination and perseverance of tiny little mice.

The space in the very center of the GS is filled with its fuel injection pump. The round pump is shielded with a rubber cover, which for some reason has an opening that appears to be the full Tom and Jerry Cartoon Mousehole.

Does this look like a luxury condo to you, pal?

You don’t have to be Einstein to see just a tiny bit into the future, here.

The highest point in my entire garage – the very top of the dirtbike with a glandular problem – has been seized by the mice as their high ground, and the place where they would defend all of their millet at any cost. The little feckers had filled the entire fuel pump shroud with millet – working carefully around my AF-XiED fuel injection hack, and with their stash sticking out all of the holes in the shroud.  

I sat the saddle by the wall, and went and got my Shop-Vac.

A fairly significant amount of sucking later, I had an amidships area that was devoid of seed. It’s confidence inspiring really, that despite the amount of four footed traffic, and their extended lunchbox, that I’d noticed absolutely no impacts on the operation of the machine.

I took the required few extra minutes to connect up by Bluetooth OBD-II interface, launch my MotoScan app, access the instrument cluster and reset the service indicator and next service interval mileage and date.  

Task complete, I powered all systems back off and locked the saddle back in place.

With mice in the rearviews, I replaced the drain plug, filter and bash plate.  I drained 3 quarts of Castrol 4t into the sump, replaced the dipstick, and then started a quieter and happier motor.


Every BMW motorcycle dealership I’ve ever frequented always displays the one of the corporate service posters which emphasizes the vital importance of ‘The Annual Brake Service’.  It might not be strictly necessary to flush and bleed one’s hydraulic brakes every twelve months, but to folks who’ve enjoyed deep draughts of the BMW kool aid, it’s been fetishized so that’s its something that can’t be ignored.

Of course, as somebody that for 6 of those years had a drum braked motorcycle with cables, the whole notion of hydraulic motorcycle brakes itself still seems just a little high tech.  

That aside, once I joined the rest of the world in leaving Fred Flintstone style braking behind, mastering the bleeders became a fairly high priority skill for me.

Have I ever mentioned how very, very much I love my MitiVac Fluid Evacuator?

Consider it mentioned.

The Fluid Evacuator is a eight-quart vacuum pumping system with a built-in bicycle style hand vacuum pump. When equipped with the optional brake bleeding head – which provides a long tube, a bleeder fitting and a precise vacuum control valve – once can put ten or twelve strokes on the pump, and have enough stored vacuum to complete the entire bleed and flush.  For motorcycles with early versions of ABS technologies – that have ABS pumps with significant internal fluid volume – the Evacuator is a godsend.

The braking system on the GS, though, is more modern stuff – the entire control and valve module is cigarette pack sized —  with the proper gear, it’s a 20 minute job.

I obtained the complete service records when I bought this bike, and the shop ticket from the South American dealer service department claimed the braking system had been serviced once. Visual inspection of the system seemed to contradict that – while the front fluid seemed about two years old – color a nice light tea color – the rear master cylinder’s fluid looked much, much darker.  My perception of the brakes – the front was a tad spongy, whereas the rear was The Full SpongeBob – also suggested that somebody had skipped servicing the rear circuit as well.

The 800 GS has a partial trellis frame —  looking at where BMW positioned the rear MC, there were some obvious plusses and minuses.  On the plus side, given that motorcycles designed to be operated on dirt will eventually take a number of bike naps in said dirt, the rear master cylinder was very well protected in the event of little disagreements with gravity. On the negative side though, getting a vacuum line to that spot to empty out spent fluid from the master cylinder reservoir, or getting a funnel in there to refill it looked implausible if not impossible.  Most obvious explanation is that someone had eyeballed that MC location, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

Yeah. In There.

I’d be riding this bike, though, so we were going to have to figure something out.

Truth be known, it wasn’t that hard.

The rear MC is attached to the bike via a plastic arm – the arm is bolted to the frame and then the fluid reservoir is held to the top of the arm with a single allen bolt. I squinted at this setup for all of a minute, then took one of my allen wrenches in hand, unbolted the reservoir, and then took the shop towel out of my other hand and packed it into the trellis section where it normally sat.  Upon releasing the reservoir, it sat a full two inches clear of the frame, sitting solidly in space where it was dead easy to access.

I put the Fluid Evacuator in place, uncapped the reservoir, and sucked most of the dead brake fluid out. I then swapped my bleed pump to the caliper bleed fitting, bust it loose and then opened up the vacuum valve. I poured some fresh DOT4 into the reservoir and kept pouring until clear new fluid was being pulled into the pump.

Shut bleeder, close vacuum valve, replace cap, bolt back in place.

Elapsed time about 6 minutes.

The front brakes are easier still, since everything is way less fiddley and out in the open.

And where the rear fluid reservoir is the size of a shot glass, the front one is the size of a small bucket.

I put the pump on the brake caliper that was furthest from the lever, opened up the bleed fitting and began pulling fluid through.  Two minutes later we had clean, air free fluid coming out. I closed the fitting, swapped to the other caliper, and pumped a small bit more – after clearing the small volume between the brake system Tee and the caliper, we were buttoned up and done.

I’d used exactly one 8-ounce bottle of DOT4 Brake Fluid.

No spills, no drips on paint or plastic, zero drama.   


It’s been more than a little while since I’ve owned a bike with a chain.

My chain skills, accordingly, a more than a tad rusty.

The GS, god bless it, has some trick adjusters that are kinda unintuitive until you’ve used them a few times. I put the bike over on its sidestand, measured the play with one of my trusty Indian-made brass calipers, and then broke the axel and locknuts loose, and took about ½ a turn on the adjusters, rechecked the play and then tightened everything up a again.

I rocked the GS up onto its main stand.  I put a piece of cardboard between the rear tire and the chain, and spun the rear wheel with my left hand while hosing down the chain with WD-40 with my right. Once we’d gone around once I swapped the can for a shop towel and grabbed the chain though the towel and spun the chain through several revolutions, until I’d removed all the surface dirt and most of the dispersant. I swapped the towel for a can of Honda White Lithium chain lube, and went through another revolution until the whole chain was coated.

I put the cans back on the shelf on my tool cart and tossed the carboard and surgical gloves into the shop trash.

Preparation may be good, but riding is way better.


Ever since my time with the Cake Kalk&, I’ve been far more comfortable on any motorcycle being ridden in the dirt.  Flinging that small electric motorcycle about made me more aware of what the suspension and contact patches are doing, and more tolerant of things moving around a great deal more than what is customary when riding on pavement. I’m riding standing a lot, and using more arms and legs when changing direction, keeping my weight far forward over the front wheel and using more throttle in corners.

I’ve learned to trust my front tire a little more, and to care a lot less about what my rear tire and suspension are doing.     

I’m loose.

Leaving the neighborhood, everything felt better. Driveline had shed some slop and some chain slap – the engine’s valve train had quieted down given some fresh clean oil to work with. The brakes were a revelation – the rear especially, which had been vague and grabby was now butter smooth and precise. The power and initial bite up front were both improved.

I took the right down Horine Road heading down toward Cactoctin Creek and the Potomac.

I headed down Sigler – choogling along in the bottom of second gear, standing up all the way and trying to be conscious of just how narrow the track was — staying centered up to avoid getting smacked in the head by a branch.  

At the ford I’ve been known to be less than fierce – but I’ve finally realized the water is mostly in one’s head – this isn’t a game of ‘floor is lava’. Despite the fact that we’d had some rain, I got in on the gas, bounced of a few stones on the way across, and when the front wheel cleared the bank, I snapped the bike left, got a foot down, snapped the throttle, and the GS moved smartly up the trail. I carried a little speed though the dry ford at the next ravine, and then carried a nice flat track slide on the left that leads up and out of the draw.

As it heads back towards civilization, Sigler’s gravel is fast and straight punctuated by one wicked downhill right hander.

I carried more speed on all of it than I can recall ever having done before – the GS felt sorted and fully in control.

This motorcycle and me, it seems, have reached a mutual understanding.

I roosted every piece of dirt and gravel in The Valley before finally coming back to the shop, feeling wrung out but happy.  

Making miles this way is sure a lot different than putting up big numbers on some road burning grand touring bike, but it feels a lot more engaging – a lot more of an effort at recognizably human scale.

This motorcycle is ready. I am ready.

Now Mother Nature just needs to play along.

 ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’.

Maybe that statement is a tad harsh, but it points in the right direction.

In my increasingly distant youth, in a time when I had copious amounts of thick red hair, I was a committed and die-hard Rock and Blues Music musician. Playing around Baltimore in the early 1980s was a Golden Era – there was a vibrant scene with multiple performance venues, all of which had their own spicy flavors.  Towards the middle of the decade, I had taken up with a group of guys who shared my eclectic tastes in music, and who were well-versed students of the form, thoughtful composers, and enthusiastic performers.  Tom and Bernie were writing interesting, challenging songs, and there’s nothing better than finding a road that everyone else hasn’t already gone down.

After the requisite holing up and practicing for months, we had enough material and some set lists to talk to the club owners we knew, and get a few gigs in the book.

It was, like, time to rock, man.

Except it wasn’t.

The weekend before our first gig, the club we were booked into – a nice joint up on Maryland Avenue whose name escapes me – decided to pull the plug and close for good.

No matter. Shit happens. Suck it up and soldier on.

Two weeks later, the same thing happened again. Signed contract. Closed club.

One can be excused, I think, at that point for starting to wonder about the relation between correlation and causation. 

I’m also going to surmise that you won’t find it shocking that it happened a third time.

At this point, rational or not, me Tom and Bernie decided that it must be us – that we’d been afflicted by some sort of Very Bad Rock and Roll Juju — and we hung up our guitars and concentrated on finding some steady work.


What the absolute feck, you’re likely asking, does any of that have to do with motorcycles, Mate?

Hang with me – synthesis is coming.

Fast-forward a couple of decades to the Jazzy Moto-Journalist incarnation of me.  I’d scored the Mother Of All Moto-Scoops – having managed to get embedded with the Engineering Team at Bosch USA who was working to port their Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) System to work with the electric powertrains to be used with the next version of Zero’s electric road motorcycles.   I had a chance to conduct an extended interview with Zero’s CTO, Abe Ashkenazi. I’d had multiple chances for interviews and followups with Bosch’s Development Program Manager, and with the very talented guy who was both the team’s Software Architect and their Test Rider for the development mules.

I was justifiably proud of the piece that resulted – it was a true 360 about a revolutionary bit of technology that started with the guy that envisioned it, and went all the way through from the ‘why’ to the very detailed ‘how’. It was good stuff, even correcting for personal bias.

Motorcyclist Magazine – the grand-daddy of all US Moto Rags – bought it, and had me set up for the next issue.

Two weeks before the issue was supposed to go to production, all of a sudden, people stopped returning phone calls and e-mails.

That, it would turn out, was because they weren’t there anymore.    

A week after that, Motorcyclist announced it had published its last issue on paper.

Something about the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach – having shown up just a bit late for the dance – felt weirdly, specifically familiar.


I’ve been working on another of those Large Production Number Stories for over a year, now.

During the pandemic, I’d had the opportunity to get acquainted with the online content of one Matt Walksler, the Chief Curator of The Wheels Through Time Museum.  Matt’s dad, Dale Walksler, had been a legendary figure in the Historic Motorcycle universe.  Dale, sadly, had become ill and passed away, leaving Matt the responsibility of taking over the operation of the Museum at the Worst Possible Time In Human History – when people were not doing a great many things and not going to Motorcycle Museums was very high on that list. 

Like a lot of people sharing these conditions, Matt had taken his work online with a YouTube Channel, and was finding both a whole new audience and a lifeline for the Museum, as well.

Sure, there were lots of cool motorcycles involved, but the human element of the story bit me hard and wouldn’t let go.  The team at a Digital Online Mag for which I frequently write had audaciously elected to start a new print publication – and had hired one of the Best in the Biz — Marc Cook — as their Editor In Chief. Marc had been one of Motorcyclist Magazines’ best modern editors – he was the guy that brought Ari Henning and Zack Courts into the biz, for pete’s sake — and he was somebody I genuinely respected and wanted to work with.

I wasn’t very far into our introductory pitch before I heard the big relay close, and Marc agreed that it was a great story and he’d like to publish it.

So as soon as the weather would allow it in the early spring of 2022 – upon reflection, maybe just before the weather would allow it – I loaded up my K1200LT, spun wheels for Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and went and got my story.

The words, pictures and experiences that came out of that trip were pearls beyond price.


After holing up and writing those words, I delivered the copy, photos and a digital image package — the museum’s archivist had pulled with some great competition and club action shots from the first half of the 20th century — to the Magazine. I was hoping to make the May deadline for the June/July issue of the magazine.

That didn’t happen.

My story was then slated to feature in a ‘Time’ themed issue that was planned for the Holiday online sales season, then for January, and then their accountants called, having decided that opening a new Print Motorcycle Magazine was Just A Little More Audacious than they’d perhaps been counting on.

They used the term ‘hiatus’ – which, in my experience, is a corporate euphemism for ‘thrown off a high roof’. It’s possible to return from a hiatus, but that, in my experience, is the exception, rather than the rule.

Another Saturday night, another club closed.


And that is where J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Bhagavad-Gita come in – that everything you touch somehow immediately acquires the stench of death.

If these things happened to you, you would be excused for thinking that this was all somehow personal, that it had something to do with you.

It doesn’t, of course. The universe doesn’t care a whit about either me or you.    

That indifference, sadly, doesn’t make it feel any better, though.

That fork in the road where I passed on the Motorcycle Writer dream gig that Art Friedman held out more than 30 years ago is a place one can’t get back to – that place doesn’t exist anymore.

It’s almost enough to burn my pens as tinder, and go out and buy a GoPro.


But not quite.  

On A Roll

Those people that are always telling you things will tell you that ‘bad things come in threes’.

Given that those people don’t seem to be possessed of disciplined minds, they have left the notion that the threes themselves also come in threes undefined.

Based on anecdotal evidence gathered by me, though, that seems more than plausible.

My dad’s younger brother passed away unexpectedly just after the holidays.  We made a trip up to New Jersey for his funeral and reconnected with many extended family members we hadn’t seen in many years. The gathering provided several additional unpleasant-to-exceedingly-unpleasant surprises involving these folks. To add injury to insult, many of them had either been exposed to or had been suffering from Covid.

Coming back home again after a long day on the Interstate, we discovered that the original natural gas furnace in our 25 year old house had decided today was a good day to die – hawking up a replacement bill that was well into ‘lets go down to the dealer and buy a new motorcycle’ territory.

My day gig has hit what – if it was a relationship – one would call ‘a rough patch’. I’ve been working an all-consuming product development and launch project – one that was running at such intensity that neither I nor my family got any kind of summer break this year. This project involved a great deal of having non-optional guidance provided by Senior Management – much of which seemed inconsistent with the facts I had available. The Senior Management folks providing that guidance have – now that the project was 95% complete – all elected to leave the company simultaneously.

Imagine me in a brief conversation with the newly hired replacement executive, who inquires ‘Who was the chucklehead that decided to do it this way?’ and is looking at me with the proverbial hairy eyeball.

Like I said, a rough patch.

It’s at times like this, that the only solace is the bark of an old boxer and the sound of the wind running over my helmet.


Mother Nature, fortunately, decided to intervene with a rare bit of good fortune, in marked contrast to the other kind of fortune previously noted.

After a week of temperatures well below Maryland nominal – with highs in the low 20s and lows under 5 degrees f – we saw a rapid swing to unseasonably mild conditions.

Both of my Type 247 Airhead BMW motorcycles had not been winterized in any way. Normally I’ll take them for a good long run, fill their fuel tanks with stabilized fuel, and run the carburetor float bowls dry upon their return to the shop.   In this case though, both my R75/5 and R90S had simply been parked in warm weather, and then it had instantly become winter.

Add that to the list of unanticipated suboptimal events.

I’d put the R90 on the battery charger first thing that morning. Since the average temperature in my garage had likely hovered around 35 degrees for the last 4 weeks straight, and the S had a crankcase of 20W-50 oil that was likely the same flow rate as a bottle of peanut butter at that temperature, the first start was likely to be a bit of a struggle.  After the day had warmed up, I pulled a fleece, a buff neck gaiter and my leathers on, and rolled the S out into the light.  I aired up the tires, opened the fuel taps, set the enrichener lever, and gave the old girl the button.  After about 5 compression strokes without firing, the battery promptly gave it up.

I put the charger back onto the battery, and set the rate to its 10 amp setting, in place of the default 2 amps I normally use. After waiting for 3 minutes or so for the battery to take some meaningful charge, I turned the ignition back on and fired the starter again.

This time, the S fired on the second stroke, and came up to a solid sounding fast idle.

I disconnected and turned off the charger, pulled on my helmet and gloves, and swung a leg over.    

Surprisingly, for a frozen solid airhead with a crankcase full of Skippy Extra Crunchy, after about thirty seconds of running on the enrichener, I was able to turn it off, and the big twin was taking throttle and smoothly making revs.

Time to ride.

My favorite bespoke airhead wrench – Mark Delaney – had done a magnificent job of building a gearbox for this bike, which had come from the factory with a leftover 1974-specification 5 speed.  The 1974 boxes had been the first generation of the 5 speed transmissions, and like most of BMW’s V 1.0 anythings, there had been several engineering miscues that had required immediate correction.  The new box had received the updated sport shift cam,  a more modern set of shafts that received the spacers and extra retaining clips that the 1974s lacked, and had then been assembled with an artisanal level of care and precision that only 3 or 4 people in the US could provide.   For a box that sounded like Thor’s Hammer going to the next gear, the box was positive, relatively low effort and precise.

I rolled the bike down the driveway, banged into first gear with that reassuring ‘Thunk’, and banked to the left and gassed it.  The big twin took throttle and pulled hard up the road.

Heading down the grade towards Brookside, all of a sudden the S hit a major lean stumble – with 203 miles showing on the trip odo, I had to assume I was out of gas – working the throttle with my right hand – as I did not want to gamble on having gained enough battery charge for a restart —  I managed to swap both fuel petcocks to ‘Reserve’ with my left.   This – it should be noted – is as close to yoga as I get. Three beats later the engine came back to full song.    

After crossing Catoctin Creek and passing the Brookside Inn, I leaned the bike to the right and headed up the big grade. With a little heat in the engine, I stretched each gear out, reveling in the nice bass notes echoing back from the walls of the canyon – the old girl was making clean power and pulling hard.  Coming off the top of the grade, we got just a little air.

If I’d been in search of some lightness of spirit, it sure looked like I’d found it.

I rolled the next four miles or so up to Brunswick, where I banged the bike though one of our new and annoyingly small traffic circles – fun on a bike but hellish on anything larger – the full coat of black rubber on the brickwork of the center tells a tale of too much intimacy with farm trucks towing trailers full of livestock and tractor trailers that wished they had another way to where they were going.  On the other side of the circle I rolled into the Sheetz, and found myself an open pump.  Five and a half gallons of premium fuel later, the S swung hard on the starter and restarted – clearly my battery and charging system had survived the deep freeze of recent days.

Heading downhill towards Knoxville on 180 West I really began to demonstrate some enthusiasm. My right wrist was spending a lot of time rolling wide open – working to keep the slides of the Del-Ortos as far up as rationality and conditions would allow. Road conditions this day were not quite optimal – the temperature had risen so quickly that any pavement that wasn’t in full sun was wet from condensation. Best to exercise some restraint in that shade – as good as the Michelin Pilot Activ tires might be, they’re still period correct narrow bias tires, and not yet fully warmed ones at that – and stuff that looks snotty and slippery almost always is.

I made the right onto Mountain Road – a narrow, climbing, twisting goat path of a road. If there’s a place somewhere known as ‘Airhead Heaven’, all its roads look like this. To my neighbor who took the trouble to make a 9 foot tall Sasquatch cut out – complete with a Coors Light Tallboy in his dragging mitt – props to ya, buddy – it never fails to make me laugh.

Climbing back through the woods to the top of the mountain gave me a chance to enjoy the thrum of the exhaust bouncing back from the trees all around me. The S is the only motorcycle in the stable that doesn’t have a stock BMW exhaust – when I’d brought it home it had a set of replacement mufflers from Land Speed Record notable Dennis Manning’s Big Ugly Bastard (BUB) Enterprises. The BUB exhausts were widely used as performance replacements ‘in period’ back the late 70s and early 80s.   BUB’s BMW exhausts are not drag piped Sportster obnoxious, but they do have just enough bass, bark and burble to make a sports motorcycle sound like one.  Riding a big twin on a tight road like Mountain, one can just set the bike in third gear, and hear the entire intake and exhaust symphony, all the way from torquing out at low revs to bellowing at redline and burbling on overrun and engine braking back in for the next one.

Classical Music, eh?

At the top of the mountain we came back to Maryland 17, headed north towards Burkittsville, Middletown, and eventually Thurmont.   17 is an 11/10th motorcycle road, and one that would be near to the heart of any United Kingdom-based ‘Roads Racer’.  There’s a little bit of everything on 17 – farms with endless sections of hand-laid stone walls, huge top speed-inviting straights, 90/90 corners, and roller-coaster sections of hills. 17 is wide-open till one enters the tiny village of Coatesville, then immediately changes to tight, technical, off camber and decreasing radius stuff. A delightful dance if one knows it – a saddle clenching nightmare if one doesn’t.   

Riding north away from US340, I was smooth and deliberate – keeping the big boxer on the gas and stretching each gear out through about 6200 rpm. By the time I made the solid shift up into 5th I was probably guilty of riding at an immoderate speed for an irreplaceable 48 year old motorcycle – among several other offences – but even there the S was still accelerating with authority at velocities that I’d rather not visit when not wearing full racing leathers.  When new, these motorcycles could achieve 125 mph with their points and condenser ignitions – this old dancer, who has a few integrated circuit tricks installed, still makes that feel easily reached for someone braver or more foolhardy than me.

Too soon, though, I’d run out of 17 at Burkittsville. As comparatively warm as 47 degrees seems after temps in the 20s, on a bike with only a bikini fairing and no mod cons like the BMW-standard heated grips, I’ll admit my knees were a tad chilly, and my hands were beginning to stiffen up.  Mild discomfort notwithstanding, though, I just wasn’t quite ready to head for home. I did a little dogleg up Mountain Church Road, and then turned towards home on Arnoldstown Road.

Arnoldstown Road snakes down off the ridge towards a wide floodplain from one of The Valley’s many creeks.  The drop from the ridgeline is a spectacular ride, as the route the road builders picked has some thrilling surprises in store.  This stretch of road always lets me know if the S is running completely right, because the apex of each of the first three corners is placed at the top of a slight rise, and hitting them precisely, with the engine on the boil, produces a crossed-up power wheelie that gets the adrenaline system pumpin’.  I’d jumped the throttle from the top of the grade, and was at just the right place and just the right speed to feel the S’s bars go weightless in my hands coming off the top of the first corner.  I kept the wheel on line and moved my body forward under the bubble, and felt the front tire touch back down and gently bite. I quickly flicked the bike back right, rolled the throttle back open and felt that lovely weightless sensation all over again.  Another landing, another take off, and one more landing.

A modern 700 cc parallel twin Yamaha can likely eat this motorcycle in a straight line, but I can’t imagine it could make me feel like this.

There’s something about enormous waves of torque, booming exhaust and a frame and suspension that are trustworthy and stable that seems both current and timeless.

I don’t find myself wanting or wishing for anything more.

And I’m pretty sure that something had been bugging me, but rolling the throttle open, and hearing the intake roar as the slides of the Del-Ortos come up and the S lunges forward on the exit of this corner, I’m also sure I can’t really remember what it was.      


Eight Holes

There are pictures everybody carries around in their heads.

Those pictures are points along the line that describes how you wound up here.

There are not very many of those pictures, but they’re good ones.

They’re sharp – they’re vivid – they’re indelible.

They are not images of some past string of events – they’re happening now.


My earliest ‘picture’ is a good example.

I am standing in my crib.

My teeth hurt.

I remember biting down – hard — on the rail at the crib end, and feeling the soft pine crush beneath my teeth.

I remember reeeeeeeealy liking the way that that felt.

When Sweet Doris from Baltimore and I started our family, we inherited that crib set for our own children.

When I first set the crib up, I dropped the mattress in, and looked at the crib rail.

It had a rather noticeable series of tooth marks in the paint.


My next picture skips forward a decade, give or take.

My father and his two brothers were just a buncha guys from Brooklyn.   My dad Fred was the middle brother. William was his older brother, and Richard was the baby.

No girls allowed in that club.

Nobody ever called Baby Richard ‘Richard’.   His Mommy – Rose – and his brothers called him ‘Dicky’.

To everyone else alive he was just ‘Dick’.

Dick was the kind of guy who would never provide a straight answer or greeting when a wiserack could be made to serve.

Dick was a self-employed automobile mechanic, and had a deserved reputation for being exceedingly exacting, which is precisely what one wants from someone fettling the insides of one’s engines. His personal taste in cars were a reflection of the times – his favorites – Chrysler 300s, Big Finned Plymouths, Cadillacs and anything with a big V8 – made big power and Dick apparently had both the skills and inclination to use them.

Dick’s shop – which was built onto his suburban house – was cleaner than my kitchen. This is not a knock on my kitchen – on Sweet Doris’ Kitchen for heavens’ sake! — Dick’s shop was cleaner than some labs or surgical operating rooms.

I am glad I never had to attempt to offer Dick an explanation for the floors in my garage.

I remember being in his shop – grey painted floors, bright florescent lights.

Dick was working on his own car – a 1963 Thunderbird, in high gloss Black. The front profile of that car had chrome trim that makes the ‘Bird look like a refugee from the US Space Program.  

Dick was doing an old school overhaul of the Ford’s engine.

I don’t recall him owning an engine crane, so he was doing the entire operation ‘in situ’.

The rebuild was at the point where major things were going back together, and Dick needed a hand. Preferably a hand that was small enough to move around easily under the largely assembled car. Dick was a man of fairly slight build.

I on the other hand, was maybe nine years old. Or perhaps ten.

Which made me slighter still, and hence, the selected source of that hand.

I assumed the position on Dick’s mechanic’s creeper, and scooted under the front of the ‘Bird.  

When I arrived at my destination, I remember looking up through the Ford’s disassembled V-8, and seeing all eight chromed bores reflecting the lights from above.

<Sound of Motorhead Angels Singing>

“Eight Holes makes the whole thing go?”.   I was never from that moment the same again.


Another one of my pictures also involves my uncle.

When, as a college senior, I had our family car handed down to me, Dick was determined that I would not have problems with that car.

The car – which was a 1971 Cadillac Sedan — had previously served as a company car for my Dad for four years, and our family car for the next seven or so. It had just over 100,000 miles on the clocks, so, by the standards of Detroit-made made autos of the day, its mechanical condition was somewhat suspect.

Dick, God bless him, probably had a wrench on every single important nut in that car. It got new belts and hoses, plugs, wires and points/distributor cap, coolant flush, wheel bearing service, brake pads, chassis lube, fuel filter… you name it.

Everybody has their own way of demonstrating love.

This was Dick’s.

As he tossed me the keys to the world’s brownest car – brown paint, brown interior, brown vinyl top – Dick rubbed his hands together, and pronounced “Ya shouldn’t have to put a wrench to nothin’ for the next 100,000 miles!”

Which is probably the exact reason why, running at 65 miles per hour on the Garden State Parkway, eight miles north of Paramus the old Caddy suddenly felt like it had run into a wall.

Wide eyed – I looked in my rearview mirror to see two huge counter-rotating contrails of smoke rolling off the Deville’s tailfins.

I felt like I’d fallen through a rip in spacetime to The Second World War’s Air War Over Europe. 

Unbeknownst to me at that moment was that the air conditioner compressor – Dick hadn’t changed THAT – had decided that today was a good day to die.  And the moment that its electric clutch had apparently exploded, the two brand new belts that Dick HAD just installed and properly tensioned immediately drove the frozen clutch to burst into flames, taking the slightly oily hood insulation along for the smoky ride.

Once I executed a pretty stylish emergency stop to the shoulder and threw the hood open, though, all of that story became pretty clear to me.

“Hello. My name is Greg. I have a new car. And it’s ON FIIIIIRE!”

I got lucky from there. There was a drainage ditch beside the highway.  The ditch had water in it, as well as a steel Budweiser can that some fellow motorist had thoughtfully provided for my use.   

After several trips/Bud Cans from the ditch, I put the fire out. 

I found a gap in the chain link fence that bordered the parkway, knocked on a front door, and was able to borrow a phone.

I got Dick on the line, and told him what had happened.

“Ahh shit! You got a pocket knife? Cut the two belts off the compressor and pull ‘em out of the engine compartment. Bring the car back here to the shop. One thing though. Those belts also drive the power steering. Steering might be a little heavy.”

A little heavy.

Always the kidder.


After I left home for good, I never did spend much time around my Uncle again, although when I left he did make one last effort to share with me his accumulated wisdom.

“When it comes to cars, do not listen to anything ya faaaatha tells you.”

He clearly knew something about that he did not want me to have to discover for myself.


My uncle Dick – at the age of 89 – was out Christmas shopping when he fell and struck his head.

The fall fractured his skull and he never left the hospital. Only his immediate family got briefest of chances to say goodbye.

There was a picture of him displayed at his wake standing, beaming, in his Army uniform with a hand on the tailfin of his 1958 Plymouth Fury.

My dad told me that when Dick would get a weekend pass from Fort AP Hill, his fellow soldiers would always try to hook a ride home with him, because Dick was going to be the fastest way known to get from rural Virginia to Brooklyn.

Apparently it never got fast enough for either of us, Uncle.   

Smooth highways and convertible weather, Dick.

Dirtbike Kid Rescheduled — Part Two

It turns out, once one starts looking for those little gravel ramps on the side of the road, one starts seeing them everywhere.

How cool is that?

Another road within a mile of my house has another one of those little gravel ramps.

When testing the Cake Osa, I’d had a bit of drama with it when I’d hit the mud at the end of that ramp.  That had been one of those ‘you have not crashed until you’re done riding’ moments where things slowed waaay down and many genuinely distressing possibilities were briefly examined and then discarded. 

It hadn’t rained for the last couple of days, so I felt better about the rematch.

And better it was.

The first mudpit misadventure had precluded much sightseeing. Today’s trip featured much more traction and much more grip, though, and once oriented, we had another little motorbike paradise.  This parcel, which looked like it had been surveyed for construction of some future homes, looked to be three or four former farm fields, complete with perimeter trails, separating treelines, and little bridges to interconnect the riding nodes.  This land appeared to have been out of tillage for some time, because the surface was far bumpier, providing a beater workout for both the Kalk& and its pilot.  

This land was not out of a few surprises, either.

At a few random places there were well camouflaged mudholes – one second you’d be cruising along, wheels working, the next second both ends would be swapping furiously, flinging mud in the air.  

Exciting stuff.

But as long as one knew enough to loose one’s grip on the bars, and keep some nominal drive dialed in, the Cake just intertiaed along until it found enough friction again and then straightened right out – it felt a lot like crashing except without the ‘Bang!’ at the end.

This parcel of land also turned out to be enormous – working down the steep hillside to the bottom treeline provided a bridge to cross over to the next pasture, and then the next one, and then the next one. None of it was smooth enough to even consider riding sitting down, but it was good energetic fun keeping the Kalk& spun up and on the boil.

When I got to the most remote part of the parcel, I came up off the top of a short rise and was greeted with another hunter’s setup. This one wasn’t quite as elaborate as the timberframer, being a small tent blind, a feeding station located just a few feet away, and a game camera mount in the center of the feeder.  Again, I slowed waaaay down on the off chance someone was actually in the blind, and not hearing gunfire, throttled back up and tried to get out of range of the camera.

I quickly decided that waving at the camera was probably not my best play.

I railed my way back though the bridges and fields, and finally came back to the gravel ramp where I’d come in.   I had quite a bit of the taller grasses I’d ridden though sticking out of the Kalk&’s undercarriage – this was clearly no garage princess.

I put the Kalk& back on the pavement, swapped the power mode up to Mode 3, and motored home to plot my next move.


After three years of looking, Sweet Doris from Baltimore had finally found the camper van she’d been looking for.  ‘Moby’ is a 2018 Ford Transit 250 Midroof Cargo Van – it had only 40,000 miles and was something we could afford. We’d had a bed and galley under the cap of the pickup we’d traded for it, and those had been easily transplanted, making us instantly ‘camp-ready’. Vans can camp, for sure, but they can also easily swallow little motorcycles without so much as a burp.   

Which was, of course, how the whole thing started.

“Hey Baby! How do you feel about vanning the Cake up to Green Ridge to do a little riding, and turning it into a camping trip?”

“Sounds great! Let’s go.”

These are the times I know I picked the right girl.

So I checked out a few things, and made a few calls.

The campground formerly known as Little Orleans Campground had been sold and had been renovated and now operated as Ridge Riders. Reviews were solid, and it seemed like a nice quiet family place.  Ridge Riders campground sat less than 2 miles from the top of Carroll Road, which was the entry into Green Ridge State Forest’s backcountry.

I talked to two friends of mine that owned dirt capable motorcycles, and they evinced interest in perhaps meeting me there for the day’s riding.

Now all that needed to happen was to survive another week at work, and then go shred some backcountry trails.


My history with plans being executed as envisioned is dismal, at best.

I’d noticed that the Kalk& seemed to be taking longer than I expected with charging.

The next Thursday evening, as I was enjoying a view of the upcoming sunset, I heard the bark of a big twin coming around the corner. Two or three seconds later the red Triumph Speed Twin of my buddy Paul rolled to a stop at the bottom of my driveway. 

Triumph Paul frequently does a fly-by on his way back from a ride.

We always BS about bikes, about where he rode, and share news and adventures of our dispersed families, who grew up and went to school together.  I hadn’t seen his new Speed Twin, and it proved to be worth the wait. It would have to have been, to have catalyzed the ‘no question about it’ immediacy with which he traded his beloved Bonneville for it.

When he laid eyes on the Kalk& though, he lit up like a kid at Christmas. Triumph Paul is my partner in crime in our newfound interest in offroad and adventure riding  — we have a MidAtlantic Backcountry Discovery Route through-ride somewhere in our future. Paul recently bought a used KLR after having test ridden every one for sale within three hundred and fifty miles. His conclusion was that there was no discernable difference between a one year old one, and a 20 year old one, or if there was, the older one was better

“This thing is freakin’ cool. Can I ride it?”

Triumph Paul is an Independent Contractor to Rolling Physics Problem Labs. He’s a naturally gifted rider – having ridden a unicycle professionally (long story), his unfailing balance is in no way surprising.  He especially enjoys the electric bikes that we’ve tested. His expert option is always sought on any bike that comes through the shop, and so there was only one answer.  

“Of course!”

I walked TP though the operation of the controls and booted him up.

By the time he hit the bottom of the driveway, he was obviously already comfortable, because he chucked the Kalk& on its side, caught it on the throttle, and whizzed around the corner and out of sight.


About a half hour later, Triumph Paul whizzed back onto the scene.

As his helmet came off, he had only one thing to say, “That….  is a whooooooole lot of fun.”

I knew exactly what he meant.

We BSed for a while, and then he geared back up, and Speed Twinned back out of here.

If nothing else – with its accessory Arrow exhausts – the Speed Twin on the gas sounds nothing but beautiful.

I rolled the Kalk& back into the mouth of the garage bay, and connected and powered up the charger.

The charger went though its customary boot up and connection to the battery’s onboard controller. The controller connection failed.

“OK,” I thought. “Maybe the battery pack is over temp. I’ll let things cool off and then try again.”

An hour later nothing had changed.

Looked like we wouldn’t be riding in Green Ridge this weekend after all.


I spent some time Googling that evening.

The next morning I checked my work. Reconnect. Repower.

Blinking Lights.


No joy.

I used the nice 5 mm Allen wrench from the toolkit to spin out the two bolts under the rear of the seat.

Then I removed the two long bolts that hold the battery pack in its connector. I disconnected the small multiline connector that was the interface to the bike, and then lifted the pack clear of the bike and set it on the ground.

Total time, about 2 minutes.

I connected the charger directly to the connector on the battery pack, thinking perhaps connector or bike electronics could be munged, and powered the charger back up.

Blinking Lights.

I got in touch with Bobby, who quickly linked in Cake’s Ace Engineer.

There were only two things it could possibly be – the charger or the battery.

I suggested the charger.

They sent a new one right away.

Two days later I was back in the garage again. I’d put the battery back in the motorcycle, and I hooked the new charger up to the bike.

Blinking lights.

Now there was only one thing it could possibly be. I’d guessed wrong.

Another call with the Ace Engineer, who confirmed the ‘failure to successfully negotiate a connection’ codes I was seeing indicated that the charge controller – which is actually part of the battery pack itself – had taken its leave.

Three days later I had a brand-new battery pack, which I hooked directly to one of my two excellent external chargers, and immediately saw the charger sync and heard the power relays close as the pack started to take charge.

An hour and a half or so later, the little LCD display on the top of the pack read ‘100%’, and the ‘Full’ indicator on the charger was lit solid.

A few spins of the Allens, and we once again had a motorcycle. I booted up the Kalk&, which started without errors – standing beside the bike I gave the throttle a tap, and the electric motor gently kicked in.

All systems nominal, Houston.

Now for that trip to Green Ridge.


Having the stars align for a second time for such a plan is by no means a gimme.  People need to not get sick, work needs to not have some unspeakable thing decide to explode, and Mother Nature, who has been known to have a temper, at least lately, anyway, needs to get nicey nicey and decide to play along.  Fires, floods and freezing temperatures are all kind of a bummer for this kind of a plan.

The next two weekends got wasted by some combination of the factors listed above. Weekend three looked plausible, although the overnight temperatures Sunday looked subfreezing.

It was OK though, we had the gear.

I modified a ramp I had to work with the van – loading the Kalk& proved to be a bit of laugher.  Again, the experience was less like loading up some roadburner of a big bike and more like loading my bicycle.  I also quickly discovered that putting the bike in Mode1 one could easily use the bike’s electric motor to load itself, but the whole setup was so light and easy to roll one didn’t need to.

Ready To Load Up

Thursday night, I made sure the Kalk& was fully charged, and then rolled it up into the van and strapped everything down.  One of the lovely things about the Transit Cargo model is there are very beefy frame mounted factory cargo tie downs that make prepping anything for transit utter child’s play. I threw a shoulder bag with my clothes for the weekend onto the bed.

We were ready to go.


Little Orleans, Maryland is only about 70 miles from Jefferson, so even under less than optimum conditions, it’s never more than a 90-minute ride.  This particular Friday started out with one of the two potential riding buddies – Bike Crazy Uncle Joe – who lives in Little Orleans, about 4.7 miles from the planned trailhead checking in to tell me both he and his wife had taken sick, and he was going to need to miss the (semi-)planned ride.   The second potential riding buddy, a fellow bike nerd from my day gig, also had a family health emergency, turning the ride portion of the weekend into a solo act.

On the plus side, though, Sweet Doris from Baltimore had posted to her teardrop camper group that a spontaneous fall camping trip was happening, and some fellow club members and longtime buddies Brad and Melanie had responded with an ‘Oh Hell, Yeah’, run outside, hooked up their camper, and headed west.  We’d have campfire buddies, which was always a plus.

Friday, my work life did not explode, so were able to be in the Transit and headed west by a reasonable time – heck, there was still light in the sky.  I can’t say enough about the Transit cargo van – it is not an easy thing to make a vehicle the size of a studio apartment that drives like it’s a midsize sedan.  The Ford three and a half liter V6 – in all of its manifold incarnations – is one of the great engine designs of all time. Ford has used them in everything from pickup trucks to the Ford GT… differing only in tune and degree of boost.  I have a 3.7 liter naturally aspirated version in my 150,000 mile Flex wagon – these cars routinely run well over 300,000 miles. The 250 horsepower and 240 pound feet of torque it makes are quite enough to get nearly any reasonably specified job done. When a Transit with that engine showed up in the used market it was a sign. The Ford three and a half is just like the old BMW 650 Airhead – it has enough power to get the job done, and not enough power to hurt itself.

Out on Interstate 70, the Transit is rock solid at 75 miles an hour, although its behavior in a stiff crosswind is limited by physics.  The programming in both the FI and transmission is spot on – throttle response is nearly analog precise, and the transmission provides smart downshifts when the driver request is asking for more than the six can provide. Overall, the Transit is far easier to drive and has waay better drivability than the V8 RAM pickup we traded for it.       

The run up Interstate 68 always speaks to me.  The climb up past Sideling Hill – a spectacular geologic feature – is always a place where I become reverent. My longtime motorcycling role model – Paul Mihalka – always started his marathon motorcycle journeys there at dawn. His ashes are scattered there, and I never ride past the exposed arches of stone without feeling him riding on my shoulder.  

From Sideling Hill, the road twists and climbs until we come to the exit at Orleans Road.   It’s about 8 miles of twisting backroad, falling back toward the Potomac, before the road emerges in Little Orleans – home of Bill’s Place, the Fifteen Mile Creek campground on the C&O Canal towpath, and the Ridge Rider Campground, which sits right astride the entrance into Green Ridge State Forest.  Green Ridge is nearly 50,000 acres of undeveloped wilderness beside the Potomac River. The Forest is filled with unpaved roads and trails which provide access to more than 100 primitive and group campsites. If you want to do offroad exploring, there may be no better place in Maryland to do it.

Sweet Doris from Baltimore and I registered at Ridge Riders, loaded up with some firewood, pulled our Transit onto our campsite, and settled in for what was looking to be a beautiful fall weekend.  

I rolled the Kalk& out of the back doors of the van, set up our sleeping bags for the evening, and got a woodfire and a round of ales going. I’d made a stop a Jefferson’s Hemp’s Meats the day before, where I cut a deal for the end of a set of strip steaks. Some beef cooked over wood, a green salad and a cold one or two had both Sweet D and I as relaxed as one can imagine. 

Later in the evening, our TearJerkers Camping Club buddies checked in, and joined us for some drinks and lies around the fire.

We slept the deep sleep of the righteous in our little white steel rolling house that night.


Fresh air is always good for you.     As unlikely as it might sound, I always sleep better in whatever I’m camping in – canvas tent, teardrop trailer, and now Moby the camper van – than I do when I’m at home. Cool air and a good sleeping bag are apparently the opiate of my people.

So even with all the buildup, and all the excitement associated with this day to ride the backcountry, Sweet Doris and I technically slept in.  Some morning fog and cloudy skies made that easier to do. We rose late, set up the stove and made some coffee, and snarfed some oat granola and snuck in a tiny fruit Danish or two. 

Sweet D got her recumbent bicycle ready to do a little riding of her own, and I put together a sling bag with some snacks and water, and pulled a fleece and my jacket on, and got geared up to ride.

The exit out of Ridge Riders turns out onto Oldtown Orleans Road.  I’ve had a few opportunities to ride OO Road – some were under less than optimum conditions – and others were a bit more enjoyable.   Today, though, there was no question of having chosen the right tool – today we’d brought a laser to that knife fight – if this be cheating, I was a cheerful cheater.

Sections of Oldtown Orleans Road have the single most demented riding surface I’ve ever encountered.  Some roads are smooth. Some roads have bumps. Some roads have washboard surfaces. Oldtown Orleans has The Book.

Among my manifold expressions of nerdery is listed ‘rock nerd’. My high school geology teacher – Randall McNaughton – turned me on to the wonders of the earth’s insides, and I’ve been a rock nerd ever since.

Western Maryland is awash in sedimentary synclines and anticlines – places where the layers of rock have either curved up or curved down under pressure.  The aforementioned road cut at Sideling Hill is the most spectacular of them, but the mountains of Allegany and Garrett Counties are just a folded rock playground.  On Oldtown Orleans Road, though, the edges of some of those layers are exposed on the surface of the road – imagine a family bible 50 times bigger than yours, and then imagine riding across the exposed edges of the pages.

Think ‘washboard on acid’.

Very few suspensions – bike, car, truck or anything – can deal with that surface at any speed. More than a few vehicles I’ve had out here were sending less than subtle signals that they were being pounded to pieces out on that surface. The Kalk&, though, was just blasting though that stuff, laughing all the way.   The Ohlins fork and shock were working hard to keep the wheels hooked up  — it made me glad I’d backed the high speed compression damping off a click or two – and the frame was taking the punishment and keeping everything in line.  It would be easy under this kind of pounding for things to be rattling or falling off, but the Cake felt all of a piece. The only sign of any mechanical distress was the instrument panel’s ‘Check Engine’ telltale – which doubles as the turn signal blinker – which seemed to be flashing in a way which seemed to correspond with the tops and bottoms of the impacts.   

Fortunately, we didn’t have to hammer along like this for very long, as at little over two miles in, we came to what we were looking for. Carroll Road is a left that heads down off the high ridge toward the C&O Canal and the Potomac River.  I’ve been on Carroll Road before, and being out here solo, had decided to leave the more remote sections to explore on a different day.

It sure was different today.

Immediately after leaving Oldtown Orleans, the surface goes immediately straight to hell.  There’s a mixture of crushed stone, gravel and some fully growd up ruts. The Kalk& just tractored though it – easily steering in loose and rutted stuff – responding well to throttle and providing no drama whatsoever. It’s a short slide to the Point Lookout Overlook. The view from there to the river is straight up spectacular, but I was here to ride.  We’d take in the sights on the way back.

Once past the Overlook, Carroll drops down the side of the ridge towards the river. The surface changes to a more bike friendly mixture of soft soil and hardpack, and a lot of feet of elevation are surrendered in one big hurry.  As one reaches the bottom, one enters a completely different ecosystem  — down here it’s cooler, it’s darker – in the bottom of this canyon there are spots where the sun never reaches  — and running beside a small creek — its wetter and greener.  As one navigates the little sets of left right curves, one starts encountering the primitive campsites… each has a stone fire ring, a spot for a tent, and a short driveway into the site. Down here in the greenness, both nature and this motorcycle are silent, and the world above the rim seems a world away.  These camp sites seem like the kind of place one could hole up with a decent camp chair and a long book that needed reading – or one that needed writing – to be left alone with one’s thoughts for as long as one liked.

I kept my speeds down and worked the trail along the canyon bottom – there was too much to see to blast though it – lovely stretches of stream with burbling eddies over the streambottom rocks – singing birds, and rabbits – their footfalls audible — moving in the underbrush right beside the trail. 

Down In The Bottoms

Up ahead, I could see the sun making some penetration into the canyon, and I started gently climbing again. I remembered this as the set of climbs that had seemed so sketchy on my GS… its funny how a motorcycle can be a lens. From the saddle of Kalk&, this hill had gotten much smaller – despite the loose and rutted surface, the Cake just did creditable impression of an electric mountain goat, and just bounded up the first grade, across the landing, and up the second grade…  the wide bars and decent front tire traction allowed easy and precise course corrections…  the lack of weight, the direct drive and the precise suspension and steering all require less mental bandwidth, and free up cycles to concentrate on one’s line, on the trail. This bike makes its rider look like a master on the trail.

I came up off the top of the second climb carrying a little bit of speed. This open meadow I recognized as the limit of my previous explorations. Sitting on the other side were two guys astride a pair of Honda Africa Twins – I motored across the clearing and heard one quite clearly say “Wooooow!” as I punctuated my entrance with a stylish little rear wheel slide.  

The Africa Twin Guys had lots of questions about my Swedish Electric Dirtbike.  After my presentation they seemed suitably impressed.

Honestly, I had lots of questions about their Africa Twins. They told me about their bikes – one manual and one Dual Clutch Transmission model – and frankly, I was suitably impressed. Despite years now of wrangling with Honda to test one, it’s always stayed just out of reach.

AT Guys were also able to provide some additional detail about trail conditions to fill in the information previously provided by Local Boy Bike Crazy Uncle Joe.  With this trail weapon, this was sounding like it was going to be a fun ride.    

I gave my newest buddies all five fifths of a friendly wave, and twisted the Kalk&’s tail and headed for the drop at the far end of the meadow.

And drop it did – it was another narrow and rutted descent back to the Creekside and canyon floor. Things seemed definitely a level of magnitude more moist down here – there were mudholes here and there, and a few fingers off the creek that threw some cute, toy water crossings into the trail. The Kalk& treated these zero outs of traction as amusement – the bike would go loose at both ends but as long as drive was applied it would maintain headway and line back up when traction came back.  On a 500 pound bike those moments are pucker factor… on a Cake Kalk they’re just BMX Fun.  

Gnarl Level 4

After another rockfilled descent, I rode up to an intersection.  There was nice Park Service Signage indicating to the left was Kasekamp Road. To the right was also … Kasekamp Road. Still further to the right was Merhrtens Avenue, which is a pretty grand name for something that appears to be largely mud.

Anyway, having committed the route to memory, I selected the Kasekamp Road that was off to the right, knowing full well I’d be right back here after what looked to be a nice piece of riding. 

Kasekamp started out with another spirited climb through trees that had just broken into the gold of Autumn  – these grades had officially graduated from ‘white knuckled’ to ‘Yee Haaa!’.    The combination of electric torque, very finely granular motor control, and light weight just felt like cheating. The top of the climb put me on a long straight red dirt and stone section – I slowed down to read the signs at what appeared to be an ancient family burial ground.  I looked everywhere for some sign of a homestead that had to have been here once, but it was nowhere in evidence. The bones and the stones were still here, and someone was still keeping up the place, but the home was long, long gone.   After a few pictures and a moment of contemplation, I swing a leg back on and rode on down the road.  Another short drop put me down at river level, running right beside Sweet Doris’ favorite recumbent trike playground, the C&O Canal Towpath, the canal itself and the Potomac River, all compressed into about 60 yards of space – a pretty spectacular view from a soil and gravel path that just happens to have a street name.

A Smoother Section Than Most
Rest In Peace
Kasekamp, Canal and Towpath

I rode down Kasekamp for a mile or two – the road would string together straight sections with little switchbacks that allowed the road to stay snugged up to the towpath. Up ahead I saw another fun looking climb, but off to the right there was another Maryland Park Service sign that read ‘Bond’s Landing’. Bike Crazy Uncle Joe had mentioned Bond’s Landing in passing, and I sure wasn’t in any kind of hurry to get someplace, so I hooked the right to see what was down there.

About 20 yards down the road, I came to small bridge that went over the C&O Canal and the Towpath.  On the other side of the bridge things got spectacularly moister – a phenomenon that a sat photo of the area makes easier to understand that the Landing is bounded on one side by the old canal, and by the Potomac on the other – the Landing is essentially an island.  On this island the Maryland Park Service has carved out two or three group camping areas and about a dozen or so individual primitive campsites, all of which are connected by some roads that are muddy and filled with chuckholes, a natural result of a place that never can fully dry out.  On this weekend day, the Landing was a full house – there were lots of folks there set up to fish, with barbeques and smokers cranking, and coolers full of what is not supposed to be beer, ready to enjoy a pretty optimum fall weekend. I had to give it to folks that had managed to get their jeeps and 4 wheel drive trucks down here … there were some sections where they needed to have some skills to smoothly pass.   I checked out the campsites…. It looked like a great place to spend a summer weekend, although I’d need to pack in on the GS – my rear wheel drive Transit was not going to be able to get in here and get back out. 

Campers in The Landing had the typical reaction to the passage of the Kalk&. It was almost like a thought bubble in a cartoon appeared above each head – “Who is that guy on that little motorcycle and why isn’t he making any noise?”.   There were a few folks that were walking on the paths between sites that I needed to engage when they were not aware of my presence – “Excuse me!  Thank you!” always met with gaping jaws from surprise over the motorcycle that made no noise.

After the making of mental notes for next time, though, I retraced my route back across the Canal and made the right when I got to Kasekamp Road.   I’d done quite a lot of Google Maps work before the trip, so I had a pretty detailed mental picture of the terrain though which I’d planned to ride. The entire body of the route involved heading down a peninsula that was flanked on both sides by a big lazy bend in the Potomac River. What was weirding me out was that I fully expected, given the proximity of the route to the river, that when I got down to the very end, there’d be a point where the river would dominate the view.   Instead, the forest was so dense that even when I was fairly confident that I was within 60 yards or so of the river, there was no sign of its existence from the trail.

When one gets to the end of the peninsula, and the trail snakes back upon itself, there’s a steep climb to the ridgeline that runs down the spine of this bend in the river.  The surface here is a tad sketchy… the trail has deep ruts that switch between the two wheel tracks, and there are lots of larger rocks that litter the sections where there ain’t ruts. This climb is the object lesson in steering precision – the Kalk& allows me to put the front end where I want it with pinpoint accuracy. Standing on the pegs and keeping some drive dialed in, the little bike just did its mountain goat thing – pogoing over the larger rocks, roosting the smaller ones and just driving up the hill.  

Upon reaching the top Kasekamp does a section of whoops – short, steep decents leading to short, steep climbs. I found myself carrying more speed though these sections than I ever had before – the Kalk& was so surefooted I’d stopped being concerned about front end grip and was just letting the bike roll.  After a few miles of roller coaster simulation, I came back to a familiar looking intersection of a road with a very familiar name.  I broke back off to the right, doubling back up Carroll Road, working my way through the tiny stream ford amusement park, and seeing more things in the depth of the forest that had been completely invisible riding in the other direction.  One sight stopped me in the track – back in the overgrowth was what looked like a derelict railroad tunnel – barely visible, but definitely there.  A few yards up the trail there was what appeared to be a shot furnace – its old brickwork still holding up against the elements.

Trains Used To Run Here
Climbing Back Towards The Light

Finally I came to the climb back out of the canyon, with the trail hanging out of the side of the rock, and tractored back up into the sunlight again.   I’d passed the overlook on the way in – it felt like time for a little break and maybe a snack, and a chance to take in the spectacular view from the top.   I rode the Kalk carefully up the bank, though the gate on the stockade fence, and the rode out of the pedestrian walkways up the grassy meadow to the left. I sat the bike on its stand and powered her down.

Time For a Break

I pulled my gloves and helmet – my hands felt like I’d been in a bit of a fight. I resolved to work at keeping my hands more relaxed for the rest of the ride. This might not be arthritis, but I could see it from here.

I guess this is what happens when one unnaturally delays one’s peak dirtbike period by about five decades, I guess.  

I pulled my water bottle and a package of crackers and cheese out of my sling bag, and walked over to the overlook and took up a spot on the wall.

I was the only person there.

The view from the overlook is pretty compelling. Remember that the Potomac makes about three really enormous loops in this section, and one can see them all from the top. If one wasn’t really thinking about geology and the planet when one first looks over the edge, one certainly starts after taking in that scene.  Looking down to the river – it’s a drop of at least 500 feet – I could see a pair of Bald Eagles doing a little fishing in the calm waters below.

The Big View

This is why we come out here.

Alter a suitable break for relaxation and refreshment, I wandered back over to the Kalk&. If Cake’s intention was for this to be a dirty bike, my Kalk& had reached its fullest potential.

I booted the little bike back up, did a nice slow loop around a tree, headed back down the pedestrian path and back out onto Carroll Road.  I did a quick blast through the ruts and deep gravel, then slid to a stop back at Oldtown Orleans Road. The Kalk&’s state of charge indicator still showed just under half of the battery’s capacity remaining. It was still early in the afternoon, and as long as that battery and my hands held out, there was still riding to do.

The run down to Bond’s Landing had been both scouted and thoroughly planned – I knew exactly where I’d be riding before I’d booted up the bike.  Now though, it was time for some freestyling – just pointing my front wheel at anything that struck my fancy.  This might be what the Kalk& is best at.

I’d headed west  — away from the campground – on Oldtown Orleans Road, and went less than three quarters of a mile before getting a sign that – given my active imagination – was enough for me.

Doug Hill may have been one of the best TV Weathermen to every ply the trade. He was on the air in Washington DC  for more than 30 years, providing his viewers with good looks, a friendly and accessible demeanor, a great baritone speaking voice, just a touch of a recognizable Baltimore accent, and great skill and accuracy as a meteorologist.  Motorcyclists, generally, pay a lot of attention to weather reports, especially high-quality reports, so I was a fan.

Sitting stopped in the middle of the road, I looked at the old street sign that was partially obscured by the trees.  

I could just make it out – ‘Dug Hill Road’.

My laughter at seeing this may have crossed the boundary between hearty and maniacal, but that’s a subjective thing.

“Doug Hill never steered me wrong before.,” said my internal voice. “Let’s see what’s down there.”

Doug Hill didn’t steer me wrong this time, either.

Dug Hill road was a lot like some of my favorite roads back in The Valley,  except there was a lot more of it.  Dug Hill had steep climbs and descents, linked by hairpin corners at the end of each straight – a classic flat trackers amusement park – roll on the power, back it in and set a stylish slide on out, then repeat.  The surface was a pretty uniform coarse gravel without too many ruts – it was a place to keep up a nice cadence and carry some speed.

I was in the groove.

Like all of the area within Green Ridge State Forest, the road connected a series of primitive camp sites.  

Some of these sites had other motorcyclists. When they saw the Cake ride by, they waved.

Some other sites had mountainbike or gravel bike riders.  When they saw the Cake ride by, they waved, too.

As I crested one of the grades, there was an intersection with a road to the right signed Howard Road. Since we were freestyling, I took it.

Immediately, the riding surface both narrowed and changed completely. On Howard, we had soft packed red dirt – red dirt that looked suspiciously smooth – like it had been underwater very recently.  I was on the lookout for wet dirt’s brother – mud – but there were only a few mudholes which could be avoided or centerpunched, depending on one’s preference.  Howard dropped down off the ridge back into another dark hollow – again, filled with primitive camp spots.

Silent motorcycles, among many other things, allow for conversation.

One gent that was pulling his tent off the back of his F-150 saw me roll up and said “Cool bike.”

“I know. Isn’t it?”

Nobody even needed to raise their voice.

The mental picture I had of this area of the park had us dropping down toward Fifteen Mile Creek – again, the lower we went, the moister things got.   As I rode off the bottom of the grade there was a derelict cabin on the right – it was a black logger of a type that was pretty prevalent in central and western Maryland in the nineteen teens and nineteen twenties – but it looked like it hadn’t seen guests in more than 20 years.

This cabin was pretty grand, as cabins go. It had an upstairs with dormer windows that would have provided a fair amount of cot and sleeping bag space.  And there was a storage shed, a privy and a covered porch on the back.

The sort of cabin in the woods I certainly could love.

But that was out of the question, now. There were parts of the roof gone though which one could see sky. Windows were broken. Doors that hung on one hinge.

The water had no doubt gotten to this building. Rot is an awful thing.  

My little cabin daydream was shattered by the park service steel tubular beam gate that showed up in the middle of the trail.

Howard, it seemed, was a dead-end road. As backtracks go, though, this one was kinda fun.

I spun the bike around, and took advantage of my newfound familiarity to look for faster lines, for different lines. I did some lovely little loose soil roosting back up the grade and back to Dug Hill.  

When I got back to Dug Hill, the Kalk&’s battery state of charge indicator was still saying ‘Go!’  and not saying ‘Head Home Posthaste, or we’ll be walking there!’.  So I made the right up Dug Hill, and then just worked the dirt switchbacks for many miles.   

If this was some kind of jazz, I was definitely in a groove.

I know, from the maps I’ve studied after the fact, that Dug Hill runs on the other side of the Ridge that borders the Campgrounds, and never heads back that way, eventually coming out further west onto Interstate 68  — the park headquarters is actually there.

But riding that day, I was just doing a little bit of crude solar navigation, and it told me I wasn’t headed in the direction of camp. One thing about wilderness is that network coverage for one’s smartphone genuinely sucks, dude.

Go figure, eh?

So at a certain point I interrupted that groove for a brief mental math break.  Mental Math told me how far down Dug Hill I’d come, from that knew the distance back to camp.  Discretion and an aversion to unplanned walking dictated retreat.

Increment Daily Fun Backtrack Count to value Two.

Make note to self to ride the rest of Dug Hill the next time I take the GS out there.  

Switchbacking back to Oldtown Orleans Road was even more of a blast than it had been on the way in. Too soon though, I was back out on the main drag, hammering over the book edge ripples, and blasting back toward camp. Ridge Riders Campground is a pretty big piece of property, and I’d noticed on the way out where the westernmost edge of the facility butted out beside the road, and especially where there were breaks in the fencing.  When that spot came up, I ducked left across a grassy bank, and came down on one of the campground’s perimeter loop roads. I took a brief spin tour though most of the campground – this definitely felt like a place I’d come back to again.

Up ahead I saw Sweet Doris from Baltimore, who was riding her recumbent trike to pedal her own campground tour. I caught up to her just as she pulled into Brad and Melanie’s trailer site.

“How was your ride, Greggie?”.

“Spectacular, Hon.”

As I powered down the Kalk&, I found I was having a bit more trouble than usual getting my leg over the bike to get off.   Apparently I hadn’t left anything out there on the trail.

We four had rollicking good fun around our campfire that night.


The Green Ridge ride was the highlight of the Kalk& test experience. I’d put nearly 35 miles on the bike in tight, technical conditions and come back with nearly 20% of the battery pack remaining.  I’d encountered almost every kind of terrain with the possible exceptions of deep sand and deep water. The bike had proven to be easy to wail on with great roadholding and more than sufficient power for this kind of enduro exploration.

Back From A Peak Thrash

Loading the Kalk& back up into Moby to head home felt like we were leaving far too soon… we could have easily stayed out there exploring for another four or five days without busting a sweat.

We had managed to get that Green Ridge ride, though.


Its not like Green Ridge has any monopoly on adventure.

I’d taken the Kalk& up to Hemp’s one morning to fill up my sling bag with some proteins for the grill that evening, and had taken my customary ‘long cut’ home.

As I dropped down the chute at the top of Poffenberger Road, I came up on a small convoy of Frederick County Highway Department vehicles.  The road crew were all standing beside the vehicles. No work was currently observable.

As I rode past them everyone looked at me with mute incomprehension. Nobody said anything.

About twenty yards later, I figured out what they’d been doing.

The crew had just laid down somewhere between six to eight inches of fresh new crushed stone for the entire length of the road. They’d been taking a break before running the rollers back over the road to set the stone in place.

In the state it had come out of the dump trucks, though, the loose stone was eleven tenths treacherous – the front end was scrubbing and wandering, the drive wheel was drifting – riding on this stuff was a straight up hot mess. Slowly, though, I figured it out – I loosed my grip on the bars, and let the bike work under me – I finally found a sweet spot of power that was just enough to keep the whole system floating without getting too bent out of shape.

I finally got back to pavement and back to some traction, and headed down Broad Run Road towards town. When I hit Saint Mark’s Road, The Stone Boys had been there too. They had rolled Saint Marks, though, so the drama level was reduced.

Reduced until I got to the 90/90 corners just as the road comes back to The Pike. The Road Crew, it seems, had been carrying at least a little speed when they’d hit the first corner, and the stone had piled deeper on the outside of the turn. I got out into the loose stuff on the outside and things went distinctly hairball. Both ends broke loose and things were swapping pretty badly. I adopted the positive ‘I ain’t crashed so long as I’m still riding’ mindset, and slowly backed out of the throttle until I found the sweet spot and was able to steer back towards the center of the road.

Every other bike I’ve every ridden would have crashed right there, right then, but the Kalk& just refused to play.


There’s an e-mail I almost always dread, which is the one asking for the bike back.     

The dreaded e-mail appeared a few days after we’d returned from Green Ridge.  I went back and forth with Bobby and his extended team about exactly how the bike would be returned.

Their initial offer was to ask me if I could ‘just drop the bike by their office in Manhattan the next time I was in the neighborhood’, which struck me as particularly unaware. I was in the process of arranging a number of possible responses – in ever-increasing levels of snark – when Bobby jumped in a volunteered to pick the bike back up and run it to his base of operations, which was conveniently right in between Jefferson and NYC.  I was in awe of his complete selflessness, until I realized that would give him a few days to ride the Kalk& before his NYC-based teammates would be able to collect it.

I’d have done the same thing.

Better still, Bobby wouldn’t be able to make the run to the RPP Skunkworks until the end of the following week – extending the Kalk-a-thon by approximately 10 days.

Balance in The Force had been restored.


And then there’s the story of the Last Dance.

Some motorcycles that come in for testing never manage to make enough of an impression that I end up developing any kind of emotional bond with the machinery.

Other machines create the wrong kind of emotional relationship  – like the MotoGuzzi v85TT that I was straight up in love with, and that threw the valve rocker assembly from one of its heads and left me stranded under an underpass off I-95 in South Baltimore.

The Kalk& was one of the ones that got to me, though. The motorcycle was so different from everything and anything else I’ve ever ridden that there just wasn’t enough time to explore all of its capabilities – I was always jonesing for another ride to keep pushing the bike and my own personal limits.

So tell me the truck will be here in the morning, and that last ride takes on a desperate, vivid intensity.

There is no tomorrow. We have only today.

Let’s go for a ride.


I wanted to ride the Kalk& through every bit of rough terrain that a fully charged battery would enable.

So of course we headed through the Siegler Road ford – splashing happily through the stream bottom, then sliding towards the Potomac and Northern Virginia.

I’d learned over time to keep my road speeds restrained on the paved bits that connect the best riding – a conscious strategy to conserve battery power and range for the good bits — dropping down Maryland 464 to US 15 I kept one eye on the rearview mirrors to spot my Frederick County members of the enormous speeding 4×4 pickup brotherhood – a much better strategy that having the shockwave and diesel fumes be one’s first clue that something massive was afoot.   

I rode across the Point of Rocks bridge – the river today was high and flowing fast after the few days of rain we’d just punched out of – but the sky was cloudless and bright with temperatures right in the bullseye of proper leather weather. The Kalk& and I clambered up the mountain on Furnace Mountain Road  — the recent precipitation had conditions a little less dusty and slippery than usual – the trail had some good stick to it as long as one slalomed around the occasional muddy bits.

I won’t belabor and revisit what an excellent dirt loop this is – turning onto Downey Mill Road and cutting across the backbone of Loudoun County – today I made short work of it. There’s a point where I normally turn for home where we get back to Lovettsville Road, but today we were going to make the ride last for as long as it possibly could.  If one continues straight across Lovettsville Road, one finds oneself on Quarter Branch Road, which continues the westward slash straight across the county towards the next river crossing at Brunswick, Maryland.  Sections of Quarter Branch are paved where they connect some more modern small subdivisions – other sections, running between old heritage farms, are sweeping, single lane gravel tracks like much of the region’s agricultural roads.  The Kalk& and I were having a flat tracky good time – the surfaces were tacky and the dust was at a minimum. This was the kind of ride one wishes could just exist suspended in time – to never end – but that isn’t how it ever works.

After another 6 or so miles of optimum dirt, I came out on the corner of the Berlin Pike – maybe all of a mile from the Brunswick bridge.  

Was I ready to go home?  Not today, I wasn’t.

I had one more trick up my sleeve, and boy was I glad I used it.

Crossing Berlin Pike puts one on Tollhouse Road – a short, tiny one laner that drops down towards the river again, and, more importantly, to a little area known as Dutchman’s Creek.  Dutchman’s Creek is a little dead-end road in a backwoods area that has thankfully escaped any kind of development —  the trail back there is rough, gnarly and always worth the slide. On a big motorcycle, sections of it can be quite sketchy, but on this little electric razor, it was going to put a perfect exclamation point on this ride – if the Kalk& had been a woman, this would have been the famous final scene.  

As I came to the intersection of Tollhouse and Dutchman’s Creek, there was a white cottage on the other side of the street.  A black Honda CB500F – maybe three years older than the one that lives in my garage – sat inside the hedge in the middle of the front yard.  Enjoying the sunshine, a younger man sat in a lawn chair on the cottage’s porch – his expression visibly lit up as I put my foot down and roosted though the intersection down through the creek.

As I dropped down the rough stuff into the hollow below, I figured that if bike guy was as interested as I thought he was, he’d be waiting for me when I got back.  As a local, he knew there was no way out of here that didn’t involve swimming, so I had nowhere else to go.

As I’d figured, the Kalk& simply shredded Dutchman’s Creek – there was no need to exercise caution, here, it was simply rail and trail – the Kalk& was able to soak up the bad surface and stay on the selected line.   The far end of the road has a low water crossing with a steep drop in and a steep climb out – think of it as a dirtbike halfpipe and you’ll have a reasonable mental picture.  Most bikes I take down here are spinning the rear wheel on the climbs and getting all out of shape – no such drama on this little mountain goat – not a wheel was out of place.

Before too long I’d hit the ‘End State Maintenance’ signage – which made me laugh, because if anyone had been doing any maintenance, it was hard to see how.  I did tiptoe past that sign for a few yards, just long enough to confirm I was headed towards someone’s tractor shed and home. Fortunately, silent motorcycles don’t call any attention to themselves – I had neither dogs nor gunshots for greetings – and I just set the bike on its side and elephant turned back in the other direction.

As I topped the ride coming back out of the hollow, I had more reasons for laughter.

The young man I’d seen on the way down the hill was standing in the road, accompanied by a second individual.

For someone who’d only had the better part of a third of a second to size up that scene, I’d sure read that right.

I slid up the spot where they were standing – they weren’t taking any chances I’d get past them a second time – and powered the Kalk& down.

“I guess you guys really want to know about my electric motorcycle.”

They sure did.

Evan, and his father, whose name I’ve sadly forgotten, were from a family of multi-generational motorcycle enthusiasts. They were off road riders, racers, roadracers and travelers – a rare case of moto-enthusiasm equal to or exceeding my own.  They shared that they’d been planning to purchase some Alta offroad motorcycles when the company had gone bust – they’d been sold on the specs of a next generation battery pack that had disappeared with the company into the mists of moto-history.

Evan and his Pop had lots of questions about Cake, the company, and about this motorcycle. They’d been suitably impressed when I’d shared how little the machine weighed.  We covered the gamut – toque and horsepower numbers, range, charging behavior, performance of the Ohlins suspension. These were motorcycle guys, and they knew what they were looking at.

We did a little bench racing, some telling of tall tales and outright lies, and generally, for two guys I’d just met in the middle of the road, we had a real good time.

When we hit a pause for breath in the conversation, Evan looked at me and asked “Hey, are you in any kind of hurry? I want to show you something.”

“Never been in less of one – lead on!”

Evan hopped aboard the CB500F, fired her up, and headed across the street and though a gap in the hedges that circled the property.  We rode into an enormous clearing that had a cluster of identical colonial brick saltbox houses – in an area where new houses all bespeak being built cheap and in one big hurry, these looked like they’d gone rogue from Colonial Williamsburg – they were rock solid and built to last, to the point where that was easy to see from 80 yards away. As we cleared a short rise on the meadow, I was absolutely gobsmacked at what I was seeing – Evan his family had a regulation short-track flattrack built in the middle of their family compound.

Could there be any greater luxury?

We took a short blast down one of the straights, and then pulled up onto the bank beside the corner at one end of the oval and killswitched the bikes.

“Whattdya think? Oh, and there’s also a hare and hounds enduro track that runs around the perimeter of the property down there by the treeline.  You’re welcome to come by any time, just text me to let me know before you show up. ”

Evan and I ended up having a wide-ranging and surprising conversation. Turned out we were both peace-loving hippies, on some fundamental level.   I’d shared how I’d ended up working in IT, and how hard it was in the DC area to avoid somehow working for the military-industrial complex, and it seemed to point to a common perspective – we were trying to live putting values in front of the needs of commerce – something that wasn’t so common now days.

I remember telling Evan that in school I’d studied Physics and Poetry. His eyes widened a bit – “That’s funny – I studied Physics and Religion.”

We both had a good chuckle. He gave me his phone number and asked me to text him when I got home. We’d been talking about how I was maxing out my range on my ride today, and Evan offered up road recovery services if it turned out I’d blown the math – “Hey, Man, if you don’t make it home, give me a call – my truck is already set up with the ramp and tie downs, we’d be happy to get you home.”

Hard to imagine nicer folks.

After a parting handshake, I did take a lap. This shorttrack had clearly been ridden in anger – the corner exits had a substantial chop to them from maximum power being put to the ground – this was the first riding surface I’d encountered with the Kalk& that unsettled it a bit – the Ohlins were working harder than hard to stay hooked up but the bike was bucking as it worked the chop on the exits.  If I’d had more battery I’d have never left, but a lap or two would have to do for today.

After the backtrack up Tollhouse to the Pike, I crossed the Brunswick Bridge, rode through Rosemont, and then followed the Jefferson Pike back home. After rolling through the neighborhood, I did my now customary rolling dismount, and placed the Kalk& back on the stand.

We’d had one hell of a ride, in every way, today.


The next day, Bobby showed up with his truck.

We talked a bit about how the bike had been to ride, and it was clear he was planning to put some miles on it before it moved on to the next journo.

We loaded up the bike and the collection of spares that Cake support had sent over when we were troubleshooting the battery controller that had experienced infant mortality.

Before he took back to the road, he got this conspiratorial look on his face.

“There’s something I’ve got to show you.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and swiped up a few pictures.  “We’re going to premiere this tomorrow in Europe, but I’ve some photos that are under embargo until after the reveal.”

He proceeded to show me a few studio shots of an offroader called the Bukk.   The Bukk, to cut to the chase, was a competition bike that was essentially Kalkzilla.   Cake had doubled the voltage of the battery pack, the output of the motor, and ditched every cover and piece of plastic that was non-essential.   Ditching the covers has allowed the beautiful work Cake had put into the main frame to be visible to all.  Also cool was that Cake had modified their battery interchange system – some adjustable draw latches had replaced the long bolts of the Kalk’s battery holddowns – allowing one to flip the latch, raise the saddle, and swap in a new battery in less than a minute, compared to the three required with the Kalk.   In a competition environment, this was clearly the equivalent of single bolt knockoff hubs on racing wheels – they were planning for fast changes in between motos, or even during longer races.


“So,” said Bobby, “you wanna ride one of these?”

Is that even a question?


Part One of this story can be found here.

Cake Kalk& Specifications

Top speed: +90 km/h or +56 mph

Electric consumption: 85 Wh/km or 137 Wh/mile

Electric range: 86 km or 53.5 miles

Tire pressure (cold): 250 kPa

Torque: 42 Nm – – 30.9776 ft/lbs

Power: 10 kW — 13.4102 HP

Ratio: 12/72 direct drive

Battery capacity: 50 Ah

Wheel size: 19” x 3.0 motorcycle

Saddle height – unladen – 36 inches (measured)

Fork: 38 mm, 203 mm travel Öhlins, CAKE specific

Dirtbike Kid Rescheduled

Life with Cake’s Kalk&

Most motorcyclists that I know had dirtbikes when they were kids.

Those motorcyclists didn’t have to live with my dad, though.

At a certain age, I know I must have driven my old man completely crazy with my unstoppable and unending requests for a dirtbike.  

“Dad, can I have a dirtbike?”


“Dad, can I have a dirtbike?”


“Dad, can I have a dirtbike?”



To be completely fair, my dad had what for him was a pretty good set of reasons.

Later in life, he told me the story of how, while he was stationed with the US Occupation forces in Germany in the mid-1950s, he’d been out for a drive on the Autobahn while on leave. A motorcycle running two up out on front of him at speed had experienced a rear tire failure, and after a swap or two had gone down hard. Neither the rider or his passenger had survived.

Being a witness to that sort of thing will leave a psychic mark.

My adult preference for German motorcycles with the ability to sustain high sustained cruising speeds can only have served to add insult to his injury.

Life’s not fair, and neither was this. It just is.

But as a young motorcyclist, I never did get that dirtbike, and never had the important foundational experience of riding in low traction conditions.    

That lack of experience has served to color my entire life as a rider.


Although late to the dirt game, I’m working hard to catch up these days.

My oldest motorcycle – my 1973 BMW /5 – has been scramblered out to an ever increasing degree for a goodly long time.    If one thinks of it as a precursor to the original R 80 G/S – which is actually is, being the descendant of an International Six Days Trials (ISDT) prototype design – it all makes perfect sense.  As Enduro bikes, the old boxers are nearly perfect – the torque is right there, and the carbureted setup makes modulating power a nice continuous analog thing.  One will not be getting big air or doing backflips on one of these things, but if you’re interested in doing rational trail riding or dirty touring, this is a pretty good starting setup.

Then there is the small matter of the F800 that followed me home. I hadn’t meant to become a GS Adventure owner, but this one just kinda of fell in my lap.   There are things about it that are superfantastic – the suspension, 21 inch front wheel and ground clearance, for a start. In the context of a /5, inverted forks are 21st century stuff.  The bash plate, crash bars and case mounting system – which are themselves crash bars – make the notion of it falling over – which, if you’re doing it right, is almost assured — more or less NBD.  But, for a so-called ‘Little’ G/S, it still weighs somewhere right under 500 lbs., which, for the record, we will state is not ‘Little’.

The power delivery of the engine is not entirely optimum. The 4 valve Rotax engine is at its happiest when it’s spinning,  and in the tightest stuff, it can be challenging to keep rpms where they should be – for the gnarliest offroad work, it just seems to be geared a little tall, and the Fuel Injection tune can be a bit abrupt – it’s a digital creature.  For open, flowing dirt roadwork, though, its tough to beat.  It’s a motorcycle that can feel a little intimidating on the trail – I’m still working to come to terms with it.

So into that context came Cake 0 Emission AB of Stockholm, Sweden. I first became aware of them through their social media presence, and the more I saw of their engineering chops, the more interested in their machinery I became.

Cake started to design motorcycles from a completely blank sheet of paper. Their focus was on electric propulsion, but in the context of efficiency. And to make their math work, they saw something no other electric motorcycle did – that the lighter the motorcycle was, the less energy it had to expend moving its own mass around.  All of Cake’s current products are lightweight electric motorcycles.

Most electric motorcycle company’s answers to the performance question to continue to make batteries of ever-increasing capacity and ability to deliver current, and ever more powerful electric motors – both variables that drive ever increasing mass.

Cake’s answer to the question was to make the motorcycle itself as light as possible, and make better use of the energy it needed.

Their Kalk offroad motorcycles looked like they were from outer space – I really hoped I could ride one.

To a rider raised on internal combustion engines, the Cake’s 13 h.p. output is roughly equivalent to that of a 175cc single.  But install it in motorcycles that weigh between 160 to 185 lbs, depending on model, equip it with some torque multiplying radically low gearing, and the 13 h.p. is delivered with authority.  

I had spent more than a little bit of time trying to engage with the company, before I finally connected with Cake’s US PR Man, Bobby Lea. At the time, Bobby had been tasked with raising awareness about some lightweight commercial bikes that Cake had designed – the Osa series of tradesman and delivery bikes. Although it was definitely not as Dead Sexy as that off-roader it was intriguing – with a 300 lb plus load rating over the weight of the pilot it was a tiny pickup truck. I bit, we got an Osa to test, and our cerebral LED came on bright.   


The nice folks at Cake genuinely appreciated my writings about the bike – Revzilla’s Common Tread also published a review of mine. Bobby reached out to me to tell me how much the Company appreciated and enjoyed the pieces I’d written. This was something I already knew, as I’d seen their European and African PR Guys posting links to my stories out on LinkedIn.

He also said they’d actually dug my joking about really wanting one of their dirtbikes to ride.

So they’d sent one to me.  

Bobby had a FedEx tracking number for a new, in-crate Kalk.

Some folks know how to roll.


It was the end of August when the FedEx tractor trailer showed up, and their two dudes hustled the pallet with the new crated bike up into one of my garage bays.

I have never uncrated and assembled a new motorcycle in my life, and the fact that it was hot as hell out that night after work was not going to keep that bike in that crate for any longer than it needed to be. After dinner, I hot footed it out into the shop and got busy.  

A couple of fast cuts with my Kershaw Cryo got the straps of the crate, which I lifted free of the cardboard shipping pallet. Being a green company, Cake had ensured that all of the bike’s shipping materials can be recycled. Unlike a lot of other green vehicle companies, they are actively working to make all their manufacturing processes for all components carbon free, and their suppliers are also doing the same. A lot of criticism is levelled at electric vehicle companies that the focus on emissions can obscure other forms of egregious environmental harm – Cake has taken that criticism seriously, and is working to make all the processes and suppliers that support the product Zero environmental impact. It’s a tall order, and getting there requires total commitment.

Inside the crate were two inner cartons – one with the charging brick and one with the accessories in it.

The accessories box contained something I haven’t seen much of in a while – a premium toolkit. The toolkit contained genuinely nice Torx and Phillips screwdrivers, a chromed 14 mm wrench, and la piece de resistance.

I’m easily amused, I guess, because the Cake enthusiast joke about these Swedish modern design, grey and white motorcycles being Ikea products never seems to get old – it’s a joke that seems to have legs.  I’ve ridden Cake’s PR Guy, Bobby, mercilessly about this. When he told me I’d be getting a new Kalk in the crate, I’d quipped that I fully expected that there’d be an Allen wrench in there to help me put the ‘Ikea bike’ together.

The joke was clearly on me, because the last tool in the kit was straight up the nicest Allen wrench kit I’d ever seen – a set of 10 metric Allen wrenches with straight bits on one end and the ball end Allens on the other. I’ve seen racing toolkits whose Allen setups were not this nicely made – this wasn’t the single wrench to assemble a flat-pack motorcycle – this was enough to assemble a whole Ikea store.

Allen Wrenches. Reeeeeealy Nice Allen Wrenches.

Perfect, though, the kit wasn’t. First off, there isn’t a single, unallocated cubic inch anywhere on the bike where one could keep these tools. If it had been my bike I might have eventually come up with a method to secure a tool roll to the light aluminum beams that Cake had added to the base bike to support the taillight and license plate frame.

Second, the rear-view mirrors that Cake fits to both the Osa I tested previously, and to the Kalk& road models, are not masterpieces of design – for a motorcycle that has absolutely zero powertrain vibration, it’s a mystery why keeping the mirrors tight is even a thing, much less the first thing on Cake’s Published Pre-ride checklist. To cut to the chase, though, the rearview mirrors are mounted with a pretty standard two bolt system, where there’s a 14 mm bolt that positions the mirror, and a 17 mm bolt that ‘locks’ things in place.  

That 17 mm bolt, which has the potential to be the one bolt on the motorcycle that you might need to routinely operate, for which there is no 17 mm wrench in the toolkit.

Sigh. Nobody’s perfect.

Anyway – assembling the Kalk& proved to be pretty easy work for an uncrating newb.  Inside the crate, the custom carboard shipping pallet has a kind of internal armature – the handlebars of the bike are rotated to full right lock and fastened to the armature with a neat aluminum clamp. Two Allen bolts free the bars and forks. On the bottom of the armature is a little recess for the front wheel, and a place where the front axle is secured.

Like many machined parts on the bike, the axle is a thing of beauty – its one large piece of alloy, with lovely shoulders and tapered parts to ensure it’s positively located – the diameter of the thing is completely too large for a motorcycle that only weighs 160 plus pounds.

Somebody was not taking any chances with the overall rigidity of the Kalk’s front suspension.

Fortunately for me, the overall design of the axle isn’t too far off of BMW’s standard practice – with one bolt to pull the axel onto the machined tapers, and then a clamp secured by two allen bolts on the other fork leg.

I positioned a small hydraulic floor jack on the pallet and applied just enough up to create space for the tire to be positioned into the forks. A few spins later, the front wheel was installed, and I had Finn steady things and I rolled the completed bike off the pallet and onto the garage floor.  Two overwhelming impressions were the immediate result – this bike was two things – tall, and exceedingly light. Moving the Kalk around the shop had more in common with moving my bicycle than moving one of my motorcycles.

I connected the Kalk’s external charger and started topping off the bike’s battery pack. Upon connection, the bike’s dashboard display boots up and negotiates a connection with the charger – which then initializes and indicates active charging by blinking the ‘charging’ LED indicator. While getting some electrons on board, I spent a few minutes installing the rearview mirrors and topping off the tire pressures.  I also installed the bike’s kill switch – which is a magnet with a lanyard on it that one is supposed to wrap around one’s wrist  — a classic competition deadman switch – come off the bike and it shuts down. Because I didn’t anticipate doing any extreme riding in at least the near term – I cheated and put the loop around the stem of the rearview.

Safety third.

Props to Cake for providing a spare kill switch as part of the bike’s accessory kit.  Having a bike you can’t ride because one has lost a miniscule part is way up there on The Suckage One Hundred.

It was only when I went back and looked at the pictures Finn had taken had I realized how tunnelled in I’d become while putting the bike together – I hadn’t even changed out of the oxford cloth button down shirt I’d worn to work that day, and on an 85 degree night with 85% relative humidity, I looked like I’d just completed three rounds of sparring with The Champ – I was wringing wet.

Even more reason to go for a short ride – I grabbed my Bell 500 and a pair of gloves, and booted up the Kalk&.

Never mind the license plates were supposed to arrive via courier tomorrow – I just needed a breeze.

If someone ended up asking me, I’d tell them the Kalk was an e-bike.

You’d have done the same thing.


Getting the Kalk& ready to ride is a modern, electronic experience.

There’s a single polished stainless button just behind the steering head – press it down and the small LCD display on the bars boots up.  When the controller is online, it asks for a PIN number – you can program a 3 or 6 digit number into the system.

Keys are so last century.

Once the system is armed, instrumentation is exceedingly spare – a large digital speedo takes up 75% if the screen. There’s a state of charge display in the upper right, an odo/tripmeter display in the upper left,  and Power and Regen mode numbers down the right hand side. If the bike is armed and not moving, it will make a little ‘Pung!’ sound every 15 seconds to so to let one know the system is ready to move – Cake concluded this was prudent since there was no other motor sounds to let anyone know the motorcycle was ‘running’.

I left the Kalk in power mode 1 – ‘Easy’ – always a good practice when getting acquainted with a new electric motorcycle.  After a little yoga getting my leg over the tailsection – this thing is borderline crazy tall – I gave the throttle grip a little goose, and rolled out of the bottom of the driveway.

Rolling silently up the street, a few things became instantly clear. First, the suspension on the motorcycle was typical Ohlins – exceedingly firm and communicative. Nobody was ever going to tell you this bike was underdamped. Second, the Kalk was – as a result of its narrowness and light weight – also agile in the extreme – the effort and willingness to change directions was closer to my Schwinn Sierra GS trail bicycle than to any of my motorcycles.

Rolling down the street in the darkness, I was happily surprised at how well I could see. The Cake Osa I’d tested previously had an LED headlight that was OK – by all appearances the Kalk had the same headlamp.  The Osa, though, is a husky utility bike that rides on 14 inch wheels – it’s squat, strong and built close to the ground.  The Kalk – on the other hand – rolls on 19s with long travel suspension at both ends – squat it ain’t. Putting that same headlight a foot and a half farther from the ground, though, really seemed to have helped the beam pattern.

I rolled the motorcycle down to the park at the back of my neighborhood.  Overlook Park is just a tiny remaining bit of unmolested meadow which is now ringed by homes. The park has a small pedestrian path that makes a loop around the hilltop that was clearly drawn by someone who was stinking drunk.  The bends in the path make no sense – the path makes a dozen or so 90 degree turns for no discernable reason. The quality of the macadam surface is similarly difficult to understand – every yard of pavement features the thumbprints of tree roots, frost heaves, or miscellaneous big ass bumps that most folks would have fixed during construction, but these guys didn’t.  

I’ll admit I’ve always had a healthy level of curiosity about the motorcycle sport known as Trials riding.   Within ten seconds, we were about halfway there.  I’d dropped the road speed down to markedly less than a walking pace, and entered the loop over the little arch-backed garden bridge they’d placed to conceal the small corrugated metal drainage culvert running there.  I stood up on the wide pegs, and just rolled the Kalk& over the bumps and around the irrational bends.  The suspension at both ends was working splendidly  — nothing was taking the bike offline and it was agile enough to easily make sharp corners that had already thrown me off my pedal bicycle.  As long as I kept a tiny bit of drive torque dialed in, the Kalk& did whatever I asked of it.  What was normally tight, technical riding was – with the Cake’s direct drive electric drivetrain – just a complete laugher – do it all day long.

Piece of Cake.

When I got back to the little bridge that lead out of the park I was giggling so hard I needed to do it again – picture Tinky-Winky the Teletubby crying ‘Again! Agaiiiiiin!’.

At the base of the bridge I leaned outside and cut the bike hard to the left. The Cake completed a nice 180 in little more than its own length, and headed right back in the direction of travel.  Doing the park clockwise wasn’t any more dramatic than it had been counter clockwise, and it was just as fun.

When I hit the bridge the second time I figured I’d better not press my luck, and headed back up the street back towards home.

I couldn’t resist the need to dump the throttle, and neither would you.

The Kalk& makes a noticeable high pitched whine under load – it’s an identifiable electronic kind of sound – its as if one’s right riding boot was equipped with ‘frickin’ lasers’.

13 HP doesn’t sound like a lot, but it gets much larger when the machine only weighs one hundred sixty plus pounds – there was a certain point in the power delivery where things got quite exponential.

We get into it more tomorrow – I rolled the Kalk& back in the garage bay, hooked the charger back up, and rolled down the door.


There are parts of my shop that are extremely organized.  There are other parts that … are somewhat less so.

Ask me where my 17 millimeter wrench is, and I know exactly where in my tool chest I will find it.    

Which was good, because I’d need that one, it seems.

Also positively located – as a result of nearly 90 motorcycle/years of BMW ownership – are any piece of metric hardware you can name, organized in one of those little plastic parts organizer drawer sets one sees in auto parts joints. Organized by size, length, hex, allen or tapered head, in black zinc or stainless, and with regular or nylock nuts.   

After a few $11 nuts at a BMW dealership, one becomes really comfortable with the MacMaster-Carr industrial catalog.

When the FedEx man pulled up again at lunchtime, he had a really scenic looking Utah motorcycle license plate.

A few moments at the toolchest and the parts organizer, a spin or three, and we had a street legal motorcycle.

I wanted to put on a few acclimatization miles in the daylight, on pavement, just to make sure I’d done my assembly tasks correctly, and to make sure Cake had done theirs correctly, too.

It did take more than a few corners to adjust to the bike’s agility – my turn-in efforts on the first few goes had me ending up well inside of where I’d meant to be.

Running the Kalk down Horine Road toward the creekbed was an eye opener – despite the shallow knobbed tires the bike was willing to lean over and carve – I found myself dreaming of a slightly taller geared and shorter suspended café cousin – that would be quite the backroad scratcher.  

But running the bike at my normal road speeds was consuming battery at a prodigious rate – 50 mph was up near the top of the bike’s rated speed, and clearly wasn’t the middle of the Kalk’s performance bullseye.  I ran a few miles down Maryland 464 and then headed back towards town on Fry Road.

The Kalk’s road manners were stellar – the front and rear suspension worked in harmony. Unlike a lot of pure dirts or dual sports, there was no porpoising,  no excessive dive on the brakes, and the front wheel stayed in the general vicinity of the pavement under acceleration.  The bike’s brakes – given that everything on it is full manual – there’s no ABS, no traction control – are powerful, and while the front is easy to modulate, the rear is easy to lock, which if you mean to do that, has its proper uses.  I’d honestly expected the bike to be wheelie mad – with somewhere north of 200 ft pounds of torque claimed at the contact patch, and minimal mass, I was a little tentative with my first few applications of full throttle, but the bike’s geometry means bringin’ her up is going to require some shifting of rider weight and deliberate tomfoolery at the bars.  If you want the front wheel down, one moves one’s weight low and forward, and can feel comfortable wailing away. 

After 20 miles or so of mostly WFO running, though, I’d ripped through roughly three quarters of the battery. The Kalk was beyond competent on the road, but this clearly wasn’t its core mission.

I put the bike back on its charger, and plotted to find some dirt.


Dirt, in Frederick County, Maryland is really not at all hard to find.

Those who are new to RPP might not know that we have a local organization of rural preservationists — The Frederick County Friends of Rural Roads — that have worked doggedly to ensure that some of our gravel and unpaved roads are retained and maintained.  Some of the best fruits of their labors are within 2 miles of the Shop.

One of their and my favorites is Poffenberger Road.

My family actually lived at the intersection of Poffenberger and Broad Run Roads before Finn was born, essentially an event that sent us looking for a larger house.

Poffenberger runs along the banks of Catoctin Creek, and like all roads that follow creeks, it doesn’t take the straightest route between any two points you might identify.  The road is composed of a crushed limestone mix that is made from local stone – the flat track racing surface at the Frederick Fairgrounds is made of slightly finer, but similar stuff.  The crushed limestone drains well, resists turning to mud (mostly), and provides a marvelous riding surface – especially say 5 or so days after a rainfall.  The county roads guys come out two or three times a year, run a grader, drop a few more inches of new stone, and then roll the resulting surface.  Let’s just say I have a profound appreciation for their work.

I headed out that morning and rolled up the Jefferson Pike into town. I made the left into Old Middletown Road, and then turned left again into Poffenberger.   The beginning of the road drops through a small suburban neighborhood, makes a tight 100 degree right, and then drops into the gravel.  The first 200 yards are punctuated by a pair of concrete trough drains – placed where springs emerge from the rise on the left side of the road. Clearing these requires the rider to not be sitting down, and for suspension to work properly.   Not sitting down is an easy choice to make, given the utter firmness of the ’seating surface’ – calling it a ‘saddle’ seems misleading.  The suspension, though, was working perfectly – working through its long stroke while keeping the bike unflapped and on the chosen line. Hammering through those two drains back to back will more or less instantly tell you what a motorcycle has got, and the Kalk& had plenty.

Getting the Kalk& down into the dirt was a ‘lightbulb on’ moment. There was just an innate balance to the machine I just hadn’t experienced before – with the same size tires fitted at both ends, and the suspension strokes and damping well matched, the bike felt glued to the ground, and was just willing to turn in situations where larger bikes might not want to.

There’s a long section of road that runs hanging out of the side of a ridge that sits well above the creek – that section of road was closed for nearly a year when, after a rainstorm, the left part of the lane decided it would rather be at the bottom of the creek, instead of at the top.  After the county reconstructed the road – driving pilings and pouring cement – they may have gotten a little overzealous in building the surface back up.  Along that stretch the road has a wicked crown – the slope on either side looks to be almost 30 degrees. Try taking that stretch on a heavy adventure bike or scrambler and it can generate a whole slew of sketchy and flaky sensations that do everything but instill confidence. On this section, the Kalk& was willing to literally ride zig zag down the section – cutting up or down the slope made no difference at all to the bike.  This was really more mountain bike than motorcycle.

After passing Lewis Mill there’s a nice set of 90 degree bends, and the bike was easy to back in and set into nice, controllable flat track slide on the exits. A little extra squirt on those exits had the Kalk& running comfortably down this road 10 miles an hour faster than I normally ride it  — with both wheels working their suspension and tracking the surface – but the sensation was one of being in total control. Cake will sell you this motorcycle without the Ohlins suspension – I personally wouldn’t buy it that way.

Dollars be dammed.

I ran the Kalk& though my normal Valley Dirt route – first down Harley Road – a lovely mix of tight corners and long straights that leads through working farms – and then down Bennies Hill Road – just the consummate narrow dirt road – filled with ruts, puddles, chuckholes and more off camber corners. The Kalk& just dissected all of it – on bad surfaces it was just a scalpel of a motorcycle – it was clearly a better offroad motorcycle than I was an offroad rider.

I was going to need to find bet…er… I mean, gnarlier places to ride.   Dude.

I had the sneaking suspicion I was about to learn a lot about dirtbike riding.


The next evening, after work, I suited up again, and set off in search of surfaces.

I didn’t need to look far.

Frederick County, Maryland, is growing rapidly, and our local Government is doing a fair job at trying to catch up with the population spike.

Not far from the RPP Skunkworks is a brand-new county park with all the amenities.  We have baseball, football and tennis facilities, with state-of-the-art night lighting.  It’s a shame my kids are all grown, ‘cause they missed out on having a sweet park. 

The reason, it turns out, the County could afford this really large development project was because one of my neighbors had elected to leave their farm and homestead to the county for just such a use. The significance of this is that those neighbors had been horse people, and their large home, barns and riding trails had come along for the ride when the park was created.

The driveway up to the house was farm nominal – a coarse gravel surface leading up the hill on which the house had been placed.    The Kalk& did its best goat impression – riding out both little rear and front end slides in the treacherous surface like it meant to do that – keeping some torque applied to the rear contact patch was just magic – the Cake was just puppy friendly to its rider, doing whatever was asked of it.

Behind the big old stone house, though, was where the good stuff was kinda hidden. 

The brand new international signage – all pictographs in place of having to pick a written language – indicated that this was the trailhead for the park’s trail system – which if I picture right was intended for equestrian use, but was also approved for hiking (guys with trekking poles!) and biking (humans on wheelie things) too.

The sun was going down. The large parking lot behind the house was empty.

If you squinted kinda hard, one could conclude that those wheelie guys on the sign were on e-bikes, and hey, wasn’t this Kalk just kinda of an Ahnuld-muscular e-bike, and I’m genuinely sorry officer I won’t do it again until next time.

It was getting dark. My bike was silent. And there was no one else anywhere in sight.

I gassed it and headed over the small arched grass bridge that dropped into the trail system.

The surface turned out to be largely thick, healthy grass – grass which, with the falling temperatures, was starting to dew up nicely.    The underlying surface was not smooth, and the Ohlins were doing yeoman duty keeping the tires in contact with the turf and staying hooked up.

Now understand that coming from a street riders’ background, the notion of riding on wet grass is not on anybody’s Top 10 List, and is normally categorized as an accident not waiting to happen, but currently happening.    

Not tonight, though.

The trails were laid out in a way that indicated that the county hadn’t had a great deal to build – they had just taken advantage of what was already there. The former farm had four large fields that made up the rear of the property – like many colonial era farms, the fields were bounded and separated by substantial natural treelines.  The perimeter of every field was setup as a dual track and not cultivated – that pathway gave farm equipment a way to traverse the fields without running over crops.  In those edge tracks, running alongside the trees, the county had put in some stone and grading where it was needed, and left the grasses where it wasn’t.  The ring around each of the old fields – was over a mile long, with the four rings connected to each other in the center.  

Frederick County isn’t yet like some of our more affluent neighbors – people with their own horses are not very common – so designing the trail system as a multiuse equestrian, bicycle and hiking path makes perfect sense. 

Tonight through, for this silent, lightweight Swedish electric dirtbike, this was basically Disneyland.

On the grass tracks, even on bumpier sections where the Ohlins were stroking furiously, the chassis was dead stable, and was willing and more than able to turn at will. I’d been led to believe that the bikes’s 3.0 x 19 Kenda Town and Trail tires might be down on traction – I hadn’t yet seen any evidence of that though – even on damp grass, and even on some of the sections which had substantial off camber slopes.   With the LED headlamp lighting up the trail ahead, there was only the slight whine of the motor and swift, sure forward motion.   Riding standing up, it was as close to flying as I’ve experienced lately.

After completing the lap of the first field, arriving back at the intersection where I’d started caused my mental light bulb to come on.  This layout had managed to compress nearly 5 miles of ridable trail into the smallest possible space – I briefly enjoyed the moment of enlightenment, and then turned into the second loop of the trail system, getting a boot down and sliding the rear enthusiastically.

Where the first loop had been mostly grass, the second one was graded dirt – goldilocks dirt – not too slidey, not too grippy – just right.   

I’ll admit to having started out a tad paranoid – concerned I could encounter other trail users that I didn’t want to have conclude I shouldn’t be there.  But after more than 2 miles of silent running, I hadn’t seen another soul.  So I stopped worrying, and learned to enjoy the bomb – my sightlines adjusted higher, the torque request level came way up, and my speed across the dirt and grass rose to enthusiastic levels.  I kept thinking that I’d find the edge, take something to fast, or too sharply, and would overcook something and scare myself silly.

Instead, I had a tiny motorcycle that steered like a razor – it just seemed like I could do no wrong.

After completing all four loops, I made a pass past the enormous German barn, and then headed back down the hill, off the gravel and back out towards the Pike.

In the brief stretch of road leading back to the shop, we stirred up a few more snicks of road speed, and enjoyed the feeling of late summer breeze moving over my arms through ventilated leathers.

After getting the Kalk& back on the charger, I noticed my knees and calves felt like I had just finished a few rounds of sparring with The Champ – this riding standing up thing was using a few new muscles, it seemed.   

More lessons.


Some motorcycles can require long acquaintance before a rider can stop thinking about how it will respond. The Kalk& — partially because of its direct drive electric drivetrain – had essentially disappeared – become a natural extension of the rider, by the midway point of my fourth ride.

It’s really kind of eerie – the silence of the bike and the lightness of the controls make the riding experience completely gestural. Lean towards the expected line – shift one’s weight on the pegs – think it and you’re there. Want to slide the rear? Apply pressure to the outside peg and snap one’s right wrist.

Bigger, heavier motorcycles can work against you on challenging terrain. The Kalk&, on the other hand, was always a tick ahead of where I was riding it, it made me want to push harder.

Some might say the bike was giving me confidence. I say that in the dirt, the Kalk& was teaching me to be a better rider.


Every chance I got, the adventure continued.

The next time I had a hunk of time available, I headed towards Loudoun County, Virginia – a short hop down US 15 and across the Potomac River. Like my home county, Loudoun County still has lots of unpaved rural roads – Unlike Frederick, though, which is actively conserving and maintaining what little remains, Loudoun is mostly Wild, Wild, West.  There may be graders and rollers in the Loudoun County Highway Department, but I sure haven’t seen them use ‘em. The result of this Laissez Faire approach to dirt maintenance means the roads are mostly in much worse shape, which stinks if you live on one and drive a Corolla, but is pretty cool if you have a nice dual sport, and I did.

The Point of Rocks Bridge across the Potomac would never pass any kind of standard highway code in 2022. Where US 15 hits the Virginia side – a 50 mpg United States Highway — it makes an immediate sharp left hand turn so that the highway follows the river bank. At the apex of that left is an intersection with Lovettsville Road – a Loudoun County route which runs up the river in the other direction. At the apex of that right is the intersection with Furnace Mountain Road, which breaks off to the left, switches instantly to dirt, and the climbs straight up the ridge that sits over the river. As a motorcyclist, a single intersection where one has to monitor for errant motorists blowing one of six possible path choices is a tad too dramatic for my tastes – I’ve seen far too many collisions and both 2 and 4 wheeled vehicles miss the corner, which, because of the bridge, you can’t really see until one is taking an impromptu Rally Cross exam.

But once one has survived that intersection, Furnace Mountain Road is immediately and absolutely worth it.

20 yards off the pavement, Furnace Mountain Road enters another world – the surface turns to stone, and the grade quickly comes up to just short of dramatic.  The tree cover closes the road in from both sides, and the rider moves from sun into deep forest shade. Furnace Creek is narrow – I’ve run into other vehicles coming the other direction occasionally, and passing is a matter of some delicacy, and sometime indelicacy.   The road connects a series of old hunting cabins and older estates – making frequent, heavily rutted switchbacks between the old property lines.  In this tight, technical and slippery stuff the Kalk& bounced like some form of cheerful electric gazelle – surefooted, and willing to turn at less than a moments notice.

There is a roller coaster section to the road – a great series of steep climbs and matching steep descents. On my larger bikes I’m usually quite restrained on the descents – on the Kalk& though, I just let the little bike run – I had confidence in the bike’s ability to keep the tires hooked up and tracking.

That confidence was rewarded with some 10/10ths riding fun. I believe I now know how to yell  ‘Yeeee Haw’ in Swedish.

After coming off the other side of the mountain, Furnace Creek drops one into the tiny village of Taylorstown. Riding past the village – one General Store and one crafts studio – takes the better part of about six seconds. After those six seconds brake and make the left into Downey Mill Road.

Downey Mill isn’t a road I’d choose to run on a rainy day – the single lane runs a mere five or so feet above a winding creekbed, in the shade of a ridgeline off to the right. It’s a very moist place, and the surface is soft with the occasional muddy chuckhole thrown in for fun. On the Kalk the drill is stand up and heads up, and slalom between the stuff you’d prefer not to hit.   

When the creek and the road finally arrive at the old mill and its millpond, the road splits off to the right and climbs the backing ridge. On the loose surface the Kalk& was kicking out a light shower of stones, and letting the Ohlins smooth out the unsmoothable.  Downy Mill has its own whoops section, and again, on descents it behaved like a muscular mountainbike, soaking up everything and staying on the selected line.

After a few miles of working the whoops in the deep woods, Downey Mill comes back out on top of the plateau beside the Potomac. The land is filled with working farms, and the road turns to a nice dry, fine gravel. The road makes long straights along the old farms’ property lines, separated by nice sweeping corners  — a perfect chance to hone one’s Gary Nixon flat track riding impression.   

If it’s really good, its always over too soon.

A corner exit, a short chute to a locked sliding rear brake, and we were back on Lovettsville Road.   Some conservative roads speeds brought me back to the shop, where the germ of a genuinely fun plan begin to grow.


No motorcycle I have ever ridden has been such a compelling and irresistible inducement to trespassing.

There was something about the Kalk&’s combination of near silence, ground clearance, traction and agility that made me compulsively, autonomically turn into any path wider than the Kalk&s 8 inches – which, if you think about it, is pretty much everything.

It didn’t take long to discover that the structure at my neighborhood heritage farm-turned park was common to that of every old working farm within thirty miles of the shop.

Once one has had that little illuminating moment, it’s a free entry pass into a world of sketchy property rights violations that apparently has no end.

Some of my manifold neighbors are not so receptive to this kind of moto-libertarianism.

Those guys have clear and unambiguous ‘NO TRESPASSING!’ signage posted and red tube gates chained across the entrances to their pastures.

Their preferences are obvious, properly documented, and observed without exception.

The rest of them, though, are not quite so structured.

The majority of my neighbors are not posting trespassing signage, don’t have gates on their fields, and just seem a great deal more chill about the whole thing.

At a certain point, I just made a private, unpublished deal with them – I promised not to damage their property with my quiet little motorcycle and not to sue them if I did something terminally moto-stupid. In return, I hoped they wouldn’t shoot me if they decided they didn’t want me there. 

So far anyway, it’s been working out.

Although, in a few scenarios, the ‘shoot me’ thing has been more than a theoretical, but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

St. Marks Road is another Classic Frederick County single lane farm bottom road – all these roads seem to follow creekbeds and St. Marks is no exception.  At the very bottom of the stream canyon lies another single lane iron truss bridge, and a series of jeep tracks that lead away from the road in both directions on either side of the bridge.  Signs of wheels that have gone before is more than enough for me to see where they go. 

The north side of the road is an enormous meadow, which runs for nearly ¾ mile until it meets a wooded hillside.  The Kalk& was in its element here – able to clear the majority of the tall grasses and much more able than the Osa I’d taken back here previously to maintain its composure and control when encountering the occasional mudhole.  Better still, the Kalk& was able to keep on going when one gets to the treeline  — dealing with the steep slope and slaloming between trees like it was born to do that.

The southside of the road is a series of little trails that lead back to some very isolated fishing and camping spots – the road in is a little muddy, but stand up and ‘gas’ it – within reason – keeps directional control and forward progress well in hand. 

Everyride I took, the Kalk& got further and further from that highly styled, clean grey and white object that had come out of the box a few days before.  My jackets, upon further examination, all seems to have developed a nice mud stripe running up the back corresponding to the one on the bike.


I spent one evening online trying to confirm the Kalk’s waterproofness, before advancing to the next stage of my tests.   Quick searching yielded a press release from Cake Founder and CEO Stefan Ytterborn talking about the fact that stream fords were a foundational need of the African Park Rangers to whom the Kalks were being provided as an Anti-poaching tool. “Yes!” said Stefan – “of course it was designed to cross streams.”

Some quick YouTubing had one enthusiast in Colorado who spent so much time riding the Kalk up river it may have crossed the boundary between ‘riding’ and ‘swimming’.

Taken together, I felt pretty confident that no little creek I might ride though had any possibility of harming the bike.

So, of course, I headed straight for Siegler Road.

Over the years I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the streambed at The Ford.  It’s even gotten to the point where trips to the market for some ice cream sandwiches may see me taking a splash and coming home wet if the situation finds me with my dander up.

On bigger bikes I’m cautious – I’m usually in first gear and enter the water with speeds reduced.  On the Kalk& though, with gear selection not an issue, and much more perceived control, I went full Harvey Mushman  — entering the stream carrying some speed, and putting up a pretty bow wave in the process.  It had been such a fun demonstration of traction and tractability I had to talk myself out of it to just spin the bike on the back wheel, turn around and hit The Ford again.

I’m glad that I didn’t though. The climb out of the canyon is entertaining – the road is loose gravel with a few 90s thrown in for fun – I kept the rear tire spun up and the bike sliding until I hit the chip and seal surface that begins at the top.  As I rode across the top of the grade, I backed down to a walking pace. Off to my right ride, there was a well-maintained gravel ramp into the field off to the right of the road.  There was freshly mown grass visible though the gap – I did the Owl Maneuver, where the rider rotates his head though of much of 360 degrees as possible with human anatomy – saw no one, and nothing, so I made the right into the field and disappeared into the corn.

Only I didn’t disappear.  What at first appeared to be a field full of corn turned out to be a bit of military grade camouflage – 15 yards in, the corn gave way back to thick grass — the corn was a visual barrier to shield the view of this field system from the surrounding roads and properties.  It was kind of Sci-Fi movie-ish – think riding through a fresh landslide and entering into ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ – my imagination provided the required dramatic ‘chorus of angels’ soundtrack, since there was no motorcycle noise to compete with.  This particular place was on a low bluff in the middle of our part of The Valley, and all of the surrounding hillsides were filled with big German barns and fertile working fields.  This particular land rolled back off the hillside back down towards the steam I’d just ridden through, and ended in the same 15 yards of corn that kept the outside out, and kept the in here in here. 

I was clearly not the first guy to follow this trail around the periphery of these fields – there were already tracks from pickups, jeeps, UTVs and god knows what else in evidence. The size of the parcel was really staggering –  it looked like two old working fields of about 30 acres total had been combined, and keeping up a reasonable speed rolling across the grass – the Kalk&’s suspension soaking things up and keeping the bike tidy — made for quite a triumphant feeling kind of ride – there was all this beautiful open country where none was there to see.  I followed the peripheral trail back down the hillside to the creek – the slope was steep but the bike was surefooted  — and then cut across the bottom of the property.   The was a substantial sideways slope on the lower pitch – normally riding on such surfaces can get a little hairy, but again, the Kalk& handled it with minimal drama.

When I reached the most remote part of the parcel – which ran next to some electric high transmission lines  — I was amazed to see the most well-constructed deer hunting stand I’ve ever seen. This structure looked to be timber framed, and had more in common with some firewatch towers than most deerstands. It had a solid deck, a nice roof, and looked like a perfectly lovely place to spend a little time. 

Remember, if you will, the terms of my internal deal – ‘I don’t trash your joint with my bike,  and you don’t shoot me.’  In light of this recently revealed timberframed artillery position, the second clause seemed like a far more realistic possibility than I’d previously considered.

Amusingly, it wasn’t the last time it would happen, either.

Since I was not greeted with gunfire, I rode on apace – best not to tarry in these conditions — covering the better part of a half mile riding with the bike leaned 20 degrees to the left to stand straight against the side slope.   As I followed the trail back up the slope at the far end of the parcel, I scanned back into the center of this enormous meadow.  The deerstand confirmed that this place was unfailingly private – it looked like a nice place for a picnic, a bonfire, a family reunion, a football game, a camping trip with all of your friends, or a small jam band festival (generators permitting).  If it fit, you had a perfect place for it, and no one would ever know you were there.

A sweet setup.

Also a sweet spot to ride a light, silent motorcycle.

Thanks, Neighbor.   

I took a slight detour across the center of the parcel – went free range instead of staying between the lines – and although the surface was more uneven, the Kalk& just floated above it – big wheels striking the surface and frame and suspension working to steady the rider. The Kalk& could carry pretty good speed without feeling bent out of shape.

Finally I arrived back at the ramp where I’d come in – I rolled down the stone surface back onto the dirt of the road.  I toggled the Kalk&s power mode up to Mode3, because Siegler’s road – with its two long dirt straights and a nice 90 degree sweeping right —  always makes me just a tad feisty. The Kalk& entered the 90 just about perfect, and then everything went all Fairgrounds – we came out with a stylish and – had there been anybody to take a picture – no doubt photogenic Grand National Slide. Hard to imagine better punctuation to a better ride.

The rest of this story can be found here….

Endless Potential

Some vehicle designs spring fully realized into the world.

Others can take decades of development and refinement before achieving a state of easy ballistic grace.

Some things that look or feel like good ideas can take a few rounds of development to discover that getting there is either not going to happen or is not worth the trouble.

Which type of machine you have is, it seems, the whole trick of the thing.


I’m intrigued by all kinds of electric vehicles.

The blast of e-power is always a rush, and they’re easy to maintain, mostly dead undramatically reliable, and the lack of motor heat and motor noise are more significant than you may realize.

I’m also a little biased by the fact that as a result of a successful prior investment in solar power for my home my ‘motor fuel’ for anything electric is essentially free – it comes off my roof.

Most electric automobiles, at this point in the development cycle, are not really within my budget.  Electric motorcycles are marginally less extravagant, but mostly suffer when it comes to utility – cargo capacity, weather protection, passenger accommodations – when compared to, say, a garage full of older BMWs.  Oh, and then there’s the range thing.

A friend of Sweet Doris from Baltimore sent her some info about an Oregon company that was developing an all-electric three wheeler. When she showed it to me, I was intrigued. This three wheeler had a windshield. And a roof. And a fairly large trunk. There was just something about the thing that felt like someone had reanimated BMW’s old C1 and given it another wheel and two big, honkin’ electric motors.

Being a nerd, I had to know how it worked. Sweet D, on the other hand, cut right to the chase.

“Wow. Electric? I’d ride that! Greggie, can we get one to test?”

Greggie knows people. I made some calls and sent a few e-mails.


It didn’t take very long before I found someone who’d worked with the company before.    

Fellow Moto-journalist Bill Roberson was able to hook me up with the PR agency that represented the company.

After a few bounced and abortive e-mails to the Agency, I finally got a live human that was actually assigned to the account and scheduled a meeting with me about ten days hence.

Not earth-shattering progress, but progress nonetheless.

About 10 minutes later, my cell phone rang.

“Hi, this is Mark Frohnmayer, I understand you’re interested in writing about Arcimoto.”

Mark seemed extremely energetic – he seemed like the kind of guy that was accustomed to being instantly recognized.   At the time, I’ll admit while the name seemed vaguely familiar, I had absolutely no idea who he was.

Fortunately, since I was sitting on front of my computer, I was able to quickly grab my browser tab that was opened to their web site and quickly navigate to their ‘Leadership’ page, which quickly confirmed I’d just taken a call from Arcimoto’s CEO.

“Thanks for your call, Mark. I’m not accustomed to being reached out to by company CEOs – what can I do for you?”

“I’m in hustle mode, man. I see you reached out to our Public Relations firm and they’ve set up a time to talk next week. I want to see how I can make things go faster.”

“Faster is almost always better…”

Our conversation that followed was at a pretty high cadence.

Pretty normal for a guy whose last company had been a Silicon Valley Roller.   

I shared my enthusiasm for all moving things electric, and how strongly I felt about making new assumptions about what forms they needed to take and how people might use them.

I am prone to the occasional ‘bon mot’ so I tried to drive home my point.

“Mass is the enemy.”

“Yes! Yes!”

After this moment of shared enlightenment, Mark shared some of his vision for the product. Arcimoto’s Fun Utility Vehicle – the FUV – could replace a car for a lot of people – lowering their cost of ownership and operation – and cut emissions and congestion in the process.

Mark asked where I lived.

“Yes! Yes! My Head of International lives in Northern Virginia. I’ll introduce you. We’ll have you borrow his personal FUV. He can probably set you up Saturday. Let me know how this works out.”


Or five days before I was scheduled to talk to Arcimoto’s PR Contractor.

Whatever else he might understand, Mark definitely understood Hustle Mode.

This was looking to be a wild ride.


Saturday came, and Sweet Doris from Baltimore and I found ourselves sitting in a parking lot out behind the Bank of America location in Potomac Maryland.  I’d selected this spot because it was at a kind of convenient point between RPP Labs and the home of Arcimoto’s Chief International Officer, Dillip Sundaram, oh, and because it had a commercial electric vehicle charge point.  We could get into range testing later – this afternoon I just wanted to stack the deck towards ‘getting home’.

After a suitable period of anxious thumb twiddling, I saw the profile of the FUV – in a restrained winter white and black colorway – rolling towards the back of the lot. Being electric, only a high pitched whine indicated the machine was alive, and it rolled up beside us and after an electrically actuated parking brake deployed, the FUV powered down.

And Here It Is

Dillip and I got briefly acquainted, made some electric small talk, and then he gave me the vehicle walkaround and operating instructions.

Two Guys and Three Wheels

The FUV was identifiably a motorcycle, with handlebars and an abbreviated brake lever marked ‘REGEN’. After that though, things begin to diverge.

Your New Office?

There’s a brake pedal on the left floorboard, and a medium sized touchscreen as the FUV’s only instrument.

All Your Data Are Right Here

In place of a saddle, though, there’s an inline pair of firmly padded, heated bucket seats – supplied by California-based motorcycle supplier Corbin — both equipped with 4 point racing harness-style seatbelts. At the rear of the vehicle is a substantial trunk – years of motorcycle shopping would allow me to estimate the volume at 6-8 bags of groceries worth.

Wheels, tires, brakes and steering gear all look like they were sourced from automotive suppliers – a good choice from the standpoints of cost and maintainability. 

Tires – Conti Car Tires
Neat Tubular Single Sided Swingarm
Front Steering Gear, Driveshafts and Brakes

The entire passenger capsule sits inside a tubular steel structure, behind a substantive windshield and under a tinted glass roof. There is a windshield wiper and washer, because there needs to be.

Sitting in the center of the vehicle where a transmission tunnel might usually be is the lithium ion battery pack – like a lot of electric vehicle designs the pack is a modified skateboard design where battery weight is as low and centralized as one can make it.

Dillip and I took a brief look at the charger he had parked next to, and realized we wouldn’t be taking on any electrons here.  The Arcimoto has the standard J1772 power connector, and this charge point had a Class 3 fast charger, which adds two additional much larger conductors underneath the J1772.

I’d mapped the distance home at about 37 miles, and the Arcimoto was showing 72% state of charge.  I knew that to ensure sufficient range I’d need to keep below Interstate cruising speeds, so I’d mapped a route that took us though some nice Montgomery and Frederick County backroads.     

Dillip was totally confident I’d have no issue making home. I fervently hoped Dillip’s confidence was warranted.


Maryland classifies the Arcimoto FUV as an autocycle. Under state law, the machine is registered and insured as if it were a motorcycle, but its operation requires neither a motorcycle license endorsement or the wearing of a safety helmet.

The FUV is neither fish nor fowl. It’s not a car, but it’s not quite a motorcycle, either.

That quality – of busting clear of existing classifications – is really quite the point.  Viewed through the twin lenses of efficiency and cost, none of us need a 6000 pound 4WD Chevy Tahoe for runs to the office and the grocery. When most of the driving that most of us do tend to do is about 15 miles a day, the smaller and lighter the machine is, the less it is going to cost to operate, to park and to insure. Electric propulsion — apart from its emissions benefits — allows the form factor and the basic mass vs energy needs equations to change radically.    

So the Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle might not be car nor motorcycle. But it just might be better than either.


None of the design principles mean a whit, though, if the machine isn’t fun to ride.

Which is what it was time to do.

Like many current electric vehicles, the FUV does not require a key – one touches the ‘Power’ button on the vehicle’s touchscreen, and then enters a 6-digit passcode to activate the instrument and control display.

Both sections of the rider’s four-point seatbelts need to be fastened in order to place the vehicle in gear. The FUV’s ‘Autocycle’ status is predicated on the fact the design has a full steel perimeter rollcage and the restraint system to keep the rider inside it. Press the brake pedal with authority, and then toggle the direction button on the right bar pod to select forward or reverse.  There’s a power parking brake button that releases a secondary rear brake caliper – a system that seems to be remarkably similar to those mounted on Honda motorcycle models featuring their Dual Clutch Transmissions.

Once though that safety and arming process, then just roll the throttle grip open.

With its two front mounted motors and front wheel drive, the FUV accelerates briskly from a standing start.  With larger ‘throttle’ openings, the FUV will get to 50 as quickly as anything on the road – Arcimoto states motor output at 81 hp total. With the example I rode, though, there was plenty of torque steer on large power output levels, a characteristic that is exacerbated by bumpy or off camber pavement.   

The FUV’s front suspension is firm and well damped – with the wide track the bike feels planted with only the slightest hint of body roll in corners.

You read that right – body roll. It’s not a motorcycle, it doesn’t lean in, it leans out.   As a riding writer that goes to a lot of effort not to crash the vehicles that manufacturers entrust to me – think of it as a ‘Professional Code of Ethics’ – the sensation the FUV was sending to me that it wanted to pull the inside wheel off the ground kept my normal sense of riding enthusiasm well in check.  

Rolling out River Road out of Potomac, though, the FUV was quickly in the groove. The roads out of Montgomery and into Frederick County are classic winding motorcycle roads – cutting through sunshine and shadow with a constant symphony of hills and corners – a perfect place to come to some understanding of a motorcycle’s handling dynamics.

The FUV’s cockpit is a serene place – the machine’s fairing, windshield and roof keep the rider in well protected, quiet air. The bike’s driveline is all but silent – at 50 mph the FUV feels completely unstressed, and there’s substantial power and acceleration available from there. Like many electric vehicles, the utter silence of the drivetrain means the rider ends up hearing things that would be drowned out by motor noise on internal combustion-engined vehicles. That quality is a mixed bag – on the good side, one can hear crickets, cicadas and bird songs as one rides. On the flip side, though, rattling mounts for the front fenders and dragging brake pads on the front wheels become annoyances out of proportion to their actual impact on the riding experience.   

The FUV’s cornering manners – for a rider with a half million miles on two wheelers – do take more than a little getting used to.  It’s entirely possible that all tadpole style trikes – with the two wheels in front – possess some degree of handling weirdness when viewed from a motorcyclist’s perspective.  The number of other front wheel drive tadpole trikes to which the FUV can be compared is well… a very small number indeed.  

My coming to grips with the FUV’s handling manners was quick. Initially, with both hands on the handlebars, I found the FUV somewhat resistant to turning in on corner entrances and more than a little twitchy – with cornering effort applied to the bars the machine would not want to turn, not want to turn, and then would quickly transition to taking a line that was in excess of that was requested – it would turn in late and then end up inside where I had intended to be.  The front end of the model I rode had a very traditional looking automotive pitman arm steering gear, and was behaving exactly like older cars I’ve owned where the steering gear was somewhat worn – there was just enough slop in the linkages to make the handling somewhat sketchy and imprecise.

After a few frustratingly ham-fisted cornering attempts, though, I finally stumbled on the required technique.  Two wheeled motorcyclists are accustomed to the technique of ‘countersteering’ – where to enter, for example, a right-hand corner, one applies gentle pressure with one’s right hand to the inside of the handlebar. The effect of this is to turn the front wheel to the left, but in a two wheeled vehicle, that motion causes the machine to roll the right and enter the right-hand corner. Skilled motorcyclists can become very sensitive in applying just the precise amount of force required to initiate and maintain the precise lean angle required for quick progress around a corner. In countersteering, the other hand, in this example the left hand, has nothing to do, and needs to be kept relaxed and from imparting any input to the bars.

What I discovered with the Arcimoto was something quite similar, but essentially backwards – think of it as ‘Counter-countersteering’.

“But Greg,” you are no doubt asking, “isn’t counter-countersteering just steering?”.

And that’s a very, very good question that I shall decline to answer at this time.

The net/net is that on a twisty road, using just one’s outside hand – in the case of our example right hand corner one pushes gently against the left handlebar – produces exactly the same controlled corner entry and cornering line behavior as countersteering a two-wheeler.  Again, like countersteering the ‘off’ hand – in this case the right – has nothing to do other than to avoid providing any input to the bars. Once I’d had this little epiphany, my overall level of cornering anxiety on the Arcimoto dropped markedly.  Adjusting my cornering entry speeds below normal classic motorcycle speeds and then applying twin front motor electric thrust on exit revealed the FUV’s handling character, and that with proper technique, it could make spirited progress up a twisting road.

As I hit Maryland Route 28 headed though northern Montgomery County, my quick check of range math showed that Dillip’s range estimations were fairly accurate – I’d left Potomac with a 72% state of charge and just under 40 miles to travel – based on a 50-55 m.p.h. average speed, it looked like I’d get back to Jefferson with about 20% remaining. With range anxiety diminished, I did take a few roll-ons on a few of the stretches with longer straights and better sightlines. With the throttle gently rolled open, the FUV accelerated briskly up though 65 miles and hour, with plenty of top end left unexplored. Arcimoto stated the FUV has a top speed of 75  – I can confirm that the actual number is a little higher.

The last few miles into Jefferson are tertiary roads with some significant grades and technical corners. With my overall comfort level with the machine’s dynamics rapidly increasing, I was able to made those last few miles spirited and entertaining ones.

Upon arrival in the driveway, Sweet Doris from Baltimore asked if I thought she could ride the FUV. Sweet D has long held a Maryland Motorcycle Endorsement – I encouraged her to take a little toodle around the neighborhood to see if her Zero emission enthusiasm could be matched with a machine that she actually enjoyed driving.  I walked her though the operation of the machine’s controls, and watched as she whizzed off around the corner and out of sight.

A quick ride around our neighborhood takes about 3 minutes – Sweet Doris from Baltimore didn’t come back for about 15. The Sweet D that pulled back in was grinning like a kid at Christmas.

“Do you think this thing can manage a highway grocery run up to Frederick?”

“Oh, yeah” I told her. “It’s more than able to keep up with traffic on US 340, and range shouldn’t be a problem”.

“How much do they sell for?”

“A little more than $17K”.

“So an electric vehicle set up as a useful daily around town driver, for about a third of the cost of a new Tesla? Can we get one, Greggie?”

“Let’s put a few more miles on this one and see how we really like it”.


I set up the FUV’s Type 1 home charger, and tried to get some electrons back into the largely depleted battery pack.

Given how much Sweet D seemed to like it, I figured we’d take an extended cruise that evening to see how the FUV dealt with two full size adult humans on board.

Our extended family and Mother Nature both came through to deliver that for us Saturday evening.  Our daughter extended an invitation to join her crew at a local Fraternal Organization’s social club, and Momz N provided a perfect summer evening with low humidity and temperatures in the low 80s.

After 4 or 5 hours on the Type 1 charger, our state of charge was back up above 80%, which was more than enough for a trip up to town and back.  Sweet D and I buckled in, and whizzed off towards Frederick.

Since tonight’s performance profile definitely was biased in the direction of ‘Cruise’, I selected the Maryland Route 180 – the Jefferson Pike. The Pike is a great country road – packed with hills and dips, and winding though corner after corner all the way to town. The only thing that keeps The Pike from being a bicycle or e-bike route is an utter lack of shoulders or safe sightlines – if you can’t keep pace with motorized traffic, the likelihood of being caught out by an over-enthusiastic pickup truck enthusiast exiting a corner where you just happen to be is far too high for my comfort. The FUV’s ability to maintain a safe pace on such a road is the difference between an enjoyable evening ride and an obituary entry.

With Sweet Doris aboard in the pillion position, and maintaining a nice 50-55 m.p.h. pace, the FUV was nothing if not serene – the extra weight aboard actually seemed to help the ride quality, which was slightly oversprung with a single human aboard. The excellent wind protection of the fairing and roof combined with some optimized acoustics to allow for normal conversation while underway.

“How is it back there, Sweetie?”

“Very comfortable. No wind buffeting, no bugs – just a little gentle breeze. This is so much easier to get in and out of than your touring bike – it just seems so…. civilized. We’ll have to go for a longer ride tomorrow.”

I had to agree on both counts.

Once we arrived at the club there were lots of questions from the extended clan. One of the questions was inevitably “Can you take me for a ride?”  Fortunately, the club is on the edges of a large industrial park with wide streets – streets that were empty on a Saturday evening.  Everyone I took for a lap – a lap that included a little full throttle electric acceleration and a set of left/right sweepers – were all giggling the song of the newly converted electric motorhead upon their return.

“That thing is really, cool, man.”

Again, I had to agree.


In the morning, we were up uncharacteristically early for a Sunday.

The sun was out, I had this new electric … conveyance to test, and Sweet D was so stoked about it that she was hot to come with me.  We decided we’d hop the FUV up to our new Dunkin’ Donuts in town for a coffee and breakfast sandwich before striking out in search of some sweet country roads.

Life was good.

I loaded up the FUVs trunk with a growler of cold drinking water, and a few snacks for later.

D and I went through the preflight checklist, got green lights across the board and headed out toward the Jefferson Pike.

At the entrance to the neighborhood, I scanned left and right, scanned again, and gave the Arcimoto a gentle twist to get it turned up the highway. When the wheels straightened out, I opened her up, and that’s when everything went pear-shaped.

Had the FUV been a modern aircraft, there would have been all manner of voice synthesized alarms competing to tell me of all the global system failures. I’m an imaginative guy, though, and the only real voice was mine which had to settle for the standard strong Anglo-saxon oath as I drifted to the side of the highway.   

The FUV’s Dash display – a pretty simple LCD panel – had completely locked up. All of the vehicle’s information displays and most of the important controls had been replaced with the Arci’s equivalent of a MacIntosh computer’s Cartoon Xs for Eyes – a series of black and white vertical bars of random dimension.

It Went ‘Boiiiiing!’

Being a sometime IT guy, my first instinct was to just “turn it off and turn it on again”. And I would have, except that the ‘Power’ button is on the touchscreen display. The touchscreen display that was completely non-functional. There isn’t a physical button.

Once I managed to work though my initial shock at being rendered inoperable, and my secondary shock at not being able to turn the vehicle off, it occurred to me there was a remote possibility that despite not being able to see any information about the operating status of the FUV – like speed, state of charge, or any other status information – the vehicle might still be in the status it was in before we lost the ability to see what was it was doing.

I crossed my fingers. I refastened my seat belt. And I tried the throttle. And the FUV moved.

With my 2 watt flash of insight in place, I rolled the throttle open, did a big hairy U turn across Jefferson Pike, turned back into my neighborhood, rolled back into my driveway, and then stopped a prudent distance away from my house, and used the mechanical button that deploys the power parking brake.

I did spend a few seconds hacking about, poking at the points on the touchscreen where I remembered the power button to be. After a more considered examination of my options, I concluded that it was true – I couldn’t turn the vehicle off. My best-case scenario was if the designers had included an ‘inactivity time-out’ function.

I wasn’t hopeful.

I went back in the house and sent Dillip a text describing my predicament and asking for assistance.

After not getting a quick response, I booted up my laptop, surfed up Arcimoto’s website, and found an e-mail address for tech support. I wrote up a trouble ticket, sharing that I was a journalist, that the bike belonged to one of their executives, and hit ‘Send’.

And then I sat there and twiddled for a while.

I did go outside to see if the FUV had timed-out. It hadn’t. It did have a real nice set of Hella projector headlamps that were a) inexplicably Halogen, rather than LED lamps and b) getting genuinely hot after running sitting still without any airflow for almost an hour.

I’ll admit that I was concerned that the FUV’s display unit and overall motor control unit were the same bit of electronics, and that normal battery pack functions like current limits and safety controls might not be functioning.

After about an hour and a half after my e-mail – remember, it’s a Sunday afternoon — I got a direct e-mail from one of Arcimoto’s Engineers, along with a direct cell phone number.

I grabbed my phone, and headed back out to the driveway.

James from Arcimoto was the Alpha Engineer – he was all business. He told me what he believed the problem to be, and briefly outlined what tools and supplies I’d need to affect the repair.

He asked if I was comfortable completing the procedure he’d outlined.

“James, I have a fifty-year-old motorcycle that I still ride. I have a 48-year-old motorcycle for which I have fabricated a complete wiring harness. I have fixed far worse than this on the side of the road. I am comfortable. Let us begin.”

First, I removed an access panel on the inside of the cockpit. Then I fabricated a jumper wire from the negative conductor from a piece of leftover bit of Romex I had lying around. James had me remove the connectors from an ignition key fixture that sat inside the fairing for which I did not have a key. I used the jumper to connect, then disconnect the connectors I’d pulled off the ignition lock. At this point the display and the rest of the vehicle lighting shut down. There was also a master circuit breaker on the top of the ECU housing that he had me trip and then reset after a minute or so. I reconnected the key connections, and the normal ‘at rest’ display came back up.

You know. We turned it off and then turned it back on again.

I hit the power button and completed the normal power up checklist.   I took the FUV around my neighborhood – it appeared to be operating completely normally.

I buttoned the access panel back up and went inside to get Sweet Doris from Baltimore.

I did stick that piece of Romex and the Phillips screwdriver back in my pocket, though.


Even with that very delayed start, Sweet Doris and I did get an extended ride in the country late that afternoon. As I got better with riding the FUV, the fun quotient gradually increased. Increased familiarity did point to some elements of the FUV design that do border on genius.

The weather protection of the FUV is astounding –  despite the lack of any doors, riding in heavy rain kept the driver essentially dry – I know, because I went out to see the first time we had a rainstorm.

Let’s continue – as another concrete example – with the little lever marked ‘Regen’ adjacent to the right throttle grip, where one would normally find the front brake lever on a standard motorcycle.  The ‘Regen’ lever looks like a normal brake lever that has been scaled down to where it can only be operated by one or two fingers – there isn’t room for any more. Think a two-inch-long lever in place of the normal 5 or so.

Under normal FUV operating conditions, grab a fingerful of lever, and there’s what behaves like strong, progressive braking force coming through the front contact patches.  The system behaves like the lever essentially allows the rider to request variable regenerative braking levels – where regen captures kinetic energy used to charge the vehicle’s battery — depending on roadcraft needs. High regen levels provide forceful braking. Regin is braking.   

I straight up loved the system – in normal use I was able to do everything with it – the pedal was only used when stopped.

I’d been able to ask Arcimoto’s Chief Product Officer, Dwayne Lum, about the system when we spoke about the FUV’s development process. According to Dwayne, the system is technically a Kinetic Energy Recovery System, or KERS. “Everybody knows what ‘Regen’ is.”. The implication was that only racing nerds know what KERS is, so ‘Regen’ went as the label on the part.

The distinction between a KERS system and vanilla regen is that normal regen just uses the motor – or on this case motors – to recharge the battery. In a KERS system, though, the drivetrain is used to either capture braking energy kinetically – usually via a high rpm flywheel – or electrically, by charging a high voltage battery or capacitor whose role is to release that energy quickly when a request for acceleration is made. If regen is ‘gas’, then KERS is ‘turbo’.

My reason for engaging Dwayne on the subject was because I was so enamored of the potential of the system – how well if functioned for the multiple roles of primary braking and for conserving the main battery by supplying extra current needed for acceleration – while simultaneously being incredibly bummed by how much of the time the system was operating suboptimally or in some kind of degraded state.

If Arcimoto’s ‘Regen’ is primary braking, one can’t really be getting ‘Regen Reduced’ or ‘Regen Unavailable’ errors on the touchscreen on a fairly regular basis. Which I was.

It took a few days of using the Arcimoto for every possible trip to notice the pattern. Every time I took the FUV out for a ride, for about the first 10 minutes or so, I’d get ‘Regen Reduced’ warnings on the touchscreen. The error would also normally appear anytime the battery state of charge was above 80% or so.  When the battery SOC fell, though, the system worked flawlessly.

I asked Dwayne about why this early production unit behaved in this way.

What Arcimoto’s Chief Product Officer described was software whose primary requirement was to always protect the underlying hardware as job one – whenever any kind of threshold was approached, the Arcimoto software would detune or reduce output to keep things like rates of charge, total current delivered to the motor controllers, or thermal levels in either batteries or motors well below the levels at which one could expect to cause electronic damage, or more accurately, wear.

The times when the Regen would be turned off by software were times when the current from the main battery pack and the KERS pack would exceed motor or controller limits that their engineers had calculated.

I appreciate the thought process that the Arcimoto’s systems need to protect themselves, and by inference, their owner’s investments, at any costs. But in every case where I could discern such a control in action, the systems were curtailing performance prematurely in ways that varied from annoying to outright hazardous.

I asked Dwayne if Arcimoto functioned as an Agile Development shop – were perceived defects addressed and moved into production continually as they were discovered?

He confirmed that the FUV project was managed in that way, and that later vehicles than the one I’d been riding had implemented less risk-averse versions of their management performance data arrays in ways that had corrected some of the odd behavior I’d noticed.

Bill Roberson, the fellow moto-writer who had connected me with the company, had told me during one conversation that electric vehicle technology was equivalent to where internal combustion technology had been at the point where Henry Ford rolled out his first Model T – that everything was brand new, yet to be discovered. In the electric vehicle game, everyone was essentially starting from a clean sheet of paper all over again.

In every way, the FUV was still in its early days.


That the FUV might have had a few rough edges sure didn’t keep everyone with a license from wanting to ride it.  In fact, the only time the FUV sat still when it was here was when it was connected to the charger.

Sweet Doris started Day 3 with a trip up to town and her favorite fabric store. A blast out on US 340 running at 65 to 70 with Pickup Nation, and a run home with a trunk full of quilting supplies.  Nothing but smiles.

If It Won’t Fit In Here, You Prolly Don’t Need It

“I could definitely do this for a daily driver. How soon could we get one?”

Finn, who is our resident electric propulsion specialist, took the hand-off when Doris came back, and made his daily run up to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Ok, we might not be from Massachusetts, but we could definitely pass in a pinch.

Like Doris, Finn came back grinning.  

The evening brought another two up ride and a stop for some take out and tiny picnic.  

Day 4 I was stuck in the office, and Finn asked if he could take the FUV for a ride. He whizzed over the hill and didn’t reappear until many hours later, when he came back with a state of charge indicator that left him at risk of having to push the trike back up the driveway.

The rides and their motor fuel may have changed, but the behavior of a young person to whom you lend your ride has not.

Like all of the FUV pilots before him, Finn found himself giving many rides.

To get back in service, many hours of L1 charging would be required.  It was at this point that something significant finally made itself known to me. As the FUV spent hours on the cord, the internal vehicle chargers stepped up their fan speeds to keep the transformers within their thermal limits.  When I say ‘stepped up their fan speeds’, what I really mean is ‘ran them up to elevens’ or ‘WFO’.  I work with a lot of Information Technology equipment in my day gig – servers, storage systems, network switchgear. Those gizmos have cooling fans – a new Dell server I put in a few days ago had twelve fans, I think. Those fans are high volume, high rpm fans, and they are loud. The Arcimoto’s fans are, staggeringly, much louder. Datacenter gear runs in what is already a very noisy environment, with thousands of other fans for company, so two or three noisy fans is kind of no big deal. But two or three shriekingly loud fans in a quiet rural neighborhood is a big deal, big enough that I was concerned about disturbing my neighbors when the FUV had to stay on the charger overnight.


One of the Arcimoto’s primary use cases is as a zero emissions, low impact commuter vehicle. Lately, I’ll admit, I haven’t done a great deal of commuting.  Conveniently, though, I’d recently inherited a project that would require an occasional visit to a company location in Ashburn, Virginia – which is a 28-mile run along mostly secondary US and Virginia highways.  As out of practice as a commuter as I was, I still packed up my laptop, the cold water growler, an insulated lunchbox and the L1 charger and headed off to Ashburn. I had more than enough room left in the FUV’s trunk for a few bags of groceries or take-out on the way home, and maybe a server or two as well.

Dressed for some FUV Commuting

US 15 running south into Loudoun County Virginia used to be a lonely rural highway, with lots of hilly twists and turns heading though a mix of farms and vineyards. US 15 isn’t lonely any more, though. Even though I’d deliberately tried to come in behind the rush hour peak, 15 still carries almost as much traffic as an Interstate route, and the posted 45 mph is rendered aspirational at most times of day.  In this congested environment, the FUV is in its element – it’s able to deal with the constant speeding up and slowing down in congested traffic with simple roll-ons and roll-offs of throttle in the single speed, direct electric driveline.  The constrained speeds have the positive effect of extending the FUV’s available range.

Upon reaching the Town of Leesburg, one takes Virginia Route 7 east.  Virginia 7 used to be a deathtrap of traffic lights, stretching 50 miles into DC, but a multiyear renovation project installed highway offramps and overpasses to nearly miraculous effect. 7 now moves like a modern road. I got the jump out of the only remaining traffic light on the east side of town and used the FUV’s electric thrust to put me out in front of the normally aggressive Northern Virginia motorists.  I only had roughly 5 miles of highway to run at speed, and I spent some time enjoying the experience of running the FUV on extended cruise. After a few miles I even came up on the batch of traffic that had left Leesburg on the previous traffic light change – it gave me a chance to pass a few, which I did, just because I could.  Twin motors and front wheel drive do provide some electric punch. 

One of Those Twin Motors

The exit for Ashburn came up far too soon, and exiting the highway into the maze of suburban streets put the FUV back in its comfort zone – moving in traffic the FUV was quicker and more agile in the traffic stream, and again, in a low-speed environment, range is simply not an issue.  Upon arrival at work, I think I had 68% state of charge after a 28-mile mixed highway and surface street run. 

The run home at the end of the day felt equally natural – I got into evening rush so the average speeds came down. The FUV was comfortable and controllable when things got slow, and was more than fast enough when that was called for. I got home laughing, relaxed, and without helmet head.


All three members of the RPP Test Team continued to keep the FUV on the roll every minute it wasn’t on the charger.  Folks that had been members of our Solar Coop – a group that had done a group discount buy on our home solar arrays – had seen social media posts about the Trike and all wanted rides, which Sweet Doris from Baltimore gladly provided – she got more opportunities to ride with flimsy justification, a mechanism with which I am far too familiar.

Some test vehicles can’t go back soon enough – this one I really hoped I’d be able to keep around. I hadn’t heard a word from Dillip so I figured I’d reach out if things stretched out into late next week.

Which is why my phone lit up at around noon on Sunday morning with a call from Dillip. Dillip, who wondered if I couldn’t find a way to return the vehicle, well, right now.

Easy come, easy go.

Given that the outdoor temperature for the day was tiptoeing up towards 100 degrees f., I asked if we couldn’t wait until later in the afternoon, till after the heat broke. The time we ended up settling upon, in retrospect, wasn’t nearly late enough to accomplish that.  

Retracing my steps back to Potomac would normally be a pleasant ride, but behind an enormous fairing, and under a tinted glass roof on a 98-degree day, it’s a little bit like riding a toaster oven set to ‘Broil’. Note to Arcimoto’s accessories department – there are old wind deflector wings designed for Gold Wings in the National Cycle catalog that could find new life and new appreciation on an FUV on days like this one.   The ability to direct some outside air into that cockpit does have some uses.

Arcimoto’s accessory department did get the memo about dailies needing a cupholder. Its an accessory this FUV didn’t have. In this kind of heat (under glass) you gotta have some water, so I figured I’d just hold my flask between my legs or something.

Ginsburg aside, first thought is not always best thought.

Coming over the mountain out of Jefferson and heading down to Maryland Route 28 wasn’t too bad, but there was no concealing the fact it was hot as hell out here. I experienced the customary ‘Reduced Regen’ errors during the first couple of miles while the main pack was topped off.  When the FUV achieved nominal operating conditions all was smooth for a while, but enlightenment was fleeting.

The first sign that something was amiss was that the Regen signed off completely – in place of the little green informational messages about ‘reduced’ I’d been getting before  were now bold red letters and a ‘Regen Inactive’ and sure as heck, pulling that little trigger did absolutely nothing.  I’d be using the footbrake exclusively from this point forward. The footbrake pedal – which is on the left floorboard – has a kind of 1909 REO Truck feel to it – it seems like one needs to be wearing some big ass boots and to lift one’s whole foot off the boards to properly apply it.  Neither the angle or the effort required by the pedal lend themselves to precision application.

Coming out of the stop sign under the rail trestle in Darnestown – its only wide enough for one car at a time – I began to notice that the FUV’s power was starting to fall off.  As we got further south – we were running flowing, wide open roads that were exposed with no shade to full sunshine – the power levels continued to fall. I’d clearly hit either a battery pack or motor thermal limit – Arcimoto software was again stepping in to protect the hardware. By the time I hit the western edge of Potomac, I was lucky to make 35 miles an hour, and getting there wasn’t swift.

I found a shady spot in the Bank of America lot, parked the FUV and powered it off. Sweet Doris parked our Flex next to it while we waited for Dillip to arrive.

A few minutes later he rolled up with his family, and we made the handoff in reverse. I shared with him some concerns I had about this machine, and how I’d really want to experience one with the many engineering fixes I knew they’d already made. Dillip was upbeat – “Any friend of Mark can pretty much get whatever they need.”

The route Dillip would have to travel back into Northern Virginia was more congested and urban than my leg of the trip, and being power-limited didn’t seem like the best way of accomplishing it.   I advised him that some cool-down time might help make that trip a little safer, and thanked him for allowing me to ride his personal machine.

Sweet Doris and I were able to score a much-appreciated ice cream, then rolled our V-6 powered, air-conditioned station wagon back up to Jefferson.

The whole FUV test experience felt interrupted, like unfinished business.


Three days later, my Google news feed served up an article from Eugene Oregon’s local newspaper.  The article related how Arcimoto had ‘reassigned’ Mark Frohnmayer from ‘Chief Executive Officer’ to ‘Chief Vision Officer’, citing a recent arrest for Driving Under the Influence as the catalyst in their decision.  Knowing what I did about the company – who had used the Silicon Valley model of an early Initial Public Stock Offering and who had been having issues getting sales and revenues to projected levels — the DUI felt like a convenient excuse, rather than the real reason.

I followed up with Arcimoto’s PR people, but I kept getting the sensation I didn’t really have their full attention – like they might have been a little distracted. To their credit, they did follow through with getting me the interview with the Chief Product Officer, Dwayne Lum, that I had pushed so hard for. A subsequent conversation I’d asked for with Arcimoto’s Engineering and Service leads did not.

My conversation with Dwayne was a good one. We talked a lot about the issues I’d had with this vehicle – which was Serial Number 84 – and how fixes had been implemented into production vehicles as they’d been developed and tested. The front suspension, for example, had been completely reworked, with the front track widened, and the suspension dampers converted from horizontal to vertical units. Thermal limits had been refined – Dwayne commented that road testing had revealed that allowing the pack to run a few degrees hotter had actually improved efficiency – which previous computational models had not predicted.

Arcimoto also has a technology called torque vectoring that was nearly ready for release. Torque vectoring – applying different levels of force from the two front wheel drive motors — has a lot of potential applications. While some descriptions focused on  the ability to serve as a kind of ‘power steering’ at low maneuvering speeds, my prior work with Bosch and their Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) had me focused on far more critical uses – like reining in the drastic torque steer and bump steer that my tester exhibited.

“Is Archimoto Torque Vectoring just power steering assist or does it have the capability to serve as traction and stability control?”

“Yes, Torque Vectoring is intended to serve as a stability control system.”

He talked about the target customer for the FUV, and how people that just needed low cost, practical, in-town transportation and who wanted to help reduce hydrocarbon emissions were finding the machine compelling. Lum said they’d sold more FUVs to schoolteachers than they’d ever thought possible. The use case, though, was what made the sale – 5-6 mile trip to work, one kid to drop off at daycare, groceries on the way home – maybe a 15-20 mile total distance driven in a day and an approximately $17K price ticked all the buttons. They’ve also seen demand from retirement communities where golfcarts have seen widespread use – the FUV worked as well as the carts within the community, but was also highway capable – meaning the FUV could replace a cart and a car as well. Arcimoto had also seen demand from tourist destinations where it was a popular rental option – the company had set up its own rental operations recently in Hawaii, for example.

These niche markets and early adopters really aren’t what Arcimoto needs, though. This bike/car hybrid that lives in the seams between a car and a motorcycle is really a new, practical transportation option that can replace a car for most people for a large majority of the driving that they do. This is precisely the kind of new packaging that electric propulsion makes possible — for folks to consider trading vehicle mass for lowered expense is going to take a large shift in mindset for most people.

The issue is that traditional motorcyclists look at the machine as something other than a motorcycle. I’ve pitched stories on the Arcimoto to multiple motorcycle publications and they all passed on it with justifications that fell into a broad ‘that thing isn’t a motorcycle’ category.        

On the flip side, car drivers look at the FUV and, with its three wheels, open cockpit and handlebars they don’t see it as a car either. What the company needs is a vehicle that has finally had the existing bugs worked out – essentially to complete the development process and get the finished product to market and where journalists can test it and normal prospects can try it.

It Is What It Is

That was the final thing I’d asked Dwayne Lum and the Arcimoto Public Relations team.

I wanted to have at least a brief test on either a current production vehicle or even a development mule that reflected the fixes to all the issues I’d seen with my very early production example. All I could see in the FUV was a vehicle with tremendous potential, but had yet to have all of the bugs worked out.   I wanted very much to be able to tell my readers that Arcimoto was making progress towards a fully realized version of their vision – one that was completely reliable and didn’t need any excuses. I’ve had vehicles that experienced failures during testing before – in the interest of basic fairness I always try to give their manufacturers a chance for a reboot so I don’t have to dwell on where their product came up short.

I pushed. I pushed hard. And then I pushed some more. Finally, Arcimoto’s PR team informed me that they might be able to meet my request sometime in 2023.

Stalls that significant are just a ‘no’ wearing a disguise.

As I was finishing up this story, Arcimoto conducted a major layoff and furloughed still more employees.

In the early years of the motorcycle industry, dozens of American manufacturers went out of business. In the electric vehicle business, at least a dozen more companies never got to market or went bankrupt.

Arcimoto’s Fun Utility Vehicle is a breakthrough concept that combines the fun of motorcycling with the low operations cost and positive environmental impact of electric power, and provides it at an affordable price point. It is a design with the potential to revolutionize how people obtain daily transportation, and to positively impact urban areas where congestion and parking are both major hassles. It’s a potential I want so much for them to realize.

Right now though, the odds against that look pretty long.

The Combines

…have been out in Jefferson.

That means we have a lot of newly mown pastureland.

I’ve come to a whole new appreciation for grass. And for standing up and (e-?) gassing it.

Amazing Suspension — Fully Adjustable Ohlins at Both Ends

Gravel Roads, Single Track, Grass, Water Crossings — the Kalk& just tracks and rails.

It’s (not) a gas.