Monday, March 21, 2016

Lightly Modified

This past week I ordered up an Ohlins rear shock absorber for The Sewing Machine.

The suspension on TSM is entry level. The bike, though very capable under the guidance of an experienced rider, was designed for entry level riders; while the suspension is quite adequate for that market, it is easily overwhelmed when pushed.

Some time ago I had upgraded the front suspension (which truly was awful for anything over very mild riding) with a RaceTech kit comprised of new springs and some different valving. The difference was not just noticeable, but a night and day difference providing much better compliance and feedback than the original set up.
The Sewing Machine, bone stock

It also helped highlight the inadequacy of the rear suspension, which is not as bad as the front end, but definitely doesn’t control things as well as it could, or should.

The motorcycle industry is unique, I think, in that for a basically discretionary consumer product the manufacturers’ competitiveness leads to constant, incremental improvements, and then every 7 to 10 years there is a complete model redesign or introduction of something new. The pace of change keeps enthusiasts always hungry for the latest and greatest.

I almost succumbed to this mentality a couple of weeks ago and actually thought about selling TSM in place for a barely used Ducati Monster 796. It only had 620 miles on it and the seller was nearly giving it away because he had “lost interest in riding.”

To me, of course, that’s sacrilegious. Motorcycle riders don’t lose interest in riding. Sometimes they take vacations from two wheels, but the interest is always there, a magazine away, a website post, a video…

Losing interest in riding tells me that person wasn’t really a motorcycle enthusiast.

Regardless, I didn’t buy that Ducati and kept TSM because my current ride is fun, cheap, and with just a few minor changes, gives me what I want: corner-like-a-cue-ball thrills. I realized I don’t need the latest and greatest, I don’t really need more than TSM’s 24 horsepower for what I do, I don’t need a wholesale replacement of my ride; I make do with what I have by treating it properly, by using it as intended, and getting the most out of its substantial capabilities. Its basic design is quite good, I just need to make it my own and with the Ohlins shock, it’s pretty much all done (well, a Power Commander fuel control unit is the last on my to do list…).

Not only is TSM sufficient for my entertainment needs, but it provides sufficient performance that it can embarrass many other much more potent, bigger, powerful bikes and riders in many situations. It’s a very good machine that doesn’t cost a lot of money and performs exceptionally well with just a few customizations to match my body and skills. That little bike under my 46 years of riding experience is much more capable than a modern Ducati at the hands of a relative neophyte.

Of course this brings me to workers’ compensation.

I’ve said often enough that work comp can function quite well as intended, but not necessarily as designed.

There’s the basic package: employer pays into the system, some of that money is diverted to pay for administration, some of it to invest for the long term, some of it for profit to entice businesses to invest in the system, and presumably the majority balance goes to the beneficiaries, i.e. injured workers, in the form of medical care and wage loss coverage.

The basic package gets modified along the way depending on who is owning the ride, whether it’s high deductible limits, a robust return to work policy, prompt worker engagement, etc. Those modifications help each employer make it their own program if they're interested enough to go for a ride.

Sometimes we’re tempted to buy a new deal. Those deals entice us with promises of more horsepower, better handling, and greater efficiency.

But when we stand back and take a sober look at the promises, we realize that all of these “improvements” from the old ride don’t really add anything to why we have workers’ compensation in the first place; the basic package.

There are times (or cases for that matter) when we question the performance. For instance, an injured worker in New York has been able to deflect an independent medical exam for FIVE YEARS until the workers’ compensation judge ordered it be conducted at her house - and she still resisted with an appeal (and lost).

But those are anomalies. Even in the most litigious state, California, over 80% of all claims are resolved without attorney involvement, without much dispute, and with expediency and efficiency.

Yep, there are plenty of times when things don’t go as designed, when it’s time to change the fork oil or tweak the suspension. More often though, the performance we seek is at our own hands, our own skills, our own performance.

We all have the ability and resources to make workers' compensation operate as intended regardless of the design.

There are some fancy names being bandied about, synonyms for doing the right thing. But, it really is all very simple. The performance we seek in workers’ compensation is more about what we do with it rather than how it’s modified.

We don’t really need a lot of horsepower or fancy titanium, computer controlled, fast stuff.

What we really need is to keep our skills sharp and ensure the basics are in good operating order, then execute efficiently.

So yesterday, I took TSM out of the garage, checked the tire pressure, wiped off the windscreen, put on my leathers, and embarrassed some much larger displacement sport bikes up and down Yerba Buena and Latigo Canyon roads in Malibu.

I rode TSM as intended, and with my inexpensive modifications it provided good, efficient performance.

Damn, that was fun…

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