Ralph Couey

Ralph Couey
Photo by Darryl Cannon, Powerhead Productions

About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Types of Street Motorcycles

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Scooters: Small to medium engines (80 to 650 cc), excellent mpg, comfortable to ride, step through frames, smaller wheels, some luggage space.  But, they are smaller in size, harder for other motorists to see.  The smaller scooters may not be powerful enough for the highway, particularly when carrying heavy loads.  Because of their small size and light weight, they are also prone to high crosswinds and gusts by passing semis and dump trucks.  Honda Elite, Suzuki Burgman.
Standards:  Also called “naked bikes” because they have no fairings or body panels.  Small to very large displacement (250 to 2300 cc), good to excellent mpg, mostly comfortable, no luggage space, although some may have cargo racks.  The smaller types of this class are good for all-around general duty.  They are relatively inexpensive and cheap to maintain.  The larger types are heavy, fast, and can be a real handful for the novice rider.  Honda Rebel and Nighthawk, Suzuki GS550, Ducati Monster, Suzuki SV650, Triumph Rocket III.

Motorcycles: Choosing Wisely

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

Gas prices have soared and show no signs of going down, which has driven cost of operating a car or truck for personal use high enough to be of real concern to your household budget.  In your search for ways to cut those costs, you may be considering a motorcycle or scooter.
But is it really that much cheaper?
For those of you considering two-wheel transportation, there are some things you need to seriously think about as you make this decision.
First of all, why are you buying the bike?
This may seem a bit of an asinine question, but stay with me, here.  There are nine different types, or classes of street-legal motorcycles, each designed for different purposes.  Scooters, standards, cruisers, dual sports, sport bikes, sport-tourers, tourers, trikes, and customs.  If you’re only commuting around 10 miles per day and you don’t intend to ride to Glacier National Park this summer, you don’t need a $30,000 Harley full-dresser.  You can do just as well with a large scooter, or a medium-sized standard.  Also, while you’re in learning mode, those less-expensive bikes are less expensive to repair.
How much can you spend?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hybrids and the Future of Motorcycles*

*Johnstown, PA  Tribune-Democrat
April 17, 2011
as "Raise a cheer for big electric bikes"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

The internal combustion engine is living on borrowed time.  Gas and diesel fuel are vulnerable to political and environmental pressures that make its supply and price unstable.  In response to these conditions, electric vehicles are attempting to move to the mainstream, but limited range and the fact that plug-in outlets still get electricity mostly from coal-fired power plants relegate them to novelty status.
There doesn’t seem to be a single inventor of the IC engine, but rather an extensive roster of inventors and engineers contributing to its development.  The first concept was done by a Mesopotamian named Al-Jazari in 1206.  The Chinese, Mongols, and Arabs developed a working model in the 13th century.  Da Vinci produced a design in 1509.  But even with all the improvements, it’s still the same basic principal that has been around for over 800 years.
Hybrids have been a good compromise, combining electricity and a small gas engine.  The design combines the emission-less value of electrical motors with the range of the IC engine.  This development is encouraging, although no one has yet given me a satisfactory answer to the question of what do you do with the toxic battery packs after they wear out. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Motorcycles and the Statistics of Death*

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
April 16, 2011
as "Motorcycles and statistics"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Motorcycle riding season is nearly upon us, and naturally I am eagerly awaiting the nexus of meteorological conditions conducive to safe riding.
My colleagues, out of their concern for my safety, deposited the latest edition of the Journal of Forensic Science on my desk.  You might characterize this publication as the pinup magazine for Coroners.  Three articles were bookmarked.  One was entitled, “Massive Lesions Owing to Motorcyclist Impact Against Guardrail Posts,” a study of two accident victims who, after losing control of their rides, slid across the road and slammed into the posts supporting the guardrails, cutting one of the riders literally in half.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but I have to admit the pictures were kinda cool.  Another article, called, “Traumatic Testicular Displacement in Motorcycle Drivers” went into excruciating detail (including some not-so-cool pictures) about the fate of the family jewels during the trauma of frontal collisions. 
Touched as I was over their apparent concern, I read the articles over and set them aside.
The third one was the most interesting.  “Death by Motorcycle:  Background, Behavioral, and Situational Correlates of Fatal Motorcycle Collisions.”  This was an impressive statistical study done by Dr. Samuel Nunn, Professor of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, part of the Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

"C'mon, Spring!"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
This is a tough time of year for a motorcyclist.  Winter has been long and unrelenting.  Even today, approaching mid-March, as I look outside, the hill a half-mile away has gone opaque, shrouded in yet one more snowstorm.  Below my window, the Little Conemaugh River runs deep and rapid, fed by the almost constant rainfall and melting snow.  I am anxiously, even impatiently waiting for the wintry mess to give way to clear skies and relatively warmer temperatures.  Out in the garage, my bike sits.  I sense Wyatt is also feeling frustrated.  I can almost hear him whisper an exasperated “C’mon, man!”
But these are feelings grown familiar.  They happen every year about this time, especially since I moved from Missouri to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania almost seven years ago.  In my memory, I remember March as the start of the riding season.  Temperatures were still on the cool side, but snow and ice had become a forgotten memory.  Here in the mountains, however, climate plots against me.  Every year, the last time snow fell from the sky was as late as mid-May.  The riding season is short, but tempered by the almost complete lack of uncomfortably hot days. 
Over the winter, I bought a new tire, a new crash bar, a new luggage rack, a new stator, and had my seat sent out to be re-done.  The Kawasaki VN900 is a marvelous machine.  It is a mid-size bike that comes off looking much bigger than it actually is.  Obviously, some skilled and experienced engineers were involved in its concept and design. 
I just wish they hadn’t given the seat design to the intern.