Next week, a movie called Wild Hogs is coming out. This, I think, will be akin to the time that Malcom Forbes started riding Harleys, in terms of what it will do to the motorcycle industry. Already bursting at the seams with beneficial factors such as high gas prices (and motorcycles' obvious fuel economy), this movie is bound to continue a long time trend of increasing popularity for motorcycles, and especially Harleys among Americans. I think it will replace Poker as the next big thing. In any event, us long-time riders are well into this sport, and we who ride to work every day have noticed that it is the little things, like retaining all your limbs, fingers, hearing, eyes, and so on that really matter to a rider. To tie this back to cell phones, which I have been talking about a lot lately, I want to point out just how great the Sony Ericsson walkman phones are for a motorcycle rider like me. I was just out riding today enjoying the luxury of a radio on two wheels, usually only avaiable to those with high-end fairings on high-end bikes. Oh, and before I start, I want to bring you full disclosure: I am not afilliated with SE in any way, and I'm not paid to talk about these phones; this is just a hobby of mine for now. If they want to send me a w810i or something to review, though, I won't complain.
If you drive a car every day, you may take something like radio for granted. You get to listen to the radio pretty much any time you want, and you can actually hear it most of the time. On a bike, things aren't quite so simple. If you do go the fairing route, you have a couple of speakers built into your fairing, and usually some controls on the handlebars to adjust volume and whatnot. To be able to hear those speakers over the substantial wind noise, it is important to crank them up far beyond what you would ever do in a car. This means a lot of wattage output, and it just adds to the ongoing hearing damage I spoke about earlier, not to mention creating a kind of noise pollution beyond just the loud pipes on most Harleys. Other than that, they're ok. Oh, and they cost about a hundred bucks.
I also have an iPod mini (since supplanted by the iPod nano) which I love, because it holds 6 gigs of songs, rather than the measley 1 gig of a Sony memory stick micro (m2) on the Sony Ericsson phones. If they just went with SD memory or something, we could get a lot more on it. On the other hand, having only 1 gig of space made me choose the songs I liked more carefully, instead of having my entire collection on the phone. If iTunes would selelct the songs instead, my problems would be over. Just yesterday, I found this tool to let you use iTunes to do just that, with your Walkman phone, or several other types of portable devices, including the Playstation Portable.
In any event, I tried the iPod on my motorcycle, and apart from having to listen to the same 1000 songs over and over, rather than fresh radio content, the default iPod earphones are not nearly as good as the ones that come with the Walkman phones, especially when it comes to external noise. For one thing, the iPod earbuds are much larger and more rigid than the Walkman earbuds, so I can't even wear them inside my full face helmet. Being a big-brained geek, I have to wear an XXL helmet, and even then my face is squished inside the thing like a chipmunk. There's just no extra room, even for little things like iPod earbuds. The Walkman earbuds fit almost completely inside the ear, and the rigid part of them is so tiny as to be unnoticeable. Further, the loose rubber parabolic lining around the earbud forms a seal with the inside of your ear to block out a huge amount of external noise. This means you don't have to turn up the volume so much on your phone, and you also don't hear the wind and motor noise as much. Even if you turn the phone off completely, these earbuds are the best earplugs I've ever used on a bike. Don't accept any imitation knockoffs, get the real thing from Sony Ericsson when you buy your Walkman phone.
Oh, and as an added bonus, if you're using the earbuds as earplugs or to listen to prerecorded music or the radio (all of which these phones support), you just have to push a button to answer the phone when someone calls you. Again, car drivers will not appreciate this at all. It is beyond inconvenient to try to reach into your pocket and open a phone while you are riding a motorcycle. It is simply impossible. You have to keep your right hand on the gas or brake, and your left is generally used to clutch in, so your hands are full when you ride. Alternately, you could use bluetooth handsfree headsets with this phone, but I don't recommend it for bikers, because of the noise factor. Finally, one more feature that is supported is voice dialing, which lets you call hands-free with a magic word. Making phone calls might still be a little dubious when you're going down the highway at 100mph with no windshield, but for around town, it's not bad.
So, if all this (and the movie) makes you want to join us on the road, have fun, be safe, and if Harley wants to send me a Road King to review, I'll be happy to do it.
Saturday, February 24, 2007