One of these days, I’ll make it out to the Isle of Man to watch the most amazing motorbike race in the world. Until then, I’ll make do with videos like this.

I’m really not a racing fan, but the history and sheer awesomeness of the Isle of Man TT coupled with the beauty of the island make for a pretty compelling “Hey darlin’, we really need to make a vacation of this” story.  The Catalina Grand Prix (on again for 2012!) is another. I’m mostly interested in motorbike races on beautiful islands. ;)

I really enjoy listening to Guy Martin – he’s an interesting cat.

Written on June 30th, 2011 , Motorbikes Tags: , , , , ,

So I’m out for a walk with my special ladyfriend this evening, and as we’re heading up Vermont into Potrero Hill we come across this Honda XR650L hanging from a tree.

I have to admire this person’s resourcefulness – I don’t have a good place to work on my bike either, but I also don’t have a tree. I do have to wonder, though – what will the neighbors say!?!?

One of the most useful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from my mentors is “You rock. Don’t be so uncomfortable calling yourself an expert.” I hate talking about myself – it always feels like an exercise in self-aggrandizement, even if I’m just saying “Yeah, I guess I make a pretty good cup of coffee.” So every time I have to come up with any sort of bio, I agonize over it way more than I should, worrying that I’m not quite dialing the mixture of  my skills, knowledge and expertise with my punk/rock ‘n’ roll/DIY/gearhead roots and attitude.

Anyway, I had to write a new bio this week. Here’s my rough draft:

“Surj is a seasoned, passionate ecommerce devotee with experience in many industries. An online marketing generalist with deep experience in all forms of customer acquisition and retention, he’s most passionate about email marketing, search marketing, and affiliate programs. A die-hard gearhead, if he’s not contemplating his latest world domination perfect customer acquisition plan, Surj is most likely riding his motorbike in search of good rock ‘n’ roll or coffee.”

Aw crap, I forgot “Likes to play poker, but not very well.”

Motorbikes parked in the Financial District, San FranciscoI’m glad I wore my lightweight jacket today. It’s like summertime!

Unlike some folks, I absolutely love riding the giant, crazy supercross track of San Francisco – especially when the weather is dry and the streets aren’t treacherously slick.

All these fair-weather riders are making it a little tough to find parking. You can see my bike in there somewhere. It’s the yellow one off in the distance. ;)

Written on March 29th, 2011 , Motorbikes Tags: , , ,

I’m pretty consistently retro-grouchy about new bikes. “These new-fangled motorbikes you kids are riding look like something outta that movie about the robot cars. Whattya call those? Trans-foamers?” Believe it or not, I’m extremely conservative about how motorbikes should look. It typically takes about five to ten years for me to like “edgy” new designs. So I was hesitant to jump on the Motus bandwagon. The concepts sounded great early on – especially the engine – but the drawings were ugly.

After seeing the video of the MTS-01 on HellForLeather this morning, I’ve changed my mind. It helped that they made the bike’s styling substantially more conservative than the early drawings – less ugly to my jaded, aging eyes. And it sounds OMG AMAZING. Rumbling, roaring, BAD ASS. Check out the video below to hear it for yourself – this is what motorcycles should sound like.

Successfully launching a new motorbike company is extremely difficult. I wish Motus the best – this looks like an awesome bike. Check out the Motus YouTube channel for more awesomeness.

Honda ATC 250R

As I said last week, I’m a motorbike addict. It’s Friday afternoon – I must be lusting after motorcycles I don’t need.

Today during my afternoon browsing-for-bikes-on-Craigslist coffee break, I came up a 1986 Honda ATC 250R. ATC as in all-terrain cycle.

As a kid, I rode all kinds of motorcycles ranging from late-sixties, barely-ridable suicide machines to newer, sweeter machines. We had several three-wheelers, and the pinnacle of awesomeness was my 1983 ATC250R. It was brutally, unforgivingly fast – and therefore incredibly fun. Kids these days on their gently-tuned, softly-suspended four-stroke ATVs have no idea of the fury you unleash when you whack the throttle open on a two-stroke screamer. I remember cackling maniacally inside my helmet every time I hit the gas, front wheel pawing the sky, arms stretching as I struggled just to stay on the bike.  I was 13, and felt like I was riding a rocket ship.

This guy’s ad title sounds like me back then, breathless, all-caps screaming, “RUNS GREAT FAST!!!” He’s not joking – this is a crazy-fast machine, a “nasty little bugger” like HST wrote about in Song of the Sausage Creature. To paraphrase, “There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, warp-speed 250cc two-stroke ATC is one of them – but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one.” Rule Pismo Beach, indeed.

I always lusted after the ’86 ATC250R. It was the last – and greatest – of the three-wheeled Mohicans, due to a ban on three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles. They occasionally turn up on Craigslist, and I immediately fire up my daydream machine. “What I need is a little truck and this here ATC, and I’ll spend my weekends roosting the dunes!” Never mind the last time I rode an ATV up at Prairie City a few years ago, I ate it hard on some river rock and couldn’t walk upright for about a month.

I never really felt comfortable on four-wheeled ATVs, though. I’m pretty sure three wheels are safer, no worries.

My first street bike - 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler

Gateway Drug: '69 CL350 Scrambler

I’m a motorbike addict, a junkie too far gone to even bother with denial. My morning coffee and lunchtime routines includes a lot of “researching” of the Craigslist motorcycles section and the BARF Classifieds.

Today I came upon a 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler for sale down in Santa Cruz. This was my first street bike! No, I didn’t start riding in 1969 – I wasn’t even born then, contrary to what the gray in my beard may have you thinking. I bought my CL from a friend of my dad in 1988 for $100. That’s right, one hundred American dollars. It was clean, too – at least as clean as this one, and it ran. I tore around the backroads without a license (wasn’t old enough) or a helmet (I know, very bad!). A year or two later, I got a license, a helmet, and a 1981 Yamaha XT250.

DUDE. I want this bike. There’s no sense to it, none at all. Yeah, early Hondas CBs and CLs are cool bikes – I’ve had several, and loved them all – but there’s no real good reason to buy this bike other than nostalgia. I’d been riding on the dirt for many years, but this is the same exact bike that introduced me to the evil powers of street bikes.

It’s too small for me, and I’m too accustomed to *ahem* real horsepower, the brakes will be about as good as dragging my feet, Flintstone-style, it’ll be impossible to find parts… the list goes on. But I still want it.

So the rationalizing starts… I could get it, hang on to it, eventually restore it, ride it around the neighborhood now and then. Angelica could ride it. Ooh, there we go! And it does look reasonably unmolested, even has the original paint. Sure, the frame has been repainted, but it’s probably ok. The side covers are missing, but that’s nothing that hours upon hours of combing eBay and motorcycle wrecking yards can’t solve. I can probably talk the guy down on the price, maybe get him down to around two grand… hey, that’s only 20 times what I paid for my first one!

And it just so happens we’re going to be down in Santa Cruz this Saturday.

There are lots of reasons lane splitting is good. For me, it’s mostly that I become almost immune to traffic congestion and can slip through gridlock smoothly and quickly. Perfect for commuting. Also, it’s fun!

Safety is another really good – but often forgotten – reason motorcyclists should split lanes, as demonstrated in this video. Today in San Francisco, a fellow Barfian was hit from behind at a stop, with his GoPro helmet cam running. The cam captured the experience from his viewpoint. Amazingly, he didn’t hit the ground, even though he was thrown from his bike by the impact.

Motorists often see the bigger shape of the stopped car, and don’t realize there’s a motorbike there too. Filtering to the front in traffic prevents this common accident. Splitting lanes is safer than hanging out behind a car.

Make sure you turn on the sounds when you watch this. Be prepared to cringe. This guy is extremely lucky he wasn’t badly injured, although I’m certain he’ll be plenty sore tomorrow.

Written on February 5th, 2011 , Motorbikes Tags: , , , ,

It always bums me out when I’m talking email marketing with someone and they say something like “Why do we have to use all this text? Can’t we just put some images in there? [some huge brand] does it, and they must know what they’re doing!” I’ll usually go through the explanation of how images don’t always load, and it’s good to have your call to action and other messaging visible even when they don’t. Sometime they get it, other times they fall back on “Yeah, ok – but what about [some huge brand]? Why would that do it that way if it wasn’t the best?” Because we all know how every large brand is awesome at email marketing.

Anyway… Trolling through my emails this morning, I noticed this subject line: “We’re missing Christmas! Holiday favorites starting at $9.99.” Christmas, eh? Seems a little late for that messaging. But I was intrigued, and opened the email. Nice work, Jockey Email-Jockies!

But what did I see when I opened the email? A whole lot of nothin’!

As you can see, without images loaded there’s not a whole lot to look at. The bummer is, it’d be super easy to do something cool with this by slicing up the image a bit more creatively, and using text in the white area. In the first image below, you can see the slices the Jockey email marketers used. In the second image, I show you how I would have done it.

Instead of just slicing up a mockup and calling it a day, I’d slice the images a bit differently, put ’em in a table and leave a white cell to place the text in. My basic table structure would look like this:


<table border="1">
<tr>
<td rowspan="2">Slice 1 here.</td>
<td>Slice 2 here</td>
<td rowspan="2">Slice 3 here.</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Text here!</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td colspan="3">Slice 4 here.</td>
</tr>
</table>

Easy, right? Well, those of us who code an email now and then know it’s not that simple, but that’s the gist of it. Now, if images don’t load, the recipient doesn’t have to wonder whether it’s worth loading images to see the message – it’s there in all its textual glory! Just be sure you test your code in the usual email clients to verify the text won’t blow up your table.

Look, I get that sometimes brand guidelines require certain fonts for everything, so you have to use images with those fonts in them. I also get that sometimes things are rushed. But it often doesn’t take much extra work to make sure folks are seeing your message whether images load or not, and it’s worth it. Text rules!

I’m a total workaholic. I have trouble falling asleep many nights because even though I’ve “stopped working” my mind is still rolling through what happened today and what’s gonna happen tomorrow. I’ve long forgotten how to set up the autoresponder in my email clients because I never stop responding to email.

On one hand, this is good – I’m “driven” and “motivated.” On the other hand, it’s easy for important stuff to fall by the wayside. My own projects, working on my bike, riding my bike, this blog (almost every day I have entire posts constructed in my head that I don’t find time to actually type), happiness, life, love. So before the new year hit, I was already thinking I need to make sure I make time for real life.

I’ve noticed that one of my colleagues closes his office door in the middle of the day. What’s he doing in there? My office has a door? It does! Turns out he’s simply insulating himself so he can enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet while he eats his lunch. Genius!

I’m not much for resolutions, but I’m going to start taking a lunch. I think I’ve only taken an actual “lunch” once in the past 6 months. Once. NOT OK.

So I’m going to start setting aside 30-45 minutes a day, around lunch time, to eat lunch (wha?!), catch up on the latest tidbits at The BARF and HellForLeather, read, and work on my own projects – including this blog. Here’s where I make my grandiose prediction of about how I’ll be less-stressed, more effective, and happier. There it is.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician