Mounting a Hoffee Carbon Fiber Case for a Gibson SJ-200 on a VFR800

After a great deal of modifications, I finally have my Hoffee Carbon Fiber Gibson SJ-200  case mounted on my motorcycle! I am so proud to be sponsored by Hoffee. The case is a tank, but lightweight and built to withstand the elements.

I thought this would be easier to do using a standard GIVI PL166 and a Caribou adapter, but after testing the components the job was trickier than imagined. The Caribou adapter eliminates the top mating nub on the PL166 and replaces it with a flat steel plate with an oval-ish hole. The new mount overlaps this plate by 2 inches. The mounting tab for the GIVI was clearly in the way.

I started out by trying to flatten the original mounting point on the PL166. After bonking it down, the bent  tab still interfered  with the fake Two Brothers exhaust can on the left side. The exhaust system on the bike routes both exhaust pipes into the right muffler, so the left can is just a dummy. I got lucky because if I didn’t have this exhaust system, mounting the guitar would be much harder. The stock system also would heated up my guitar more than I would like. I next sawed off the tab and bent my own plate out of 1/8″ steel. After all this work I still ended up removing the fake muffler. No, the bike doesn’t look as cool, but I need to carry my guitar.

Once the entire set up was installed , I believe I could remount the fake muffler if I wanted to do so,  but I think I’ll leave it off and save the weight.

Once the guitar was mounted I applied a die cut decal to the case as well as a sticker from my case sponsor Hoffee.

Popp Over America is now ready to hit the road! I am shooting the pilot episode on July 8th – 12th with a full crew made possible by sponsors and Kickstarter supporters. A big thanks to all of you. Stay tuned and please subscribe to the blog on the left side of the page.


Video – Popp Over America Inaugural Show @ Shrine!

So the journey has begun. I have been working on Popp Over America since October of last year. Back then, I thought this would be a solo trip, but as life would have it, things change. I’ve realized the musical expedition is one that is better off with a bandmate.

I have been practicing with my old friend Shaugn O’Donnell on a collection of songs I have written over the years. Popp Over America is now no longer a solo endeavor, but a band. Having earned his doctorate in musical theory, Shaugn is a literal musical genius. He is often flown around the country to lecture on Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead. But Shaugn has never been tied by the bonds of the musical egghead scene. He has a working class ethic that I also share, and when we rehearse, we grind it out old school. There are no breaks. We play until we can’t play anymore.

Shaugn and I both started at City College of New York on practically the same day 13 years ago. He as a Theory Professor, and me as a tech for the Sonic Arts Center. He was reserved at first, and the joke goes that he didn’t talk to me for the first two years of our employment. But after prolonged exposure to each other, we became friends. We both shared the turmoil of divorces but more importantly, a love of live music and guitar led us to meandering multi-hour conversations. We would later form a band with renaissance man Tylor Durand on drums, Shaugn on guitar, and me playing the bass, called Plasma in the Ukraine. The life of the band would be short as I could not stomach being a bass player – the job did not match the cut of my jib.

Fast-forward two years later and we are sharing the stage again. Shaugn sticks to the guitar and leaves the vocal shenanigans and songwriting to me. We are sort of the Jay and Silent Bob or perhaps the Penn and Teller of the acoustic rock scene. Music is meant to be shared and I am lucky to get to do just that with one of the best friends of a lifetime.

Our first gig at the famous Shrine in Harlem, NYC (as seen in the video above) was a barn burner. We were well practiced and had a great crowd to cheer us on for this first outing. As you can tell, I couldn’t be happier. A big thanks to everybody that attended the show. Your presence means more than you will ever know…

So sláinte to Shaugn O’Donnell, now an irreplaceable half of the musical duo that is Popp Over America.

Pictures by: Evil Kel, Heather Laurel, and Jenny Mavronas



Blog catch up – Delaware, Cold Spring, East Hanover

Chris Hornberger’s Tech Day in Wilmington, Delaware
May 9th, 2015
Starting Mileage: 12894
Chris Hornberger from the Pace Podcast invited me down for his tech day in Delaware. I decided to take the trip because I am always looking for an excuse to ride. The 250 mile round trip would serve not only as a chance to meet Chris, but as a test for the bike.

What is a tech day? I didn’t know myself as this was the first one I ever attended. Chris is a good mechanic and a good guy. To help out his motorcyclist friends, he has them over for a barbecue and beers and works on their bikes for free! Chris changed a few rear tires and worked on a clutch when I was there. He is a big hearted guy with a great sense of humor. Everyone razzed him even though he was doing most of the work. I smiled wide as I watched him complete task after task. This guy loves bikes so much, he wants to do everything in his power to promote the joy of motorcycling. I witnessed him manufacture a tool to get off an odd nut holding on a Honda Sabre clutch basket. He is a true creative craftsman and I learned a lot at his tech day.

The VFR800 performed admirably. I caught a patch of bad weather on the way down, but only had the rain suit on for a few miles. A really nice day with a lot of really nice folks. A big thanks to Chris for his hospitality!

Trip to Cold Spring, NY
May 17, 2015
Mileage: 13142
The weather was so nice I thought I would head up to a place I have not been in a long time – Cold Spring, New York. I took my favorite path up the Palisades Parkway and over the Bear Mountain Bridge. When I approached the entrance of the bridge, the traffic was stopped dead. I looked up ahead and noticed a rescue helicopter transferring an injured person to an ambulance. I get nervous when I see accidents. I’ve had more than my fair share. I’ve been hit by a car while on a bicycle. I’ve had two head-on collisions in cars. I’ve been run over by a mail truck as a pedestrian in NYC, and I’ve had 5 motorcycle accidents of varying degrees. I am extra careful these days, but I do get a little rattled when aboard my bike and I see trouble.

I took a few deep breaths and the traffic eventually started moving. Once over the bridge, I took a left on 9D and calmed down a little. The weather was beyond perfect and my bike was running like a top.

I arrived in Cold Spring and parked the bike. I was searching for a bar named McGuire’s that I visited here on my BMW K75 a few years back. I couldn’t find it, but I ventured into the place where I thought the joint used to be. Sure enough, Doug’s Pretty Good Pub was the old McGuire’s. The inside hadn’t changed at all and neither had the clientele. The patrons are mostly bikers and working people, a relief from the rich antiquing crowd that visits here to dump their money on stuff to fill their apartments.

I ordered a beer and a Reuben and texted an old friend of mine Jay. The last time I was in this bar, I ran into him and we had lunch. Jay informed me that he had moved quite a while ago. I laughed at first, but then melancholy thinking how time slips away so fast. Friends move away and circumstances change in a flash before my eyes. Thanks to the omniscient eye of social media, I watch people who didn’t know each other meet, get married, and have a kid, and then watch those kids grow up and head off to school. Time is bendable, and as I age I can’t get used to the speed at which life moves.

I poked around the town and went to a cool barn sale, snared by the sign I read, “Pop’s Barn Sale.” There was a collection of neat old objects and a player piano. Seeing all of the stuff made me long for a proper house like the antiquers. I’d love to have a garage, a yard, and a dog, but those things don’t factor into the New York City formula. The tradeoffs of city living are many.

I left Cold Spring and headed up 202 which is an amazing road along the east side of the Hudson. I stopped at an overlook and gazed at the river with many others also captivated by it’s beauty. We evolved from the water. Babies placed in water will innately begin to swim. I wonder if this genetic code is the urge that draws people to beaches, lakes, and rivers.

I headed to CCNY where I work and mounted my new Gunfighter and Lady seat sent to me by my sponsor Corbin Seats. I sat on my bike and immediately noticed the difference in comfort. My previous seat hit me in all of the wrong places but the Corbin is perfect. It is also leather and not synthetic, so it will get even more comfortable as time goes on. I feel honored to have them as a sponsor. I would have bought the seat anyway, but the company sees that I am trying to achieve something and they are supporting me – such a gift. Installing the new seat was a beautiful finish to a perfect day.

I headed back to Ryders Alley and along 9th avenue was a street fair as far as the eye could see. After parking my bike, I watched people for a while, and then headed home. The greatest thing about having my bike is that I don’t have to decide on one lifestyle or another. If I tire of the bewildered herd of New York City, I just hop on my bike and head to parts calmer.

Trip to East Hanover, NJ
May 24, 2015
Starting Mileage: 13257
I am working like crazy on Popp Over America. I am recording an album, creating a script, and trip planning, all while working a full time job. My work load is massive, but I am trying to balance that with riding. One of my locations for the show is my old home town East Hanover, NJ where I lived from when I was born until 12-years-old. Since we are shooting here, I thought I would go back and get a lay of the land. So many memories flooded back to the front of my brain – things I have not thought of in 40 years. I don’t want to spoil the pilot episode and I won’t say too much, but I made a realization. Everything from my youth seemed so much bigger when I was a boy. The driveway I used to skateboard down is a mere speed bump. and the vast park I remember is not much more than a tiny field.

Traveling and visiting other places provides perspective. I have been lucky to travel far and wide and collect great experiences. Coming back here is a bizarre feeling as if no time has passed at all. My schools, homes, and church all stand on the same ground with only a slight patina of time polished onto their surfaces.

I am very excited to start production and this short trip has provided me with so many new ideas. I wonder if the people at my old house saw me taking pictures and wondered who the dude on the red Honda was? Too funny.



Video – Hoffee Case Sponsorship, Locations, and Concert!

Another amazing sponsorship from Hoffee Cases which are made of exotic Carbon Fiber. The best of the best! Location scouting and a gig booked with my old pal Shaugn O’Donnell.

Hoffee Cases
Caribou Cases Adapter Plate
Givi PL166 Sidecase Hardware
Libby’s Lunch
What is a Texas Weiner?
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park
Ernie Hernandez
Hinchliffe Stadium
Hell Drivers
Popp Over America at Shrine, NYC – May 28th 8PM





Corbin Seats Sponsors Popp Over America!

Asking a company for sponsorship is a difficult task at this stage of the production process. After a barrage of emails to every brand I believed I would like to represent, I was disappointed by a bag full of rejections and even worse, non-responses. I wasn’t giving up, but I thought I would wait until the pilot was completed before sending another round of inquiries.

After my ride up the Hudson on Saturday, my back ached on Sunday, and was worse by Monday. I am not sure if blame could be placed solely on the  Sargent seat currently mounted on my VFR800, but during the ride the seat forced me into the gas tank much in the way the Sargent on my Ducati 900ss did. I needed to make a change if I was going to log the long miles I have in my sights.

My last bike was a BMW K75 and I had ordered a Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle just before my 7000 mile trek across the USA . The seat was wonderful with a deep scoop that provided excellent support. I knew I had to get the same Corbin for my current bike, but my coffers are low after the bludgeoning of ever increasing production expenses.

I was ready  whip out the credit card to purchase the seat, but I thought, “What does it hurt to ask?” I sent Corbin and email asking if they were interested in sponsoring me or a least providing a discount on a seat. I was shocked to get a response a few hours later from Greg at Corbin offering to begin a sponsorship deal starting with a free seat!

Greg asked me to provide the specs for the new Gunfighter and Lady Saddle as well as a mailing address. I in turn told him I would be honored to represent Corbin and I will feature the seat prominently in the pilot. I have owned two of their saddles and I am sure the one for my VFR will be the difference in comfort I need.

Corbin Motorcycle Seats are made right here in the USA and I am proud to be sponsored by a product for which I have the highest praise. Their slogan is: “World’s finest motorcycle saddles since 1968.” I could not agree more.

The Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle
The Corbin Gunfighter and Lady Saddle
Not getting the backrest but the pillion looks comfy as well.
Not getting the backrest but the pillion looks comfy as well.

Ride Report – Head Clearing

Starting Mileage: 12618

Today was my first planned ride on my VFR800. I pulled out an old favorite route from back when I had my BMW K75. A path that never fails to clear my head no matter how much anxiety NYC has pressed into my brain.

I picked up my bike and as the first order of business I hooked up the RAM ball arms for the GPS, E-ZPass, and my GoPro HERO4 camera. I fired the bike to life and I let it warm up. The weather was a page torn from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce pamphlet, mid 60’s and not a cloud on the radar. I drove the George Washington Bridge and onto the Palisades Parkway. I was riding easy as cars whizzed pass me in the left lane. I was in no rush to get anywhere today. I was finally getting to enjoy the first real ride on my 2002 Honda VFR800 Interceptor.

I stopped at the Rockefeller Lookout, a parking area that has a magnificent view of the Hudson and the GWB. I sat for a few moments and thought about how long I have been waiting for today. I purchased the bike at the end of February, but due to weather and clutch problems, today has been the first day in the saddle. The riding season is short here in NYC but after renting bikes last year, I realize I need to own my own bike. Ownership is part of the joy – the pairing of man and machine.

I checked my GoPro Camera that I started just before the bridge. I was excited to see the footage I captured of the small section of the trip. The battery was dead and it never even started. I had spare batteries charged and ready, but left them in my bag at Ryders Alley. Will my knucklehead mistakes ever cease?

I hopped back on the bike and zipped up the Parkway. Paving has been done to the rougher patches of the road, but many bumps and holes remain. I thought about mounting my guitar. What would I do about the shocks from such hazards? Would I arrive a gig and have my faithful Gibson J-200 broken into two or more pieces? I put the cringe-worthy thought out of my mind. The shoot for the pilot is still a few months away and today I wasn’t touring as a guitarist, I was simply a man on a motorcycle.

These roads are like old friends to me. I have ridden them many times and part of the comfort of this trip was that I knew where I was going. My GPS was worthless since the sun was so bright and I had no power source other than the limited onboard battery – another device that remained off for the entire drive. I felt somewhat free with no electronics to distract from the journey. There was some force telling me to forget about these gadgets.

I made my way up to Newburgh, but I was too early for lunch. I had a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, but resisted the temptation to feast on any of their circles of sin. I have been trying to get my weight down and with Gully’s in my future for lunch, I didn’t need any more button-popping treats.

I headed over to the waterfront and much to my dismay I saw a large crane next to the restaurant/boat that is Gully’s. The gang plank that lead up to the deck was dismantled, and blue vinyl curtains covered the windows. The place was certainly not going to be open today. I walked along the waterfront for a while. I was taken aback as every person I passed made a point to say hello, most even started a conversation. I thought about New York City and how there is not enough time in the day to say hello to one person, let alone all of people that crowd her streets. Strange how a city with such a body of population can turn people into disconnected islands.

I travelled down 9W back towards home and took a small detour on 218. This gorgeous rock-lined road winds high into the cliffs along the Hudson with a canopy of trees covering much of the distance. Even with no seafood in my belly from Gully’s I was happy.

I picked up 9W again a headed over the Bear Mountain Bridge. The traffic was light and the weather was holding steady. Once over the bridge, I headed south onto the twisty 202 (also referred to as 6 or Bear Mountain Bridge Road), one of the greatest slabs in the area. I eventually picked up 9, then 9a, then the Saw Mill and back onto the Henry Hudson.

Instead of heading straight to the garage, I went by CCNY where I work and collected the panniers for the bike I have been storing there for almost 2 months. Clipping on the bags, I plotted how I was going to connect my guitar. It is a jumbo acoustic and has a very large case. I realized this is going to take some time.

I rode back down to the garage and hoped I could leave the bags on my bike in my parking spot, but my space is relatively narrow. I could only leave one on and that took some fancy parking moves to squeeze it into the spot. I will try to negotiate for more space, but for now I was content. I have my bike, I had a nice ride, and I even have some of the luggage installed.

My stomach bellowed a loud growl and needed fuel. Consulting Yelp! I found BarBacon and kicked myself for not knowing about it sooner. I had their Bacon Burger sliders and a Captain Lawrence Kolsch which really hit the spot. The bartender was a really nice guy and even though he was busy, made time to chat and see that my needs were met. I will return to this place often.

Walking to the subway I saw Delorean, a car that immediately reminds most people of the film Back to the Future. I have owned bikes on and off over the years and now understand that my life is better with a motorcycle. I thought about my brother’s first minibike that he would let me ride, my Honda Trail 70, my Honda Hawk, my Yamaha RZ350, my Ducati 900ss, my BMW K75C, and the many other bikes I’ve owned, borrowed, or rented. I have accidents on several of them, but the memories that remain are purely good ones. On this VFR800 I plan to create many more. Back to the future indeed…


New York City to Newburgh, NY - 127 Miles
New York City to Newburgh, NY – 127 Miles

The Zen of Clutch Repair and Lucky Shoes

Today I made a firm decision that I was going to get my clutch to disengage. Last night while I slept, I went through in my mind all of the tricks I was going to try . I had done a lot of reading and I was sick of my new bike being parked like a wounded albatross. No, today I was going to fix it.

A mechanic that works at Ryders Alley where I park the bike took a look at it for me earlier in the week. He said the clutch lever seemed fine, but could not get it to disengage. I didn’t leave the key in the bike and he had no way of starting it to try and jog the clutch loose. I told him I would get a key on the bike and call him when I did. But this bothered me that I had to call a mechanic to fix something that I knew I could do myself. Even if I had to take the entire clutch apart, I felt I was capable. My ego was damaged when I thought that I couldn’t get the clutch bled properly in the first place.

I made a superstitious choice today. Adidas Samba sneakers. I know this sounds ridiculous, but these broken-in foot tires always bring me good luck. I headed down to the garage armed with two more containers of Bel-Ray Super Dot 4 brake fluid and a massive 100cc syringe to “back bleed” the clutch. I read up on the technique of reverse bleeding and found a descriptive YouTube video. I packed up my laptop loaded with the video, service manuals, and PDFs of tech tips I had scoured the web to find. Today I was going to win.

I walked down to the platform of the subway to a waiting mob. An announcement said there was a police investigation at the 103rd street stop to the south of me and there were no trains in either direction. “Police Investigation” means somebody committed suicide by jumping on the tracks, an event that claims roughly 25 lives a year. Was this the start of another bad day? I remained calm and patient and a train came along in about 10 minutes. Things were looking up.

I arrived at the Alley and lowered my bike from the top floor to the workshop area on the bike elevator. I put the bike on the lift and stared at it for a few moments. I decided I was going to ride this bike today. I willed it. I needed to believe this fact in order to muster up the confidence that something I was going to do today was going to fix this motorcycle.

I pulled in on the clutch lever and it felt a little spongy especially at the beginning of its travel. I took off the master cylinder cover and sopped out the fluid with an old sock leaving the reservoir empty. I noticed some built up black gunk so I cleaned the cavity until it was shiny. One of the tips I found was to remove a small metal tab and clean out the tiny pin-hole return opening. I used a small dental tool but nothing appeared to be clogging it.

I began the reverse bleeding process. I attached a bleeder hose to the William Burroughs-sized syringe and then attached it to the bleeder valve on the slave cylinder at the motor. I carefully filled the syringe with brake fluid. I tapped on the hose the get all the air out of the line. I loosened the bleeder, put the plunger in the syringe, and began to squeeze. I was a little over zealous and needle-like stream of fluid shot straight out of reservoir like a little boy peeing into the air after his overly-tight diaper is removed. I laughed, but quickly cleaned up the brake fluid with a water soaked towel. Brake fluid eats paint and just about everything else so I was careful to get every spilled drop. I slowly pressed on the syringe again and I watch as fluid filled the reservoir. Once at the right level, I tightened the bleeder and checked the lever. It had a nice firm pull through out it’s entire travel now – definite improvement.

I rolled the bike off the lift, put the bike in gear, pulled in the clutch, and tried to roll it. Still stuck. Now I was positive it was not my bleeding technique. I pushed the bike outside and decided I was going to start it and see what happened. It has a wet clutch which means the clutch sits in oil inside the engine case. By starting the bike, I hoped some oil would circulate through the clutch plates and free it. I pushed the starter button, fired up the bike, and let it warm up in neutral. I pulled in the clutch and put the bike in gear and waited for it to stall. There was no tug of the bike lurching forward. The clutch was freed – Halle-freaking-lujah!

Not one to settle, I wanted to install a Speed Bleeder so that changing the clutch fluid next time would be an easy process. This handy valve, prevents air from backing into the system when bleeding so you do not have to continue opening and closing the bleeder. Perhaps I should have left well enough alone but I refused to be scared to work on my bike. I installed the Speed Bleeder as instructed by a YouTube video I found. I ran some fluid from the top down through the new valve to make sure it worked, and it did.

I next installed two RAM ball mounts on the clutch and brake reservoirs for mounting a camera, my phone, and a GPS. I trembled a bit and I was careful to not tip over either unit.

Thinking backwards, I realize that the whole time I was messing with the clutch that all I really needed to do was to just start the bike. Doh! Roger Mercer, an expert mechanic from rAt Cycles, put in a new clutch just a week before, and it was probably barely stuck from being so new. I don’t believe that I introduced enough air into the system when putting on the RAM ball mount originally. I thought the tipping of the clutch reservoir caused the problem, but in fact it was just the bike sitting for a week with the new part. I felt like a bonehead, but I learned a great deal along the way of getting the clutch to let go.

The weather was cloudy, but there was no rain in the forecast. I hopped the bike and drove to Cycle Therapy a motorcycle shop in East Harlem for my inspection sticker. The motorcycle ran perfectly even while snarled in stop and go traffic on 125th street. I left the bike with the shop for half an hour and went for Chinese food. I picked it up after the approved inspection and rode home down the Hudson. The clouds that lingered before had now evaporated leaving a beautiful blue sky. I smiled inside my helmet. I was riding.

The easiest solutions can elude us when we look at a problem too closely or are distracted by other circumstances. I learned volumes about my bike this week. I troubleshoot complex audio systems and computers for a living, and I realized I committed an error equivalent to the obvious “Is it plugged in?” from my technical world. The battle was a long one, but I had won, regaining a portion of my confidence.

Now onto some wiring issues…

Luggage Racks or Dude Where’s My Shim?

Now that I have the bike, the first order of business is to figure out how to carry things – a lot of things. I decided to get factory luggage and I  found a great resource for obsolete Honda parts called David Silver Spares. I bought the O.E.M panniers (or saddlebags as some say) along with the top case. The top case is a slightly different color of red (Winning Red versus Italian Red), but I can barely tell the difference and for the price, I’ll just squint a little.

I got to Ryders Alley where my bike is parked and I began the install process for the luggage racks. I had printed instructions along with PDFs stored on my iPad. I knew I was more than prepared. As it turns out, my VFR800 has a rear fender eliminator kit rendering the direction useless. I eventually got the racks for the panniers in place and secure. I used a torque wrench to be sure every bolt was tightened to factory specifications.

I slapped on my new vanity plate that reads “POPOVER.” My idea was to get a frame printed with “AMERICA” and block the “Empire State” below the letters with a license plate frame. I discovered nobody in the world sells a frame that covers this bottom section. The registration sticker also glares a big “16.” I read up on the legality of covering areas of a license plate, and realized my hiding idea would mean breaking the law. The last thing I need is another brush with Johnny Law.  So I guess I’ll settle for the plate to read “Popp Over 16 Empire State America” when I get the frame.

I moved on to the top case rack. The rack shipped with two sets of shims and the translated instructions were not very clear on which set to use. When I thought I had the puzzle solved, something wouldn’t line up. As I tested the shims, I dropped one through the rear fairing and it landed in a very tricky place. I used a small allen wrench and my prowess of Skill Crane to fish out the cursed part. I finally arrived at a solution after a lot of trial and error. Small shims all around. I seated the rack for final mounting and another shim slipped from my grasp wedging itself down next to the battery. I again masterfully extracted the annoying part.

All of the racks were in place. Now believing I’m an unstoppable mechanic, I proceeded to  install two RAM ball mounts that bolt over the clamps for the clutch and brake reservoirs. These are used to mount cameras for on-bike filming and a GPS (I can get lost going to the bathroom). The bolts were extremely tight, but I removed the two from the clutch side. The lever flopped forward and I saw the fluid window indicator go to empty. I just let a bunch of air into my clutch line! AGGGHHHH. I realized the fate of my carelessness. I tightened the reservoir clamp back up, put the bike in gear, pulled in the clutch lever, and tried to spin the rear tire. Sure enough, the clutch needed to be bled and I had nothing to complete the process. I borrowed a short length of clear hose from another Ryders Alley member. My brain flashed back to a month ago when I tried this same fix. No Luck again. I needed some DOT 4 brake fluid and there was none to be found.

The borough of Manhattan does not have any auto parts stores. I thought of the irony of the millions of cars that drive the city streets and not a single bottle of common brake fluid to be found. Wings clipped and ego deflated, I surrendered for the day. I pushed my wounded steed back into her stable. I couldn’t ride anyway as I didn’t have my helmet and it was pouring rain. The curse of the clutch follows me like an eerie ghost, but this time he will be vanquished.