Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Manifesto vs Dawn of the Machines

I usually have too much to say. Most times writing this Free Wheelin’ column comes easy, quick and without much effort, unlike my partner who has tons of ideas that fly away once she sits in front of her iMac.

But for the last few days the normal fertile ground of ideas has gone fallow. Perhaps it was the fact that we had a few good days in April that were quickly dashed by yet another cold front and rain from Canada and parts west. I’d sit down at the screen and…. crickets.

Talking about this with a friend the thought came that I needed an app that would have all my parameters for an acceptable Free Wheelin’ and then – like the Bat Computer – spit out 750 words and a slick accompanying image to go with it.

This morning, while mulling over my plummeting batting average, I made coffee and began to go through that morning’s inbox. There were two emails that grabbed my attention.

At first glance they seemed unrelated but, by the second cup, I began to find common ground between the two. It hit me that the rise of the machines is steadily springing up around our world like unwanted weeds come June.

The first email was yet another navigation app that promised to be the next “must have” thing for today’s motorcyclist. Like many before, it would take in what you like and dislike and then create a route just for you… that you can then share with your tribe, team or whatever millennials say these days when they mean to speak of friends.

Why do I see a few thousand riders under 40 years of age now texting their posse to pass on this article –“TL; DR”?

I am certainly not against much of this new technology – and there have been a few times when I have asked a GPS to get me somewhere (usually out of a crowded urbanized area) but this new app – which hails from Europe – wants a fee (don’t they all) of $75 US and is really all about smart phone technology on only smart phones.

What gets me is the heavy trend with all these navigation apps to take control of, and the fun out of, your ride. THEY choose the roads you will ride - supposedly using your input.

Me, I still prefer maps – traditional paper or digital. It doesn’t matter to me, as a map is a map is a map.

I have said it before, but feel free to use this – MAPS: Manually Acquired Positioning Systems.

Let’s look at Garmin’s BaseCamp, which some hate, but I prefer and am very comfortable with. Yes, it will plot a route for you, which is great if you are simply looking to get from Point A to Point B. But, what about Points C through Z? They could be fun too.

So with BaseCamp, and programs like MapSource, you can be in control. You are looking at a detailed map and, while doing so, will most likely come across some squiggly little line that cuts up and over a mountain, or down through some hidden valley that you did not even know was there. You choose the roads, you choose the turns, you choose the ride.

I am pretty sure that if you relied on your smart phone app du jour it would zip right passed these – as would BaseCamp itself – unless you actually created the route.

In a society that is letting machines do more and more of the choosing for us, I choose not to let them take away one of the last things I still can have control over; what pieces of road I really want to ride on my bike!

That brings me to the second email that grabbed my attention this day - The Self-Repair Manifesto (

Created by, their thought is to get their manifesto posted in every workshop, hacker space, and garage in the world.

So many manufacturers are telling us that you void the warranty if you attempt to fix or repair something and iFixit feels it’s time to take back our right to repair!

They are pushing for the Right to Repair Act which would require manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with fair access to service information and affordable replacement parts. So you can fix the stuff you own quickly and get back on with your life.

That sounds great! Who would be against that?

Well, manufacturers like John Deere and Apple don’t like the idea. When your tractor breaks or your cell phone stops working, they want to be the only people who can fix it. And, they get to set whatever prices they want for parts and service.

It really comes down to having control and choice in your life.

I will always choose to make my own ride but, most likely, will let, and pay, for a professional to repair my Tokina lens.

Choice is a good thing… Bible.