It has been 10 months…

Posted: October 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Since my last blog post.
A bit has changed, jobs, companies, states of residence.
I spent a couple of months up in New England, and now am down in the Birmingham Alabama area.
The Mighty DR has become my commuter vehicle, and should remain as such thru the end of the year.
I have to say, a motorcycle for commuting is a wonderful thing.
However commuting on the interstate blows goats for quarters.
In general, I hate the interstate… no matter what I am behind the wheel/bars of.
It is great for rapidly getting you from point A to point B… unless it is “rush” hour.
Then you are sitting in a slow moving parking lot with a lot of angry and impatient people in multi ton battering rams that tend to not notice the guy on the bike.
My current assignment is in downtown Birmingham, and I finally found a route that keeps me mostly off of the superslab and allows me a peaceful ride on the 2 lane roads.
Heavenly
Using a bike as a main vehicle instead of a weekend toy is a mind shift.
My commute is between 40 minutes and an hour depending on traffic, Generally thru 35 mph zones.
No matter the posted speed limit… it is 35 on average in actual use.
I cant imagine using some high strung bike that runs 70 mph in 1st gear for this duty… I would weep for its clutch.
I keep clothes at work, commute in my riding gear… since I dont have over gear yet, the over gear is planned.
It seems that people in full gear is still a strange site to people.
Not track leathers… just standard gear, textile and mesh jacket and pants, helmet, gloves, and boots.
Most people I have seen seem to prefer shorts, sneakers, and a T shirt.
I prefer to not have skin grafts.
Being around B’Ham is great, I have been to Barber twice… YOU need to go also.
There are a lot of bikes running around, a byproduct of being in the south.
It is October 22, and overall still too warm for my Transition 3 jacket.
I am not complaining.
With any luck I will be able to spend more time in this area… especially since I moved the RV down here with my family.
A household which is gaining an additional member when my son arrives in 2 days.
Nic, who is 18, has an interest in 2 wheeling it… with any luck I will be able to get him trained up and commuting as it should be done.
He has the ability, I just need to get him settled down a touch… he has already drug the sidestand of the DR cornering in a parking lot.
I am still cringing.

Life is good and only getting better… expect more timely updates.

Keep the greasy side down.

Jim

Where is the fun?

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

I remember being on 2 wheels as a kid, and what I remember is having fun.

Bicycles or motor bikes… I went out with no other purpose than to build the biggest grin that I could.

As I aged, bikes became as much of a tool as it was entertainment… then it became mostly transportation.

I lost the Fun.

It is almost understandable. What bikes today are sold as “Fun Bikes”?

We have racy sport bikes, “look at me” cruisers, touring bikes, learner bikes…

Where are the bikes made just to be fun?

When I first saw pictures and snippets about the Honda Grom a few months ago, my first reaction was “WTF is this… a glorified scooter?!”

But after letting it soak in, I get it.

It is a bike that is made to be… Fun.

Low powered, light weight, unassuming, unintimidating…

It isn’t made to take on a race track or twisting canyon road, load up and ride from coast to coast, park amid the chrome and loud exhaust at the local pub.

Its small and low powered, but it isn’t a scooter… hell, some scooters are 500-650cc now.

This bike was made just to be a Grin Factory.

Honda used to make bikes like this in the past, they know the blueprint for it… and have updated it for todays buyer.

trail70

grom

Even if that person doesn’t know that they are a buyer yet.

This is the kind of bike that can lure people into the showroom and start them down the road of a 2 wheeled lifestyle.

Especially people who live in urban areas.

You live in town, work 5 miles or so away… and your commute is mostly on surface streets.

Maybe you take a cab, a bus, or the subway to work daily.

By bus or subway… you are spending what… $100+ monthly?

I could fill the fuel tank on that little bike for about $4.25, and from looking at the mileage reports on http://www.fuelly.com/motorcycle/honda/grom you could run at LEAST 120 miles.

Many places have free bike parking, others have reduced rates.

You may be able to park it in your living room nightly… as art.

Now, this little thing is not for everybody… it isn’t even for me.

However, for a few people out there… this little thing could be just the thing.

The Grom is not a small bike pretending to be a full sized bike.

It still has small bike dimensions, but for a small bike… it is roomy.

I am 6’4” 250ish lbs… and while it was cozy, it wasn’t cramped.

I could spend more time in the saddle of it than many full sized bikes.

I am not a Honda fan, or a small bike fan… but how could I not be a fan of a Grin Machine?

Jim

An excerpt…

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

Zeke sat there, staring at the TV and rubbing his chin… thinking to himself.

I know some of this is real, but I really wonder just how far down the rabbit hole this all really goes.

Spectacular Tales, the show about people who say they can do some really cool and neat stuff, was just going off,

Zeke had seen and heard things in his 45 years on this planet, that he figured most others hadnt.

The cold spots, the voices, the things that moved with nobody else around.

And his heat and helping.

Daddy told him it was old magic, white magic, country magic.

Cuts healed quicker, as did broken broken bones.

This was a reason he joined the Navy and became a corpsman, nobody questioned when he did a good job on the wounded.

It was hot over there, people didnt realize the boost in his body temp while healing… even tho it made him glow in that scope.

Rubbing his side, he pushed that memory out of his mind.

If folks like him and Daddy existed, what else out there was real?

Ghosts? Yea… he had experienced enough to know that they were out there.

Witches? Yep, there were a few of them out there… and a lot more that fancied themselves as such, but had no clue as to what a real witch was.

But what about the big bad beasties?
Were there really vampires, werecreatures, and all of the assorted things you find in a horror movie?

Beau, the grey muzzled old shepherd, snuggled down beside him.
Nobody would ever get the old pups real age, if his memory was correct Beau would be 31 this fall.

Zeke rested his hand on Beau’s head and closed his eyes.
The warmth flowed between them, healing and love.
And with that warmth running, they fell asleep together.

It was a sharp and blasting bark that jolted him awake.
Beau was crouched down with his tug rope, front legs stretched out on the floor in front of him, hind end up in the air… tail just a going.

Zeke scooped up the rope and chucked it down the hallway, the pup was after it in a flash… nails skittering on the hardwood floor.

Even tho he had just woke up, Zeke was exhausted.
He always was after “one of those” naps with his best friend.

Chocolate.
It always seemed to help, he thought as he unwrapped a bar of it.
This one was a bitter dark with some chili pepper in it.
A little strange, but rather tasty.

The big shepherd came blasting back into the room, trying desperately to stop in time.
But, to no avail… he crashed into the couch next to the man that he loved like no other.
He would have to get used to the speed and strength of youth yet again.
Not that he mined, he felt that the occasional rebirth did him good.

Hopping back up and stretching his legs, the old aches and pains were gone… and he couldnt help himself, as he blasted thru the old house and out the back door.

He was a grown pup again, and Zeke didnt know what in life gave him more joy than that.

 

 

Jim

Simplicity

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

Yes, another post triggered by the new motorcycle.

While the DR650 is down on power compared to the bikes I have owned since my teens, like I mentioned before… I am not missing it.

Something I am really liking is the simplicity.

1 carb, 1 cam, 4 valves… if needed, easy engine rebuild in the chassis.
Hell, if you want, you can punch a ’96 or newer DR650 out to almost 800ccs.

The kickstart is something I am really warming up to.

No, it is not as easy as flipping the choke, punching a button, and letting it warm up then riding away.

It makes me feel more connected to it.
Joe Blow is not going to walk up to this bike, start it… and ride it off.
It makes this bike MINE.
I go out and fire it up sometimes just to do it.

There will be some upgrades to it in the future.

Forks, shock, carb…

This thing is fun… F U N
I wouldnt mind another one or two of them.

The fact that I can do a major service to it and it takes an hour or so blows my mind.
No measuring shims and swapping them out, no synching a bank of carbs.

I can grow to appreciate the simpler things…

 

 

Jim

Rediscovery

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Mighty ZX11 has left for a new home and greener pastures.

This was not a spur of the moment choice, I had been pondering it for some time.

My wonderful wife Caryn has been watching me ride out on it and seeing me come back refreshed, and she has been starting to feel the slightest tingle of “The Itch”.

So… I took her to the high school parking lot with the Z, and let her idle it around.

Yes, just idle. 550+lbs and 140+ hp are not the suggested ingredients for a newbie to have a good time.

But, it showed her that she could pad around on 2 wheels and didnt have to drop it.

This boosted her confidence, and got The Itch going like mad.

I had some pondering to do now.

At this moment I cant afford to buy another motorcycle… and she is not going to be learning on the Kawasaki.

This provoked a nice bout of bike shop surfing.
We have hit up shops before, but she has never really looked in earnest.

This time, she knew it would be for her as much as me… and not just as a passenger.

I am a huge proponent of dirt bikes for beginners, newbies drop bikes… and these bikes are made to take a drop.

Now, I also need a bike to use on the street… run to the store, go to work, take a trip.

This puts us in the dual sport category.

As a 6’4″ 240lb guy… the big DS category.

In the affordable range we have a Honda XR650L, Kawasaki KLR650, and Suzuki DR650.
New, these are in the $6-7K range.
Also out of my price range.

SO… I put my ZX11 up for trade for a 650cc+ dual sport.
It took a couple of weeks and weeding thru emails, but it finally happened.

My 36,000 mile ZX11 was traded for a 17,000 mile DR650.

TADA!!!
Image

Now, we had the bike for her to learn on.

Compared to the ZX, the DR650 is a much more suitable learning tool.
150ish lbs lighter, 100ish less hp.
But, the seat is a bit taller.

Compared to a dirt bike, it is a heavy pig.

With the ZX, you can ease out on the clutch and take off at idle… on the DR, you have to gas it and slip the clutch.
In that respect, take offs on the ZX are easier.

But, that is about all that is easier on it.

Today we took it to a parking lot, time to get some feet wet.

We started off with some easy drills, first up… coasting across the parking lot.
This showed her how it balanced and the sensitivity of the brakes.

Where we were had upper and lower parking lots, connected by a nice downhill run.

Next up, was coasting down from the upper parking lot to the lower one.
More speed, more braking, and now some turning added in.

3 trips down the hill and we decided that she was ready to try it for real.
First things first… she had to start the bike.
Yes, I bought a kick start only bike. :D

If I remember right, she started it on about the 4th or so kick.
Trust me, these are not easy bikes to kick start… there are tutorials on YouTube explaining how it is done.
And now that these things are 20 years old and no where near factory fresh… they all seem to have their own quirks about starting.

With the bike running, she headed off down the hill.
Clutch out at 10mph, the bikes idle speed, and down into the parking lot.

I was excited!
So excited that I charged down the hill to congratulate her.
Imagine my surprise as she rode around the lot and right back up the hill.

Image

BACK up the hill I trotted to see her turning around up there.

Down and back up 2 more times.
No stalls, no falls.

Image

We called this a success story for today.

Tomorrow, we shall try flatland starts and stops.

 

Now, to the “Rediscovery” part of this entry.

The last low powered bike I owned was a 1978 Honda CB400T Hawk.
Not this one, but a twin to it.

Image

 

 Similar weight to the DR, but with a 400cc twin but with about 20 hp less.

I last saw that bike back in 1987.

Since 1994, I have only owned 1100s… the lowest powered one had the engine out of a 1127cc GSXR.

There was a part of me that truly expected to be seriously disappointed while riding the DR, 400ish lbs with around 45 hp.
But something happened on the express train to Dullsville, this Bush Pig was putting a grin on my face that I have not experienced in decades.

I was rolling thru corners at least as fast as on the ZX.
Gearing down before the corner, pinning the throttle on the way out, and banging shifts at the top of each gear.
All the time not getting much over 70mph.

Treat the ZX like that and you are either going ass first thru the trees when the rear tire brakes loose or nose first thru them when you cant slow down for that next upcoming curve.

I was beating on it, whipping its ass from turn to turn… and having more fun than is legal.

I rediscovered something that I lost when I got into monster liter bikes.

Riding purely for the fun of riding.
No fear that I was going to have a slight lapse in attention or talent and The Beast was going to rip my head off.
No fear that if I actually “used” the bike a nice officer was going to shred my license and stuff me under the jail.

No Fear, Only Fun.

The roads around here are ill suited for actually using a Road Eater like the ZX.

As great a bike as it is, it was a bike for me as a youth.
I am no longer that person.

I can be happy and satisfied knowing that my bike isnt the fastest thing out there, I no longer have something to prove… to myself or anyone else.

Now, the only thing I have to prove is that I can have a great time.

Honestly, this is the most fun I have had on 2 wheels since I was a teen.

And guys, Fun is one of the keys to staying young.

 

 

Jim

It clears your mind

Posted: November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I went out for a ride.

It was just under 60 degrees and raining.

I put a little over 200 miles on the bike, most of it in the wet.

A lot of riders that I know hate riding in the rain, hate it with a passion.

Me, I dont really mind it.

With some decent gear and on the right bike, i barely mind it at all.

One of the entertaining parts of wet weather riding is the looks you get from people in enclosed vehicles and from clerks at stores.

Most people in cars are upset and inconvenienced that they have to go from a building to their car and may get wet… you are out there riding in it, YOU must have some sort of mental defect.

That is possible, but nothing showed up in the testing.

You have to pay attention, which you should be doing anyway, but wet rides bring me personal entertainment.

I may be slightly simple, but I like to watch the reaction to the rain on my shield as I move my head in the windstream.

Low Buck wind tunnel!!!

The wind, rain, exhaust… it is a blend of sounds that make my troubles seem to go away.

I was irritated yesterday, when I got back I was all smiles… a little damp, but smiling anyway.

At one point, as a novice rider, I honestly feared the rain.

That changed when my father and I got caught riding from Ga to Mo by Hurricane Andrew.

Deep standing water on the roads, high winds.

Stupid to ride in? YEP.

However it is still one of the fondest memories I hold of my dad and me.

It also broke me of having issues about riding in the wet.

Tires… I will never buy tires for a road bike that are not good rain tires.

You can ride wet weather tires in the dry, but I dont advise dedicated “good weather” tires in the wet… just dont do it.

A fairing of some kind is nice, but you dont have to have one… eventually you will slow and stop, and you will get wet anyway.

I may have to plan a trip during the rainy season and record it.

Me yammering away and singing in my helmet as Noah leads the animals into his Ark.

There may be 4-5 people out there that would watch that.

 

 

Jim

I need a “Touring” bike.

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the 2 wheeled world.

To travel you need a motorhome on 2 wheels… No… no you dont.

“Back in the day” people toured on whatever bike they had.

You had a Honda 360? Well, you strapped your gear on and hit the road.

Now… well, you need at LEAST a sport tourer, but a REAL touring bike is the choice if you plan on humming down the super slab all day.

I call Bull Shit on this.

You know what 2 of my most memorable and enjoyable trips were on?

A 750 ’89 Katana with an 1100 motor swap and a 91 ZX11.

At the time they were considered sport bikes, not hard edge sport bikes… but still sport bikes.

The ZX11 was the fastest bike sold at the time.
I happen to have the ’93 version of it sitting right outside at this very moment.

You know what else?
I would have no trouble strapping on a couple of soft bags, a tank bag and a roll bag on the back seat and heading out for parts unknown.

No, for 2 person touring it is not comfy like a Hondabago.
However, I see most of those with a single rider on them.

Now, if you MUST have your cruise control, CB, stereo, cup holder, 3 places to put your feet, and dont want to be bothered by the wing you are cutting thru… then by ALL means take off with your Honda.
I would suggest an Accord.

Because, to ME, this is not motorcycling.

You ride a bike to be a part of your environment… not to be insulated from it.

Before the Japanese 4 cylinders hit the states, you would cross country tour on a 650cc 2 cyl Triumph or BSA, they were Big Bikes with 45 or so horsepower.

Then the CB750 landed… and it didnt shake like the twins, yes it buzzed, and IT was the new cross country mount.

A few years later you could buy a Suzuki GS1100, it was a backroad scratcher, a drag racer, a touring machine.

Personally, I think motorcycles are too specialized now.
You have sport bikes, town bikes, sport touring bikes, touring bikes… and every now and then… someone releases a do anything “Standard” or Naked bike.

And… since the population is now used to the specialized bikes, these do anything bikes dont sell.

And we, the motorcycle lovers, are diminished by this.

The ZRX1200R, KTM 990SM-T… these are amazing bikes that can fill many roles and take up spots in the garage that would otherwise be filled by different specialized bikes.

People need to step back and evaluate their purchases.

Lets take the 990SMT as an example.
It can follow on the heels of a sportbike on public roads, and actually show many of them the way.
You can commute on it to work and back… to the store to pick up supper.
Toss some clothes in the bags and head out for the weekend.

A true multi purpose do it all bike.

Riders need to buy more of these… so we get more options in this category.

 

 

Jim