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.
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.
BACK up the hill I trotted to see her turning around up there.
Down and back up 2 more times.
No stalls, no falls.
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.
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.