400sm logo

Today my local Suzuki dealer had the demo truck show up.

I overslept… then piddled around… then took the wife to lunch.

SO… I got in on the last ride of the day.

But that’s OK… I was mainly wanting to toss a leg over Suzuki’s Super Moto, the DRZ400 SM.

Caryn is almost ready to go shopping for her next bike… a street legal one.

The DRZ400, in some form… SM or DS… is in the running.
She goes for her license next week, so she wasn’t able to take one out… to I took one for the team.

Now… the DRZ has been around for a few years, about 12 if I remember right, with very few changes.
For change… you have to get the SM which gives you an inverted fork, big brakes, 17″ rims, and street tires.

Pretty much any Dual Sport is a fun bike, slim, light, and able to take some abuse… kind of like the cheap hooker at the dive bar last weekend.

The SM takes the DS, and puts sticky street rubber, brakes, and faster handling rims into the equation.
The one I took on this ride stayed stuck up a Hayabusa’s ass on the twisty sections… mainly because we were instructed not to pass each other.

Guys who ride small sportbikes know one of the important truths in life… It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than it is to ride a fast bike slow.

The Hayabusa and DRZ400 probably have the same top speed… as long as the ‘Busa never gets out of second, and it will more than likely still pull away from the little 400.

BUT… yes… BUT, in the real world this doesnt matter much.

For all of its power, the 1300 is a porky beast… around 550 lbs.
The DRZ, about 320ish… and it isnt LIGHT for a dual sport.

Light, narrow, wide bars for good leverage… on a tight road that supersport will be running scared.

However, this isn’t about road racing… this is about an entry level street bike for a new rider.

Looking at it as such, the DRZ has much to offer.

It’s biggest con is seat height in the dual sport version, those with a shorter inseam may find themselves on their toes.

The SM is lower and negated this problem for most.

400sm right1

Now that this complaint is out of the way… on to the pluses!

Like I said before… weight.

Bikes that are looked at as beginner bikes, 300 Ninja, CBR 300, etc… are heavier.

They also put you into more of a tuck… and have narrower bars.

This gives the new rider less of a feeling of control.

New riders have a tendency to drop motorcycles at low speeds, no bodywork to cry over on the DRZ.

Good low to midrange power, less clutch slipping and need to be in the correct gear… the 400cc piston just chugs along.

Also, it is less likely to be stolen than a sport bike.

Now, my impressions of it on this ride.

It fired right up with a poke of the start button and settled into to the familiar thumper idle.

As it is a single it does not idle sewing machine smooth, there is only 1 piston and it makes itself known.

I ride a DR 650 normally, and the DRZ was less of a paint mixer than my bike.

Throttle response was good, as was take up on the clutch… very easy to get moving off the line.

The upright seating position combined with the wide bars made for easy low speed maneuvering.
Easy maneuvering, good off idle torque, and a smooth clutch makes it very nonthreatening.

Pulling out onto the road the thumping of the engine quickly turned into a nice surge of power, kept right up with the much larger bikes I was riding with.

On the backroads around Birmingham I never felt that it was underpowered.

The brakes are good, much better than my 22 year old DR.

The seat however… I would have to change that, hard and narrow.
It never got uncomfortable on this short ride, but I wouldnt want to stay on it all day.

The shifter snicked right thru the gears… all 5 of them.
This is a bike that would benefit from a 6th gear.

I had it up to 86, and never felt like I was abusing it… but another cog would make interstate running more relaxing.

Off the normal surface streets and onto a curvy backroad and the bike was in its element.

Snapping side to side, over rises, down hills… the seat and missing gear didnt matter.

It transformed from a friendly beginner bike, to a bike that a guy with 35 years of experience ended up giggling inside of his helmet on.

Grip, lean angle, a willing torque biased engine, and a natural seating position makes this a must ride.

I was saddened at how short the ride was, I could have spent all day on the country roads around here.

So… would I suggest this to a beginner?

I certainly would.

Its friendly and easy to ride manner is perfect for the novice rider… as is its crashworthyness.

As they gain experience and confidence, they can explore its handling and backroad manners.

This is a beginner bike that you dont outgrow.

Hell, grab some regular DRZ400 wheels and tires… and you have your dual sport dirt bike.

I would love to see one of these in my driveway, look in my mirrors and see it chasing me down a 2 lane country road, and kick back at a camp fire and see the shadows from the flames dancing on the paint.

Should YOU look at one?

Only if you ride to have fun.

400sm on

Keep the greasy side down.


3 month update?

Posted: February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

In the past 3 months we have had some changes.

My son Nic has moved in,

Caryn has her own bike… an 86 Suzuki DR200.

Nic decided to get HIS own project bike… a 92 DR650.

AND we picked up a little beater gas mileage car… a 99 Escort ZX2.

I have went from being a contractor to a full time employee for the company I was working for.

And… the long term job I was working on in Birmingham has come to an end.

So, I am back out on the road, this is being typed up in Lake Placid Fl.

Nic decided he wanted a little world experience, packed up his car and drove to Alabama from NC.

The guy even had a job lined up before he left.

Caryns little DR is an Enduro, not road legal.

However it is giving her experience, both on and off the road.

Nic ran across a good deal on a DR like mine.

It is a project bike, but like Caryn’s bike… it is experience.

The ZX2, it gets about 3 times the fuel economy of our F250.

It is also a 5 speed, which can make almost any car fun.

We have been missing a manual transmission.

Once again, I am a company man.

Truck, tools, uniforms… it feels good.

The one thing I will miss is being home with my family… but the steady work is welcomed.

Life is good.


A continuation of last months post…
Nic has officially moved in and is working every hour he can get.

Looks like that with an exception of a week or so, I will be working a job here well into January.
Since I am working in one spot and not having to transport much other than myself and the contents of my computer bag… I have been commuting on the DR650.
While I have ridden a bit in the past few years… this is the first time I have actually commuted on 2 wheels in over 18 years.
I am taking this chance to get her set up for some weekend touring and maybe some adventure riding.
Ebay has supplied me with a couple of Wolfman tank bags, one is their original Explorer bag from 1998… yea, 16 years old and still going strong.
Wolfman, http://www.wolfmanluggage.com, makes some of the best ADV luggage out there.
The Mighty DR ready to roll.
She also has a fresh set of Shinko 244 tires front and rear, these are an inexpensive and rugged on/off road tire.
The difference is astounding, the Skinko 705 on front was old and starting to crack… the Dunlop D607 was just worn out.
The handling is OH so much better on the road, and I can actually take it on less stable surfaces without feeling like it is going to go tits up at any moment.
Last week I watched the odometer roll over 19,000 miles… not bad considering that she turns 22 years young this month.
Personally, I am loving commuting on 2 wheels again.
Weekend trips are great, but it makes me feel like the bike is more of a toy.
Having one for daily transportation… that is what it is about.
But I still plan on making a weekend getaway some time, just have to figure out where and when.

A 2 up bike is still in the cards, so Caryn and I are still searching for the right one.
I must say… I enjoy the search.
What has shocked me, is one bike that has entered the running.
The BMW F800S, which has an AMAZINGLY comfortable seat for your Tail Gunner of choice.
The Commanders perch is damn nice also.

Now… to see if I can raise the suspension and spoon on some gnarly knobbed rubber.


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.
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.


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.



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?


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.

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.





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…