I've been doing a lot of thinking about what an ideal bike is to me. Fully acknowledging the moving target that is that bike, I do think I get pretty close with each purchase I make. However, as much as I love my Sprint GT
, there is one big, fat gorilla standing in the corner. And that is that... it pretty much weighs as much as a big, fat gorilla.
At 590lbs fully loaded, the Sprint GT is actually among the lightest of the officially dubbed "sport tourers" out there. Bikes like the Sprint ST and the former Honda VFR800 best it by a bit, but the GT's weight includes those massive panniers and it brings the weight difference to within 15 lbs or so. In any case, despite its smoothness, fantastic ride and surprising sporting ability, my Sprint is the largest and heaviest bike I've owned
. I get a lot for the weight in terms of protection from the elements (as much as I need, anyway) and luggage capacity, but I wonder if I can do something a little different and be just as happy on the long stretches and happier still in the tight stuff...
Enter the 2013 Triumph Street Triple
. That's right, I said "Street Triple", and the not the big brother Speed Triple. I had the opportunity to sit on both at the IMS this year, and while I love the Speed Triple's looks, powerplant and dimensions, it just feels heavier than it should. The Street Triple, on the other hand, clocks in at a svelte 404 lbs fully gassed up - 186 lbs less than my GT. The advantages are obvious - a lighter bike turns better, goes better and stops better. They easier on tires, easier on gas and easier to live with everyday in most cases. But what about those disadvantages...
The plans have been made! May 17-19, 2013 will be the ADK Buell Rally for this year. We had a great time last year and are looking forward to this go-around. Nearly everything will be as it was last year, so don't expect any big departures from that. I'm not even going to be changing the routes, at least not officially.
Rather than re-type a whole bunch of crap that I already typed, visit the rally page
on this website to get all of the most current details on the event.
Come late December, I hadn't ridden since Thanksgiving night and the itch was pretty strong. I was working from home and decided to suit up and head out on my lunch break for a quick rip around the hills near my home. I recall a bank thermometer reading around 31 degrees, and it was noticeably colder up in the elevation, but my heated gloves and socks combined with layer upon layer for the rest of me made for a very comfortable ride.
Even further to my surprise, I took a ride just a few weeks ago with my new Tour Master mesh jacket. Yes, you read correctly - mesh. To be fair, it does come with a rain liner and a thermal liner, but even with those I wouldn't have expected it to be as warm as it was - I noticed no more cold than with my Joe Rocket one-peice suit.
My most recent ride was this past weekend. I met up with a friend who I had done the MSF RCP course with. Temperatures were warmish - mid-40s at best - but the rain overnight and melting snow made for some very wet roads and a very dirty bike and the end of the ride. We probably did something around 50 miles through the hills, and while most of the roads were ones I was already familiar with there were a handful that were new to me and real gems at that. I will be returning when the weather is warmer and drier.
I'm not terribly sure when my next ride will be. Mother nature just dropped another few inches of snow today and temperatures are slated to plummet again by the weekend. There is moto-hope in sight, though. I will be meeting a bunch of fellow Buell (and former Buell) riders in New York City for the Motorcycle Show at Javits Center. In addition to checking out some of the industry's newest offerings, we will likely also enjoy a late lunch at the Dinosaur in Harlem as well as discuss the details of this year's ADK Buell Rally. I'm really looking forward to this year's event and hope we have at least as good of a turnout this time around. It seemed to be a hit with those who were able to make it last year.
Well, let's make this blog earn it's namesake! We're now on the cusp of December and being the Northeast, that means temperatures are reliably falling below the freezing mark. So where does that leave us? I could yabber on about fuel stabilizers, battery tenders and gasoline-soaked rags stuffed in mufflers, but instead we'll go over some very simple steps you, yes YOU can take to extend your riding season. Hell, maybe even not have an off season!
When I first started riding, I would make it until about mid-November and then I would go through an all-day process of cleaning, waxing, stabilizing and packing up, stuffing the bike into a corner of my father's garage for the winter. This was the modus operandi for a few years and multiple bikes until we had a warm stretch of days one February. I would have loved to have gone for a ride, but my bike was not home and not ready to ride. Both of which were not cool. Ever since then, the bikes don't get packed up and I take advantage of any warm(ish) day we get while the Northern Hemisphere tips away from the Sun.
So what can you do to make sure your ride is as comfortable as possible when you cruise past that bank thermometer when it says 31 degrees? There are two schools of thought - The New School, and the Old School. Let's start with the latter.
When riding in cold weather, you're battling two things: the ambient temperature, and the windchill factor. While there is a lot of crossover, there are some separate things to do to combat each. To keep warm, layers are where it's going to be at. Personally, if it's below about 50 degrees, I put on a thermal base layer and go from there. There's a fair amount of engine heat as well as leg fairing on my bike, so not much else besides a thick pair of socks and sweatpants or jeans goes on the lower half of my body. The upper half gets a t-shirt, maybe a long-sleeve shirt and a hoodie. Really cold days will also add a fleece vest. All of that gets wrapped up in a one-peice riding suit (to keep the wind out) with the insulated liner in as well. It all feels a bit cumbersome when you put it on, but once you're on the bike you don't need to move around much so it's not too intrusive. A full-face helmet is a must as well as something to cover your neck. If your various layers don't have a tall collar, you can spend $15 or whatever on a purpose made neck gaiter, or just use a cheap neckerchief. You'll want warm boots and winter-specific riding gloves to finish everything off. Obviously the more fairing your bike has the better off you'll be, but this shouldn't be a make it or break it kind of deal.
Real simple, here... add electrics! The Old School methods should be enough for most hearty people down to around freezing and for short rides in the sun. Past that, you need to be exceptionally warm-blooded or turn to technology. Currently I have heated gloves and socks and can vouch for both. There is the rumor that simply adding a heated vest or jacket to keep your core warm will also keep your hands and feet warm, so if you're budgeting on buying all of that stuff anyway try starting with just the jacket and see how it does. The only brand I've used is FirstGear (which just rebrands Warm & Safe
products) and can recommend them.
That's about it - I think the next entry will go over some good riding habits to use when things get frosty.
Once again, it's been a while. But, this time I have stuff to talk about since I just got back from a short, 5-day trip through Michigan and Canada. I plan on doing a complete write up on it, so stay posted for links to that. As such, I won't spoil any details aside from that it was a great trip with great people on a great bike, highlighted by an abundance of off-bike activity, especially given the total length of the trip. The Triumph performed flawlessly, ran smoothly and sat comfortably even when tasked with a personal-record-breaking day for both time in the saddle and the distance the wheels were turning - on two wheels or four!
As of now things are quiet. The weather is beginning to cool down which means leaves will be changing soon, especially up north, and I'm looking forward to taking a day or two off work to just ride around the Adirondacks. Now that we're past Memorial Day, there will be little traffic to interfere with my [ahem] spirited pace through some of the best twisties and sweepers around.
So, stay tuned. I will officially start the trip blog either today or tomorrow, depending on how I feel - it is Lark Fest today in Albany and my band has a short gig this evening, so you may have to wait. I do have a placeholder page set up in the Ride Reports in case anyone would like to check it obsessively in an overwhelming anticipation of my latest adventure.
It's been more than a month since I last wrote anything for you guys, so it seems I have some catching up to do.
When I left off, I was just about ready to to Utica for my Rider Coach Prep course. Needless to say, it was extremely challenging but I made it out alive, certified and confident.
Our instructor, Lynne, expected a lot of us and we were (mostly) able to deliver across the board. Despite a few close calls, everyone passed. The second weekend was mostly student teaching a class of actual students, with hand offs between all 12 instructors to cover all of the lessons and exercises. It was fun, challenging and draining. Each weekend I came home exhausted.
Coaching an exercise
Teaching in the classroom
The graduating class, along with our instructor and the head of the NYS Motorcycle Safety Program.
Since graduating, I haven't been riding as much as I'd like. A combination of vacations (including a week in the Outer Banks) and poorer weather meant the car was getting used a bit more. Last night I did take it for a 4-hour round trip ride downstate to get CPR and First Aid certified and aside from dodging dodgy deer coming back up the Taconic State Parkway at 11pm, it was an enjoyable ride with not too much interstate.
I'll be coaching my first class as an intern this weekend - wish me luck!
In other news...
The big moto-trip of 2012 has been significantly downsized. The original intent was to get to Oregon and back via a few friend's places and some choice National Parks, but time off from work and a severe case of TWS (thin wallet syndrome) means I'll just be doing a quick, 5-day loop through Michigan, the UP and Ontario. 2 night in the Detroit area are being allotted to visit 2 friends and do some urban exploring in some of D-Town's abandoned buildings, a great change to get the camera out again which has been packed up too much lately. From there I'll head north to the UP via the Mackinaw bridge, then across Ontario and back home through the Adirondack Park. Crossing my fingers for no rain, it should be a short and enjoyable trip. Oregon
The first loooooong weekend of my MSF RiderCoach Prep course starts tomorrow, and I don't feel prepared for it. I'm comfortable with the material, I'm comfortable riding the demos, but I'm going to be introduced to a new person with new expectations on how things need to be done. I'm not certain that everything will jive. That, coupled with a reputation for these things being extraordinarily strict has me a little uneasy.
The real kicker is that I'm not even packed. Packing doesn't generally stress me out, but it is for this for some reason, mostly because I don't know if I'm going to drive or ride at this point - which really shouldn't matter because I need the same stuff with me regardless.
Add to that my needing to come home for Friday night and likely getting, at best, 3 hours of sleep before class resumes on Saturday and I'm just starting to bug out a little.
I'm not sure how much free time I'll have while I'm there, but I'll bring my laptop and attempt to keep everyone up to date on the progress, the nature of the class and my impressions.
In bike news, I haven't installed the new horn yet as I need to figure out a mounting location for it. It's a bit larger than I was expecting...
I'm going to do it anyway.
Cagers... I seriously think I might go on an all-out, Grand Theft Auto IV-style killing spree at some point, but in the meantime I'm going to keep myself out of prison and instead make it easier for me to communicate to mindless drivers exactly what I think of them and their mothers.
No, I'm not going work on riding one-handed in order to tell them I think they're number one - I'm going upgrade the horn on my bike to something that will break glass, make their ears bleed and, if there's a just God, poop their pants.
Enter the Stebel Nautilus motorcycle horn
. This 18 amp, air-compressor horn is just slightly more powerful than any stock horn (insert sarcasm), belting out 139 ear splitting decibels. If you don't know how loud that is, it's roughly the volume of a commercial jet engine at 100ft away during take off - a volume level that some safety organizations suggest you NEVER experience, even for one minute, of a given day without hearing protection.
That will wake them up.
Let me start off by saying that a Harley-based bike night is not at all my scene, but my good friend Dave does pin striping on the side and sets up a booth at JJ's Bike Night
once a month and asked if I'd come down to hang out and take some photos, so photos I took and hanging I did.JJ's
in Watervliet holds a bike night once a month, weather permitting, the Tuesday evening after the Guptil's car cruise in (this is the easiest way to explain it - otherwise it would be "the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month"). This month was not a weather permitting month. The turnout, to my understanding, was a little light due to the fact that an impromptu rain date was scheduled for Wednesday night rather than the rained-out Tuesday and caused a number of bikes and a vendor or two (notably the food guy) to not be around.
Nicely restored Indian
That said, it seemed to me that quite a few people showed up despite only a day's heads up. Parking was very well organized (I was among the first to arrive) and by 6:00 or so the lot was most of the way full with a collection of hand-picked bikes parked under the tent for judging and trophies. I don't recall all of the details on everything, but there was a very cherry Indian and a tastefully done Panhead that each belonged to owners, employees, good friends or some other relation to Buzzy, the man who owns the shop.
Smitten with this Sporty
I was particularly smitten with an early 70's Sportster that rolled in with a bolt-on hardtail and a very minimialist and mechanical look. Made me wish I hadn't ever sold my '64 XLCH
. Walking through the shop was also a treat with lots of old iron floating about, some crazy paint jobs and a properly shagged XR1200 that looked ridden like it should be.
Dave at work
Well before dark, bikes began to peel out quicker than they arrived and before we knew it the time to pack up had come, but not before Dave got to paint a helmet for an employee of the shop.
The only thing I didn't like? The Triumph embarrassed me! It had a hell of a time starting, very low idle and would stall out - took far too many tries. I gassed up right before I got there, so I'm thinking I vapor-locked the tank with it being so full. Will have to keep an eye on that. It also has me wanting to build that X1 again - as nice as the bikes were, I think I'd have the most interesting ride there if I could manage to build what's in my head.
Here are some other photos I took of the event:
Strips, that is. And let alone the fact that I tend to prefer Popeye’s over KFC, what I’m specifically getting at is motorcycle tires and those tell-tale identifiers that most people use to determine just how big (or small) your testicles are.
The reason I bring this up is that the Sprint
and I are really beginning to groove together. On my way into work this morning, I dragged the toe of my boot on the ground going around a curve, not even intending to. This was something that occurred with relative normalcy on the S3T
due to the much lower peg position, but the Sprint’s pegs, while not superbike high, are perched far above where the Buell’s mounted. As such, I was a little surprised that it even happened.
When I got into the office, I decided to take a look at the rear tire and I was a bit surprised at what I saw:
For street riding, this is about as close to the edge as I’d like to get. At this point, I can clearly see that I get the bike leaned over to this point on a regular basis, and given that I don’t like to run at more than 7 or 8/10ths on the street, it leaves plenty of room for emergency maneuvers. I see some street bike tires that are consistently to the edge and wonder what they will do when a squirrel jumps out and they’re out of lean angle, tire or both. I’d rather have my tire look like that and be able to remember the exact time and place I did it, as it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence on the street.
Now, the track is an entirely different story.
None of this is to say that I don’t like wearing a tire right to the edge now and then. The photo above was taken at my very first track day, and as you can see, the tire had been properly shagged most of the day. But, this was at a track – where there are no squirrels, pot holes, tar snakes, minivans or trucks creeping over the double yellow into your lane. You get to ride the same route over and over again to make sure you’re taking the most perfect line with the most perfect speed and most perfect braking your ability allows for. In this environment, taking it to the edge of the tire, and even touching a peg down (which I have yet to do) is more than acceptable and something every track rider should aim for.
Now, before some of the super-heroes out there run out to the garage to check out how non-existent their chicken strips are, keep in mind that they only tell part of the story. It’s well within the realm of possibility to lean the bike over at an extreme angle while the rider is sitting mostly upright. At the same time, it’s also possible to drag your knee (or even hand) on the ground and barely be leaning the bike at all. Because you can’t see your own form from the behind the handlebars (or that of the rider of a bike parked on the street), it’s best to reserve judgment until you can see photos or videos. Chicken strips, alone or paired with other aspects, are not a good indicator of rider skill.