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Sunday, August 31, 2014

you do know that just because it has a fairing doesn't mean its a full sportbike, right?

I have been around motorcycles/motorcycling for a long time. I fell in love with the concept of man and machine back when motorcycles were just motorcycles. They were not sport touring bikes, or sport bikes, touring bikes or any other category. In fact when I fell in love with motorcycles Harleys were not even called cruisers, they were just motorcycles.

Back then you bought a bike, say a 1977 Suzuki GS 400 (My first non enduro street bike) and you made it do what you wanted it to do. That meant I added a rack and sissy bar to it for when I wanted to carry things, and a bolt on windshield for touring. You had to have a certain amount of imagination, mechanical skill and, most importantly, no preconceived notion of how good it was supposed to work when you were done. You just believed that the mods you made were the right changes to transform your bike.

Then the Gold Wing came along. And the Yamaha Virago. And the Suzuki GSXR. And then the Kawasaki Ninja. Suddenly there were sub categories and specialized motorcycles. The UJM(universal Japanese motorcycle--a basic, standard style bike), the bread and butter of the motorcycle industry quickly disappeared and good or bad, categories were created.

Side note here for you non-riding or just bought a Harley because they are cool folks: Ninja is not a style of motorcycle, its a sub brand at Kawasaki. That said, Ninja does not automatically mean full-sport race bike. Examples include the Ninja 1000 ( a sport touring bike) and the ZX14R, a much more drag bike than sport racing bike, as well as the Ninja 650,a wonderful commuter bike and the Ninja 300, a great beginners/commuter bike. And a Suzuki GSXR is not a Ninja. Nor is a Honda CBR a Ninja. Because it has a fairing and sporty lines does not make it a race bike. Take a quick look at the handlebars. If they are above the triple tree by an inch to three inches, sport/commuter. Clip on bars, under the triple tree? Race bike.

From the specialized categories, sub sub categories were developed. Sport Touring bike came along as the riding population realized they needed bikes to go as far as they used to as UJMs. The aftermarket responded with handlebar risers, footpeg lowering kits and wonderful detachable soft luggage. All this aftermarket excitement led manufactures to build purposeful sport touring bikes. And harder edge sport bikes. And cruisers that are more cruiser(y). The only thing that was left alone for the longest time was the enduro world. These bikes were still just dirt bikes with lights. Light, agile and fun to bash around on. Then somebody went and traveled on a dual purpose/enduro bike.

Suddenly a new category of large adventure bikes was born. In all fairness BMW invented this category in the mid-90s, but only engineers rode BMWs back then so no one really knew. Now, I have to say I am split on this category because the size of these bikes--Suzuki Vstrom, Triumph 800 Adventure, Yamaha Genre and many more, well off roading with them would be an adventure for sure. But on the other side, they are big, comfortable and functional bikes. You can whip one through a canyon dragging footpegs one day and then bomb out a 700 mile day the next. Its almost as if the UJM has come back around--with semi knobbies and hand protectors. Even Ducati, Aprilla and Moto Guzzi have adventure-esque bikes in their line up. This is a fast growing segment of the market because people seem to like riding comfortably and still having fun--imagine that, fun on motorcycles.

So, diatribe concluded, what did we learn? There are many types of motorcycles and as they say in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, The More You Know, the Better It Gets.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ZX14R--redefining what fast is

If you are one of the people I know who have only ridden Harleys, you can't comprehend just how fast this bike is. The Kawasaki ZX14R can do this:
0-30mph--1.2 seconds
0-60mph--2.6 seconds
0-90mph--4.2 seconds
0-100mph--4.8 seconds
1/4 mile ---9.47 @152mph
Top speed - 485 (electronically limited)

wrap your head around that. In less time than it takes you to do a three Mississippi count, it can accelerate to 60. With a pro rider like Rickey Gadson on a STOCK bike it can do sub 10second 1/4 mile passes. This bike is just plain fast.

And pretty comfortable, not gold wing comfortable, but roomy enough to let you relax while you cruise the Southern California freeway system looking for Ferraris and Lamborghinis to mess with.
 
but, the other thing about this bike is all about calm. It starts up, idles smoothly, has power modes and traction control and is quite happy running around town doing errands and never waking up the 1441cc sleeping beast under the plastic. Its just a regular sporty motorcycle with an engine that can press your brain backwards in your skull.
 
I will be putting 3-400 miles a week on this thing for a while so I will update my impressions as they come along, but for now I can tell you that Kawasaki understands fast motorcycles and is the reigning king of the jungle.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Can you see me now?

I ride a lot. Here, there, everywhere. A lot. And recently I find myself needing to commute 4-5 days a week for about 80+ miles a day round trip. On LA/OC freeways. California is the land of the self absorbed driver, with focus on following their in-dash navigation, talking on their Bluetooth connected phone and sending texts from behind the wheel. In other words they don't give a darn about others on the road.

A few years ago my friend Art Friedman started doing all his riding with a high visibility orange full face helmet on. He swore it made him more visible and he had less close calls in traffic . that has always hung in the back on my mind. Normally I don't think much about the color of my helmet, I just pick upon a good brand, on sale, and deal with whatever color is available. Lately I have been using Scorpion for a few reasons:
1- flip down sun shade. Perhaps the single greatest invention ever for those of us that put in long days on a bike. Morning sun? Drop the sun shield down. Late night in an office heading home, a clark shield is already in place--fantastic
2- comfort. The Scorpion is light and padded well, eliminating pressure points and neck fatigue.
3- price. They are a damn good price for what you get.

I picked up this EXO 500
 
Its silver and "Can you see me know?" Yellow.  I think it should create just enough contrast that most brain dead southern California drivers will see me. Guess I will find out soon enough if Art knows what he is talking about.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Garages

I have a diverse group of people I call friends that fall into two categories--gear heads and not gear heads. These two groups utilize their garages very differently. Gear heads, like me, see the garage as an important part of daily existence. Non gear heads see it as storage.

Did you know that non-gear heads will actually fill their garage up with household storage stuff? Maybe they will fit a car into it, but it will be surrounded with a years worth of acquisitions found at Costco. Or luggage. Lots of luggage. And boxes they have not opened for two or three moves. Yeah, they treat it like one big closet--shudder.

So apartment living aside, I have always treated the garage as my father taught me--a man's castle filled with all of his toys and tools. A place to go and do man stuff. Fix, create, restore, maintain. Objectify. Treat vehicles like they were mean to be treated--with TLC. And collect cleaners and polishes. That is a huge part of garage ownership.

My first house had a two car garage, that for some reason also housed the laundry drier. The house was so small, there was no way to make a change, so I tolerated it. But the rest of the garage was all about motorcycles. I had a nice hydraulic bike lift, drill press, tool boxes, really cool tile floor, stools, refrigerator, stereo and a cabinet full of waxes, polishes and cleaners. This was during the HOT BIKE/STREET CHOPPER days so often there were 3-4 motorcycles besides my 2-3 bikes in that garage. I can't even tell you how many tech articles were done in that garage, but if you were a regular reader back then, you probably saw my garage. It was a nirvana for my riding friends, and a bit overwhelming for my non-riding friends. Side note about the garage refrigerator. There was a kit--paint and some stick on stops to look like tool box drawers--that turned my garage refrigerator into a giant toolbox. It was very cool. I have pictures somewhere that I will find and post one day

Then, I moved to Wisconsin. Um. Well. Yeah, about that. Not the smartest thing I ever did--except for the garages I had a chance to own. House one in WI was a 3.5 car garage. Huge. A single garage door and parking for Marcia's car (Wisconsin winters require garage parking) and a two car door for me. I had my truck on one side, my bikes and lift on the other and in the .5 extra deep spot, my workbench, tools, stools and garage refrigerator. Additionally that garage had storage overhead that ran the whole length of the three car area. Sure the Wisconsin winter was cold and long, but I could go to the garage, mess with my bikes, clean and wax my truck and generally gear head out amongst my stuff.

House two in WI, well it was a gorgeous custom built place on a lake, but it was a bit lacking in ultimate garage space. It was only a 2.34 car garage, but what made it ok was the 3/4 part was a separate room off the two car part. Essentially a workshop that stored my bikes and tools--a little less splendid than the first house, but the workshop feeling was really cool.

Then came the move back to California. We had many requirements for a house, but a three car garage was one of the most important. Marcia had grown used to parking in a garage, I had developed a taste for a clean, nice car thanks to living in WI and my bikes and tools and workbench needed their own space. So when we found a house with a three car garage--and the stuff Marcia cared about--it was a quick, done deal.

Current garage is not as great as the garage-mahal I had in WI house one, but it works. For the most part all I have to do is move the Challenger into the driveway and I have a two car garage of space to work on bikes, fix things, or create stuff. I couldn't imagine life any other way than with a fully functioning garage.

Oh yeah, and I still have a cabinet full of waxes and polishes.