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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Notes from a motorcycle commuter

Please feel free to share this with all the car driving people you know.

Lately I commute about 90 miles a day, round trip, on a motorcycle. Five days a week, although sometimes just four as I work from home occasionally. But in that 360-450 miles a week of work flow traffic, I see a lot of people in cars--also motorcycles--doing things they shouldn't while operating a vehicle. And I see road courtesy being thrown out the window

1- texting. You are not fooling anyone by holding it on your lap to text. I see you look down and then see you drift in the lane to whatever side that your hand is on the steering wheel. The other fun texting thing you try is both hands on top of the steering wheel, phone cradled between two, and then texting. Guess what? When you do that, you slow down dramatically. Upwards of 10-15mph slower than the cars around you. Stop texting and driving

2- dealing with your kids while driving. Here is a fun fact: when you turn around in the seat to yell/talk/console your kid(s) you drift in your lane. I know because I have to avoid you. Have a kid issue in the car? Do like my dad did and say, "if I have to pull this car over, you will be sorry" and if you need to deal with the kid for any of the above reasons, pull over please

3- Eating while driving. Yes, some people feel it is a time saver I guess. In my car you are more likely to be thrown out in the street than chow down a cheeseburger, but that is just me. But folks, if you a re going to eat in your car, make it finger food. A bowl of cereal, or whatever it is you have in the bowl, well its simply not safe. Your first panic reaction is going to be not to spill on yourself, then second will be deal with the road situation. I hear beef jerky is a nice snack in the car, not messy and very little distraction. Plus its full of protein, probably good for you.

4- using your cell phone. Um, here in California we have a hands free only law, holding your phoebe two inches from your face using the speaker phone isn't dodging the law, its still in your hand. And, likely you are concentrating even more on that call because of the poor audio than if you held it to your face. Remember when driving was a chance to listen to the radio and not hear from people in the office/friends/wife/husband/kids? How about you play attention to the drive and not the call? I can tell when you are having a fun versus a serious conversation. Fun calls you speed. Serious calls you slow way down. Guess what? They both affect your driving

5- pickups and trucks carrying things. Please, please please add an extra two tie downs to your load. There is not a day that goes by I don't see something on the side of the road that I know flew off a truck or SUV that could have killed me had I been behind the vehicle when it fell off. Oh yeah, car drivers, you cannot hold a mattress, sheet of plywood or anything else down to your roof with your left arm. Tie it down properly please.

6- motorcycle riders and lane splitting. Yup, you guys are not exempt from my wrath. First, its a freeway, not a racetrack. Swooping lane to lane, no turn signal and in traffic that is already moving at 70-plus Mph is, well stupid. Communicate your intention, be cautious to drivers and make your lane change. Be respectable to car drivers, maybe  they will respect us. And lane splitting. When the traffic is basically stopped or moving 10-15mph, don't lane split at 50. You freak the car drivers out, scare them and piss them off. Then, I come along doing a nice, calm lane split and they don't want to let me by because you were an ass. And I see it enough to know this is true.

7- passing lane blockades. Folks you are not the police. It is not your job to sit in the passing lane, or the fast lane as it is known, and try to regulate traffic by driving the speed limit in that lane. Its my choice to risk a speeding ticket by passing in that lane--move over.

8-smokers and spitters. I am on a motorcycle. Where exactly do you think your cigarette ashes/butt or your spit go at 70mph when you send it out the side window? Nope. Not out the side like you intend, but behind you thanks to wind velocity. And guess who is behind you?

9- courtesy. All of us need to exhibit a little more of it on the road. See a slowdown ahead, let someone in your lane that is trying to merge. Driving a section of road with many freeway exits and entrances close together? Don't drive in the right lane. Let people use that for exiting and entering the freeway. Treat other drivers as you wish they would treat you.

Yeah I know. I ranted. But all of these things happen when I am on the road each day and all of them put my life in jeopardy and honestly, none of you have the right to do that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kawasaki Ninja 1000...700 miles of fun so far

After logging 700+ miles on the Ninjas 1000 I have come to some conclusions. First, it is not the bike I would replace my Kawasaki Concours 1400 with--and that bums me out. I wanted to LOVE this bike like I do the Concours. But... there is a but, the Ninja is clearly a much sportier sport-touring bike than the Connie.
It is nimble, light, fun and easy to pitch around. Living up to its' name, the Ninja 1000 attacks corners and punches down straightaway. The 1000cc engine spins up quickly and stays ready to accelerate in pretty much any gear--and that is one of the problems. Stock, it turns something in the realm of 5500rpm at 80mph in 6th gear. That means passing a car requires no downshifting, but it also means the engine is busy at that speed and fuel mileage reflects it. I am barely squeaking out 40mpg on my commute of 90 miles a day, most of it on the freeway --moving with traffic at 80-85mph, as traffic is prone to do in Southern California.

 
the riding position is very comfortable, taller bars than on the ZX-10, the Ninja lets you sit up and see the Pacific Ocean should you be riding south or north on the 5 freeway between Laguna Niguel and Encinitas each day. With three easy to adjust positions, the windscreen allows you to find a comfortable bubble to live in. Needless to say the saddlebags are handy, although while they will hold a full face helmet, they don't fit a backpack with a decent size laptop. At their widest the saddlebags are 36", so lane splitting is no biggie--and more than a few full Sportbike riders have been surprised as I led the way through gridlocked freeway traffic.
More fun techie stuff can be found on the handlebar switch set. Power modes, traction control, multiple trip meters, fuel mileage, average mileage, range and engine temperature are all available to scroll through with the left handgrip. This unit also has Kawasaki's terrific ABS system. Technology is not lacking on this bike.
Its a pleasant enough bike to ride around, again, easy to turn, maneuver and relax while you cruise. When you want to dig in on a hard corner, the Ninja 1000 is ready. I took one out late last year and ran some of my favorite Malibu Canyon roads--Latigo and Decker--and the Ninja worked really well, embracing my plant the front tire with the brakes into the turn, then be really hard on the throttle out of the turn riding style. For those of you who don't know me that well, I am never going to be a racer. I am really fast on slow roads, but just average on fast roads--I have never learned to trust the front tire, so I chose really tight roads and work really hard to go fast on them. This is where the Ninja 1000 kills my Concours, its well over 180 pounds lighter and that makes a huge difference in the tight stuff.
 
And that is the reason the Ninja 1000 is not the replacement for my Concours. My riding, while I like to think my riding is really exciting all the time, the reality is, I commute and just go places a lot. So, with that the comfort of the Connie, along with the 1400cc of power when I want it and all the other stuff I have battered on about with the 1400, means its the bike I am still most in love with. The Ninja 1000, is quite the exciting affair though!