Why we ride

The wind is warm and thick with the scent of summer and grass. I feel guilty just for a fleeting moment while listening in on the private conversation between the front tire and the pavement below. The soft, subtle grinding of rubber on asphalt reminds me of mountain trips past.Tail of the Dragon

I have no need for your creature comforts. There is no place, here, for your anti-lock brakes, cruise control, heated steering wheel, power seats, power… anything. I look down at the speedometer and feel free from the constraints of a shift indicator light, a fuel gauge, a tachometer… A seat belt. Today is not the day for touch-screen navigation or air-conditioned seats.  Today is for riding. The angry growl of the exhaust, and the whipping of the wind is the only song offered me, and I accept it with a devilish grin.

I watch in eager anticipation as the breach between my headlight and rider in front grows, urging my right hand to twist ever further and unleash the beast lurking deep within the parallel twin beneath me. As I roll thumb-ward down, I feel her hands open and squeeze against my chest, pulling us together. The corner is approaching and my grin grows uncontrollably, slowly exposing my teeth to the air. I’m thankful for this helmet covering my expression, otherwise everyone within eyesight would likely giggle.

The bike leans itself over, further and further, as if demanded by some telepathic connection.  Leaning and leaning, seeking the apex. My throttle hand remains steady, eyes fixed on the exit, and then a moment of weightlessness when the left peg touches the ground and that beautiful grind of steel on street rings out softly.

On the throttle, now! She stands back up and the front end begins to lighten as we continue to close the gap left by our leader, his tail light getting ever larger. Closing and closing before the bright reminder that another corner approaches.

“Fast” is a word I used to be comfortable with

Those of you who read my blog (I know right!? There’s actually a LOT of you out there!) know that I am an avid motorcyclist. This past weekend’s trip to the mountains of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee taught me (yet again) that I draw a very fat line between my riding and truly “fast” riding.

Now, in the defense of my ability (limited as it is), I was riding on worn-out tires that had no business on mountain roads. I really should have swapped them out before heading north. One ‘sideways’ incident on the first day we rode on wet roads, and I scrubbed off 20% on every turn afterward.

Anyway, even with my tires being out of ideal condition, you can really get a feel for the difference between my riding and “the guys out front”. First, check out my video (remember, all of my video clips are sped up 125% – 150%):

Now, watch this one. This is one of the leaders on our last ride (this video is NOT sped up at all):

Yeah, I’ll stick to the back of the group. LOL

It’s on like… Well, it’s on.

Dragon LogoBack to the Dragon in ’09!  Those of you who didn’t book are really going to miss out.  There is some questionable weather, so wish us luck!

Photos, videos and other Dragon madness will be posted on KeyboardDevil.com over the weekend.  Stay tuned for updates!

Last year’s trip photos can be found here.

Last year’s video:

See you all next week!!

Wives tales and warm tires

Learned something interesting yesterday…

streetbikecorerSince I started riding (given, this is only a few years) I’ve used the ‘jog from side to side’ method in “scrubbing in” new tires. And again anytime I’m trying to warm the up for some twisties ahead.

Just found out that this is actually NOT the way to do it.

In this month’s “Sport Rider” magazine, head over to page 86.

The article is titled “How to properly warm up your tires”.

Here’s an excerpt:

“First off, Knoche quickly dispatched the old wives’ tale that the surface of the tire needs to be scuffed or roughed up to offer grip. “Maybe it’s coming from the old days when people were spraying mold release on the thread when the molds were maybe not that precise,” Knoche speculates, “and the machinery not that precise. But nowadays molds are typically coated with Teflon or other surface treatments…

…The next myth we see perpetuated nearly every time we watch the warm-up lap to a race. Riders begin weaving back and forth in apparent attempt to scuff the tread surface (which we’ve already discounted) and generate heat. The reality is that, according to every tire engineer that I’ve asked, there are for more effective ways of generating heat in a tire that are also much safer. Rather than weaving back and forth – which does little in the way of generating heat but does put you at risk asking for cornering grip from tires before they’re up to temperature, you’re far better off using strong acceleration and braking forces, and using them while upright, not leaned over!…”

Oops!  Well, I guess finding out later is better than not finding out at all.  Ride safe out there!

Corner Trust

This past weekend, I visited some of my girlfriend’s family in northern Georgia. Anyone who has visited this part of the country is, at least, somewhat familiar with its challenging roads.

As we climbed up and down the side of the mountains, I noticed that I felt increasingly uneasy in the passenger seat of our little rental car. This was, mostly, because of the inability to see through each turn, and the uncertainty of not being able to fully see the road shape beyond a steep incline that we headed up time and again.

It occurred to me that I’ve spent my entire driving career in central Florida, and that my experience on truly challenging roads is limited to a couple of track days and one trip to Deal’s Gap.

If you want to go story-for-story on dodging tourists bent on changing 4 lanes at 20 mph under the speed limit in a single maniacal maneuver, then I can go all day. But if we’re talking real riding on actual hard-core challenging roads, I’ve got little to offer.

Not to say that my riding experiences haven’t prepared me to be a safe, and conscious rider. In fact, I might argue that the experiences I’ve had force me to ride more safely than most! But the obvious gap in my riding-life really got me thinking about getting out there (being track days, or Dragon visits, or just wide-open riding) and being a “good” rider.

I think what I’m really talking about here is:

  • How much confidence can you place in the road ahead, even when you can’t see it?
  • How much trust can you give your tires to hold the line when entering a corner, knowing that the terrain or shape of the road might change at any second?
  • How much confidence do you have in your own ability to “just lean harder” if that corner suddenly transforms into a decreasing radius?

It’s easy to think that you’re a tough-guy rider until you’re faced with these situations, and you find that you’re backing off of the throttle without even thinking it.

I think I need to read “A Twist of the Wrist” again, and book that track day in October.

I need professional help

I need help. Serious professional help…

In the mid 1990’s I bought my first modding nightmare.  A 1985 Mustang that broke so often, you could set your watch by it.  I replaced every part in the car, and it was still only worth $800 when I traded it in on my truck.

My 1992 Isuzu pickup truck was a cool little truck, which I promptly tore the inside out of and built an IASCA (International Auto Sound Competition Association) world competitor. I was one of the first standard sized pick-up trucks to be invited to the world finals.

I traded in the truck for a 2000 MR2 Spyder, and decided to get into AutoCross racing. I added things like a Saner sway bar, Cusco strut tower braces, full CUSTOM exhaust, and other stuff. After some pretty serious racing (and WAY more money that I am even willing to discuss), I took the car into the show scene where it won numerous awards including 1st place at Battle of the Imports here in Orlando. That cost me a full SARD body kit, Gram Lights racing wheels, Corbeau racing seats, a Playstation2 and other goodies. But the car was getting old, and I was ready, once again, for something new.

I traded the MR2 in on a 2004 350Z Enthusiast, I mean what the hell, let’s get into some drifting now! I added an intake, front strut tower brace, some carbon fiber bolt-ons, and a body kit.

Luckily, before putting TOO MUCH money into the Z, I wanted to get back into riding. So, I picked up a 2006 Kawasaki 650R to ‘ease’ my way back into riding. But that was another money-pit. Mods included Woodcraft clip-ons, Scorpion exhaust, Zero Gravity windsheild, and others.

And now, finally… I’ve picked up an 08 Triumph Daytona 675. I’ve had it less than 3 weeks and I’ve already managed to purchase and install: Naarden lowering link, flush front and rear blinkers, new grips, spools, and some other random bolt-ons.

I need help soon. Very, very soon. My garage is completely out of room for old, stock parts.

I want to RIDE!

First, a disclaimer. Although the post below was written with ‘sport’ bikes in mind, the rules at the end are pertinent to all types of bikes. However, this article is not meant to be technically accurate nor is my expertise up for discussion or consideration. If you don’t like the article, I don’t really care. 😉

Since this is a topic that comes up often, I thought I’d write a brief, but meaningful article about owning, and riding your first motorcycle.

Basic configuration knowledge

For the purpose of this article, there are 2 types of bikes (actually there’s a lot more than that, but we’re talking basics here): 4 cylinder and 2 cylinder engines. We call them: inline 4’s and twins (respectively). Bikes referred to as “600’s”, “750’s”, and “1000’s (or liter-bikes)” are generally inline 4’s. Sport Twins are most commonly “250’s”, “500’s”, “650’s”, and “1000’s”.

New or used?

I’d recommend that you buy a used bike, something in the 10,000 – 30,000 mile range and preferably a twin (650 should be your max, 500 is recommended).  Take someone who knows motorcycles with you (or learn on your own!) and have a good look at the age and quality of the wearing parts like tires, chain, sprockets, clutch, brake pads, fluids and filters.

Which bike?

There are thousands of opinions on the web about a first bike, some will tell you to pick up an inline-4-600 and “grow into it”. I leave that choice up to you, but my opinion is that you will be better off with a twin. They’re lighter, easy to ride, and a HELL of a lot more forgiving when it comes to throttle and brakes.  Generally speaking, twins have a much smoother power delivery and more consistent torque delivery than inline 4’s, which is great for new riders.

Here’s a great list of starter bikes.

A note about insurance

I don’t know about all of the states, but here in Florida insurance is not required on a motorcycle that is paid off.  That being said, insurance is actually quite cheap, so I definitely recommend it.  Mine is like $300 a year for full coverage.

Anyway, let’s talk about actually riding the bike

To get a motorcycle license in Florida you are required to take the rider safety class, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  When I took it back in 2004 I really learned a lot.  Go in with an open mind, and you’ll enjoy it.  Once you have your license, it’s time to really get learning.  I’ve been riding since 2004 and I’m still learning new techniques, safety practices, and maintenance tricks.

I can say with some certainty that if you stick to these 3 rules in all situations, you’ll be a safe rider who makes good decisions.

  1. Assume you are invisible. That woman in the SUV in the next lane might be looking right at you, but believe me, she doesn’t see you.
  2. Be deliberate. Weather you are turning, shifting gears, or just positioning yourself in a lane, be 100%. Meaning, if you want to change lanes, hit your signal, look over you shoulder, and make the lane change; don’t just wander over there, haphazardly.
  3. If you’re late, take the car. We make poor choices when we are in a hurry.

Buy good gear

The basic rule of thumb on gear is, if you can’t afford a nice riding jacket, a good pair of boots, gloves, and a helmet, you can’t afford to own a motorcycle. It’s that simple.  I know the law in many states doesn’t require a helmet, but I can assure you that the law of nature does.  That’s your brain, man… Protect it.

Your new favorite websites will be NewEnough and MotorcycleCloseouts.  And don’t forget your local Cycle Gear, trying something on is far better than the ordering blind and returning cycle.

Never stop learning!

When you’re ready, be sure to read “The Pace” by Nick Ienatsch. It’s probably the best article I’ve read on riding in a group.

RideMyOwn.com has some pretty good reading as well. Go and check them out.

Ride safe, and I’ll see you in the twisties!