A funny thing happened on the way to happiness

I’ve put over 600 miles on my Gixxer 750 since I bought it two weeks ago. During that time I’ve ridden my 2007 V-Strom 650 once; I commuted to work on it one day last week. When I bought the Gixxer I planned to ride both bikes for a year, at which point I would decide which bike I liked better and sell the other one.

Obviously, these are very different bikes. They serve different purposes and are suited for completely different types of riding. Many will say that a V-Strom can carve up the twisties nearly as well as a sport bike. Wait, who says that? Oh yeah, I’ve said it. Many times. And it’s true, up to a point. Ultimately it all depends upon the skill of the rider. A good rider on a dual sport will do better than an unskilled rider on a sport bike, and not to brag, I have proven that to be true in my own experience (while riding my V-Strom).

This past weekend I rode to Detroit and back with my buddy, Keith. He was on his 2006 Ninja 250 and I was on my 2012 GSX-R750. The weather was great, the road was in good shape, and most of the traffic was going the other direction so very little passing was required. It was a fantastic ride.

I noticed that my cornering speed has been improving steadily as well as my comfort level with the bike. I can take the same corners faster and with greater ease than before. I’ve also noticed that I can take the same corners substantially faster than I can on my V-Strom. [I ride many of the same roads repeatedly for practice, so I’ve become familiar with every corner.] If my doppleganger was on my V-Strom trying to follow me as I rode my Gixxer, he would be lagging behind almost immediately. The difference is noticeable.

When I got home from the 160 mile ride I also noticed that I felt very little pain or discomfort from the ride. Normally, by the time I get home on my V-Strom I can’t wait to get off the bike and give my body a rest. I’m getting used to the Gixxer’s riding position and am learning how to grip the tank and use my feet to remove weight from my wrists and hands. Sport bikes are still not designed for comfort, but this is far less uncomfortable than I anticipated.

When I ride my V-Strom now, the brakes, suspension and acceleration feel mushy. The handlebars feel like they’re a yard apart and the whole thing feels really tall. By comparison, my Gixxer feels like a total hard body, a toned and fit athlete that is ready and capable to handle anything I throw at it.

When it comes to which bike will be leaving my stable next year, I can see where this is going. The one test remaining is to take the Gixxer on a road trip. I’ve got saddlebags on order. Stay tuned.

A brand new baby Gixxer

I just added a new steed to my stable. It’s a brand new 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750, and it’s a beauty. As you can imagine, riding it is quite a bit different than my V-Strom 650 (yes, I still have my venerable ‘Strom) both in handling and acceleration. The Gixxer gets up and goes like nobodies business, but only when I tell it to; it’s very well behaved otherwise.

This bike was purchased from Lanphere’s Beaverton Motorcycles in Tigard, Oregon. I handled all the sales and arrangements over the phone with their salesman, Delaney. I originally was seeking a GSX-R600 but both Delaney and I felt the increased torque, especially in low- to mid-range RPMs of the 750, better suited my riding style. I’m not a red-line kind of rider and that’s where the 600’s prefer to live.

I rode the bike home, took a break, then took it on a 30 minute jaunt on a nearby semi-twisty road. I’ll take it back out again tomorrow morning. This process of ride, rest, repeat is a 3x heat cycle that breaks in the new tires. A common misconception is that motorcycle tires need to be scuffed up to break them in. Actually, they need to be heated up through riding and then allowed to cool down to do so. Usually three times is the charm. Otherwise, ride them nice and gentle for about 100 miles and that covers it, too.

The forward riding position is quite a bit different than the upright neutral position I’m used to on the V-Strom. I feel like a great deal more of my weight is on my hands, which is true. When riding at freeway speeds a lot of the oncoming rush of air against my chest helps alleviate some of that pressure on my hands. I also get a lot more bugs on my helmet’s face shield due to a lack of windscreen protection. But on the plus side, the bike is super smooth, very capable, and truly feels at home when cornering. The 750 is considered to be one of the finest all-around sport bikes ever made and I’m confident I made a good choice. I look forward to putting a lot of twisty miles on it.

Are you a writer or an actor?

Over the years I have written many stories that included characters with personalities I couldn’t personally relate to, doing things I would never do. The reasons for this are as varied as the characters themselves, but ultimately it came down to one goal: serving the desires of my readers.

When writing fiction, I am often tasked with the need to step outside of myself and write about things that I may not directly understand or care for. Every character is my creation and I take pride in how I present them, but in order to serve the needs of the story I sometimes have my characters behave in ways that I personally find distasteful. Some characters I actually despise. But that’s kind of the point. That’s what those characters are supposed to do. Their actions and personality serve the needs of the story.

As I get into the minds of these nefarious fictional people, I find myself feeling more like an actor than a writer. Mentally I am portraying someone I’m not. As I write I play out different ideas in my head and experiment with scenarios and dialogue to get a rough idea of what I’m trying to achieve before actually writing it down. This is an uncomfortable feeling sometimes, because I am forced to role-play things in my mind that I would never contemplate otherwise.

I doubt all fiction writers feel this way, but for me I think it helps to have some acting skills. To get inside the heads of my characters and understand their motivations helps me give them life in my stories. If I write about them in the abstract, keeping a mental and emotional distance between the real me and the fictional them, how can they have any life or energy that will engage the reader?