Ride to Hyder, Alaska

I just got back from a ride to Hyder, Alaska via central Washington and British Columbia. I’ll post a detailed ride report, but I’ll summarize here.

1. I’ve never met a Canadian I didn’t like, and this trip proved them to be very friendly people.

2. I didn’t see a single piece of litter or graffiti in B.C. anywhere.

3. I saw three different bears, one of which was brick red — the rare Cinnamon Bear! — but saw no moose.

4. My Garmin Zumo 220 GPS randomly resets itself; I’m unsure why.

5. The dual towns of Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK provide amazing scenery and are very much worth the trip.

6. I’m tired; that was a long trip.

Coming Soon: Aerostich Roadcrafter One-piece Riding Suit

I’ve been wearing an Aerostich Darien jacket for over 60,000 miles now, and if you’ve read any of my previous blog posts on the topic, you’ll quickly learn I value it more than any other single piece of gear I own.

It’s that good.

It’s about to have company. This morning I ordered a Roadcrafter one-piece suit from Aerostich, to be worn predominately while riding my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. The color scheme I chose was a black suit with blue ballistic accents.

A few weeks ago I spoke with a sales rep at Aerostich on the phone. He convinced me to try on a standard off-the-rack sized Roadcrafter first and ship it back before ordering a custom-made version. The idea is, you put on the standard model, get on your bike and see what adjustments would need to be made. It takes a bit more time, but the suit will be custom-made just for me and I plan to put tens-of-thousands of miles on it, so fit matters.

I’m glad I did. Aerostich shipped a Roadcrafter Light with upgraded pads to me. I tried it on, then sat on my Gixxer while it was up on the paddock stand. Once I got into my tucked riding position, I quickly realized the arms need to be rotated forward slightly. All other aspects of the fit were fine.

I called Aerostich and placed my order for the custom Roadcrafter, then I boxed up the Light and dropped it off at UPS on my way into work. Most Roadcrafters take 8-10 weeks to make and ship, but fortunately the wonderful folks at Aerostich back-dated my request to my first call back in May. I should hopefully see my new suit within the next 7-8 weeks. I’ll report more when it arrives.

Character studies from Ohlen’s Arrow

I’ve decided to introduce the key players from my book, Ohlen’s Arrow, through a series of character studies.

Reading a book is like taking a road trip with a group of people you may have just met for the first time. As you travel along through the pages, you get to know the crazy adventurer sitting next to you and the evil villain sitting in the back seat. By the time you reach the end of the book, you may be best friends or the worst of enemies. Either way, hopefully by then you’ll be intrigued enough to know what happens during the next road trip.

I’m kicking of this series with a study of Merrick Stonehorn. He and Ohlen go way back and have shared several adventures together. He is one of my favorite characters from the book and even though I’m the author, I find myself eager to learn more about him.

Ohlen’s Arrow character study: Merrick Stonehorn

This is the first installment in a series where I introduce key characters from my new novel, Ohlen’s Arrow. Rather than doing the predictable thing — focusing on Ohlen, the main character — I’m going to introduce you to the other key participants — his friends and his enemies.

Merrick Stonehorn and Ohlen go back more than a decade. In appearance, they couldn’t be any further apart, but in spirit they share much that would be familiar to brothers.

Merrick is a big man in both stature and personality, standing six and a half feet tall and weighing at least three hundred pounds. He’s in his late 40s and has long red hair with a few streaks of grey, and he keeps it tied into a single braid that reaches the middle of his back. He wears a large gold loop in each ear. His face, arms and hands show many scars from more battles than Merrick himself could count.

Despite his large physical size, Merrick moves about with a deceptive ease and grace. The way he moves isn’t the only deceptive aspect of this larger-than-life man. His mood can jump from friendly to deadly in the blink of an eye when he feels threatened. His trust is hard-earned, but once obtained, Merrick is loyal to his friends to the bitter end.

Merrick Stonehorn began adventuring while still a teenager and quickly gained notoriety for both his bravery and his cunning. Still in his mid 20’s, he singlehandedly infiltrated a cru’gan stronghold, killed the tribal leader, and escaped not only alive but carrying gold equal to his own body weight (which was substantial, to say the least!) This, and other adventures like it, soon made him rich.

In his late 30’s he used his spoils to purchase the Inn of the Three Fans in the lakeside town of Eeron. Despite appearances that he has settled down and given up his adventuring ways, Merrick still finds time to get into the wilds, often accompanied by his second-in-command, a beady-eyed rogue named Rinn.

Gaining skills on my GSX-R750

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, every time I ride I make an effort to improve at least one aspect of my skills. Every ride is a practice ride in one way or another. Lately I’ve been focusing on my cornering technique when riding my 2012 GSX-R750.

The chicken strips on my Shinko 011 Verge tires are down to 3/8″ wide on the rear tire and 1/4″ on the front, yet the knee pucks on my AGVSport leathers are as shiny and untouched as the day I bought them. Leaning off when cornering is a lot of fun, and as I’ve been practicing, it has been the comfortable way to go around a curve.

One thing I’ve figured out is that if a technique feels uncomfortable or unstable, or if it feels unsafe, then I’m probably doing something wrong. Conversely, if I go around a corner smoothly and easily, then whatever I was doing was probably correct.

The single most important aspect of cornering I’ve learned seems to be looking ahead, through the turn. Doing so makes any corner smoother and more stable. Once that aspect of my technique became rote, the next thing I worked on was my grip. I make sure my hands are relatively loose and that I don’t have a death grip on the bars. This reduces fatigue and increases my endurance. It also avoids zigzagging through the curve.

The next thing I’ve addressed has been my body position. I grip the tank with my knees and support my weight with my legs, freeing up weight on my hands and wrists. By doing so, I’m able to finesse the front end more easily. In the curve, I use my legs to shift my weight across the seat to the inside of the bike. I press the inside of my outside thigh against the tank to help support my weight. My chest is pressed down against my tank bag, my inside elbow is kept loose, and my hands keep a slightly loose hold on the grips.

The final piece of this equation is my head position. I point my chin ahead through the curve and even keep my eyes steady. I noticed that even if I kept my head in a single position, if my eyes were wandering around my cornering was jerky. Now, I maintain a steady head and eye position as I go through the turn. This makes my cornering smooth and easy and more enjoyable.

Taking a corner at speed with good technique is almost anti-climactic. Entering the corner is smooth, using both deceleration on the throttle and an easy application of the brake. I smoothly shift my body to the inside of the bike using my legs, not my hands, I hold a steady head and eye position through the curve using gentle throttle inputs, and as I transition out of the corner I use a smooth application of throttle. As I accelerate out of the corner, the bike stands up and I again use my legs to smoothly shift my body back onto the center of the seat.

When it’s all done, as I continue onward, I have a smile on my face and a realization that nothing abrupt happened, there was no jerkiness or zigzagging around the corner. It was smooth and I approach the next curve with a feeling of confidence and control.