Touratech Zega Pro Panniers and Dual Sport Riding Techniques DVD

Part of my effort to embark on more off-road adventures is to properly equip my bike. The other part is to increase my skills. My first step was to purchase Dual Sport Riding Techniques on DVD from my friends at Aerostich. This video packs a lot of information in a very compact format (30 minutes), so it requires watching several times. It begins with a series of drills teaching the rider how to maneuver their adventure bike at slow speed. This sounds far simpler than it is. After watching the video a few times, I headed out to a friend’s house to practice.

The property I used is covered with grass and has several trees and small bumps that made an outstanding obstacle course. By putting weight on the outside peg and using my legs to support my body weight, I was able to take pressure off my throttle hand. This was important to maintain even speed in slow, tight turns. I quickly realized I can turn left much easier than I can turn right, so I focused on that skill by doing loops around and around trees in smaller radius circles.

Once I felt I had a handle on that, I began doing figure 8’s as well as riding up a small slope, then making a tight turn at the top and going back down again. Graduating yet again, I moved to the other side of the property where I roamed around fir trees and a small orchard, over bumps and roots. It wasn’t fast; the whole point was slow control. I challenged myself to making tighter turns, and was rewarded with being able to go anywhere I wanted through the trees.

By the time I got home, I was wiped out. I was no doubt tense because of the unfamiliarity of the process, and I’m sure I’ll be able to relax more as I practice. But after just a 45 minute practice session, I could tell that my skills had noticeably improved. I look forward to more practice sessions in the near future.

My next step is to get wider foot pegs and install Heidenau K60 50/50 tires.

Special Note: After a quick email to Touratech USA’s office in Seattle, they said I would not be able to keep my Givi top case once I installed my Touratech side racks. Fortunately, they were wrong. I had to remove the top rack in order to mount the side racks, but once they were in place, I was easily able to put the Givi top rack back on. This means I can have a hybrid luggage system mounted on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650. I like my Givi V46 top case and was very happy to keep it.

Coming Soon: Touratech and Heidenau

2014 will mark a change in my riding, an evolution if you will. Since getting my Suzuki GSX-R750 back in August of 2012, I am viewing my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 in a different light. I see it more as an adventure-tourer rather than a street bike. As noted in some previous posts, I’ve dabbled in off-road riding a few times in the past but never really got the hang of it. Maneuvering a 520 pound bike loaded down with gear along a loose gravel or muddy road is not easy. Some lunatics actually enjoy it.

But there’s something to it. There is the sense of exploration, of being able to follow routes and roads that are less traveled. I’ve always had a sense of exploration in my life and in my younger days I used hiking and backpacking to fulfill that desire. Today, I carry my tent and sleeping bag on my bike instead of my back.

During this winter, I will be finishing the transformation of my V-Strom into a true adventure-tourer. It already has the skid plate and crash bars. I already have my tent (Hilleberg Namatj 3) and sleeping bag (Marmot Never Summer 0 degree down-filled mummy) and various other camping gear. The final steps will be switching from plastic Givi luggage to aluminum Zega Pro panniers from Touratech and 50/50 knobby tires from Heidenau.

I’ve already received my Zega Pro’s. I placed the order on a Sunday afternoon and received side cases, rack, and accessories the following Tuesday. I chose the 31L / 38L Zega Pro panniers in anodized silver aluminum, and they are very sexy. It’s hard to describe how an aluminum box can be so attractive until you see them in person. They are very well made, too. Expect a review of the installation process as well as another report once they’re on the bike.

For tires, I’ll be switching from 90/10 road tires like my long-mileage standbys, Metzeler Tourances, over to 50/50 knobby (but street-legal) Heidenau K60 “Scouts”. They are also high-mileage tires but offer added grip in gravel, mud, etc.

Where am I going with all this? I have several trip ideas planned out, many of which are off-the-beaten-path routes in my home state of Oregon, while others are multi-week trips that approach 5,000 miles or more. Next spring, I plan to take an off-road riding course to jack up my skills. Gear is one thing, training and skills are perhaps even more important.

Stay tuned.

Be willing to kill your babies

When I was in high school, typing was a required course. We used IBM Selectric typewriters rather than computers. By the end of the one-semester course, I was the fastest in my class, banging out 90 error-free words per minute. It was the most useful thing I learned in high school.

Since moving to computers, I can edit as I type. I still type close to 90 wpm, but thanks to the backspace key, I type backwards even faster … clickity clickity clickity WHACK WHACK WHACK clickity clickity clickity, etc.

Where am I going with this?

I’m working on my second book, the sequel to Ohlen’s Arrow, tentatively entitled Ohlen’s Bane. The first weekend I worked on it, I cranked out over 12,000 words. I typed a lot. Since then, my word count is up to 15,000. I decided to read over what I had so far, and although it was interesting, it wasn’t engaging.

The last thing I want is for my book to require the reader suffer through to the fifth chapter before anything good happens. One of the things going for Ohlen’s Arrow was its pace. It started with action and maintained an engaging level of action with few pauses throughout the story.

I am now killing my babies. As I read through my first four chapters, I am looking for sections that can be rearranged to maintain a better pace. I’m also looking for sections that aren’t important at all. When I find them, I kill them. I’m not tied to the words I created. I can remove them and write new ones, better ones. The story also has sections that take far too long to get across what can be conveyed either indirectly or simply.

Because of my technical background, I tend to be rather verbose in my descriptions. I am learning to adopt a more compact and dense writing style, conveying an equal or greater amount of information in fewer words.

My goal is to write 100,000 words for Ohlen’s Bane. I’ll probably write more than that, because I know that during the revision and editing phase of the project, I’ll be whacking the backspace key a lot more than any other.

I am willing to kill my babies.

Are you a writer or a follower?

When I write, I don’t read other people’s works. I know that a lot of authors are also voracious readers both within their genre and outside of it, and I like to read as well (when I have time). When I’m writing my own new works, I don’t like to be tainted by the voice and style of others.

I am a writer, not a follower. I write my own story.

Imagine trying to write a song while listening to the radio. Intentionally or not, your song will be influenced by whatever you’re hearing whether you realize it or not. My writing is the same way.

I have read articles that ask the question, “How would ____ write this?” They often refer to famous authors, such as Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway. Although it’s worth gaining general knowledge of the mechanics of writing by studying famous literary works, asking the question, “How did ___ write?” is the better way to approach it.

Every writer has their own method, their own approach, their own voice. I’m no different. I have tools and processes and quirks that work for me, and they may work for others, but they may not. At the end of the day, I am writing my own books, not rehashes of something written by J.K. Rowling or R.A. Salvatore.

When I find myself struggling with a certain passage, I don’t ask, “How would ___ write this?” I am a writer, not a follower. I write my own story.

NaNoWriMo and Ohlen’s Bane

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I had already begun writing my new novel, Ohlen’s Bane, at the tail end of October, a process that included brainstorming and then creation of a plot event list. I set up Scrivener to have proper chapters and scenes based on that plot event list and had even begun writing Chapter 1.

Now that November and NaNoWriMo has come along, the timing is perfect for keeping me motivated. Over this past weekend I cranked out over 12,000 words on Ohlen’s Bane and am now neck-deep in Chapter 4.

I set up Scrivener to have a project goal of 100,000 words, and a session goal of 3,000 words. It’s very rewarding to see that 3,000 word goal whoosh by with tons of creativity and energy left in me. I think 50,000 words by November 30th is a very achievable goal.