320 miles on a GSX-R750

I seldom need an excuse to ride a motorcycle, but having a specific destination can provide the motivation to tackle a tougher route or longer duration than would otherwise be the norm. Last weekend was a good example of this.

My good buddy, Mike, recently moved to Albany and wanted me to visit him at his new home. I was already planning on taking the Gixxer for a spin, so I decided to give my ride a destination. Of course, I wasn’t just going to buzz down I-5 (ick!) and back. I chose the long way ’round.

I left Gresham at 9 AM and rode due south to Deep Creek Road, which connected to Highway 211 just west of Barton. I followed 211 east into Estacada and veered left onto Highway 224 and familiar ground. There were numerous rafters on the Clackamas River and many cars headed in both directions between Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station.

I stopped at the ranger station for a quick bio break, then headed south on NF46. I rode to Detroit without stopping, and maintained a spirited yet controlled pace. The temperature was warming up and by the time I got to Detroit it was already in the upper 70s. I ate a snack, filled up my tank with ethanol-free premium, and turned west on Highway 22.

This stretch of road, from Stayton, up over the Cascades to Sisters and Redmond, is busy and this warm late Spring day was no exception. I had to pass several slower cars, but kept my speed moderated for safety and economic sake — tickets are expensive.

In Mehama, I crossed the Santiam River into the the community of Lyons. It was my first time in that tiny town. Highway 226 west was my new route and I was impressed with how lush it was. This is a beautiful drive, and it exemplifies the beauty of western Oregon. The next town I came to was Scio. I continued south then west again on 226, past the community of Crabtree, and into Albany.

I got turned around in Albany and had to backtrack a few blocks to get onto the correct street to Mike’s house. I don’t have a GPS on my Gixxer and on the ride back I spent some time wondering where I could mount one in the cramped dash space of the sport bike.

Mike and I drove in his car to a nearby brewpub for burgers and BLTs and ice water. We were the only customers until a middle-aged guy showed up solo on his Harley-Davidson. He ordered a beer and Mike and I talked behind his back at how foolish we think drinking and riding is. That guy has his freedom to do what he chooses, of course, including the freedom to make poor choices.

I decided to backtrack the way I came, so I said my goodbyes to Mike and made it back onto 226 east bound. The weather had warmed up into the low 80s and was a bit muggy. The armpit and back vents on my Aerostich Roadcrafter did a surprising job of helping me stay relatively cool. I stopped for gas again in Detroit, before heading north on NF46.

There were many motorcyclists heading toward me and the waves were enthusiastic on both sides at how great of a day it was to ride. When I stopped in Ripplebrook for another bio break and to chug more water, there were a half dozen other riders doing the same thing. I saw a couple of Forest Service law enforcement vehicles parked at a boat launch on the way back on 224 into Estacada, but they paid me no mind.

I got back into Gresham at 4:20 in the afternoon, after riding 320 miles. I was hot, thirsty, and my helmet — which I had already cleaned three times during the day — was covered in bugs. The front of my Gixxer was even worse. It needs a thorough cleaning.

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.

Review: Aerostich Courier Bag

For about a month now I have been using an Aerostich Courier bag when commuting to work on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. As you can imagine, the body position is rather different between these two bikes. The V-Strom has an upright, neutral position and the Gixxer has me leaning forward with my elbows practically touching my knees.

I use the Courier bag to carry my lunch, an iPad, an external hard drive, and a few other miscellaneous items. The total weight is around six pounds.

The bag itself is one large compartment. I purchased the additional pocket organizer that attaches to the inside panel (that presses against my back) with hook-and-loop fasteners. In this I store pens, business cards, a small notebook, and a few other small miscellaneous items.

I switched from using a Targus backpack with traditional shoulder straps and several external pockets, and so far I think I like the one big compartment of the Courier bag much better. It’s faster to get stuff in and out of the courier bag, and of course it’s easier to see in a single glance what is inside.

My biggest concern was switching from shoulder straps (plural) to a singular over-the-shoulder strap. Once the bag is slung over my head to the opposite shoulder, it presses against the flat of my back and I don’t notice it anymore after I get on the bike. Even when leaning forward on my Gixxer, the courier bag is comfortable and stable.

The hook-and-loop panel holding the main flap down is very wide and opening it can be rather loud.

I commuted to work through some serious rain the other day on my V-Strom while wearing my Aerostich Courier bag slung over my Roadcrafter one-piece suit. The bag remained stable and the contents were kept completely dry despite the heavy precipitation. I’m sold on the quality of this bag and wish I had purchased it long ago.

The craftsmanship of this bag is outstanding, just like that of my Darien jacket and Roadcrafter one-piece suit. The materials are solid and I can tell this bag is going to last me a very long time. Considering the very low price, I think it is an outstanding value.

Review: Aerostich Roadcrafter One-Piece Suit

Back in late May, I placed an order for a Roadcrafter one-piece riding suit from Aerostich. I chose a size 42 regular and had them rotate the sleeves forward to accommodate a sport-bike riding position. My custom-made suit came via FedEx yesterday and I took my first ride while wearing it.

First impressions matter, but I’ve learned that may not always be the case in riding apparel that needs to be broken in before they’re comfortable. Fortunately, my Roadcrafter fit me perfectly on Mile One. As with most specialized gear, it can feel a little awkward when you’re standing upright. It doesn’t get into its groove until you assume the position specific to the activity. You wouldn’t walk through a grocery store wearing scuba gear and expect it to fit right, but as soon as you get into the water everything would fall into place, so to speak.

Despite being a full-size suit, my Roadcrafter is surprisingly light. I expected it to weigh quite a lot, especially considering how much heavy-duty Cordura nylon and hardware goes into its construction. It is fully lined with a thin nylon material to prevent chaffing, and the protective pads in the shoulders, elbows and knees are discrete and barely noticeable.

Getting into the suit is counterintuitive, but the friendly folks at Aerostich include a ‘donning’ guide that makes it a snap. You hold up your suit and step into it right foot first, followed by your right arm. Then you insert your left arm into the sleeve. The unusual part is you engage the full-body zipper up by your throat and then zip it down rather than at the ankle and zipping up. Once I did it a few times, I could get into the suit in less than 15 seconds.

I threw my leg over the saddle of my 2012 GSX-R750 and rolled out of the driveway. Before departure, I opened both armpit vents and the vent across my back. The temperature outside was around 80 degrees so I anticipated being rather warm in the thick nylon suit. Surprisingly, I wasn’t any warmer than I am in my AGVSport leathers and noticed the Roadcrafter actually had a bit more upper-body ventilation. Most of this was from airflow down the back of the collar and across the center of my back. There are no vents on the legs, however, which may be an issue on especially hot rides.

Once I was on my bike, the suit felt like it disappeared. There were no hot spots or areas where the suit rubbed on a joint or limb. There was plenty of airflow from the open collar. It felt lightweight, too. I was immediately impressed.

I rode through Estacada up the Clackamas River Highway 224 to Ripplebrook Ranger Station and back again. During that ride I got sideways a few times and tested out how the suit felt at higher speeds. It was stable and comfortable, with no flapping or other detractions.

By the time I got home, my new Roadcrafter one-piece suit felt like an old friend. I look forward to many thousands of miles wearing it on my Gixxer.

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.