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.

Ride report June 2012: Day 1

Sandy, OR to Coos Bay, OR

The weather was perfect for riding … sunny and in the mid 60’s. I started my route on roads through a fancy yet rural neighborhood, where rich executives from Portland have million dollar homes on 20 acre plots. I then took highway 99W down through the Willamette Valley to the college town of Monmouth where I headed west on rural Kings Valley Road. Along the way I followed a young buck deer as he ran down the center of the road, still in the velvet.

In Philomath I fueled up my bike at Chevron and my belly at the adjacent McDonalds, then headed west toward the coast on highway 34 through Alsea to the coastal town of Waldport. The road was in fantastic shape and traffic was light.

In Waldport I headed south in highway 101, then pulled over at the Smelt Sands wayside in Yachats (pronounced ‘yaw-hots’). I walked down to the rocks and waves and took some pictures and even some video on my GoPro HD.

Back on the road I got stuck behind a land barge (RV) from British Columbia with a dozen cars piled up behind it. It took a while but I was eventually able to pass.

I got into Coos Bay and checked into the Best Western by 3:30 pm. After a nap and a shower I walked down to a local restaurant, Shark Bites, but they were closed so I ate next door at EZ Thai. The phad thai was adequate but unremarkable.

Ride report June 2012: Day 2

Coos Bay, OR to Fortuna, CA

I left Coos Bay at 8:30 am after a decent complimentary breakfast (with real food; the best of the trip). It was sunny and cool but not cold. Traffic on 101 was very light and I didn’t stop until I got to Brookings, just north of the California border. I parked in the shade behind a gas/food mart and ate a snack. After a bio break, I continued over the California border for the first of three times in a single day.

I cut inland on highway 197 then connected with 199 to Cave Junction, back in Oregon. 199 is scary in some parts, narrow and winding with deadly consequences if you go off the pavement. I fueled up in Cave Junction after riding 180 miles. A tall guy in rafting sandals asked me several questions about my bike as I gassed it up. He was considering getting a V-Strom. I then ate a BLT at the My Place Cafe next door.

It was warming up so I opened my jacket vents before heading up and over the pass back into California to Happy Camp. Patches of snow were visible in spots along the roadside at the 4,600 foot summit but the road was dry.

It was getting even warmer so I removed my jacket liner, then got onto highway 96 westbound. Soon I came up behind two new V-Stroms, but they were riding so slow I soon passed them both with a beep-beep and motored onward. My next break was Willow Creek where I got on highway 299 for the last leg to Fortuna. I rode 380 miles to that point. Dinner was a really tasty Italian club sandwich and French saison beer at the Eel River Brewery next door to my Super 8. Both establishments are highly recommended for riders.

Ride report June 2012: Day 3

Loop day, Fortuna, CA

The day was spent riding a 270 mile loop in the area. These are my favorite roads and are worth riding a long ways to experience if you’re not from the area. I headed inland, eastbound, on highway 36, then veered northeast on highway 3 from Hayfork to Weaverville. This section is gnarly and wicked and amazing on a motorcycle. It demands attention and offers a great reward to those who conquer it. In Weaverville I stopped at Trinideli for lunch. My friend, Mark, stopped by as he was driving home from Trinity Lake. After lunch, he drove on while I continued the loop by turning westbound on highway 299. Back on the coast, I turned inland and rode the narrow, winding road up to Mark’s home in the rural community of Kneeland. Mark and I had dinner and a lot of laughs, then I rode back down the hill to my motel in Fortuna.

Ride report June 2012: Day 4

Fortuna, CA to Sparks, NV

When I left Fortuna at 8 am it was drizzling and cool as is typical of the Eureka/Arcata/Fortuna area. I headed inland once again on highway 36 and by the time I went up and over the first pass I had sunshine and blue skies.

Nearing Red Bluff the temperature was climbing so I pulled over and switched to my warm weather gear configuration … Aerostich Darien jacket with vents open and minus the liner, and I opened the thigh vents on my Firstgear Kathmandu pants. As I rode the amazing roller coaster curves of 36 just west of Red Bluff, I kept feeling something hit my boots. Later I realized I was riding through crickets.

I fueled up in Red Bluff, then got lunch at a busy Subway before continuing east across I-5 on highway 36. From this point on, except for the last two days of the trip, I would be riding roads new to me. East of I-5, 36 is a lot of grass and scrub oak and heat. Eventually the elevation climbed enough to moderate the temperature. The road before and after Lake Almador was amazing as was the timber, tall and uniform.

Once I got to Susanville I fueled up my bike and continued on, now in hot, arid country. The border into Nevada was unmarked. Once I got into Sparks I used my Garmin Zumo 450 GPS to find the Super 8. It was a hotel, rather than my preferred motel, so I had to load all my gear on a cart and wheel it inside to my room. Once I got a quick nap and shower out of the way, I went to the casino/truck stop/restaurant next door for dinner. There were some shady people in there and it reminded me of the cantina scene in Star Wars IV, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” (I am sure those truck drivers are salt of the earth good people, but they can present a rather gruff, scary first impression.) The chicken parmesan was pretty good.

Before I went to dinner I washed my ExOfficio t-shirts and underwear in the bath tub and hung them up to dry. My wool socks were the only thing I didn’t attempt to wash by hand; I saved them for later when I could wash them in a motel with a laundry room.