2016 and I’m off to a slow start

I haven’t been riding much in the last quarter of 2015, and the new year isn’t shaping up to be any different. I try to get both the V-Strom and Gixxer ridden at least once every other week, rather than winterize them and let them sit.

The pattern is to find a dry weekend, even if it’s just an hour of opportunity between rain storms, and ride each bike for at least 30 minutes. This helps clear the exhaust of moisture and charge the battery. I keep my bikes in a storage unit and there’s no electricity, so that eliminates the possibility of putting the batteries on a tender/charger.

With El Nino, the weather has been rather uncooperative. It’s been raining like mad, and on the rare dry days, it’s bitterly cold and blowing wind. I also have to avoid most side roads because they often still have icy patches or gravel from previous freezes.

As a result, I have no interesting blog posts to write. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some interesting rides in as the weather improves with spring.

Chains and frost

Saturday I pulled both bikes out into the driveway. It was chilly, in the low 30’s, but the sun was shining. I gave the chains on each bike a thorough cleaning, then added fresh lubrication. I ran the engines for 10 minutes, and using the center stand on the V-Strom and the paddock stand for the Gixxer, was able to run the bike in gear.

I rode my V-Strom to work last week so it received it’s once-a-week maintenance ride, but my Gixxer hadn’t received any forward momentum love. I decided to suit up and zip into Gresham and back on the sport bike. It was good to get it out onto the road, although anywhere shade crossed the pavement I encountered a frosty road surface. Those kind of rides require a mellow throttle and brake application.

Cold maintenance rides

This is the time of year when I seldom ride for fun. I commute occasionally, as weather and errands allow (I oftentimes have to run errands that require the use of a four-wheeled vehicle). I also try to ride each bike at least once a week just to keep it running. I don’t like to let my vehicles sit.

One tip I’ve read is to either park your bike with a nearly empty tank and fuel stabilizer added, or better yet, park it with a full tank of fuel. When bikes sit for long periods, water condensation can form on the inside of the tank. If the tank is full, there is very little exposed surface area inside where condensation can form. That is why I choose to keep my tanks full when they are parked.

I’m not a mechanical expert by any means, so if any of my knowledgeable readers want to pipe in and comment on the validity of this approach, I’d appreciate it.

5,000 miles in 16 days

I just returned from a solo 5,000 mile trip around ten western states that took 16 days to complete. I left Oregon, went south to California, then across Nevada, Utah, and northern Arizona into Colorado. I then turned north into Wyoming and spent a night in South Dakota before turning west back across Wyoming, into southern Montana, across Idaho and back into Oregon.

The trip ranged from sea level (the Oregon coast) to 14,115 feet (Pikes Peak) and saw temperature extremes from the upper 30’s (Beartooth Pass, Montana) to 120 degrees (Zion National Park). The farthest south was Kaibito, Arizona, the farthest east was Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota, and the farthest north was Missoula, Montana.

From a gear standpoint, my bike — a 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650 — ran without complaint. In the 5,000 mile journey it used up about 3/4 of quart of oil (which is pretty normal for modern bikes). The odometer rolled over 50,000 miles during the trip. My Garmin Zumo 450 GPS half-died about 1,000 miles into the journey. It’s 5 years old so that’s a pretty good lifespan for an electronic gadget that gets exposed to the elements. The standout gear of the ride, however, were my ExOfficio convertible pants. I wore them under my Firstgear Kathmandu riding pants and made the trip a lot more comfortable, especially when riding in high desert heat. They retain zero odor, and I could wash them in my motel sink, ring them out (roll them up in a towel and step on it) and they’d be dry in a few hours. Plus they are super light and pack really small, which is a huge bonus when traveling by motorcycle.

The standout scenery was Beartooth Pass in southern Montana, just northeast of Yellowstone Park. The low point in terms of interest was probably Laramie, Wyoming. The town has the character of day-old dry toast.

I met some really cool people (Jeff in Fortuna, CA; Pam in Deadwood, SD; and Myles and John in Greybull, WY) and saw some shameful racism in many rural areas toward our President.

The trip went without a hitch, basically. There were no pucker moments or involuntary get-offs and no run-ins with law enforcement. It barely even rained — a few drops while visiting Mt. Rushmore.

Speaking of Mt. Rushmore, it was probably the biggest disappointment of all the big-name places I visited. It’s much smaller in person than I thought it was from all the pictures and video I’ve seen of it on TV. In fact, the rock formations surrounding the monument are far more interesting. Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming was kind of a ‘meh’ moment, too, not because it isn’t cool — it is — but because it’s exactly like I’ve seen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was a kind of “Been there, done that” sort of moment.

I hadn’t planned to visit Zion National Park but had to detour that way because of a road closure. Wow, what a place! I realize it’s cliche to say so but pictures can’t begin to do it justice. It’s as if Mother Nature consulted some big-name Hollywood filmmakers when designing it.

One thing that kept crossing my mind was the viewpoint that several fundamentalist Christians hold concerning the age of the earth. I’m all for the freedom to hold personal religious beliefs, but anyone that thinks the planet is only 7,000 years old is exhibiting a willful denial of reality bordering on malignant ignorance. Just travel around the west and look at the mountains that were built up, eroded away, and built up again and see if that kind of geological activity could happen in a few thousand years … or even in a few million. Wake up. It’s okay if the planet is 4 billion years old. Really. It won’t make you any farther from God to acknowledge what is obvious. If it makes you feel any better, remember what an old friend of mine used to say when asked about his view on dinosaur fossils vs. the Bible, “I don’t know how it happened, I just believe God was involved.”

When I go on these trips, I am often admonished by friends and family to takes lots of pictures. I took some, and I even took some video. In my tank bag was a GoPro HD camera and while riding I would often take it out and hold it with my left hand, filming various angles of the action. I’ve reviewed some of the footage and it worked pretty well. I plan to turn my photos and live footage into a produced video, with distribution to select individuals. Some photos will be posted here, but don’t expect too much. Philosophically, I have been taking the attitude that these places aren’t going anywhere; if you want to see them, go there yourself. I put in a lot of time, money, and sweat riding there and I feel somewhat reluctant to let others vicariously enjoy the benefits of that journey without paying some dues for the privilege. Sorry, but that’s just how I feel.

Meanwhile, my bike is filthy and needs an oil change. My chain is also in dire need of replacement and my Aerostich Darien jacket looks like it’s been to the moon and back (I love that jacket!) I also have 7 GB worth of video to edit. I’ll report back when I have something to report.

Getting the gunk out

One of the downsides of riding a dual-sport bike is grease and dust make a mess of the working parts. During a routine oil change, I decided to pull the plastic housing away from the clutch linkage and front sprocket. An hour later I had scraped away the semi-solid layers of gunk. It was a coagulation of road dust and chain lubricant.

Anytime I ride on a gravel road or ride in the rain, I clean and lube my chain. But the dust is especially nasty as it gets everywhere and it eventually needs to be removed. Adventure touring is a lot of fun but while I was cleaning that greasy crap from my bike I had a few moments where I contemplated keeping my V-Strom on paved roads only. Then I realized how much fun I’d be missing.

After the maintenance work, I went on an hour-long ride up Marmot and Barlow Trail Roads to work it all in and see how the bike was running. It’s just shy of 45,000 miles and is still running strong.