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.

To Astoria the gnarly way

There are usually several ways to get from Point A to Point B. As my readers should know by now, I seldom use the shortest-distance-is-a-straight-line route. Sunday was no exception.

Here’s the route I took on Google Maps.

I met my buddy, Brutus, at a gas station in Beaverton at 9:30. We chatted for a bit and discussed his new bike, a 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250, as well as his day-glo jacket and pants which has earned him the unofficial nickname, “The Noticeable One.” We then headed west on Highway 26 before cutting southwest onto Highway 6. A few miles later we turned north on Timber Road. The surface is in fantastic shape and the curves are plenty and offer a nice variety. There are a lot of driveways to farms and plenty of woods, so critters and slow locals are to be watched for. We had to stop for a dog and a cat in the roadway less than a half-mile from each other.

We soon reached the creepy town of Vernonia. I’m sure it’s a great place to live, but every time I’ve been there I have felt like I was in a Stephen King novel. It’s hard to describe but many others I know have felt the same way when visiting the town. Regardless, we were soon through the town and on our way on Highway 47 north, then onto 202 west.

Highway 202 cuts through the northern Oregon coast range and is definitely not a main thoroughfare. It goes through the community of Jewell and its famous elk viewing areas (no elk for us, sadly). The road is narrow and winding and really taxes the rider due to its rough condition. The far west end has seen some repaving but the rest really puts your shocks to work. Riding my V-Strom on 202 is not much of an issue because it can handle the rougher ride, but by the time I went to Astoria and back on my GSX-R750, my back and wrists were starting to complain.

Brutus and I gassed up and ate lunch at the Dairy Queen in Astoria before going our separate ways back home. He headed south on 101 to Seaside where he caught Highway 26 for a straight shot east to his home in Beaverton. I backtracked on 202 to where it met rural highway 103 south. I had never been on this road, so I took the turn and followed it to its junction with Highway 26, busy with weekenders heading back to the city from their visit to the coast. 103 was a delight, with great curves, scenery, and road surface. It was all too short, though.

Back on Highway 26, I resigned myself to freeway riding for the rest of the trip home. I made it through the city and out onto the east side route on I-84 before getting home 265 miles later. I was exhausted but happy.

Racing R1s from Detroit

After a ride to Detroit and back on Saturday, the fantastic riding weather was too tempting to deny so on Sunday I headed out once again on the Gixxer.

I fueled up in Estacada, then rode straight through to Detroit where I drank a Frappucino and ate a Snickers bar before heading back. I didn’t get gas in Detroit as I usually do, making the calculation that my bike would make the roundtrip on a single tank of gas (Gixxer’s don’t have a fuel gauge). Once I left Detroit, I caught up with a guy on a Yamaha FJR1300 that was loaded up for a long trip. He quickly waved me past and I zoomed forward. He followed me until the turn off to Timothy Lake, at which point I saw him do a U-turn in my mirrors. I think that was the way he wanted to go.

Not much farther down the road I heard a “Whoosh!” and saw a guy on a black Yamaha R1 zoom past me. I quickly caught up with him and was soon riding up his tailpipe on the corners. He was riding fairly aggressively, going fast in the straights, but he had a disjointed style in the corners and wasn’t taking them very efficiently. Soon I passed him as well as numerous cars.

Before I knew it I got to Ripplebrook Ranger Station and stopped under some shade in the parking lot. Less than a minute later he pulled in and parked next to me. We chatted for a couple of minutes before his buddy on a red and white anniversary edition R1 showed up. Finally their third buddy on an FZ1 pulled in and the four of us talked for about five minutes about bikes. They couldn’t say enough good things about my GSX-R750 and were blown away when I mentioned it apparently has a top speed of 180 mph, stock. The stock 1000 cc R1 can only go 6 mph faster than that. They were in somewhat of a hurry to get back into town so they pulled out and headed down the road. I put my gloves and helmet on and sought out to catch up to them.

It didn’t take long before I was right behind them, on the hill down to the river crossing at Indian Henry Campground. Between there and the next bridge just before Three Lynx I passed the FZ1; he didn’t appear to be a very good rider. Soon after the red and white anniversary edition R1 waved me past. I was then up the tailpipe of the first guy on the black R1. Again, he wasn’t riding very smoothly, actually tucking down against his tank when going into corners. This is opposite of what should be done. I quickly went past him, too. They had a hard time keeping up.

The three guys finally caught up with me at the construction stoplight just west of Promontory Park. They followed me the rest of the way into Estacada where I pulled into town to get gas and they continued on westward.

It was a fantastic ride and I had a huge grin on my face when I got home.

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.