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.

In the zone, and wanting more

Saturday I went on a mid-day practice ride on Marmot Road, but it was far too short. I wanted more. Sunday, mid-afternoon, I tackled the NF46 run to Detroit to make up for it. My bike was running good, the conditions were excellent, and I was in the zone.

And I wanted more.

It was the fastest, smoothest run I’ve had on that route to date and it felt incredible. I found myself feeling as if I was beyond the capabilities of my bike. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 has been described as “perhaps the most shockingly competent bike” available by the press, and for good reason. It is very capable and versatile, and in my opinion, the single best value in motorcycles today.

Part of the problem with that versatility is the tendency to become a Jack-of-all-Trades and a master of none. The V-Strom can be customized to be an outstanding dual-sport machine, rivaling the BMW GS series in capabilities — at substantially lower cost and arguably better reliability. It can’t be customized to be a true road machine, however, at least not in comparison with some other bikes that are available. Horsepower is the biggest limiting factor. You can add a few hp here and there but nothing substantial. Suspension upgrades are rather limited as well.

I am finding that I get a lot more smiles from carving up a run of paved twisties than I do taking my V-Strom off-road. In fact, riding off-road makes me somewhat nervous and I ride rather cautiously, mostly from lack of experience (it’s not the bike’s fault, in other words).

So despite putting 43,000 wonderful, trouble-free miles on a fantastic bike, I’m feeling the increasing desire to switch to a more road-oriented bike.

Right now I’m researching the Yamaha FJR 1300. More to come…