$8.90 in Detroit

Over the holiday weekend I rode each of my bikes to Detroit and back, the V-Strom on Friday and the Gixxer on Saturday. There were a lot of vehicles on the road and a fair number of bikes as well, and Detroit itself was hopping.

Something interesting happened. I gassed up my V-Strom on regular unleaded at the small store in Detroit on Friday and paid $8.90 for the fuel bill. On Saturday I rode my Gixxer to Detroit and filled up the tank on premium unleaded. The bill?

$8.90.

Say goodbye to Detroit

It’s autumn and that means winter is right around the corner. That also means that my riding options become limited. Highway 224 from Estacada to Ripplebrook remains open all year, but from NF46 from Ripplebrook to Detroit is not maintained for winter travel. Once we get our first snowfall down to 3,000 feet elevation, that’s all she wrote until mid May at the soonest (two years ago the road wasn’t snow-free until the third weekend of June!)

I’ve ridden to Detroit several times in recent weeks, specifically to get as much road time on that route as possible before it closes for the winter. Why do I like that route so much? It’s 80 miles of curves and scenery without a single stop sign or town. Although it doesn’t have a lot of especially tight twisties, it does have a broad variety of curve types and conditions. This is a great way to improve skills.

When I rode to Detroit late last week, the fall colors were resplendent and bold. It was a blast.

Happy Birthday, GSX-R750!

My 2012 GSX-R750, Shoot to Thrill, turned 1 year old on Sunday. I celebrated with a ride to Detroit that took me through a thundershower that lasted 20 minutes. The rain drops — as Forrest Gump would call ‘Big ‘ol fat rain!’ — were so big they hurt when they struck my arms through my riding leathers. During the twisty part, I took it real slow to maintain traction. Once I got up over the pass and hit the long straights I made fast time.

A few miles before reaching Ripplebrook on my way home, the rain had stopped and I had dry pavement. Two nights before there had been severe thunderstorms in the area and there was a lot of tree debris on the road. I even saw banks of hail on the side of the road in the shade that looked like snowbanks. Amazing!

In the year I’ve owned my Gixxer, I’ve put 7,000 miles on it. This is atypical for a sport bike, but consider that during that same year I also put 7,000 miles on my Suzuki V-Strom! That’s a lot of saddle time.

At this point, if someone asked if I liked the GSX-R750 or the V-Strom better, I’d give them a big smile and say, “Yes!”

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.