Thursday, June 12

Gallimaufry (aka lots of stuff, little time)

The Bike

Jesse Owens (the name of my new F800ST) continues to amaze me! While I'm still adjusting to the engine sound of this parallel twin (I don't know if they all sound like this), I love the bike! It has a low, deep-throated thunder that sounds so unlike my V-twin. It makes me think of a scooter when I'm riding it--not that there's anything wrong with that. One of the guys from MotoWorks said to me following a ride on my bike, "There is nothing scooter-like about that bike."
Jesse has a scratch! To most, it is barely noticeable. To me, it is as big as Godzilla! I don't want to talk about how it happened. Folks at MotoWorks suggest that I leave it alone, that it gives character to an otherwise perfect bike, that it is but one scratch of many to come. I've had plenty of people see Jesse, walk around him, marvel at his beauty and not see this imperfection. But my heart aches at the sight of this unavoidable mishap. The bike isn't a month old, for heaven's sake! Someone even suggested that the story makes an excellent conversation starter. Yeah, right! Repair estimate... Let me just say, I soon may be in need of a prosthesis for a missing limb.

Jesse's suspension remains one annoying thing. When I hit a road elevation--any bump, really--I am tossed out off my seat! Recently, I went over a fairly good size series of unavoidable bumps on Lake Shore Drive (Rt. 41). Not only did this jar some internal organs, I literally was hurled scary inches above seat. Seriously! Help from the F800ST riders forum confirmed that the suspension needs adjusting. You don't know what you don't know. My reference point is my SV 650, which was perfect in this regard. Someone on the forum told me that the stock suspension on the SV is set up for a more lightweight rider and that the suspension is usually one of the first adjustments riders make on the SV. Jesse is definitely set up for a heavier rider, I guess. It's like a bucking bronco! Fortunately, suspension adjustments are easy to make on the ST.

The Ride

I've read and heard this: the third riding season presents particular challenges for motorcyclists. After two successful ride seasons under one's belt an over confidence can creep in and one's guard can drop here and there, which is why it's a good idea to launch each season with a skills class. I realize that not all accident can be avoided but we can never be too skilled and there are many things we can control. The Hurt Report (still considered the best work on motorcycle statistics, investigated over 1,100 accidents over a two year period and analyzed over 90o. One third of these motorcycle accidents resulted from rider error (e.g., "...motorcyclist goes wide in a turn, ...sideswipes a car or overcooks the rear brakes trying to stop and then slides out," etc). Quoted in Hough's Proficient Motorcycling.

The majority of accidents were collisions with other vehicles. Here are some Hurt Report stats: Approximately 74% of motorcycle accidents were multiple vehicle, the rest were single vehicle accident. Of the 26% of single vehicle crashes, 17% were rider error, 2% surface hazards and about 6% resulted from animal, blowouts, etc.

Of the 74% multi-vehicle collisions, 28% were the deadly left hand turner and about the same (29%) resulted from angle collisions. If you don't read anything else, read Hough's first chapter in Proficient Motorcycling for a reader-friendly, in depth analysis of the Hurt Report.

The Rider's Guru: AKA David Hough

I met David Hough at the BMW Rally in West Bend, WI last year. Well I sort of met him. Actually, I attended his standing room only workshop. I remember him perched at the head of the room, his mammoth audience in rapt attention. He wore a denim shirt, khaki colored pants and a floppy hat. Before him was a large screen and on it was projected a variety of road situations and rider challenges. He asked his pupils questions, some of which we failed and all of which he gently corrected and elaborated. He was funny, serious, and sagacious. Long before gas hikes and motorcycle specialization, Hough was there, writing tales and instructing riders for Motorcycle Consumer News. He doesn't know me from Jane, but he's one of my ride mentors.

I recently learned that my riding school, Ride Chicago, is again offering the SRTT class. If you are in the Chicago area, this advanced street riding class is worth every penny--and more. It is many steps above the msf's experienced rider course. I plan to take it for the third time next month. But if you can't get to Chicago, read or re-read Hough's canons: Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride, and Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists. Although I have many favorite motorcycle books, I am always drawn to Pat Hahn's, Ride Hard, Ride Smart: Ultimate Street Strategies for Advanced Motorcyclists. I am particularly fond of Chapter Seven. Here it is in its entirety:

Chapter 7 "Riding At Night"

The Risk

Recently, I rode at night. I started out at about 3:30 p.m., ran into horrible traffic on I-57 (I later learned that a worker had been killed) Now, I'm sorry for whining about being stuck there, literally in first gear, for more than an hour. Eventually, it turned into a two-bike riding day, with me riding Queenie about 25 miles--the SV beats the ST in friskiness IMHO. It ended up that I didn't return home until 11:00 p.m.

In general, I agree with Hahn's command. I do, however, believe it comes down to risk management, right? How much are you personally willing to assume? The need to scan, maintain a proper space cushion, watch people and cars--anticipate their every move, is heightened at night. Seeing the road is a challenge. Some of the roads around here are in wretched condition. Don't override your headlights! I know many of these roads and that night, for example, I knew that the ramp that leads off the Bishop Ford Expressway toward Stony Island is crazy-cracked and bumpy. I avoided it and just took I-94 in, which has its own challenges too but the road is new and smooth. I will on occasion go out for a purposeful night ride. My goal is to feel confident, competent and comfortable on my bike regardless of conditions. And, the only way to get practice for night riding is to ride at night. I've forgotten what Hahn says about riding in the rain. But I like that too. Were it not for having been caught in more than my share of torrential rains without a place to stop and wait it out, I might try to avoid rain riding. Now, a nice, soft and quiet ride is a non-issue.

Work continues to suck the living life out of me and now that Jesse is my sole means of transportation, I need frequent rides beyond the daily errands. Thus, I'm off this morning to find some dry, high ground in the Midwest.

Ride Smart. Ride Safe. (Sorry for sounding so preachy). As I write this, it is 2:30 a.m. and I blame the wee hours...

R.I.P. Tim Russert


D. Brent Miller said...

A scratch! OMG! It may give character, but what's the story? Do you need to make one up to keep your audience enthralled?


Art said...

The first imperfection! What a sweet misery for every biker. Think of it as customization. Do you want a showpiece? A bike that looks like its trailered to a"riding destination"?! Think not. I refer you to for another perspective. BTW ... congrats on the new ride... May all your customizations be small incremental experiences that build to a patina that speaks of thousands of miles of riding.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

If you are going to ride at night, please look into MotoLights. They great on the front end, provide super visibility during the daylight, and a basket of light around the front wheel at night.

My only concern for riding at night is hitting a deer.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner rides said...

Brent, when I can tell the tale without crying, I'll share.

Sojourner rides said...

Thanks Art, and thanks for "another perspective." I know it shouldn't be a big deal--but three weeks old--not even! I love the idea of "...small incremental experiences that build to a patina..."

Sojourner rides said...

Hi Jack. I'm going to changed the stock light system as I did on the SV (e.g., headlight modulator, running lights, LEDs and fancy flashers in the back)--just haven't yet gotten around to it. In due time...I respect a deer's need to eat and I do not go out too early or out during dinner time. Near my house there are lots of critters that make night riding super dangerous. But superslabbing it in the inner city or down Michigan Ave., is not too challenging, which is what I restrict my night riding to. I would not ride unnecessarily in the 'burbs--or on my long trips (which has more to do with wanting to avoid the human critters!).

Giest said...

I know how you feel about the scratch. Within a couple of months of getting my bike I found a small chip on the rear fender. I had no idea how it got there and unless you were looking for it you wouldn't see it, but I knew it was there. To me it was gigantic and may as well have had neon lights surrounding it. I ended up getting it touched up because rust was trying to settle in (very wet around here). You really can't notice it now, but it still irks me when I clean the bike...*sigh*.

As for riding at night... If that's the way that chapter is wrote then the first chapter should be "Riding a Motorcycle: Don't Ride a Motorcycle". I know the risk factor is increased, but that's pretty silly for a book on advanced motorcycling. It's like you said, don't outride your headlight. Also, don't ride tired. You have to be as alert as possible when riding, even more so as dark settles in.

By the way, that's a handsome new machine you've got there. Congratulations!

Lucas said...

What about the top case! Very nice - I like it. Who makes it and what model is that.

Your comment on night riding - it's your ride. Everything we do is a risk - whether we know of the risk or not. As motorcyclist - we know the risks we take. But as professionals we learn to mitigate those risks.

Sojourner rides said...

Hi Giest! Thanks for dropping by... "...neon lights surrounding it..." that is exactly how I feel about my scratch!! Re: night riding. We're on the same page! Thanks.

Sojourner rides said...

Lucas, that's the BMW topcase. I got a very good price on it--the one I originally order was on indefinite back order so I went with the BMW. I like that the key is "tuned" to it so I don't have to worry about an extra key.

Re: night riding: Two words: risk management. Amen

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

I had my K75 washed and waxed this past week. (You read that correctly.) I didn't feel like getting all over this machine with a soapy rag and a hired "Molly," an aspiring model who likes to detail bikes to do this one in the driveway.

"Fire Balls" hadn't been cleaned since my West Virginia ride and it was getting to be a toss-up between washing it or planting crops on it. There were a couple of times on that trip where I got sprayed with gravel by passing trucks.

When Molly was finished, the bike was gleaming, but sported hairline scratches on each side of the gas tank (barely visible to the naked eye, with small chips out of the roundels on the tank as well.

I was reminded of a philosophical remark passed on to me by Lee Kazanas, who rides a beautifully restored BMW R/6. He was at he Vermont Rally when he noticed that a stone had cut a divot out of his priceless paint job. He said, "This is what happens when you insist on taking them out of the garage."

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe

Sojourner rides said...

Jack, great story! I will remember the price one can pay for taking one's ride out! Still, there's only so much I'm going to let show. ;D