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