Saturday, April 24

Two (rides) a day--keeps the doctors away!

Recently, I received some sobering news about which I will blog about in the near future. I wrote it up and then just didn't feel like making it real just yet. Now that the weather had “broken” I am on the bike as often as physically possible. Like Chris, in Everyday Riding, I'm aiming to ride each day; it's a great goal but when it doesn't happen, I'm learning to let it go. So far, I'm able to ride to work two days a week. The only reason I can't on the other three days is that my place of work on those days is only four blocks away. I've decided that on those mornings, I will get up hours before needing to prepare for work and take a ride somewhere to watch the sun rise, which is always a grand way to begin any day.

Now, when I say the weather has “broken,” let me be clear. The snow has vacated! The cold remains much of the time. *Sigh.* Thus, my mornings begin in the cold but depending on when I return, the day usually has warmed to the mid 50s—perfect riding weather in my opinion. Last Thursday was a perfect riding day—at least it ended that way. It started off cold enough to use my heated hand grips on “high” and by the time I reached the campus, where I teach a couple of days a week, my hands were definitely a bit cold. But four hours later the weather couldn't have been more perfect with an azure sky that dotted heavens with small puffs of clouds.

As I've mentioned before, I'm charged with babysitting Dave's '09 BMW F650GS. He's only has about 4900 miles on it and a chunk of those miles I claim. Last summer, when his knee surgery prevented him from riding I stepped in to help ;-). This year, it's his shoulder that will keep him off the bike until June; I'm encouraging him to take as long as he needs to heal—his bike is in good hands! Yesterday, I rode my bike to work and back downtown, unloaded bike and rode off to the suburbs. I superslabbed it most of the way but it was great just to be moving along on two wheels. I was able to get in a good 50 miles even before I decided to take the F650 on a spin.

The F650GS is definitely an easy bike to love. The one thing I usually need to adjust to is the the distance from the ground to the pegs. Compared to my ST, it is a short, lift of the feet that requires only a minuscule tuck of the legs. I am always missing that and tucking up my legs way too high before lowering them to the pegs. I left our winding suburbs and headed toward the back roads. While riding, I thought of how much easier it might be to do a SaddleSore on the F650 because the legs and seating position are quite relaxed. I will probably never get to take it on a SaddleSore given Dave's belief that such long distances are “dangerous.” Of course, as one who has done two SaddleSore rides, I totally disagree. But it is his bike and therefore, his call. I think his attitude may be changing. I've been a BMW owner longer than he has and I have yet to get the urge to job the club. He has and he's hearing a lot of LD riding adventures and that notion of such rides being “dangerous” may be shifting.

I only did about 65 miles on the bike but each mile was fun and it made me think about how a bike's set up can help or hurt one's skill development. Those little Honda Rebels in the training classes are confidence building little bikes. I love them. One doesn't have to worry about weight of the bike too much and when you sit on one, it just feels friendly. That's how I felt while on the GS. It makes for easy maneuverability. For reasons I don't understand, doing a u-turn on the GS is easy. Think about it. And it happens! Part of this may be that it is a relatively light bike? U-turns on my bike are easy only because I practice them and I'm very used to the bike. But each execution on my bike takes a bit more thought IMHO. The friction zone is also different on the GS. It seems to have a wider tolerance for silly mistakes. Like pulling off in second gear—it does so without hesitation.

The one yucky thing about the bike is no longer an issues because Dave has installed a Sergeant seat that is not only more comfortable (anything would be) it is taller, which means I no longer can get my heels on the ground. When the new seat is broken in, I don't anticipate this being an issue. It's also, I think, the lightness of this bike compared to mine that I makes the GS a breeze to push around as in back peddling it out of the driveway.

I took the back roads to Kankakee River State Park. It made me think about how I need to get the helmet camera mounted as it has collected dust since I bought it two ride seasons ago. I'm even thinking of selling it and getting something newer. The problem has been not being able to find a screw long enough to mount the thing and the one that came with it doesn't fit around the thingy that goes circles the handlebar. I should have returned it but who would have thought that finding a screw would be difficult. Yes, I've been to hardware stores that specialize in European screws and a little elderly man from Poland, I think, who owns a great little neighborhood hardware store, searched old bins and couldn't find anything that would fit either.

The roads leading to the park are lined with farms and tall prairie grasses and the occasional subdivision tucked in. The smell of manure is overwhelming in places. Mostly, however, there is old, small town life. My route took me through Manteno, IL., a place I thought, as a child, was where insane people were sent to live out their days. I remember overhearing adults say things like, “If he keeps acting out, he's going to get himself sent to Manteno.” It was always described as a snake pit of sorts. Yet, I glance at the few people on the Manteno streets. They look like you and me. Still, I wonder about their mental state. It's a perfectly good looking, quaint town, in spite of the labels that adhere to it.

Time on the GS flew by. The bike sang with a pleasing engine hum marred only by a slight, but unmistakable. rattling of the newly installed V-Stream windshield.

Kankakee River State Park was virtually empty, which is in stark contrast to lazy summer days when the place is packed with visitors.

By the time I arrived it was early evening, the Kankakee river that runs through the park moved swiftly and the bright setting sun shone brilliantly on the darkening water. I parked the bike several times and looked around and stared at the foliage. Finally, I stood along the river's edge and daydreamed into the water.

I wished I had come earlier; I wished I had brought a book and a blanket and one of those Kashi Honey Almond Flax bars that I've developed a slight addiction to. I wished it was warmer to spread a blanket and rest on the grasses and read and lose myself even if just for an hour so I could shelve all the world's problems and all the personal little dramas that make up a life, my life.

I left the park reluctantly. But not before dismounting at the gate one last time and looking back at the ground I had traveled. A mirror image captures a bit of the tree-lined winding road. Only when I left the park did I realize just how cold it was turning.

The warmth of the setting sun strained against swiftly moving clouds that made it dark one minute and light the next. The ride home was uneventful. For miles nary a car was behind me. I passed through Manteno again and thought perhaps I ought to visit that State Hospital on the next outing that brings me this way.

F800ST = 55 miles

F650GS = 65 miles

Ride total: 122 miles o' smiles!

Wednesday, April 7

Rain Riding and the BMW Mileage Contest Results!

The weather has been ride-perfect for the last week or so. This week, the week I'm taking off from one of my jobs, the weather has been cold(er), rainy and quite windy. I couldn't care less! I've taken to the road as much as time allows! Riding in the cold rain is better than no riding at all.

My Easter Sunday ride promised to be a nice one but ended up mostly in the rain. I left the house so optimistic that the weather would clear up, I failed to pack the rain gear, which really is optional when wearing my preferred jacket. My Fieldsheer Adventure jacket is water proof and kept my body dry, but when the exterior got drenched it led to feeling chilled, which never really went away--my fault for not taking the time to put the wind/rain liner in the jacket. Thank goodness for heated grips.

Stopped at a gas station to put air into the tires and accidentally overinflated the tires. It was a crappy air system and it registered amounts that were inconsistent with my old fashion air gauge. When I tried to take some of the air out, it was always too much and then I'd inflate again and go over. Ugh! Eventually, I just left it several pounds over-inflated. I learned that this is not good. For those of you out there who know more about this sort of thing than I do, tell me if my logic makes sense.

I'm assuming that an overinflated tired can be pretty dang bad on wet pavement. It seems to me that over inflation means that there is less rubber on the road, that the contact patch will be smaller, which could lead to less grip and even more slippage than one would encounter if the tires were inflated properly. This all makes sense to me but I'm going strictly on feel. When the rain came and it came fast and furiously at first, there was no shoulder on which to pull off so I continued on. I've ridden in many rain storms, some that produced a religious re-awakening in me--if you know what I mean.

The Easter rain was heavy and as I rode down two lane roads, with speed limits of 45-55 mph, I experienced a lot of slippage of the back tire--at least that's where I felt it most. This sliding around was definitely over and above the normal slippery feeling that is common in the early stages of riding on wet roads. It was a bit spooky at first but when I adjusted my riding accordingly, I was able to ride until I found a pull off place. Throughout the rest of the ride I experienced many breath-taking moments on the road.

So, is my theory correct about the over-inflated tires, smaller contact patch, etc.? (Yes, now home, the correction has been implemented).

I road most of the day and night in on and off again rain. In the dark of night, the lightening flashes forced me to take refuge at my mother's house. She put my jacket and gloves in the dryer and that warmth was pure joy. The rain didn't stop so after an hour of visiting, I headed out again when the rain seemed lighter. Within 5 minutes on the road, the dark skies opened again. It was after 10pm; I made it home around 11pm, chilled to the bone with prayers answered. Other than being a tad cold, I ended the day with no complaints about my wet day on two wheels.


Well, guess who made it among the top 25 women mileage contest winners?! I think I was 19th. And, guess who did extremely well among the 89 Illinois finishers! I think I was 15ish? I say "think" because once again I didn't receive my April issue of the BMW MOA magazine! So, I'm writing the place positions from what I recall reading in Dave's magazine.

In print, I am short of my mileage goals because I rode two other motorcycles during ride season and couldn't count the miles on those bikes. This time, I'm adding the BMW F650GS to the contest since I'm going to be babysitting it until June. I have bigger mileage goals this year. Still, the ultimate goal is lots of long, safe miles of smile.

I'm a sucker for contests of this sort because you compete against yourself. You have no idea what others are doing. It's about doing your own thing. Setting goals and figuring out how to accomplish it. I like that it's no fuss, no muss. Just enter, ride and report your certified miles.

Today is dark, dreary, rainy and cold.

They say it might clear up. I'm waiting...