You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2012.

One of my goals for this year was to get some experience offroading. I haven’t had a two-wheeled motorized vehicle offroad since my Rupp Scrambler circa 1975. At Saturday’s Kawasaki demo day I asked one of the guides who had offroad experience about how to get training, to which he replied, “I dunno. I’m one of those crazy guys who will just go and do it.” Mind you, this is a guy who claims he rode his KLR-650  to the Arctic circle last year. So I was inspired.

Yesterday I found some dirt roads to demo my V-strom on. Here’s some video of my first offroad experiences.

Somewhere on the mountain near Bear Creek Ski Resort:


Then when I got back to my hometown I had a realization. Lansdale is an old town with old-school back alleys behind the homes. These back alleys are all gravel. So I decided to take a few laps around town. “Urban Offroading” I called it. The trip ends with a lap around my yard. And you’ve gotta love the drunk stumbling down the back alley with a big jug of wine in his hand at the 34 second mark of the video. It was about 3:40 in the afternoon too, and he was weaving back and forth pretty good. Lansdale is also one of those towns where drunks stumble down the back alleys:


On a completely unrelated note, riding motorcycles on strange roads lets you see some strange things. Here’s a house I saw in my travels that is made to look like Noah’s arc. As a friend mentioned, Noah didn’t need a dove…he had a satellite dish.

"It's the Lord, Noah"...."Riiiiight!"

My friend Scott is a fan of classic bikes. He has two right now – an early 80’s BMW K100 and this – his prized Honda CB450. He had the Honda out yesterday and I snapped a couple of pictures. He bought the bike a couple of years ago for $500 and says it had makeshift plumbing pipes for exhaust. It was a near-basket case. I’d say he did a pretty nice job with the restoration, eh?

I used my iPhone and uploaded a few pics with Instagram too. Still trying to figure out what makes this app worth a billion to Mark Zuckerberg….

Kawasaki had a fantastic demo day at the Granite Run Mall in Media, PA today. I got a chance to ride three bikes I really wanted to experience: the Ninja 650, the KLR 650, and the Concours. Some observations:

Kawasaki demo day in Media, PA

Kawi makes a lot of great bikes. Those were just the three I wanted to ride most – and they are all great in their own way. If I had unlimited time and the ability to take as many demo rides as I wanted, I would have also liked to try out the Vulcan Nomad, the Ninja 1000, the Z1000, and the ridiculous (in a good way) ZX-14. I honestly don’t think there is a bad bike in the Kawasaki lineup – every one is a quality machine.

It was the fastest demo day I’ve ever experienced. Kawasaki makes fast bikes – the ZX-14 is the fastest production bike on the planet today- and the guides at the demo day wanted to show that off. I was at the very edge of my comfort zone riding with the sportbike crew on the Ninja 650.

Sweet Ninja 650

Ninja 650 is fun. I really enjoyed the engine on the Ninja 650. High revving and torquey, whatever gear I was in just required a twist of the throttle to accelerate. I didn’t have to downshift once. It handled like a dream too. My only complaint was that it was a tad small for my 6’2″ frame. I stand by my belief that it’s one of the sexiest bikes for first time riders.

Kawasaki Concours. A dream machine.

Concours is like an extension of my body. I swear – I would think about turning left and the bike would start to go left. It was like the bike was anticipating my next move. It was the fastest bike I’ve ever experienced, and comfortable as a living room loveseat. Heated grips are a nice luxury – never experienced ’em before and on a cold day like today they were great to have. The wind screen that adjusts on the fly with a press of a button was pretty cool technology, too. A dream machine.

My favorite Kawi of the day was the KLR-650

The KLR-650 rocks. As nice as it was to ride a dream machine like the Concours, I’m a meat and potatoes guy. I like basic, hard working, functional bikes. So the KLR-650 was in my wheelhouse. It’s a great bike for taller first time riders (I think shorter riders might have trouble with it) It was my second favorite ride of the day. Which brings me to…

The best bike I rode today is the one I own. I just love the V-Strom 650. It fits me perfectly, it’s quick and twitchy, it handles like a dream, it’s versatile, it’s economical…it’s everything I want in a bike. As nice as it is to fantasize about a work of art like the Concours, I’ll never pay $16,000+ for a motorcycle. I’d buy three good used bikes before buying a new bike for that much money. So the fact that I paid only $4,000 for my used V-Strom makes it all that much more fun.

Here are some other pictures from the demo day.

Versys 650. Another good bike for first time riders.

The Z1000 just looks badass.

ZX-14. The fastest production bike on the planet. Lookin' good in blue.

Good looking orange Vulcan 900 Custom.

This 'Busa and ZX-14 look like they're getting ready to throw down in the parking lot.

A relic from Triumph's first year back in the USA - 1996 Triumph Adventurer in mint condition.

Unfortunately, no demo rides allowed on this 2002 ZRX1200R.

I bought a GoPro HD Hero last fall for a motorcycle trip through West Virginia and North Carolina, and I’ve got to say I’m one of the few who’s not in love with it. The small form factor, rugged construction, and multitude of mounting devices are main selling points. But I have a few pretty big complaints about it:

  • Battery life is limited. I’m only getting about an hour of life from the battery.
  • Navigating the settings is a challenge. If I ever lose the users manual to this camera, I’m screwed. The settings are in a decision tree embedded within the camera and proffered up on a miniscule display in arcane codes. Every time I want to change settings I have to bust out the manual, which means I have to carry it with me on every ride.
  • You can’t change modes on the fly. There’s no way to switch from video to still photography (or vice versa) on the fly, something I used to do with my old Flip video camera. (See below.)
  • It’s hard to turn it off and on while riding. You have to firmly press the power button and hold it down for 7 seconds for the unit to power up. And there is no way from the rider’s seat to know if it has powered up successfully or not. If your finger wavers on the power button even for a moment it won’t turn on. There have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.
  • It’s hard to engage the shutter button while riding. Pressing the shutter button requires a firm press to engage, and there’s no way for the rider to know if the camera is actually recording. The red blinking LED that’s on the front, confirming operation, should be mounted on the back. Likewise, because of the tricky shutter button, there have been times I thought I was recording awesome footage, but I wasn’t.

I think the latter two complaints are because the GoPro is intended as a “set it and forget it” video recording device. The editing is supposed to be done when you’re done your ride and back at home. But I’m pretty limited when it comes to video editing, and prefer to record brief memorable segments of my ride, upload ’em and ditch the whole editing process.

Last weekend I shot some video of my ride on the Jersey shore and found one more limitation: because you can’t see what’s being recorded, there’s no way to know if there’s a bug on the viewfinder! Here are a few segments of my ride down the shore on NJ Route 47:

Nice clean view across the display. Pretty day, pretty ride:



Pretty day, pretty ride, ugly blotch of dead bug in the top right quadrant of the screen, at about 2:00:



As I noted above, on previous trips I jerryrigged a FlipVideo camera to my handlebars with a mini-tripod and electrical tape.  The shots from these earlier trips look like their from the paleolithic era compared to the video footage from the GoPro, but I actually found that setup to be much more user friendly than the GoPro:




I’m going to keep experimenting with the GoPro and hopefully I’ll become a true believer like just about everyone else who has tested and reviewed this camera, but for now the jury is still out.

Over the weekend I was in Cape May with a bunch of friends for an annual gathering. On the way back I rode up the coast from Cape May to Somers Point, NJ; trying to stay as close to the beach as possible the whole way up. I was trying to find New Jersey’s version of the Pacific Coast Highway (hint: it doesn’t exist.)

In each town I visited, I tried to get a pic of my bike with water in the background – either the beach or the bay. I missed a few but here are the high points.

In Villas, NJ (near Cape May), with the Delaware Bay in the background. It was pretty early in the morning and I hadn't woken up yet. I look dog tired.

Wildwood Crest, NJ, just on the other side of the causeway from Cape May.

Wildwood, NJ. There was a cheerleader convention going on at the Wildwood Convention Center. Interesting...

Stone Harbor, NJ. Just over the bridge from Wildwood. I really like this pic.

Stone Harbor or Avalon; I can't remember which.

I thought this sign, just before Strathmere, NJ, was pretty funny. Damn those random pedestrians!

The Ferris wheel in Ocean City, NJ. The 'Strom is on the third car from the top, left side of the wheel 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My original plan was to continue up the coast to Atlantic City and head back from there, but by the time I got to Somers Point I was tired and ready to head home. Even after stopping in Ocean City for a pork roll and cheese sammich on the boardwalk…

 

 

This weekend I fulfilled one of my motorcycle-related New Years resolutions. I invested in the gear I needed to go ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time.) I took a trip to the Revzilla store in Philadelphia on Saturday and left with armored riding pants and jacket, gloves, and boots.

All The Gear.

My goal was to find a jacket and pants that covered as many possible combinations of temperature and weather as possible. I was willing to pay up for this versatility. Its clearly hard to find one do-everything jack-of-all-trades motorcycle outfit but when all was said and done I got pretty close.

I tried to buy this stuff online but it was just too confusing. Some of the products are offered in Euro sizes and others in American sizes. Even with the helpful videos on the Revzilla website it was hard to figure which items would work for me. And some stuff runs big, others small so it was hard to know what would fit me.

I had also tried to buy this stuff in a bricks-and-mortar store but there was just not enough selection available to make an informed decision. Two of the biggest motorcycle dealers near me have zero motorcycling pants in stock and only a few jackets. Driving the hour to the Revzilla store in South Philly was a good use of time.

Tito at the Philly Revzilla store was extremely helpful and invested a lot of time with me to make the sale.

First of all, a big shout out to my salesperson Tito. He literally spent two hours with me, educating me on my options and the pros and cons of each item. Once I made my selections he tried a number of different sizes of each item until I found the perfect fit. I ended up with:

The Olympia AST 2 Jacket. This is a 3/4 length adventure jacket with armor everywhere you’d want it, lots of pockets, a removable liner, and flow-through vents. It’s nice looking and seemingly has the versatility I want. While its billed as a 4-season jacket I think 90 degree summer days might be a bit much, but I still have a lightweight armored Triumph jacket for those days.

Olympia Airglide 3 Pants. These pants have a removable liner and can be worn as overpants. Or they can be worn alone or with shorts underneath in various combinations of with liner/without liner. So they’re pretty darn flexible. I wore them to work this morning over my corduroys without the liners and I was plenty warm. The temp was abut 40 degrees at the time.

One thing that surprised me a lot is that there are very few waterproof pants. The waterproof qualities are by and large built into the liner. This is complicated. Let’s say its a summer day and I’m using the Airglides as overpants. Now it starts to rain. I have to pull over, take off the Airglides , put in the liners, and put the whole shebang back on. I’m still not sure how this will work. And mind you I have to do this on the side of the road, braced against the bike, while rain is pouring down and tractor trailers are zooming by 80 miles per hour. So it may be that I just continue to use my rain pants and if it starts raining, throw them over the Airglides. I’ll update this later when I’ve experienced this a couple of times and make some conclusions about how to handle rain.

Alpinestars Ridge boots. This was a simple decision because they were the least expensive pair in the store (I paid more than I intended for the Olympia stuff) and they were decent looking, could be worn at work if necessary, and were waterproof (a mandatory feature since I wear my boots on week-long motorcycle camping trips on which at least one rain day is a guarantee.) I really wanted to check out the new Icon 1000 Elsinore boots which look badass but they aren’t in stock yet.

REV’IT! Dirt Gloves. I already have a good pair of waterproof Olympia gloves so I went with a set of vented armored gloves. These were comfortable and relatively inexpensive. This was the biggest shock of the day: that SOME GLOVES ARE AS EXPENSIVE AS PANTS!!!! But I guess when you think about how important it is to protect your hands – and the fact that the hands are probably one of the first body parts to make contact in a crash – it makes sense.

On Sunday I went for my first ATGATT ride with  my friend Amanda.  It is going to take some getting used to. All of the items are bulkier than the leather jacket and chaps I used to wear when riding. But I felt extremely safe. I was warm too on a chilly day in the 40s as we rode from 11:00 AM to about 5:00 PM.

And after all, my main motivation for converting to ATGATT was seeing a fellow rider walk away from a crash unscathed last summer because he was wearing the right gear. I hopefully will never have to experience this first hand but with all of those crazy cagers out there talking on their cell phones and texting, you can never be too safe.

Especially for first time riders, I would recommend making a real investment in safe gear and making a commitment to wearing it. I’m late to the party on this front and I’ve been lucky.