29 October 2010 – Rides This Weekend

There are local rides on Saturday and Sunday. Contact me, Mark, or Brad if interested.

27 October 2010 – New Bikes

This is the season for new bikes to be announced. While Ducati has been busy unveiling the Diavel, other manufacturers have been equally busy. I’m interested in a few from an appreciation standpoint. First is Triumph’s new Tiger. It looks so much like the BMW 650/800GS that I’m amazed the engineers didn’t just put a BMW emblem on it. That being said, it looks great and I’m sure they’ll do well with it. The Tiger has come a long way since the plastic  gaitered version of the 90s. I’m also excited that Honda is bringing a 250 sportbike to the US. That will open up another possibility for entry riders who want something other than the Ninja 250. An additional bike in this segment is the Megelli 250r, a cool-looking Chinese entry. It has some design issues, but looks-wise and sound-wise is way cooler than the Ninja 250.  It’s the first Chinese manufacturered bike that gets my nod for design cues. I’d wait for a 2nd generation model with fuel injection, a proper sidestand, better suspension and waterproof electrical connectors.

Aprilia’s Factory RSV4 in matt black is the bomb and is very chic. Shame I’m tied to Ducati, because that thing is sexy. I still haven’t heard Aprilia’s 4-V. I’m sure it sounds wicked.  BMW’s new K1600 is ginormous. 6 cylinder motorcycles are really cars minus two wheels. Yes, and I already know a Gold Wing can handle like a sportbike if properly setup and in the right hands. So what? Yamaha’s Super Tenere is cool, and continues a trend for manufacturers to go away from more traditional sport-tourers with integral bags in favor of Adventure Tourers. If I was going to go that route, I think I’d just get a BMW R1200GS and be done with it.

There isn’t much else I’m interested in. The new Triumph Speed Triple doesn’t look that much different, but then again, why mess with a successful design?  The new Gixxer 750 and 1000 are mostly new, but look the same. We were commenting around the breakfast table last weekend that the Japanese just don’t get style. European manufacturers are building better looking bikes these days. Surely, bike designers cross-pollinate between manufacturers, so I don’t know what’s up with the Japanese. They seem more concerned about putting technology into their bikes and less concerned about the way the bikes look. I do give an alibi to them on several fronts though. The R1 and the new ZX-10 look awesome. A final comment on the Ducati range – the new 1198 SP looks great and is a bit better than my S model. Maybe it will be last of the 1098 series.  Will the new superbike be ready for 2012? We shall see. 

24 October 2010 – The Few.. the Proud…

The Fall Rally for this past weekend turned into a friend-fest. There were only 6 riders for Saturday and 4 on Sunday, but the riding was relaxing and I got to see other acquaintences after the rides. Those that did show up were good friends, so I’m happy. The S2R800 got a little workout on Saturday and I decided to roll the 1098s out of the kitchen to slay Blackwater. It was a good idea at first, but Sunday was hot and I baked on my way back from Milton. It just not quite 4-valver weather yet. A few things rattled loose on the 1098s, but that’s what a well-stocked fastener kit is for. My regearing the bike back to the stock setup worked well in Blackwater. No more running out of RPM when I’m feeling my oats.  It’s ridiculous to have a Superbike around here though. My MTS or Hyper can corner just as fast and, other than high-speed cruising, are much more comfy than the race-tuck-inspired Superbike.

Last week I moved the entire inventory back out of the Ark and converted it back to its intended role as showroom and guest quarters. No more conversions. The Ark will stay free of business stuff. The move wore me out and was the culmination of a year-long effort to find an inconspicuous place to put all the DT inventory.

I’m having a batch of +1″ billet sidestands made for the Sport Classic, Monster 600-1000 and ST series. They’ll be the same basic price as the Superbike sidestands I sell. I’ve had a few inquiries to make another batch of silicon hoses for the ST4/ST4S series, but only have 2 interested parties thus far. I need 12 in order for me to do a run.

Gregg, I checked out that starter wire kit you mentioned. I’ve been meaning to have powerlet make additional kits. The kits you referred to were too expensive. Even the introductory prices are too steep for a few hunks of cable and eyelets. The powerlet kits are less than half the price.

A few people have asked me to hold another maintenance seminar in the Spring. I’m likely to do so, but haven’t determined whether I’ll make it a level 1 tech session like last time, or a level 2 with much more hands on.  There are so many different variants of motors now that it’s impossible to provide a customized tech session for owner needs. I can’t have every head architecture laid out for people to tinker with. We’ll see. I have plenty of time to mull it over.

TTYL – LT

20 October 2010 – The Mountains, Cops and the Fall Rally

I said enough was enough last week, and loaded up the Hyper in the Avalanche and headed up to North GA for a break from work. It was my first non-working vacation this year. I don’t count the MCN trip to CA in May. The fall foliage was in full color, the temps were perfect and the riding was great. We rode mainly around Suches – Wolf Pen Gap, Blood Mountain, Richard Russell Parkway, etc. It was my passenger’s first time in heavy duty twisties, so I kept the day short. My usual trek up to the Cherohala and Deals will wait for when I’m up there solo. The new Sargent seat on the Hyper worked great. It provides enough of a pillion that a passenger doesn’t slide into the rider. The cabin was at the end of a gravel road on top of a mountain, so getting the Hyper up the steep road was an iffy proposition. It all worked out though. The battery on the Hyper is about shot, a fact I discovered when I tried to crank her for the loadout Sunday morning. Damn that weak Ducati starting system. They haven’t upgraded it in decades. Fortunately, I didn’t have any maintenance issues to report. I suppose Bill had enough maintenance issues for the both of us during his trip.

 We only rode one day. On day two we went hiking to see some waterfalls. It’s funny that I’ve been riding in North GA for 15 years and it was the first sight-seeing I ever did. I even enjoyed a nice 4 mile run on Sat. It was a brisk 31 degrees and felt great.

As is usual, as soon as I took off on vacation sales went crazy. I had no cell signal at the cabin, so daily jaunts off the mountain clued me in to what was happening to DT while I was away. We got back Sunday afternoon and I worked Sunday and Monday night to get the orders out.

I drive the same path to work that I’ve traversed for the past 10 years. On the way from the University there’s a notorious place where the occasional speed trap is snared. Sure enough, I ran into it Monday on my home for lunch. As soon as I saw the cop with the radar gun, I hit the brakes and steered towards him. He was super cool, asked me how I liked the Kia Forte Koup, and then asked for the usual documentation. I NEVER travel without my stuff, but that day I realized after I left that I had left my wallet in the Ark with all my info. The only thing I had on me was my registration and military ID. As he sauntered back to his car to decide my fate, a student rolled by and yelled “Hey LT, you’re getting a ticket” (their powers of observation were remarkable). The cop looked at me and I indicated that it was probably a student of mine. He asked if I taught at the U. I said as much. Bingo… No ticket, no warning, and just a handshake. Not bad for doing 51 in a 35. That should slow me down for awhile. I’m convinced we need tickets every 5 years or so to remind us how little time we save by speeding.

I haven’t planned one iota for the Fall Rally. Only a few friends have indicated their attendance plans, so I’ll go on my rides Sat and Sun and see who shows up. As far as the other events, I’ll remain available, but I’ll commit elsewhere if there is no interest Sat afternoon/evening. The S2R800 gets the nod on Sat and the Sport Classic on Sun.

TTYL – LT

17 October, 2010 – “You Feel Lucky Punk. Well Do Ya?!” (Bill G)

Got an email last week that my replacement tank was in for my S2R1000. Fantastic, I thought… Had to delay riding up last weekend, and decided to go this weekend. I think I’ve done the ride up to Athens maybe six times and each time I try to take a different route but I still have a long stint on US19 no matter what.

Friday night I gave the bike the once over. Replaced the brake and clutch fluid with fresh juice and did an oil change the day before. One thing I did notice was that the battery was starting to have some issues with cranking. The first symptoms should have been enough, but I felt it should be ok and I will swap it out at NPR Ducati. I had the bike on charge and it showed a “green light”, so it must be ok! Well starting out at 7am, I go to crank it and it barely does the job. “Not to worry”, I tell myself. “You’re getting it swapped today. It’s gonna be alright”

The mornings now are REALLY cold. I’m guessing mid 40’s, so I left a little later than in past Summer runs. “The sun will be up in no time”, I said to myself. And yes I do talk to myself while I ride. Along with a full assortment of curse words on how cold I was. So the first stint is 66 miles. Target location is Butler, Georgia. They have a nice filling station with breakfast biscuits and hot java. I top off the tank, check my mileage and confirm again that the Monster is doing real well since I last tweaked it. 54 MPG. I use to get mid 40’s, but I backed off the FAT Duc a tad and messed with the air bleeds when I put the K&N air filter in at my 14k tear down. Now I’m nearing 21k, so I have been liking the bike even though the affection is shared between the Street Fighter and the newly acquired HyperTard.

After topping off, I rolled the bike over to a parking space, saw a man about a mule, then got some breakfast. Time-wise it’s about 15 minutes. Just about everywhere on the roads are hunters going out for the first weekend of open season. A lot of women are getting in on the action as well. Nothing like seeing women dressed in camo, toting a long rifle.

Anyway, meals over… ear plugs in. Check… scarf wrapped proper. Check. New piece of Orbit Peppermint Mist gum. Check. Ignition. Check. Contact. NOTHING. I’m dead in the water. Ok, maybe I can work magic and roll the bike, pop the clutch and be on my way. I have a full tank and it should get me the rest of the way non-stop. Paddle, paddle, paddle. Hmm, not fast enough. I unmount, give a quick run and hop on to drop the clutch. Nada. Dejected, I start rolling off to a space when up from nowhere a guy’s voice says, “Here, lemme give ya push”… “Put it in 3rd”… Still no dice. I thank him for trying and before I can end the conversation he says that I need to go on down to the Napa store and they should fix me up. I ask how far, and he says, “A few miles… get in my truck, I’ll give you a lift.” Wow! There are some cool people out there and thankfully my timing could not have been better.

Turns out the guys name is Reed, and he owns an autobody shop in Butler, on the US19 South side of town. Many towns have split US19 so it’s one way north on the east side of town  and one way south on the west side of the town. So Reed takes me to NAPA, we get a battery, takes me to his shop, picks up a few tools, back to the bike, and helps me install the battery. Except it don’t fit. Too tall laying down. Back to NAPA, get a second battery. At this moment, I see the Breast Cancer Awareness people selling donuts outside the store. I whip out five bucks but take no donuts. Back to the bike. It’s the right height, but slightly fatter, but it fits in the tray. I thank Reed and get moving again. I’ve lost over an hour and a half.

Next stop is to hit Griffin, Georgia, where I will turn East onto State Road 16 and cut through the Oconee Forest. I miss the turn East, but take another turn and come out above the forest. In doing so, I had to go through some small towns. Traffic is not too bad. I get to the last town and start to roll on. I’m doing about 45mph. The houses are spotty now. Just a few here and there. On my left I see a black cat beginning to scamper my direction. I’m only yards from him and he goes into full run, fixated on something across the street. There is nothing I can do. I scream in my helmet, “Noooo!!” His timing could not have been worse. Only today, Sunday, after checking the bike out did I see how it damaged the front carbon fiber fender.

This day is really shaping up! Starting off cold as a witches ____ , dead battery, black cat attempting to cross my path. Jeeze! So I arrive at NPR Ducati after 2pm. The UGA game is still going, but I stand a good chance of being part of the traffic as the mass exodus from Athens commences. Fun-Tastic!! Oh well, at least I can get my tank swapped and just enjoy my ride home. It should only take about a half hour to do it. Yeah, right. Not today boy! So two hours goes by and I finally hear them start the bike up. Rumble, Rumble, pffffft. Rumble, Rumble, Rumble, pfffft. Vick the mechanic comes out and says, “There’s something going on. It won’t start. And can you look at your vertical cylinder. It’s coated with something that looks melted.” So I wander back there and sure enough, there is black burnt runs on the vertical cylinder. Battery acid. Not from the new battery, from the one that died. I couldn’t see it unless the tank was up and it looked like it just happened.

Apart from that, he still does not know why the engine wont fire. He breaks out the DDS tool and begins checking things. He’s getting no measurement from the fuel pump. The Ducati fuel pump comes as an assembly. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars. Luckily Paul the shop manager has one of Chris Kelly’s replacement fuel pumps. It fits. It works. I’m back in running order. Cost about $150.

Now the only issue is the time. It’s past 5:30pm. I’ll be doing some game simulation riding. I call it that since all you see is the reflective bounce of the headlight off of the road reflectors. No road lights. Lots of toggling from hi-beam to lo-beam. I proceed to get the first stint done with, another 68 miles. I stop to check the bike out and have a coffee and receive a text from Paul… “Check your tail light”. I answer back, “Kinda hard to twist around that far”, as if I’m answering him while riding. At least I still have my sense of humor! I turn on the ignition and hit the brakes pedal, tail light comes on. Once again… Ear plugs. Check. Scarf. Check. Windbreaker over leather jacket. Check. Fresh gum. Check. Ignition. Check. Contact. Check… on my way.

I managed some of THE best timing now. I hit State Route 16 going West at the precise time that the sun is dropping in the horizon. I had to back down from running 70, to 60 or slower. I could only look down and with a hand in front of my visor it was still a white out condition. Now I start thinking about James Dean and his famous life ending wreck while driving his Porche Spider nick named, “Lil Basterd”. It happened while he was driving from LA to Nevada, I believe, and while he was heading East with the sun behind him, an oncoming car could not see him as he approached. After that LiL thought, I pulled over and put on my sunglasses. If I’m gonna get plowed, I want to look stylish! They helped with the sun and made the shade more difficult. If you’ve ever ridden on this piece of road thru the Oconee Forest, it is a roller coaster of hill, valley, hill, valley, with some soft turns that are nice to take at speed. I lucked out and set pace behind a sedan doing 70 and used him as my front line of defense.

When I reached Griffin, Georgia again it was dark enough to ditch the sun glasses and grab some coffee. The temps were dropping fast. I was hoping for pockets of warm air, but it’s too late in the season and the earth is not cooperating. Instead I was rewarded with cold and colder. So as I pull out from the filling station, cutting across traffic and quickly getting up to 45mph, on come the blue lights. F–K! I know I didn’t signal. I know I was not speeding. I know my bike is loud. I pull over and shut it off. Helmet off. Check. Ear plugs out. Check. “Do you know why I pulled you over sir?”, the county deputy says. I pause, since I’m not going to confess to anything and left him fill in the blank. “Your tail light is out”, he adds. Whew! I quickly throw in that I just come from being serviced up in Athens and I’m not sure if that did it. He tells me to pull into a filling station and check it over since I will be pulled over again, no doubt. The running light portion of the bulb was toast. Brake light worked, but I did not notice it since I assumed it was on. Purchased a $2 screwdriver and $1.50 bulb at the filling station. Ear plugs. Check. Scarf. Check Dammit. Gum. I got your gum! Check Dammit. Can we get this ride over with! Please!

The remaining hour was one filled with total darkness as I hit US 19. The only remaining task was to exercise while riding in order to generate heat. Tightening the forearms, biceps, chest, lats, stomach. HOLD HOLD HOLD, release. Always concentrating on Not contracting my grip on the handlebar. It actually is a good method to use, but it will tire you out. I would rather be tired, than cold. The only other issue I notice after such a long day is that your visual dampening goes to shit. Now your eyes vibrate what you are seeing at the same cycle of the engine. Not bad for looking at the road, but reading a sign. Forget it. I finally pull into the driveway at 11pm. Draw a hot bath. And pour a shot of Crown Select that has been on my mind for over two hours.

So what have I learned? Anything can happen. You can’t take enough tools. Plans are just that, plans. But most of all, riding the S2R is still a lot of fun, no matter how much shit fate tries to throw in the mix. Today after a long sleep, I removed the tank and blended up some baking soda and water to clean off the acid from the battery accident.

14 October 2010 – Crossing North to South (Ken)

As the Fall Rally gets closer, I continue to examine my options for attendance. This might seem a small matter for some, but as I will be traveling 951 miles from my door to the Ark, and that travel will be from North to South (and hopefully back again) on a motorcycle with limited baggage capability, there is a bit more thought involved.

1. Motorcycle: 2006 Paul Smart wins this round. Best wind protection, but will sacrifice comfort compared to 1995 SS SP and 2006 S2R1000 on the long stretches. However, should the roads “open up” and allow for a more accelerated pace, then I’ll probably be glad to not be fighting the wind for hours on end. Bonus for the ride of the bike upon arrival, as it is pretty and does ride well.

2. Gear: I suspect I’ll compromise and wear my Alpinestars’ MX-1 Race Suit with Sidi boots, spine protector, gloves, and Shoei X-11 (now discontinued in favor of their X-12), with a weatherproof motorcycle jacked over top of all this (we’ve been getting a lot of rain lately), and my standard black backpack outfitted for motorcycle riding on top of everything.

3. Packing: This is going to be the interesting part, as I would like to have something other than leather to wear; however, I’m not much in the mood to drag a ton of things with me. I suspect that I will pack a tandem wardrobe (i.e. two of everything), ensuring that I leave out nonessentials (the video camera is staying home).

4. The Ride Down: Being that time is a bit more critical, I’m currently going to give myself two days to make the first day of the Rally. Depending on the weather, I suspect that the majority will be completed on day one, with the second day left for me to rest as much as possible upon arrival in Pensacola. The fact that I will be riding alone, on a motorcycle with limited spares, gives rise to the (possible) pocket savior in my Droid telephone that will be able to do everything except inflate the tires. What I would have given for one of these back fifteen years ago. My major concern, as I suspect it should be, will be heat and fatigue the further I move South and the more congested the areas I encounter.

5. The Rally: This may come as a surprise, but quite often people seem to plan for the way there and back, but don’t take anything for when they’re actually at their destination. So, as much as you folks would like to see me rocking a pair of Sidi boots, Under Armour shorts, and a “wife beater” shirt, I will do my best to do the old “what goes on my feet?” game. This also includes actually participating in events, riding, stopping to eat, etc. I don’t expect I’ll be the only one tricked out in race apparel, but it might be a near thing.

6. The trip North: This is where the fun could be turned into disaster. Perhaps a trip to FedEx would be in order before leaving Florida to put whatever isn’t needed into a cargo box that will meet me at home so I might actually enjoy the trip without having that “lump on my back” feeling after 300 miles? The same reasoning needs to be applied to reasonable planning of the amount of riding that will be done each day. Having “smelled the stables” on more than one occasion in both my military and civilian lives, I can attest to the “one more more to go” mentality that usually ends up with the car or bike off the road and that nap you really wanted interrupted by a ride in an ambulance.

7. Special Instructions: Should something more interesting cross my path on the way to the Rally, I will not forget the first rule of all motorcycling: This is supposed to be fun! In other words, I will do my best to have the presence of mind to send a text telling you folks that I won’t be attending, and I suppose the same goes for finding a road less traveled while winding my way home. As long as my cat-sitter keeps scooping, there’s no reason to ruin up my first real vacation in so long I can’t remember when the last one was.

11 October 2010 – MTS1000 2 – Critters 0

MotoGP spoiler below

There were a lot of good comments on the Ducati muscle cruiser, and many dissenting opinions. Time will tell if is was a good move by Ducati.

I rolled out the MTS1000 for a blast through Blackwater yesterday. Along the way, I tagged a bird and a squirrel. It isn’t like they give you any time to react. I tried ducking out of the way of the bird, but instead of him hitting me in the midsection, he splatted on the side of my helmet. With the squirrel, he zigged when he should have zagged. I had fun riding the MTS, but really need to get to the mountains. I have to ride too fast on most of my bikes to test their composure.

I didn’t ship any product last week because of Army duties, and pent-up sales blossomed over the weekend. It’s a federal holiday today, so everything will ship tomorrow. Last week’s sales shipped on Sat. I’m good to go for another year in the Army. I passed the PT test, and all the pokes, prods and blood-letting show I’m still qualified to dodge bullets if need be.

I haven’t watched the MotoGP race yet, but wasn’t surprised to see Rossi take it. So much for his wounds not healing until next year. I think he’s trying to send a statement to Lorenzo that while he may be the title winner, he can’t beat a healthy Rossi. Win or crash Stoner has been more consistent the latter part of this season, but Sunday shows he still has streaks of pushing too much. And as far as Nicky goes, at least he’s learning to qualify well.

More pics of the Ducati cruiser are breaking cover. I won’t post any more. The Milan show is right around the corner so plenty of pics will be available.

TTYL – LT

7 October 2010 – The 5th Horseman

 John forwarded me the link to one of the first “almost ready” pics of the new Ducati muscle cruiser. From a business perspective I just try to take it all in and imagine what segment of Ducati enthusiasts they hope to entice. Are they after riders outside the fold, core Ducati enthusiasts, or do they just want to make a statement with this bike? I leave it to you to decide. From a looks standpoint, I like the bike from the rear of the tank forward. The headers look like they came off a Buell, but at least they’re trying to achieve something — equal length. Ti-N forks, Brembo monoblocks, forged wheels – Not bad. I would have rather seen the effort put into a new Supersport, but what do I know.

All else is well. The weather is spectacular. Unfortunately, this is my busy time of the year for Military obligations. I’m managing to sprinkle in some fun though.

TTYL – LT

4 October 2010 – Fall Riding

Last weekend, I rode the MTS1000 and the SS1000. Talk about different machines. I have the MTS geared very tall for touring. As a result, it wants to run 90 mph just to keep the revs at a not-too-low level. I never fitted a taller screeen on the MTS, and regret it every time I ride it. Of course, compared to the HM, it has wind protection to spare.

I fit the Driven D3 grips on the MTS and they look great. They have a slightly larger out diameter than the OEM grips, but provide more cushioning and feel. I never liked the raised rib grips on the MTS and HM anyway, so it was a good excuse to test out the new grips.

The drafts of the book are printed and head out to my editors this week. That will consume all of Oct, so I’m hoping to get the final draft to the printers by the end of Nov. That will make the book avail after the holidays… hopefully.

I was very pleased with the MotoGP race. Stoner looked awesome, and impending Ducati rider Rossi finally looked back on form.  It’s a bummer what happened to Pedrosa. Collarbone injuries are notorious for being pesky. In WSB, I think Althea’s signing of Checa again for next year will give us something to cheer about. He had a good year and will receive all the Factory support they can muster for a run at the title next year.

I have some trips planned this Fall, but otherwise I’m planning on enjoying the riding season. The ride on Sat was a bit nippy, so it’s time to dig out the electric gear.

TTYL – LT