Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Break.




I knew the trip would start with question marks when I woke up sweating. One day 'til my exit and I was in my second day of being all fevery. In my sleep I dreamt uncomfortably vivid dreams about potty mouthed women in diners. In my waking life I was hazy and my head hurt. By the evening, I was feeling better. Enough to go get my rear tire changed out at the shop. 

I had to remove the tires from the bike in order to get them changed, and I didn't have the tools to take off the front tire. This was one more question mark on top of my general wellness, because the current front tire was all wear bars. 

One dingy diner dream later I was on the bike, facing a cool, damp morning. The bike was loaded down with the tank and tail bag. And a spare front tire, which I wore around my waste. 

The plan was to ride 30 or so miles south to a dealership that could change the tires out. I got there to learn that I was late to the line and they couldn't get to the bike for many hours. So I rode further south, to the next dealership and then the next. After a hundred or so miles I found a dealership with a shop that could get the bike in and change the tire quickly. While I waited, I inspected a Triumph Thruxton. I'd have to change my whole style to ride this, I thought. But I bet I'd look fresh. Then I was on the exit.

Sometimes when I am putting in miles, I get a voice in my helmet that won't shut up as it does its level best to destroy my well being with its evil truth. Other times, I get 90s R&B songs. This ride, though, just static. Like tuning an AM dial in an area that no station serves. Not entirely unpleasant.

It was the beginning of bike week, so there were a lot of bikes on the road. Well, there were a lot of bikes out. Very few of them were on the road. I came across a Super Teneré and some Victories, but every single Harley I saw was on the back of a trailer. Even the touring models, with the saddle bags. I'd stop making jokes about these riders if they didn't give me so much to work with.

Despite my southern heading, the weather never got warmer. After nearly 8 hours of slight chill, I rolled up at the Garage. I got off the bike exhausted, already descending back into the fever of night. 

By the morning, the other homies had arrived with their bikes. Two ninjas in various states of need. Alright. It was time to start the party.

I had been thinking about this week for months. My bike needed a lot of work, the kind of work that needed a garage. My other homies fell in as well, though they couldn't hang around. The plan was that some combination of me and local homies would work on all the bikes and have them ready to ride by the time I had to go back for class. History will remember this plan as the Spring Break Delusion. 

The two Ninjas my men brought down needed a lot of work. Much of it could have been done, but parts that we should have already had were revealed to be out of stock around town. The Green Ninja was immediately put out of the repair runnings. This left the Black Ninja, a bike that needed nothing short of an overhaul. It needed new plugs, coolant, oil, possibly coils, stock links, a new kick stand, replacement plastics, there was something going on with the front master cylinder, the injectors were dirty, the rear pads had ground through the backing into the rear rotor, and the fairing stay was … missing? It wasn't so much a repair job as it was a Talisman of Rebirth. 






We had resolved to make as many of these repairs as we could, but the world was bent on stopping us. The allan wrench wasn't long enough to reach into the frame to loosen a bolt. Had to go get a new one. The lowering link bolts were blocked by the exhaust system, meaning that a simple procedure couldn't happen unless the entire exhaust system was removed, which in turn couldn't happen unless the radiator was removed from its mounting. My men were long gone before I could make any headway. Other homies came over to lend a hand, but no one could help with the next problem we found--a leaky valve cover gasket. Fuck a duck. 

I re-evaluated the scene with my man over the phone and set the bike aside. It seemed that the for reals wrenching was yet to happen. When that day came, there would be compression tests and torque wrenches. For now, I just had to rock the maintenance on my own machine.

The week moved by much faster than I would have liked. One of the house's lovely residents kept me and visitors fed with pies. Lots of pies. My other homie sold her own bike, getting one step closer to the green team. Friends stopped by, I graded papers. All of this took place out in the garage, probably the greatest physical space that modernity has to offer. 

It had been living life in the Atlanta cold and was the worse for wear. I bled fluid, lubricated bearings, replaced pads and removed and polished the exhaust. As night fell, I closed the doors and worked under artificial light. Perhaps this is what it means to know peace. 





Cats talk a lot about vacations. Time off. How necessary it all is. It is kind of a dire pronouncement, though. One has to get days off from regular life in order to gather the strength to live it. More and more, I spend my days thinking about the next time I wrench, or the next time I get to ride, or the next anything other than the life I am currently living. This is the discontent that many just take to be life itself. 

I rocked an early exit on the last possible day back to the city. Spring break was done. Bike week was over. Life was calling. Everything was horrible again. 

At a stop I meet an old motorcyclist who had once lived in Daytona. He didn't go to bike week anymore, though, because it was on the decline. He said that he had long ago had enough of what he called "Harley Halloween." Too many people gathered in one place can make even a motorcycle event a lame experience. 

Out on the road, as I left the city exits and passed the farm lands at the edge of the highway, I hit a dust storm of some sort. Visibility went low, the dust gathered on my jacket and wafted into my helmet. Several cars around me hit their hazard lights. Well, I thought. So much for that crazy wash and polish I did back at the garage. 

The dust, and the general state of clean, didn't stay with my bike for much longer. Further north I hit the chill, and then the clouds turned the sky dark. I pulled off an exit to find a grip of riders putting on rain gear, laughing about the fate we were all about to share. We tried to find shelter at first. But then we checked the forecast. This was to be our fate for a hundred miles; there was no use delaying.




The rain made a joke out of my gear. It fell from every direction. Down. Sideways. Up from the road. It found every open nook in my so-called waterproof gear and leaked water right in. This was the full wackness. 

After the rain, I hit traffic that I didn't even understand. Accidents all over the place and something approaching gridlock thirty miles from Atlanta. Garbage. All garbage. I did not wait in that line. 

I rolled up shivering and wet to a snack spot. By sheer chance, my bestest home girl was in there. We embraced. We got loud. I felt better. We ate okra.




Monday, September 23, 2013

§6 Cryptic Advice for Picking a Bike.


There is a lot of good advice out there about how to pick a motorcycle. Make sure it is right for your height, is in good condition, that kind of thing. I have very little to add to this-a mere addendum, really.

There are those among us who are commuters. These are riders who go for the sensible bike, ride with a sensible style and wear sensible gear. They are a kind of unsung hero among the rider community. Lone riders, who go to work and to school on machines that get good gas mileage at the cost of low maintenance. For cats like this, the choice is fairly easy. 250 or maybe 650cc. New or low miles. Boom. 

But then there are the rest of us. 

It is true that, no matter what, you should probably get a bike that is mechanically sound. Otherwise, you will learn the wretched truth about restoration. (Even now, there are those among you who hear this and know it to be true and yet still are going to take that plunge. And in so doing, you are making the right choice.)

But aside from this, you must allow for the drum beat of the non-rational. Some bikes call to the soul. Some bikes answer the will of the whim. Bikes that are condemned as decisevly uncomfortable by some are ridden by others for thousands of happy miles. The bike that would fit you in with your crew may deaden your soul. Your people may suggest. You may listen. But the choice has to be between you and fate. 

My suggestion obviously reflects the romantic connection I have with my bike. Others among you may simply be looking for "something to learn on", or may have the material means to have more than one machine in your garages. This puts you a bit far from me, in a zone about which I can't really comment. But I do think that those who feel inexplicable connections to their crafts know what I am talking about. 

Sure, this or that bike may be better on gas mileage. But you are going to travel thousands more needless miles just because you are on two wheels. After all the life calculus is done, ride the bike that makes you feel that you don't even deserve the pleasure, a bike that others can feel you loving as you walk away from it in the parking lot. After all: Life is meaningless. Bikes are fast. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Ride Far on a Sportbike.




This summer, not counting regular ass riding around in cities, I have clocked nearly 3000 miles. 

The total distance has made me realize how utterly achievable it is for me to travel the trans-American highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Already, I am dreaming of the day when I can ride from Virginia to California, mostly on back roads, hopefully. 

My travels have also brought me to a proper reckoning with my gear. I figure I should share my revelations, for all the sport bikers out there who might want to rock exit to some place far away.

For me, an important aspect of riding is being comfortable. I don’t want to ride for an hour with wet undies or a heavy ass bag on my back jacking up my shoulders. There are a lot of people who deal with this stuff like its whatever, but that ain’t me. So keep this in mind as I offer these suggestions.

1) Get a more comfortable seat. 

Sportbike seats are made to transmit feel to the rider. So they are hard. That is not what’s up out on the highway. So get some gel shit or a Corbin seat or something. Then, for good measure, get some bicycle shorts that have all that padding around your sit bones. This single thing will improve your possible saddle time most of all.

2) Wear your best helmet.

Your best helmet is the one that is most comfortable. I  used to rock an old Scorpion EXO-700 in the city. It was perfect for daily riding to and from school. But if I had it on for more than an hour, it would jack my face with pressure points. So for long distance, you gotta make sure that the lid won’t give you a headache. This is what you are paying for, I think, when you buy a Shoei or Arai or whatever: comfort over a long period of time. (To be fair, I think the new Scorpions are coming around on this too. That EXO-R2000 seems quite nice.) So make sure you are properly fitted. 

3) Be ready for the rain.

I have a mesh/leather Rev’it! suit that has a rain liner. The jacket liner is too short, so I replaced it with a Fox MX rain jacket, which is perfect. It is a bit of a hassle to put on the rain pants, since they go on underneath the suit and not on top of it, but they work perfectly when they are in place. However, I think it is best to have rain pants that just go on top of whatever you are wearing. That way, when you see the clouds, you can just pull off right quick and pop it on, as oppose to risking indecent exposure charges like I have to. 

Also, your boots have to be waterproof. I honestly don’t know why the very first pair of boots I ever got weren’t Goretex. There is no advantage whatsoever to regular leather race boots. One should either get the “air” version of these boots, for hot weather, or waterproof boots for moderate weather and rain. Leather boots cost marginally less and take for fuck ever to dry out when you do get caught in the rain, as all dope riders do. So, seriously, if you are going to get race boots, get waterproof race boots. 

Held. My new favorite gloves.

You also need waterproof gloves. I have had a couple pair over the years and I can say quite easily that the Held Air N Dry gloves are the best. Mainly because they are two gloves in one. So, when it is not raining, you can cool your hands all serious, and when the torrent is coming down, you can be dry from that Goretex goodness. I didn’t think they could be so dope until I tried them on for myself. Yeah, they cost a lot. Yeah, they are worth it.

The R35 is in the middle. Do not buy if you are less than six feet tall.

4) Keep the weight off your back.

I have a few bags. A small Ogio tank bag. A Cortech tail pack. A Kriega R35 with a US10. Here are my thoughts: Any tail pack that isn’t waterproof is a waste of money. Yeah, sure, you can pack your stuff with plastic bags to stay waterproof, but that is just extra shit to do. The ideal zone is to rock a Kriega US20, with maybe a US10 on top of it. These bags strap quite brilliantly to the tail of even the smallest rear sections, of which the R1 is a serious contender.  That way you don’t have to worry if your electronics and such are going to be okay. Plus, Kriega bags are quickly attached and detached. So you don’t have to fumble with taking off your seat and shit just to take your bag into the motel or brothel or where ever you are visiting. 

For the tank bag, however, I have a bit of a different perspective. This is because I feel the tank bad should be the bag of gear and should be easy to access. A Kriega bag is not really going to fit this description because of the way they close up (they roll and snap. The Ogio bag just unzips at the top like regular). So I kind of like the Ogio tank bag. In it I put all my gloves, my other visor, balaclava, and the little ass toe shoes I walk around in. All that. And, because I’m a hypocrite, I pack them in a plastic bag in case of rain. Because, look, those rain covers that cheap moto bags have may block a light drizzle, but they don’t do shit about rain.

5) Water. 

So, I don’t keep much in my R35; Mainly I wear it so that I can carry things around whenever I get to where I am going. However, I do stick a water bladder in it so I can sip throughout the ride. Riding hungry is alright. But riding thirsty is fucking madness, kids. 

Peep the left arm.
6) Smartphone and Charger.

Okay. Got a trick for you. Sportbikes don’t usually take kindly to GPS mounts and all that. There just isn’t the space for these things on the clip-ons. So this is what I did; I got a cell phone arm band type thing from ebay and put it on my left forearm. Then, I put a stylus in the top clear pocket on my tank bag. So, when I pull off the road to check where I am going, I don’t have to remove any gear or unzip anything. Also, when I get to my destination city, I can just turn on the phone navigation and use it to get me to the address. Obviously, I can’t use it in the way that people do when they are driving; I can only afford the quickest of glances when out on the road. But that is really all you need to find a place. And the mounting there on my arm makes me feel kind of like a sci-fi superhero. It worked out so well on my last trip, I am thinking about getting the arm band sewn into my jacket, so it can always be perfectly placed for my quick glances.

Yeah, and if you are wondering where to pack your phone charger, let me help: Put that shit in your jacket pocket. That, way, when you stop off at Starbucks or whatever roadside nasty you have to eat at you can just plug in right quick, get some charge.

7) Oh, and about that phone…

I don’t know about IOS, but Android’s Google Maps are quite useful. Here goes the style. First, you can tell Maps to cache certain areas so you don’t need to have coverage to access them. This is offline mode, which is accessible from the menu. Next up, you can save particular locations in maps by “starring” them. This means that you don’t have to search for a place over and over again. You just click on the star on the map and you can navigate there. This simple thing makes it way easy to chart a course from spot to spot out on the road. Also, you cats need to know about Glympse. If someone is waiting on you, this can hip them to the moment when they need to open the gate or put the tea on. 

If you are thinking that your phone won’t be able to sustain the use of these apps because its battery is shitty, you need to get that shit modded by some nerds. I run Avatar ROM and I can get 20 hours with moderate use. 

Alright. I have one other piece of advice which is a bit more personal. It goes like this:

8) Make an adventure out of that shit.

I watched this show recently. Neal Bayly Rides or something. This cat took a bunch of GS riders on an adventure to some janky ass white privilege-confirming orphanage. Maybe it was the editing, but this whole thing had the look and feel of the lamest ride ever. At every turn they were at some nice ass hotel, soaking in swimming pools, having boring conversations with each other. One cat didn’t even want to eat the basic snacks of whatever country they were in. I say no to this.

If you are going to be on the road, then meet new people. Have conversations with motherfuckers that you would never talk to. Stay in places that aren’t hotels. Couch Surf. Or even rock that AirBNB style. Or camp somewhere, if you have the kit. Or sleep under a truck. Look, you don’t ride a motorcycle because it’s safe. You ride it because, as the man says, you can live more in 5 minutes going fast on two wheels than some cats do for their whole blood clot lives. I got a homie retired in the suburbs right now who used to race, who once got passed by Kenny fucking Roberts on the track. This cat put 60,000 miles on the devilish 2004 ZX-10 without ever scratching the tank. Cops used to knock on his door wondering if he was the guy who evaded their sirens out on the road. That is what I’m talking about. If you have to look back on your life, then let there be moments when you courted danger and uncertainty for no other reason than because you could, where you came out on top or paid some price. “Adventure is discomfort recounted at leisure.” We live in a nation and age of incredible opulence and security. The least we can do is try to get jacked up every now and then. 

Anyway. 

It seems daunting to ride for a long time on a bike that does not seem to be made for such a thing. Even for those who have bikes closer to the touring spectrum, there is a kind of apprehension about covering the miles. But here is a general fact: If you can ride for 45 minutes straight, you can ride for an entire day. Maybe your wrists or knees start to hurt a little. Sure. But you can adjust your weight and stretch out in the saddle and you won’t be riding for longer than your small ass gas tank will let you anyway, so there will be plenty of breaks. 

Some cats have travelled around the world on a Sport Bike.
You can probably travel around Florida.