“The Pace” – Bullshit

“You’re crazy”
“I couldn’t keep up”
“You might want to slow down a bit”
“This is going to only end one way for you”

When I started riding seven or so years ago I had no motorcycle experience what so ever. Right away I heard veteran riders speaking about “the pace” at rides, rally’s and gatherings. This mystical speed was unattainable to me for some time, “The perfect pace for the street, minimal brakes, perfect flow”

Do I take risks on the street? Sure. Recently a friend and I overstepped our safety margin and it ended in an unfavorable outcome for all involved. Was it a freak occurrence with multiple negating factors that lead to the incident? Yes, undoubtedly so. But instead of blaming the variables, we have tweaked a few things concerning our riding, and outlook on street riding in general. It’s not always about jumping side by side at 80mph over potholes.

Recently I had a moment of awakening, “The Pace” is different for every rider. There is no correct (or incorrect) speed as far as I am concerned. Sure, there are dangerous maneuvers, sketchy passes and down right stupid things we have all done on the street. But what might be sketchy to you could be unfathomable to another. Or butt-puckering to you is normal for an Isle of Man veteran racer.

The major factor here is experience. I am not talking about number of miles you have ridden, or how long you have been riding. Experience to me is far more complex than that, it’s an ongoing and ever evolving characteristic of being a motorcyclist. To enhance your skill set, it is key to become as proficient as possible in as many different riding styles in as many differing conditions as time/money allows. Whether it be dirt, flat track, road racing, mini bikes, supermoto, sport touring, you name it, they each teach you skills that will improve your riding as a whole.

Chastising someone for their speed has always been a touchy subject for me. I try to keep my judgments to myself, and very very rarely express riding input and then only to very close friends. If you see someone riding at a quick clip, maybe above your comfortable threshold of speed, it is important to not be so quick to offer input on their riding. As they likely do not care what you think, nor will they take it to heart. As a matter of fact I have seen riding friendships dissolve because of situations like this. For the most part, remember if someone is riding at a good pace (and they look confident and comfortable) say nothing. Forasmuch as your genuine concern for their safety may be, it will never be taken as interest in their well being.

 

Speed is relative and useless if you cannot control it.

5 Hour Mini Motard Race – Grange – UMRA

It’s been awhile since my last post. So let me take you back in time a bit.

Since completing the previous 24 hour Mini Moto race in August I caugt the little bike bug.
The TTR125 has gone through some motor mods, suspension upgrades and new tires. With the help of a friend of mine I slapped in a high comp weisco piston, BBR cam, and YZ85 front end (lowered 4″)

Flash forward a few months and I was jones’n for some more endurance racing.
I came across the UMRA racing organization down south in California, and just they happened to have a 5 hour endurance race at Grange, a track that “You must ride”

In steps Aaron:

We’ve been riding together out at the kart track in Stockton for a few months now. Our bromance is at an all time high. So, we signed up 6 days before the race, as per ghetto touring rules state: Everything must be last minute and janky. I adjusted the valves the night before and applied heat shielding to the bottom of the tank, cause race bike, bike prep complete.

We began our journey Saturday morning, both nursing mild hangovers (also, normal)

Stopped for gas somewhere along I-5 headed south from the Bay Area to LA:

When we decided to grab some grub, it was about the grubbing time hour. With only fast food around, we made the glorious decision to eat at Del Taco. Potato and Steak, get in my belly. Aaron munched on Fish Tacos, they didn’t include limes, the horror!!


The drive down south wasn’t too brutal. Good moto conversation and people watching for hours. No road trip is boring with SisterCousin.

Upon arriving in Apple Valley we needed to make one last stop to grab needed race items. Such as, but not limited to: Chips n Guac, dinner, breakfast, beer(lots of beer) some snacks etc. To Super Target! Away!! Well, Aaron got lost in said Super Target… I thought he died.

We finally arrived at the track around 6pm or so. Set up camp pretty quickly as it was getting dark rather fast. Also cold, very cold. Like, not prepared for the cold, cold. Aaron Eats went to work in the kitchen, delicious burgers and fries with all the sauces. This was the icing on the cake. No one else ate this good at the races, that’s for sure.

I drank my 5 Miller High Life’s, cause I’m fuck’n classy as fuck (and Super Target had no good beers worth buying) and went to bed. Aaron, I later learned, drank his 5 beers and a lot of Scotch, and went to bed.

This is when things started to get interesting. In my haste of setting up camp, and total ill-preparedness, I didn’t stake down my tent. Well, in the middle of the freezing cold night, the wind started whipping. You can only guess what happened next… The rain fly ripped half way off the tent, so I climbed out, re-attached and tried to go back to sleep. Which I did for a few minutes. Then the tent counted down and prepared for lift-off… I was the only thing left on the ground.

Damnit.

So with my genius intellect, I crawled out of the tent and took off the rain fly. With less resistance, the air should just blow through the tent and I can finally get to sleep! (It was then 4am) Well, it sure did whip through the tent, and it was colder than a dogs dick in a Wisconsin winter. But I got 2 hours of sleep before the 2-strokes started up at 6:30am.

 

When I fell asleep, there were only 10 or so racers present at Grange, after crawling out of the tent I awoke to this. A completely packed grid with a metric fuck ton of people, all ready to race mini’s! Glorious.

Soon there after, I wandered over to the grill area where Aaron was making coffee! Woo! I needed that so badly. He muttered something like “Get your mug. something something or antother coffee” So I picked up the mug, opened it up (thinking there was water in it from the night before) and poured it out on the ground. My eyes widened in horror, I just poured out COFFEE!?! It looked like Aaron was about to cry. I fucked up, major fuck up. Somehow, he forgave me and made me a new cup. I deserved castration. Aaron Eats then quickly got to work, still a but tipsy from the night before, but none the less made the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever had.

Racing:
Compared to my previous mini race, this was a whole new world. Anything from stock NSR’s to fully race prepped CRF150R’s pushing 25HP. 65 2 strokes, 125 4 strokes, just to name a few. Which made for a totally awesome, and super intense racing experience. You couldn’t slack or day dream, had to keep it pinned the entire length of your stint, cause otherwise you was gonna get smashed. Did I mention that there were 30 bikes on the track at all times?! I had reached Valhalla.

Some pictures of Aaron rip’n around (white handguards)

Much to our surprise, our “modded” TTR was the least modded out of any other 125 4stroke present. There were three other TTR’s on the grid, all with either 12″ or 17″ wheels, which makes a massive difference compared to our stock steel wheeled 19/16 setup, as rotational weight is key with these mini’s. So we made it our mission to late brake and totally just fuck everyone’s corner entry. Yes, we are horrible people, no we don’t care about your feelings. It was totally awesome.

During the race the winds picked up to roughly 40mph (per Google weather) and it rained off and on a bit for the last 2 hours or so. Aaron had one little crash, and I had two crashes on my last stint. One being a really wicked high-side which rocked my dome.

It went something like this:
“Ohh man this is gettin’ hella greazy!”
“Ohhhhhhhhh!!”

*Insert TTR going to full lock and SisterCousin holding the throttle wide open*

“Ohhhhhhh I got this! I’m a flatrack pro!”

*Picture of sky and clouds*
*Back of head smashing into the ground*

“Uhhhhhhggggggggggggg gahhhhhhhh, what have I done!”

A few mins later I was back at it, in the moistness

Other than those few crashes, we had zero mishaps or mechanicals! Tons of “Oh shit, oh fuck!” moments, but that’s mini racing! If you ain’t sliding, you ain’t racing!!

We ended up finishing 4th, out of 4 in our class, which sounds horrible. But when you compare our lap results to that of our fellow TTR brethren who where on racing slicks (and rain slicks in the rain) and 12″ tires, being 3 laps down from third place is good enough for us. Actually, it is better than good enough, I’m pretty stoked. But since we didn’t podium we had to eat at Del Taco one more time. If we had podiumed, we would have eaten at Harris Ranch for a victory meal.

 

Drive:
But this story does not end there, oh no! We still had to drive home 6+ hours after racing all day, with essentially no sleep. Which, usually is not a problem. But after driving for an hour and a half or so, some white stuff came whizzing down. Then all of the sudden it was a white out, snow covered ground, ice, zero traction. None of those things are good in a 2WD loaded down small pickup with two tired guys.

So we made the tough decision to get dinner and think about or options for the night. So off to defeat dinner we went, Del Taco round 2! We soon decided to get the last hotel room in town (somewhere up in the mountains) as Highway 58 had just closed due to a metric fuck ton of accidents and whiteout conditions. Which turned out to be a good choice, surely.

We awoke to this:

But a good portion of 58 was still closed and Cal Trans was clearing snow/cars still… So we made the great decision to drive a tiny mountain road with no guard rail to skeet skirt around the closed section of freeway. Hey, fuck off, at least it was daylight! It was “interesting” we crawled down the mountain.

 

Once out of the snow, it was smooth sailing home. I-5, was boring, but we chatted about late braking and slamming the door in peoples faces for hours. I am sure we are well loved by the UMRA folks now. “That gawd damn TTR fucks from NorCal, no respect!”

But it soon became that hour of hunger again. We saw a sign for Del Taco. We looked at each other, nodded, and submitted to the gut punishment one last time.

 

The end!

 

 

Hooning with new, old friends

My goal today, once again, was to get to Torino. I failed but for a very good reason. I was trying to take the road to Ceva (again) at Marco’s suggestion. However, I didn’t see the road sign for SS29 when I got off the Autostrada but I did see the sign for Sassello again. I gave it one last try to get directions (stupid GPS SUCKED) and said, “Bah! On to Sassello.” It would also take me to Torino so I felt like I was winning either way.

After a few kilometers of delicious and delightful curves I came across a stop light where traffic was down to a single lane. Waiting at the light were  two motorcycles at the head of the line. I scooted past the cars and joined them up front. The light changed. Off we went! The guys were riding at a nice pace and seemed familiar with the road so I followed them for the 20 kilometers to Sassello.  I was on their radar as the one in the rear caught sight of me in his mirrors. However, my respectful distance made it clear I was not trying to pass them. I lost them for a minute or two after they passed a few cars.

I pulled into Sassello and saw a group of riders at a cafe. It wasn’t the same guys I’d been following. I almost stopped to speak with the riders at the cafe but then I saw the two I’d been following stopped on the side of the road. I stopped. One of them greeted me, “Buon giorno”. I asked, “Do you mind if I follow you? I don’t know the road.” The guy said yes but they were about to stop for lunch. So I joined them. We stopped here at Trattoria Vittoria. They serve homestyle Italian food. (Photo from the Internet)

The two characters were Marco and Alessandro. Marco is a mechanical engineer from Genova who owns a business moving barges. Genova is a major port city. Alessandro is a professor of the Italian language. No pressure for a girl who is ISL (Italian as a second language). I told him as much as we walked into the trattoria and he laughed. Over lunch we spoke about what I was doing there, how I learned Italian, what I did for work, etc. They were quite curious what the hell a woman was doing alone, on a motorcycle, in Italy.

Once the “interview” was over they decided to take me to the president of their motorcycle club … he makes grappa for a living. We rode together for about an hour to the distillery. Marco and Alessandro were both on BMWs and I made a comment that we would be a line of Bimmers. They liked this. Alessandro rode up front and Marco swept. The pace was just right for me and we were on tiny roads I probably would never have seen on my own. I was stoked.

The trees were awash with fall colors. A strong wind was blowing and the leaves were swirling down onto the road. The views were incredible. In the distance were little hill top villages in all directions. I could see the walls and towers that had been there for centuries. It really puts things into perspective. My heart was full with happiness at the experience I was having. Wind in my face, crisp air, serendipitous meetings with people who added to my adventure. Life was good.

I was in the moment and finally, FINALLY… feeling the bike that I was on. We clicked. Che bella! I trusted in the bike and it felt like it was on rails. Maybe having a lead to set the pace had let me relax enough to enjoy riding a bit more. We stopped for gas before our destination and I told Alessandro how happy I was and that my heart was full of happiness. My Italian is far from perfect but he got it, seemed quite touched and told Marco what I had said. They were both pleased with my announcement. They had not planned to visit the distillery that day and had changed their plans on account of meeting me. This girl gives them two thumbs way up for doing so.

A few minutes after filling up we arrived at the historic distillery, which had been making grappa since 1870. The owner was a jovial man who was hands on and physical. He grabbed my arm and patted my cheek. I’m not normally a touchy feely person but it was darling. He took me to the still and I got to watch part of the process and see women hand bottling the grappa and hand applying labels. I went downstairs to the cellar and checked out his barrels of grappa that were aging. Then we went out back to look at the grapes used to make the grappa. It’s a really neat and efficient process. I’m very happy that I was able to get this behind the scenes tour. Back upstairs we sampled some of his product. YUM. (Photo courtesy of the Internets)

Marco told the owner of the distillery that I could ride along just fine with the men from their club. He talked up my riding and I blushed but I was pleased. Then we made another social call to a member of their club who makes caskets. Oh my! Slightly less jolly than grappa. Social call complete we headed back to Genova via Passo del Turchino, which I had ridden two years prior from the other direction. God, it was so much fun and the road just twisted and twisted and twisted again. The little F800GT flipped back and forth effortlessly, so happy to be leaned over. The descent was so smooth, so good.  YYYYEEEEESSSSS.

Back in Genova proper the professor was headed to his house. Before heading our respective directions we bade each other farewell. Alessandro complimented me on my riding and Marco agreed it had been enjoyable riding with me. Marco and I were both bound for parts east of Genova so we hopped on the Autostrada together. Traffic was busy at 5:30 PM on a Friday.

All the sudden Marco hooned. He hooned SO HARD. I was deeply impressed. I followed him gleefully, hooning along. He was fast and fun to follow through the stop and go traffic. Did I mention he’s 75?!? You have not lived until you have hooned with old guys (gawd, I love old guys on bikes) and seems like such hooning is damn well expected in Italy. Playing together in traffic was a blast. When my exit came I honked at him and blew kisses. He motioned a hug with his free arm. Off we went, new friends. This day will live forever in my moto memory banks and it is certainly one of the best days I have ever had on a motorcycle. Considering how much fun I regularly have that is a big statement but it is true. Motorcycles are amazing for the people they can bring and keep in your life. I was so grateful for the day I had with them.

That’s Nice!

Happy sunshiney day. The weather agreed that I should go riding. I set out to find the road for Ceva at Marco’s suggestion. My GPS didn’t feel like cooperating. It consistently wanted to route me to the Autostrada instead of letting me opt for back roads. BAD GARMIN.

I putzed along the coast from Genova. Stopping for gas in the City a nice station attendant helped me tape my visor shut so it wouldn’t flap. I adjusted to riding in Italian traffic. Oh, the things that we can do there. It’s just the way things are. I love it.

 

Here’s a photo of their port I took two years ago. My camera in my phone broke (BOO!!) so this is all I have. I went through the ‘burbs and working sections of town. Very cool.

Since GPS was being stoopid I decided to stay on Italian route 1 from Genova heading west. I knew my highway number and figured I could look out for it. Italian road signs and I have a pretty good relationship but this was not our day. I missed my turn. I stopped in Albisola Superiore and considered riding up to Sassello , which was a road I had ridden  two years prior. I wanted something new though.

 

Here’s Albisola, also from two years ago. Note pretty wee strom that matches the one I now own. <3

 

Eh, fuggit. Off to France I go because it’s sure pretty along the ocean and it smells lightly like flowers. The towns were cute so I tolerated slow speeds and gazed around. ‘Sides, I had it in my mind to go to France because I could. Around 3 I arrived at the border and the guard didn’t blink as I rode through into Nice. I rolled down a few streets, walked a bit while admiring buildings and drank an espresso.

 

Caffeinated, I hopped on the Auto Strada to get back to Genova fast. The A10  was nicely curved in many spots.  That section of A10 is a series of tunnels cut through hills and viaducts straddling valleys below. There’s a lot of great terrace gardens and greenhouses in the hills. The views were actually good as well and I was able to recap my ride from above as route 1 was visible from many of the long raised sections of roadway. Here’s an image from the Innerwebs.

 

 

Marco, my host, asked if I liked the bike when I arrived home. I said  that it was just okay. I hadn’t clicked with the feel of the bike the whole day although it had been competent on the curves of the A10 but not in a way that moved me. I was still having a good time, though, and there was more to come. I was riding in Italy again and loving it.

 

 

 

 

The Anti GT: Ms. Cheeseburger goes to Italy

Work sent me to Italy. You know, to work. So I did. I busted my butt for five days. When that was done: MOTO. I contacted the good folks at Central Italy Moto Tours again and rented a bike (I definitely recommend them). I asked for the F700GS. No can haz. So they rented me their F800GT.

I picked up the F800GT in Milan. This time I dealt with a different man from the rental agency than last time, a nice chap named Claudio. (He was also easy on the eyes – giggity). I opted not to take the side bags that came with the bike. Too wide. Must lane split. I said yes to extra insurance and yes to GPS. Also, YES to unlimited kilometers.

I left the garage and hit Milan rush hour traffic. It was not as daunting as I had expected and I was nowhere near as sketched out as I had been when I rented a bike last time. About 90 seconds after departure the rondelle holding the left side of my visor popped off. WEEE. I hit the autostrada towards Genova to stay at my Italian teacher’s house because I was running late and didn’t have time to go back to the moto rental office. Besides, the medium did not fit mah noggin.

Half an hour in it got dark and cold. Real cold. I pulled over at one of these cool Italian rest stops, which have gas and snacks without leaving the road. On and off. EASY.

Quick bite consumed, I was back on the road and discovered the heated grips on the rented Bimmer could cook an egg. Praise dog.

Off I went. Straight, straight. Straight. Oh, what is this? Splashy drops? REALLY? Seems to be my theme for Italy. Pick up bike, take autostrada. Dark times, rain.… Wait, it’s just a few drops for a bit. Hey, what’s that? OOOOH, the road is CURVY. Wish I felt more comfy on the bike but dip in and go. I love that Euro drivers typically don’t hog the left lane. Next thing I knew I was in Genova.

In Genova I came to the intersection where I was to wait and call my teacher. Except I had no phone. Surely I could find his house.

NOPE. I went up a kajillion stairs looking for him. I disturbed a poor Nonna. Back on the street, about to give up I saw a lady walking up the hill. Out came my poor Italian, “Mi sono perdita. Stop circando per la casa dello mio insegnante.” She was going the same way and led me there. Up a kajillion more stairs and I was home.

The next morning I woke up to grey skies but look at this view!

Then the rain started. Call me a weiner if you will but crashing on a rental bike in a foreign country was low on my list of priorities. So, I napped. ALL. DAMN. DAY. I’ll crash my own bike anytime but I am too poor to crash a fancy BMW. I am fancy enough that I took a quick video of the rain coming down. It meant business.

Well rested after my grueling trade show days, I planned a ride for the next day with Marco’s help. I will cover that in my next post.

xoxo from Milano,

Signora CB

transcendental transportation

motos are number one in life. one of the few places i can shut down my brain’s chatter and leave work/life stress behind. focus or die. the other place is on the yoga mat. i’ve noticed that the old dudes still swinging  leg over their bikes in their 60’s, 70’s, heck, even 80’s, all have being fit in common. i am quite fluffy. this is not good. i wanna terrorize the general public er… continue riding when i am older so, yoga. i found a beginner class so i could get bendy.

i liked yoga as soon as i realized it had the same mind clearing power as riding. when i would get deep into my happy yoga place i noticed that my thoughts would drift to wherever i had been riding over the weekend. how cool is that? it was like being able to journey  all over and get back to that sense of gratitude, presence and joy i get when i’m way out there. the guys don’t really know but my silly heart is literally bursting with joy at times as i putt along behind them.

i truly realized i was grooving with yoga when i was on the bike and i’d find myself thinking of something my yoga teacher had said. one line i’d really liked was about replacing fear with curiosity. i spent that  next weekend focusing more on the feel of the road and trusting myself. i was curious what a ride with less self doubt would feel like.  it made me faster than normal according to sister cousin. bonus!

another benefit was more endurance and less pain. i did stretches from yoga at every stop on the cal24 (which i should write about eventually) and it made 24 straight hours on a bike much more tolerable. it means my lower back doesn’t hurt. good stuff.

riding is important. i love it. and because it makes the riding better, i have really come to love yoga. anything that augments my riding life is time well spent. doubly so when it has so many other benefits.

 

 

 

when a girl needs to get away

i’ve been all over norcal with the boys this summer but it’s been a while since i went on a solo trip. a friend invited me to visit his friends place in trinity county. i said yes. trinity is heaven on earth for a rider. two epic roads led me to my destination: highway 36 and highway squee… er, three. i’d ridden both only once before, under cover of darkness, while on the cal24. i remember it being really stressful. because, you know. dark, unfamiliar. deer. oh yeah, and forest fire. weeee!

 

the days are shorter now that it’s october. as much as the cal24 had been fun i didn’t care for a ride in the dark repeat. this trip was a quick overnighter, 400 miles each way if i rode the good route.   i needed to arrive before all the deer decided it was dinner time.  we know i don’t do slab more than needed. so without consulting a map i decided to shoot to cloverdale, take 128 towards fort bragg, hit my usual jog to comptche then north into fort bragg  and on to leggett. going through the twisties close to leggett i didn’t encounter a single car in front of me for 30+ miles. it was so, so sweet and i was making good time.

 

it was a little windy by fort bragg

in garberville i fueled up and rode up alderpoint to 36 at bridgeville. i could feel the limits of my suspension on that road which is quite goaty and has poor surface conditions to boot. so i took it easy. in retrospect this was good because there were some surprise gravel spots where road maintenance was taking place.

 

my other wee broke down in this spot earlier this year. ever since then i stop and take a photo of my bike each time i pass. 

i stopped in mad river and encountered a dozen ++ dirty french hippies at the burger joint. horrified, i decided to buy meat sticks and gtfo out of town rather than wait around for a burger. plus, it was 4 pm and i was told it would take about 2.5 hours to get to weaverville (it did not). setting off seemed like the smart thing to do.

 

now, normally every time i leave mad river i take a left onto a mountain road right after town. this time i continued straight. highway 36 had been fun from bridgeville to mad river but this section was some special rhythmic magic. just like hnnnng, so good and so fun and so empty. it just flowed.

however, i don’t know if 36 is better than three, which also had this beautiful rhythm to it that had me swooping and turning so happily. i was tired at this point and ready for dinner but i got a second wind flip flopping the bike from side to side. by the time i got to weaverville i was so satisfied and a little dazed. this happens. i found my friend’s friends house and was warmly greeted by the welcoming committee of dogs. i’d covered 400 miles of twisties in 9.5 hours including my breaks. i’d arrived before dark and was stoked.

 

that night, much good food was eaten, laughs were shared, good times were had. then a bed was made for me and i proceeded to pass out. that ride had made me tired. i wasn’t the only sleepy one, though. one of the dogs decided he was sleeping with me. i got puppy cuddles all night.

 

in the morning i got off to a late start after being thoroughly caffeinated by my hosts. i got to ride back down three to 36. i feel as though i covered my feelings above but i will repeat that three is a heart swooping super fun road.

 

the bike on highway three at hayfork summit. 

i stopped in mad river for breakfast (cheeseburger). a miracle occurred: i was in, fed and putting my helmet on within half an hour despite the ladies behind the counter being quite busy. fed and happy i rolled back out and decided to skip alderpoint. my suspension + these tires had just felt dodgy and i wanted to explore 36 some more. i now understand what all the fuss is about. it was worth some slab from fortuna to garberville (sweepers!).

i came back pretty much the way i had come. i arrived in cloverdale before sunset. score one for cheeseburger! i’d had a great ride, thunk a lot of thoughts and decompressed over the ride. coming back down 128 i realized my chest felt relaxed and i felt happy for the first time in a while. it had been too long since my last weekend trip. i need that calm that comes with riding and i had found it all by myself. there was a special zen on this ride. i was totally in my own head and i liked it. i had missed the boys but sometimes a girl just needs to get away and sometimes a girl just needs to ride alone.

Sometimes you just need a new bike

So you go out and buy the same kind you have.

 

The girls

The big red wee was giving me some trouble. A bunch of problems arose at once. I suppose it is to be expected in a high mileage bike. I didn’t want to put that much money into the bike all at once, though. New bike time had arrived. I simply cannot be without a bike for too long.

 

I’d had my eye on a really pretty wee in Southern Oregon that was delightfully well set up. Pretty as she was, she’d been on Craigslist for about a month. I went to the ad, wrote out the guys number and decided to email him later. After work I went to show the ad to a friend. The link was dead. AACK! I raced to my office and called him. It was still for sale but he was tired of flakes. I made arrangements to see it two days later.

Early on a  Saturday the kiddo and I awoke and set off to Oregon to see the bike. It was even prettier in person than expected and had obviously been well cared for by her owner. So after a quick, fun and mellow test ride I bought her.

 

Pretty new wee!

 

The new wee matches the Inhaler’s wee… except mine is prettier and has a bit more power despite being the same year.  It came with nice farkles… and two I didn’t care for much: a center stand that scraped on my first real ride and a lowering link. I removed the center stand after that very first ride in Oregon and hoped that would end the scraping problem. Nope! Even with the center stand removed I scraped belly pan numerous times going through Leggett. *sigh* This meant I had to slow down. The way the bike was riding meant I skipped the Lost Coast on the way home. The lowering link needed to go ASAP.

 

Avenue of the Giants. I love this spot.

 

Our maiden Cheeseburger at Jenny’s in Ft. Bragg

Regular links were ordered as soon as I arrived back home and were on the bike a few days later thanks to Sister Cousin and the Inhaler. The removal of the lowering links made the bike feel much better.

I took her to church the following day. The boys met me there. I was starting to gel with the bike and had had a great ride. Sister Cousin had skool work and other things to do so he bailed after a brief ice cream break . The Inhaler and me headed back down 1. We had a great ride on our matching bikes. I noticed as well that we have road magic. That is, a normally crowded road will be empty for miles and cars just pull over for you like it’s their duty. It’s happened more than once with the Inhaler.

The Inhaler pointing at our matching bikes. Everything is grey here. Stealth mode activated!

 

Overall, to add to the Inhaler’s review of the DL650: The stock suspension is not bad but will be replaced with the Elka from the old bike along with the upgraded GSXR calipers. There’s an adapter kit available from SV Racing Parts that lets you put four caliper GSXR or SV1000 brakes from certain years onto your DL650 or DL1000. Having ridden with stock and upgraded brakes it is money extremely well spent to do this upgrade. (Opinion is my own and given freely). The mere fact that I bought another should tell you all you need to know. While the wee is not the best at any one thing, it is the best at all the things I want to do.

So there you have it. There are now two lovely grey 2007 DL650’s in Ghetto Touring. We implored Sister Cousin to get one, too, but he marches to the beat of his own drum and we like him that way.

 

Gratuitous wee shot

2015 M1GP 24 Hour Mini Moto Endurance Race

Ever see something on the internet that just blows your mind and you physically exclaim “I must do that”? Well that was my instant reaction when I saw a race report a few years back on a M1GP Mini Moto Endurance. At the time, I was living out on the East Coast… So I had to patiently wait until the correct opportunity arose.

Flash forward a few years to present day 2015. I asked a bunch of fellow moto heads if they would be interested in racing this awesome little event. After receiving enough interest, I went out and bought a lightly used TTR125LE, registered the team and assembled the crew.

Ms.Cheeseburger was on board, no hesitation. Having never ridden a mini moto, or been in a race, this was a no brainer. She was on the team, cause Iron Butt status.

The Inhaler took a bit of convincing, he likes sleep, eating, and hooning for shorter periods of time, kinda like a princess. But after much prodding and nagging/ coercion, he too signed up. Having much experience on dirt bikes, this would be right up his ally. He too, had never raced anything.

Lastly our mutual friend Adam jumped on board, he is a seasoned veteran racer. Having taken many top finishes in Supermoto AFM races etc, having his race experience would greatly aid our goon squad.

With these fellow three sickly individuals, we made the bare minimum of four riders to make a team. The level of stoke was rising.

 

The Bike: 
This little turd bike was picked up in Hollister for 900 dollars, I drove down yonder in 100 degree heat spell in a truck with no AC. But mission accomplished, race bike acquired. It was a low hours bike, little to no use. I believe the bike was purchased 2-3 months before the race, I put some cool Bridgestone BT-45’s on it and some adult sized springs, as that is what the internet told me to do, and then the bike sat.

 

The Journey Begins:
Friday, the night before the race, our goon squad assembled at mi casa to load the gear, prep the bike, and drive down to LA. Yes, that’s correct, prep the bike. We adjusted the valves, shaved the front fender, applied our slick race number, gorilla glued a tail light on and off we went. Oh, and we each rode the little turd bugler around the block all of once. Super tested for durability. The bike had been ran for five minutes since I had purchased it. RACE READY!

After many hours of slightly hoon’n down I-5 Inhaler woke up from a Patty Nap and exclained “Arby’s!”, so Arby’s we did. It was a horrible decision (more on that later) Did a Walmart pit stop as well:

We arrived in Willow Springs at 1am on Friday night… Team Hired Goons slept for 4 and a half hours Friday night, we awoke at 6 am to nibble on the saltiest breakfast I have ever consumed in my life. Between Arby’s and breakfast salt explosion, none of us had working taste buds.

*smacks lips for hours*

Inhaler also took a snooze at the table:

Team Hired Goons arrives at Willow Springs International Raceway somewhere around 7:45am. Young Lee (race cooridinator) directed us towards our pit zone, which we would call home for the next 24+ hours. The team set up our pit in about 20 mins. Easy up wrapped in Tyvek tarp for extra shade, Ghetto Racing! All of the other teams had lavish pit set ups, multiple easy-ups, tables, grills, sound systems, lights, generators, trailers with beds etc etc. So we really just classed up the place.

Racer meeting, tech inspection and all that other pre race jazz was said and done. We had roughly 40 minutes to “practice” Having never looked at the course map, this was gonna be fun! Adam went out first, did his 4-5 laps, then the Inhaler, Ms Cheeseburger and finally myself. We all came back in giggling like small children, the largest grins I have ever seen. This was gonna be a BLAST!

 

We decided Adam was going to do the Le-Mans start, for the sole reason that the rest of the team was just too damn lazy to run anywhere… As running is an inferior mode of transportation. Well, it was an excellent move on our part, Adam donned his race Tutu (thanks Walmart) and got a decent start from the way way back of the grid. Drummers were drumming, motorcycles were revving, this banana’s adrenaline was a pumpin!

Adam hauls butt!

I’d just bore you with a break down of each stint, hell, I don’t remember half of them. Seeing as we only had 4 members on our Goon squad, we each rode 6 stints, ranging from 1-2.5 hours each. At the beginning of the race, it was just too effing hot. We were lucky if we made it an hour before pitting. But everyone was posting good lap times, so we were totally okay with this. The first 6 hours went off without a hitch, no crashes, lap times stayed consistent, time in the pits was minimal, the grins on our faces just kept getting bigger and bigger. After everyone had done two stints out on the track we just sat there in our ghetto hovel laughing like lunatics. Riding this silly little TTR around a go-kart track was the most fun any of us could remember ever having. Who knew 9 horse power could be so much fun!?

We soon realized that the TTR was having front end issues, it was pogo’ing so hard through the corners, the front tire was only making contact with the ground half the time. (It turned out to be a combination of things… The tire was not seated entirely on the bead, we were running extra hard fork springs, and the oil in the fork was probably OEM being 9 years old… Pogo bike for the win!)

Cheeseburger out there hauling the mail:

I went out on my third stint, ended up following a really quick Grom, setting our team, lap record of a 1:01, and then low siding pretty hard thirty seconds later. Luckily I was wearing a Helite Air Bag Vest. It took the brunt of the impact, but once I had stopped sliding I realized I could not get up. It was like being a little turtle stuck on it’s back. I couldn’t get my footing, and my arms wouldn’t touch the ground. It took a minute to get up, then I couldn’t bend over to pick up the bike! So I ran around the other side of the bike and pulled it up by the handlebar. At least my tail bone didn’t hurt! Lesson, don’t try and keep up the the Groms, the front end just doesn’t have the traction.

 

Things started to get weird…

The sun set, around the time we all started to do our third stints, fatigue started to set in. Also, this was about the time where we realized that we would have to make multiple runs to the gas station, as we had only brought one 5 gallon gas can… This would eleminate any down time as the night dragged on…

Most of us had already consumed 2-4 Redbulls/ 5 hour energy’s, as sleep was minimal the night before. Before my third stint I drowned a Redbull and half a 5 Hour energy and hoon’d out onto the track. Instantly I got behind a XR100 with a bigbore kit. We had an epic battle for close to an hour and a half. Well, I thought it was epic, we braked so hard into corners I thought the poor bikes were going to sheer in half. But I finally passed him! Only to get behind another TTR! We battled, and battled and slammed the door in each others faces over and over again. Finally, again, I passed him. Then I got behind the Catalyst Reactions Grom. Not exactly sure which of their lady riders I got behind, but we played for a long time as well. Then it donned on me, I had been out on the track for a really long time. I looked up finally and saw Cheeseburger practically throwing a tantrum in the pit board section. Ok, one more lap around and I will pit.

*Insert face plant*

Yes, I lowsided, again. Once rolling into the pits Adam gassed up the bike and ripped out onto the track. “Grant, you have been out on the track for two and a half hours…” Woops?!

That was around 3am. Most of the evening/ morning was just a big blur.
Kinda like the Inahler, so fast he is a blur:

We each finished our 4th stint somehow. The Inhaler and Adam passed out for a few hours, they needed their beauty sleep.

 

The Morning Sun: 

6am came around, we still had six more hours of racing?! Cheeseburger and I had about 45 minutes of sleep the night before, Adam and the Inhaler had “a bit” more. Somehow, between the pogo fork front end, and the complete lack of sleep for two days, Hired Goons was staying consistent in our lap times. Looking back, this is a miracle in itself. We were bouncing between 8th and 6th place for the last 8 or so hours, so this was crunch time! On one of the Inhalers last stints, we woke him up ten minutes before his time to go out. He threw on his leathers, jumped on the bike and I pushed him through the pit area, (as the bikes had to be under foot power only in the pits) he exclaimed in a half delirious half sleep deprived wail “I just woke up!”

*starter clicks, engine screams, and he goes WOT down the back straight*

I’m still not sure if this was the funniest thing I had heard all weekend, or I was dipping into the insane/sleep deprived filth pool. But I had to sit on the ground and laugh for a few seconds as tears rolled down my face.

A few seconds later he was out there trying to beat my lap times:

I finally managed to get some sleepy times from 7:30-9:30am’ish. Banana was real tired:

Finally I was awoken by Adam and the Inhaler. “Hey, Cheeseburger has been out there for about an hour or so, it’s about your time to go. Get dressed”
“Oh, and it’s about 10am, we really only have 2 hours left”

“Awesome!” I exclaimed

“So we were thinking… maybe… you could just do it?”

I snapped back to reality, wait. They want me to do a two hour stint, at the end of the race, in the 100 degree heat? Quickly I glanced up at Adam and Inhaler, they resembled shells of the racers they were the evening before. Adam was hankering for a shower, the Inhaler just didn’t want to ride no more.

“I can try to do the two hours? Just check in with me at an hour or so to see how I feel” I groggily replied as I hopped on the bike.

Well, the next hour or was was too a blur. I did lots of laps, went real real fast. Watched our competitors pit a few times and I thought to myself “It has to be about that 1 hour mark if they are pitting, I am freaking exhausted, have the worst dry mouth ever, and my legs are cramping. I should pit” A few laps later I see the Inhaler and Adam in the grandstands, but instead of asking if I was “ok” (cause let’s face it, none of us are “ok” at this point) Inhaler is up there just waving me on like a mad man. No one is in the pits, no one is in their leathers. I’m gonna die out here.

Somehow, I rocked out with my banana out and pound out even more laps. The front end chatter was getting worse and worse every lap as the track heated up. It was like riding a darned jackhammer through the corners at 30mph. My legs were on the verge of complete failure. The saliva in my mouth had turned to a mucus like substance. Sweat was dripping into my eyes. Make the pain go away! But miraculously, my lap times got faster?! I went from pulling 1:07’s to 1:05’s down to 1:04’s! Zero Fucks Given, but still trying not to crash on the last hour of racing.

Soon there after I started seeing the racers from Japan/Taiwan walk out to the finish line. Their team was pulling the fastest lap times around the track by far. Great riders, fantastic sportsmen to boot. As time dragged on, they started laughing at me as I rounded the corner to the front straight, as all of the visible front end chatter was hilarious to watch. Soon, their laughter turned to cheering?! They were cheering for me! As the riders on the Groms would pass me (as they were pulling sub 1 minute laps) they would all turn around and give me a big thumbs up and a grin. Damn, I must be the laughing stock of the track, excellent… But to be honest, the team of racers from overseas really gave me a second wind. I was so close to calling it quits and pulling into the pits before they showed up and started cheering. If you are reading this, I cannot thank you enough!

Then entire paddock started pouring out onto the race track. The end must be near! Thank Mexican Baby Jesus! I’m gonna live!

All of the sudden there was a metal on metal screech, the bike pitched from one side to another with the rear wheel locked.
“Oh mother of…”
I held on for dear life as the bike went lock to lock three times and eventually came to a skidding stop on the side of the track. I jumped off, looked down and saw that the chain had fallen off the sprocket and jammed in every place possible.

 

I took off my gloves and threw them into the atmosphere. The corner worker ran up screaming “NOT THE FOOR-TWEANTY BIKE” I couldn’t help to laugh as he tried to push start it. This poor child had sat out in the sun for the entire race, he just wanted to see the hooligan mobile finish the damn race!

Well, we didn’t finish… DNF, two laps from the end of the 24 hour race. It’s hard not to laugh at that.

All in all, this long mini moto race, was by far the most fun I have ever had on a motorcycle. 8+ hours (mostly sleep deprived) pinning it to win it on a 9 horse power bike, with a top speed of 35mph. Today marks 4 days after the race, the DNF smile is still strung across my face. Not only are we headed back for next years race, but we’re going to prep the crap out of our small not so race ready bike. Engine goodies, suspension mods, full super fast race bike exhaust, gotta beat the Groms!

I’d like to congratulate Catalyst Suspension Team, “If it ain’t Grom, I don’t want to be right” They rocked out for 24 hours and took the win!

Joe of 4TheRiders took a good portion of the pictures listed above, you know, the ones that look professional.

The Incredible V-Strom 650 – A Review

Okay, maybe I’m a bit late to the party. The V-Strom 650 and 1000 variants already have a large cult following. Entire websites and forums are dedicated to this one single Suzuki model, which remained largely unchanged for 8 years from 2004 to 2011. Home-shop fabricators and big corporations across the world make a living by creating mods to fully farkle and bulletproof the already solid foundation of a bike.

But why? It’s such a weird looking bike, you might say. Yeah, I say that too. At first glance, it doesn’t appeal to me; it doesn’t spark anything special inside me. It’s kinda plain looking. You can tell it’s a budget bike instantly – form follows function. Many times, function follows cost, as is evident with the number of plain steel fasteners that rust rather quickly. Anyway, a bit about me. Who’s this shmuck and why does he think he’s entitled to write a motorcycle review?

I’ve been riding motorcycles for about 18 years now, primarily dirt, and the last 3 primarily on the street. It’s better that way I think, since street riding is technically easier than dirt riding, and much less physically demanding. During this time, I’ve ridden a fair amount of bikes- dirt bikes including 50’s to 450’s both 2-and 4-strokes; street bikes including motards, sprotbikes, cruisers, sport touring, and adventure bikes, all the way from 1 to 4 cylinders. In reality, it’s not THAT many bikes, but enough to have a decent reference list in my memory banks for assessing future bikes. Aside from riding, I’m a mechanical engineer by education, trade, and hobby. Me gusta mechanical things. Motorcycles are one of the most attainable, complex, customizable, rewarding devices normal people can get their hands on.

How did the V-Strom 650 happen? Well, until the V-Strom, my primary bike was a Ducati Hypermotard SP. My dream bike. The bike is incredible. So much peaky power! The suspension is communicative and sharp. The list goes on. And therein lies the rub. That is all good and fun if you’re going out for a blast on the twisties with your buds, hooning around like a crazy person, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s CIA interrogation technique #27, just after blasting you with Britney Spears 24 hours a day and Chinese water torture.

Despite loving hooligan times, I also love my physical well being. To be honest, the Hyper actually took away my love and desire to ride. For once, I wasn’t sold false advertising. The bike is actually hyper. Yet, most of the time I just want to go for a relaxing ride to unwind – to feel that visceral sensation of wind in my face, a magic carpet ride of suspension, and smooth clean power.

So I started the hunt. I wanted another bike to supplement the crazy Italian thing I spent way too much money on. Something that would be a decent commuter, tourer, and all-around utilitarian bike for around 3 grand used. I tossed around a few ideas. KLR650… meh, I’m over singles on the street, too much vibration. Versys 650… sorry, I just can’t, the word fugly is generous. By the suggestion of a good friend, I started looking at the V-Stroms. To the internet! It was evident rather quickly that the 650 was the drug of choice for most of these so-called stromtroopers. Yeah, the 1000 has more power, but the 650 is no slouch. Plus, it’s smoother, more efficient, cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, cheaper to insure, the list goes on. Despite being offered a decent 1000 for just $1500, I passed and found a perfect 650 on teh barfs. Yeah, it had been down before. It had 44,000 smiles. Overall, not bad. Considering it needed a little work right off the bat and had no farkles to speak of, we settled on a fair price of $3000 which seems to be just under average market value. The test ride was simple – I had very low expectations honestly. Does it run? Do the brakes work? Does it turn? Yes, yes, yes. I did a few WFO runs with my friend to check for burning oil and it all checked out just fine. The ride home was bliss. But I know better. Honeymoon periods are the devil.

First things first – new tires. Gotta get those Shitko tires off ASAP. I don’t want to high-side my new bike that quickly alright? I went with the Bridgestone T30. Seemed like a good fit for this bike, plus they were on sale. I cleaned, lubed, and adjusted the chain. Added a big ugly Givi top case because practical korea is best korea. Cleaned the bike up real nicely. Sorted out some of the previous owner’s wiring shenanigans, added LED auxiliary lights, and off we went.

 
Post-initial impressions were still too good to be true. The engine is so smooth! It has a super flat, super dull power curve. So consistent that it’s hard not to love. 3000RPM doesn’t feel much different than 8000, and it revs all the way to 10,500. Not bad! I had the lowest of low expectations for the suspension, and yet, despite being soft as hell, it’s actually quite good and predictable. The bike is surprisingly nimble, and soaks up even the goatiest of roads. It’s a real hoot to just blast down the nastiest goat road you can find and let it soak it all up. Here’s what I love – despite not having razor sharp throttle response and handling, you can still haul ass and it’s super easy. Your inputs can be lazy. The bike just flexes, wallows, and squirms while eventually doing what you command it to do. Wide open throttle, sure, why not. You won’t break the tires loose with your whopping 62hp. Too hard on the brakes while revmatch downshifting? Big deal, the brakes are very progressive. No stoppie action here. In fact it’s hard to mess up your line once in a turn, because the bikes inherent stability, inertia, and compliance overcomes any sloppy steering inputs and abrupt body positioning. Seriously, you can be a complete hack and still ride at quite the pace. The riding position is great, too. The peg-to-seat distance is a bit short for my 34″ inseam, so a taller seat will help there. The bars angle inwards a bit too much. It feels like riding a big funky scooter sometimes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Overall, the ergonomics are fantastic. I love how you feel like you’re inside the bike, not on top of it.

Well darn… I’ve been riding for over 150 miles now, and the fuel still shows half a tank? That’s funny, most other bikes would be running on fumes by now. I should fill up anyway just to see what kind of mileage we’re getting here. It took 3 gallons. Yep. Despite all the hard riding and go-or-blow new bike riding technique, she still managed to deliver over 50mpg. What. The. Awesome? That means this bike has a usable range north of 250 miles!

Okay okay, downsides? Well, yeah, you aren’t going to win any races on this thing (against a competent rider). It scrapes peg far too early to rail that hard in the twisties, but that’s okay. The T30’s give up around that point too. It’s a bit top-heavy, so changing direction quickly on a super tight road can be a good workout. It’s sorta weird looking. Who cares, still way prettier than a GS.

Speaking of the GS… boy, those are sure nice bikes. Amazing electronic suspension. Powerful motor with gobs of torque. Great electronic aid features. The KTM 1290 Super Adventure is a feat of engineering too. Which brings me to an interesting point. Do you even adventure bro? There is something to be said for having a cheap, common, easy to repair bike. Parts are more universal and more available on fleabay. I think it actually makes adventuring and riding more fun, because you spend less time worrying about putting a rock chip in your $1,200 side fairing, and more time enjoying the ride, while romping the hell out of your bike without a care in the world. If you have the cash, sure, go for the top of the line bike, but for mere mortals like me, the old adage surely applies: it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow, and it’s more fun to adventure on a shit bike than a have your bike shit on an adventure. Note: this does not apply to riders who carry a GS911 diagnostic computer with them on their rides. Moving on…

The V-Strom 650 is the best all around bike I’ve ever ridden. After putting over 2,000 miles on it in less than three weeks, I can still honestly say it’s the best thing since carbide tooling. Capable of being ridden hard in the twisties – schooling sprotbikes left and right with topcase waving bye bye as the wee snakes through the esses. And capable of doing 500 miles of twisties in a single day without killing a normal human. I can’t imagine how many slab miles that would be equivalent to. Any slab is too much slab. Yes, sporty hooligan bikes still have their place, which is why I’m going to keep one for the 15% hooligan riding I still want to do. But I have to admit that I am slightly saddened that on any given day, I will likely choose the trusty v-strom to get myself somewhere, giggling comfortably the entire way. Don’t underestimate the fun that can be had from a budget adventure touring bike.

 

Updates to come.