Wretched XS

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noodlenoggin
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Wretched XS

#1 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Fri Jul 21, 2006 2:54 pm

Greetings, and welcome to my shiny, new blog. I've tried this before, but I always give in to the part of my brain that keeps whispering "you know nobody's reading this, right? You're talking to yourself, buddy. Go get a cup pa Sanka." I don't know why my inner brain would want a cup of decaffeinated coffee-like substance, but there it is.

I've been an on-again off-again motorcycle rider since I was a teenager, yon 20 years ago. I bought my first street bike in 1993, for $300 from a family friend... a '79 Yamaha XS650F. I didn't know anything about it other than it was a road-bike, it was shiny, it had a whopping huge 650cc motor, and it was cheap. Hey, I was all of 23 and hadn't ridden anything more than an asthmatic 125cc enduro bike.

Fast-forward to the present, and that bike is still my bike. It's dirtier, it's rustier, it's leakier. Then again, so am I. (yes, eww.)

For that first summer, I did nothing but ride my new bike. I would get $4 and fill the tank, because gas was that cheap back then, and I would ride until the tank was empty, and I would get $4 and fill the tank. Life was good. Since then, there have been years that the bike sat in storage, and years it sat under a bike cover, and years I actually rode it mixed in there. Lately, I seem to be on a pattern of one year on, one year off -- and I'm currently enduring an off year.

The last "off-year" I had, I at least replaced a frozen front brake, and replaced the worn-out clutch, and stuff like that. This year I got it to run and have zipped it up the subdivision twice.

I still cling to the XS, though, and you know why? Because even when I'm just running up to the corner and back, I still get that *zang* of anticipation when I swing my leg over the seat. I still get that giddy feeling like "I can't believe this is still legal, anything this much fun must be against the law -- quick, nobody say anything or they'll take this away!!"
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#2 Unread post by CNF2002 » Fri Jul 21, 2006 3:25 pm

Thats great! Would like to see pics of it too.
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#3 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Sun Jul 23, 2006 9:17 am

Image

That's the XS in September of 2000 when I lived in Lafayette, Indiana, which I still consider the worst place I've ever been. I found out why liquid-cooled motorcycles are so popular when I was commuting across town to work...in the summer...in 98-degree heat... on acres and acres of pavement... in gridlock... with traffic lights timed to stop you at each and every intersection.

Riding in Lafayette did age my bike a LOT. It was fairly pristine when we moved there, and pretty worn when we left. Nothing but stop and go, and I discovered that I need to be going 35mph MINIMUM to get enough air across the motor to cool it -- and 80% of the time I couldn't go that fast.

My ride would go like this... (and we'll pick it up about halfway through.) puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- (green light) *snick* Bpbpbpbbbtrrrrr... *snick* bvrrrrrrr -- (yellow light...same light) -- Rmmm-br-br "GO THROUGH IT, YOU MORON!" (red light) *snick* (foot down) puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt-puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt- clunk, sputter, puttputtputtputtputtputtputtputt-

Yeah, by the time I rode the 15 miles (45 minutes) to work the bike would be stuttering and trying to seize from the heat...and so would I.

It was a frustrating time to try and ride and be safe, yet comfortable. In that kind of heat, I'd put on my leather coat, and helmet, and gloves and boots...and in riding across town I would be absolutely floating in my own sweat. Even riding out in the country was barely better, because the wind was still hot, even at 60mph -- and I could never go that fast because even the country roads are infested with Hoosiers who never exceed 45mph...so I'd be stuck with going slow, and being buffeted by someone's slipstream.

So I'd forgo the heavy coat -- be only a little more comfortable, and a LOT worried that I was going to get killed, because (and this is my opinion -- please no flamewar from thin-skinned Hoosiers) Indiana has the WORST drivers in the known galaxy, and possibly the entire Asimov multiverse. For the five years I lived in Indiana, I was *certain* that I was going to get sent to the hospital by some moron -- It is one of the great surprises of my life that I was not. I also totally enjoyed being sneered at by shorts-flip-flops-sunglasses-wearing college-squids on their Gixxers, because I actually had clothes on.

All in all, I think there were about four weeks where the weather was actually good for riding there. About two weeks in the early summer and two in the fall. The winters were frigid and snowy, there would be a couple of weeks of spring, and then it'd be 98 degrees with 100% humidity all summer...then two weeks of fall and straight into winter again. Most days of the summer it was simply too hot to go riding.

But, those days are five years gone. At least that's what the therapist says...right after she coaxes the butcher knife out of my hand...
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#4 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Sun Jul 23, 2006 9:57 pm

Yes, again today.

I think I like working on bikes as much as actually riding them. (pause. blink) Okay, I like riding wayy more. But I really do get something from working on my machinery -- cars, bikes, lawnmowers, whatever. On my XS, the only thing I haven't done myself was mount a pair of new tires. I've replaced brakes, clutch and that thingie on the axle that tensions the chain. When I dropped it, I rebuilt it. Adjusting the valve clearances is actually relaxing for me, and it's turned into a father-son thing on more than one occasion. Basically, a little tinkering suits me fine -- rather than being an onerous chore. Sure, I'd like one of those new bikes that I could just Windex the bugs off of, and ride...but I'm not sure what I'd do with myself.

I'm seeing quite a few people on TMW who also ride bicycles, and I ride a little, but I had more fun this year rebuilding my old mountain bike. When my mom passed away, I inherited her old late-1980's Cannondale mountain bike. It's been sitting outside chained to one post or another for the past 10 years or so, and gotten pretty beat up. So this past winter and spring I gradually assimilated the parts and rebuilt it myself. I spent a couple of months, less tan $200, and I have a working $800 or so bicycle. I like that.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#5 Unread post by blues2cruise » Mon Jul 24, 2006 12:32 am

You have a good start to your blog. Keep it up....because we are reading it. :)
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#6 Unread post by Sev » Mon Jul 24, 2006 12:59 am

I agree, I'd like to see more posts :D.
Of course I'm generalizing from a single example here, but everyone does that. At least I do.

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#7 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:45 am

Thanks for the encouragement!

Wow, I've been reading CN's Confessions of a Commuter and -Holiday's transcontinental travelogue. Great writing, good photos, I recommend them for some good stuff about riding, both daily and long-distance. I feel they have inspired me.

I'd like to share some of the places I've parked my bike.

Okay, okay stop with the "sick face" already. Since my riding history has contained entire years of not riding... of staring out the window at the un-insured/un-plated bike... of, well, parking it. It makes up a fair share of my experience. Right now, the bike has a place in the garage -- it's actually the only motor vehicle in there, unless you count the lawnmower.... which really isn't a vehicle, as it's a push-mower. I guess you could ride it like a skateboard -- a really loud skateboard with whirling blades of death under it. But I digress.

It's the only motor vehicle in there...that's where I was. Sharing space with the bicycles, the gear for the impending babies. (impending babies?) Yes, we're expecting twin girls in November. (wow, that's cool, congratulations!!) Thanks! (Do twins run in your family?) Look, not to be rude, but I'm really trying to do something here. (sorry)

Geesh. Um. (pause) Right. This is the first time we've actually HAD a garage, so it's cool. Hasn't always been that way. When we moved to Atlanta, and thence to Indiana, it stayed covered in another one of my mom's barns, gathering dust under a bike cover. After we brought it to Indiana, (in the back of a U-Haul) it stayed covered in parking lots, storage units and under carports when it wasn't being ridden. One winter it spent on our back porch, under a cover that had gotten really brittle and started ripping from the handlebar ends, and that was the winter we got a blizzard that dumped 13" of snow on us. The snow blew around the house, drifting to an astonishing height...right where the bike sat. Basically, it was totally covered with snow, which was not really kept out by the ripped cover. I could cry.

When I got the bike, I was living at home, on a horse farm, and the bike got space in a barn we didn't really use for anything else but storing things like hay bales, old storm windows, shiny motorcycles and really, everything but animals. I had a wide sliding door so I could fire it up and ride straight out. It was cool. Then I moved to my college apartment and I had neither a barn nor a bike cover. I did have a really wide overhang, formed by the -- if you can picture this -- walkway for the second-story apartments. The building was like a motel, with a second-story balcony for the entrances to the second-story apartments. That balcony gave me about a 5-foot overhang to park my bike under. I asked my neighbors and they were cool with it, so there I went.

And I got a ticket from the Campus Gestapo for parking on the sidewalk. When I called, and explained that my neighbors didn't care, etc... I was told "it may block handicapped access." I looked out my window at a) the sidewalk/porch. b) the sidewalk 10 feet past that and c) the parking lot another 2 feet past that. I also recalled that my building was slated to be demolished at the end of the semester, and politely (yeah) related all that to the officer on the line. The answer was quick. "It blocks handicapped access, and I WILL make sure it gets ticketed."

I did what any red-blooded, American 24-year-old college student would do. I parked it in my living room. Yes, I learned that my 650cc Yamaha was seven feet long, and I parked it in my living room. It was like another couch -- a seven-foot-long, chrome-rubber-aluminum, stinky couch. At Christmas I wrapped lights around it and had a Christmas bike. During the winter I took parts off it and polished them. It was a grand time, possibly the best the bike has ever had.

And I never had another problem with the campus police.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#8 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Mon Jul 24, 2006 3:42 pm

I suppose I have to detail how I got started in this crazy motorcycling thing. I'll be honest, I don't ever remember NOT being nutzy about things with motors. Mom once told me that when I was two years old or so, we got the JC Penney's Christmas Catalog (remember them?) and she knew what I liked, because the pages with pictures of trucks on them were all gummy with my toddler-drool. My dad had an old 1950's Harley Sportster scattered through the garage when I was little, and at one point before I reached double-digits he assembled it and sold it off. I remember the occasional Suzuki or something coming and going, and my Dad went out and got a Triumph 650 Tiger when I was little that we always had around.

I remember trying to get my parents to buy me a little dirtbike when I was 10 or so and being shut down pretty hard. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started to have some exposure of my own -- my best friend's dad got one of those newfangled three-wheelers -- a Honda 110. They let me ride it a couple of times and darn if that wasn't the biggest blast -- no clutch, backwards shift pattern, and a pull-starter like a lawnmower and all. Later on, my friend started riding over to my house on one of their Honda XL125's instead of on his bicycle. He lived a half-mile away by road, but about half that by cutting through the woods between us -- I lived on a 68-acre horsefarm with about 50 acres of that wooded, and his house was on the backside of our property.

Then came the day that he let me ride his bike. It took a little coordination, but my experience driving our Ford F-250 with a stick-shift paid off, and I was motoring around our farm on his bike, while he yelled at me to quit "dogging" it with such low rpm's. I was in heaven. It wasn't soon after that I found my own bike -- a 1971 Honda SL125 -- in the paper, and I drained my little passbook account to get it -- all $250 of it in 1985 or 1986... '85 I think.

I'll tell you, that little thing was a blast, and I rode it for at least the next five years or so. I started out in our own woods, then ranged farther out to ride in the state forest around our place. I learned many lessons about bike control on that little thing. I also learned that a 132-lb geek COULD drag a 150lb bike out of a mudhole and push it for miles through the woods. Also that after being totally submerged, a Honda can dry out and carry you home that same day.

And I also signed up for a motorcycle safety class at the community college, and passed, and got my motorcycle endorsement. At first I thought the class was lame -- "this is the gas tank, this is a wheel, keep your fingers out of the moving sprockets." That kind of thing. When it got to countersteering and locking up the rear wheel for a panic stop, darn if I wasn't having fun sliding their new Honda Rebel across the parking lot! Sure, there was the grandma-looking woman who diligently took notes on everything they said, and asked ALL KINDS of questions but never actually learned how to make a bike move forwards, but everyone else passed.

And so I'd ride my little 125 Honda to high school -- 45mph cruise speed, 58mph flat out, 7,800rpm, laying down on the tank, wind behind me, downhill. I was, I think, the only guy in history to ride a motorcycle to high school and NOT be cool. I didn't care...I was having too much fun. And like I previously said, I've never stopped having fun when I ride. It's never stopped making my heart beat faster, and it's never gotten old. The one thing that's always been able to overcome anything bad that happens is going for a ride. I can storm out all angry at the world, and ranting and raving into my helmet, but after I've ridden for a while, I realize that I've been relaxed and smiling for some time, and I can't ever point to where it switched.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#9 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Mon Jul 24, 2006 10:59 pm

Ever ride a bike that isn't yours, or at least isn't your normal ride?

I haven't done it much, but I have a couple of times. Of course there was my buddy's XL125 that was my first ride ever, I've already talked about that. One time another buddy's wife bought him a bike -- an old, purple, 2-stroke Yamaha 200cc roadbike. She wanted to surprise him, so she took me to pick it up and ride it the 20 miles home or so for her. Could've been fun, except it was raining. I'll admit, the 2-stroke 200cc was way more powerful than I'd expected, and went 60mph with no problem at all...as long as I didn't pay attention to my total lack of knowledge about the tires, cables, brakes, etc. They all seemed to work, at least until I got it to their place, and then I didn't care. Actually, when he and his wife split, the bike ended up in my barn with no key and no title for a few years. They finally came and got it when the place was being sold -- I think he forgot that he even owned it.

A few years later, my mom bought a bike from our 'cross-the-street neighbor for $100. It was actually pretty nice -- a mid '70's Honda CB360, red with a big police-style windshield. It just didn't run. I cleaned the plugs, gave it fresh gas, and sorted out a spot on the wiring harness where the wires had melted together. That and a battery charge, and it ran like a top. We never did actually get it insured before the cancer got mom, but I ran it up and down our country road a couple of times. I liked that one because I got it to run. Me. Like I had something invested. And it was red, too. When I moved out, it sat. We auctioned it off with the rest of mom's belongings on the farm. I polished up really well and got it to run the night before the auction, but couldn't get it to kick over the day of. I hated to see that one go, but only had room for my XS in the U-Haul.

The best had to be my uncle's bike. When I was a teenager, before I'd ridden anything more than my little 125cc enduro bike...he let me ride his...I have to lick my lips... 1985 Kawasaki GPz 750 Turbo. Yes, the turbo GPz. D@#^ that was a sweet bike. It was like late September, in Michigan, so it was something in the 50's outside, and I only had a denim jacket on, so I froze almost instantly, but I didn't mind. The way the V4 burbled when it was off boost (and I never really put it IN boost) was stirring. The way 55mph was too slow for 5th gear, and I had to downshift and ride in 4th was eye-opening. I did one snort from 55 to 70mph, and the only different thing was the motor going from "rrrrrr" to "Rrrrrr." Gad, that bike had the potential for many things, including transforming me into a grease spot at the age of 16. That he let me ride it is just an incredible gesture of trust on his part.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#10 Unread post by KarateChick » Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:31 am

Good writing, great short stories. Thanks for doing your blog and keep writing.
noodlenoggin wrote:The one thing that's always been able to overcome anything bad that happens is going for a ride. I can storm out all angry at the world, and ranting and raving into my helmet, but after I've ridden for a while, I realize that I've been relaxed and smiling for some time, and I can't ever point to where it switched.
And ain't that the truth! The switch seems to happen when the bike gets turned on, at least for me.
Ya right, :wink: there are only 2 kinds of bikes: It's a Ninja... look that one's a Harley... oh there's a Ninja... Harley...Ninja...

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#11 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Wed Jul 26, 2006 10:24 pm

Some random things -- tidbits, really.
  • The best way to trigger the magnetic loops in the road at stoplights is to put your sidestand down and set it directly on the loop. Bam, instant green light.
  • Starting your bike in a 300 sq.ft college apartment is several things. It's just incredibly loud, its really stinky, and it's not very smart. In the middle of February, though, it's also verrrrry satisfying.
  • My bike's horn is so quiet, I might as well just fart at them.
  • Getting a bumblebee inside your jacket is a real downer.
  • I can actually pull the bike to the side of the road, put it in neutral and stop with a bumblebee in my jacket, while keeping one hand squeezing the offending insect in my jacket at all times, and also not dumping me or my passenger into the dirt.
  • Keeping your jacket zipped up keeps most bumblebees out.
  • Sometimes the guy revving his bike at the red light isn't trying to be cool -- his bike just won't idle without dying.
  • Having to kickstart your bike when the light turns green annoys the cagers behind you and is really really embarrassing.
  • Telling people your bike "really wants to be a Triumph Bonneville" is no good if they think all bikes are "Harleys."
  • My wife's grandma insists on asking me if my 650cc Yamaha is a Harley.
  • Raindrops suck. Rain storms suck more. Thunderstorms are the Ultimate God of Sucking.
  • When someone thinks you're wearing a black leather jacket...until you turn your collar up and expose the only dry spot of brown leather on it...you are very wet.
  • Leather jackets gain about 30lbs in a thunderstorm.
  • At the gas pumps, SUV drivers get "that look" in their eyes. The look that says "If I were to knock this guy out and take his bike, nobody'd ever know."
  • My avatar picture is actually of a 1:6 scale model of a 1940 Indian Chief.
  • Somehow, places you've gone 5000 times in your car are suddenly cool again when you ride your bike to them.
  • I can be comfortable riding down to 60 degrees. Fifty with the detestable windshield mounted. I can tolerate it down to about 40 degrees, but when I get where I'm going I have to slide my frozen tube-hands off the end of the handlebars and warm them on the hot motor before I can use them for anything.
  • My bike stops being comfortable after about 90 minutes, and I need to go rest my butt.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#12 Unread post by SilveradoGirl » Sat Jul 29, 2006 8:06 pm

Somehow, places you've gone 5000 times in your car are suddenly cool again when you ride your bike to them.

That is sooooo true...even going to work is a little better if you get to ride the bike there!

After reading your blog, it seems you've lived a few different places. Just curious what took you to the Traverse City area. I have been there several times with my old job (motorsports industry, you know, sea/doos, ski-doos, things that go vroooom). Its a nice area, would love to ride the bike on some of those roads. When I get a little better at this riding thing, maybe I'll venture over.

Keep up the posts, we are reading, and your pretty entertaining :)
SilveradoGirl--

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#13 Unread post by thespirit » Sat Jul 29, 2006 11:45 pm

I just bought a '78 XS650E not too long ago. I've been fixing it every since. :wink:

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#14 Unread post by CNF2002 » Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:30 am

SUV drivers give you the look after they see your pump total compared to theirs!
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[url=http://www.totalmotorcycle.com/BBS/viewtopic.php?t=11790]Confessions of a Commuter[/url]

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#15 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Mon Jul 31, 2006 12:22 pm

(Thanks for the encouragement, guys!)

Today, it is hot in Michigan. Not hot like: "Oh gee, I have to hang up my parka today in the Great White North." Not hot like, "Wow, we should go to the beach." Today is hot like: "Holy Potatoes, I opened the front door and singed my eyebrows -- can you smell the chicken feathers? Can you? I can, because that's what my burnt eyebrows smell like, because it's so -- Oh Gawd, the car just melted into the driveway! I smell sulfur! Satan is making the Earth comfortable for his arrival! Help me, help me!"

Or in more objective terms, according to the National Weather Service website, as of an hour ago the heat index is exactly 100 degrees F. In northern Michigan. Ack.

So it makes me longingly remember the times I've ridden in the rain. Seemed onerous at the time, but right now it seems like such a nice time -- I'm sitting in a climate-controlled basement and just thinking about the heat outside is making me warm.

I first tangled with the rain when I was a teenager, and I was riding my ancient 125cc dual-purpose Honda home from school. It was a 10-mile ride, and at my 42 mph-ish cruise speed it took me a little while. I was wearing my usual denim jacket, my motocross helmet (the kind with the visor and chinbar) and a pair of motocross goggles.

I was tooling along Pere Marquette Road, which if you're not familiar with the Coleman, MI area is the road that runs parallel to Old US-10, within sight, but on the opposite side of the train tracks. Pere Marquette is mostly dirt, and barely travelled due to the extreme proximity of the highway. Perfect for my slow bike. Anyway, about the first sign of rain was something hitting my nose and stinging like a piece of gravel. Or a flu shot. Followed by another...and another, then on my soft neck-meat, and then I noticed the road starting to dimple with dark wetness and it was really starting to hurt, so I slowed down and slowed down, and soon I was putting along at less than 35mph.

Once I slowed down enough to quit being battered, and accepted the fact that I was going to be very, very wet, it was actually a very nice ride. A steady, soaking rain in Michigan has its own sweet smell as the grass, and the gravel and the cornfields absorb the water -- and one of my favorite things about riding has always been the smells you get that you can't get through the AC vent of a Buick. So I spent the next 20 minutes loafing along, giggling, soaking in the smell.

The other instance that really sticks in my mind was in the mid-90's...on my XS this time. At that time I was a freelance newspaper reporter, and had ridden to a school board meeting or something for a story. It was late -- 9:30pm-ish and pretty dark -- and I was riding back home, and there was the telltale stillness, the ominous inky sky, and the obvious flashes on the horizon to tell me it was going to storm. I wanted to get home before it did, but I had a 25-mile ride, and looked to be directly toward the storm.

The further I rode, the closer the flashes got, and the more frequent -- still wasn't raining, but it sure was rumbling, and there were some flashes almost directly overhead. At one point I was on an overpass over the freeway and I remember hugging the tank in an effort to just be lower than my surroundings. I know, mostly psychological.

Then the rain hit. It was like riding into a waterfall -- wham! The rain was just sheeting down, the lightning was cracking overhead, and the worst part was the wind -- wild gusting winds were just smacking me from the right...I was leaned into the wind already, and the gusts felt like they were going to blow my wheels out from under me more times than I could count. It was scary.

I reached a Shell station in bustling Rosebush, MI (bustling, yeah.) and pulled in just so I could duck inside -- ran into an old classmate who was also out on his bike. He's the one who thought my jacket was black until I turned up the collar. I waited out the worst of the storm, and when it diminished to just rain I went out, sluiced the water off the seat, and cranked the bike until it sputtered and fired, then rode off for the last 10 miles home. Ten miles of darkness and rain, and wet roads, and the spray from every car in front of me, and every car passing by me.

When I got to my apartment, I just walked in, and walked straight into the bathtub. My boots had some serious suction built up from the water in them, which I poured out once I had them off. My jacket weighed at least 20lbs, and my legs were colored blue from the dye in my jeans being leached through. Drowned rat. Check.

Not a singing, giggling experience, but I lived through it. Never really wanted to do that again, but right now it looks a little more palatable than my drive home tonight, in summer tourist-town traffic, in an old Ford LTD with no AC...
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#16 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Tue Aug 01, 2006 3:35 pm

Day two of the heat wave. I think it's actually hotter than it was yesterday. According to the Nat'l Weather Service it is 93 degrees right now with a heat index of 100. Last night's drive home in the 22-year-old Ford with no AC was like driving through a smelting plant. Gad. And I'm anticipating doing it again in about an hour or so.

But most of my motorcycling has been in cold weather. Cold, yes. So good.

I rode once in January, mostly just to say I'd done it. I was in college, had my bike parked in my living room, and we had a "heat wave" in January -- not like today's "gee am I on fire? Nope, just outside" heatwave, but the snow melted from the roads, and it was warm enough to leave the parka and mukluks in the closet. So I pulled out the bike and rode to McDonald's with my girlfriend. We had lunch, then rode back...total distance, about 3 miles, but I did it!

Last year, I rode up until mid-October and was ready to ride more, but we went from ridable weather to 6" of snow in one night, and that was it, the season was over. Michigan is kind of like that. If you want to ride outside of July and August up here, you have to be prepared to take some cold. Most spring and early summer days are absolutely perfect for the ride home...but the ride into work is dark and frigid. I've found that I can ride down to 60 degrees comfortably without my handlebar-windshield attached, and down to 50 degrees with it. Below that, it's just cold.

Basic prep for riding to work in mid-April through mid-June. Lunchbag in the tailpack, check. Shirt tucked into pants to stop wind, check. Fleece vest zipped all the way up my neck, check. Lined leather coat, check. Helmet vents all closed, check, check and check. Thinsulate ski gloves on, check. Lightweight gloves in tailpack, check. Bike on...choke, start....warm up for five minutes or so....test w/o choke...nope, choke back on for a bit more....test... ok. Clutch in, kickstand up, in gear, out the driveway we go.

The first mile or two are good, I'm taking 633 instead of the busier M-37 so I can go slower if I need to, but I don't need to yet. The air is crisp, and the mist smells clean. The next couple of miles I check my jacket zipper and yup, it is already zipped all the way up. Hmph, I could've swore not. S'okay, though. Is there a hole in that finger in my glove? Seems awfully cool there...nope, guess not. Hm. Knees? Hello, knees? Are you there? Looks like it.

Okay, we're past 10 miles, and have another 10 to go. I'm hugging the motor with my knees, and getting a tiny bit of heat that way. No more two fingers on the clutch, because those two fingers want to be with the rest of them, not out in Siberia. I had to crack the visor about 5 miles ago because my exhale was fogging it up, so my nose is starting to do something really disgusting.

Almost to town...Yay, a stop sign! I get to stop...wait, there's a car behind me? Awwww....spoilsp-sp-sport!

Anyway, I'll make it to work, motor around the parking garage to the corner where us bikers park, back the bike in and shut it off...well, really I'll slide my hand off the end of the bar and turn the key with the knuckles of my first and second finger, because I can't voluntarily open my hand. I generally get the gloves off, then hold my hands on the cooling fins of the motor until I get some feeling back in them, at least enough to un-bungee my tailpack without snapping myself in the nards.

Riding home? Fleece in the tailpack. Heavy gloves in the tailpack. Light gloves on, helmet vents open, leather coat half-unzipped, total comfort all the way home. It's almost decadent how good that feels after beating Jack Frost in the morning. Strange thing? I like riding in the cold mornings. For a number of years I had to be to work at 6:00 am, and would ride the bike if it was basically over 40 degrees or so. The cold was invigorating; it made me remember that I'm alive by darnit, and I could get to work and stand by the bike and inside my own head think "Yeah! I did that! Go ahead and stare at me, you LPN's in your heated Corollas, because I am better than the cold -- Man vs. Nature, baby, who's yer daddy?"
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#17 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Thu Aug 03, 2006 9:10 am

MSF. Take the MSF Course. The MSF Course needs to -- did you take the MSF Course? Take the MSF Course. It's a good course, the MSF course that is. Take it. Take the course.

Seems to be a common thing to see around this forum. I can't disagree, not at all... It certainly is educational, and will make you a better rider and a safer rider and all that stuff that everyone says. There just seems to be one element of the course that everyone leaves out.

It's fun.

I haven't seen anyone say that yet, but I had a blast when I took the course at Delta College in Michigan back in, what, 1986? When I signed up I had my new driver's license, and I had the Honda 125 dual-purpose that I'd been riding for almost a year. When I found out that they supplied the bikes, I was in. It wasn't expensive, and I think my mom paid for it, even.

First day of class was in a classroom -- the usual "welcome to the class, we're going to have a good time, don't pizza when you should've french-fried, or you're going to have a bad time." * We saw slides that showed actual motorcycles, with arrows to the important things like seats, tanks, lights, etc.

Then we had a break after an hour or so, and walked over to the driving range. Not the golf-ball-whacking-type range, the big parking lot for riding in circles range. We were introduced to the motorcycles du jour, and remember that this was 1986, but I was pretty excited at a couple of these. The fleet consisted of several Honda CB125's, a Yamaha or Kawasaki (I forget) 125cc 2-stroke UJM, a Suzuki GS250, another 250cc UJM, and the jewels of the fleet, a brand-new Honda XL250 and a brand-new 250cc Rebel.

I should describe the class a bit, because I thought it was fairly diverse. There was me -- 16, a year or so of dirt-bike experience. There was another guy about my age who was a total newbie and looked like he was straight out of "Frankie Goes to Hollywood." There was a housewife-looking lady who'd already had a license and was taking the course as a refresher. There was a little 4'11" woman whose "old man" had died and left her his "9-foot long chopper." There were were a couple more "average" people like me, and there was somebody's grandma -- she meant well...she filled up at least two spiral notebooks with all the notes she scribbled down, and tried to ask meaningful questions that always seemed to come out like, "When we motorcycle the motorcycle, should motorcycle the thingie clutch motorcycle?" She tried, she really tried.

The first things we did on the bike were really basic. We paired up and one of us would push the other on the bike, so they could learn the balance and stuff. Then we started the actual motors, using the anagram learned in class. The anagram for starting the bike, which I forget but was something like, F.I.C.K.M.E. -- or "Fuel on, In neutral, Choke on, Key on, Mirrors adjusted, Engine start," or something. Then one of us would stand in front of the bike, ready to grab the clutch and handlebars, while the other of us would practice finding the engagement point of the clutch. I think we rode a total of 100 feet under power that first day.

The next class was better, We learned to get under way, and ride straight, and stop, and turn. A bit later we learned to shift while moving. We rode around a little city street course laid out with cones in the parking lot, with stopping and signaling and honking at people when they bent over, and stuff like that. In subsequent courses, we learned more skills -- we slalomed slowly through widely spaced cones; we slalomed quicly through closely-spaced cones. We road around a small circle and a smaller circle as slowly as we could without putting down a foot. We rode through a 180-degree curve using an in-out-in line as quickly as we could. And because the actual range and the trailer they parked the bikes in were on opposite sides of the huge parking lot, we raced hell-for-leather from one to the other at break time.

Then we learned a couple of advanced skills. Counter-steering stands out in my mind. The instructor demonstrated it first. He had the entire class stand in one parking spot on the range. He then road out, turned around, and GUNNED IT right at the class. He got WAY too close and then zipp went around us at 35mph or so. And we learned to do that, though we didn't get to ride at anyone like he did.

Panic stops were the most fun that I had. I was on the new Rebel (woo-hoo!) that day, and they told us, "Okay, get it up to 15mph, then jam on the rear brake only and lock it up. Lock it right up." There I went. Vrooom, snick, vrooOOm -- SQUurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk. Wow, did I just get to do that? I sure did, several times. Then with both brakes. Heck, I practiced that move more than anything that week.

By the end of the class we'd do something like ride around the city streets, motor over to the tight slow-speed circles, gun it to the brake-test line and lock'em up, then slalom over to the city streets again. It was fun, I tell you, FUN!

At the end of it all, we had our test and had to pass each and every skill we'd learned -- the only skill I failed was the in-out-in curve, and that was only because the bike wouldn't shift into 2nd in the middle of it, and I took too long. I passed, and got my Motorcycle Safety certificate. The only thing left was to take the Michigan state road test and written test.

The Secretary of State rep (DMV in other states) was there and we took the State of Michigan "road test" right there -- after the class it was such a cake-walk. We had to take off from a start, ride straight for 30 feet, turn around, ride through 3 mini-cones and stop on the line. That was it -- it took about 30 seconds. If I'd been over 18, that's all I'd have to prove I could do to be licensed to ride among blue-haired Buick grannies and 100-ton gravel trains.

I took the written test the next week, and I got 100% -- I only took 7 minutes. When I brought it back the lady said "what's wrong?" "um, nothing, I'm done." It was done, I was legal. I could ride my little Honda on the road -- legally. And that would be 20 years ago this fall.




* South Park reference...if you haven't watched the timeshare/80's skiing movie episode you have no clue what that line meant.
1979 XS650F -- "Hi, My name's Nick, and I'm a Motorcyclist. I've been dry for four years." (Everybody: "Hi, Nick.")

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#18 Unread post by CNF2002 » Thu Aug 03, 2006 9:18 am

I think I once said that the MSF class was fun!
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#19 Unread post by noodlenoggin » Wed Aug 09, 2006 11:37 am

I guess this could be a sort of a counter-point to CNF2002's Commuter Confessional. Not exactly, not totally, but at least related.

First and foremost, I agree with everything he said about people buying motorcycles "to save gas" when the prices spike. It applies to hybrid cars as well, I'd think...though you're locked into driving one if you bought one for your primary transportation. Different topic entirely -- tangential to our discussion. (listen to me, all important-sounding with my "tangential" and stuff.)

I'm looking at the situation from the other side of the fence, I guess. I have a motorcycle, just sitting in the garage for want of $200 or so of plates and insurance, while I drive an old boat of a car every day. My car pulls 20mpg, and I have a 40-mile round trip commute. At today's $3.21/gallon at the pump, that's $6.42 to drive to work and back home. My bike gets a pretty reliable 58mpg, and would cost me $2.21 for each day I rode it to work. I'd save over four dollars each day, and in about 47 days I'd "pay off" the initial $200.

Forty-seven days of riding my bike to work. If it were the start of the season, no problem. But...if I could get it legal TODAY and start tomorrow, I'd have to ride it to work every single day until October 13. In Michigan. The rest of August would be easy, no doubt. September is mostly ok, but the mornings start getting pretty cold. (see my earlier entry on cold riding) October now, that's different...we get snow in October. Last year I rode my bike one day and filled it up...that night we got 6" of snow and it never melted -- winter was on. There's no way it's comfortable to ride when it's 18 degrees. It's barely comfortable to sit in a car with an overpowered keep-grandma-warm-she-has-bad-circulation heater blasting.

What's more, I'm only talking about "earning back" the cost to insure and plate the bike that I already have. What if I'd gone out and bought a new HonYamSuz XYZ750 for what... $8,599? At $4.21 in gas savings per day, that's another 2,042 days of riding to "earn back" the bike.

Two thousand and forty-two days. There's a number to throw at someone. You're at a cocktail party with the neighbors (don't we all do that??) and Biff starts agitating about the price of gas, and how he's going to "buy one of them motorsickles and stick it to OPEC." You can look Biff in his one good eye and say, "Two thousand and forty-two days, Biff." You'll get the incredulous look of someone whose sails have just lost their wind. "That's how many days it'll take you to pay for that 'motorsickle' in gas savings. Are you that dedicated to saving gas, Biff? Are you, punk?"

Might help if you have a couple of Mai Tai's in you, and also if Biff doesn't have 6" and 50lbs on you, one bad eye or not. What's my point, you ask? I don't have one. Wait, yes I do... somewhere here... let me look under... oh yeah... my point is that I'm driving a 22-year-old grandpa-car instead of riding my bike, but the gas crunch is not my fault, contrary to popular belief. Yeah. Um, so there.
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#20 Unread post by CNF2002 » Wed Aug 09, 2006 12:24 pm

Drive in a 20mpg (mine actually gets about 18 but I simplified)...my commute is 15 miles each way, 30 miles a day, 600 miles a month. In the SUV I consume 30 gallons a month. On the bike I consume 8.57 gallons a month. At average regular price around here (2.95/gal), thats $88.50 a month. At average premium (3.10/gal), thats $27.57 a month, a difference of $61.93 a month. This is, of course, entirely based on the work commute Monday-Friday. It does not include errands, running to the grocery store to pick up something, meeting the wife somewhere after work, etc. That adds miles...so I am really saving $62 a month at the bare minimum.

Now the added costs. My insurance is 112 a year and my registration is 14 a year, so 126 in extra fees, or 10.50 a month. Now my savings are $51.50 a month.

Wear and tear. The SUV does not accummulate miles since I ride the bike. A quick test with KBB and I estimate my 'per mile' value of the vehicle to be 4 cents per mile, every mile I drive the estimated value of the vehicle drops 4 cents. At 600 miles a month I save $24/mo in wear and tear value.

Lets assume I change my oil every 5,000 miles with synthetic oil + filter, commuting thats every 8 months. A case of oil for the SUV costs $30. The bike only takes 1.5 quarts, so we will assume I spend $7.5 each oil change. Or, a savings of $2.81/mo. Now my savings are $78.31.

There are other maintenance costs, but there is less to do on a bike than on the car, and less to break down. But we'll ignore that.

However, I do have to change my bike tire more often. It costs $200, and I need to change it every 5k miles. Thats every 8 months, or $25.00 a month. Now my savings are $53.31.

Gear cost 130 helmet, 120 jacket, 100 pants, 30 gloves, or $380. The bike cost $2,500. A total investment of $2,880. At a savings of 53.31 a month, I need to commute on the bike for 54 months just to break even (or 4.5 years).

Fortunately where I live, the riding season is all year.

That looks like alot. However consider this...I've also saved 257 gallons of gas per year. And if my motorcycle choice is a commuting change, not just a temporary attempt to save some pocket cash, I save $640 a year. Since my car lasts much longer without the wear-and-tear miles, I have to buy them less frequently. If I buy a car every 10 years instead of every 5 years, that more than makes up for the cost of the motorcycles.

Lets say I invest that money. I invest it every year while I work, commuting, at an average return in the current market. Now I've retired with an extra $75,000 in my pocket simply because I decided to ride a motorcyle to work instead of an SUV. How's THAT for saving money?


:laughing:
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