Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sport Touring: Gear testing on a cloudy day…

On a cloudy damp Thursday I decided that it was time to deviate from my quotidian affairs and indulge.  Instead of diligently heading over to my desk jockey location I decided that an early breakfast at my local mart was in order accompanied by my best pal.  Furthermore, I decided that today was a good day to perform gear testing.

If anyone asked you what is something you need in abundance in your life what would you say?  Today time is something I would like in abundance, time to surf, time to…  And when all else fails one must create it.  I recently acquired a few exquisite pieces of gear that had yet to be tested and what more appropriate time to do this then while a tropical storm batters the East Coast, indeed.  I have previously mention that Sport Touring requires some level of training and one variable one must train for is riding in the rain.  Every time I have gone on a tour it has rained.  The 650 (aka Ibex) is ready to roll, and I am ready to test my new Alpinestars Gore-Tex gloves, Sena’s prism action camera, and Kriega’s US 30 dry bag (reviews forthcoming), along with my moto skills.

The air is chilled, humidity levels have dropped to ideal levels, and Ibex is warm up and ready to roll.  I close my eyes take one, two, three deep breaths make peace with the world pull the clutch drop to first, roll the throttle and am on my way.  Whereas before I lived inside the Matrix, my current residence lies outside of it and today I must venture inside.  As soon as I rolled onto the interstate the road spray and vertical precipitation reduces my visibility to less than 100 meters/328 yards, yet cages maintain or exceed posted speed limits.  The rain continues and so do I.  My field of vision is limited as the rain persists, yet it fails to damper my outlook. Today I will surf.  My gear is performing flawlessly, Ibex is steady, I am dry and my heart rate is calm.  Surf on even if I am the only moto on the road.  An hour later and having covered 22 miles I arrived at my destination drenched on the outside yet serene on the inside.
Some may ask, wouldn’t be [insert own thought] if you just drove or…? I am unable to answer this question.  I simply choose to believe that despite what the hyperactive media reports in the U.S., One exists in a jovial world, therefore, I must Surf it.  In a world full of complexities, I am a Tarmac Surfer and this is my reality, exponentially beautiful reality.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sport Touring: Return of the Tarmac Surfer… indeed

There are few things one can know with absolute certainty, however, I can say with certainty that I am a Tarmac-Surfer and that I am California dreaming.  It has been over a yearly cycle since the last adventure, I know.  Life and confounding variables have conspired against me (e.g. training my successor) until now, when I am finally able to make such pompous claim. 

After over thirteen months of being absent from the Tarmac I have rediscovered the inspiration to once again double down on my existence and Surf again. My steed this time around will be an EX650 Kawasaki Ninja ABS ’15, aka Ibex.  My Moto ambitions remain yet time and life constraints dictate that I must choose between x and y.  I supposed many decisions in life are rather automatic, yet my Moto selection dragged on. The options are bountiful and are parallel to dating, every flavor to satisfy one’s hedonistic inclinations
One day I decided to follow a red light district approach to my search and indulged my aspirations until I found myself lusting after Ducati’s Monster, Triumph’s Tiger XRx, Yamaha’s FZ 07, and BMW’s 650GS, F700GS, F800R and Kawasaki’s Versys ’15. And yet none of these fulfilled the desire nor fully impressed my mind enough to double-down. After a short period of frustration and nebulosity the unexpected happened, my subconscious guided me to a steed I thought had all the incorrect attributes, it turned out it was I whom had the incorrect perspective!

The 650 offered what I had been unable to find up to then, it simply met my criteria.  After waving Au revoir! to my CBR250R ’11 I decided I needed at least 50 hp, ABS and should be able to fit hard cases to my next moto. The 650 fulfilled these criteria and furthermore, it fits me splendidly!  In typical Surfer fashion and without apprehensions I trekked to West Virginia to pick up my steed and ride it home, a beautiful feeling indeed.  The last couple of months have been rather frustrating as I must follow engine break-in procedures for the first 1000 miles and keep the rpms under 6k.  However, my mind has been running at 15k rpm with plenty of Moto-touring ambitions in the planning stages.

My resilient  DNA dictates that I must venture far and wide and my mind shall abide.  How far and wide it is unknown at this time except that the wide, smooth open tarmac is calling and I intent on answering.  I am once again a Tarmac Surfer and this is my reality, exponentially beautiful reality. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sport Touring: In search of a new ride... Yamaha FZ 07 demo

If you are in the market  for a new moto you will encounter the following conundrum: How do you purchase a new shiny moto if the dealer refuses to let one test ride? It has been a few months since my 250 and I parted ways and longer still since I went on a bonafide moto ride. This must be rectified soon.  The other day while reading the latest moto rag I ran across Yamaha's latest offering the naked FZ 07, considering my fruitless search thus far, I thought maybe I should give this a closer look. But first meet the contenders:

Honda's CBR500R offered the I've been there feeling  with manageable horsepower and classic styling, except dealers won't let go of these at an agreeable amount and the used market is overpriced as well (test rides mostly unavailable).

Ducati's Monster 795 offers beauty and performance at an exorbitant maintenance cost (test rides available).

BMW's F800GT is fast and stylish, a classic sport tourer with a classic insane admission price (test rides most definitely available).

BMW's G650GS your ticket to adventure riding and beyond if one ever wishes to eat some dirt  (test rides most definitely available).

Thriumph's Street Tiple R simply astonishing, one may have to contact Thriumph's regional corporate office in order to secure a test ride.

Yamaha's FZ 07 the new moto on the block.  I had to drive 120 miles roundtrip to a Yahama demo day event in order to test ride the latest hot moto on the scene!

Rider profile:               5'6", 130lbs, 29' inseam/ 171cm,59kg, 74cm inseam
Years riding:                Not enough
Preferred moto style:   Sport touring

At first I was a bit apprehensive about the the test ride, but there is only way to find out if you'd like to spend your hard earned currency on  a moto or not, one must test ride; considering it was a major holiday in my geographic area of residence there weren't many people around to interrupt my cheap thrills and search for moto bliss. 

The Yamaha reps were friendly and after signing the usual "ride at your own risk and don't wreck our machine" waiver I was off on an escorted test ride.  This machine embodies the beauty of pure simplicity. Allow me to elaborate: it is a basic approach to tarmac surfing, a potent engine, adorned by wheels and body work in different shades of appealing colors. The following are missing: fairing, ABS, traction control, throttle by wire, electronic adjustable suspension on the fly, nope, good luck if this is what you wish for. 

What you will find is the equivalent of an old fashion muscle vehicle on two wheels: raw power and brakes for the time when one must actually slow down. At a claimed weight of just under 400 lbs. the bike feels light and easy to maneuver, also the seat is really narrow near the tank and wide at the rear allowing those of adverse stature to reach the ground with both boots flat. The first thing I noticed (maybe due to lack of saddle time) is that the throttle felt sort of twitchy and made me wish for some type of adjustment knob. Although, I suspect this could be remedy after a few hundred miles and allowing muscle memory to take over. The brake lever is adjustable while the throttle is not but is easy to operate.    

The geometry of the bike allows for an upright comfortable seating position. The lack of fairing only becomes evident at around 60mph/96km, anything under 50mph/80 and the wind was hardly disruptive. The speedometer/control box is really low and it takes some effort to look down while riding to verify that one is still riding under legal limits.  It does however display a plethora of ride data, to include a gear indicator and ambient temperature, something really useful should one ever have any doubts as to whether it is really 100F!  The gas tank can be locked and it is covered by composite body work. If you carry a tank bag  as I do you may have to procure a small bolt-on-to  rim type of bag, as a magnetic type is out of the question. 

I am far from a suspension expert, so all I can say is that it felt more than adequate for the demands I may exert on it( as did the brakes). I was really impressed with the wide beefy radial tires! Although, I never pushed the limits of the speedometer, the ride felt comfortable and confidence inspiring on the highway, I never had to use the 5th or 6th gear. 

I did find the rear brake pedal to be a bit lower than I'd like but it was not a major issue. The controls  (blinkers, horn) on the left hand were  a bit small and hard to find/feel with gloves on. The fit and finish is better than average. I've only seen the white and red one, I have not seen the graphite with the cool colored wheels yet. If the finish is anything like the other two it should look awesome.  

Yamaha claims a fuel capacity of 3.7 gallons/14 liters and a 58mpg/93km that should provide an approximate range of about 150miles/242km under sedate riding conditions. This is not bad considering that when touring a break is usually taken at around 100 miles. I have looked around and there are already a few aftermarket accessories available to include hard cases that would make this moto a nice option for sport touring. 

Overall I was impressed with Yamaha's offering, critics will fault the lack of abs, (insert own) and other items.  However, the aggregate of machine and the surprisingly moderate asking price make for a notable contender and a fun moto. Only patience and more saddle demo time will determine what my next steed will be. Enjoy the Ride.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sport touring sabbatical...

A few weeks ago I rode the CBR250R fifty miles due west on I66 towards Virginia, at the end of this ride I dismounted, shut it off and handed the keys to a new owner. This act concluded our endeavors.
I am now moto less and evaluating the next odyssey. Some may ask what happened? Wasn't the 250 a half decent steed? What about all of the experiences, tours, endless miles? All valid inquiries. 

One day I found myself browsing catalogs and constantly thinking about upgrades for the CBR, wishing and thinking about what I thought it should be and enjoying less what it actually is.  I was also less inspired to venture out on the tarmac and doubling down on my existence. And that's how I knew a new moto phase was upon us. As the old adage goes "change is good" and so I will be changing motos, I even changed my blog handle.

I am unsure as to when I will return to the tarmac.  There are still plenty of moto aspirations to be fulfilled, all in due time. In the meantime I will stroll down the virtual waxy floors of moto dealerships evaluating their offerings and when my inspiration returns so will I to the open tarmac. This is my reality exponentially beautiful reality. 

Be well, be jovial. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sport Touring: Deciphering the road on a CBR250R… One mile at time

It’s dark and gloomy, the rain is steady and it quickly sodden the ground. The temperature hovers around 48F, a warm day for a late December afternoon in the North East. It’s a welcome change that I am observing this day unfold from the comfort of my subterranean quarters, rather than on the road while touring on my 250. I’m warm, dry, comfortably quaffing an Abbey Ale and contemplating where the road may lead next.

I’ve been off the saddle for a couple of months, old winter has arrived along with new responsibilities that conspire against my moto lifestyle, I miss surfing, and I miss my moto. Thus far, I have experienced three successful riding seasons, some would advise me to quit now and cash in my good luck and sit in the safety of my living room. Others may suggest I need a real bike and should acquire a new steed maybe a BMW F800GT, BMW F650GS or a Triumph Street Triple (all stunning motos!).

After >9500 miles on the 250, I still relish the prospect of surfing the open road. The open road where one may find or lose oneself.  My experiences on the road cover a wide spectrum of emotions, sights and actions. These experiences even countered and affected my common outlook and increased my optimism.  During my travels I encountered something unexpected, random kindness.  I seldom worry now while touring, I know that I will find my destination, my moto will be there in the morning, my gear will work as intended and the weather will abate. I should only concern myself with riding to the best of my ability and enjoying the ride.

I have considered forfeiting my moto lifestyle except at the end of the day surfing is what I do best and the 250 is a semi-capable steed, thus I declined procuring any of the aforementioned steeds, at least for now. After a few thousand miles of deciphering the road I now know that my moto is my transporter and it is not the object that I seek rather the realm: a realm that evokes intensity and a lucid perception of reality, exponentially beautiful reality.

And you may ask, what is it like to be out on the road for days by yourself? I am unable to answer this question, but perhaps this image may offer an insight. Indeed, we live in a beautiful world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

CBR250R Sport-touring… Retrospectively

It was back on 2011 July 30th when I took delivery of my CBR250R (aka Scully). Over two years later, I am still here I am still surfing. Thus, I thought it would be appropriate to pause and take a moment to ponder and enjoy the moment. When I set out to start blogging I was apprehensive about writing, about sharing with all who wish to read my perspectives on touring and related topics. And yet I set out to write with only one goal: to share my adventures in a poignant, unapologetic manner.

Sport touring is a questionable endeavor, one full with many perils yet immensely rewarding. As I have mentioned on previous posts, every trip is filled with common uncertainty, elusive perfection. It is this axiom that pervades my mind constantly, the knowledge that any trip at any given time can be a one-way tour. 

I would like to thank my family (and my four legged dependents) for simply being there and supporting my choice and freedom to surf. I would like to thank you the unknown follower for coming along for The Ride. My name is Fredo, I am a Tarmac surfer is what I do best, it is what inspires me, and this is my reality exponentially beautiful reality.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sport Touring: AGV leather suit and touring set up review*

I have been riding the 250 for over two years and over 8300 miles and continuously tinkering with my gear and set up. These are my two cents on the topic.

*Disclaimer: I am not an expert on the subject matter, simply a moto enthusiast.

AGV  Dragon leather jacket and Willow perforated pants
Miles < 500

I opted for this suit on my last trip and it worked really well. The jacket is made of thick  heavy cowhide that feels nice to the touch and reassuring should one happen to slide on the tarmac. The red stripping is a nice touch. It has CE rated armor on the shoulders, and elbows and a regular thin pad on the back. It is not perforated instead it has two zippers in the front and two in the back that provide minimal airflow.

Photo credit by the Tripod

It can get really hot in this thing, at around 85F and humid it was really uncomfortable at a stand still, once moving it was tolerable. 

The fit (at least for me) is just right, at 5’ 6”, 130lbs. I normally wear a size 36 Short coat, but base on AGV’s sizing I ordered a size U.S. 40 and fits nicely.  The jacket comes with a removable thin vest for cooler weather, but I think I will wear my Gore wind stopper fleece under it for extra warmth when needed.  The fit around the neck and shoulder is nice and snug, the armor sits comfortably on the shoulders, forearms and elbows. The only thing that I found may be a problem for some is the forearm fit, they are really narrow and fit snug even for me, maybe is supposed to be this way by design to hold the armor in place during a slide. Either way is not physically uncomfortable but it hot weather the forearms will get really sweaty and stick to the liner. This is not deal breaker for me, since the rest of the jacket fits and is well made for the price.

The inside of the jacket has one small zippered pocket big enough for a cell phone and a wallet, the outside has an additional two pockets. Overall the jacket feels and fits nicely, has waist zippers so it can be connected to other agv products and for the price it is a really nice and practical deal.

The pants also feel heavy but nice to the touch, the leather is thick and it has CE armor on the knee and shin areas, some padding on the seat, and stretchable fabric behind the knees and crotch area for airflow and comfort.  It also comes with removable pucks attached via Velcro for a possible track session.  Sizing is true to size, at 5’ 6” 30 inseam, I ordered a size 30 and it fit just right.  It fits snug around the waist, but won’t make you feel like a sausage (assuming a one has somewhat slim waist). It comes standard with a zipper, a waist strap, and two small front zippered pockets,  basic but functional design.

The pants feel awkward when standing but once on the bike they fall in place and fit really snug and mostly comfortable.  The only thing I have found so far to be an issue and this may have to do with breaking them in is that the knee pads tend to compress the kneecaps and add pressure after extended periods or riding leading to discomfort.  The calf area fits really snug and it closes via a zipper, I tuck mine in my boots for added safety and comfort. I am not sure if these can be worn over boots.

The pants and jackets can be zip together but I have not worn them attached yet. After nearly five hundred miles mostly worn on the open road I’d give this set up a good rating. I can’t comment on durability yet, but so far craftsmanship is acceptable for the price point.  The leather is not waterproof so if you plan on wearing these on extended trips a rain suit is a must.

250R touring set up

I have had this set up for the entire time I’ve own my bike and had made only slight adjustments.  The saddlebags and tank bag are First Gear Silverstone. They have held up to long miles on the road under high heat and lots of rain. (they are not waterproof). I have used large plastic bags for keeping items dry in the saddlebags but will be switching to 35-liter dry bags as carry on in the near future. The bags did come with rain covers, but I think they are useless. I only use the rain cover for the tank bag. I like to use a minimalist approach to gear when traveling and tend to think that if it does not fit in these bags (excluding my sleeping bag) than I can do without it.

If you look closely you can see the cable running from under the seat to the the tank bag and the gps. On the right side you can see the water reservoir. I use Rok straps to attach the saddle bags to the bike along with DYI saddle bag supports that consist of two 24" aluminum bars attached to passenger pegs via hose clamps. Simple and practical. The only thing missing in this shot is the new yellow dry bag.

I also like to avoid strapping multiple items that flap in the air and can be lost, so lately I acquired a 65 liter compressible dry bag for my sleeping and cold weather gear that tend to be bulky. I also installed a RAM mount to hold my gps, it is a car version a bit outdated but it gets the job done. I also carry an assortment of maps as my primary navigation tools. I used the battery tender power cable to power electronics such as the gps, phone charger or other items. It works well except I can only power one item at a time, I may install a power distributor in the future to handle multiple items simultaneously. When you are out on the road for days it is a welcome luxury to be able to power your phone and gps. 

The challenge is converting this mess into...

Something that looks like an organized Moto traveler

For hydration needs I switched to a Platypus water reservoir (bpa free), it is easier to clean and it won’t make the water taste foul, like other brands. I tend to fill it with one third water and the rest with ice and place it in one of the saddle bags, this allows for neutral tasting, cold water for a few hours. I used to place it in my tank bag, but it takes a lot of space, it could leak and ruing my electronics, and having in it the back forces me to stop for breaks to drink and stretch. 

Depending on my destination I may carry all or a combination of the following: chain lube, three pairs of gloves (heated, perforated, and non heated water proof), paper maps, one person tent, thermarest sleeping pad, 0 degree sleeping bag, gps, phone charger, coins for tolls roads, warm/windproof fleece, pants, shirts and under garments made of breathable materials (not cotton). I also carry spare keys, two disc locks, head lamp, camera w/tripod, ear plugs, sneakers, a travel size bike cover and always a slime tire repair kit with a pump under the seat.

Feel free to comment and let me know if you have suggestions or questions about the set up. Enjoy the Ride.