Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sport touring: Sena Prism action camera review

It was bound to happen, sooner or later I'd succumb to curiosity and acquire an action camera.  While I never intend on becoming a Vlogger since I prefer written words and am far from a video editing whiz as a tool it does serve a purpose. 

There have been a few occasions while I've been out riding when I thought I wish I could record the outing, whether it was a winding back road, descending a mountain road or the occassional unfriendly actions of auto operators while commuting.  There are many options in terms of small compact action cameras with GoPro being the most popular.  The Prism is one of the latest offerings from Sena a moto specific accessories manufacturer.  

My main criteria in looking for a camera were: it should have decent video quality, affordability, ease of use and mounting to my helmet. The prism meets of all these and as an added bonus it is incredibly compatible with iMovie.  I ordered the Prism Lite pack, it includes a camera, two surface mounts and a helmet clamp mount, perfect. So far it has performed well.  Unlike the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words, how about a video saves a thousand words. 

The following is a short clip while product testing in real world conditions.  Feel free to add your own soundtrack.

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. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sport Touring: Day tripping in Pennsylvania… double down on 423W and the Bovine suit

Mileage: 410 miles/ 659 km
Temperature: 60F-85F  humid/ 18C-30C
Average mpg: 71.5

Ocean surfers scrutinize the weather forecast, wind and tide patterns before paddling out and waiting for the perfect set.  As a Tarmac Surfer I follow the weather, scrutinize roads and seek out a set of routes, different environments similar goals. I’ve been on the road for nearly three hours now surfing northeast on PA road 30. The sky is gray, overcast, it’s around 80F, humid, and there are 18-wheeled sentinels everywhere. This was supposed to be a decent road, what happened?  I observe oncoming traffic and their windshield wipers are swaying back and forth like a crowd at a concert listening to a 90’s rock ballad. I’m a little concern.

I left my waterproof suit at home and opted for something different, too late now for regrets, it’s time to let the 250R facilitate surfing and simply let it roll. My destination for this trip is a small town in NE Pennsylvania, Jim Thorpe. I’ve been here once before and thought I should return on my moto, today is that day. After a few thousand miles of sport touring I have learned to never expect ideal weather, rather simply strive for a tranquil state of mind. I only need to cover two hundred miles, except I have a feeling given my current route; I am really going to earn these two hundred miles.

So far I’ve slugged my way through city traffic, found myself surrounded by big rigs under the threat of rain in what feels like a sauna, and now a bright sign informs me to expect delays, really? It’s time to soothe the mind, aggravation would be futile. What surround me are merely everyday irrelevant complexities, right now is just Scully and I, and as Jack Johnson would sing, it’s better when we are together. And so I pushed on.  

It’s around 1330 now, am four miles away from my destination. I’ve just filled up on petrol and am ready to roll. As I as raised my gaze and got ready to roll I spotted an elder gentleman wearing a distinct hat, he is a Leatherneck from a previous era. His facial expression denotes life experiences that are beyond my years and wisdom, he stands tall and proud.  He looks at me as I break and paused, pulled the clutch, stood still on my moto and saluted him with my right hand, and carried on. Sometimes one must pay homage, Semper Fidelis.

It took me longer than expected to get there, then again why rush.

Finally, I’ve arrived at my destination. I am tired, sweaty, sleepy but dry.  The town is just as I remembered it, quaint and quiet, excellent. I checked in at my home for the evening and set about to explore on foot.

Another stay at a Historic place, the experience this time was a lot different.

After a few hours of riding in the heat in a leather suit, I was ready for a break, a snack and cooling off.  Freshly brew tea with freshly baked butter soft scones in a historic setting sounded like a good idea, as a bonus it was delicious.

This is a view of the rest of the dining area, in era appropriate colors.

This was home for the evening, it exceeded my expectations.

Dinner on the other hand, offer little to blog about. I may need to send a couple of suggestions to the chef.

Last time I visited this placed they allowed us to bring our canine dependent on board. 

A view of the train station, one can board the train for a fee and take a short ride along the river. My pup really enjoyed it on the last visit.  

I went for a stroll on the main square.

And along a few of the side streets. 

 The architecture style of the period is interesting and somewhat visually appealing. 

A different view of the fully "functional" main square clock, as I found out early the next morning. Who needs a wake up call from the front desk when you have this!

Considering my less than adventurous first half of this trip, I needed to find a different set of routes to lead me home. I pondered as to what routes to follow as I sat on the second floor balcony enjoying a Pale Ale watching the rain fall. Some riders are gamblers I am a tactician.  The goal is simple: ride safe and enjoy the ride.  It’s time to double down! Route PA 423W offers an alternative to yesterday’s experience, as I evaluated the route on a one-dimensional map, I had a few doubts in the end I let it roll.

And this is what  greeted me somewhere along  my route.

In my realm smooth tarmac, mountain passes, idyllic towns, green pastures and magnificent sweeping turns and/or twisties are beyond appealing, they are indicative of awakening. State roads such PA 423W can offer some combination of the aforementioned to those willing to surf them. It is time to disconnect, social media is irrelevant and smart phones are merely a distraction. I doubt either one of these tools can direct you to the next farmers’ fruit and vegetable stand along this road or the town’s residents favorite dinner. For this type of information one just might have to ride there. I’m in. 

The first class view from my cockpit, and unlike on an airline the air is cleaner, the snacks are fresh off the farmers' land and one is free to roam.

  It’s time to surf, the price of admission: complete unselfconsciousness, ride well or kiss the tarmac. The order of the day calls for variable rates of speed punctuated by smooth climbs and long sweeping turns.  This is a two-lane road that meanders up and down small hills, it glides right and left with a subtle yet intoxicating rhythm. For the next eighty-five miles, I surfed uninhibited, unconcerned  over some sweet tarmac, as  sweet as  freshly made vanilla ice cream.  I’ll take a double scoop, thank you very much.

During my time on the road I only experienced a light drizzle, my two-piece bovine suit performed as expected (a gear and touring set up review is forthcoming) and PA 423W delivered! The planning and persistence pays off and I managed to ride all 410 miles on something other than a super slab, safely. That’s reality exponentially beautiful reality.

A Tarmac Surfer's self portrait. Enjoy the Ride. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sport Touring: West Virginia is for Sport-tourers… Ride what you own, Ride where you are.

Mileage: 340 miles/  547 km
Temperature: 59F +/ 15C +
Highest grade: 10 %
Average mpg: 65 mpg

I believe a moto enthusiast from the far South once said: “One is never lost, rather, one is following a path unseen by others” (FC).  I’ve mentioned in previous posts how the West Coast is an awesome place to ride, except I had failed to mentioned and acknowledge how the East Coast can be an awesome place to ride… as well. A drastic change of opinion you may say, indeed.

It’s Friday around 20:00, I’ve been couch surfing for a couple of days trying to decide where to go on a ride. I pondered and pondered and then I set my sights on Seneca Rocks, WV. (Cued soundtrack sit back grab a Pale Ale and enjoy the ride).  There is a process to trip planning sort of habitual, ponder, decide, plan and execute. Except, this time I decided to deviate from the habitual by inviting any willing 250R rider from the area to join the ride.  Twenty-four hours later Zirgs (from the cbr250r.net forum) answered the call and decided to join and set out to tarmac surf. Excellent. I had not expected anyone to respond considering it was on such short notice and high mileage for a day trip.

Fast forward to Sunday at 0745, Haymarket VA. after a brief introduction we are ready to Surf.  The temperature is hovering around 59F, cool with a slight wind, clear skies and low humidity, excellent.  The first 65 miles entailed surfing Interstate 66, a super slab, yes, but one almost void of big rigs. The next 100 miles is what I seek.  We turned southbound I 81 for a couple of miles until a sign welcomed and directed us towards State Road 55. And this is where the idyllic Surfing begins.

Moto enthusiasts will travel near and afar, cross-country or the world in order to find beautiful roads.  I’ve learned a few things during my existence, thus I now know that sometimes it all depends on perspective and outlook. What I seek transcends visual stimulation and it may also be found nearby if one knows where to search.  The air is cool and it brings a chill that rattles one's core, there is a slight hint of fog in the distance,  the tarmac is smooth and it allows the 250R to glide almost effortlessly with only minimal rider input.

The road meanders through green pastures, the smells awaken your senses, the variable speed keeps the rider alert, and the steep climbs and descends offer potential reality checks should one decided to daydream.  This is an environment void of urban monolithic symbols and in their place are new, old, and sometimes dilapidated barns.  To the uninitiated a barn is a simple structure, but if you look closely you will find that simplicity can be beautiful, indeed.

Finally, after a few hours on the road we reached our destination. We arrived, we admired, and we turned back and headed home. And you may ask, that’s it?  Why go there to simply turn around? I can only speak for myself, and as one famous outdoorsman once said “ The Mountains are calling and I must go” (J. Muir) and I concur.  Unlike, a mythical omnipotent being, The Mountains exist, that is reality, exponentially beautiful reality.

170 miles later...

It's time to enjoy the view. 

Same machine, two different perspectives. 

It is possible to hike to the top.

The Visitor Center was impressive.

We even found a gravel road to explore.

Unfortunately, it led  on to private property and we had to stop, so much for ADV riding. The 250R has proven to be highway capable and now dirt road capable. 

After a long day on the saddle it was time to sit back and enjoy an Ale. 

Safe travels Zirgs, and thanks for coming out to tarmac surf.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sport-touring: DC to Niagara Falls ... ground level reconnaissance

Mileage:  +-870/ 1400 km
Highest elevation: 2500 ft/ 762 meters
Average mpg: 70.4
Highest grade: 9 %

Day 1

DC to Chambersburg, PA.
Mileage: 100

It’s Friday around 1520, dark and quiet. I am lying on the floor inside my space on my back with my eyes closed; I take one deep breath, two, and three. It’s time to go. I’ve just finished my desk jockey shift and I am ready to roll, I picked up my helmet, tank bag and gloves. And just like a fighter pilot I walked over to my moto ready to hit the tarmac.

The 250 fully loaded and ready to roll

I have been planning this trip for a while now, and every time I thought it would happen something seemed to conspire against me, the weather, equipment or simply plain old excuses, not today.  It’s time for a systems check: lights, levers, tires, mind check, all systems are go. The ambitious plan for the weekend is to travel from DC to Niagara Falls, NY. via State Roads (SR) and avoid the super slab as much as possible.

Inside the 250's cockpit, ready for take off.

The weather calls for 80F/26C, sunny with around 60% humidity, not a bad thing if you are walking around in shorts or other skimpy outfits, except I am “standing” in traffic with full gear on and I am starting to feel a bit like a hot pocket!  I tend to be cautious and ride ATGATT.  Even though is Friday traffic is dense and moving slow, too slow for me but I don’t have a choice. And I slugged through traffic on road MD 29 until I reached MD 32 and was able to pick up some speed.

This is the view from my cockpit as I ride MD 29 northbound, welcome to The Matrix

With so many cages around sometimes is hard to see the signs and inevitably I take unplanned turns

Riding northbound PA 97 just south of Gettysburg

I made a quick stop in Downtown Gettysburg, PA., for a photo op, this place is really popular during summer and this circle tends to become really hectic and sort of moto unfriendly.

One of many monuments along the Battlefields.

My destination is Chambersburg, PA. My hosts for the evening are SoPaRider and SoPaGuider an inmate couple from advrider.com forum whom graciously accepted my tent-space-request on a really short notice!  After nearly two and half-hours of cruising through variations of light, heavy and slow traffic I finally reached my destination.  The approximate mileage from my home to Niagara Falls appeared to be around 400 miles, that’s a long day on the saddle on a 250, thus I decided to break it up into two more manageable sections.

I had my gps with me and had been around the area before so I did not have any problems finding their place. I have never used tent space before so I was not sure as to what to expect, but as soon as I arrived I received a warm welcome and felt at ease.  They are dedicated moto enthusiasts and have many great travel stories! We spend the rest of the time becoming acquainted sharing travel stories and a brew. They even took me on a tour of their town and to a place that can only be described as a beer lover home, ah thank you.  The next day I had to get an early start and was up at 0530.  SoPaRider is well verse in route planning, and after consulting my planned route and getting a few suggestions I was off on my SR or bust adventure.

Day 2

Chambersburg, PA., to Niagara Falls, NY., to Salamanca, NY.
Mileage:  390+ 

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The air smells fresh the skies are clear and it looks like is going to be a good day to ride. I geared up and thanked my hosts and new friends for their hospitality and I was off.  It did not take long for me to take an unplanned turn and within  three miles I had to pull over and study my map. Fortunately, shortly thereafter a couple on a truck stopped by and asked if I needed assistance, I said sure, do you know which way to road MD 11? They said we are going that way follow us! This type of   pleasant encounter would later become a theme on this trip.

I may have mentioned in previous posts how much I “enjoy” the big city and how much I prefer small cities/towns. It was with the intention of riding through as many small towns as possible that I had chosen this route, except I had no idea as to what to expect. Will I run out gas? Will I this or  ….? There was a mild level of anxiety, but just like in previous trips, at some point one has to simply roll the throttle and surrender all apprehension, it is time for a life lesson.  One day not so long ago on my way to my nine-to-five desk jockey shift I heard a commentary on national public radio (NPR) radio, something to the effect that as humans depending on your perspective one is either living or “decaying” from birth. If our existence is predetermined as are our chromosomes than perhaps one should begin to really exist.

After I got back on track on SR 11, I begun to relax and simply ride.  While touring I believe there are three confounding variables that affect the overall experience and ride, and those are: fatigue, known/unknown path and weather conditions (all things being equal and assuming one is a skilled rider). This morning I was mainly concern with the unknown path. One out of three is not bad, right? What I had as a route reference was a one dimensional map, I had failed to review topographical maps displaying elevation gains/losses and other pertinent useful facts, no problem I got this, I think.

The SR roads begun to meander through beautiful fields, green luscious and vibrant, punctuated by barns and other living quarters. A space unlike the one I inhabit, this is tarmac surfing indeed.  I tried to memorize my route and failed, with so many turns and different SR numbers, it was like trying to juggle while riding a unicycle.  After a few dozen miles I encountered my first natural obstacle, a  decent size mountain.  This was not a particular high mountain but it had been paved with a moto enthusiast in mind (at least I’d like to think so).  The climb was sudden, coupled with tight switchbacks and a steep descend, daydream here and you will bounce on the tarmac like a bowling bowl and strike out!  On the other side of this mountain, yet another wave of small towns awaited the eager surfer, no argument there. Unlike, a Las Vegas buffet this is something I am ready to indulge.

The SR’s continue to reward my perseverance with long sweeping turns, idyllic Main Streets, smooth tarmac, curious smells, ubiquitous greenery and serenity. But all is not free, the SR’s will exact an admission toll on all who wish to pass through. And I am beginning to feel fatigue. All the up and down, lean right and left, shift down and up, brake and rolled the throttle are starting to wear on me, but I can’t stop. I have searched and dreamed of such places and now I am  here,  I am awake and I am far from  decaying!

One of many small town Main Streets along my route. 

Brockway NY., trying to make what I thought would be the last hard push of the day.

As I near PA SR 320 a bright road signs flashes that it is closed! It’s time to pause and study my map, a quick glance indicates that I now must enter the super slab domain. A brief encounter but an encounter nonetheless.  After a few miles at what appears to be supersonic speeds for a CBR250, I am on  PA SR 350 simply gliding along, until I connected to I 80 West for yet another brief super slab session eagerly waiting to intersect road  219.

NY 219 is the last section on this trip, less navigating and more riding.  I’ve never ridden this road before but it delivers. There are  fast and smooth sweeping 55mph sections punctuated with 25mph main street strolls, all part of the experience. However, it is a long demanding road.  After a couple of hours I am now close to Buffalo NY., only twenty more miles and I will reach my objective, except now all three variables are conspiring against me. The sky is gray and gloomy, and  a steady drizzle hampers traction and visibility, the path is unknown and am feeling fatigued, I must focus.

One toll and two crowded bridges under a steady drizzle later and I reached Niagara Falls NY., an anticlimactic end to first half of my journey, since I had made no other plans once I arrived. I learned that there are multiple Falls' viewing points and an excessive long pilgrimage to the Falls’ viewing sites.   The place resembles an amusement park, full of cars, people jockeying for food, lodging, etc.  I have a decision to make. My initial plan calls for a rendezvous with another inmate from advrider south of Buffalo, but  it’s early only 1500. I sat, I pondered, evaluated, adapted and executed. 

The 250 in downtown Buffalo, NY., with plenty of "street residents" walking around I was unsure if I would comeback to and unloaded and much lighter 250.

Go Buffalo!

I was running low on “fuel” so I decided to stop in downtown Buffalo and refuel at a local pub, a rather unimpressive establishment, or maybe I missed something?  At least my  Brontosaurus burger tasted better than it looks (minus the bacon) I basically took over a booth that seats 6 with all my gear sprawl out on it.

It is now 1630, I decided to let it roll and headed southbound.  Three hours later I arrived at Salamanca NY., at The Dudley Hotel, a historic Hotel that is being “renovated”, this will be a first.  I booked a room at this placed over the phone, never heard of it, never saw a picture. In fact the only time I heard of Salamanca was in reference to Spain.  I needed a place to stay and they had one available, it’s late, I’m tired, done! 

As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by  not one but two senior canine Hounds? This was odd, yet intriguing since I have a soft spot for canines, I am digging this place already.  By now I am exhausted,  I am moving at half my normal speed,  all I want to do is sit and relax but I have to remove my saddle bags and lube my chain.  I’m staring to wonder whether belt or shaft driven motos are better?

I must admit that when I walked into this place I was a tad apprehensive.  I could not find a “safe” parking spot for my moto, but this was home for the evening like it or not.  After checking in the clerk informed that I could have the VIP spot in front of the hotel, really? Ok.  The following morning after a short conversation I found out that the “clerk” is really the owner along with the hounds! A really nice person, considering she rescued the hounds and is trying to renovate a historic building.  When I first checked in I thought I was being overcharged, after further reconsideration I’d like to think that I’ve contributed to the local economic development by supporting a locally owned business, one that is canine friendly! 

Main street Salamanca, NY.

The concierge, he did not speak much.

The parking options looked bleak

Would you leave your moto park outside in the dark?

After a long day on the road it was time to take off the gloves, hang up the keys and enjoy a beer I had been carrying in my saddle bag all day long. It was warm but it tasted fine, one of my favorites.

Fortunately I woke and found out I still had a moto to ride home. 

Unfortunately  I woke up to this, wet and sleek roads.

Day 3

Salamanca, NY. to DC.
Mileage: 342

Today started like most days when I tour: cloudy, cool and wet.  I am unable to wait for the weather to change to favorable conditions, this is what I have been training for: Sport-touring incidentals.  I reluctantly geared and loaded up and got on the road. For the first hour I rode in what can be described as steady, relentless drizzle.  I am heading southbound SR 219, the speed limit calls for variable speeds, the rain is persistent. For dozens of miles I am the only one on the road, the only moto on the road!!

I am perplexed at first, but after a few miles I begun to embrace it. Here I am in a place and time I’ve been searching for, except it is under less than ideal weather conditions.  My gear is doing its job and I am dry and comfortable. It is all coming together, the weather, the road, the variables are manageable, until…  a flock of cages catches up and they disrupt my flow. I am surfing up the wet road, as I begun to climb the passing lane is about end, it is a magnificent half mile left sweeping turn. As I near the top and lean my rear tire catches the white stripe and looses traction! It slides just enough to cause a huge concern, it bucks and regains traction and I ride on… that was a reality check.

The rain continues and so do I.   Because the weather forecast calls for rain I decided to retraced my original route, and eliminate a variable. The calculated risk pays off and soon after the weather clears all is well. I have passed the halfway point on this tour and my body is now revolting against the mind. After hundreds of miles the right side kneepad is compressing my kneecap and causing an excruciating pain, like a rod through the kneecap, and my kidney area feels as if I have a hot iron pressed against it, I am in pain and I know it.  Can I hang on? And is this merely a mental issue?  I realized I have set my sleeping bag high on a perch on the bike and this forces an uncomfortable mount and dismount resetting the knee pad on a undesired spot, problem one solved, but what about my back?

With only 35 miles to go I had to pull over my back  feels like hot dominos ready to collapse, my reaction time for shifting and braking  have decreased, two variables are back. It is hot and humid  and I  am fatigued but at least I know the path and can pace myself. No one ever said sport touring on a 250 was a glamorous sport, otherwise everyone would be touring.  I stopped, refocused, breathed, assessed and committed to the last phase of this ride. I am going home now.

There were twisties abound, with welcome signs such as this one.

More sweet tarmac.

The 250 resting and enjoying the fresh air and quiet.

On the way home I stopped for some refreshments.

Behold a rare specie seldom seen in the wild a CBR250 sport tourer and next to it an ubiquitous Hog.

Just 35 more miles, I think I can, I think I can...

I finally made it home and was greeted by two members of my pack: Master Chief (foreground) and MotoToot.

A couple of souvenirs.

And you may ask, what about the Falls? I hear they are amazing, I have yet to see them. A non moto-enthusiast may think this is utterly absurd all those miles all that time on the road and yet one misses the magnificent Falls. That is one reality. In the span of 870 miles, I fed my soul scenic vistas, met nice people and made new friends, surfed simple yet awesome roads, I breathed the clean air, and replenished my outlook. 

In that span of time I briefly found the realm I seek. I am a Tarmac Surfer and this is my reality, exponentially beautiful reality.