Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sport Touring: Is it about the journey or the destination? It all depends on perspective.

It is mid December in the North Eastern region of the U.S., temperatures are hovering around 40F/ 4C and that can only signify that good old winter is upon us as well as the end of moto-season, or is it? A significant event indeed in moto world, although not quite as dramatic as REM’s “It’s the End of the World as we know it…” but I do “feel fine” about it. I do feel fine about it only because I don’t view this as the end of the moto season, I think of it as a “rest stop” in this journey called sport touring, punctuated by breaks and scenic detours along the way.

This season has been an exciting beginning for me, I found my way back into motorsports after being absent for a decade and was able to check off an item from my bucket list, I finally went on a Sport touring trip! No, I did not go as far and as long as had envisioned, nor did I ride an overly expensive steed with excess horsepower. I only managed to ride as far as Indiana (from Maryland), on what most would consider a glorified scooter. However, along the way I rediscovered the joy of riding the open tarmac at highway speeds or just chugging along back roads. I also encountered the challenges and dangers of the sport, bad roads and bad weather tested my stamina and determination, and close calls induced self-doubt. Ultimately, for reasons only my fellow moto-enthusiasts can understand, I'm still riding!

Tomorrow Scully will go into hibernation; I will miss her. She has been my “Road tripping” ally (RHCP), and during our short interaction it has never let me down. We have traversed across a few states, through varied terrain and bad weather, and through it all I was never let down. One man, one machine, 3400 miles/ 5440 km and many more to follow, my 250R has delivered, like a loyal friend always ready for the next adventure, no complaints no hesitations.

During these upcoming times of frigid, gloomy weather while Scully sleeps, I will begin to plot our next moto adventures on the U.S. map that hangs on my wall. The destinations are less relevant then the journey, but the list is ambitious. Maryland to California via Route 50, Yellowstone, Glacier National park, Bear tooth Highway, Canada and most importantly my “Mecca”: Northern California Redwood Coast, all in due time.

So you see my fellow moto enthusiast, indeed, it’s all dependent on perspective, at least for me winter is a “rest area”, a time in which to re-asses, plan, plot routes and confirm progress. I will refrain from dwelling in the fact that I’m unable to ride, rather, I will rejoice in the fact that I was able to fulfilled my moto ambitions, visited old friends, saw new places and enjoyed my existence on two wheels! I will go through this winter solo, without my road “ally” Scully, but in the end I know that “…it’s always better when we are together…” (J. Johnson). For this reason I will look forward to the spring, when the sun will shine and the tarmac will entice me to follow its endless path, because for me it’s not always about the destination, or about the journey, it's about The Ride. Until then I will dream of “Californication” (RHCP). Enjoy the Ride.

Ready for Hibernation at a remote, climate controlled subterranean den.

Back to basics, walking home after dropping it off.

To the journey on two wheels.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gear Review and updates: First Gear Heated gloves and Slime Moto spare pump.

Ambient temperature 32F/ 0C

Like a craze burger-eating fool after a long night of throwing back a few IPAs, eating some fries trying to squeeze a Heinz bottle running low on ketchup I am trying to squeeze the last few rides out of Moto season 2011. And so I woke up this morning to a sunny, bright but frigid day! The thing is, it was so nice out I could almost hear Bono in the background singing “It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away”, and like most dedicated motor heads I had to go out if only for a short stroll…and to test out some gear.

But before we get to the gear let’s go back in time. It’s late one evening back in winter ’09 around 12:30 am; I’m finishing my bus route pulling into the bus depot. I have a three-mile bicycle ride home ahead of me; temps are in the 30’s F/ 1C, no problem right? Except my gloves are useless, I arrived home and what used to be my hands are now ice blocks and they hurt and burn so bad, I considered making my way to the ER fearing if I did nothing I’d surely loose some fingers. Half hour later and warm water and I regained some feeling on my hands and swore that I ‘d never go through that unnecessary agonizing pain again.

Fast-forward to September ’11; before I went on my tour I picked up a pair of First gear heated gloves and today was a perfect day to test them to their full potential. My first impression: heated gloves are a necessary, inconvenient luxury. These things are thick, cumbersome and make you feel insecured about your moto skills at first, like a High School junior trying score a prom date. I geared up, warmed up Scully and we were on our way. My first thought is: wow, my hands are warm! I can feel the temperature differences in a couple of points in my body where the wind was leaking in but not my hands. At least not the top of my hands, my palms did feel a bit cool but nothing uncomfortable. After a while my hands were so comfortably warm that I had to turn the heat off, they worked well around 30F/0C and up to speeds of 40mph/64kph. They're supposed to be water proof but I have not had a chance to fully test that claim. I did find out that if your hands are wet it's almost impossible to get these gloves back on as the liner sticks to the skin.

The part about being inconvenient plays in when you have to figure out how to route the wires and temperature regulator (troller) and connect it all to the bike and yourself. The wires are as inconvenient as an ex-fling who can provide you with some “comfort” but you have to endure the aftermath. So far I run the wires through my sleeves, I rigged the troller with some electrical tape to my left torso (see pic) and coincidentally am able to see the settings through my left mirror when I need to make adjustments. I think they are a bit of a luxury because these are pricey or maybe I’m just a cheap bastard, either way I hope these things last. I don’t plan to ride in any colder weather, so at least for now the gloves are working well. The fit is ok, the workmanship is questionable and durability is to be determined. I will write a long-term report later.

The second item on my list is the Slime pump. I got this pump after getting sick of hunting down a gas station that had an air pump to top off my tires and being extorted for a buck each time, it’s freaking air and I’m buying petrol! Oh wait, what was that? You want another dollar out of me, no thanks. I figured after a few times of pumping my own tires this thing will pay for itself. So far it has worked well and efficiently. It does however vibrate so intensely that if you leave it on the ground you’d think it might brake into pieces.

Lastly, my tank bag has proven to be practical and durable, once again I stuffed this thing with groceries to the max and it held in place for the short ride home. I’d probably not stuff it this way on a long trip since it does become a bit obtrusive, but overall I’m still happy with this purchase and would recommend it if you are in the market for a tank bag. That’s enough rambling for today, if you are in a warm climate what are you waiting for? Get out and Enjoy the Ride.