Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sport touring: …blissful solitude in a quiet realm

I’ve been on the road for two days, now riding north on Interstate 74 in Ohio eagerly awaiting to intersect Indiana State road 46, until finally a road sign directs me to exit and merge on to 46. I’m now approximately 55miles/ 88 km from my destination, Bloomington, IN., I’m exhausted, nearly spent. This is my first tour and already I’ve endured plentiful precipitation, strong winds, unplanned turns, uncertainty and utter silence. When I finally reached my destination I’m almost delirious, I’ve arrived safely, astonishingly! I can hardly stop talking, to my old friends I seemed unrecognizable, but they graciously withheld any criticism and instead welcomed me into their home until I settled down.

A year and a few thousand miles later I’ve learned to embrace the feeling, the feeling one encounters during endless miles and hours on the saddle fully immerse in one’s consciousness with minimal social activity. Humans have yet to discover (or disclosed) whether a time machine exists, however, I believe motos would make decent prototype.  During pre-trip planning, one can try to account for most expected incidents and plan accordingly along with scheduling an early departure; that is the plan. Until the day arrives, time warps and one looses track of it, and is relegated to counting miles in the absence of accurate time perception.

I agree with The Eagles when they sing that one may “look at the stars but still not see the light” and that is the case with time when touring. One may look at the clock and still be unable to discern time. It is actually a beautiful thing. We exists in a society that demands we account for all that we accomplish with titles, awards, wealth, etc. As a result some individuals choose to ignore such notion and truly exist if only for a brief time, through sport touring and remain unaccountable for time.

To the uninformed and uninitiated motorcycling consist of riding a bicycle like machine, although at higher speeds, a semi valid assumption. Except to be able to fully appreciate it one must be willing to embrace the uncertainty of the sport, and that is where the rewards await.  During most of my travels when I have encountered flocks of riders, most of the time they have been on hogs.  It appears sport tourers may be the soloist type, a member of a subculture within a microcosm.

 A rider willing to embark on a potential one way journey for the sheer joy of adventure, self validation, [insert own assumption], alone.  In search of blissful solitude that can only be achieved at higher revolutions, similarly to what most are trying to accomplish: to be yourself albeit at higher speeds. To engage in an affair that will demand the best of you, that is the allure of the road, intoxicating, irresistible and potentially final.

Ultimately,  The Ride will exact a toll on the jockey as a means of admittance into a parallel realm where it all decelerates, where material elements are irrelevant, ambitions rescinded for one must exist in the present. It is far from escapism from quotidian affairs, it is… heighten reality, exponentially beautiful reality. Where the most favorable choice is to simply allow the road to Send Me on my Way (RR). Enjoy the Ride.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sport touring: Gear update and review

There are a few basic axioms in motorcycling: first, motorcycling will give your wallet a strenuous work out, second: perfect gear is an elusive proposition, and lastly this Lifestyle is inherently [insert own opinion]. I have now logged a few thousand miles (6150/3843km) on my 250R and have gained insight into a few things that I’d like to share, primarily my thoughts on gear.  When I re-started riding in ’10, I was unsure as to how long I was going to ride, thus I considered finding the best gear unnecessary and focused on the basics.  Here is my latest gear review and two cents on the topic.

Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suit
Miles < 2000/ 3200 km

I got this suit at the end of spring but did not get to wear it for very long as the temperatures rose rapidly to uncomfortable levels exceeding 90F/32C. Once the climate was more favorable I was able to truly test the suit. The first challenge you will encounter is that the manufacturer’s shop is located in Minnesota, U.S. You will most likely have to order online. They do offer extensive options in order to custom tailor the suit for you. I was fortunate to fit one right off the rack! At 5’6’’, 130, 30 inseam I settled for a 36 long red with black ballistics.

Initially the suit feels heavy and stiff and makes you wonder how are you going to ride in this thing for long distances. However, after a few hundred miles the suit begins to soften and it fits better, like an old pair of gloves. When I started riding I bought a Tourmaster transition jacket and caliber pants. The price seemed reasonable but that was it. The fit was off, it was bulky and claimed to be waterproof but after only one season I experienced a few leaks. I would not recommend it at all.

The Aerostich on the other hand is fully waterproof (Gore-Tex), I have been out in the rain and it has kept me dry, it is also somewhat windproof.  Once the temperature drops around 50F/10C you will feel the cold wind if you have layered improperly. The suit is made of what appears to be high quality materials and after a couple of thousand miles it still looks new. It has plenty of pockets and it has adequate vents along the pits. One of the main advantages of this suit is that it is incredibly easy to put on and take off. The two-piece seems more convenient initially, however, if there is significant probability of one becoming a bowling ball on the interstate, I’d rather be wearing a full suit.

The longest I’ve worn this suit is 10.5 hours straight on my last tour without any significant discomfort. I bought the suit with shoulder, elbow and kneepads only, I’d strongly recommend buying the hip pads and back pads for extra protection. The suit is great but not perfect. I find the sleeve cuffs to be too small to accommodate a gauntlet, and the neck flap fit could be improved. The suit is pricey, but the workmanship so far is solid, and considering its purpose the price seems reasonable. Based on my short ownership so far I’d strongly recommend it. This is my fair weather cold weather moto-suit; I still have not found appropriate summer gear. As I said earlier finding the perfect gear is an elusive proposition.
Picture source:

Alpinestar Scout WP Boots
Mileage <2500/4000 km

These boots are solid. They provided support and protection in key areas (ankle, shin, toes) and are waterproof. I have ridden in steady rain; torrential downpours and these boots have kept my paws dry! I was concern that the rubber sole would wear out faster than expected, but so far it is holding, considering that I rarely walk far in them. They are semi comfortable and I think I’d be able to walk a mile or two. Actually, I have, in order to break them in faster I walked a couple of miles around the neighborhood.  The only concern I have so far is that the padding above my shifting foot has softened a tad and at times I have to reposition my foot in order to find a stiffer surface. Overall I’d recommend these boots.
 Picture source:

Scorpion exo-1000
Mileage <6000/9600 km

I have been riding in this helmet for a while now and have found it to be a solid performer for the price. I have not owned a high-end helmet (e.g. Arai) so am unable to compare it to such. It is comfortable, the fabric breathes well and won’t become soggy with sweat, the dark visor is a plus, and it is fairly quiet (at least it wont howl at high speeds). The shield has a decent anti fog coating that works well as long as one remembers to wipe off the shield with a wet cloth (water only) regularly. Overall, I’d recommend this helmet or its newest version. 
Picture source:

Good luck with your search, procure the best gear you can find, trust me it will allow you to Enjoy the Ride.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sport touring: Tarmac Surfing home at 70 mph, one destination infinite revolutions.

View Larger Map

Distance covered: 1041.5miles/1666.4 km
States crossed: 3
Highest elevation: 3670 feet/1118 meters
Temperature:  50F/10C

It’s 05:30; it’s dark, gloomy and is raining. I only slept a few hours in anticipation of this tour, destination: Asheville, NC. I’m standing at the local petrol station topping off the 250. The odometer reads .5 miles, I feel dishearten, .5 of 479 miles/ 766 km.  However, I’ve experienced this feeling before, this is a critical time when one must overcome complacency and regain one’s bearing. There is a goal in mind, it is time to set out and achieve it.

I have two options: return home and wonder, what if? Or let it roll, I chose the latter. The first 75 miles are tough as usual, the 250 is always in the zone but the Surfer must endure a brief period of uncertainty. It’s foggy and wet; I’m unable to see the road signs. I took an unplanned turn, I must refocus, pause, breathe, at last clarity. I recalled my surfing soundtrack and rolled the throttle full speed ahead.

Shorty, thereafter I spotted two fellow tourers, one on a new Triumph Tiger the other I was unable to identified, we exchanged “road greetings” (a peace sign) I feel reenergized and committed to the Ride. Any previous doubts evaporated and I welcome the uncertainty of the road, today I will surf. I’ve been riding for a few hours; I’m now 40 miles/ 64 km from Asheville. I’m surfing I 26 South bound at the foothill of the Smokey Mountains preparing to climb the mountain, the ride is smooth, I know my destination is near just a few dozen miles… until it all decelerates.

It’s a two-lane expressway, to the left there is a retaining cable, to the right a speeding cage, suddenly a wooden block is bouncing on the road, and it splinters as it hits the ground. There is only one way to go, forward. I see the driver trying to maneuver away from the flying deadly object, somehow he notices me on the left, neither one of us has a favorable out… I can see the block slowly bounce on and off the road, but I’m not afraid.  My consciousness heightened I decelerate and observed… the block rolled under the cage, as the driver hit the brakes, this is it!  My chance to roll out and I accelerated. I will ride another day. 

I finally reached my destination

After a long day on the saddle, it's time to relax

Home for the evening

 It’s now 15:00 and I finally made it to my destination, I’m elated. I checked into the local Hostel, drop off my bags and make my way to the local watering hole, I have a reason to celebrate.  The next day I woke up assuming that I was ready to ride the Tail of the Dragon, except I’m fatigued from the previous ride, and earlier that day I’ve received news that someone from my inner circle had departed this world, my mind wanders. I took another unplanned turn and traveled 25 miles in the opposite direction of the Dragon. I decided that I must heed this sign and turned back.

The Dragon will have to wait, with over 300 turns in ten miles; the odds are clearly against me. I must defer. I intended on spending three days in Asheville, except the temperature is dropping fast and the forecast calls for near freezing weather and that excludes the wind chill factor. It becomes clear now what I must do, another marathon run northbound before the cold front engulfs my chosen path. I enjoyed my brief stay, and just like that I’m back on the road, and once again I was greeted by the morning fog and cold weather.

There is only one favorable decision, embrace it. I slowly begun the climb to Sam’s gap, elevation 3670 feet.  It is a beautiful climb and exceedingly intoxicating descend, that day I surfed down a mountain. On the other side of the mountain the sky was clear the air was cool, the leaf colors vibrant enough to remind you that you are alive.  The descend is steep, the margin for error on a moto cannot be quantify, blink excessively and you will kiss the tarmac. 

I’m now heading northbound in I 81.  I’m surfing at nearly full throttle; it is an extremely windy, cloudy, cool day.  At my first stop, as I top off the tank I realized that I can’t stop shivering and I don’t have any more warm weather gear! But I can’t stop, I won’t stop, I’m coming home. This is a test of fortitude, Semper Fi.

The cages are setting an unforgiving, unrelenting pace exceeding 70 mph/ 112 kph, and the ferocious wind  conspires to sweep me off the tarmac. I’m not worry anymore, the view from my helmet may be limited but my outlook is serene, I tell myself Don’t Panic (Coldplay).  I settled into a rhythm, I can see beyond, beyond myself.  At 70mph I can see every detail, every imperfection and anticipate the discomfort of the road, except I don’t feel anything. I can see the vibrant leaf colors as they announced fall’s arrival, and rejoiced in a shower of leafs.  I can sense the presence of metal cages, and anticipate their lack of judgment. 

The moment that is so elusive, the time is now. In the middle of the highway, away from all that is familiar moto-bliss reveals itself. A reminder that all that matters is the present. The last mile is gone, the next mile may never come, but the road, the feeling I enjoy right now is undeniably axiomatic.  To other motorist I may look like a Simple Man (LS) riding a diminutive moto on a convoluted highway, but right now I am a happy, free man. This is reality, exponentially beautiful reality.

 It’s now 18:00 and after 497.5 miles/796 km I finally crossed the last  traffic light on this trip and triumphantly raised my left arm, and smiled. You may wonder and ask why ride such distance on such ill-suited steed? I’m a Tarmac Surfer, it’s what inspires me. What are you waiting for? Get out there, exist with a purpose and don't wait for me because I’m Already Gone (Eagles). Laugh. Live. Ride.

Along the way I picked up a couple of more touring badges, TN & NC, the evolution continues.

RL may you find your way home.