Michelle, whom I met on Facebook, invited me for a ride through the Chattahoochee National Forest to show me around her “neck of the woods.” We had a blast on two wheels. It was a great weekend filled with good company, good food, good beer and beautiful roads. Michelle is a most gracious hostess and is an excellent motorcycle rider. She helped me “reset” my brain to enable me to enjoy street riding again for its own merits and with its own set of challenges. In other words, I had to retrain my attitude. Street riding has been a fairly frustrating experience for me for the past year and a half. I couldn’t enjoy the street because my brain was stuck at the track. This is a dangerous problem to develop. If you find you cannot separate and compartmentalize the differences between racing and street riding, you’ll soon find yourself in a world of pain. It’s really a little like playing Russian Roulette, but with bullets in most chambers.
The first racing school had cured me of such silliness as trying to put my knee down on public highways and practicing racing technique on curvy roads. There comes a point in a rider’s skill development where the street isn’t the proper place to learn anymore. The focus shifts from trying to “be faster” to honing your risk management skills and collision avoidance. There is a reason why a lot of racers eventually quit riding on the street. I fell into the trap without even realizing it until it was way too late.
After spending an entire day at the Kevin Schwantz School learning and practicing my racing skill set, I jumped on my S1000RR and headed the seven miles back to my hotel. I felt claustrophobic and slow, even though my average speed hadn’t changed. But after being at a racetrack where you do not have to worry about such things as Jersey Barriers or pavement conditions or opposing traffic, everything I saw around me became a possible death trap. I calmed down. At first.
Eventually, the lines between track riding and street riding blurred once more; and even though I hadn’t fully reverted back to my former level of hooliganism, I was still racing, although with less confidence. Which was a good thing. It kept me diving into blind corners tempting the fates.
If you are riding at the edge of your skill and your traction, eventually you will lose and most of the time that means a very high probability that you may not live to tell your story the next time you round a blind turn and find yourself nose-to-nose with that car violating the double-yellow line to take the “race line” through the turn. This means possible death for you, especially in the mountains where there’s a wall on one side and a ravine on the other with no real place to go. It means a whole load of paperwork for them; not to mention you’ve just ruined their day.
Something had to give. I was intellectually acutely aware of this. But I still couldn’t refrain from “redneck road racing” for the most part. The frustrations with the limitation of street riding soon became manifested in such a way that I couldn’t even enjoy riding anymore. At one point, after losing my job, I had told my husband just to sell my bike and be done with it. He became irritated. Maybe he didn’t understand what I was going through; maybe he thought I was getting down on myself because of the financial distress my unemployment caused. That was part of it. A small part of it. My problem, however, ran much deeper than just simply trying to make ends meet with less money in the bank. I was subconciously looking for a way out. I knew what I was doing would spell disaster in the long run. I knew that street riding requires a completely different skill set than track riding. I knew that practicing racing technique had no place off the racetrack. I knew. My brain knew. My soul kept flying.
I behave when I’m in a group, even if it is just with one other rider. I am courteous and attuned to other riders’ comfort levels. I make it a point not to create an environment that breeds competitiveness and the pressures of trying to keep up. It never has led to anything good for anybody involved. It’s one of those things. Nothing ever happens. Until that one time… But I have lost my “street eyes”. Where before I knew what a proper following distance looked like and managed to keep such a distance no matter what speed or how curvy the road, since I scanned ahead and made early adjustments, now I find it of no concern when someone dives into a curve behind me glued to my tail section. And I have no problem shoving my nose up someone else’s pipe either. This creates that peer-pressured environment that I seek so hard to avoid. Never mind, that I know I can stay well within my lane and not run into the person in front of me. What exactly are they thinking about me being back there? What position am I putting them in? At best, they don’t care just like I don’t; at worst they get scared, lose their concentration and do something that causes them to wipe out. Who’s fault is it? Technically the person who lost control is at fault, they call it “failure to negotiate a turn”. In my eyes, though, I am the one who put them in the situation to begin with. Hence, I am at fault. But that’s the way I think.
But when is too close too close? That is the question. If you follow someone and they crashed for one reason or another and you couldn’t help but get involved in their crash, you’re following too close. Optimally you shouldn’t be diving into a corner before the person in front of you has exited the curve in question and is well on their way into the straight part of the road. In a lot of cases you don’t even know when that is, since you can’t even see the apex (for those of you who don’t ride: the middle of the turn, where corner entry becomes corner exit, the point where slowing down turns into speeding up). Even if you could stop in time to avoid becoming involved in a crash, is the person behind you capable of doing the same? It’s a tricky proposition to brake when leaned over and it takes finesse and knowledge of motorcycle physics and how all these forces interacting with each other affect available traction and your continued success of staying on your tires rather than sliding on hard parts.
I used to get to “Point B” and people could be overheard talking about what they’ve seen; how pretty that waterfall was or how cute the fawn looked grazing in that ditch. I get there, usually ahead of the pack, saying: “What scenery?!? And where the heck are we anyway?”
I am well on my way to regain my proper (and safer) street game, but I have yet a ways to go. But Michelle showed me that yes, you can have fun on the street without breaking the sound barrier and risking going to jail. Yes, you can have fun on the street without having to haul triplets down the straight and grabbing a massive handful of front brake lever, throwing in two downshifts and stuffing 999cc into that awesomely banked constant radius right turn. However, when I’m by myself, I tend to get bored and sometimes get caught up in the dance that is negotiating those beautiful curves winding through the mountains. It starts out innocently enough, but the speed seems to steadily mount with every passing curve, as the music moves into the second movement and the dance continues.
It helps to make it a point not to brake for turns, but to adjust one’s speed in such a manner that you can just flow through without even touching the brake lever. It also helps for me to make it a point not to hang off, since remaining center on the bike really does give you that feeling of going faster than you actually are. I can still get my kicks at more reasonable speeds. The problem with riding “in the zone”: if the people behind you are relying on seeing brake lights to know what they need to do, you risk getting a nose up your tail. I don’t rely on brake lights or turn signals. It’s not a good idea anyway. It works fairly well until somebody blows a fuse… or signals one way and then changes their mind without telling you. It can also lead to target fixation. Another bad habit to avoid when riding, since the bike goes where you look.
Last weekend I’ve had the most fun I’ve had on the street in almost two years. The speeds were kept sane, I came home WITH CHICKEN STRIPS and I actually enjoyed some scenery for a change.
Thank you, Michelle, for being my tour guide.
Flicker. Flicker. Pop. Crap! Let there be light, I think to myself as I flick the high-beam switch to shed some lumens on the situation. My turn-signals only work when they feel up to the task, my emergency flashers have given up the ghost a long time ago, and the high-beam switch needs three-fingered coercion to be pushed into the “on” position. In short, my left-hand combination switch is an embarrassment and needs replacing. However, I really am not up to spending $228 plus shipping and handling on a collection of space-age buttons. After all, that’s a third of the cash required for that Dainese leather jacket I’ve been lusting over, or a new rear tire, or almost the cash needed to procure a Power Commander on sale. I can think of a multitude of things to waste $228 on, a multifunction switch isn’t one of them.
I ride around in semi-darkness for about a week or so, before it finally gets on my nerves. The Beemer’s headlight throws what looks like the image of a ghost rider’s full-face helmet on the road before me. It’s starting to creep me out; never mind that I can’t see shit and had almost run over a steaming pile of fresh deer guts one evening. I wondered where the rest of it was…
It’s time to buy an H7, 12V, 55W bulb to replace the burnt out low-beam stocker. I look around online and am not happy to see that one of those bright, bluish-white HIDesque jobs costs around $30. Hell, that’s a pair of knee pucks, right there. How much are HID conversion kits anyway? I go look and find very good reviews on a company by the name of Kensun. Never heard of them, but for $55 + $9.95 S&H, I’m going to pull the trigger on a set of 8000K Xenon eyeballs with slim-fit aluminum ballasts.
Three days later, I almost trip over the box on my doorstep on the way out for a high-velocity pleasure cruise. Needless to say I didn’t go for a ride that day. It’s time to wrench. Yet, again. It’s really quite the tragedy. I now own two bikes (yes, I bought a dedicated race bike while I was on my hiatus), do twice the wrenching and ride half as much. Hand me a pit crew shirt. Hell!
It’s easier and less frustrating if you take the nose off the bike, although you could do this without bothering with the plastics. To remove the nose, you’ll have to take the following fasteners off of both sides and nothing more (unless you absolutely insist on it):
· Unplug headlight connectors
· Remove mirrors
· The two screws above the headlight assembly
· The two screws on the uppers, forward of the BMW roundel
· Top screw on tank trim panel
· Lower plastic rivet which secures the inner fairing cover to the tank trim panel
· The three top-most screws on the inner fairing panel
Carefully work all the interconnecting parts free, and then pull the nose forward until it comes free. Take the damned thing inside and get comfortable with a beer and some power tools.
The OEM protective screw-on caps have to be modded to allow for the additional wires and plugs of the HID bulb’s wiring harness that connects the bulb to its ballast and the bike’s factory power plug. The best tool to use for the job is a step drill bit. The HID kit is pretty much plug and play.
1. Unscrew one of the protective caps and stick the thing in a vise.
2. Drill a hole in the center of the cap, just big enough to allow you to shove the biggest of the three connectors through. If the hole is too big, the HID bulb’s rubber grommet will be too loose to allow for an adequate seal against the elements; if it’s too small – you guessed it — the connector won’t fit.
3. Once you have drilled the correct size hole, smooth out the rough edges. I used my Dremel tool and one of the orange grinding stone bits for this.
4. Rinse, repeat for the remaining cap.
1. Unplug the power plug from the back of the bulb.
2. Gently push on the lower two retaining tabs and remove the stock bulb from its socket by lifting the bottom out first. Do NOT use a screwdriver to pry the tabs open, or you’ll spend 30 minutes bending them back into useful shape to get a tight fit later. Ask me how I know… This is important! The bulbs have to be fully seated and be tight. Any rattling around in there and you’ll burn one out in let’s say… two commutes. Again, I don’t wanna talk about it…
3. Unplug the spade connectors from their plug and set the bulb aside.
4. Take one of the HID bulbs out of its protective case by unscrewing the top and gently pulling the base off of the wiring harness. Be careful not to touch the bulb or its burn-out time later. For once, I didn’t learn that one the hard way. And no, it is not an old wives’ tale that fingerprints, debris and various other contaminants will create hot spots and shorten the lifespan of a bulb. It’s true. It’s true. HID bulbs have a very thin wire running along the outside from their tips to their bases. Don’t mess with that either.
5. Route the harness through the modded stock cap and seat the grommet into that (hopefully correctly sized) hole which you’ve drilled a little while ago.
6. Install the HID bulb in the headlight socket. The little tab goes into the upper retention tab first, then push the bottom into the lower two retention tabs. The bulb should seat properly and should be in there tightly and flush against the socket.
7. Plug the spade connectors into the power plug. I don’t think polarity matters, but to be on the safe side, I plugged the blue wire into the slot which was previously occupied by the yellow wire marked with a white line.
The rule of thumb with same colored wires is that the one with the markings is usually hot (+) and the other ground (-). But what do I know? I’m a girl who’s scared of lightning.
8. Find a suitable place for the power plug inside the headlight housing. Pull any excess wiring through the rubber grommet, you should have the excess on the OUTSIDE of the socket, with just enough slack to avoid chafing or stress on the wires.
9. Screw the modded cap back on.
10. Rinse, repeat. You’ve got one more to do.
1. Get your hands on some industrial strength Velcro and stick some to the back of each of the aluminum ballasts. I prefer the loop side on the bike, in this case. Do as you wish, but please clean both surfaces first with some 50/50 alcohol-water mix or any other suitable chemistry. The Velcro won’t stick for long if you don’t. If your shit falls off at a buck-fitty-plus, you have nobody but yourself to blame.
2. Decide how you are going to route the wires and determine the placement of the ballasts. Clean the spot, peel the backing off of the Velcro and stick it to it.
3. Plug in all three connectors. They are all keyed, so no worries about which end goes with what.
4. Rinse, repeat. One more side to hook up.
· Take the nose back outside and reinstall on bike. If you have fasteners left over, and followed the optional step above to booze it up while you work, you’ll have to stop here and continue after you sleep it off. Otherwise, read on.
· If you have fasteners left over and you didn’t follow the optional step above to booze it up, I dunno what to tell you other than I hope it doesn’t fall off at an inopportune moment. Please continue…
I should have told you this earlier, but if you had read the installation instructions that came with the kit, you would not be in this predicament right now. I know, I know. It’s downright un-American to read instructions, manuals, traffic signs, or indicate a lane change by using proper signaling via actuation of the blinkers.
· Replace the 7.5A fuses in positions 4 and 5 with 20A fuses.
Yes, I had to run to the auto parts store to hook myself up. Half-blind and 15 minutes before closing time, Miss Busa could be found squidding it up the road with her Hello Kitty Pirate wallet shoved down the back of her pants, an iPhone snug as a bug in her bra and not a stitch of gear on her other than the legally required lid. ATGATT no more! As luck would have it, I had one 20A fuse, so I just unplugged the stock headlight connector on the high-beam side and went to the store. Glad I did, too. The two dudes working there followed me out the store and drooled all over my baby while I was putting in the newly acquired 20A fuse and reconnected the high-beam connector.
· Wipe drool from bike once you get home.
I would say, go for a test ride, but if you’re like me, you already did. Only one thing left to do:
· Adjust the headlights according to the instructions in the owner’s manual (or the ripped off BMW service manual I know y’all have downloaded) and be prepared to be illuminated!
Tying Up Loose Ends:
After you’ve made sure everything is working properly, route the wires to your liking, secure with cable ties and seal the rubber grommets with a suitable substance. I used Clear RTV Silicone Adhesive & Sealant. I should have used the black stuff.
Review to follow… after I’ve put some miles on these puppies.
Dear Miss Busa,
It has come to my attention that you have become infamous with my colleagues at work. As I was gearing up for a nice little ride on my motorcycle; you know that thing that works IF you keep it upright at speed? Anyway, as I was getting ready, Bobby walked over to me to say hello. The following is the conversation as close as I can recall:
Bobby: “Heya, Joe!”
Me: “Hey, Bobby! How’s it going?”
Bobby: “Pretty good. Great weather to ride, huh?”
Me: “Yes it is. Where’s your ride? I see you are cruising around in that big new Ford of yours.”
Bobby: “Yep, but I’m about to start riding my Hog again. The gas prices are killing me.”
Me: “Uh-huh, save some of that green.”
Bobby: “Got that right! Say where’s our girl, Crash?”
Me: “She wrecked her bike. Guess following me to work in the truck isn’t as much fun as riding.”
Bobby: [looking incredulous] “She wrecked it again? How freakin’ fast was she going this time?
Me: “A little over 120 miles an hour.”
Bobby: [now chuckling] “Guess the roads are safe again … for a little while.”
As you can plainly see, you are reinforcing your reputation with your latest antics at the track.
This is a desperate plea to you. I am begging you! When I said to come back with your shield or on it, I didn’t think you’d take me so literally. I want you to win, but gee whiz, I thought you’d do it in the customary way, you know: first across the finish line. Well, I guess if you’re going to be Number One in crashing, we should lobby WERA to include a Crash Class in the award ceremonies.
“… and Miss Busa wins the Golden Turd for the most impressive and expensive lowside this weekend.”
I have written the acceptance speech for you, too:
“I’d like to thank WERA for putting on a great weekend; the corner workers for schlepping my bike out of the gravel trap yet again, I know you guys are getting tired of it, so thank you; many thanks go out to the medics who have conveniently relocated the ambulance to wait near Turn 1. You guys rock! I would also like to thank my sponsors: BMW Parts Division, FedEx for their awesome overnight service, Bondo, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Georgia. Last, but not least, I need to show my gratitude to my mechanic; however, I’ve done this so often, I’ll have to start working on my own shit.”
Anyway, my point is: congratulations, you’ve earned renown points. I love you, Babe, you keep doing what you’re doing, if you aren’t crashing, you aren’t trying.
Your loving sponsor