…and finally snag-free. I do love my BigEar stereo earplugs. Noise protection for your ears you can pump your tunes through and kill those little hairs in there with more style than road and wind noise, engine whine, and the loud-ass pipes (on the Harley sitting next to you at a traffic light) can provide. I couldn’t find any earbuds that would fit under my helmet without hurting my ears or without coming back out when I pulled the lid over my noggin or without them just falling out miles down the road. Not to mention that I couldn’t really hear my music until I cranked it way up. Yeah, that helps. Then I found this company at the IMS in Greenville, SC in February 2009: BigEar Inc. We were on an unprecedented spending spree armed with the trusty credit card, and after hours of mulling it over I pulled the trigger on a set of custom-fitted stereo earplugs. I liked the concept. Earplugs to keep out the annoying, not to mention mentally tiring, cacophony of riding a motorcycle. They were expensive. But comparable to the price of Shurs and with the same sound quality. So I whipped out the plastic and got fitted. I told Mr. Slow he should get fitted as well, since they keep the molds on file, and can make a set for you later if you so desire. He declined. He “ain’t spending almost $350 on a set of stinkin’ earbuds.”
I loved those things right up to the point when I dropped them and hubby stepped on them. Crunch! Damn! Why did that happen? I had looped them around my iPod which I was wearing strapped to my thigh when riding and the mess came undone while we were exiting a restaurant; hubby was walking behind me, I noticed them dragging across the ground, stopped to pick them up and hubby behind me stepped on them. My fault, entirely. Shouldn’t have stopped, should have just grabbed the wire and pulled them off the ground instead of stopping and bending over to pick them up. Doh! That little adventure ended up costing me close to half the price of a new set in repairs and I had no tunes for over a month!
I got a little smarter after I got them returned to me. However, the wires have always bothered me. They would snag on things, the wind would eventually work them loose from where I stuffed them out of the way and I’d have wires flapping in the breeze getting caught on this and that. Not to mention that one way or another I always managed to get caught up in them and yanked them out of my ears, or at least dislodged them slightly. Now I had to pull over, undo my helmet, put them back in my ears, put my lid back on so I could continue on down the road without a massive pressure headache. When I noticed last winter that my trusty iPod couldn’t handle the constant change in ambient temperatures. Riding in almost freezing temps then going inside where it was sometimes 40+ degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer, then going back outside was slowly getting to it, as was increasingly evident by the multiplying stuck pixels in its display. Once I stopped using it on my bike it mostly recovered from its bizarre behavior with the exception of one row of dead pixels that runs the entire width of the screen. Hubby bought me an iPod Shuffle and an accompanying replacement warranty at BestBuy to pull entertainment duty on my bike. I already had to use that warranty once. Now I understand why The Slow One told me on the way to the store that he was getting me some “iPod Insurance”. My baby loves me.
With the iPod Shuffle came the move of the device from my thigh to my right arm. The iPod Classic 160GB is too heavy to wear on my arm while riding. My upper arm is too thin and the armband strap too long and the thing eventually slides from its position, either around the circumference of my arm or down my arm, by its own weight and the fact that I could only use a small portion of the velcro closure to anchor it. It was also made of stretchy neoprene, which didn’t help matters either.
Wire management was so much easier on the upper arm; snagging the wires or yanking the plugs out of my ears were but an infrequent occurrence. I had to finally succumb to moving it to my thigh, however, when I was going down the road at approximately 70 mph one day and the armband came loose. I noticed it because the iPod promptly fell off my arm and dropped down to my elbow hanging by its neoprene armband. I immediately and instinctively covered the band with my left hand keeping the end from sliding out of its plastic “wrap-back-on-itself” buckle (what do you call those things anyway?). Now what? I can’t stop safely because I can’t use my clutch lever and there’s traffic all around. I can’t go on down the road like this indefinitely. Eventually, I’ll have to make a right turn. I have about 30 miles to figure a way out of my predicament. It seems I have three choices: a) let the thing go before you wreck yourself; b) undo the strap and hope you can hold onto it while clutching your way down to first as you pull off onto the shoulder; or c) redo the strap while going down the road maintaining lane position and speed. What an adventure that was! I eventually opted for choice “c”. “A” was unthinkable; “b” was iffy and probably would end up in “a” anyway, so the course of action here was clear. Normally, this would take two hands, but I only had one, since I don’t have a Throttlemeister like Mr. Slow. Normally, I’d use my chin as a “helping hand” but I was wearing a full-face helmet, not to mention that I would have to turn my head completely away from the direction of travel. I tried. Can’t see anything out of the corner of your eyeballs. Nada. It also introduces steering inputs that could lead to losing an iPod AND a Hayabusa, maybe even a limb or two. I slid around the Hayabusa’s tank like I was hanging off in the straights. That enabled me to use the side of my helmeted head without having to look away from the path of travel to hold the armband in place and preventing it from coming completely undone. It also helped keeping the throttle steady. Meanwhile, I used my clutch hand to feel around for the proper end of the strap, pull it tight and align it correctly so the velcro would grab and hold. After a few miles of cold sweat, visions of an iPod bouncing down the road with a Hayabusa crashing shortly thereafter, a few choice curses and riding pretty much like a drunk ass, I finally managed to do just that and I could then grab the now doubled on itself fastened armband and pull it back up to its proper place on the fattest part of my upper arm. Wow. I checked that thing every paranoid mile until I arrived at my destination to make sure the velcro kept its hooks in the loops. Once I strapped the thing to my thighs I could use the entire length of the velcro fasteners and haven’t had a problem with it since.
At first I clipped the little blue Shuffle to my collar by its metal clip. I’ve almost lost the thing several times doing that. And you do have to have the unit in possession when invoking the replacement warranty. Loss or theft are not covered, understandably so. Once, I actually caught it with my hand before the wind yanked the plug completely out and set my little iPod free. It was then when I realized that history was repeating itself and I went shopping for an armband. I finally found one that fit my skinny arm without too much overlap, which was part of the problem that almost cost me an iPod once.
I’ve been using that setup now for almost a year. I still have problems with snagging the earplug wires and consequently yanking or dislodging the earpieces, especially when I’m wearing my backpack. With winter approaching I am pretty much riding in the same gear every day and now I have the added problem with managing the thick-gauged wires that run from the bike to my heated gear. All this junk hanging off of me was starting to really get on my nerves. It took me forever to get ready again. Fiddle with this, fiddle with that. No big deal when you’re riding alone, but when with other people, I’m always the last one to be ready and everybody ends up waiting on me. Bah! I can’t have that. The other day I had the idea of attaching the high-viz vest I wear during the winter months to my riding jacket, since the thing always slid off my jacket when I was taking it off. I also ran the wires that run from my heated vest’s power distribution unit (that’s what they call it) through my sleeves and used the liner hookups in my jacket to secure them. Perfect fit. I never snap the liner in anyway, since in Georgia a lot of times you ride to work layered up, but it’s too warm to wear all of it on the commute home. That is the case in early and late winter, anyway. In the dead of winter (most of December through February) it’s freaking too damn cold 24-7! I’ve tested the setup and I’m liking it. I’m a lot faster getting ready to ride and it’s a lot more convenient at fuel stops. I always know where my plugs are, so I can plug it in without stopping if I forgot before I left or if it came undone because I stood up on the pegs. I always know my earplugs are safe from harm, and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.
This wire management thing got my perfectionism cranked up. Hence, I decided all those safety pins weren’t good enough and it needed some minor adjusting anyway, so I got the needle and thread out and fixed my armband. Now I don’t have to hunt for the control pod when I want to skip a song or turn the volume up or down. I kept making wrong inputs too frequently as of late and that’s getting annoying. If you own an iPod Shuffle or fondled a friend’s, then you know we’re dealing with teeny buttons, one of which has multiple functions, depending on the number of times you press it or for how long. So does the adapter that you have to buy if you don’t want to use Apple’s provided proprietary earbuds. Quick push on center: Pause. Long push on center: Voice-over (announcing the song title and artist). Double-press on center: Skip to next song. Triple-press on center: Restart current song from the beginning. Triple-press on center twice: Skip to previous song. The volume controls are standard: Up and down, each has their own dedicated button. One above and one below the center control button. Now try to hit that just right with gloved fingers, especially with winter gloves. It takes practice, and when the thing moves around or rolls to the side it gets even more challenging.
Proper rerouting of the wires and using the “spaces in between” that DLO had the decency to create by not sewing all the seams closed on their armband (by design or by coincidence?) provided the means to hide and position the wires; needle and thread enabled me to secure the entire setup. Neat. Tidy. Functional. Just the way I like it. Make your gear work for you and enjoy it more, that’s where it’s at. Less chance of saying screw this, I’m riding without, too. A few pics are worth a thousand words (although the current word count stands at 2102).
Oh, and I also fixed the zippers on my riding pants which got trashed in my crash. Luckily the damage is on the bottom end of the zipper, so I sewed the bottom zipper pulls in place where they can’t come undone anymore due to the missing tooth. No more wardrobe failures. =D w00t!
I feel so accomplished as a woman right now.
…and then the renown goes into the crapper. Yes, I couldn’t believe it myself when I heard my own voice reverberating the dreaded words in my head: “Shit! The speed limit is too fast!” But we’ll get to that…
As I said in my previous post, I’ve done the obligatory 11-mile loop to test out my new configuration. But really that doesn’t tell you much, even though I was riding it like a jackass: extreme lane-weaving, swerves, quick-stops, hard acceleration, more stoppie attempts, more swerves… …all in the name of science. I wonder what people were thinking when they saw me scooting it down the road fairly erratically and seemingly out of control. Ah, who cares… Luckily, this road isn’t too busy, so I usually don’t have too many witnesses on my test flights.
Although, I couldn’t feel much of a difference, it’s much better than it was. It isn’t perfect, for perfection I’m missing 10 mm of additional preload in the front and optimally another 4 mm of fork tube raising would be in order. But I’ve reached the end of the Fat Lady’s adjustability, so this is the closest I can come to my ideal setup using stock hardware.
So, on to the story, then: It started with my usual loop, because I wasn’t really feeling up to exploring, since it’s still too cold for that sort of thing. Yeah, it was in the low 50s and sunny, but after about 60 miles of that I’m ready to go home, since I’m shivering all over. Anyway, I turn right onto the road that takes me through part of the Sumpter National Forest. It feels a little ‘bouncy’ today. This road is kind of rough for the first mile or so. It’s that cheap Aldi’s kind of asphalt, not smooth but more gravelly. You can actually see the little rocks in it. You know, shitty road. But I think nothing of it, I have never really liked the first part of it anyway. It’s bumpy, has cracks all over it in places and sports a few potholes. I don’t know why all these imperfections seem to be magnified today. I don’t like to bounce while leaning, makes me feel like I’m going to fall off. Once I get on the smooth part I open it up a little. A few more curves and the 25-mph 90-degree dogleg right is upon me. The only reason I go down this road, really. I take it at 65. I’m wider than usual, but still on my side of the road. Hmmm…. Oh yeah, I need to add a little more oomph next time, the ‘almost imperceptible’ heavy steering from the 11-mile loop is making itself known and it’s a little less imperceptible. Not a problem, I can definitely accommodate the Fat Lady. She does feel solid through that corner. She went where I put her. Smooth, but then this section of road is almost brand spanking new.
A few miles later I remember that silly obsession I have with finding that legendary ‘Kettle Creek’ road again. I google-mapped it, and there’s only one around here and it’s what I’ve long since dubbed the ‘Redneck Racetrack’, so if that’s the road they were talking about, I feel a little, well, underwhelmed. I mean I’m as horny for curvy roads as the next guy, but that really takes the cake. That’s desperation in motion. I wonder what the current lap record is. =] But I digress, so I’m off navigating by GPSr and reading street name signs, never mind the chill in the air. I take a few promising looking random turns (which is a dangerous undertaking in these parts), and a few miles later I hit the jackpot, or so I think. I quickly mash the ‘Mark’ button on my Garmin, because I need to be able to find this little piece of lean angle heaven later: Out in the middle of nowhere with no cops around to spoil the day. I have to keep reminding myself not to get too enthusiastic and outride my sight distance. I am in South Carolina after all, and a road can just decide to quit or turn into dirt or a gravel trail without warning. When the GPSr is routing this is usually indicated by incessant u-turn demands. It’s tough to behave, but I have a feeling about this, so I keep it reasonable.
And with that last thought trailing, I round the next bend and find myself looking at a definite shift in surface color and quality. It seems like they redid this part, there aren’t any lines on it, but the cat eye markers are there to mark the centerline or where the centerline would be. It’s bumpy. What the hell?!? They forgot to smooth this out or what? Aren’t they supposed to do that when the stuff’s still hot, semi-viscous and smells like shit? Damn! It’s getting bumpier as I go. Hell, if I wanted to ride moguls I would have gone skiing! I’m down to the speed limit (which is 45, by the way) and still am feeling like I’m going too fast. Good gawd! In the name of all that’s holy! Just my luck, too. I find a curvy road and it’s shit; Mr. Murphy again and his asinine law. I can’t believe that I’m actually going the speed limit and am considering slowing down even further. I try to pick my way through using the smoothest path, with not much improvement in ride quality. I’m bouncing all over the place, the Fat Lady feels a lot like a pogo-stick and all this shaking is making me have to go pee. Curses! A pickup truck pulls out in front of me. For a change, I’m glad, it gives me an excuse to go slower still. Ha! I can hardly keep up with the truck. Chick on a Hayabusa is getting smoked by some dude in an old F-150 (or whatever the hell it is). Imagine that. My feelings are a little hurt. I see his rear axle bouncing over this heinous stretch of asphalt which is a road in name only. His rear tires are moving independently, rapidly hopping over the multitude of dips and peaks, the truck’s body twisting this way and that. I am almost mesmerized by the chaotic rhythm. I keep up, despite my growing nervousness and I wonder if there’s not a better way of negotiating rough roads like this. I’m really getting tired of getting slapped in the ass by my bike and putting up with all that shaking in my handle bars, trying to relax and letting the bike do its thing is getting tiresome. I shift my weight forward a little, and lift my rear off the seat. Hmmm… slightly better, but now my weight is on the bars. Little more. Now I’m practically standing on the pegs, in a half-crouch, supporting my weight by my thighs and core, knees in, but barely touching the tank. The weight is now off my wrists, fingers only lightly curled around the grips. Much better. Now my legs are acting as shock absorbers, and not bouncing around really smoothes things out a bit. Leaning into curves is an interesting feeling and I probably look like a dumbass doing it, but who cares. This is working. I feel more in control and I think The Fat Lady appreciates me not fighting her so much anymore. My thighs are getting tired; my thighs and several other muscle groups I didn’t know I had. This is great, I know I’m onto something here, since at one point I am seriously considering passing the bobbing truck in front of me, but decide against it at the last moment. “You don’t know this road, no telling what’s around the next curve.” Glad I listened to my voice of reason, because around the next corner awaits a stop sign, with not much room to spare. I soon find myself back on a real highway. Smooth, marked, clean. I pull into the next gas station without delay, since I am about to reach muscle failure and my bladder is screaming bloody murder. I take care of business, buy a drink and a small bag of Cape Cod’s parmesan cheese chips and have a seat on the curb in my bike’s parking spot. All I see around me are huge-ass trucks. I wonder why?!? An old dude in another one of those gigantic trucks, covered in red clay, pulls into the spot next to me. He gets out, big grin on his face. He says: “That is a fast looking bike. A real bike. Big. And a real-life girl riding it. Wow!” I smile up at him from my seat on the curb: “Yessir!” He’s amazed. “You really ride that thing?” – “Yessir.” – “You are a real girl!” I smile, then reply while pointing at the mud all over his vehicle: “Looks like you had a bit of fun, too.” His smile gets a little broader: “Because I’m a real boy.” I giggle. With that he goes inside. The guy had to have been in his late 70s. When he comes back out of the store, he stops and tells me that he rides, too. Then adds: “Real horses.” I tell him I always wanted to learn how to really ride a horse, but so far never have gotten out of canter. He smiles and says: “You look like a person who would enjoy riding.” We chat a little more and then he’s off again. Old guys rule.
I think it’s time I delved into “Suspension Tuning – Part 2: Damping”. Uh-huh, most definitely.
Linkage to the entire series:
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Rider Sag, Free Sag, and Preload
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Plan ‘A’. Plan ‘B’. Plan ‘C’ It Is.
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Exploratory Surgery
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Let’s Go Shopping!
- The (preliminary) results: OMG! OMG! OMG! The Fat Lady Can Dance?
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1: The Fat Lady’s Got Slammed
- Suspension Tuning – Part 1 (Results): There’s a first time for everything…