I’ve been moaning and groaning and in generally a foul humor for the past few weeks now. I’m tired, my ears are giving me trouble and my nose is constantly running. My freaking allergies are kicking in. But it’s still mostly cold and dark, and winter just seems to hang on for all it’s worth. Doesn’t want to let go. I’m sick of the Dark Age. I’m ready for spring. And why the heck do I have to deal with my seasonal allergies and not have the weather to go with it? They start earlier each year… annoying.
Yesterday, I had this overwhelming urge to go get some 600 grit sandpaper. I looked at the temperature readout and find that it is 95 degrees on my front stoop (that’s where the “not weatherproof” sensor is located). Yes. I need some sandpaper, stat! I dig out my summer gear, slide into it via my moisture wicking base layer and head for the front door. Bright sunshine and the sound of children playing greet me as I step outside, locking up behind me. I squint into this awesome spring afternoon and am glad I had the foresight to change my shield to the tinted one. I can feel the warmth of the sun through my gear and the air even smells good today. I still don’t get it.
As I’m ready to push off and roll down my concrete pad and into the street I notice that the Pirate is covered in a bright yellow, green-hued neon-colored dust. No wonder my throat is sore and I can’t breathe at night anymore. The Augusta Nationals are but a few weeks away, the grass is growing at an astonishing rate, we’re covered in pollen, and fluticasone propionate sales are up. Yes, it’s spring time in Georgia.
A few miles into my trip I notice, as I swiftly merge onto I-20, that I’m smiling. I’m actually feeling pretty damn good and I’m enjoying my ride to the hardware store. A quick glance at the speedo tells me I’m enjoying my ride a little bit too much. I’m two miles short of hauling a ton. I change into the right lane and settle down to a more respectable speed. For the first time in a long while I’m sitting up straight into the wind. No need to tuck and hide myself behind the windshield to stay out of the cold airstream as much as possible. I see all manner of bikes out and about. It is Friday afternoon and the weekend has begun. I get it now.
Stash those battery tenders and dig out your warm weather gear, for riding season is finally here! Start your engines. It’s time to play in traffic!
I have said before that I am bored with street riding and that I’m done with it… I am not done with street riding. I confused perfunctory winter commuting with riding. I confused racing with riding. The time to ride, to really ride is upon us.
Life, again, is good!
Fun #MissBusaFact: Today, 23 years ago, I experienced my first kiss.
…and upon posting, another WordPress Surprise:
I have read this post twice now. I am so impressed with it, I just have to share it with the rest of my readers (and accidental stumblers). If you are not already subscribed to “The Dandooligan” blog, get over there now. Grab the feed, subscribe by email, whatever… just do it. The man has nerves of steel and he is passionate about the ride. If you come here regularly, I promise you’ll like his style (in print and on rubber). This one goes out to you Northerners who are snowed in at the moment. To all you Southerners: Look the other way, this is not for the faint of heart. 🙂
If I still lived in Germany, I would have to try this myself.
I’ve been riding around for a few days now, with those yellow and black WERA numbers on my bike, and I must say I feel pretty stupid playing in traffic with freaking race numbers plastered all over my bike. And what am I going to do when I have to bring the thing in for its now very-overdue 12K service? How am I going to explain that one? Dial *113 and tell me how you like my driving? Umm… no. I was in a creative kind of mood, wanted to know if I could do it; ran out and bought supplies and happily went about my business. Sometimes, I just don’t think stuff through. More often than not, I don’t think stuff through. I just get a wild idea and run with it.
I suppose I could take the offending pieces off and when my (newly recruited) BMW dealer asks where the hell the rest of my bike is, I tell them that I am glad they asked and that “the weirdest thing happened to me on the way up here. That is also why I’m late for my appointment. Anyway, I was hungry and pulled into this truck stop at Exit 114…”
I need to rework this. With removable and reusable vinyl, so I can just slap them on in the pits the evening before race day. Yeah right! You can’t just “slap” stuff on with them angles on that tail piece. It took me over one whole hour to get the crap to follow the lines the first time around. My lowers are too small for regulation sized number plates… wait a minute… maybe there is a way. I need to go out and measure again.
I just can’t live with those fugly numbers on my bike. First off, yellow is so messing up the theme; secondly, my douche bag factor has increased exponentially (and riding a liter bike certainly doesn’t help there *grins*); and, for some unknown reason (but I could venture a guess), the incidences of cars wanting to race me has tripled in the past week. I’m tired of bruising the egos of those poor Schmucks in their muscle cars (albeit toying with rednecks in pickup trucks gives me a deep sense of pleasure)…
I need race bodywork. Stat!
I am so done with rain! I show rain the finger! Rain, kiss my pipe, you don’t scare me (much)!
I have said that riding in rain has become “nothing but a thing” anymore. People who ask me if I rode into work today, when they’ve obviously seen my bike sitting in the parking lot getting the redneck bike wash treatment, think I’m completely nuts when I nod a “Yes, I did. I have to, I don’t own a car,” in response to their question. I don’t even know why they bother asking anymore. I certainly didn’t push the mother here. How else would it get here? This makes me think that all they are trying to tell me is, via small talk of the stating-the-obvious variety, that they believe me to be completely mental and I should really get a grip and trade the thing in for a car. Please! When hell freezes over; then, maybe, we’ll begin negotiations.
I have gotten the “don’t rely on that” hand-waving dismissive “you-are-soon-dead” reactions from veteran bikers in response to my standard reply of “Rain is just God’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” Yeah, I’m such a squid! Please bury me just like that dude who reaped Internet fame of epic proportions posthumously by his family posing his dead corpse on his sport bike. Yeah. Bury my ass sitting on my Beemer in a race tuck, dragging knee around a… wait. I want to be cremated and turned into a diamond for Mr. Slow to wear as a necklace… on second thought, scratch that.
It came to me the other morning, when I had an incident on the way home from work, that I have pretty much experienced all the major “Holy Hell” categories of Crap Weather Riding 101 and 201. I have lost traction both front and rear; fishtailed; slid it sideways; almost lost it by putting my foot down in an oil-water mixture at an intersection; have slipped on lane markings; slid across a patch of ice on a curved onramp; been cut off while turning right at an intersection and had to get on the brakes so hard while leaned over, I was sure that I couldn’t possibly remain on my contact patches; I have had to fly by instruments alone, it was raining so hard at night, the water couldn’t evacuate fast enough off my face shield, and the lights refracted off the road surface so badly, I was basically blind. One thing I hadn’t experienced yet.
I was on my way home from work, I was tired and it was raining pretty steadily. It had been raining all night and most of the previous day, which meant I had at least clean roads, since most of the junk had already been washed off the road surface. I was passing most everybody, as is my custom when it’s raining. Two reasons I have for this, one of which is that most seem to want to creep along below or right at the speed limit, which is something I really don’t get. Maybe those people need new wiper blades and some new tires? This is a far cry from the 15+ over they usually employ to get to work on time. No bother, this does me just fine. It’s not like I want to hang out around cars and trucks, they spray more dirty water into my path, limit my sight distance even more and make it a generally unpleasant experience. Traffic in crap weather is unpredictable to me, I rather not attempt to read them for fear I might be wrong. I take the “the more distance between us the better” approach when it’s unfavorable in the weather department. But I digress.
I was in the left lane roughly doing my usual standard speed of speed limit +9, traffic was extremely light. I see a bus up ahead and once I get close I decide to speed up, which is also a standard practice of mine. Big vehicle getting passed by small vehicle makes small vehicle go through the danger zone in a hurry. I don’t like to hang out. As I am roughly two-thirds of the way past the bus, I hit standing water in the left wheel track. Using the left wheel track is also standard practice when passing huge vehicles. I recognize the danger at about the same time I feel both of my tires “driving up onto glass.” I really have no other way to describe the feedback I got through my tires. It felt different. Not as “rough”, not as “connected”. Like being picked up? As if my contact patches felt smaller. I don’t really know how to put this in words. At that fraction of a second my heart was in my throat, beating fiercely. I had the bus spraying a fine mist of dirty water all over me, to my immediate left was the concrete barrier separating the westbound lanes from the ones going east. I lose it either way, I’m toast. I was staring down the gauntlet into the possibility of coming out the other side in the World of Pain.
I felt the rear give first. I practically had to scream at my tendons not to move and snap the throttle shut. Boy, did I want to. I’m glad the thought of hitting the brakes never raised its ugly head; kind of proud of that one, if I may take this opportunity and pat my own self on the back. This is the first time I was scared while riding in the rain in a long time. I didn’t like it. I told myself out loud, so I could hear it and believe it: “Keep calm! Easy does it!” and with that I pinned the throttle and rode it out, while looking way ahead into the distance, trying to ignore the kill zones to my left and right. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted much longer than a few seconds, if that long. Time always seems to slow down when stuff happens.
Hydroplaning is only fun on a wakeboard at the beach.
What in the devil is wrong this morning? Traffic is pretty heavy, but moving along at almost the pace of a Georgia Super Speeder, which is highly unusual for a Wednesday on both counts. It’s raining, has been pretty much all night from the looks of things. I’m running late, so I’m pretty much in a hurry. Business as usual on I-20. I’m passing most everybody, a few get to pass me. Yeah, you’ve read right. It’s a privilege, one which can be revoked at any second. 😉
Once I merge onto I-520E it’s a different story, as is evident at the merge point of the two opposing I-20 ramps feeding into I-520E. It takes some seriously creative riding to get in between all the slowasses, the hesitant mergers, the leadfoots, the space holders, the distractedly engaged, and the mobile jabber junkies. Yes, I have categorized the crowd by their default behaviors when driving becomes more complicated and the brain starts running the risk of overloading. Inconveniences such as intersections, on/off ramps, cloverleaf ramps, and merge points are all prime spots to observe the Common Cager (incola communis rotae cavea) in their natural habitat.
I make my way towards another day filled with opportunity of earning Pirate Coin (read: I’m going to work to make the bike payment) through the succession of merge points that is Augusta’s own scaled-down version of Atlanta’s infamous Spaghetti Junction or Columbia’s suicidal Malfunction Junction. After slicing and dicing and duking it out with a cager crowd that is denser, faster, and more aggressive than usual, which makes the situation also more unpredictable than is the norm; I finally find myself some empty-enough asphalt I can settle into and go with the flow of traffic.
My bliss, however, doesn’t last long, and as the wild bunch behind me catches up, I find myself surrounded again. Damn! I hate this. I can’t stand being around this much metal. That goes against my rule of riding as if invisible. I don’t like being caged in (pun intended), it gives me few to no outs and not enough time to react to set an escape in motion if it became necessary. I like to control the situation. And I do that with the throttle.
I have planned my escape and am working my way towards the freedom that is a much airier stretch of asphalt not too far ahead. As I see an opening to escape the imminent clutches of a semi-truck spraying me with grimy rainwater its tires sling off the road surface and a tailgater in an SUV, and risking getting stuck there, I take it and quickly change lanes, squeeze in between two cars, ride the left side of the white line, then gas it a little too enthusiastically to take advantage of the next opening. I slide the rear wheel, it starts stepping out to the right. I don’t even have to think about it; nor is it an event that registers even the slightest twinges of panic in me, nor does it upset the Pirate, as is evident by the DTC light remaining dark. A simple acknowledgement, followed by trained action.
I pin the throttle, then dive left with a quick nudge on the left grip, aiming for the left wheel track of the left lane; as I do, the rear wheel hooks back up. I straighten myself out, pass the semi truck, and after one more set of rolling road blocks (two cars pacing each other slightly offset, taking up both lanes and backing up impatient caffeine-deprived, half-asleep morning commuters for miles) I am finally free. I feel like putting on blue face paint and showing my arse while yelling “Freedom!”.
I was kind of proud of myself. I smiled. It wasn’t too long ago where I would have had to pull over and dig out the emergency pair of replacement panties. And here I was complaining not too long ago that I can’t improve my skills on public roads anymore. That street riding has become mostly mundane, boring and uninspiring. I guess I underestimated the power of constant and conscious repetition of isolated skill practice. I definitely have increased my crap weather riding skills and my confidence must be solidified.
I noticed another thing, I have reached a milestone of sorts in my riding: I haven’t been singing in the rain. That means I am not nervous or anxious anymore and the need for intense concentration has passed. I still sing on occasion when I drag knee though, I’m pretty sure of it. 😉
As a side note: I’m rolling Dunlop Sportmax Q2s, the rear in Hayabusa size (a leftover from some long-ago tire sale): 190/50 as opposed to 190/55. I can reach the ground better in my race boots, but I think I lost 6 mph off the top end… *giggles* and my speedo reads about 5-7 miles slow now. Oh well… it won’t be on there forever. I really do love those tires. I think I might even like them better than the Metzeler Racetec Interact K3 (K3s are medium-hard) that came on the bike; and they are cheaper, too.
I have told the story in a previous post. The story of how my teenage dreams of riding a sport bike were cut down in their infancy by somebody tipping my father off to the fact that I was doing parking lot drills with my boyfriend on his Kawasaki GPZ900R. I hated living in that town growing up. Well, once I hit the proper age where gossip interferes with one’s social life and the teenage shenanigans. Everybody knew everything about everybody else. But what can you do? Population: 360 and as boring as watching paint peel off the walls. And we had two information hubs, too. One lady to cover each side of the train tracks… well, each side of the brook that divided the town. We really didn’t have a “bad side”, the people in the “Vorderdorf” just thought they were better than us folks from the “Hinterdorf”. Whatever!
Word, then, had gotten around that I was trying to get my motorcycle license. I even started to take the motorcycle classes and written tests in the “Fahrschule”. Mind you, in Germany licensing procedures are tough and extremely expensive. And for motorcycles it’s a graduated system. You can’t just get your license and park your butt on your boyfriend’s 900cc monster. You have to work your way up to that in increments over years. The indignity! It’s really more akin to acquiring a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) than having your parents teach you to drive and then you take a trip to the tag office in your parents’ car and they make you do the block around the courthouse and have you parallel park between two cones that are far enough apart to put a semi-tractor/trailer rig in. Please! You’re kidding me, right?!? I didn’t even have to back in, I could have just pulled that joker in there, but I didn’t; I wanted to show off my Teutonic excellence of getting into a hole fifteen centimeters shorter than the car and without having to do even one single pull up. I was so astonished at how simple it was for me to get my drivers license (yet again) in the US. I couldn’t believe it! Damn, did we get screwed in the homeland!
Anyway, the end result of Radio Free Hometown was that Papa found out, not like he wouldn’t have anyway when the school sent him the bill. Yeah, teenage naïveté, a classic textbook case. He confronted me with the evidence and told me, in no uncertain terms and with a raised voice, that he’d rather kill me himself than let me go through with this. What the hell?!? He rode motorcycles when he was young. He commuted to work on one for years. I knew he hated me riding on the back of my boyfriend’s bike, but I thought that was just because he knew the kid couldn’t freaking drive like a sane person if he tried. Hell, the jerk had a four-point restraining system for a seatbelt. Did the passenger rate one of those? Hell no! I had to use conventional means to hang the fuck on! I had nightmares about his driving and the inevitable frontal collision that took my life before the ripe old age of 24 (his age at the time when we were dating, I was 17.)
Meanwhile, 18 years later. Another time, another place…
I buy a bike, I learn to ride. I don’t tell Papa a thing. I call it the “vehicle” (das Fahrzeug). I never tell him it’s lacking in contact patches by 50% and that it is impossible for me to ever lock my keys in. He never asks what I got, I don’t tell. He assumes it’s a car, I do not correct him. When we send him family pictures, they go through an additional censorship process to verify all the photos are devoid of motorcycles and motorcycle gear. This goes on for over a year and a half. Until I go to racing school. The itch to tell him came sooner, because I wanted to share with my father something that was really important to me, and an integral part of my life. I had accomplished so much. I wanted my father to be proud of me. Finally his daughter, who gets bored with stuff easily and hence “never finishes anything,” has found something that actually keeps her interest and keeps challenging her enough to stick with it.
Over the months I’ve been riding I have occasionally poked around during our weekly telephone conversations as to his current attitude about motorcycles and — God forbid – his daughter riding one… stuck my toe in; no, the water’s not fine. I’m not jumping in. I found out during one of these fishing expeditions that my cousin had wrecked her Beemer and she had been in the hospital for quite some time, waiting for her bones to fuse back together and her lacerations to heal. Her husband had also wrecked his bike before, too. From the description Papa gave me, it sounded like they both are avid long-distance riders. Eventually, I told him that my husband had bought one. I swallowed hard and my heart was racing as I waited for his answer. Then he just flatly said: “Der ist doch bekloppt!” basically calling Mr. Slow crazy. Yeah, so much for that. If that’s what the son-in-law gets, I don’t even want to know what happens if he finds out that his only daughter is riding. And that she has a racing license. Yeah, forget that. Bury it!!!
I came out to him by necessity of circumstance. I didn’t want to, but I had to. So I just told him that I have a motorcycle and was riding it to work daily, but not how long that indecency had been going on. I was so worried he would plop his ass on a plane, fly over here, and take care of his daughter’s business for she is obviously out of her mind. Instead, he paused, then said:
“Mädchen, sei vorsichtig. Die Arschlöcher können nicht fahren!”
(“Girl, be careful. These assholes don’t know how to drive!”)
And that is how I came out to my dad as a biker chick.
The above photo’s source image was downloaded from wikimedia.org and is labeled as public domain, licensed for reuse. I have modified it and cropped it slightly. If this is a copyrighted image, please contact me, so I can take the proper action.