A Tale of the Dragon

“How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Get through the curves so fast? You make it look so easy. I’m scared half to death most of the time.”

“Me, too.”

“What? No way. But you ride with such confidence…”

Conversations such as the one above happen to me quite often now. The interchanges differ slightly, some are broad and generic, some more specific and focused, and yet others are just to say hello and to tell me that the way I ride is inspiring. I’m not really sure why. I am mostly just flabbergasted, because I don’t consider myself fast, or inspiring, am nowhere as smooth and proficient as I want to be, and I’m definitely a little scared a lot more than I’d like to admit. Heck, I’m still a newbie myself. I’m in my fourth year of riding, with roughly 44,500 miles logged, and have yet a long way to go before I could even consider myself an experienced rider. So why have I become the go-to girl?

Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s not what I do or to what level of proficiency I do it. After all, the degree of a skill is relative to the comparisons made. Maybe it is how I do it.

So how do I do it?

Upon reflection, I find that the answer is of quite a simple nature:

  • I refuse to accept “good enough” as a standard and continue to learn and practice those lessons whenever and wherever I can
  • I keep reaching outside of my comfort zone little by little, gently pushing my skill envelope and working through my fear(s)

And no matter where I am in my skill progression, or how advanced of a rider I may become, these two concepts hold true. Mastery does not equate perfection. There is always room for improvement and always an opportunity, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to learn more. “The day I quit learning is the day that I die.” I don’t know who said it, or where I picked up these words of wisdom, but I wholeheartedly embrace the sentiment. Words to live by, indeed.

It does make a girl feel good (and a little bit proud), even if she feels a tad awkward and shy, when others show their appreciation for the way she rides. Especially when the kudos come from riders whom she considers to be so far above and beyond her own skills, that she is amazed they even gave her the time of day. It keeps her going, it makes her work even harder and cements the refusal to give up and not let temporary setbacks beat her into the trap that is “oh well, good enough.” It really isn’t good enough. “Good enough” is dangerous as it leads to routine and routine eventually results in rashed paint, dinged frames and broken off bits. Or worse.

Well…?

I’m in the mood for a little story telling rather than my usual not-quite-scientific analytical nerdiness. I’ll be as long-winded as the Dragon is curvy. That’s my specialty, and if you are one of my a regular readers, you’re used to this already. I am an editor’s worst nightmare. Well, I would be, if I had one. I’m gonna be, one day.

Here you go. Sit down, put your feet on the pegs, and hold on tight:

A Tale of the Dragon

A week ago, my husband and I returned from a five-day motorcycle vacation. Two of those days were spent at Deal’s Gap, riding a stretch of US-129 between North Carolina and Tennessee that is known to motorcyclists all over the country as the “Tail of the Dragon”. The road is notorious for its advertised “318 curves in 11 miles” and it is quite the gem from both a biker’s point of view and that of an engineer’s. It has a curve for every taste. Banked or off-camber, blind or the kind you can see all the way around, constant and decreasing radii, compound and multi-apex curves, fast sweepers, esses, elevation changes, dips, cracks, rough and smooth asphalt… you name it, you can find it, in various more or less gratifying combinations. Want to see if your street game is up to snuff, this road is a good place to evaluate. The Dragon comes complete with photographers ready to snap your picture as you negotiate a few choice corners (please smile, wave, and get your lean on to get that knee or floorboard down) and the obligatory contingent of county and state officials with clipboards at the ready and fat ticket pads to grade your excellence in high performance. It even has a Tree of Shame to hang your various broken bike parts on, should you flunk the skills test. Just don’t go there in the middle of the day on the weekends, or you’ll just get stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of seemingly nowhere, and then you will be lucky if you even get to average the speed limit, which is a posted 30 miles per hour.

The sky looked ominous. It desperately wanted to rain, but the weather had held so far and I was determined to get a few good runs in before it let loose, if it was even going to in the first place. If it did rain, so what? In my husband’s words:

“I’m going to do the Dragon. I don’t care if it rains. I don’t care if I’m the only man to ever do it wearing a trash bag, that Dragon is going down!”

Mr. Slow is a self-admitted fair-weather biker, so this was important enough for him to risk getting caught in a rainstorm. It was important enough for me, too; albeit for a completely different set of reasons. His reasons included shutter speed, mine corner speed. I really didn’t see my husband a whole lot after I followed him on his virgin run with the video camera attached to my bike. We never broke the (averaged) speed limit and I was one-handing it most of the trip, waving fanatically at the photographers hoping to get my silly self into hubby’s frame to ruin the shot. Didn’t quite work out as planned. I risked his life for nothing. Bummer.

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I almost didn’t go, because the sort of shenanigans that I had in mind were for dry roads and warm tires, but I made myself gear up anyway. I quietly admonished myself that I was supposed to keep it at 60% and keep the racer mentality off the public roads. So far I had done pretty well in that regard. Yes, things got a little spirited on occasion, but I would like to think that I never exceeded 75% of my skill at any given time. Did I not just spend a weekend riding with a friend resetting my brain to “street mode” and adjusting my “Speed Racer” mentality in an effort to ditch the frustration with the limitations of street riding that has plagued me for the better part of the past two years? To recapture the enjoyment of the ride at slower, more sane speeds without letting too much hang out on that slippery slope that is risk acceptance. “No speeding in the straights!” is the toughest rule to adhere to, especially if the road isn’t entirely straight, but sweeps invitingly from side to side.

As it turns out, the road is cold and wet in places, and it seems to be getting worse. I realize that it is starting to rain and that we are catching up with the worst of it. As we continue northward the road gets wetter and there are leaves in a lot of the corners. I slow my already temperate speed even more. I have only one word to describe my feelings about wet leaves in wet corners: treacherous. My tires are sticking and my lines are true. However, this situation makes me feel timid and uncertain. To the close observer, this anxiety makes itself evident in my body position. As the battle between fear and intellect rages in my mind, my sternum becomes rigidly glued to the tank. I have to make a conscious effort to correct this tendency, hang off properly by dropping the upper body into alignment and in doing so also right the bike from its excessive lean. When your chest is stuck to the gas cap, your ass might as well be sitting in the seat, with your knee gripping the tank. You can’t just hang your cheeks out and expect to conserve lean angle by lowering your combined center of gravity. It doesn’t work that way. Either hang off or don’t… that half-assed crap isn’t really doing anything but make you look like an assclown. I’m getting a little flustered with myself, not that I would have to hang off at all. But hanging off is one of those things I still need to practice and perfect for myself, so I always at least go through the motions, even at speeds where it is not needed. At minimum I like to “pop” the inside hip into place and weigh the outside peg. Besides, sitting sedately center, hauling through a curve is much scarier than doing the same while getting low and to the inside of the bike, for the centrifugal forces involved are less apparent. It just feels slower and more manageable. This is also the secret to getting your kicks without having to push the speeds too far into “jail-able offense” territory. And if you also take the “car line” through to avoid flattening out the curve you can get even more thrills for your speeding ticket buck. But that’s an entirely different story altogether.

I’m not liking this kind of riding. This is more like commuting or roadtripping than joy riding. But as the ride continues, my fear is gradually replaced by annoyance. I want to be irresponsible (in a responsible kind of way), but am somewhat inhibited by the probable presence of more cops (one had parked himself in the first longish straight to set the mood) and the less-than-fun traction conditions. But it is good practice. Since I’ve lost my job, I haven’t had much occasion to use my crap weather skills, so this is really a blessing in disguise. With the newfound attitude I begin to settle into a rhythm and am starting to enjoy myself again, even if such joy is served with a dash of apprehension.

We turn around at Tabcat Bridge, at the northern end of the Tail, and make our way the eleven miles back south. It isn’t too long before the skies open up and let us have it in full force. Visibility becomes more and more limited as the rainshower cranks its intensity up to torrential downpour. My visor keeps fogging up and my gloves are getting soaked. Our average speed doesn’t drop all that much and we are still dancing smoothly and effortlessly through the curves. Now this is something I can cope with. The leaves have washed off the road and the asphalt is finally clean. This is the kind of riding I refer to when I say: “Rain is nature’s way of giving us clean roads and 80% traction.” I don’t like “sort of wet”, but “really, really, really wet” I can definitely deal with. The hanging off bit stops as soon as I realize — to my chagrin — that my crotch is absolutely soaked and my feet are sopping wet. I make myself as small as possible, trying to keep the water out. To no avail. I can feel a cool trickle making its way down my spine between my back protector and the moisture-wicking compression shirt. Oh, goodie! We all know where that’s going next: Asscrack Falls. And then I’ll be sitting in it until I stand up. I smirk at the thought. I’m not entirely sure why this is even funny, but I’m getting a kick out of it. Hell, yeah! I made that damn Dragon cry. I suffer another mental burst of girly giggles.

David and I are the fastest crew to come down the mountain that morning. The Pirelli Angel ST tires are again proving their crap weather worthiness. I don’t trust them quite yet on their sides, because they have massive grooves for water evacuation running almost all the way to their outer edges. That’s just too much air and not enough rubber in the chicken strip regions for my comfort level. When it was dry I wished I had a stickier, softer tire; but now I am definitely glad I’m rolling these sport-touring hoops. My confidence in the tires is evident in our pace. I have no problem keeping up with David who is leading the return trip.

We’re safely passing several vehicles and catch up with some sportbike riders who do not seem to appreciate getting caught in this shit storm at all. One is making a concentrated effort not to lean around a corner; and another is hugging the center lines, crossing over repeatedly, almost as if he was using them as a visual guide to help him stay on the road. We pass him in a hurry, before he could make it to the next curve. It appears that David and I had the same idea, neither one of us wanting to see “what happens next”. [Both of these guys made it back down the mountain alright.]

Several riders gave up and parked it at a pull-off. The Harley boys just kept on cruising, a little slower than usual, but those dudes don’t wimp out for some rain. Especially if there isn’t an overpass to park under for miles and they’re already wet. The cigarette smoking while riding, however, has ceased, for obvious reasons.

We finally make it to the chain-link fence that marks the southern side “Beginner’s End” at the North-Carolina/Tennessee state line. Almost there. Almost. As we round the right-hander a flash of hi-viz yellow catches my attention. I smile as I realize it’s Mr. Slow creeping down the mountain on his Samsonite Missile. He also has no real pressing urge to lean. That’s my man! I smile again, since I’m happy to have caught up with him; because I assure you, I would have freaked out approximately 22 minutes after not seeing his Connie parked in front of our room.

This is a good time to have lunch at the Dragon’s Den Grill and the place is packed as people settle in to wait out the storm. The satellite TV has quit, we have no cell reception, and it’s anybody’s guess as to how long this’ll go on. A typical spring afternoon shower? Couldn’t be more than an hour or two.

As soon as the rain subsides, I’m geared back up and on my way to my bike to head out. Everybody else also wants to go, but they want to wait about 20 minutes for the road (and their gear) to start drying out. With my renewed confidence I’m not even interested in wet roads or wet gear. I sit down on the bench in front of our room and impatiently wait on time to tick off the minutes as I watch the steam as it rises from the pavement; the road slowly begins to dry.

My overly inflated ego is promptly corrected not too far into the next run. Let some of that air out, hot stuff, shall we? Traction feels iffy and after sliding around in two consecutive turns, I am absolutely crestfallen. WTF?!? My riding again becomes timid as my anxiety level rises. I hate sliding the rear wheel. I dislike it on the track, but I’ve learned to cope with it there; however, I still don’t like it when it happens and I find myself avoiding to ride that close to the edge of my traction limit. When it happens on the street my anxiety is multiplied. I already hate the outside edge of the pavement and sliding around like I am isn’t helping that situation any. This is the reason I have a tendency to take the “race line” through a corner, hugging the center-line at the apex with my body hanging all over into the oncoming lane. Never mind that my tires are still in the correct lane space. On the track this tendency is displayed in a distinct cutting of corners to the apex. It’s almost a little like dog-legging it, rather than a more gradual approach. It’s point-and-shoot from entry to apex, but on exit it is a gradual drifting out to the outside edge, as it should be when accelerating out of a turn. This is also why I prefer right-hand turns on the street, even though it would make sense to be more fearful in a right-hander. After all, if the rear breaks loose, I would be sliding into oncoming traffic rather than off the road. All these worries and various discomforts come flooding into my conscious thoughts. Slap! Take you down a notch, missy. A pass and review of your more annoying (and tenacious) riding flaws. Arrrrrrgh!

On the return trip I can barely keep up with the guys, my group or otherwise. Correction: I can’t keep up with the guys. They only reason I keep catching them is that they get held up by other motorists. I feel tired and unfocused. I’ve let myself down. I am really disappointed. I know I can do better, so what is this? It’s almost schizophrenic. I feel slightly nauseated as I fight my way through every curve.

By the time I’m back down at the Gap, I’ve worked myself up into a real pisser of a self-deprecating attitude. I park the bike, and start stripping off my gear. I’m not going back up! This shit sucks, I’m really not in the mood anymore. Apparently, you can’t teach some old dogs anything… I notice none of my friends’ bikes are there. Not even Mr. Slow’s is anywhere to be found. Oh, hell with this! I’m going back up and I am showing this damned Dragon who’s wearing the bitchin’ pants in this freaking crowd. The guys pull in as I am adjusting my tire pressures. Great, those jokers stopped off somewhere and here I was trying to catch up. But the decision has been made. I’m getting back on this damned motorcycle and I am going to own what should have already been mine. I’m letting two more pounds of air out of both tires. I will find me some traction (or loss thereof) and collect my confidence while I’m at it. I am a girl on a mission. A girl who is intent on making the DTC work it for her. The guys also decide they didn’t have enough yet, swap bikes between themselves, and we head back out. This time I end up in the middle.

I spend the next 11 miles trying to push the front, slide the rear, or make either the RaceABS or DTC intervene; whichever one of those three comes first. I don’t care. I find I’m a little angry. I work my way into racing up to a corner, slamming on the brakes, throwing the bike in, and grabbing a judicious twist of throttle on the way out. Rinse, repeat. Nothing. The tires hold solid. The subtle pulsing of the ABS system or the faint “clicking” of the traction control both remain elusive. Maybe the shit doesn’t work anymore, after all? Well, I do know the RaceABS is in working order. I have finally mustered up the courage to put that one to the test by a few hamfisted, idiotic grabs of the front brake. There was never any doubt that the rear brake was working, that thing goes live when I’m just thinking about maybe using it. A little excessive for my taste, but whatever.

I wave the thought of maybe not having a functional traction control system to save my bacon aside and am wondering if Rick, who is behind me on David’s Ducati, is bothered by me riding like a jackass. He seems to cope fine with my change of riding strategy, but I make a mental note to ask him, and apologize if necessary, at the turn-around spot. I am not worried about hurting David’s feelings, who is undoubtedly playing around with the ZX10R’s ABS/DTC systems as well. He’s a racer and we’ve been doing “skill runs” pretty much all weekend. I’m sure he doesn’t mind my nose up his tail and in his business every corner we come to.

We actually looked quite well together, the three of us. Later inspection of over 200 uploaded low-res digital proofs by the various Dragon photographers confirms my suspicion. Mr. Slow also hands in photographic evidence. 🙂 I hope I meet these guys again. It was a blast riding with them. And next time Rick better bring his wife, who didn’t want to go until he had “checked it out”. I told him to tell her I am mad at her for not showing up.

Miss Busa in the Middle

As I was gradually working my way up to braking later and harder, and accelerating sooner and more aggressively, I felt something I haven’t experienced in a long time. A glimmer of my former bravado and aggressiveness. That something in my personality that I thought had finally been tamed. The little streak of crazy is alive and well and its clawing its way back to the surface. I do believe that to be a good thing. And I have the Dragon to thank for it. Why? Because it rained a little bit.

I had lost a lot of my spunk after crashing last year by tucking the front end into Turn One at Barber Motorsports Park at 120+ mph. A crash that prematurely ended the 2011 racing season for me, because I got to spend my money on fixing my bike rather than actually racing it. A crash that also trashed my confidence without me even realizing the significance of its impact until months later, when I finally got to do another track day and realized I was slower, less confident and more nervous. It took me another few months to pinpoint all the kinks that had developed in my riding as a result. And it was extremely hard to admit that to myself. I blamed it on not getting enough seat time. Yeah, that’s part of it, but that hadn’t slowed me down significantly before I had lost my balls in the kitty litter.

And that is how I do it. This is how I roll.

Check out some of the photos Mr. Slow took. He’s stashed them at FramedByJoe.com (link opens in new window).

I submit to you our first round of Monday morning dragon slaying. There wasn’t much slaying going on quite yet, since the Dragon himself was still pre-coffee and in no mood. 😉

Sunday Pics by Killboy & Co.

Monday Pics by Killboy & Co.


I’m Sliding In The Rain

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.


A Lesson In Traction Control

I finally made it happen. And it wasn’t as glorious or dramatic as I expected it to be. As a matter of fact, the whole affair left me feeling a little miffed. Left with the thought: “I so could have handled that myself!” I was on my way home from work, the roads were wet, but clean, since it had rained pretty much all day. It was still a little drizzly, but it ain’t nothing but a thing anymore. The light is green and I take the left onto the onramp that leads uphill to dump us working stiffs onto I-520W to make our merry way home at an average rate of about 70 in a 55. The S1000RR’s stock tires, which are Metzeler Racetec K3 Interact (K3 are medium-hard) are confidence inspiring in the rain. I have developed trust in their crap weather performance rather quickly. Not even the Dunlop Sportmax Q2 rear that I rolled on the Hayabusa earned my trust this easily, and I loved them puppies so much, I still have two full sets stacked in my hallway closet. (Anybody want to buy some rubber?) Anyhoo, I was making the left turn a little faster than I normally would in this kind of weather, and decided to throw an upshift in the mix, while still coming out of the lean and accelerating briskly up the ramp. Of course, I miss the shift. Doh! Blip. Click. Rip. Clunk. The rear hops and steps out and the DTC light flashes on, and the hopping and sliding stops immediately and the bike is back online and continues its accelerated journey up the ramp. This happened in a split second. As soon as I realized what was going on it was over. My muscles didn’t even have time to take their accustomed corrective action that would have been necessary on The Fat Lady. Wow. How unceremonious that whole ordeal was. And here I was kind of scared of it and dreading the moment it would come on. Yeah, I screwed up and “Arr! Arr! Matey.” said The Pirate and put things right. I was in ‘Rain’ mode. I think I’m done with ‘Rain’ mode in wet weather. I think I’m going to leave it in ‘Race’ mode from now on. I like it the best of all the modes that don’t require the coded plug, besides, the Hayabusa never saw anything but ‘A’ mode after the break-in. Given, the ‘Busa’s modes only flattened the power curve; the S1000RR’s modes change DTC and RaceABS behavior and only restrict power delivery in ‘Rain’ mode. But for some reason I find it easier to finesse the throttle in ‘Race’ mode, even though the manual says it’s more aggressive (I think they used the word “direct”) than ‘Sport’ in throttle response. *shrugs*


Rear Brake Roulette

It’s time for me and the Pirate to have a little heart to heart. What is this world coming to when a girl can’t even drag rear brake anymore when doing slow maneuvers in a parking lot or let’s say pulling up into her driveway. Here’s the thing: I abused rear brake pads to learn how to do the ‘Slow Race’ on the Hayabusa. I could almost be at a standstill with my feet up on the pegs and hold it in perfect balance. I pride myself on pulling up into the local bike night and NOT drag my damn feet while I find myself a hole to park the bike in. With the S1000RR, however, it’s like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes you get to do it, and sometimes the bike’s electronic wizardry just tells you: “No! Absolutely NOT!” and the brake lever goes limp. I cannot describe how disconcerting that is. Not really dangerous, the brakes are linked, I could use the front brake to do the same, but damn it!!!! Who’s in control here?!? I know it’s just a matter of adjusting, but I don’t want to get used to relying on electronics to do my job for me. What if I get on another bike and ride it like it had DTC and ABS, but doesn’t. Yeah. I’ll be making payments on somebody else’s shit. I really want to continue learning as if I didn’t have all that wondrous junk hanging off my bike. I look at it as an extra safety margin (in case I screw up, it’ll give me an extra edge to save my bacon), but I don’t want it to control my riding. That’s one of the major reasons I love riding so much. Let me rephrase that: am addicted to riding; a motorcycle junkie, a two-wheeled therapy abuser, a slave to gyroscopic precession. It’s the only time I’m really in control. In control of all aspects of my life; at that precise moment, I’m the master of my destiny. The decider of my fate. When I’m on my bike. I’m the boss woman! And I don’t need that stinking Pirate to interfere with that. No ma’am. Not gonna have it. Since I am under the obligation of a promise I made to hubby that I would not turn off the DTC or ABS unless it is warranted, I need to learn how its brain works. The brake lever going limp is just a small little symptom of what is yet to come. Remember, I haven’t made neither the ABS nor the DTC intervene in any other way, and I’m riding this thing just as hard (maybe even harder) that I did the Hayabusa. That tells me one of two things: Either I’m a pussy or I’m doing something right.

On today’s menu: Experimental riding. I have the OK from hubby to turn the systems off selectively to find out if this newly discovered nuisance is by design or a malfunction. Time to go play.


Brake Check!!!

It’s raining. I’m minding my own lane space as I roll in ‘Rain’ mode down Robinson Avenue, at a sedate pace of 35 miles per hour, which coincidentally is also the speed limit. I’m on my way to work, feeling fine and listening to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’. Traffic is pretty heavy, since it’s rush hour in the big city of Grovetown. I like the way the S1000RR minds its manners in crap weather. The ‘Busa had it together, too, but this bike screams confidence, but not overly so.

I see him sitting there, in his black sedan with his chromed-out rims. He is stopped, and not antsy, like some of the drivers trying to make a left turn onto Robinson Avenue from Katherine Street. There is a line of cars behind him, also waiting to merge into Grovetown’s main artery. I’m closing the distance to the T-intersection, when suddenly he guns it and pulls out in front of me. I don’t have time to think, all I can do is react. I quickly bring my fingers up, curl them around the front brake lever as I roll the throttle closed in the same swift, desperate movement and grab the biggest handful to date in Miss Busa’s colorful 18-month riding career. Gone is the thought of “but… but it’s wet”, all I can think of is that I need to stop this rocket before my front tire kisses this joker’s rear bumper and high-sides me into oncoming traffic. Not that I have any other options. Oncoming traffic to the left, curb to the right. I couldn’t jump that anyway, the angle of approach wouldn’t be steep enough, and I’ve really had enough of curb jumping against all odds for the time being. I’ve done killed one Peregrine Falcon with that stunt, don’t need to add a Pirate Matey to the list of things wrecked due to impossible angles. The S1000RR does its thing (or I do), because I haul myself down in time to escape calamity. Straight, well behaved, controlled, without lockups. I don’t even put my foot down, but bang it down a gear into first, then ease out the clutch, which I had pulled in at some point during this fiasco, but can’t recall doing so. Holy hell! I glance down and see no telltale lights that speak of the Beemer’s intervention. Damn! Still couldn’t make neither the ABS nor the DTC come on and help a chica out. I’m beginning to worry… if anything this should have done it! Never mind that now… I show the jerk that he rates No. 1 in my book, but the single-digit salute doesn’t really do it for me. I want to make sure the asshat gets a good look at the face of the person he just put into a do or die situation. The face of the girl who could have had herself one pisser of a bad day courtesy of his stupid ass. And this is definitely NOT how I like to start my day, no sir! When the traffic clears I speed up, cross over into the oncoming lane. I buzz him really close and stare into his window as I pace him. He looks at me like I’m some sort of wacko. Ah, I hate that look. The look of non-comprehension. So he gunned it to cut off oncoming traffic, but never looked back to his right to see the girl on a motorcycle and the giant SUV behind her. Fuck me! It would have done my psyche better if he had just been a complete jackass and had done it on purpose… I don’t know why that matters… probably because that would take one shitty variable out of this messy equation. *sigh* I shake my fist at him anyway, then leave him to sniff my fumes and make sure I’m back to speed limit by the time I do my almost daily pass and review in front of the cop shop.

Damned if you do & damned if you don’t!
What really grinds my gears is this: If there is no contact between vehicles it is not ruled an accident. Think about this for a moment. Think about how that silly, asinine law affects motorcyclists. I would have hit his ass had I been in hubby’s truck; making double-sure of there being contact, had I not been able to stop in time. It would have been ruled his fault. I was traveling at speed limit, he cut off not just me, but oncoming traffic as well. Plenty of witnesses. On a motorcycle? Physical contact between their parts and yours needs to be avoided at all costs or you’ll really be in for a world of hurt. In my case, I had no outs, but to stop and hope for the best. Couldn’t swerve left due to oncoming traffic. Couldn’t swerve right due to the curb. Either of which would have resulted in a highside… to the left into a moving object. To the right into a stationary one. Hitting the offending car would have also resulted in my soft parts being lobbed into the air. Only way out? Lay it down, separate and hope you’ll stay in your lane as you slide to a stop on your ass and further hope the driver in the car behind you is paying attention. Not really all that comfortable with these odds. This is pissing me off all over again…. ARGH! To the point: Had I avoided impact but laid down my bike in the process, it would have been ruled my fault and I would have been turned into an unwilling pedestrian, since I can’t afford another freaking $1000 insurance deductible. Not to mention my rates would be so far down the crapper… enough said.

They need to change that stupid law (at least for motorcyclists)! If someone causes you to lose control of your vehicle because they violate your right of way, it should be deemed their fault, vehicle contact or not! We only have two wheels, after we screech to a halt, we still have to remain in balance to avoid damage to our vehicle.

Lesson learned:
I’m mounting a video camera to the bike permanently, and I will run it every time I ride. I had too many close calls now. Then I will use that footage, along with witness accounts and sue the pants off your driving-skill lacking ass or have my surviving hubby do it for me. LEARN TO DRIVE!

I’m still not calmed down. And this happened over seven hours ago. 😦 And something else just occurred to me: Had I been on my Hayabusa, this day would have been one hell of a bummer, indeed. There’s no way I could have stopped The Fat Lady in time to avoid a highside. Now I’m double-bummed… or maybe things happen for a reason?!?


Playing Hi-Lo with the S1000RR

A few pics are worth at least a couple of runon sentences:

Joe and I play a little game most every day, called Hi-Lo. At the end of the day, he simply asks: “High? Low?” Then it is your turn to think about the day you’ve just had and answer with the best moment, the ‘high’ and the worst moment, the ‘low’. Then you ask the question in return.

After 1K, I think it’s time for some Hi-Lo with a twist. I’m going to ask it of the S1000RR. The High: It’s wicked quick and pulls like the ‘Busa. The Low: It ain’t the ‘Busa. Let’s break this down a little. It’s got some quirks, as do all bikes, no matter what you park your ass on, there’ll be problems of one sort or another to varying degrees of nuisance. How does the saying go? “If it has wheels or testicles, it’s going to give you problems.”

Me and the Gear Shift Assist do NOT get along. I can’t pin the throttle and snick it in. No-can-do. Especially under hard acceleration. Especially going from first to second. I’ve figured what part of the problem is, the lever is not at the right angle for my foot. We shall have to fix that, since I can’t get enough leverage to nicely preload the thing. As the ‘Busa did, this one, too, likes its lever preloaded for a nice, smooth little clutchless upshift. And it has to be a decisive little snick, too. Shift like an old lady and the brain of the operation just tells you to shove off and ignores your foot completely. So, I’m still doing it old school, with the little blip (for the most part). I think I’d be better off just plopping down the 100some Euros and getting the conversion kit and just reverse the whole mess. I wanted to do that on the ‘Busa anyway, since the Gilles setup just screamed for it. That way I’ll also have an extra excuse not to let anyone ride my baby without feeling too badly about it. “You know how to GP shift? No? Oh, I’m sorry, this one’s setup like weird and stuff…” Note to self: Adjust the angle of the dangle. No, really.

I have a feeling this bike’s going to just take over when IT decides that YOU are being a jackass and can’t handle your business anymore. I don’t know how to feel about all that tech. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some tech. I’m a geek, after all. But I also love me some control. I still ride it like I used to (caveat inserted here for Joe’s benefit: Noooo, I don’t do THAT stuff anymore, just as I promised.) I’m neither more careful nor more aggressive. It’s more a matter of adapting to the new bike’s handling characteristics. I’m not being stupid but I’m also not wearing my granny panties when I’m rollin’ it. I haven’t made neither the Race ABS nor the Dynamic Traction Control intervene on my behalf. I’m riding in ‘Sport’ mode, as that is the setting optimized for street rac… riding. Street RIDING. Guess the S1000RR has so far not deemed me a jackass unworthy of the controls. *snorts* I don’t know how I’m to feel about this. I’m halfway tempted to turn the crap off and ride by the seat of my pants. However, I have promised Joe I would not turn it off, unless warranted (like riding through gravel, where the DTC would really be a kick in the rear… literally); but on the other hand I’m afraid that it might screw up my skill development. After getting used to having a bike that folds space and time in fourth gear, then takes over when you’re about to wrap yourself around the next available stationary object because you done early apexed another one, freaked the hell out, went wide, got on the damn brakes way too hard, way too late, kept staring where you shouldn’t and the famous words that should’ve been the last are you verbalizing a convinced ‘holy shit’ into your helmet. It takes over at that precise moment because the bike has deemed you a jackass, works its magic with its sensors and gyros, valves and pumps, does a little digital finger counting and saves your bacon yet again and then also wipes your ass for you as you make your panicked way out of that train wreck of a turn (“hope nobody saw that”). How are you going to manage when you’re used to that for a few thousand miles, a few seasons, or whatnot and then decide to ride a friend’s bike without all the bells and whistles you’ve become so accustomed to that you’ve taken them for granted and have forgotten that you’re still riding like a n00b on a bike that just makes you LOOK like you know what you’re doing. It’s a conundrum. I want to turn it off. I have to leave it on. Best to just ride it as always. When the stuff comes on, I know I screwed something up.

Those skinny hand grips have got to go. But, as with any ergo mods, I’m going to see if I can’t retrain my muscles to cope with the stockers first. The Hayabusa’s grips were fatties compared to these tooth picks; they’re only one step above wrapping grip tape around the bars and calling it good. And, boy, do they buzz. The Beemer does NOT like to go slow… hell no! Seems like the most vibrating is experienced scooting around town. It doesn’t seem happy unless it’s over 5K. Proper gear selection also helps, although the bike doesn’t lug, it lets you know it doesn’t like being in too high a gear.

The ride-by-wire throttle system is awesome. BMW calls it E-Gas. I call it freaking SWEET! No more on/off light switch action in first or second gear, like it was on the ‘Busa. That was annoying and a complete nuisance on roads with a speed limit of either 35 or 25. What a jerky mess that usually ended up being and who wants to ride the clutch for freakin’ three miles. meh. You twist the throttle on the S1000RR, you get power delivered proportionally to your twist, ramped. Just flowing on. Not: BAM! There you are, now deal with it. LOL

Here’s something I’ve noticed that made me giggle: It has no horn. Not that I ever used the wimpy things that come on motorcycles anyway. I’m going to just have to continue using hand signals, just like on the ‘Busa or the Harley. ;P

EDIT: About five weeks later I found it: The switch for the horn is right where it should be, below the turn signal switch on the left clip-on. But it’s recessed and way down there. I can’t see it when sitting on the bike. Neither could I ever feel it with my thumb. How did I find it? I was checking something out on the front end, don’t recall what, and I looked up and there it was, right in front of my eyes, the horn. Go imagine that. Now the owner’s manual also refers to a power outlet… I wonder where that is, because I’m still looking. Found the IR lap timer transmitter plug in the wiring harness though.