Crashed: The Hayabusa has no Curb Appeal

I’m on my way home from work. I’m three miles from the house, but I’m thirsty and to my recollection I’m out of Diet Coke. And it’s the only thing that’ll hit the spot. It’s one of those ‘gotta have it’ moments. In a last-minute decision, I get into the outside lane of the two-lane left turn to make my way into the new Wal-Mart they finished a few months ago at Exit 190 on my home stretch of I-20. Red light. First in line, car to my left, no one behind me. This could only be better if the light hadn’t changed to red. I love this corner. Brand new asphalt, smooth, sweeping 90-degree turn feeding into a nice little stretch of (as of yet) unused road that circles the entire parking lot. I call this the ”Busa Back-Forty’. The light changes to green and off I go. I out-accelerate the car next to me and get my lean on. I’m looking through the turn, have my line visualized, the tires feel solid, and the Fat Lady does as she’s told and feels planted and stable. For some reason I decided before I even turned it in not to hang off. I’m wearing my Harley-Davidson FXRG all-season textiles, not my leathers; but the difference in gear only means that my knee is either tucked in tight against the fairing on the inside of the turn or it’s sticking out. Right before I reach the apex of the turn, I hear a scraping noise. It is a familiar sound, albeit I haven’t experienced it since my Harley days. I dragged peg on my first bike, a Sportster 1200Low, all the time, especially in left turns. Nothing to worry about, really. My tires feel solid, I love that Q2 rear rubber. Next thing I know, my rear steps out and I lose my line going wide. WTF?!? My brain finally analyzes what is happening. I’m dragging hard parts and it’s leveraging the bike’s rear off the ground, shifting weight off the rear tire and causing it to lose traction. Shit! I can see the curb coming at me fast. Something tells me I should NOT, under any circumstances hit that sliding sideways. Something I’ve read in one of the skill books I’ve been devouring since I started on two wheels comes to my mind: “If a collision is imminent, do SOMETHING.” I can only see one out here: I have to jump the curb. I give it all I’ve got to try and wrestle the Fat Lady out of past-maximum lean and straighten up the bike and aim for the curb. Here is where my memory gets hazy: I remember vaguely trying to shift weight to the rear and giving it more gas to help the front wheel climb up on the sidewalk. I think I made it, but at a considerable lean. I could have sworn I was upright again, but later inspection of the ‘crime scene’ seems to tell a different story. So does The Fat Lady’s extensive wounds. Things fade to black here. I remember hearing the nauseating sounds of man-made materials under stress: plastics cracking, glass shattering, metals screeching. My last thought before I blacked out is something along the lines of: “Holy shit, I hope I don’t hit that pole!”

I come to, sitting on my bum, on the sidewalk, next to a street lamp, facing in the direction of travel. I see The Fat Lady about thirty feet further down, laying on her left side, also facing the direction of travel, taking an asphalt nap parallel to the curb in the right wheel track. She is so perfectly aligned, it looks as if someone placed her there for a little ‘how to pick up a dropped bike’ practice. She doesn’t look so bad from here. There are three dudes and a girl standing around me, asking me if I’m ok. I answer, while I’m feeling myself up, that I think I am. I take my gloves, helmet, and backpack off and place them neatly next to the lamp post in the grass. Another person comes around from my right and bends down to my level, also asking me if I’m ok and telling me that help is on the way. I nod and remain sitting in my spot. I slowly turn my head over my left shoulder and see a trail of dirt, grass, plastic bits and scrape marks. I look down on myself. My riding gear is dirty, but seems in good shape. I notice I have grass in my mouth and spit it out. The three dudes, after having assured themselves that I am indeed alright, pick up my bike and place her on her kickstand. They check out my ‘Busa, one of them remarks that he’s never seen anything like it. That this was the best freakin’ riding he’s ever seen on a Hayabusa, or some such thing. Kind of makes a momma proud; I only wish I would have landed that. Yeah, you definitely get extra cred when you’re a girl on a Hayabusa. =D A deputy sheriff arrives not too much later, with the fire department in a big-ass, huge fire truck, sirens blaring and lights flashing. First Responders, I’m assuming. The ambulance is not far behind. OMG! All this hoopla for me?!? Gawd, these people must be bored out of their minds in this town and are jumping on every call with the full-on brunt of their life-saving force. Kinda cool, when you think about it. Kind of embarrassing, too. One of the fire fighters checks me out and asks me the usual questions to ensure I’m with it and not confused. He asks me who the president is, I’m slow to respond, but finally manage an “Obama”. He asks me if I voted for him, I glance at the man sideways and give him an enthusiastic “Hell no!” They laugh and decide I’m pretty much ok in the head. The deputy asks me if I have a preference for a towing service, and I just shake my head and utter: “Whoever is cheapest.” While the wrecker arrives and starts putting my baby on the back of their truck, I’m being given the once-over by the EMTs in the ambulance. They also inspect my helmet, there are no signs of impact on it anywhere. They give me the choice of going to the ER or going home. I don’t feel all that bad, so I opt for going home. I sign some papers and they let me go. I watch the wrecker dude finish up with my bike. At least they seem to know what they’re doing. I’ve heard some horror stories about wreckers and motorcycles. My baby appears to be in good hands, though. We finish up all the official stuff, I sit on the curb and write my police report, and the deputy sheriff gives me a ride home. During the gratis ride in the back of a police cruiser (sans handcuffs) I notice my vision narrowing, greying out, and I’m starting to see those funky multi-colored spirographic images. I feel a little woozy. On my way into the house to get my insurance card for the officer, I almost pass out. I explain to the officer what is going on with me and he suggests that it’s probably for the best to call the ambulance back, but it is my choice. I agree. Several minutes later, Grovetown’s First Responders roll in: noisy, flashy, and in an awesome display of helpfulness. OMG! How embarrassing. The neighbors one by one come trickling out of their houses to watch the show. The officer just smiles and says: “These are First Responders, that’s what they do. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.” Good gawd. They go through the whole spiel again, then stuff me in the back of the ambulance and hook me up to a 10-lead wiring harness and a finger thingy to monitor the whatnots of Miss Busa. My neighbor peeks her head in. “You ok?” I reply, that this is just precautionary, since I’m alone and feel faint, so they’re going to take me to the ER to make sure there’s nothing major wrong with me. She tells me to call her if I need anything. I tell her not to worry and that I’m fine. Off we go…

My wreck happend around 7PM, I am released from the ER around 1:30AM with an Rx for Cyclobenzaprine and Ibuprofen, I refused the heavy artillery they wanted to hook me up with. I hate taking pills. They’ve done extensive X-Rays of my left wrist and pinky and a CAT scan of my upper body and head, but found nothing out of the ordinary. I couldn’t get my phone to work properly since my crash, and now have problems with the built-in GPS. I finally get my radio operational and get a signal and after explaining my situation to a co-worker, he texts me some cab numbers from the phone book. I walk around semi-aimlessly trying to pinpoint my exact location when I spot a bank and a pharmacy. Lucky me. I scope out the area carefully and brave the ATM to get some cash for the cab ride home. I have to be insane doing this in the middle of the night by myself. Oh well, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. I get my cash, then make my way across the street (in somewhat of a hurry) to get my Rx filled. At least I know where I am now and can call myself a cab with the telephone numbers provided by my co-worker. I’m starting to feel worse. I am in agony, feeling like I just got hit and tackled by a line backer for the New Orleans Saints. They warned me about this. I finally admit defeat and call my boss, explain what happened and she gets coverage for my shift and tells me to take care of myself and my business. Good. I sit on the curb in the pharmacy’s parking lot, in the middle of downtown Augusta, and wonder if today is the day I’m also going to get robbed. The cabbie pulls in and I’m finally nearing the end of my (mis)adventure.

Many Thanks Go Out To:

I want to thank my co-workers and my boss for being there for me when I needed them and having my backside. I want to thank all the people who stopped at the scene and made sure I was ok and kept me company until the emergency services arrived. I want to thank the police, fire fighters, EMTs, nurses and doctors for seeing me through this and being so nice to me, even making me laugh, and helping me not feel so embarrassed about my ordeal. I want to thank my neighbors for watching out for me and offering to be there for me, if I needed them. And I also want to thank my husband, Joe, for not giving me grief, but instead being supportive, taking two days off to be with me and making fun of me instead of giving me lectures. I love you, Mr. Slow.


The Suspense Is Killing Me

Getting ready to play!

Enjoying the first real spring day of the season: Fueling up for a ride with Mr. Slow.

I’m not happy. I was at first, but am not anymore. I was lubing my chain the other day and noticed that the rear sprocket is showing signs of wear, this led me to look into a gearing change, since I’ll have to replace the sprockets in the next few thousand miles anyway. This research, in turn, got my perfectionistic side all bent out of shape because I’m about to change yet another thing while I have one kink already to work out. One thing at a time, chica. One thing at a time. Thus, it came to be that I had to admit to myself that the suspension setup compromise is not working for me in the long run. But I really don’t want to go through that whole crappy fairing and fender removal process yet again. What a bummer that is. Heck, it isn’t really working for me at all, now that I had a chance to put a bunch of miles on the bike. Don’t get me wrong, I love it lowered like it is now. I’m more confident at slow speeds (even though my turns are wider than they used to be)  and I can actually flat-foot the thing in my race boots now; no more getting stuck on the incline side of a crowned road or trying to back out of a declined parking spot. She also feels more stable and planted. However, when I first started this project I hadn’t realized that maybe the adjustability range of the ‘Busa would give me problems and would lead to compromises. Lesson learned. Check the parameters before implementation to see if it’s even possible to follow through. It was a learning experience (and still is), and I wouldn’t have been able to ask the right questions at the time anyway. Yes, I could have asked for help and had the answers given to me, but that’s not how I work. I want to own my solution. I want to be guided, not shown. The Socratic Method, that’s how I like to be taught. I had to take it one step at a time, and I’m not sorry that I did. However, I am now frustrated with the current setup. The bike now corners like a bus and my arms are really getting tired from the heavy steering, at least that distracts me from my sore thigh muscles. 😉 My geometry is way too relaxed for my taste, since I am missing 10 mm of preload in the front, but the adjusters are at their limits. I don’t want to spend more money on this… I have to sleep on it, but I think the best I can do is raise the fork tubes through their triple clamp 5 more millimeters and crank in rear preload. Between those two, I should be able to affect the desired decrease in rake/trail. I’m dangerously close to getting into the no-no zone up front and I’ll blow my rear sag numbers into race territory, but I think it might just give me what I need. If not, I can always move for a reversal.


Suspension Tuning – Part 1 (Results): There’s a first time for everything…

…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.

The suspension travel: Before

The 'Before' pic: The Fat Lady's suspension travel.

The suspension travel: After

The 'After' pic: The Fat Lady's suspension travel.

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.

Redneck Racetrack

Kettle Creek RD: The Redneck Racetrack

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:

  1. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Rider Sag, Free Sag, and Preload
  2. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Plan ‘A’. Plan ‘B’. Plan ‘C’ It Is.
  3. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Exploratory Surgery
  4. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: Let’s Go Shopping!
  5. The (preliminary) results: OMG! OMG! OMG! The Fat Lady Can Dance?
  6. Suspension Tuning – Part 1: The Fat Lady’s Got Slammed
  7. Suspension Tuning – Part 1 (Results): There’s a first time for everything…