…On A Steel Horse I Ride

I’m wanted
Dead or alive

I needed to go for a ride. Not that I was being racked by withdrawal symptoms of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) by any stretch of the imagination. I have to shamefully admit, it took ten days to get off my ass and make the Beemer fit for street duty again. It’s about time, really, since I owe Matt of The Dandooligan a little product comparo.

And then I wonder why my mileage has suffered. I have doubled the number of bikes owned, but cut my mileage by half. And I look at wrenching as the culprit. I haven’t touched a torque wrench or a screwdriver in five days. I rebutted my own statement right there!

It’s more a result of the subconscious mind, rather than a definite decision made by cognitive higher-function processes. In other words, I don’t mope around, irritated by the idea that I cannot, for whatever reason, ride my motorcycle; neither do I proclaim loudly, that I will not ride my bike today. I used to suffer from the former, and the latter is really too much like quitting smoking.

It’s something else. An internal shift in focus, perhaps. When I think of motorcycling in terms of skill, my brain immediately goes to fetch some experience from the racetrack. I don’t even think in terms of roadways, surface conditions, traffic density,traffic rules and regulations, hazard recognition, and risk management anymore. Well, at least not consciously.

My brain still seems to deal with all of these factors just the same, but it doesn’t distract me anymore. Or should I say, my brain now has time to wander off and “do other things” (allowing me to be distracted) besides piloting the motorcycle and negotiating traffic.

And as I have evolved my skill set, honed my roadcraft, my attitude towards street riding has changed; and probably not for the better. How much fun could possibly be had on the public roadways anymore? It’s slow. It’s boring. It’s mundane. Routinely blah. Ugh.

You would think that slapping me on the back of the head, making me put on my gear to follow you north into the twisties, would assuage my boredom. Ha! You would think… I can’t even enjoy the “good” roads anymore, not like I used to. My motorcycle eyes have changed their focus: where once I’d seen opportunity, I now see claustrophobic ways of killing myself by sudden deceleration, if something should go wrong. If I can’t see around a corner, I can’t fully commit to it. My risk awareness is in the red, and the fear factor goes up. I am acutely aware of how vulnerable I am to ‘what ifs’ when I’m riding my bike on the street.

Long gone are the days of the Mountain Squid. The days of almost dragging tailpipe on off-camber, uphill curves in an effort to finally get that knee down. Long gone are the days of blindly diving into corners, taking the “race line” through and hanging the upper body over the double-yellow line. But a distant memory are the days of street riding having that therapeutic effect. It used to blank my brain and reset the senses. Now, I have way too much time left to think and my stressors ride pillion.

But today something was different. Today was a throwback to the “good old days.” Today, I had one of the most fun rides in a long time, on the same old boring roads. Imagine that! Could it possibly be that my brain was too preoccupied with collecting data on the various products and apps I was testing? Too preoccupied to be bothered with signaling impending narcolepsy by coma-inducing speed limits? Too preoccupied with pesky fun-killers such as deer, surface contamination, and radar guns pointed casually out of Sheriff’s cars?

No, officer. I wasn't speeding. I was qualifying.

The meaning of life? 42. Perhaps. 45? No, fookin' way!

Today PoHo data acquisition tells me one thing for certain: I had a freakin’ blast on two wheels. Sixty-four miles of unadulterated, jailhouse-worthy fun. It was balm for the soul and elixir for the senses. I feel alive. I feel giddy. I feel reset. Today, I renewed my attitude. With the correct outlook, this girl doesn’t need to be at the track to have some serious throttle therapy. Maybe it just takes a little shift of focus, seven degrees off of where it used to be.

Chased by encroaching darkness I hurried home, wishing I could play outside for just a little while longer.

~~~

It’s all the same, only the names will change
Everyday, it seems, we’re wastin’ away
Another place where the faces are so cold
I drive all night just to get back home

~ "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi

OMG!!! 193 Ponies Worth of Felonious Fun

First of all, let me say this: EEEK!!! OMG! EEEK!!! I’m in love! >

We’re on our way home. Another onramp, same Interstate. This one is mostly straight with its own lane (no merging into traffic required, unless you want to get over into another lane). I grip it and rip it… well, not really, about half, 3/4 throttle at the most. The Pirate accelerates up the ramp like her tail is on fire. The shift light is flashing like mad (I set it at 9K to let me know when it’s time to dump the clutch during race starts) but I ignore it. I wonder what I look like flying up this ramp in the dark with this ultra-bright-white rapidly flashing LED illuminating my cockpit. I can see the light reflecting off my chest in my mirror. I continue accelerating at a constant rate and just as I bounce it off the rev limiter, I grab a clutchless second gear upshift, while keeping the throttle pinned. This is the smoothest I have ever seen the QuickShift work. The QuickShift (or Gear Shift Assist), which is an option on the S1000RR) electronically cuts power and arrests the spark to unload the transmission (or some such thing) when a shift is requested by one’s left foot, without having to blip the throttle or actuate the clutch lever. I pretty much hate the thing, and blip the throttle and do my clutchless upshifts the old school way. But this time? Hot damn! I must have given the Pirate’s brain what it needed to be the precise weapon of speed it was engineered to be. Because this, well, this is freaking awesome. I barely perceive the actual changing of gears from first to second it is that smooth (which I might add, is a regular nuisance for me, and I frequently find neutral or a false neutral on the way; which reminds me: I need to adjust the angle of the lever to alleviate this embarrassing little tendency). What comes next (during, whilst?), I am so not prepared for. As I grab said upshift the front gets REALLY light, the bike lifts momentarily (I have no clue if the wheel actually leaves the ground) and then it hurls itself forward like a shot. A freaking missile launch. Luckily, I’m tucked in and am clamped down on the tank, light on the bars… or I would have probably a) fallen off the back , or b) accidentally ham-fisted the throttle by the sudden need to hang on, resulting in a major wheelie which would have looped and dumped me on my soon-to-be-in-a-world-of-pain ass. Holy Helena! That is what it’s all about. Another clutch-foot salute to the motoring public as the bike settles back on its suspension and continues to barrel down the lane. Next thing I know I see hubby’s tail light in front of me, slightly offset since he’s in the left wheel track of the same lane. And I get on the binders to haul the Pirate (naughty, naughty girl) back down to more legal speeds.

Damn! I wanna do that again! Saturday, after I get off work, I’m going to the strip to lay some drag during their “Gamblers & Grudge Match” night.

EDIT: Silly me, I would have never looped a wheelie… even in ‘Race’ mode, the Pirate will put the front end down for you after she’s had enough of your squidly shenanigans… about five seconds worth is all she’ll give ya. Still scares me to actually put that to the test, though. So I ride like I don’t even have ABS nor DTC.


Baby, One More Time… Redneck Road Racing

I really can’t help myself. It’s on a need to know basis, and I just needed to know! I had to do another Hayabusa vs. Pirate comparison. How else is a chica to appreciate the new toy and learn its personality? I was on the dam road again, and once I’ve passed Pollard’s Corner and disappeared over the crest of a left-hand sweeping turn, with no witnesses on my tail and seeing that I had the entire road to my lonesome self, the right wrist experienced a moment of squidly possession and gripped it and ripped it. Still, the DTC remained quiet and left me to my own devices as it has since I got the bike. Maybe I’m too much for a Hayabusa, but this bike is probably snickering behind my back: “That’s all you got, girly?”

I jam through the gears, but then decide to try the higher RPM range and bang down two to end up in fourth. I’m tucking in, just as the bike wants me to and go with it. Stable. Precise. Awesome. I feel like the female version of Speed Racer on a mission. I come through a few turns and a quick glance at the digital readout tells me I’m doing triplets. Good gawd! Really?!? Not only is this thing quick as hell, it’s also deceptively fast. My rational brain, which is trying to hang on to sanity and the last shred of maturity, tries to interject a message of reason into my wicked consciousness: high velocity equals jail time; but the thought is drowned out by the ferocious growl of the S1000RR’s inline-four fire-breathing heart. Fuck it! When the shift light comes on, I comply with another snick. 130s… carving through these sweepers like they’re nothing. As stable as the Hayabusa but I’m not feeling like I’m having to work to keep things under control. This is way too easy. Deceptively so. There is that word again! This bike could spell out more legal trouble for me than the ‘Busa ever did. It’s way too much fun. Hell, it almost rides itself. Or is this just my skewed perception of things, since my progression in motorcycles is somewhat backwards from the norm. Harley Sportster 1200 Low > Suzuki Hayabusa > BMW S1000RR. I’m definitely appreciating what the Pirate Bike can do and how it handles its business. It has also made me a better rider in some ways… dare I say it, but my crap weather riding is way better than it was… so are my braking skills… both of which I probably should attribute to more confidence in a skill I already possessed, but was mainly too afraid to use to its fullest; not to mention that the brakes on the Hayabusa really were shit. I can stop this puppy in roughly a third of the distance; without RaceABS intervention. What can I say? The tech is giving me a reason to let go of some of my self-doubts and execute what I’ve been practicing all along with more precision and authority. I still have no clue if the junk really works… for all I know they fleeced me for $1480 to make the pretty lights come on during startup self-diagnositics. 😉

As I round the next turn at hugely illegal speeds, I grab a handful of front brake and haul myself back down in a hurry (damn, I really do love these brakes… did I mention the thing comes with braided steel lines standard?) since I’m coming up on a hill which reduces my sight distance drastically. I’m going 50 in a 45 as I crest the hill and to my astonishment find myself staring down the business end of a radar gun stuck out of a Sheriff’s patrol car, parked in a church parking lot to my right. I smile (not that he can see it), and give him a cheery little nod, still tucked in nice and tidy from hauling Mach 3 pirate booty on a public road, as I vanish around the next curve. Holy shite! I’m glad that worked out, since I’m all out of K-Y and I fired my last traffic court attorney for scheduling issues.