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…

Suspension Tuning – Part 1: The Fat Lady’s Got Slammed

After almost one whole month I finally got around to finishing my suspension project, well, the first part thereof anyway. After inadvertently having to lower her rear by approximately one inch (at least that’s what the mech told me) by replacing the stock links with the Brock’s adjustable lowering links. Of course, I hadn’t planned on that. I had assumed that the Brock’s links at their shortest would be the equivalent of the stock length, but I had assumed wrong. Maybe a pre-purchase email would have been in order. Oh well… that kind of nixed the plans to keep the geometry as close to stock as possible, unless I could somehow offset the change by raising the fork tubes through the triple clamp more.

Let’s recap: I needed to raise the fork tubes by 4 mm to offset the undesired rake/trail increase that was caused by getting rid of 5 mm of rear preload to bring my rear sag within range. My front suspension at rest was also too low, so I needed to bring that up by about 16 mm, which is done by cranking in 16 mm of preload, which in turn is raising the bike’s front up, increasing ride height (which, in my case, is also undesired); to offset that, I needed to raise the fork tubes by 16 mm. We are now at 20 mm of tube raising and 16 mm of added front preload.

That was the plan, without the rear being lowered from stock height by the adjustable links from the start. No big deal, Mike (goldiron), my resident suspension expert and all-around hero, had implored me to lower the thing by an inch or two anyway, due to my persistent short-shit problem. I wasn’t fretting it. I figured I’ll work around that and balance it out with the appropriate adjustments. Needless to say, I hadn’t really thought that through all the way. Never had I considered the adjustability of the Hayabusa’s stock hardware, or the lack thereof. Seems to me Suzuki doesn’t want us to play around with their stuff much. Case in point: a top triple clamp upper that doesn’t have holes big enough to fit fork tubes through.

I ordered myself a convertible Pit Bull fork lift stand, to enable me to unload the Fat Lady’s front suspension, so I could slide those tubes through that newly acquired Exoticycle top triple clamp upper. It arrived in the mail shortly thereafter and two days later I was ready to finish what I’ve started a little over a month ago. You have to take the fender off to use the thing on the Gen II Hayabusa. What a pain in the ass that is. And it doesn’t seem that way at first. Three screws on either side and a little bracket that holds the brake line in place. Yaright! The screws are out. Squeeze… doesn’t fit. Shit, I’m gonna scratch the hell out of my beautiful fork tubes. Screw that. Oh, I see. The little hose bracket. I stick my skinny arm up under there, between the tire and the loose fender, and grope around blindly. Hex nut. No problem. I stick a socket (minus the ratchet) up in there and remove it. Squeeze. Shit. Now what. Oh hell! There’s another brake line clamp dead center on the top of the fender. Shit. It’s a complete circle. WTF? How am I supposed to remove that. Surely, they don’t mean for me to undo the damn banjo bolts? Jackasses. Time to consult the service manual. Suzuki’s documentation sucks! Their service manual is shit. Their owner’s manual is of equal quality. What the hell do I do with “Disconnect (b) then remove fender piece.” Disconnect how?!? Assclowns. Well, yeeeaaaaah! I look at the thing. I’m cold, my fingers are cold, the wind is blowing 30 mph and I’m not getting any happier. I don’t have patience for this kind of idiocy. Hubby goes inside (apparently he can’t take much more of my antics) but returns a few minutes later: “The peeps on Hayabusa.oRg say to just cut the damned thing off. It’s a Gen II thing, they got cheap and used plastic rivets.” Not good enough! That’s not what the manual says. As crappy as the thing is, they do tell you when you need to replace removed fasteners with new ones, because said removal process destroys said fastener. I feel around some more, frustrated. As the anger grows, so does my grip strength. I can’t squeeze the bottoms together (this is one of those fasteners akin to wall anchors, they go in easy one way, then lock into place by expanding flanges.) Aha! “Hand me the damn needle nose pliers!” I yank on the thing then stick the pliers in between the plastic ring and the fender and squeeze while yanking. I had previously tried it from underneath, with not much luck. Pop! It’s out. w00t! 45 minutes on just the fender removal. I still have to get the infernal plastics off. But I didn’t have to destroy the fastener, like it had been suggested on the .oRg.

Hubby puts the ‘Busa on her new front stand. I don’t have enough junk in my trunk to do it myself. I tried. I need a longer handle. Pit Bull makes them (“ask us about our longer handles, when you desire more leverage”, I should have, but I thought the standard handle would do, after all it’s the front not the rear of the Fat Lady. WRONG!) I’m getting a longer handle eventually. I hate not being able to do it myself. 😐

The Fat Lady's newly lowered front.

A closeup of the Fat Lady's newly lowered front.

I’m becoming quite the expert in fairing removal (if I have my brain in gear and don’t try to do the layers out of order, that is). The fairings are off (and although they are supposed to be in seven pieces, not counting the four pieces in the front wheel well, for me they don’t disengage from each other, they come off as one.) I also have to remove the ram air intake ducts to get enough clearance to the lower pinch bolts to use the torque wrench. We loosen the six pinch bolts. Two on the top triple clamp, four on the lower triple clamp. I was worried that the tubes would slide out once released, but they don’t. They are actually kind of hard to move, even with the bolts almost backed out. This is a job that can be done alone, contrary to what I expected. 20 mm is all we can safely raise the tubes in their triple clamp before we run into the no-no zone (the clamps have to stay on the smooth part, and that’s not negotiable according to the service manual.) It takes a while to get both sides exactly right. Hubby is pushing them up through, then I use the soft side of a rubber mallet to slowly pound them back down into their final position, which coincides with the line between the smooth and grooved parts of the forks. Since they don’t slide very easily this is a tad of a push-pound-push proposition. We finally get them as close as we humanly can. I used electronic calipers to check them; to my best recollection there is a difference of 0.2 mm between the right and the left side. Close enough. I think there are bigger inconsistencies in her chassis alignment out of the crate.

The right fork tube cap: Before

The right fork tube cap: Before cranking in preload

Now, to crank in preload. We need 16 mm to offset the change in ride height, and MORE importantly, to raise the bike on its suspension so it moves the travel up the shock to bring my sag within range. And this is where the fun starts. I have three lines left. To crank in preload the adjuster is turned clockwise which makes the thing disappear into the fork tube cap (for some reason I had it in my head that it would back out). 6 mm of the required 16 mm is all I can do before it bottoms. Drat!!! Oh well. Now it seems that my geometry is seriously relaxed from stock. Oh well. I have maxed out the rear. I have maxed out the front. There is nothing left to adjust. Preload at full-on in the front; preload at full-off in the rear. Fork tubes raised as far as they can safely go. I’m not happy. Shit! Well, off to go for a zip-tied test ride through the same 11-mile loop I’d done previously.

The left fork tube cap: After

The left fork tube cap after cranking in preload

I reduced my effective ground clearance from 4.7 inches (stock, but I don’t know where Suzuki measured this, I’m assuming in the middle) to 3.25 inches at its lowest point (in the rear). She’s 4.125 inches in the front and 3.5 inches in the middle. So I’ll have 3.5 inches before I bottom out and drag hard parts, namely the exhaust. I hope I can get this puppy down the driveway without wrecking my ass. I get my gear on and back her into the street. I’m a little nervous. I go slow, I expect to bottom the thing on the curb, but I don’t. So far so good. I stop briefly to push the zip-tie up against the fork seal and take off. I take it easy at first. I don’t trust the bike. I’m doubting myself. Not my calculations, but the compromises I had to make with the lack of adjustability of the hardware. I’m expecting all sorts of weird shit to happen. But it doesn’t take long to start trusting again. I can’t really feel any significant difference. WTF? The most difference I could feel on this quest for a personalized suspension setup was when I picked her up from the shop after they put the lowering links on for me and consequently dropped her ass about an inch. That was sweet as  hell. I’m a little disappointed in what little effect all that knuckle-busting for hours in the driveway had. But I’m also glad that I really couldn’t feel a difference. That means I at least didn’t screw something up and turned the Fat Lady’s kitten manners into a salivating hellcat.

There is a slight but noticeable heaviness in steering, but that is to be expected with the resulting (and undesired) relaxation in geometry. Hell with it. She’s a drag bike at heart anyway. I have land speed racing aspirations, so I can cope with that. Yeah, I’m a twisties girl at heart, but I can work it. I never experienced a ‘flickable’ bike. I’m used to manhandling massive hardware around turns. No biggie, I have forearms that won’t quit. =D  It’s only slightly worse than it was stock, barely perceptible. She does feel more planted and stable due to her lowering, and I feel more comfortable and in control at slow speeds. So overall, I gained more than I lost. Way more. The only way I can fix this is by replacing stock components, and that seems a little costly at the moment. Will the gains even be worth it? Is it something I should consider, given my newly acquired taste for rapid acceleration and top end speed? I can always get a cheap track bike to satisfy my need to dance through curves. We shall see. I don’t even know yet. I do enjoy wrestling a Hayabusa through the north GA mountains. The Fat Lady can dance, but you got to work with her, she has rhythm but she needs a firm lead. Go in early, come out late, and you better have your line right the first time. LOL Impressive for a skinny runt like me, or so I’ve been told. If anything I do enjoy making this shit look good.

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…

The Fat Lady’s Laying Low

The Fat Lady's slammed!

The Fat Lady's good side: after lowering the front.

The Fat Lady's slammed!

The Fat Lady's bad side: after lowering the front.

Found it! The Lost Groove

I’ve had the best weekend in a long time!!!! It was glorious. Sunny, calm, in the lower 60s and we were out riding. 160 miles of two-wheel therapy. I don’t know if it is the weather, or my newfound acceptance of the level of riding skill improvement I can safely do on the streets without being a complete squid. Being squidly can be fun, but being a SQUID (full-time, professional) is just not something I strive for or want to be labeled as (by the peeps whose opinion matters). Even though in certain circles I’m sure they have a betting spreadsheet on how long I’m gonna make it before I kill myself… screw ’em, they’re just jealous because they can’t ride worth a shit. They don’t know jack (nor do they know me)… but that’s off the subject here anyway… even though I’m just in the mood to go on a good liberating rant! LOL I really do think I have made peace with the realization that I have reached a milestone in my street riding and I’m fine with that. And once I’ve finally let go of the idea of having to improve something constantly, I could enjoy the ride again, for the ride’s sake. Hell, we even played in downtown rush hour traffic, and I didn’t get pissed off, even though my clutch hand started to really get tired. 😉 I think I have my head on straight again and with that a lot of stuff has been cleared out of my head, that didn’t need to be there anymore. Freed up a LOT of mental power right there, I’m relaxed again, I have time to observe, rather than execute, and with that attitude I at least can enjoy the dance with a smile, rather than working on the step pattern with the stern look of concentration. It flows again, like it should, like it has before. The Fat Lady and I are BFFs again… finally. And I noticed something else. My u-turns are a hell of a lot tighter than they have been and those evil, vile things are starting to be kind of fun, too. OMG! You know, I’ve reached a new level in my riding, you just don’t know… the venerable u-turn is Miss Busa’s Kryptonite… but I tell you what, mine are still a heck of a lot better than some I’ve seen done around the local bike nights. 😉 And yes, TaildManx, to me there IS shame in waddle walking! *giggles* I should get to level up, just for that alone. Riding feels sexy again. Hells yeah! Watch out! Miss Busa’s found her groove. I’m baaaaaaaack! Now I have time to work out the little kinks and enjoy doing it, rather than feeling like I’ve regressed in some weird way and hating it. I’m human. I’m a n00b. I’m a n00b on a freakin’ ‘Busa. I get to have kinks, damn you! =D *spoken to my perfectionist self*

P.S. And if you drag your freakin’ feet down the road under two miles per hour, I don’t wanna hear your shit, because I’ll show you how it’s done when I pass yer showing-off ass on the Riverwatch. =D Just sayin’.

Yeah. I still got it when I need it. I am so ready for the riding season to kick off.

P.P.S. I have NEVER popped a wheelie on purpose. Pinky swear. Now, why don’t people believe me?!? You’re gonna get me in trouble with hubby who vowed to take my ‘Busa key if he ever catches me doing wheelies (on purpose).

Gawd! I’m all giddy inside, still… Life, again, is good. And this geek is one happy rocket jockey.

P.P.P.S. And what is it with the “How fast have you had it?” question anyway? Why do you care how fast I’ve had it, unless you’re holding a radar gun and then you probably know the answer to that one already and I just plea the silence of the fifth. I think I’m going to start answering that one with: “42.”

“Do you know how fast you were going, ma’am?” – “42.”
“What’s the fastest you’ve ever ridden it?” – “42.”
“What’s the top speed on this monster?” – “Stock or unrestricted?” – “Err…. unrestricted, I guess.” – “42.”
“How fast WERE you going when you passed me back there?” – “142.” – “Awesome! You married?” – “42.”

Maybe I should work on this… ;P

The Gang on 520

The Gang on I520E: Miss Busa running Bandit, Lappy in the middle and Manx's Connie bringing up the rear to pick up parts that fall off the Hog. =D

To Be Coronated A Trailer Queen: The ‘Busa Hauler

Hubby’s finally got himself a vehicle he can feel like a man in. *grunt, snort, fart* No more sissy gay jokes about him cruising down the boulevard in a tree-hugging chick car. Introducing: The ‘Busa Hauler, a 2010 Toyota Tundra V8 XPSomesuchthing blah blah blah…. automatic, the dude couldn’t even do this German girl the favor of a manual 6-speed. Oh, I tried, we almost had a fist fight in the Prius on the way to the dealership over the transmission preference. 😉 No, not really, but I did call him a ‘hole and a ‘tard on several occasions.

Oh well… now he’s looking at bike trailers and tailgate ramps. Mind you, this is “strictly for getting me to track days and the drag strip”… according to him, but I know what’s coming, this is just Step One in his evil plan to go pull some sort of camper in the future…. blech!

The Fat Lady

Say what?!? Put this...

Hubby's new man toy. here?!?

Now that we got rid of the Prius, I am proud to announce that we will not be mistaken for tree huggers any longer, our family now has a humongous carbon footprint. The greenest vehicle we own is a ….wait for it…. wait for it…. 2009 Suzuki Hayabusa in A-Mode when you ride it like you stole it. Yeah, we’re environmentally conscious.

Oh, and I’m also getting him another personalized tag, this one shall read “PITCRW” =D Just so he’ll remember that the camper thing ain’t gonna happen. Hahahahaaaaa…. The Hyatt does me just fine, thank you very much. Because if I live in a trailer, it better have my name on the door adorned with a little five-pointed star, and there better be groupies in the form of young, hot Italian boys. Just sayin’. Further, I prefer to R-I-D-E to Point B!

If I hear any funny stuff from ANYbody… I’m going to knock heads. *stomps foot and crosses arms in front of her chest* As of now, The Fat Lady is still a princess. I’m sure there will be video of the first time Miss Busa tries to ride up a ramp and land one in a truck bed. Ha! YouTube fame in the making right there…

First Thoughts on Becoming an Official Fastass

The 200-MPH Club: What do you mean there are rules?!?
I’m bored at work, it’s Super Bowl Sunday, which I couldn’t care less about and I feel like something new… I’m tired of the same old stuff, I need something fresh on my brain, but it has to be information that will be useful to me at some point in the future… let’s see here… oh, yeah: Land Speed Racing. Let’s grab the rulebook and get comfy, because joining the 200-MPH Club is on my New Year’s Resolutions List. I need to know what’s involved so I can plan my strategy. Not that this is going to happen this year anyway (so much for that resolution), hubby blew all our money getting me a date with Kevin Schwantz as my birthday present this year.

Apparently there is more to joining the 200-MPH Club than finding myself a long stretch of asphalt, rip it open until I get to the required minimum forward velocity, slow my ass back down and slap a sticker on my bike. Dream on, sista! I suppose I could do that, but I want something official; I need a time slip. Then I thought I’d get the entire mile to do it in. Wrong! Your speed is measured and the time slip printed at the ¼-mile mark. Now that small, but important, detail is bound to make things interesting. Here I thought I could take my sweet-ass time to get it “up there”. Not! I see a lot of practice of full-throttle quick starts with impeccably timed upshifts and excessive rear tire usage in my future. Ugh! Not to mention trying to keep that front wheel on the ground. But oh, what fun to be able to rip through the whole sequence without having to worry about the cops bustin’ your chops at the next red light. But I never had to do it ‘as fast as I possibly could’, I just made sure I kept my front end down and was faster than everybody else, which isn’t really all that difficult to do when you’re the only 120-pound chica on a ‘Busa. The weight differential alone gives me an edge. 😉 This changes things also. A whole new level of difficulty… one which I think requires massive amounts of practice on my part. Time to work towards that goal when the rear rubber nears the end of its useful lifespan in a deserted parking lot somewhere. See if I can’t at least practice rippin’ it from a dead stop before I even go to the drag strip. I’m kind of nervous about going there, since I’ve never been and I don’t want to embarrass myself. When you’re a girl on a Hayabusa, you can bet your sweet ass that everybody and their damn dog will be watching your every move, to see if that silly girl’s got what it takes to play with the big dawgs and if she even deserves to own a ‘Busa, let alone ride one. I’m going to be prepared. Because that is how I roll. I rather lose it in a deserted parking lot without an audience other than my hubby, then at grudge racing night at the local drag strip. Do NOT want!

And here I thought going extremely fast in a straight line is boring. Well, I used to think that. I used to say that going fast in a straight line is something any idiot who can manage to get his ass out of first gear (without the bike walking out from under him) can do. The damned thing pretty much rides itself as long as you don’t want to change direction. I have, however, changed my mind on the ‘boring’ part. I’m a speed freak, I love going fast, although I enjoy the dance on curvy roads much more. It’s a different animal. I need my speed/acceleration fix. And the only way I can get that (safely and to the extreme) is in Land Speed Racing. And now that I know there’s actually a healthy amount of riding skill involved it has become a challenge. I like challenges. Where do I sign up?

Joining The Club: A Nightmare In Logistics
I have the bike that’ll do it, pretty much stock with a few tweaks. Now I need to ramp up the safety factor and get the Popo off my tail. Aside from an empty parking lot for some initial practice, I need a place to work on the whole sequence. Not the top-speed issue, but more the technique required getting there. We have a drag strip not too far from here, in Jackson, SC: The House of Hook. They’ve got something going on Thursdays. Hubby works on Thursdays, I work every other Thursday. I don’t want to go by myself, so I’ll either have to get over going alone or find somebody who’s willing to go with me. I can’t really ask Manx to take off every other Thursday just so I can feed my speedy dream of fastass grandeur, besides I’ll need the money he’s hauling in on that day. That turbo charger doesn’t buy itself… j/k =D

It seems to follow that after practice on the ¼-mile drag strip, I’ll reach a point where I’ll have to play in the actual arena, the place where my 200-mph attempt will be made. The closest facility for Speed Trials seems to be the ECTA’s (East Coast Timing Association) Maxton Mile in Maxton, NC; a 424-mile round trip for me. Yeah, this is already looking to be one hell of an expensive proposition and I haven’t even started considering the cost in tires, parts, and whatnots. * sigh * But I suppose that’s why they’re called dreams. If it would be easy, we would never experience that deep satisfaction we derive from beating a challenge and it would mean so much less. Maybe I should just do it my unofficial way, it’d be a lot cheaper (even after bribing the Popo out of the inevitable ticket) if I just show everybody my GPSr while pointing to the ‘Max Speed’ field in the corner.

The Class Of Fast
A precursory scan through the ECTA’s 2008 (the only free one I could get my hands on before having to leave for work) rulebook reveals we have three main classes motorcycles can compete in: Production, Modified, and Altered. Production sounds cheap; that’s the one I’m going to probably go with, since I’ll be spending all my money on tires and traveling. So let’s focus on that.

Upon closer inspection of the rules, my gear meets the standards set for the 175mph+ trials and The Fat Lady is pretty much good to go on all requirements, except:

  • I’ll have to run the stock foot rests. Bummer.
  • I also need to run the stock windshield, since modification of shape is not allowed in the Production class, which my Double Bubble clearly violates. Further, I’m also not entirely convinced that the Zero Gravity windscreen is actually shatter-resistant (another requirement), chances are it’s not.
  • The OEM triple tree clamp has to be put back on, too; which means I would have to run the front at stock height. They don’t mention requirements for the rear, so I do not know if those Brock’s lowering links are in violation or not. However, the rules do mention ground clearance: “OEM Specification for minimum ground clearance must be met.” I need to look into this, too.

The only other modifications required are safety related, such as safety-wiring certain parts, getting a metal chain guard and battery holder, removing the mirrors and passenger pegs, adding an ignition kill-switch lanyard, and disconnecting and taping the headlamp. No biggie, there.

I’m still confused about which CC class I would be running in, they have a 1000CC and 1350CC class listed. The Gen 2 Hayabusa has 1340CCs. I would assume that’s considered part of the 1350CC class, but the rules read ambiguous to me. “Displacement must be greater than the maximum allowable for the next lower class.” Seems that by letter of the law, I’d actually be in the 1000CC class, but that seems unreasonable to me. I need to get confirmation on that from the ECTA, since nowhere in the rules does it state a CC range within a class, which is clearly indicated by that statement. However, it would be sweet to be stuffed into the 1000CC class, since the record there is lower. LOL

I would have to hold off on that Brock’s full exhaust system since that would definitely move me into the Modified Production class, without an easy way to revert to stock; however, I could keep my stinking rearsets and my new top triple tree clamp installed and my suspension setup intact. The record to beat in the Modified Production class (M/G-1350/4) I then would find myself in is 185.490. No way, that can’t be right, can it? Set way back in ’04? The record for the M/F-1350/4 class stands at 203.438, set in June ‘09. The only difference between the two classes would be the fuel used. The G-class uses event gasoline. Well… I have to think on that some. I have more questions to ask the peeps of the ECTA to get the necessary clarification in order to make up my mind in which class to do my Record Trials in. I have all my stock parts, so prepping the bike to stay in one class over another is not a big deal, as it stands now.

The records for the two Production classes, according the ECTA website are as follows:

  • P/P-1350/4: 202.465 set by Marc DeLuca in October 2005.
  • P/P-1000/4: 190.464 set by Marc DeLuca in October 2007.

The classes are designated by a string of numbers and letters, as such: [Frame Class/Engine Class-Displacement Class/Engine Cycles], the Fat Lady’s class then would be P/P-1350/4 or P/P-1000/4, depending whether they round up or down. Soooo, in either case, Marc DeLuca is the man to beat if I also want to get my name on the books in addition to joining the 200-MPH Club, which in the 1000CC category would happen concurrently. I want to be in THAT class… would make things a lot easier. 😉 Marc, hang on to your testies, because you’re gonna (eventually) get spanked by a girl. =D I now have an outline of a plan and over a year to see it through and work out all the juicy details. I feel the need for ticket-free speed (and for being the fastest girl at the Maxton Mile * giggles *)