Monday, December 29, 2008

The Big Thaw

The Portland metro area, and the Pacific Northwest in general, is thawing out from one of the biggest and worst snow storms in decades. I had 23" of snow fall at my house in the Cascade foothills and have a pile of snow several feet high blocking a large portion of my driveway.

According to my notes, I haven't ridden my motorcyce since 12/9, the longest riding drought I've had since I bought my bike back in February of 2007. It's driving me nuts.

Now that the snow is gone, the prodigious amount of standing water and sanding gravel on the roadways is the biggest problem. It's raining to beat the band and there is no sunshine in the seven-day forecast, but I'll probably ride to work on Wednesday anyway. That will give the road crews enough time to hopefully sweep the main streets. The rain won't bother me, however.

It's been quite a storm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Too cold to ride?

The short answer, so far, is 'no'.

I've ridden in temps down to 25 degrees before without issue. There's a thin sliver of cold air that comes in through the top of my helmet's face shield and hits me right on my eyebrows, but if cold eyebrows are the only thing I have to complain about on a cold ride then I'm doing pretty good.

The weather lately, however, has been a bit more than I'm willing to risk. It's been cold to be sure -- 17 degrees when I got to work this morning -- and I'm tempted to set a new record for my coldest ride yet, but there is still a lot of patches of packed snow and ice around and we continue to have very strong east winds. The combination of random and various slick patches coupled with a brutal crosswind make it more than a matter of comfort.

It's a matter of safety. It's just not worth it to be on two wheels right now.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

How to Sleep Outside

Although it's not exactly the time of year to be thinking about rallies and bike camping, I decided to write an article covering the tips and techniques I've learned over the years about how to sleep outside. It's more than simply plopping a $20 bargain basement sleeping bag on the ground and crawling inside.

Sleeping bags and pup tents were not built for comfort, they were built for survival, for getting by. While you can't expect the experience to match a high-end king size mattress under a down comforter in your own home, there are some things you can do to make the experience a bit more comfortable. Here are some things I've learned through years of backpacking.


What you do before you hit the hay can have a big impact on how well you sleep once you do.

Go to bed (and get up in the morning) at the same time every day of the week, even on weekends. Sleep experts recommend this approach to everyone whether you're sleeping in a tent or in your own home. I've adopted this approach and find that I wake up at the same time every morning, ready for the day. Plus, the quality of my sleep is a lot more consistent. I also don't have a problem getting up to go to work on Monday mornings, either.

Wind down before bed time. Don't engage in intense activity, or even conversation, in the half hour or hour before bedtime. Don't exercise or do anything overly strenuous for at least an hour beforehand.

Don't consume caffeine after mid-day. Keep it to mornings only if you can.

Boudoir To Go

How well you sleep depends a lot on your gear and how you set up camp.

Sleeping bags are rated for the lowest outside temperature they'll keep you comfortable. Not all manufacturers are truly honest about the ratings they assing to their sleeping bags, but a good rule of thumb is to buy a bag rated 10-15 degrees colder than your intended use.

Mummy bags will keep you warmer than rectangular shapes. If you like to sleep on your side or in a curled position, move the entire bag with your body rather than move your body within the bag.

Use a smaller pillow than you're used to. It only needs to be about 12-16” long, and maybe 6” thick. I take a polar fleece jacket and stuff it into its own sleeve. Also, put the pillow under your sleeping bag, not inside it. You'll sleep warmer that way.

Uninsulated air mattresses are not very warm. Invest in an insulated model, such as the “Insulated Air Core” model from Big Agnes ( [Highly recommended] Another idea is to place a closed-cell foam pad on top of your air mattress. This adds extra comfort and insulation without adding a lot of bulk to your gear bag. Keep in mind: direct contact with the ground will steal your body heat much faster than the air will.

Don't wear sweaty socks to bed. Put on the next day's socks before crawling into your sleeping bag.

Wear a soft fleece stocking cap and pull it down over your eyes. This will keep your head warm, keep your face from feeling sticky when pressed against nylon sleeping bag material, and will keep things dark for your eyes.

Wear foam ear plugs. They keep camp critters weighing ounces from sounding like ravenous carnivores weighing hundreds of pounds. They also keep you from being disturbed by roads or any other late-night human activity.

It's not a good idea to have a campfire if you're not awake and watching it, but if you need to keep a fire going through the night, set your body's alarm by drinking a lot of water before going to bed. When you have to get up to go the bathroom, stoke the fire, drink some more water, and go back to bed.

Tents are meant to keep you dry and keep bugs from driving you crazy. They're not meant to keep you warm, so get rid of that expectation. The best they can do is block wind from making you even colder.

If you want to be woken up by the sun, place your tent in a spot that will be exposed to the sunrise. If you want to sleep in, make sure it will be in the shade until late morning. If it's particularly cold outside, early morning sunlight on the side of your tent will be welcome added warmth.

Sleep Aids

Sometimes there's nothing you can do to get a good night's sleep. When sleep is crucial but just doesn't want to happen, there are some ways to assist the process.

Avoid alcohol. Although many people feel sleepy when they drink, alcohol can actually reduce your quality of sleep. Instead, use an over-the-counter sleep aid. Many people find Tylenol Nighttime to be very effective, especially if they have any sore muscles from the day's activities. They also make a Simply Sleep formula that has the same sleep aid minus the pain reliever.

Warm decaffeinated tea is a great late night snack before going to bed. Decaf chai tea is especially effective. If you are in a campground with hot showers, take one within 30 minutes of going to bed. As your body cools down, it makes you sleepy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I miss my Aerostich

My Aerostich Darien jacket has been away getting professionally cleaned and refreshed for over a week. I miss it.

I have said before that my 'stich is my favorite piece of gear second only to my bike (2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650). It has been the single best investment I've made since getting into motorcycling, worth twice the price I paid. I love that jacket.

Friday afternoon I went for a short ride, wearing my Joe Rocket Ballistic jacket. It's tighter and isn't as comfortable or as warm as my Darien. The pockets are a pain in the neck to use and I doubt it's even waterproof. It accomplishes the job of protecting me in case of an accident, but it's not even very effective at helping prevent an accident -- there's not a single square inch of retro-reflective material on it anywhere. The fact that it's bright yellow is irrelevant considering I ride to and from work in the dark. It could be flaming pink and still wouldn't make me any more visible to the obliviots on four wheels.

I may ride less often during the winter months, but I still ride. Having my 'stich gone to the cleaners has been driving me nuts.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving ride

Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I got off work early, dashed home, packed up my bike, and rode south to my in-law's house. I took the back roads following my usual route along the eastern edge of the Willamette Valley through a series of scenic and bucolic small towns. It was a sunny but chilly ride, with fog in some places, but fortunately I had very little traffic to contend with. That's because everyone was taking I-5, the freeway a dozen miles west of my route.

My wife drove down separately in our car and got stuck in all that freeway traffic. Her journey took twice as long as normal because of it.

After the usual Thanksgiving Day dinner the next day, we headed home. Because we didn't leave until mid-afternoon, I took the freeway as well. It had been misting and I had rain drops on my face shield for the first few miles as I headed north, but fortunately had dry pavement all the way to Salem. I had already been riding in the dark for at least an hour when I pulled off the freeway on the south side of town to gas up.

I filled my tank and got back on I-5. By the time I got to Aurora and pulled over at a rest area for a bio break, the rain had returned. Traffic was fairly thick but was traveling at regular speeds. To avoid back roads, instead of leaving the freeway at Woodburn and riding home through Molalla and Estacada, I continued north to the Clackamas exit and went home through Damascus and Boring. The combination of night riding and rain on my face shield made visibility an issue. I made it home safely, however.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's a slow time of year

"I have two best friends. The front wheel and the rear wheel."

I've not been able to spend much time with my friends lately. I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark, and I've been fairly busy on the weekends. I've managed to get some brief rides in on Sundays, and have ridden to work once or twice each week (in the dark both ways), but that's about it.

I'm fortunate that I have a garage to park in at work, so that makes riding in the rain a bit more enjoyable (less un-enjoyable?). But riding in the dark has me wishing I had some retroreflective tape on the back of my helmet. Even though my bike is fairly tall and has some rather bright headlights, I wish it had more reflectivity and perhaps a brighter brake light.

I've been enjoying my Garmin Zumo 450 GPS. It's easy to use and easy to see. I mounted it on my left handlebar so it's easy to reach with my left hand. Some people mount their Zumo on the top-center of their instrument cluster, in the nook of their windscreen. That makes it easy to see but difficult to reach.

Thinking ahead

I will turn 40 next summer and thoughts of taking a celebratory trip have been crossing my mind. Where would I go? Would I go alone or take the spousal unit? Would I invite one or more friends to ride along? With the economy the way it is and feeling uncertain about my financial future -- I'm pretty responsible financially and have a stable job, but you never know -- money and cost considerations need to be taken into account. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to book an expensive trip that I can't cancel without penalty. I'd like to fly to Europe, rent a bike, and ride around for a week but that's not a cheap proposition and I don't feel that confident in my job security to plan something so expensive.

What I should do is take on more side jobs (I'm a web developer as well as an IT Manager) and just save up enough sheckels to pay cash for the trip -- and not book the trip until I have the cash in hand.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where's Dr. Seuss on such a cold, cold, rainy day?

It's raining. It's Oregon. It's November. That's what happens in Oregon in November.

It rains.

I'm not talking namby pamby pissle drizzle. I'm talking rain.

All day long.

It's the reason why GoreTex(tm) is the State Fabric. It's the reason why owning a motorcycle in Oregon is a part-time job. Spring and Fall, and Summer, too = fantastic riding. Potentially some of the best three-season riding conditions in these United States of America.

But from November through February, it sucks. Here's the current weather radar image for the area so you can see what I mean. [external link]

In the meantime, what I do while I'm stuck inside looking out the window at the gray and wet is dream of past and future rides in a state that otherwise is my favorite in the land.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ride: A chilly north wind

The goal was to visit family in Hermiston. I left work at noon and crossed the Columbia River into Washington via the I-205 bridge, then headed east on SR14. I had a moderate tail wind and traffic was light, except for some misguided people that felt it was appropriate to drive 10+ mph under the speed limit.

I gassed up in North Bonneville and continued eastbound. By the time I got to White Salmon I was hungry and the tailwind changed directions and became a headwind. I stopped at a restaurant and had a lunch of popcorn shrimp and salad.

The wind gradually blew harder from the east, the direction I was heading. The stretch from Goldendale to the junction with 395 is long, fairly boring, and has no services of any kind. It's tough to even find a place to pull over and take a leak. When I crossed back over the Columbia into Oregon, it was after 4:30 pm and the skies were already starting to darken. I ate a chicken salad at a Burger King, then rode the short remaining distance to my intended destination.

When I left the next morning to head home, there were clear blue skies and sunshine but there was a very cold north wind blowing. This was at my back as I rode south toward Heppner. I gassed up there, which took a very long time because two bubba-looking gentlemen in blue coveralls were ordering some very complex sub sandwiches (based on how difficult it was for the one clerk to assemble them). Fueled up I turned west toward Condon.

That chilly north wind was now hitting me hard and gusty from the right side, and would remain my unwelcome riding companion for the remainder of my trip home. By the time I reached Condon I was chilled, tired, and hungry. I stopped at the Twist and Shake Drive-In and consumed a large bacon cheeseburger and coffee. Sitting somewhere behind me was a young lady singing along to the country music playing on the overhead speakers, doing a fantastic job imitating Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney, reminding me how thankful I was not to have a dead dog, an unfaithful wife, or a 4x4 in disrepair.

I added another layer of clothes inside my Aerostich and an insulated helmet liner. I also put in some earphones and turned on my iPod. I mounted up and headed south to Fossil before turning east again toward Antelope.

The road between Fossil and Antelope is one of my favorite in the state of Oregon. The turns are varied, well banked, and free of potholes or bumps. I've never seen a cop through there, either, although I very rarely exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph. My rhythm wasn't quite up to snuff at the beginning of the run, but I loosened up and got into the groove within minutes. I began practicing leaning into the turn, with my knee inches above the pavement, like the pro racers do. I found I can add at least 5 mph to my turn speed that way. It's also a lot of fun and helps relieve tension and fatigue in my back and shoulders.

The wind was increasing when I turned north from Antelope to Shaniko. By the time I reached the top of the plains it was howling and fighting me with every mile. I went south to the junction with 197, then north toward Maupin. I had to stop in Maupin and take a break because the cold wind had begun to give me a sharp headache-like pain in my forehead. The valley town was protected by the wind and was warmer because of its lower elevation, so the respite was welcome.

I climbed back up away from the Deschutes River and caught 216 westbound, where I caught up with hwy 26 toward home. There was the usual line of slow traffic coming down from Government Camp.

By the time I got home my head was buzzing from the constant cold wind and I was very tired.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It was a good thing I wasn't armed

I had a real close call yesterday. So did the other guy because if I had been armed at the time he would have gone home with a pronounced limp and a severe speech impediment.

I was riding along highway 224 from Eagle Creek toward Clackamas, following a green SUV. Traffic was slow primarily because there were so many people out on the road. We entered the small town of Carver, and immediately after taking the slow right hand turn in the middle of town, Mr. SUV turned on his right-turn blinker and pulled over onto the gravel shoulder, completely off the pavement.

It was my reasonable assumption that he had either reached his destination or was merely pulling over to let me by. Keep in mind he had pulled completely off of the road and came to a brief but complete stop. I say brief, because as soon as I began to roll forward to continue down the road, he turned left right in front of me to cross the road.

I did an emergency stop and my front tire touched his left rear tire. Just enough of his fender well touched the top of my front fender to put a one inch scratch on it. I shouted a very loud obscenity while he stuck his head out his open window and shouted "Hey hey hey!" It seemed he didn't want me to hit him.

He pulled into a parking spot at the Carver tavern on the left side of the road, while I made the choice to continue on. What I wanted to do was pull in behind him and start beating him senseless while everyone watched -- it was a busy intersection and I'm sure I would have had a dozen witnesses willing to testify that the SUV made an illegal and stupid move and deserved the ass beating he received.

Mad as hell but making a strong effort to calm down and focus on riding safely, I continued on to my destination.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zoom Zoom Zumo!

I'm a Jedi navigator for the most part, able to find my way around even without a map or any prior familiarity with the area. But sometimes I get lost. I got lost last year in Missoula trying to find my motel. After an hour of riding around town, I somehow discovered I was on the wrong side of the city entirely. Just a few weeks ago I got lost following Washington state's road signs that led me to a closed road. Their signs misled me.

Anyone that knows me is aware that I'm somewhat fond of gadgets. Maybe not at the chronic "Hi, my name is Steve and I'm a gadgetaholic" stage, but I do like electronic gizmos. The solution to my getting-lost-on-the-bike situation was to install a Garmin Zumo 450 GPS.

The Zumo 450 and 550 models are specifically designed for use on motorcycles. They can be used entirely with the left hand, with buttons that are bigger than most and have plenty of space between them -- handy when you're wearing gloves. They even come with a handlebar mount in the box.

It took me about 30 minutes to install my Zumo, with most of that time snaking the power cord through the fairing, under the tank, and over to the battery underneath the seat. I gave it my first test ride to work and back today and really like it. The screen is very easy to see, the buttons are easy to use, and the directions are easy to follow. It's just easy.

I paid $403 through, with another $13 in shipping. The day it arrived, someone sent me a link to Costco's web site where they listed it for $349.99 with free shipping. Figures.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Four volcanoes in one day

The goal was to enjoy a guy's weekend at a vacation home in Long Beach, Washington. Going from A to B in a straight line is not my style, so I chose a scenic, albeit circuitous route to get there. I decided I would travel around four area volcanoes in a single day.

Departure from my home in Sandy was at 8:30 AM, as usual. My ride up and around Mt. Hood was pleasant, with blue skies and calm wind. By the time I reached Hood River my bike's fuel light was flashing. I had 215 miles on that tank and it only took 4.5 gallons to fill it up. It has a 5.8 gallon total capacity, so the flashing wasn't needed. I took a break in Starbucks with a mocha and slice of lemon pound cake. Paying my $.50 toll, I crossed the bridge to Washington and headed west on SR14 to Carson.

In Carson I headed north on Wind River Road. My destination was Randle, Washington, on highway 12. My route would take me in between Mt. St. Helens to the west and Mt. Adams to the east. The road was in rough shape and I had to really stay on the ball to avoid hitting some nasty potholes and dips. I came to a junction with Trout Lake going to the right and Randle to the left. I turned left, only to discover the road was closed. There were no signs warning me of this. Frustrated, I took a break and consulted my map for options.

The road I was on was so small it wasn't even on my map. I didn't have a GPS on my bike, either, so there was no other option but to backtrack. I eventually made it back to a junction to Cougar, Washington. Cougar was west of my location and I knew I could get to I-5 and continue my journey, so I took that junction. Just a few miles farther was the correct turn off to Randle. I became very frustrated with the terrible maps and lack of valuable information on the road signs and vowed to get a GPS for my bike. I turned north to Randle.

Once at Randle I turned left and headed westbound on highway 12. By this time it was mid-afternoon and I was hungry. I also needed fuel. I gassed up at a Chevron near I-5, then got on the freeway. Just a few miles later I took the first exit to Chehalis and stopped at a Subway for a club sandwich and a bottle of water. By this time it was 3:00 PM and I needed to make some time.

At the next exit I took state highway 6 westward toward the coast. This section of highway was cluttered with very slow drivers but I had ample opportunities to pass. By the time I hit the junction with coastal highway 101 the sky was clouded over but the pavement remained dry.

I pulled into the vacation house a little after 5:00 PM, with my buddy Mike standing in the driveway talking to his wife on his cell phone.

Unfortunately, none of the other guys showed up so it was just Mike and I. We had dinner and drinks and laughed a lot, watching movies as well. Something I ate didn't agree with me, however, and the resultant food poisoning really took a lot out of me.

It misted overnight so our bikes were wet by morning, but the air was warm and the pavement was already drying. I spent most of the morning drinking a lot of water and just laying low. We watched several episodes of "Long Way Round" with Ewan Magregor and Charley Boorman and had a light breakfast.

By 1:00 PM I had decided to make my way home, taking a more direct route instead of the scenic route I had originally intended. I crossed back over the Columbia River into Astoria where I stopped for a quick lunch and fuel-up. The traffic was thick as I made my way back home on highway 30, to cross back over to Longview, Washington where I caught I-5 southbound. The high speed limit from Longview to Oregon allowed me to make good time. I eventually got home at 4:50 PM. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and regaining my strength.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bike camping trip: Bonney Crossing

In the style of adventure riders, I went on my first bike camping trip this Labor Day weekend. It was just a single overnight trip to a dry campground on the east side of Mt. Hood, but it was my first off the bike. I've gone backpacking countless times in my life, carrying everything I needed on my back. The only difference here is I carried it on my bike instead.

I chose the campground for three reasons. I know where it is and how to get to it, it has a year-round creek running through it, and it was unlikely to be crowded on the holiday weekend. On this particular trip, I intended to videotape the experience, using both my Canon GL2 camera and an Oregon Scientific chip-based 'action cam'. It worked great and I captured several segments of the trip, but I left the fastening strap for the action cam wrapped around it and ended up covering its internal microphone. I had great footage but no sound on all but one of my segments.

So the video effort will have to wait until another time.

It would be just a single night and I was taking minimal food so no cooking equipment was necessary. I was able to get everything into my bike's Givi V46 top case and E21 side cases plus a small waterproof duffel strapped to the seat. If I had taken my E41 side cases I wouldn't have needed the duffel.

My gear included a Eureka Backcountry single person tent. It's 3' wide, 8' long, and 3' tall at the peak. It sets up easily, has reasonable coverage for straight-down precipitation with its rain fly, and I can sit up in it when inside. I also took an insulated air mattress from Big Agness. It's 27" wide and 72" long and when inflated keeps me a cosey and comfortable insulated 3" above the ground. I found it to be very comfortable, and it makes Thermarest pads feel like you're sleeping on a Kleenex. My Mountain Gear polarguard 3D sleeping bag is so small and light it compresses into a package the size of a volleyball, but by the middle of the night the outside temp dropped low enough that I found the sleeping bag's insulative powers were inadequate. I estimate the temp dropped to the mid 30's.

I refer to the campground as Bonney Crossing, although there's indication on the maps and area signs that the actual Bonney Crossing campground is farther down the road. Regardless, this spot has actual picnic tables and at one point had a pit toilet, so it probably has a name of some kind. It is located off of Threemile Road, due north of Rock Creek Reservoir, on the eastern foothills of Mt. Hood. The road there is paved except for the last mile, which is rough and rocky dirt road. My V-Strom handled it fine. I know of a guy that traveled the road on his cruiser, but I'm not sure how he did it. A passenger car would have a difficult time of it, especially if there was rain.

I made it to camp around 5:00 PM, just an hour and a half ride from my home in Sandy. There was one other campsite occupied about 100 yards away, a young couple with four young and rambunctious boys. Although we never introduced ourselves, they seemed like nice people. I was worried the campground would be full of rowdy rednecks wanting to party all night. If that had been the case I would have turned around and found another location.

It didn't take me long to get my tent set up, my pad inflated (manually; I still need to find a nozzle that lets me use the 12v air compressor I store in my tank bag), and my sleeping bag rolled out. Soon I was dining on cold orange chinese chicken, rice, and wontons. Without having to cook, the dinner selection was pretty good. I washed it down with some 7-Up and The Macallan. My entertainment until sunset was a book written in the late 70's by a wildlife biologist helping to find locations for parks in Alaska.

The trip over had been uneventful other than some strong winds. The wind continued to blow until well after sunset. The temperature began to drop with the sun, and by 8:30 PM I was in my sleeping bag waiting for sleep to arrive. I never sleep very good the first night in the woods, so my expectations for deep slumber were low.

At about 2:00 AM I got up to relieve myself. The wind was absent and the stars were out in massive numbers, visible upward between the pines and oak. It was noticeably colder, however, and despite wearing insulated underwear, wool socks, and a sweater, I never quite warmed up inside my inadequate sleeping bag.

The rising sun was just beginning to hit my tent broadside when I arose at 6:45 AM. I bundled up and emerged, doing some mild calisthenics to get my blood flowing and my body temperature up. I chugged an orange juice and began breaking camp. The family camped nearby was beginning to stir just as I started my bike and headed out.

I backtracked east to the tiny community of Wamic in search of breakfast. My initial idea was to grab a snack and a coffee at the small general store and ride straight home, but the store was closed. I settled for the somewhat skanky Pub and Grub restaurant. It was 8:00 AM on a Sunday morning and I was the only customer there. That should tell you something. My meal of eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast (plus coffee, oh yeah, coffee) wasn't half bad, however, nor was the service. It was good to warm up both on the outside and on the inside. Other customers began to arrive by the time I was donning my helmet to head west toward home.

Heading back the way I came on FS48, I could see a bank of clouds hovering over the Cascades. It wasn't long before the sun disappeared and I was under cloud cover. The air was chilly and the breeze was up, misty rain began to fall by the time I reached highway 35. When I crested the pass at Government Camp, it was 33 degrees and raining heavily. My hands were cold and I had a shiver despite being bundled up in my riding gear. I pressed on.

The clouds never went away but the rain let up as I descended the foothills and got back to Sandy. I passed numerous cops that were patrolling the stretch of highway 26 between Mt. Hood and Sandy quite heavily as they had been for the past several weeks. When I got home, I had been gone a mere 18 hours, but had learned a few things for the next time I intend to camp off of my bike. I'll take more sleeping bag than I think I need. When I go on longer trips I can camp every other night and stay in motels in between to save money. I don't need to take any cooking tools if I don't want to, and I shouldn't expect to get much sleep when in the woods.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fantastic ride to Detroit

I've been taking Fridays off because I've built up too much comp time at work, so last week I got some chores done around the house, then got on my V-Strom and headed south to Detroit over Forest Service road 46. The weather was fantastic, in the low 70's. I made it to Detroit, grabbed a snack, and headed back the way I came.

When I came to a sign for FS42 that connected with highway 26, I took it. The road is single lane most of the way. It's in great shape and felt like I was riding through a park, having it all to myself. The road meets the junction with Timothy Lake; I veered east and linked up with highway 26. I checked out the campground at Clear Lake, then got back on 26 up and over the mountain.

The annual Hood to Coast relay was underway so the ride from Government Camp back to Sandy was slow. There were cops everwhere! Runners were jogging along the right side of the road so I took it slow and made it home safely, with a big smile on my face.

[caption id="attachment_257" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A happy rider"]A happy rider[/caption]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heat, away with thee!

It's been too hot to ride. I'd rather ride in the rain than in the heat. When the thermometer gets above 80 degrees F I tend to park my bike and take the air conditioned car to work.

Lately we've been experiencing triple-digit temps in Oregon, so I've been indoors as much as possible. I rode through Redding, California last year in 100 degree heat and just about lost my mind. I'm an ATGATT kind of guy (all the gear, all the time) so cruising around in short sleeves and flip-flips is simply not an option.

I'm just thankful I didn't have a big trip planned for the middle of August. If I had been stuck riding in this kind of heat I would have been forced to shift my schedule dramatically earlier in the day -- leave pre-dawn and get to my destination before noon. That's tough when most motels won't let you check in until 4:00 PM.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harley riders and Everyone Else

There is a dichotomy in motorcycling today. There are people that ride motorcycles and there are Harley-Davidson riders. Harley riders don't just ride motorcycles, they ride Harleys. There are numerous stereotypes about Harley riders, and stereotypes being what they are, they generally hold true for the most part with some obvious exceptions.

For example, most Harley riders wear black leather and wouldn't be caught dead wearing non-black textile gear. They can often be found wearing black 'clam-shell' half helmets rather than the more brightly painted full-face helmets favored by sport bike and dual-sport riders.

They often wear black t-shirts with their favorite company's logo emblazoned across the back. They often wear black leather chaps instead of armored full pants (and certainly not textile!) Their bikes have more chrome than a pigeon could shit on in its entire life and they are all cruisers; there's not a sport tourer or crotch rocket in the entire Harley rider's line-up.

Harley riders refer to their involvement in motorcycling as a 'lifestyle'. They don't ride motorcycles, it's who they are. That's all well and good, and that attitude can be found in many aspects of life. Harley riders also have a creed, "Live free" and that's where the dichotomy comes into play.

A more correct version should be "Live free ... like the rest of us." Harley riders are homogenous if they are anything. They're cut from a more similar cloth than just about any other recreational group I can imagine. Again, that's all well and good.

But I've noticed something as I've ridden around the Pacific Northwest over the past two years. Motorcyclists wave to each other as they pass, regardless of what they look like, what they're wearing, or what bike they're riding. I've noticed something consistent, though. If a motorcyclist fails to wave at me, or scowls at me, or exhibits any kind of non-friendly behavior, they're on a Harley 100% of the time.

There have been many times when I have entered a cafe or restaurant on my travels, and upon entering get invited to join the group when other motorcyclists are already there. But that only happens with non-Harley riders.

I'd be willing to bet that if I met each Harley rider one-on-one, they'd be nice people across the board. But in a group, their personalities seem to change. "If you're not one of Us, you're against Us." Or something like that.

I'm not sure where this attitude comes from or why. There are certainly numerous Harley riders that would be very offended by my observations, "What? No, you've got us all wrong! We're nice people!" The fact remains that the only motorcyclists who've been rude or stand-offish to me have been riding Harley-Davidson. It's not for lack of trying on my part, either. I wave at them and smile despite their scowls.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


When I checked in the night before, the lady at the front desk mentioned they have a complimentary breakfast for their guests up on the fourth floor. I awoke a little before six and got dressed, ready to eat. I called the front desk and asked when breakfast would be served. "Our breakfast is served from 7:30 to 10:00 AM each morning."

There was no way I was hanging around for an hour and a half for a free breakfast.

I loaded up my gear, got on my bike, and pulled out of the motel and headed back toward home. The only restaurant open in town was a McDonalds, so I wolfed that down and headed out.

The ride south on 97 was cool and very few cars were out and about. I headed up Blewett Pass, the scene of my unfortunate speeding ticket the year prior (going 70 in a 60 zone; I was actually only going 63 mph), and noticed the same Washington State Trooper parked in his stealthy little side road clocking people as they passed by. I waved. He waved back. I wondered if he remembered me.

My bike didn't come to a rest until I stopped at the Chevron in Goldendale to fill up my gas tank and scarf down a Reses and frappucino. The wind was blowing from the west, hard. It was the strongest crosswind I've ever ridden through and it was a challenge to keep my nerve.

Descending down the hill to the Columbia River, I hit SR14 westbound toward Dallesport. What was a strong crosswind now became a wicked headwind. The bridge across the Columbia back into The Dalles and my home state of Oregon was only 17 miles away so the wind wrestling endeavor was short-lived.

Once I pulled south away from The Dalles on highway 197 the wind died down considerably. The skies were becoming overcast, which I didn't mind after the heated ride the day prior. At Dufur I headed west again, this time up a narrow back road that connected with highway 35 just north of Mt. Hood Meadows.

By the time I reached Government Camp there was a mist on my face shield. I rode through an intense but very brief (15 seconds, tops) rain shower at Zigzag. Traffic was mercifully light considering it was a summer Sunday. Normally the string of cagers between the mountain and Sandy was without end and without any real hurry, either. I saw two more state troopers, either clocking people as they passed by or in the process of pulling someone over.

I reached my home at 12:15 PM, after having traveled 284 miles from Leavenworth, Washington with only a single 10 minute gas and food stop. The total trip was a hair over 2,100 miles in six days.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Into Washington, into Bavaria (sort of)

I slept pretty good, despite the noise of a popular wine bar downstairs and the traffic outside my second-floor suite. Sand Creek Inn provides complimentary ear plugs for their guests plus instructions covering how to use the decorative pillows in the windows to deaden the sound. It's nice that they were so thoughtful, but it's no different than a restaurant giving its diners free shots of Kaopectate(tm).

My body must have still been on Mountain time because I was awake at 5:10 AM. I showered, then went next door to the first Starbucks I had seen on the entire trip for a mocha and a slice of lemon pound cake. The counter girl told me they don't sell their breakfast sandwiches there "because we're too remote". Whatever that means.

There was a gift bag on my doorstep with a can of grape juice, a packaged blueberry muffin, and an orange when I got back to my suite.

My ride west to Leavenworth, Washington was one of the most frustrating and irritating I've ever had. At least the second part, anyway. Riding west from Sandpoint to Newport and north to Tiger is rather boring. The stretch from Tiger west to Republic is pleasant but slightly bland compared to some of the amazing roads I've ridden in my short motorcycling career. At the quaint town of Republic I headed south. It was getting warm so I pulled into the Ten Mile campground to change into my warm weather gear.

There was a 1979 Suzuki GS850 parked in the campground and a shirtless guy sitting Budha-fashion nearby, writing in a notebook. As I was stripped off my cold weather gear, he came over to chat. His name was Terry and he was a professional creative writer from Kamloops. This guy was a total kick in the pants and we talked and joked and laughed for nearly an hour. We took each other's picture and swapped email addresses, but it was time I got going so we said our goodbyes and I rode south.

By the time I got to the Grand Coulee Dam, the temperature was in the lower 90's. All my friends know I'd rather ride in the rain rather than the heat any day of the week and by this point I was getting rather irritable. I took some pics of the very large dam over the Columbia River, topped off my fuel tank, then rode up to the view point on the bluff above the valley and had a snack.

My next direction was westbound, this time over Washington SR174. The landscape was very unusual; it was rolling grassland with not a tree in sight, with large volcanic rocks sticking up out of the ground like randomly placed standing stones. The effect was rather unusual, almost alien.

I reached Bridgeport and took Hwy 97 southbound. Unfortunately I took Alt Hwy 97 into Chelan instead of the main route and had to suffer riding at 25 mph through the town of Chelan proper. There were lots of people cooling off on Lake Chelan, with me riding by in jealous sweat inside my riding gear.

I reached my motel in Leavenworth to slightly milder temperatures and one busy vacation town. As I was getting off my bike four guys pulled in on their Harley's. One came over to talk with me, asking me various questions about my bike. His buddies came over and were listening in. I asked him which bike was his. He pointed, saying, "That's my 'Super Glide' right there."

I said, "I didn't know Oldsmobile made motorcycles."

His buddies started laughing as he whipped around and looked me right in the eye. I had the biggest, ear-splitting grin I could muster, hoping I wasn't about to get my ass kicked by a middle-aged man in a pirate costume. He smiled, then said, "That's a new one I haven't heard before. Good one!" He shook my hand and wished me happy riding, then followed his laughing buddies into the motel.

When I asked the front desk lady about my laundry options, she told me the only place in the entire town that had laundry services available was another motel on the other side of town. I was very upset about this, because everything I had was dirty, but what could I do? I got my room and took a shower, hoping to find some way to clean a set of clothes enough to wear.

I found an iron and used the steam spray to wet a semi-clean t-shirt, then ironed it to dry it out. The effect was better than I expected. So, with reasonably clean self and clothing, I ventured out to find some dinner.

As per the recommendation of "Tall Nicki" back in Kalispell (who apparently grew up in Leavenworth) I gave Andreas Keller a try. Their 'authentic' German cuisine was reasonable but not as good as Gustav's back home. The Spaten Optimator tasted pretty good, however. I felt like a dork, though, because the manager sat me at a table that could easily have seated 8 people. I just told myself I was invisible and ate my meal in peace. After picking up a small gift for my wife I headed back to my room for the evening.

One note ... Even more than Sandpoint, Leavenworth had more beautiful women walking around than any place I've ever been, including Disneyland (and anyone that's been there knows what I'm talking about). It was very distracting yet interesting at the same time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The busiest small town in America

If I had wanted to ride into or through a town as busy as Sandpoint, Idaho, I would have visited New York City during Friday afternoon rush hour.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Leaving Kalispell, the road north to Whitefish and Eureka, Montana was chilly but pleasant. At one point it felt as if the temperature got down to the mid 40's. It definitely felt like I was in a northern part of the country. I never saw any animals other than a dead cow elk that was killed such a short time before my arrival that I could still smell blood as I rode around it.

By the time I reached Eureka I was ready for a warm up. Cafe Jax served nicely. It was blue skies and sunshine and the nip in the air was departing quickly.

Just north of town I veered west and south on MT 37 and followed the east bank of Lake Kookanusa (a combination of Kootenai, Canada, and USA). I practically had the road all to myself. The scenery reminded me of the Cascade Locks section of the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington, but much longer.

In Libby I gassed up, then took MT 567 north again as I zig zagged my way westward toward Idaho. This road, to a tiny community called Yaak, was rough and narrow, one notch above gravel. I saw several signs warning of grizzlies but never saw any.

I stopped on a wide patch on the side of the road and changed into my warm weather gear, giving a loud shout every few minutes in case of bruin presence. The beasts never showed up. This road reminded me a lot of the forest service road 46 from Ripplebrook to Detroit back home in Oregon, except a bit rougher, longer, and more remote. I seldom exceeded 25 mph.

When I got to Yaak, the road opened back up to 70 mph speeds. I still had the sense that there simply aren't very many people in Montana.

I eventually crossed back into Idaho, and it wasn't even noon despite my circuitous route.

Sandpoint has got to be the busiest town of 6,000 people in the country. Just finding my hotel was a serious challenge, dodging lines of cars without end. I eventually found it but I was nearly two hours early with no possibility of early check-in. I parked my bike in front of a restaurant next door and checked out the situation. By the time I got back to my bike a guy on a BMW R1200 was parked next to it. We chatted briefly and decided to share a table over lunch.

His name was Paul and he ran the production crew of a TV station in Boise. Lunch itself was merely adequate but Paul and I had a good conversation. He rode north, hoping to score a motel room in Nelson, B.C. I still had 45 minutes to kill before I could check into my room so I rode to the very crowded lakeside beach park nearby (Lake Pend Oreille). I barely managed to find a quasi-legal sliver of a parking spot in the shade.

I stripped off my jacket and helmet, then sat on the ground against a decorate boulder on the edge of the grass and passed the time watching people come and go to the swimming area nearby.

At 3:00 PM I remounted and made my way back to the hotel. It was on the second floor above a restaurant on the very busy main street in downtown Sandpoint. There is a single door leading upstairs, otherwise devoid of any marking indicating its presence. I got my key from the maintenance lady and parked my bike behind the iron fence at the entrance to the downstairs restaurant's outside dining area. It looked like my bike was in jail! At least it was secure.

My suite was massive. It had two large rooms and a large bathroom. My room looked down onto the busy intersection outside.

I had noticed something about Sandpoint; there seemed to be a pretty girl walking down the sidewalk at a rate of 10 per minute. Amazing.

My dirty clothes were starting to mount up so I needed to find laundry arrangements soon. The motel at my stay the next night in Leavenworth, Washington told me there was a laundromat within walking distance of my motel.

I ate dinner downstairs at the Sand Creek Grill. My room came with a complimentary glass of wine so that's where the evening started. I then moved to a table on the outside deck overlooking the lake shore. I was the first customer of the evening and I had five very cute waitresses taking care of my every need. I felt like I was somebody important!

My second glass of wine was from Fort Walla Walla Cellars, a merlot, and to date was the most delicious wine I've ever experienced. Instead of ordering dinner, I selected two different appetizers for variety's sake. Grilled spiced shrimp with an arugula and pear salad, followed by 'Paradise' sushi rolls. It was by far the best meal of the entire trip and one of my more memorable meals of all time.

Having such a great time and wishing my wife was there to share it with me, I began to feel homesick. I called the motel in Aberdeen two nights ahead and cancelled my reservation; I'd ride straight home from Leavenworth, getting home a day early.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Into the Park

Thursday was my 'loop day' into Glacier National Park. I took my side cases off, packed my warm weather gear in case it was needed, and headed toward the park. The sky was overcast but the pavement was dry when I entered the park and paid my $12 entrance fee. I took a picture from the edge of the lake but the clouds were low enough that you couldn't really see the mountains very well.

Because the cloud deck was low enough, I didn't get any close up view of the mountains until I was a couple of miles into the park. Then, suddenly, I caught a glimpse of the mountainside. I let out a few expletive words and pulled over at the first wide spot I could find. The view was only a sliver of what was to come (I later learned that I was only seeing the bottom half of the mountain).

Soon the road switched back, got narrow, and began to climb the hillside. That's also where the construction began. I had to stop for close to ten minutes while waiting for the go-ahead to move forward. I never got out of first gear and often had to come to a complete stop as our line of cars crawled forward. The hillside gets steep, often vertical, and the road gets even narrower.

I was not able to stop very often to take pictures, and being on a motorcycle I had a difficult time trying to get glimpses of the view. But the sights I did catch were taking my breath away. The scale of the park is extraordinary and simply cannot be conveyed in pictures. The road I entered the park upon looked like a thin gray line far below me on the valley floor. The clouds danced around the mountain tops, revealing and concealing them from one minute to the next. The effect was ominous and made the experience more dramatic.

By the time I reached the summit of Logan Pass, the Continental Divide at 6,449 feet, I found myself in a dual state of awe and reverence. Mother Nature gives us hints of what she has in store in the scenic places we're familiar with, but they are mere refined fractions of what She has in store. Glacier National Park is a personal audience with the Goddess at her kitchen table. It is raw and powerful and inspiring and little bit frightening. You know that Mother Nature is fickle and can change her mind in the blink of an eye. Being there was a privilege and a gift.

I took a picture of the view looking down the eastern slope of the Continental Divide, then rode on. The road up the western slope is slow, a crawl. The road down the eastern slope opens up and is much faster. The views are still just as inspiring. I stopped at a lake and took another picture, trying to dodge the tourists that kept getting into the shot.

By the time I reached St. Mary, the temperature felt like it was in the 40s and the clouds had descended almost to the deck. The speed limit cranked back up to 70 mph and the turns began to sweep fast and delicious. Without my side bags, I was able to really get sideways and fast. That stretch from St. Mary south on highway 89 to Kiowa was the funnest run of curves of the entire trip.

In Kiowa, I took a narrower side road back toward East Glacier. The road was narrow and bumpy so my speed was greatly reduced. There were numerous groves of aspen on both sides of the road, gray bark and gnarly branches. The road curved into a clearing and I was able to catch a view of the surrounding area. It looked like something you'd see in Alaska, not the lower 48 states, and I kept expecting to see grizzlies and elk on every turn.

Once reaching East Glacier, I got onto Highway 12 heading west bound. The speeds went back up to 70 mph posted limit and I took advantage of it to make good time back to Kalispell. I stopped off at the West Glacier visitors village and bought a souvenir t-shirt for my wife, then headed back to my hotel.

During that evening's meal at the NW Bay Grille, I met a couple from Arizona named John and Joan. They moved to Kalispell seven years earlier. I was curious why people in Montana drove fast on the highways but drove the speed limit, or slower, in town. Apparently Montana law enforcement on the back roads is lax but overly aggressive in the cities. That's a good thing to know, because I'm used to riding 5-8 mph over the limit in town. I adjusted my speeds accordingly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ride over Lolo Pass to Kalispell, Montana

Breakfast was compliments of the motel. Standard continental fare -- all carbs and no protein. It had sprinkled slightly during the night so when the sun came up the next morning a fog formed. Heading out of town, the cool air, fog on the ground, and the sun shining in from the horizon made it a magical experience.

The ride up highway 12 to Lolo Pass was uneventful. It's ridiculous that it has a 50 mph speed limit, which jacks up to 70 mph as soon as you cross over into Montana. For some reason the '77 Miles Curves Ahead' sign near Lowell was missing. I stopped at the visitor center at Lolo Pass and took a bio break and snapped the first photo of the trip.

[caption id="attachment_208" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Steve and his ride at Lolo Pass"]Steve and his ride at Lolo Pass[/caption]

Lunch was at a Subway in Missoula, plus a change into warm weather gear. The 100 odd miles from Missoula north to Kalispell was rather boring and uninteresting. I found my motel, the Kalispell Grand Hotel, right downtown on 1st and Main. It's an old west style hotel and was probably built 100 years ago. The desk staff were very friendly and although my room was rather small it was quaint and comfortable.

Dinner was at the NW Bay Grille a block away. It tasted good and the service wasn't bad but I ate something that didn't agree with me later on.

Ride from John Day, OR to Grangeville, Idaho

Day two would take me from John Day, Oregon over the Snake River into Idaho, with an overnight stay in Grangeville. I got up at 6:00 AM and had a breakfast of huckleberry pancakes, bacon, and eggs with juice and coffee at The Outpost next door. The food and service were much better than dinner in the lounge the night before.

I rode to Prairie City just down the road and gassed up at the Chevron under cloudy and threatening skies. As I climbed the hill just outside of town sprinkles began to appear on my face shield. The precipitation gradually increased as I rode through the rolling curves and hills on my way to Baker City. They were chip sealing the road near Sumpter but the construction delay was minimal. Since gas would be in short supply until I got into Idaho, I topped off my gas tank and ate a snack in Baker.

When I got on highway 86 from Baker City to Hells Canyon, I noticed something unusual. There was a light rain and instead of smelling like wet high desert, the air smelled more like the tidal flats you'd fine on a coastal bay. I never did find out why.

When I got to Hells Canyon, I turned north and crossed the Snake River at Brownlee Dam. As I climbed my way above the river the rain really started coming down. The curves require very slow speeds, and combining that with the downpour, I got fairly wet. The inside of my left boot was feeling very squishy, which was odd because my boots are supposedly waterproof. I figured water had run down inside the side zipper of my pants and entered the boot from the top.

I stopped at Woodhead Park and parked my bike under the relative shelter of a spruce tree hanging over the parking lot. I huddled under a picnic structure and ate my snack (of Reses and frappucino) while trying to warm up. My left boot was definitely wet inside but the wonder of wool socks is they remain insulative even when wet.

By the time I crawled back onto my bike to continue the ride, the rain stopped. Just like my trip in August of the previous year, there were very large black bugs crawling from the right to the left side of the road about half way between Brownlee and Cambridge, Idaho. They looked like very large crickets and were crossing the road en masse.

The sun was shining when I rolled into Cambridge, ready for lunch. There was a red V-Strom parked in front of the cafe so I parked next to it and went inside. In the booth closest to the front door was a gray haired gentleman, obviously the red Strom's pilot, motioning me to join him. His name was Georgian (I never did get the spelling) and he was a retired engineer from Victoria, B.C. He was on his way back from a solo trip to Yellowstone. We had a great conversation, confirming yet again that I've yet to meet a Canadian I didn't like.

The rest of the ride from Cambridge north to Grangeville was uneventful.

I stayed at the Super 8 in Grangeville and was immediately impressed by how helpful and professional the staff was. I was given preferential parking under the front entrance cover and was even offered a towel to wipe down my bike. My room was spacious and clean.

Dinner was at Ernie's Steakhouse two blocks away as per the suggestion of the gal at the front desk. Ernie is apparently a local rancher who serves his own beef in his restaurant. The Red Diamond merlot was excellent and the rib eye was great as well. I also experienced a continuation of a pattern I've noticed in small towns. The hostess that seated me could very easily be showing up in the middle pages of next month's issue of your favorite men's magazine. Absolutely gorgeous.

For those motorcyclists looking to travel over Lolo Pass from Idaho into Montana, I highly suggest staying at the Super 8 in Grangeville. Not all Super 8's are created equal, and this particular motel exceeds the standards I've found in several Best Western's, presumably a higher-end chain.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day One: Home to John Day, Oregon

Departure was on a Monday. 8 am, I pulled out of my home under sunny skies and 55 degrees. Perfect riding weather as far as I was concerned. The destination of the first day would be John Day, Oregon. I made it as far as Maupin on the Deschutes River before it got hot enough to change into my warm weather gear. I grabbed a snack (Reses peanut butter cups and a vanilla frappucino -- Food of the Riding Gods) and continued on my way.

I got to Fossil at 11:00 AM and had lunch at the Big Timber Cafe. As I was getting on my bike to leave, a guy in a Ford Focus pulled up and asked me several questions about my bike. He had a Suzuki SV650 and was thinking about switching to the V-Strom. He seemed really short to me so I asked him how tall he was. He said he was 5' 3". I mentioned that even with lower modifications, the V-Strom would probably be too tall of a bike for him, but it was worth checking out.

Not 5 seconds after he pulled away, a guy on a DL1000 pulled in and parked next to me. His name was John and he was from Ephrata, Washington. We chatted for probably 15 minutes about our bikes and trips and so forth, then he asked where I was headed. I mentioned one leg of my trip would be near his home town. He was very helpful in pointing out how thick traffic would be on one leg and suggested an alternate route. We said our goodbyes and he went inside for lunch while I rolled on toward John Day.

The heat continued to rise as well as the humidity. I had to stop several times to drink water -- and pour some on my t-shirt under my Aerostich -- in an attempt to cool off. I got into John Day at 2:00 PM and checked into my motel. At the Best Western, they gave me the same room I had on my previous trip through John Day back in May. Fortunately this time it didn't smell like a tavern like it did earlier.

Dinner was in the lounge of The Outpost next door. The same gal was working that night. The service could be classified as 'indifferent'. The pizza was undercooked as well. Breakfast in the main restaurant the next morning was great, however.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Review: HJC Sy-Max II modular helmet

Up to this point in my riding career, I've been wearing an HJC CL-MAX modular helmet. I paid $199 for it at Gresham Honda in Gresham, Oregon and have been very happy with it. It's been comfortable and has performed adequately. It has some room for improvement, however, as can be expected in a budget helmet.

The air flow with the vents open is minimal, and when closed the vents rattle. The face shield doesn't form a tight seal against the gasket surrounding the helmet itself and during top-down rain showers water can run down inside the face shield. The liner isn't removable, either.

When HJC came out with the Sy-Max II, the CL-MAX's more full-featured big brother,HJC Sy-Max II modular helmet I was excited after reading numerous glowing reviews. I finally found one with a great price, $209 at, and placed my order. It arrived two days later (shipped from Medford, Oregon).

The Sy-Max II has a moisture-wicking liner that's removable and washable. It's also much softer to the touch than the CL-MAX. I bought the same size Sy-Max II as I wear in the CL-MAX without having tried it on first (the dealerships in my area can't keep the darn things in stock, they sell so fast!). It's a bit tighter around my cheeks and seems to ride higher on my head, but it fits as expected. I haven't figured out yet what my exact head shape is, but I suspect it's oval. The HJC line seems to fit me well, with only one slight pressure point on the crown of my head, immediately above my forehead. It's possible the padding in my CL-MAX has collapsed slightly making it feel more loose than the brand new Sy-Max II.

I wore it for the first time on my ride to work this morning. My first impression was that the amount of air flow is substantially greater than the CL-MAX. I especially notice it flowing from the top down over my ears, which is surprising but pleasant nonetheless. It's as quiet, if not slightly quieter, than the CL-MAX. I wear foam ear plugs every time I ride so that impression is rather subjective and helmet noise is not much of a factor for me as a result.

The overall fit is comfortable but that opinion may change once I've worn it for several hours in a stretch on one of my longer trips. 20 minutes into the office isn't much of a test as far as fit is concerned. So far I haven't noticed any hot spots.

I also noticed the face shield forms a tight seal against the gasket surrounding the face hole. I can assume it will perform very well when riding in the rain. The chin latch that opens up the modular portion of the helmet is large and easy to operate. The chin bar doesn't stick up as much above the helmet when in the open position and has a very solid feel to it. It feels more substantial and solidly built than the CL-MAX.

The final feature I especially like is the drop-down integrated sun-screen. A slider across the ridge of the top of the helmet drops it into one of three positions. A single button at one end of the slider releases it, allowing it to snap back into the up and unused position. You basically tap the top of the helmet with your finger and snap! Back it goes, out of your way. I'll have to see how it performs when riding into the sunset.

Considering the price I paid and the features offered, my impression is this helmet provides an outstanding value. Time will tell how it holds up and performs under more diverse and longer riding conditions, but it's definitely looking promising so far. More to come.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Review: Fieldsheer Mercury textile pants

My current primary riding pants are Fieldsheer Booster. They are black, waterproof, and have a zip-in liner for colder days. I've worn them in the pouring rain and in temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, in comfort. They have armor in the knees but nothing more than some thin padding in the hips and the small of my back.

Heat is an issue, however. They are black and have no venting so wearing them in temps above 70 degrees is uncomfortable.

I've been looking for white or silver riding pants for quite some time and have had a difficult time finding them. They are uncommon, but are slowly becoming more available as manufacturers get a clue and realize that people want variety, especially if they ride where the sun shines (as opposed to where the sun doesn't shine?)

Fieldsheer replaced the Booster line with a new, updated version called Mercury. Fieldsheer Mercury PantsThey improved some areas over the booster, such as added padding in the lower back, improved padding in the hips, and most importantly of all they come in black OR silver. They also have 'butt pads' inside the rear of the pant that give you extra padding where you need it most. On my first ride on the bike the additional comfort was immediately noticeable, and welcomed.

They do not have any vents, disqualifying them from being considered a true hot-weather pant. Where I live in western Oregon, that's less of an issue than hotter parts of the country. There are two vertical pockets on each thigh and they are lined with a mesh material, but there is a wind-proof liner inside that prevents air from coming through.

I purchased mine from Motorcycle Superstore for $134.99 with free shipping. They arrived on the estimated shipping date. I wore them on my 20 minute commute to work and have the following impressions:

The first thing I did was try them on with the liner inside. I was wearing a pair of blue jeans, which is typical when I ride in colder weather. They seemed much tighter than the same-sized pair of Booster pants I already have (medium). My jeans were somewhat baggy, however, and bunched up when I put my legs in. They felt fine but I could tell I'd need to relocate the knee armor. When I was pulling my legs out, I pulled out the snap that holds the lower part of the liner in place. The stitching came out completely. I was upset about it, but felt that I could live with it. I also assumed it was my own fault for wearing jeans inside that were too baggy.

They seem to fit tighter in the thighs and around the calves than their predecessor. The waistline and cinching belt seem to be more substantial. The bottom of the crotch flap is attached to the main body of the pant, however, unlike the Boosters. This makes putting them on a bit tighter. The overall attention to detail and quality seems to be slightly higher.

I next put on a pair of shorts and removed the liner. I also moved the knee armor up one notch. Putting them on and assuming my normal sitting position, I could tell that they were indeed tighter in the legs, which is a good thing; my Boosters are somewhat loose. The middle of the waistline in the back pooches out slightly when I sit. This isn't an issue, however, because that will be inside my 3/4 length Aerostich Darien jacket. This would be a problem, however, for someone wearing a shorter sport-bike type jacket.

Once on the bike I noticed the inside of the crotch and thighs is grippy, rather than loose, presumably to help stay on the saddle during dual-sport riding (I ride a V-Strom dual-sport bike but seldom take it off the pavement). The next thing I noticed was the padding in the seat area. I sit slightly higher as you can expect and definitely felt more comfortable.

They fit tighter around the legs but the knee armor was now placed correctly and was comfortable. I had no hot spots or binding points and in general felt the pants were very comfortable. I'm 5'10" with a 32" waist and 32" inseam so my dimensions are fairly standard; those that have longer legs will probably still find these pants to be comfortable. I raised the knee armor up one notch from the lowest position and the legs are plenty long enough.

So far I'm very happy with this purchase and feel the pants are worth the purchase price in value. I'll report more once I've had a chance to ride with them in the rain and also to see how warm the temp gets before I feel the need to take them off and switch to a vented pant.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hitting 15,000

My 2007 V-Strom 650 rolled over to 15,000 on the odometer yesterday on my way to a work-day lunch with a buddy. I purchased the bike on February 12, 2007, putting my average miles per month at just over 880, or 10,584 miles per year.

How does this compare to the rest of the riding world? According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), motorcyclists in the United States average 160 miles per month, or 1,920 miles per year.

I'm riding 5.5x more miles per year than the national average.

This doesn't make me special by any means, and I believe that the average will go up -- way up -- now that people are buying motorcycles and scooters in record numbers to save money on their commute (due to high gas prices).

My annual miles per year will probably be higher in 2008 than it was in 2007 because I'm commuting on my bike more often and I'm taking more trips this year than I did last year. My V-Strom is not only an efficient way to travel (I average 53 mpg) but it's fun as well. I find myself wishing I had a longer commute.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ride report: Oregon Wheat Country

It was a quick 24-hour overnight trip to my Dad's in Hermiston, so instead of getting there in 3 hours via I-84, I spent 6 hours riding there via a very circuitious route that looked more like a sine wave than a travel itinerary.

When I left Sandy Saturday morning it was sprinkling lightly but was already 60 degrees outside so the ride was pleasant despite the precipitation. There were very few cars on the road and I made it up and over Government Camp without too much frustration.

My route took me on forest service road 48 from White River past Rock Creek Reservoir and into Wamic. By this point the sun was shining amidst occasional puffy clouds. Just east of Tygh Valley, OregonFrom Tygh Valley I headed east on 216, and pulled into the White River Falls State Park on the suggestion of a buddy. I'm glad I did. The falls are incredible and worth a visit. There's a trail down to the river but I stayed up top.Just east of Tygh Valley, Oregon

It was getting warm enough that I stripped off my cold-weather pants and put on my cooler warm-weather riding pants. From this point on, I was riding unfamiliar roads. I crossed the Deschutes River at Sherars Bridge and climbed up some tasty curves to the plains on top. Heading north I got into Grass Valley. My breakfast had worn off and I was feeling a bit peckish so I stopped at a small convenience store for a snack. There was an older gentleman there with a steel-blue '06 V-Strom, and we chatted for a few minutes. I also chatted with the guy working there for a few minutes before heading north to Wasco.

Once I got to Wasco, I turned southeast and headed past the giant windmills to Condon. By the time I got there it was lunch time so I pulled into the Twist and Shake drive-in and enjoyed a bacon swiss mushroom burger and a Pepsi. There was a Fourth of July celebration going on in the park a block away and I could hear music on their loudspeaker. I got gas at a local station and continued east on 206 toward Heppner.

Once at Heppner, I turned north on 74 into Lexington, then into Hermiston. I arrived at 2PM to warm and windy weather. I had a great visit with my Dad, including a wonderful meal of ribs and fried shrimp at Hale's downtown Hermiston. The wind blew all night.

We awoke to sunny skies and a warm west wind. After breakfast, I mounted back up and began backtracing my steps to Heppner and Condon. I gassed up again at the same station in Condon, but chose a different eatery for lunch, a small cafe on the main drag. They were still serving breakfast so of course I had to partake of their biscuits and 'ugliest gravy in Oregon' with a side of bacon and a fried egg on top. Two cups of coffee washed it down.

This time, I headed south to Fossil, then westward over some of the tastiest curves in the state back to Antelope and Shaniko. I followed Bakeoven road, the middle half of which is gravel and tar, down into Maupin, then back up the other side of the Deschutes River canyon toward Tygh Valley and Wamic. The rest of the route home was identical to the reverse journey the day before. Traffic coming down off the mountain was typically thick for the Sunday of a holiday weekend.

The trip was 529 miles in 24 hours and covered some absolutely gorgeous wheat country between Heppner and Condon, and arguably the finest curves in the state between Fossil and Shaniko.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ride report: Estacada to Detroit via FS46

One of my favorite rides is 46 from Estacada to Detroit. From my house, it's about 160 miles there and back. For me, the biggest benefit is the fact that once you leave Estacada, there isn't a single stop sign or traffic signal until you reach Detroit. The road has a nice mixture of sweepers as well as several tight 25 mph corners.

The scenery offers glimpses of rugged rocky cliffs, beautiful rivers and creeks, and a brief but impressive view of Mt. Jefferson.

The road to Detroit finally became snow-free this past week. I had made the attempt twice before but got turned back by snow drifts. I left the house early Sunday morning because I knew it would be hot by mid-day. The road was mine and I made it back by 11:30 AM.

I noticed the woods had a unique smell to them. Instead of the usual smell of fir and cedar, it smelled more like someone's dank basement. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity.

There are numerous bikes heading toward Detroit by the time I turned around and headed back home. It was obvious I had made the first run of the day as I didn't see a single bike coming towards me on my way there. I'm glad I made the run early because it was already uncomfortably warm and muggy by the time I got home.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You can have it any color you want as long as it's black

Is that famous saying about Henry Ford's Model T apocryphal or real? Who knows, but it certainly applies to textile motorcycle pants. It's next to impossible to find decent pants that aren't black. I've called all the local dealers and none of them have anything in stock and are not aware of any brands that sell pants in a non-black color choice.

I've seen some limited reviews and mention of textile pants online but they're typically only available mail-order direct from the manufacturer. None of the bigger retailers online seem to carry pants that aren't black, and clothing is something I like to try on in person anyway.

Jackets are easy to find in non-black color choices, but why not pants? Is there some functional reason why they're always black?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another motorcyclist killed by a stupid cager

A 50-year old woman passing in a no passing zone caused a multi-car accident that killed a motorcyclist last night north of Salem on Highway 221.

(You can read the news report at

Her car clipped the back end of an oncoming travel trailer, causing her to go into that lane and hitting a 47-year old man riding a Harley-Davidson head-on. The motorcycle then struck a Toyota Tercel with two men inside. Both the motorcycle and the Toyota caught fire. The two Hispanic men in the Toyota were able to get out of the car safely, but apparently walked away from the scene after hanging around for only a few minutes. They haven't been seen since (if you know who they are, call 800-452-7888. Accident investigators wish to speak with them about what happened).

The guy on the Harley was wearing a helmet but was pronounced dead on the scene. The lady driving the Ford Escort that caused the accident received serious injuries and was flown to by Life Flight to OHSU.

This is yet another tragic example of stupid or inattentive cagers (car drivers) causing accidents that kill motorcyclists. The woman was performing an illegal action that was unsafe and caused the death of another human being. She needs to be charged with involuntary manslaughter or vehicular homicide. She should lose her license for 5 years and be required to perform community service, preferably in support of motorcyclists. Perhaps she should have to spend every weekend for an entire summer volunteering at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's basic rider's training course.

Either way, what she did was wrong and should not go unpunished.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beware: Soccer moms in big SUVs

After having lunch with some buddies, I had to ride about a mile away to my credit union. On the way there, a soccer mom in a Nissan Armada cut me off, missing my front tire by about 3 feet. She probably had no idea I was even there. I'm fairly tall when sitting on my V-Strom and I can see most truck and SUV drivers in the eye, so it was surprising she didn't see me.

Not two blocks later she did it again, this time moving back into her original lane position. Several blasts on my horn made her look in her rear-view mirror, probably 'seeing me' for the first time. I noticed she had a young one (soccer mom larva) in a safety seat in the second row behind her.

I wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT) even when it's hot out, and assume that cars will hit me until they prove otherwise.

I should upgrade the horn on my bike. Maybe install one of those Stebel blasters that crank out 130db of sound. That will be useful when I need to embarrass a soccer mom into paying more attention next time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is Spring finally ending?

It was a fantastic weekend to go riding. Finally. Spring around these parts has been reluctant to leave. We've had unusually cool and wet weather, with only brief and infrequent hints at warm and dry. Saturday and Sunday were examples of what Oregon weather can be when it's at its best.

I spent the day Saturday washing both my car and my bike. Sunday I rode to Carver Cafe for a mid-day breakfast of biscuits and gravy (service was very slow; it took them 10 minutes just to take my order and pour me a cup of coffee), then up Springwater road past McIver Park and down into Estacada. I then rode east up the Clackamas River to Ripplebrook.

Of course I didn't want to go home, so I hung a left up 57 toward Timothy Lake. I turned around where the pavement ended, just past Lake Harriet, and headed back home. I would have ridden all the way to Timothy Lake and looped back home on highway 26 but I had just washed my bike and didn't want to ride 10 miles of dusty gravel road. I'll save that route for another day.

I intend to ride to work every day this week. 50 mpg is pretty hard to beat when commuting.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Road to Detroit

When will the snow go away? It has been one seriously cool (as in 'not warm') and wet winter and spring, and the snow is lingering on mountain roads way past their expiration date. For the second time this season I tried to ride my V-Strom from Estacada to Detroit via forest service road 46, but was turned back by snow.

The last time I tried this the snow was about a mile past the exit to Olallie Lake. This time I was able to ride several more miles before having to turn back. 60 miles past Eagle Creek to be exact.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Trip report: North Powder cabin, trip home

Mike trailered his bike to camp and planned to ride home with me. His cold (or whatever it was) had improved enough that he felt able to ride, so we packed up and left on Monday morning as planned. We headed back into Baker City and ate breakfast. Since I tend to ride a bit faster than Mike, especially in the twisties, we decided to maintain our own pace and just meet at the motel in Bend, our final destination for the day.

Although I had ridden the same road from John Day to Baker City, the trip back felt like a brand new route. The views change dramatically when traveling in the opposite direction. Fortunately the weather was quite a bit better than when I arrived. Coming down out of the mountains toward Prairie City I had an outstanding view of the Strawberry Mountains to the south. I stopped at a viewpoint and took some pictures.

I gassed up in John Day and bought a snack, then rode another few miles and took a break in the day-use area of Clyde Holliday State Park near Mt. Vernon. There was construction near Dayville and my delay there was long enough for Mike to practically catch up with me; he told me later that he could see me six or seven cars ahead of him. Once past the junction of highway 19 (where I came from on my way in) the road was brand new to me. I was impressed. The landscape and geology was fascinating along highway 26 and other than few land barges I had the road practically all to myself.

It was 2:00 in the afternoon when I stopped at a Subway sandwich shop in Prineville. Although the temp was 66 degrees, it felt quite a bit warmer. I stripped down to my jeans and t-shirt then headed in for a club sandwich and orange juice. As I was getting my gear on, I saw Mike ride past. I hurried to catch him, and found him gassing up at a gas station halfway between Prineville and Redmond.

While I was in line at Subway I overheard the gal mention it was forecast to rain fairly heavily the next day. I mentioned this to Mike, offering the alternative to riding straight home instead of staying the night in Bend. Although his cough had returned, he was up for it.

The wind was picking up and we could see the clouds stacking up on the west side of the Cascades. By the time we rode into Madras, we had a very strong cross wind. I gassed up, Mike popped some more cough drops, and we continued northwest along 26. The wind really blew us around, hitting us broadside on our left. Once we got into the trees, however, it settled down. I pulled over and put some more clothes on, anticipating colder temperatures going over Government Camp. We stopped there, at the rest area, and chatted a bit, then said our goodbyes and rode our separate ways.

I had ridden over 360 miles, my biggest single-day ride yet, and got home just shy of 6:00 PM. The trip total was about 745 miles and my bike hit 13,500 total.

Trip report: North Powder cabin, day two

The gal at the front desk told me during check-in the day prior that the motel offered a free continental breakfast to their guests. To save some money, I gave it a try. She made it sound like they offered a full spread, but other than some cold hard boiled eggs, nothing offered was above vending-machine quality. In just one hour I was hungry again and went back to get a danish.

My buddy Mike mentioned another guy attending the weekend's campout was riding his bike via a similar route and was staying in a campground in nearby Mt. Vernon (Clyde Holliday State Park). We hooked up via cell phone and decided he'd meet me at my motel at 9:30 and we'd ride the rest of the way to the cabin together.

Jared pulled up right at 9:30 on his Honda XLR650 dual sport. We greeted each other, headed over to the Shell station to gas up, then rode east on 26. Our first intended stop was Sumpter, a small mining town along highway 7. Sumpter was the location of a gold rush during the early 1900's that utilized a somewhat unique mining method. They built what looks like a ferry boat with a massive arm that digs on one end with a huge conveyor belt spitting out the rock and gravel out the other end. What's unique is that the entire mechanism floats. As it digs, ground water wells up and creates a pond around the barge. As it moves forward, it digs out more pond in front of it, and buries the remainder of the pond with its detritus behind it. The entire valley is filled with large piles of gravel and rock.

We got into Baker City and topped off our gas tanks, then headed north on old highway 30 through Haines, then west into the mountains on the Anthony Lakes Highway. They were rebuilding the road so we had several minutes wait. We struck up a conversation with Annie, the flag lady. Everyone in camp had a chance to meet Annie and learn more about her over the course of the weekend. It turns out she's a famous artist from Bend and one heckuva nice person.

We found camp and made our way in via the somewhat muddy and slick dirt road without falling over (Jared's dual-sport Honda had no problem. My V-Strom with street tires squirreled around a lot but remained upright). In the spirit of "What happens in camp stays in camp" I'll not divulge too many details about my stay. We arrived on Friday around 1:30 in the afternoon on didn't leave until Monday morning. My stay was relaxing and very enjoyable. 'Nuff said about that.

Trip report: North Powder cabin, day one

I was invited to attend an annual guys/father-son weekend at a remote cabin outside North Powder, Oregon. My buddy Mike and I were planning to ride there and back on our bikes (he rides a 2005 Suzuki Boulevard M50), but he came down with a creeping crud that didn't want to go away, so he trailered his bike and I rode the originally planned route.

Departure was Thursday morning, May 29. It was raining, of course. My route took me over Mt. Hood via Government Camp, down highway 26 to Bear Springs, where I headed east on highway 216 toward Maupin. A cow elk crossed in front of me but there was enough distance for me to easily slow down in time. The sun came out so I stopped in Maupin and took a refreshment break.

Instead of heading south on 197, I headed south east on Bakeoven Rd. and am glad I did. I had seen it on the map but had never taken it. After getting a report that the road was in good shape from the lady working at the store in Maupin, I took it. The road climbs steeply with narrow turns until arriving at the top of the plateau, at which point it opens up. The clouds came back and by the time I got to Shaniko I had rain drops on my face shield once again.

Rolling through Shaniko and Antelope, I continued east toward Fossil, my intended lunch stop. Passing through the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, the clouds had descended to ground level reducing visibility and began to dump copious amounts of rain. Although I had to slow down because of the reduced visibility, I was comfortable in my Aerostich and actually kind of enjoyed the experience. Because of an exceptionally wet winter and spring, the hills and grasslands were green and lush instead of brown and dry. The scenery and weather combined into something more like the Scottish highlands than eastern Oregon.

I arrived at the cafe in Fossil on 1st and Main wet and hungry but otherwise very content with the ride so far. My usual BLT and coffee was good as usual. The rain had stopped long enough for me to gas up and get back on the road.

My arrival in John Day occurred at 2:40, just ten minutes later than my arrival a year earlier. Yes, I left home at the usual 8:30, but after filling up my tank in Sandy, I didn't actually leave town until 8:43. Let's see, I left 13 minutes later than usual and arrived only 10 minutes later. How's that for precise riding!

I checked into the Best Western, unpacked, and took a nap. By 4:30 my stomach was rumbling so I showered then headed next door to The Outpost for some beer and a personal Mexican pizza which was considerably better than the indifferent service I received from the waitress. Her surprisingly deep voice was disconcerting.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Riding to save the environment

My V-Strom 650 gets an average of 50 mpg. On most longer trips it gets up to 54 mpg. Last week I rode my bike to work every day in an effort to save money on gas (my car only gets 24 mpg). Of course, it rained four out of those five days. By the end of the week I was sick of riding. That feeling lasted five minutes, of course.

I know someone that bought a V-Strom primarily as a commuting vehicle and only rides it recreationally a few weekends a month, if he's lucky. I bought my V-Strom for long multi-day solo road trips and tours, and am just now getting into the habit of commuting on it.

What's great about this bike is it will serve each purpose equally well. It's probably the best bang for the buck of any touring bike available today. There are other bikes that may be more comfortable or have greater luggage capacity for long trips, but they cost twice as much (or more). I've got $10,000 into my bike, including all my riding clothes and helmet and just about every farkle and accessory you can imagine (except for a GPS unit; there's always Christmas). Most other bikes cost more than that before you've paid for a single add-on or luggage item.

For me, long trips was the reason for the bike's purchase. Riding to work is a bonus.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Going really fast without leaving the building

Last night I was able to go really really fast around a race track without ever actually stepping outside. A fellow V-Strom rider buddy of mine named Keven is friends with one of the chief engineers at Motoczysz in Portland, Oregon (pronounced "moto-sizz"). They are a custom race bike manufacturer coming out with a revolutionary new bike called the C1. The specifics of what makes it revolutionary are hush-hush -- we had to sign non-disclosure agreements before entering the building -- but I can tell you it is definitely not an 'also ran' like the big bike manufacturers.

We were given a tour of their entire facility and got to see how they concept, design, engineer, prototype, test, and manufacturer almost every component of the bike (very little of it is after-market). Even if the bike itself were ordinary and uninteresting -- two descriptions that definitely do not apply -- being able to see their facility and processes was a fascinating treat.

Four V-Strommers outside Motoczysz
After our tour we parked our bikes in front of their logo-painted motor coach and took a group photo. I'm the one on the far right that looks like the Secret Service bodyguard detail attached to the group.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Funny how your priorities change

Anyone that knows me can tell you that computers are an important part of my life. They practically are my life, considering I've made a career out of numerous aspects of the information technology field (I'm currently the IT Manager for a fisheries consulting firm). So a funny thing happened a few weeks back during a discussion with my wife about priorities.

Times are tough with the economy in the toilet. Unemployment is up and many people are fearful of losing their job, assuming they still have one. My wife and I were discussing what we'd do if either one of us became unexpectedly unemployed. We talked about what kind of jobs we'd pursue and what steps we'd take to tighten the belt and cut back on expenses.

She asked me if I would sell any of my computers.

At first that idea sounded as preposterous as asking me if I'd sell my family to an off-shore sweat shop. But then I gave it some more thought and realized that I really would be willing to sell my precious computers. In fact, after further contemplation I came to a realization. I would take all the things I own and put them on a list. I would prioritize that list with the first to go at the top. What would be at the bottom of that list?

My motorcycle.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chain, chain, chain

Sing it with me now, "Chain, chain, chain ..... chain of fools" No, seriously, it's not foolish to put a decent chain and new sprockets on your bike. Especially when it's hit 12,000 miles, as mine did over the weekend. My original factory chain and sprockets aren't looking too bad, but I've got some big trips this summer and 12,000 miles is a good change interval for original equipment.

I bought a DID 525 'gold' chain from Adventure Motostuff in Nevada and will have my local Suzuki dealer install it. It's a highly recommended brand/model and if I take good care of it I can expect to get up to 25,000 miles out of it. I'll get OEM sprockets, front and rear, from my dealer and have them swapped out at the same time. My bike's also due to have the throttle bodies synced. The engine has been running fine and my fuel mileage is still between 50-53 mpg, but I hear the TBS usually needs to be done every 10,000 miles anyway.

My tires still look good. I'm running Metzler Tourance and have been very happy with them. I've got a small degree of flattening going on in the center of my rear tire, but the amount of actual tread remaining is still at least 80-90% of original, plenty to last the season.

So far the bike has been flawless with no mechanical or other problems whatsoever. From all that I gather, as long as I take care of it my V-Strom will be trouble-free for a very long time.