Thursday, November 21, 2013

Buck Snort Saloon And A Cool Colorado Afternoon

Saturday I got a little pre-winter ride in with my brother-in-law Chris.  Since Chris lives in Silverthorn (in the mountains) and I live in Colorado Springs we usually meet in the middle at my mother-in-law’s place in Littleton.  It’s been a typical Colorado fall; too cold to ride to work in the mornings but beautiful through the day.  Saturday was projected to be in the sixties and since my frequent riding partner, Chris, hadn’t seen the new bike yet we made plans to hook up and try out our usual route.  We often ride through Deer Creek Canyon and then pick a different route to end up the ride.  Chris had just done the “Emily’s Parade” ride for the I Love You Guys foundation.  He and a few other guys rode to the Buck Snort Saloon.  I checked out the location on the map and figured, “what the heck”.  I really don’t need much motivation to ride.
I left around 1000 to get to Littleton by 1100.  Traffic was light, which is unusual for the I-25 corridor between Colo Spgs and Denver.  I made it to Littleton in 48 minutes which is very good time.  This part of the trip is usually my least favorite.  I’m not a fan of interstate travel but for some reason this day was a lot of fun.  Like I said, traffic was light and speeds were swift.  The new bike is such a joy to ride, it’s responsive, limber and stable in traffic that I found myself just enjoying the cruise at construction zone speed limits.

Chris and I filled up before heading out, neither of our bikes are gas misers.  We headed to the end of South Kipling Pkwy and took a left.  Deer Creek Canyon Road is a marvelous, twisty smooth road that is easy to ride at a safe yet quick pace.  There is usually a steady stream of bicyclists and other motorcyclists but it’s never been crowded in my opinion.  And once again the new bike preformed beautifully.  It feels a little more wild than my old ’02 FZ1 but that may be because I’ve noticed a tendency I have to riding this one a little more aggressively.

We popped out on State Route 285 and made for the Silver Springs/Pine Junction area.  After a false turn (totally my fault) we headed south on Route 126 towards Deckers.  I’ve mentioned Deckers a few times before as it’s one of my favorite quick local trips.  Coming down towards Deckers from the north is always a fun ride.  It runs along the North Platte River through some beautiful valleys.  I was so enthralled by the beauty that I missed a turn again.  It was actually warmer up in the mountains than down Denver way.  Surprisingly there weren’t many bikes out and we only passed three dual sport BMWs the entire time we were in that area.  Later in the ride we would pass dozens of Harleys and Japanese cruisers parked out front of a few bars in Evergreen and Morrison.

So after making our way back the six miles I overshot the turn we headed up into South Elk Creek Rd in Pine.  This isn’t a dirt road but it’s not far from it.  It’s slow going but there are so many interesting cabins along the side to the road that I was doing a lot of rubbernecking anyway.  We pulled into a small cluster of old buildings the road snaked through and without even realizing it there we were.  The sign was right on the road but it doesn’t really stand out.  The area is really scenic.  The Buck Snort Saloon was smaller than I imagined and full of character.  With low ceilings and a kind of tacked on charm it felt a little claustrophobic inside.  There was a nice fire going in the pot-bellied cast iron stove in the middle of the dining room.  The BBQ beef sandwich and baked beans I had hit the spot after the ride.  After a few pictures we continued up Elk Creek Rd and made our way through some gravel and soft dirt back to 285.  Since Colorado gets cold after the sun goes down we made a beeline across 73 to Evergreen and across 74 to Morrison.  The ride across those two roads was the usual uneventful scenic rides with a lot of time staring at auto brake lights.  Again, the scenery is so nice I didn’t really care about the slow pace.
After Morrison it was the usual boring run down C-470 and I-25.  By the end I was cold and getting numb fast.  The bike was pretty comfortable for the first 180 miles or so but the last 40 miles I was really fatigued.  I’m not sure how much was the distance and how much was time however.  I got home at about 4:30 so aside from the hour or so for lunch I was in the saddle for a good six hours.  I may have to think about a new gel seat if I’ll be doing any touring.

All in all it was a great fall ride.  The sun was out and the roads were clear.  Even though I always say this and everyone knows how I feel, it bears repeating that motorcycles are the greatest!

Friday, September 27, 2013

End Of Season Ride - Colorado Springs to Deckers

The weather has taken a dramatic turn for the cold here today.  I've been looking forward to a trip into the mountains since last Friday when I picked up the bike.  I was off Saturday but I wanted to run to Denver to pick up a new helmet while we still had the funds.  I used that as an opportunity to check out the city driving characteristics of the bike compared to the '02.  I figured a week of commuting would give me time to get to know the bike before taking it up into the twisties.  I've been to Deckers several times in the past and it is always a fun ride.  Needless to say I was like a kid on the night before Christmas pretty much all week long.

The big day finally arrived and of course I had a chore to do.  I borrowed my brother-in-law's trailer last week to pick up the bike and that had to be returned to Denver.  So I got up early and headed to Denver with the long distance commuters.  It was sunny with clear skies in the Springs and the temperature was about 57 degrees.  Not balmy, but with the sun out good enough for a light jacket, plus it was suppose to warm up into the high 60's.  I got to Denver (which was sunk in a deep, chilling fog) and back with no issues.  After a few more adult responsibilities I had the gear on and was headed for Woodland Park.  Once there I filled up (this bike is a gas hog) and headed up SR 67.  There were huge gray clouds building up in front of me so I decided to stop and put on the rainsuit.  Not only was it getting cloudy but the change in altitude and the cloud cover brought a drop in the temperature.  I used the opportunity to get a picture of the bike.  Gotta have plenty of those in case I forget what it looks like.

The misty mountains
SR 67 starts out fairly unremarkable.  It's got some bends in it and it's pretty scenic with all the trees and such but it's not any more scenic than any other road in Colorado, which is to say it's mostly beautiful.  There's a certain point when you start going up hill for a little bit and reach the burn scar from an old forest fire that the road starts to become interesting.  I should throw out there that I never speed, at least beyond my skills.  What I mean by that is you'll never catch me winding the bike out to 100 mph on a short narrow stretch of road.  There are however several corners on 67 that advise 30 or even 25 mph but something a little higher than that is possible.  I've found that you don't have to go in excess to lean the bike way down and get get rid of the chicken strips.  It was a few years and a few accidents that taught me that.  This road is good for a little prudent speed on a Friday afternoon (especially a crappy, cold Friday like this).  There is very little traffic on a Friday but Saturday is a different story.

I got to Deckers expecting to see at least a few bikes parked in the lot of the shopping center at the crossroads of 67 and 126.  There were two cars and a Coors truck making deliveries.  I started to just turn around but decided to stop and get a picture.

...and here it is.

As I headed back I passed another hearty soul on an older bike headed towards Deckers.  The ride back toward Woodland Park is a completely different animal than when headed north.  It's mostly uphill so I always feel confident carrying more speed through the turns.  The trip back always seems to be so much faster.  I did take time to stop for another picture though.

I stopped at Starbucks and had a cliched latte and read a little.  I had a massage appointment with our therapist and had some time to kill.  It worked out nicely to have a massage at the end of the ride.  When I pulled into Starbucks there were two Goldwings parked with the riders outside having a little warm-up beverage.  Woodland Park was in sunshine with heavy clouds all around.  It kind of struck me then that this was probably one of the last rides of the season.  Colorado is a place where you can sneak a ride in all through the year but this day felt like fall.  When I left the Springs it had been warm and sunny, I came back to a much colder, blustery town.  Even though I'll probably keep commuting to work on the bike for as long as I can, I'm glad I got this ride in.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

FZ1 Comparison

After having a few days with the new bike I thought I would write down some observations and impressions of it compared to the old one.

The first thing I noticed was how well the wind protection works.  The old bike would shake my head around like it was in a clothes dryer.  The only buffeting I'm receiving now is around the elbows and the shins.  I rode it to work this morning in 52 degree weather and the only place I really felt it was on the lower part of the legs.

Actually let's go back a minute.  The real first thing I noticed before even releasing the clutch was how high you sit up on this bike compared to the old one.  It's even more like flying now.  I like that unobstructed feeling.  The seat was rock hard but is breaking in nicely.  Every day it seems a little more comfortable.

The bike is nimble.  At the very end of my commute to work there is a long sweeping curve to the right and a slightly shorter bend to the left.  I found myself taking these two curves at a slightly higher speed with infinitely more confidence.  It's the same for doing a u-turn on our street or just turning the corner at an intersection.  This bike just feels much more balanced.  The riding position also keeps my legs tucked in against the tank.

I rode up to Denver on Saturday (I got the bike Friday).  It was in the mid-80's and I noticed that my right calf wasn't cooking.  The old FZ1's engine would get really hot in the warmer weather so this was a nice new feature.  While in Denver a member of the Bandido MC pulled up next to me at a light and said, "Let me take a look at that bike."  Paused for a minute and said, "Nice."  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the bike he was on.  A big, older Harley with hard cases and long horn steer horns across the front.  While there I also picked up a new Shoei GT Air, a very nice helmet with some great features my 10 year old Arai does not have.  And it's got a racing stripe so, you know, it'll make me faster.

A few gripes about the bike are: like the '02 doesn't have self-cancelling turn signals, a feature my '97 Vmax does have.  There is also a buzzing at 5000 rpm and above that sounds like the fairing or windshield are loose (neither one is).  And the biggest problem would be the EFI apparently has some government mandated "fuel cut" feature so that every time you shift the power drops for a microsecond and causes a slight jerk.  Apparently there's a fix for that although it's an expensive one.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty pleased with the purchase.  I still get sentimental looking at the pictures of the '02 bike though.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ole Blue

Tomorrow Lisa and I are headed to Gunnison to pick up a (almost) new Yamaha FZ1.  If you've been paying attention (I won't hold it against you if not) you'll know that I love to ride my '02 FZ1.  Just a little.  I'm looking forward to getting the new bike.  I took a spin on a co-worker's '08 model which is similar to the '12.  It was more comfortable on the tailbone and had better wind protection all around.  The decision to get it is what has made me think this huge mid-life crisis tour is possible.  We'll see how I feel after riding it for awhile but I think I can go much further on the new bike.

As excited as I am to be getting the new ride, I was feeling a little misty eyed while washing Ole Blue (the name I just gave the old bike just now).  Almost everywhere I've been that bike has been.  I know guys like motorcycle journalist Pete Egan go through bikes like a lot of us go through t.p. but I'm one of those people that holds on to something for ever.

Just for my own benefit a list of the places I've rode the bike include a cross country trip from San Diego to Zanesville Ohio when I bought the bike back in 2003.  That was a long almost crippling ride but a lot of fun.  Some things I remember about that trip were almost getting lost somewhere in southern California around Death Valley.  Freezing my tookus off in the early morning hours through Flagstaff.  And a particularly painful conversation I had with a woman working at a gas station about my mesh Joe Rocket jacket.  She seemed unable to grasp that the jacket was for protection while keeping the rider cool.  Of course the fact that it was about 50 degrees and raining didn't help my cause.

I also remember kicking myself ever since that ride for staying a day in Terra Haute Indiana.  Of all the places I could have spent an extra day in why I picked Terra Haute I'll never know.

Brian, Bud and me, Durango CO 2004
 Back in 2004 I had the bike with me when I met Lisa, my wife.  I rode all over Colorado that summer and that's really the year I took my riding abilities to the next level.  Riding the roads through the Rockies was an experience I'll never forget.  A buddy liked my FZ1 so much he got the black and yellow model.  Another buddy was so inspired by the fun we were having riding, he took the MSF course and bought a Harley.  After Colorado we all went to California and rode the Pacific Coast Highway and around central California together.  I usually don't like to ride with people but that was the best year of riding ever.

There have just been some many wonderful rides I can't begin to list them all.  Actually that's not true, I just listed two of them a minute ago.  Truth is I could list them all but you would get bored awful quick.

To conclude I'll just post some pictures of past beautiful rides.

Somewhere in California headed toward Lick Observatory

Watching snow come in on top of Mt Evans at 14,000 ft

The beautiful Pacific Coast Highway

The Tetons in Wyoming (but you knew that)

Clarksdale Mississippi, home of the blues
Now I'm really sad.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Mid-Life Crisis Tour 2015

In December 2014 I'll be hitting the half century mark.  I haven't given it much thought until just the other day while driving in to work.  I'm not one to be overly introspective and I've never given aging much thought.  I don't like to celebrate birthdays either but I got to thinking that it would be a wonderful, even smashing idea to take a four corners U.S. tour on the bike.  This is something I've wanted to do for forever and I think the 50 year milestone is just a way to sell it to the missus.  That wasn't a tough sell by the way.  It went something like this:

Me - "Honey, I think when I hit 50 I want to take a ride across the country."
Best wife in the world - "Okay."

So with that I ran up stairs and immediately signed up for Adventure Rider Motorcycle Forum.  There are some hardcore dudes over there and a bunch of them are impressive photographers as well.  For the next two years I will be pouring over maps and Google Earth and The Insight Guides United States On The Road book I bought several years ago and almost sold in a garage sale.

I'll be fantasizing about this one for awhile.  Thinking out the minutiae and figuring out the logistics every time I take a shower or a ride.

The thing that will make this dream a reality is the purchase of a (almost) new '12 FZ1.  I took a spin on a co-workers '08 and the difference in comfort and wind protection between mine and his is like the difference between...I was going to say Democrats and Republicans but that comparison doesn't hold up so much any more.  Let's just say day and night.  Riding his bike really makes me believe I can do a long distance trip on a motorcycle relatively easy.  Hopefully I'll get the chance to see soon.