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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kawasaki Ninja 1000...700 miles of fun so far

After logging 700+ miles on the Ninjas 1000 I have come to some conclusions. First, it is not the bike I would replace my Kawasaki Concours 1400 with--and that bums me out. I wanted to LOVE this bike like I do the Concours. But... there is a but, the Ninja is clearly a much sportier sport-touring bike than the Connie.
It is nimble, light, fun and easy to pitch around. Living up to its' name, the Ninja 1000 attacks corners and punches down straightaway. The 1000cc engine spins up quickly and stays ready to accelerate in pretty much any gear--and that is one of the problems. Stock, it turns something in the realm of 5500rpm at 80mph in 6th gear. That means passing a car requires no downshifting, but it also means the engine is busy at that speed and fuel mileage reflects it. I am barely squeaking out 40mpg on my commute of 90 miles a day, most of it on the freeway --moving with traffic at 80-85mph, as traffic is prone to do in Southern California.

the riding position is very comfortable, taller bars than on the ZX-10, the Ninja lets you sit up and see the Pacific Ocean should you be riding south or north on the 5 freeway between Laguna Niguel and Encinitas each day. With three easy to adjust positions, the windscreen allows you to find a comfortable bubble to live in. Needless to say the saddlebags are handy, although while they will hold a full face helmet, they don't fit a backpack with a decent size laptop. At their widest the saddlebags are 36", so lane splitting is no biggie--and more than a few full Sportbike riders have been surprised as I led the way through gridlocked freeway traffic.
More fun techie stuff can be found on the handlebar switch set. Power modes, traction control, multiple trip meters, fuel mileage, average mileage, range and engine temperature are all available to scroll through with the left handgrip. This unit also has Kawasaki's terrific ABS system. Technology is not lacking on this bike.
Its a pleasant enough bike to ride around, again, easy to turn, maneuver and relax while you cruise. When you want to dig in on a hard corner, the Ninja 1000 is ready. I took one out late last year and ran some of my favorite Malibu Canyon roads--Latigo and Decker--and the Ninja worked really well, embracing my plant the front tire with the brakes into the turn, then be really hard on the throttle out of the turn riding style. For those of you who don't know me that well, I am never going to be a racer. I am really fast on slow roads, but just average on fast roads--I have never learned to trust the front tire, so I chose really tight roads and work really hard to go fast on them. This is where the Ninja 1000 kills my Concours, its well over 180 pounds lighter and that makes a huge difference in the tight stuff.
And that is the reason the Ninja 1000 is not the replacement for my Concours. My riding, while I like to think my riding is really exciting all the time, the reality is, I commute and just go places a lot. So, with that the comfort of the Connie, along with the 1400cc of power when I want it and all the other stuff I have battered on about with the 1400, means its the bike I am still most in love with. The Ninja 1000, is quite the exciting affair though!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

you do know that just because it has a fairing doesn't mean its a full sportbike, right?

I have been around motorcycles/motorcycling for a long time. I fell in love with the concept of man and machine back when motorcycles were just motorcycles. They were not sport touring bikes, or sport bikes, touring bikes or any other category. In fact when I fell in love with motorcycles Harleys were not even called cruisers, they were just motorcycles.

Back then you bought a bike, say a 1977 Suzuki GS 400 (My first non enduro street bike) and you made it do what you wanted it to do. That meant I added a rack and sissy bar to it for when I wanted to carry things, and a bolt on windshield for touring. You had to have a certain amount of imagination, mechanical skill and, most importantly, no preconceived notion of how good it was supposed to work when you were done. You just believed that the mods you made were the right changes to transform your bike.

Then the Gold Wing came along. And the Yamaha Virago. And the Suzuki GSXR. And then the Kawasaki Ninja. Suddenly there were sub categories and specialized motorcycles. The UJM(universal Japanese motorcycle--a basic, standard style bike), the bread and butter of the motorcycle industry quickly disappeared and good or bad, categories were created.

Side note here for you non-riding or just bought a Harley because they are cool folks: Ninja is not a style of motorcycle, its a sub brand at Kawasaki. That said, Ninja does not automatically mean full-sport race bike. Examples include the Ninja 1000 ( a sport touring bike) and the ZX14R, a much more drag bike than sport racing bike, as well as the Ninja 650,a wonderful commuter bike and the Ninja 300, a great beginners/commuter bike. And a Suzuki GSXR is not a Ninja. Nor is a Honda CBR a Ninja. Because it has a fairing and sporty lines does not make it a race bike. Take a quick look at the handlebars. If they are above the triple tree by an inch to three inches, sport/commuter. Clip on bars, under the triple tree? Race bike.

From the specialized categories, sub sub categories were developed. Sport Touring bike came along as the riding population realized they needed bikes to go as far as they used to as UJMs. The aftermarket responded with handlebar risers, footpeg lowering kits and wonderful detachable soft luggage. All this aftermarket excitement led manufactures to build purposeful sport touring bikes. And harder edge sport bikes. And cruisers that are more cruiser(y). The only thing that was left alone for the longest time was the enduro world. These bikes were still just dirt bikes with lights. Light, agile and fun to bash around on. Then somebody went and traveled on a dual purpose/enduro bike.

Suddenly a new category of large adventure bikes was born. In all fairness BMW invented this category in the mid-90s, but only engineers rode BMWs back then so no one really knew. Now, I have to say I am split on this category because the size of these bikes--Suzuki Vstrom, Triumph 800 Adventure, Yamaha Genre and many more, well off roading with them would be an adventure for sure. But on the other side, they are big, comfortable and functional bikes. You can whip one through a canyon dragging footpegs one day and then bomb out a 700 mile day the next. Its almost as if the UJM has come back around--with semi knobbies and hand protectors. Even Ducati, Aprilla and Moto Guzzi have adventure-esque bikes in their line up. This is a fast growing segment of the market because people seem to like riding comfortably and still having fun--imagine that, fun on motorcycles.

So, diatribe concluded, what did we learn? There are many types of motorcycles and as they say in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, The More You Know, the Better It Gets.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ZX14R--redefining what fast is

If you are one of the people I know who have only ridden Harleys, you can't comprehend just how fast this bike is. The Kawasaki ZX14R can do this:
0-30mph--1.2 seconds
0-60mph--2.6 seconds
0-90mph--4.2 seconds
0-100mph--4.8 seconds
1/4 mile ---9.47 @152mph
Top speed - 485 (electronically limited)

wrap your head around that. In less time than it takes you to do a three Mississippi count, it can accelerate to 60. With a pro rider like Rickey Gadson on a STOCK bike it can do sub 10second 1/4 mile passes. This bike is just plain fast.

And pretty comfortable, not gold wing comfortable, but roomy enough to let you relax while you cruise the Southern California freeway system looking for Ferraris and Lamborghinis to mess with.
but, the other thing about this bike is all about calm. It starts up, idles smoothly, has power modes and traction control and is quite happy running around town doing errands and never waking up the 1441cc sleeping beast under the plastic. Its just a regular sporty motorcycle with an engine that can press your brain backwards in your skull.
I will be putting 3-400 miles a week on this thing for a while so I will update my impressions as they come along, but for now I can tell you that Kawasaki understands fast motorcycles and is the reigning king of the jungle.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Can you see me now?

I ride a lot. Here, there, everywhere. A lot. And recently I find myself needing to commute 4-5 days a week for about 80+ miles a day round trip. On LA/OC freeways. California is the land of the self absorbed driver, with focus on following their in-dash navigation, talking on their Bluetooth connected phone and sending texts from behind the wheel. In other words they don't give a darn about others on the road.

A few years ago my friend Art Friedman started doing all his riding with a high visibility orange full face helmet on. He swore it made him more visible and he had less close calls in traffic . that has always hung in the back on my mind. Normally I don't think much about the color of my helmet, I just pick upon a good brand, on sale, and deal with whatever color is available. Lately I have been using Scorpion for a few reasons:
1- flip down sun shade. Perhaps the single greatest invention ever for those of us that put in long days on a bike. Morning sun? Drop the sun shield down. Late night in an office heading home, a clark shield is already in place--fantastic
2- comfort. The Scorpion is light and padded well, eliminating pressure points and neck fatigue.
3- price. They are a damn good price for what you get.

I picked up this EXO 500
Its silver and "Can you see me know?" Yellow.  I think it should create just enough contrast that most brain dead southern California drivers will see me. Guess I will find out soon enough if Art knows what he is talking about.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


I have a diverse group of people I call friends that fall into two categories--gear heads and not gear heads. These two groups utilize their garages very differently. Gear heads, like me, see the garage as an important part of daily existence. Non gear heads see it as storage.

Did you know that non-gear heads will actually fill their garage up with household storage stuff? Maybe they will fit a car into it, but it will be surrounded with a years worth of acquisitions found at Costco. Or luggage. Lots of luggage. And boxes they have not opened for two or three moves. Yeah, they treat it like one big closet--shudder.

So apartment living aside, I have always treated the garage as my father taught me--a man's castle filled with all of his toys and tools. A place to go and do man stuff. Fix, create, restore, maintain. Objectify. Treat vehicles like they were mean to be treated--with TLC. And collect cleaners and polishes. That is a huge part of garage ownership.

My first house had a two car garage, that for some reason also housed the laundry drier. The house was so small, there was no way to make a change, so I tolerated it. But the rest of the garage was all about motorcycles. I had a nice hydraulic bike lift, drill press, tool boxes, really cool tile floor, stools, refrigerator, stereo and a cabinet full of waxes, polishes and cleaners. This was during the HOT BIKE/STREET CHOPPER days so often there were 3-4 motorcycles besides my 2-3 bikes in that garage. I can't even tell you how many tech articles were done in that garage, but if you were a regular reader back then, you probably saw my garage. It was a nirvana for my riding friends, and a bit overwhelming for my non-riding friends. Side note about the garage refrigerator. There was a kit--paint and some stick on stops to look like tool box drawers--that turned my garage refrigerator into a giant toolbox. It was very cool. I have pictures somewhere that I will find and post one day

Then, I moved to Wisconsin. Um. Well. Yeah, about that. Not the smartest thing I ever did--except for the garages I had a chance to own. House one in WI was a 3.5 car garage. Huge. A single garage door and parking for Marcia's car (Wisconsin winters require garage parking) and a two car door for me. I had my truck on one side, my bikes and lift on the other and in the .5 extra deep spot, my workbench, tools, stools and garage refrigerator. Additionally that garage had storage overhead that ran the whole length of the three car area. Sure the Wisconsin winter was cold and long, but I could go to the garage, mess with my bikes, clean and wax my truck and generally gear head out amongst my stuff.

House two in WI, well it was a gorgeous custom built place on a lake, but it was a bit lacking in ultimate garage space. It was only a 2.34 car garage, but what made it ok was the 3/4 part was a separate room off the two car part. Essentially a workshop that stored my bikes and tools--a little less splendid than the first house, but the workshop feeling was really cool.

Then came the move back to California. We had many requirements for a house, but a three car garage was one of the most important. Marcia had grown used to parking in a garage, I had developed a taste for a clean, nice car thanks to living in WI and my bikes and tools and workbench needed their own space. So when we found a house with a three car garage--and the stuff Marcia cared about--it was a quick, done deal.

Current garage is not as great as the garage-mahal I had in WI house one, but it works. For the most part all I have to do is move the Challenger into the driveway and I have a two car garage of space to work on bikes, fix things, or create stuff. I couldn't imagine life any other way than with a fully functioning garage.

Oh yeah, and I still have a cabinet full of waxes and polishes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

a little recognition for my "beater bike"

Those of you who know me are in tune with just how much I love my Kawasaki Concours 1400, so I don't need to explain all that it does well. No, I need to talk about the other bike in my life, my 2012 Suzi Vstrom 1000 Adventure. I bought this bike to be my do-it-all machine. A bike I didn't have to obsess over, a bike I could let get dirty once in a while, leave parked outside without worrying about pieces getting sun faded and a bike I could take on the worst of California freeways with. And it does all that well.

Now let's not lie here--it is an ugly bike. Seriously. The designers added about 15 pounds of unnecessary fairing bulk and panels that hide the basis of why this bike is so good--the TL 1000 based v-twin. From any angle you look there is too much going on in the "styling" department. Soft curves, hard angles, insanely robust luggage brackets and an exhaust system that likely adds 30 pounds to the bike. And drags in hard right corners (blow the picture up here and you will see the scrapes on the exhaust shield).

But, ugly aside it is a damn good machine. I have commuted to work on it, ridden canyons, run errands, picked up groceries, buzzed down fire roads and generally used it for any type of riding I wanted to do. And it does it all with a healthy dose of power. The Strom is rumored to put 98hp and 74 Ft/lbs of torque to the back wheel--which makes keeping the front wheel on the ground a bit of a first and second gear challenge.

The upright, dual sport style riding position and wide bars make staying in the seat all day a pleasant experience and the sheer size of the bike makes toting a passenger a pleasure. And the fact that it is that comfortable allows your passenger to stay relaxed--which was good that day we were dragging the passenger pegs in corners!

I have some modifications I will need to do, eventually. So far all I have done is basic service and replace tires, because the bike is just fine. It could use better brakes--I will probably add some braided lines, better pads and maybe look at different calipers, but for now they stop the bike from any street speed I attain. The suspension is due for an overhaul, but the factory adjustments are not quite maxed out yet--close so I expect that to happen sooner. And then there is that exhaust. Its big. Its heavy. Its bulky. I am sure a new system would shave a bunch of weights and wake the bike up significantly, but then it would be a lot louder--and a full system has to be spend. So for now....

The Vstrom is just a good bike, not great, just good. It has no overwhelming characteristics of anything--except ugly, damn it really is just ugly--but it works. And it does anything I ask. And if you look at the number of units sold, the appeal of these bikes is undeniable.

A new model is on the market now, no better looking, but better equipped. If you are stuck on what one bike to own to do most everything, check in with these guys for all the vstrom information your brain can process.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Don't hate the hipster--well I tried, anyway

Had to go check on a brother-in-law's pets last night in Irvine. I'm in Laguna Niguel so it is not that far, not a big deal. It was about 630 when I left the house, so I figured I could check on the animals, feed them and then head out to PCH for a nice sunset ride home on the beach--a perfect way to spend Friday night.
It was a wonderful night, perfect temperature, and clear as it could be in the skies. Leaving the animals behind I hopped onto Jamboree to blast the beach. Jamboree to those of you who do not live in Southern California, is a long, winding ribbon of what would be perfect road--if it were not for all the traffic lights, mini-malls, car dealerships and the Irvine Police Department. It winds, crests and straightens out all in an effort to tempt your throttle hand into misbehaving. Veteran of the road, I resisted its call--OK, well I might have left one traffic light slightly quicker than necessary to remind the guy in the Audi A8 that, well he is still in a car--not a supercar--and I was on a 1400cc Kawasaki Concours. Mid second gear, I slowed enough to let him catch up and smiled at him through my helmet, I am sure he understood.
I cut through traffic down PCH--Pacific Coast Highway--through Newport Beach and towards Laguna Beach. The sun was just starting to soften and set, the light was amazing. I felt that a picture of my bike and the coastline was in order--I just sort of forgot there is nowhere between Newport and Dana Point (where I would turn to go home) that is both undeveloped and coast accessible. Photo effort was destroyed, but the visuals were still amazing. The Pacific in its glory, beautiful homes, nice cars, bikini-clad girls walking the sidewalks, yes it was a great commute home.....
Anyway, to my point here. I needed fuel on the way and I stopped into a gas station on Crown Valley Parkway in my home town of Laguna Niguel. As I pulled in I immediately saw another bike so my spirits jumped. You know, gas station camaraderie. Talk about bikes, roads, where the cops are, the things you do when you see a kindred spirit. My hopes were dashed instantly as I got closer. He was a hipster with an attitude. He looked at me as I rode in on the Concours and did a very minor disgust head shake. Like he was the pure biker at heart and I was on a big, useless machine. I may have been wrong, but 44 years of being around riders tells me otherwise. I immediately had an attitude as well as I sized up the wannabe resplendent in his official hipster garb. He had, and I kid you not, skinny jeans, high top Vans, a faded red tshirt with a largely oversized zippered hood and a '70s fullface helmet with no face shield. His bike? A Honda 450 with the side covers removed, the tail section stripped to a bare minimum with the taillight hung from the subframe so the fender could be removed and the seat redone to look like a '60s Triumph, clip ons and the crowning hipster touch? A black "X" made with electrical tape on the headlight.
There was nothing I could talk to this guy about and I knew it. We were two very opposite ends of the motorcycling spectrum. I took another glance at his bike and was assured of my suspicion--huge, giant, glaring chicken strips on his tires. Sure, some people have to use their bikes to commute, I get that and leaning to the edges can't happen in town, but--this was a half worn tire and just 4 freeway exits south of this gas station is Ortega Highway, pretty sure with a decent canyon that close a few corners can be negotiated.
He finished gassing up before me, and started his unbaffled two-into-one megaphone pipe equipped machine. A quick blip of the throttle to about 5-6000rpm assured the owners of the SUVs and MBZs at the station he was ready to leave. Out of the gas station he bleated and blasted to the..... traffic light 40 yards from the driveway. It reminded me of Thursday night at the Kawasaki Koffee Break as I was standing outside with a Kawasaki employee/friend. We were looking over the bikes in the parking lot show when a guy on a Ducati Panigale equipped with super loud pipes made the turn in front of the building winding out first gear so he could do the super loud, look at me deceleration ride into the parking lot. It inspired me to drag an old line out of my book when I said "Oh look, they must have been out of Harleys with straight pipes, so he bought the Ducati". We laughed and laughed and laughed.
So, I didn't want to hate the hipster, but I did. Not because he was different from me, remember I used to own a Harley and a GSXR at the same time, but because he had a crappy attitude and wanted me to think he was cool because of it. You ride. I ride. That should be all that matters, not the bike, style, brand--OK, well scooters, you can ignore scooters--just that you ride. I'm going to try not hating again when I ride today, but please don't give me attitude, or as Chopper Dave and his shirts and key chains say "They Forced me to Hate"
You can find Chopper Dave's stuff at

Also if you want other cool shirts and stuff that says you ride to people that also ride check out Church of Choppers store at