Monday, October 30, 2006

30OCT06 Sans System Cases for Daily Commutes

At the suggestion of Maria's previous owner, Rich, I am going to try riding Maria on my daily commutes without having the BMW system cases attached. The system cases, aka hard bags, add weight to the motorcycle, not to mention all the crap I was carrying in them. I think I removed maybe 20lbs of stuff including the weight of the cases themselves!

Since I do need to carry "some" nice to have stuff, I wiretied a range bag I had to the rear luggage rack. This way I can carry a clear visor for the helmet, bungee net, light gloves and still have room for my coffee thermos.

I'll be trying it out for the rest of this week, Rich tells me she's nimbler this way.

Note: Case is much darker than the pics show, dernier material really catches the light from the flash on my camera.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

29OCT06 - A Ride down to Royal Gorge, Cripple Creek and a speeding ticket

I always knew in the back of my mind that with this new motorcycle and it's speed potential that it would be only a matter of time before I got a speeding ticket. I hate it when I am right about such things!!!

Well today was the day. I was on 115 heading West towards Canon City and the Royal Gorge Park. I was trying out a new way to use the Kaoko cruise control and finally had it where all I had to do was make minor adjustments while on the highway to maintain a certain speed. However the terrain was of course not level and the speed tended to go way up on downhills and slow down on uphills. It was on one of the downhills when I failed to back it off enough and hit 77mph in a 60mph zone. I failed to recognize the eastbound motorcyclist as a CO State Trooper and he must have radar'ed me at that point.

As I continued unaware, he turned around and closed on me, finally signaling for me to pull over (I never spotted him in the rear view mirrors, he had to give the siren a bleep to get me to notice him, dammit). I was given a ticket worth 2 points and $68! Damn, oh well, I was speeding after all. The ticket process took about ten minutes, we then spent another 20 talking about motorcycles and me having a look at their police version of the Harley Davidson motorcycle. The trooper told me they're getting some R1200RTs for mounted patrol soon but he'd be sticking with the Harley due to the BMWs being so tall. I told him I could empathize with that problem! I found out the Police Harleys weigh close to 1000 lbs with all the gear they have to carry. Amazing. The trooper talked about the training they go through before they're put on patrol, very interesting stuff. Too bad the way I was to learn such interesting things was by getting a ticket! Oh well.

Here's the route I took today:

The Royal Gorge Park turned out to cost $21 to get in and it did not seem worth the price. Ended up taking pics from the parking lot(below) and from an overlook nearby.

Here's Maria in the parking lot with bridge in background.

The Royal Gorge, from the overlook by the parking lot

After taking the pictures above, I tried to get to the southern rim end of the bridge but it was closed for the season. Still, it was a nice winding road all the way to where it was blocked.

Road to Royal Gorge's Southern Rim

So I started heading back towards CO Springs but spotted a blue sign advertising the Gold Belt Tour road pointing North on 9 towards Cripple Creek.

I gave in to the urge and headed North on 9, passing by increasingly snow-covered terrain(the roads were dry) and less than an hour later I was in Cripple Creek. I reached it after 1230 or so, took some pics, cruised up and down the main drag looking for some place to eat. It was all Casinos! I am sure there were places to eat within these casinos but did not feel like going into them. I even went over a patch of snow in a parking lot near their welcome center, very slippery but no incident.

See the 105mm Howitzer in the park, had to take its picture!

Cripple Creek

I then headed South on 67 by mistake, which took me down some interestingly sanded roads, which made me slow way down as I wove in and out of the curves away from Cripple Creek. Once I realized I was headed South instead of North towards US24 where I wanted to go I turned around and got to "enjoy" the sandy roads again on the way back to town.

I found the right road this time and kept on US67 North till I got to US24. Here's a couple of pics of the snow-covered landscape along the way:

Once on US24 I went through Woodland Park, the town I'd twice tried to get to before via Deckers and road construction stopped me both times. Cruised right on through and go to Colorado Springs where I missed my turn to get back on 115 to try and take a picture of Cheyenne Mountain. Ended up instead in Cheyenne Canyon road where it deadends near the Olympic Figure SKating Muserum. Got myself turned around, gave up on Cheyenne Mountain and headed up I-25 North.

A short stretch later, I took North Gate road East and after a detour, ended up going North on US83 towards Parker. I had divested myself of the jacket liner and overpants at a stop in the Springs and it got quite chilly as it was around 1530 in the afternoon on the way to Franktown. Once I got to Franktown, after riding with the shield all the way up and the heated grips on high, put the liner back on along with the overpants and was quite toasty all the remainder of the way home.

The GPS says I put in 310 miles on the motorcycle today but there had been a couple of times when the ac adapter hookup had come loose and it had powered off. My mapping software says I covered 330 miles.

A great day's ride, about seven hours of saddle time, the ticket was a bit of a downer but it was a matter of time as I said before. Perhaps now that it's over and done with, I'll be less inclined to let Maria have her way and keep her close to the speed limit! She really does love to fly along the highways. : )

Couple of notes: Master Yoda's Riding Position works pretty good! Had to keep reminding myself to get back into good riding position but the only pain that bothered me today was the small of my back, knees got a little sore but not as bad as previous rides. I am sure the lowered rider pegs helped as well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

28OCT06 - Master Yoda's Riding Position

I'd seen references to the above in all the riding forums I'd been frequenting of late so I thought I'd post a link to the most extensive description I'd seen of it so far here.

The keynotes to "the" Riding Position are:

* Bend at the HIPS, not waist
* Maintain a SLIGHT arch to the back, not allowing it ever to "curve"
* Move the butt AFT so the weight is OVER YOUR FEET.
* Apply pressure to the feet, using the THIGH muscles, so you are sitting "lightly"
* ELBOWS BENT, now DROP the hands to the bars.

I am planning a day's worth of riding tomorrow since I was trapped at home, with gorgeous riding weather outside, because of work-related crap. I'll be trying to apply the principles above during the ride to see if they help with the comfort level and such.

Going to try to go South through Colorado Springs, and take the 115 to 50 and Canon City and past that to the Royal Gorge Park to see the highest suspension bridge in the States.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

26OCT06 - Castlerock

Late entry:

Just to show you the varying weather one can experience on the same day's ride here in Colorado. This picture of Maria is at Rock Park at the base of the rock formation that gives Castlerock its name. Nice and sunny right?

Now click here for the entry for Palmer Lake to see how the weather changed once I crossed over I-25, through the foothills spanned by Wolfenberger Road (46) and down 105 to Palmer Lake:

No Riding Today

Snow day today, we got 4-6 inches in the neighborhood and I decided to not take the car in to work as planned. So therefore, even less of a chance of riding the motorcycle today! Ended up working from home all day. Here's a pic of Maria as she gazes out at the snow-covered cul-de-sac we live in.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

24OCT06 - Last Farkle for a while....I hope

So, after much research online and debating the costs involved, called the Denver BMW dealer and it turns out they had it in stock for LESS than any online source I had found during last night's surfing. Amazing isn't it?

I bought the Suburban Machinery Driver Peg Lowering Kit after work today and they were on the motorcycle within an hour of me getting home. Easy to install, hardest part was getting the dang spring which returns the pedal to position after its flipped up to go into place when mounting the brackets onto the motorcycle. There's definitely a technique to it, which of course eluded me, so that's why it took about an hour.

Left Side, with peg lowered.

Right Side, with peg lowered.

As you can see above, still plenty of ground clearance for the curves!

Took her out for a test drive and I was able to reach and activate the brake pedal just fine without the reported contortions necessary as reported by some folks who'd installed this lowering kit.

Here's some views from the top so you can see the new position of the rider pegs:

Brake Pedal side

Shift Pedal Side

I was also able to use the shift lever without contortions though now that the leftside pedal is lower than the shifter pedal; I find myself having to push up a bit higher with my boot's toe to shift up and having to shift down by lifting my foot off the pedal to push down on the shifter. Nothing radical or something that I can't adapt to with some practice, I think (I hope).

One thing that I didn't like and I think it's just part of adapting to the new upshift motion, is that I twice went to go into second gear and upshifted only enough to be in neutral! Easy fix but it's something I had not done before the kit was installed.

I read somewhere where I can adjust the stock shifter pedal counter-clockwise a notch or two so that I won't have to lift my toe as much but will give the current setup a nice long try. Another thought running through my head is finding a way to make the stock shifter pedal a bit thicker so that it takes up some of the space my foot is having to travel up. Must think more on that.

I did take a look and I can see where the adjustment is made for the shift pedal, just appears to be a pain in the butt to get to, we'll see.

Suffice to say the knees felt much better, no pressure at all and my feet felt SO much lower than before, almost like they were floating just above the road where in fact there were still a good five inches away from the road. I am looking forward to a long ride this weekend to really check out the new riding legroom to see if this farkle was worth the cost.

This farkle should complete my purchases for a while I hope, must hold off on spending more money on Maria. When I told my wife I'd purchased this kit, she said to me: "Well Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and whatever other holiday you can think off for the foreseeable future! : )

Monday, October 23, 2006

23OCT06 - Over 1300 miles and loving it

I went over the 20,800 miles mark on Maria. Bought her on October 7, 2006 with 19,437 on the odometer and passed this milestone during this past weekend's riding in the cold.

I am getting more comfortable with the motorcycle's handling as the days go by, getting more familiar with her workings and such, and most important...learning to handle her strong brakes! I read in some in the BMWMOA Forum a rather fitting description of how to apply the brakes while moving slow in parking lots: "Like ticking your son under the chin with one finger".

Learning also to pay close attention to where I want to stop the motorcycle for parking. Don't want to try and muscle this 600lb+ baby up an incline while not able to flatfoot the motorcycle! Not sure I would be able to regardless even if I COULD flatfoot the motorcycle! She is not a light motorcycle.

Paid Arapahoe County lots of money to register her in the Glorious State of Colorado so she's now fully legal. Her North Dakota plate goes into storage unless her previous owner wants it back for sentimental reasons. Rich? Want it back?

Cold ride into work this morning, low of 35 degrees perhaps, not bad at all for me and the day warmed up dramatically by the time I got out of the DMV at 1130, had to shed the jacket liner, overpants and cold weather gloves for medium gloves for the ride back to work! It got even warmer by the time I went home. I wore just a t-shirt under my mesh riding jacket and with my summer gloves had a very nice ride home. Gotta love the temperature differentials in this state!

Testing some riding tips I found on the BMWMOA forum, main one being hugging the tank with the thighs to alleviate pressure on the knees....seems to work though the rides to/from work are so short the jury is still out whether that makes a difference to the knees' comfort level.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

21OCT06 - A Cold Day's Ride to Palmer Lake

A three hour ride today. It had snowed last night and I awoke to find snow on the ground (1-2 inches, tops) but not on the roads. What moisture there was was on the pavement was fast drying up in the bright sunlight. Spent the morning washing the motorcycle and took off around 1400 for a short drive while the weather was sunny.

Temps ranged from a low of 33 to a high of 38 degrees during the ride. The cold did not affect me though until perhaps the last 30 minutes of the ride. The weather stayed sunny for most of the ride but you could "feel" the cold more when the sun would be hidden by clouds which steadily turned what started as a sunny ride into an overcast ride.

This ride was to test out two new farkle: the cruise control by Kaoko and the digital compass I'd moved out of my car to the motorcycle. You have to do about two slow circles with your vehicle with this type of compass to "calibrate" it and adjust it to the magnetic field thrown off by the motorcycle.

Here's a pic of me as I circled the cul-de-sac, calibrating the compass.

The compass worked fine throughout the ride. It's a very small display(originally designed to mount on the car's rearview mirror) and just displays cardinal directions but enough to help navigate when one can't see the mountains or the sun's position in the sky.

There were some stretches of road where traffic was non-existent and the road was level enough to try out the Kaoko cruise control Took a bit of working to get the motions right but it worked beautifully. By hour two of the ride my right hand was getting a bit cramped and I used it about three times to hold the throttle in place while I shook the cramps out of my right hand. Very nice.

I also tried setting the driver seat height up to the middle position to see if it helped my riding comfort. Initially it seemed to provide more room for my knees but they got pretty sore by the end of the ride, more so than usual I think so I reverted back to the lowest seat setting when I got home. I was able to almost flatfoot the motorcycle with the seat in the middle position however so that was not a factor. I did find it a bit harder to walk the motorcycle around of course so it would have been something I would have used on longer rides but I don't see it working for me.

Although I had extra clothing layers with me in Maria's system cases, I decided to ride on when the chill started to set in after I arrived at Palmer Lake:

Outskirts of Palmer Lake, looking South.

Looking East from same spot at Palmer Lake.

I saw snow flakes drifting down when I stopped here and I decided to turn back North towards home. Like I wrote before, the last 30 mins I could feel the chill begin to build up in my feet and face. My body stayed pretty warm and my hands were fine since I had the heated grips on High. My knees were a bit sore though and I found myself shaking out the legs at stoplights and such. Had to also do the "sit further back" on the trailing edge of the rider's seat to get some more legroom.

I was glad to get home, the sky was heavily overcast and the wind had become quite gusty and strong, doing its best to penetrate the riding gear and steal my heat. The motorcycle did great, and so did the gear.  I am sure I would have been fine had I bothered to stop and don the extra layer I had with me.

Note: With the recent snow, the roads all over have sand/gravel remnants from where it was sprayed by snow plow trucks to provide traction during the snow. Now it collects in the center of the lanes, causing one to try and really ride in the wheel tracts where the sand/gravels has been swept away by cars. It really cuts down on your maneuver area when taking on a curve at times. Only had one "loose traction" moment, on an onramp to 1-25 Northbound from Castlerock, rear tire went squirrely on me for about a second but nothing more than that. Really got my attention though.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

19OCT06 - A better way to mount the GPS

So, tonight was basically an evening of farkle mounting.

Although the mounting of the GPS on top of the new tank bag, as mentioned in previous posting, would have worked out fine, a thought occured to me while perusing accessory mounting brackets online.

Several ideas later, came up with a way to re-use the old handlebar mount for my Rino 110 GPS/Radio by using a metal strip, secured by one of the bolts holding the new risers in place and binding the old GPS mounting bracket to the other end of the metal strip with wireties.

Front View

Rear View

This mod allows me to place back the map case on top of the tank bag. I'll be trying it out tomorrow as proof of concept, if it works out ok, will paint the metal strip to prevent it rusting and remount. The way it's rigged now, I can unclip the GPS+ plastic bracket, stow it in one of system cases when I'm not with the motorcycle or take it with me stored in the tank bag!

The tank bag will now serve mainly as wiring/accessory plugs storage to present a neater appearance instead of a mess of wires. My phone charger will be within, along with my camera and the ac adapter for the GPS.

19OCT06 - Maria at the Sturgis BMW Dealer

Rich, Maria's first owner, sent me this picture of Maria back when she still belonged to Rich and he'd taken her in for a service at the Sturgis BMW dealer. You'll notice she's sporting the CeeBailey windshield which is larger than the stock shield she has on now; also the tank bag is a different one from what I installed tonight.

Ain't she pretty?

19OCT06 - A Tank Bag for Maria

Maria's latest farkle showed up from It's a Cortech mini tank bag, strap-on model. I had issues finding an anchor point for the rear strap so I ended up fabricating one with wireties secured to the battery's mounting frame. The forward straps went around the steering yoke, at least what I think is the steering yoke. We'll see how that part works out. I tested moving the handlebars right and left and there seemed to be no binding.

I rigged a mounting point for a small case that holds my Garmin Rino 110 GPS/Radio on top of the tank bag since I don't have anywhere else right now to mount the GPS. I removed the map case that usually sits on top of the tank bag for now. Maria's handlebars are not your typical round bars so the mounting hardware I had previously for Gretl does not work on them. I'll be trying out the tank bag and GPS tomorrow, powered by one of Maria's two power outlets of course.

Riding in the cold

I've been riding the last two days with the temps in the high 20's and low 30's during the morning commute. Two days ago was the day after the first snow fall this season. The voice of reason, aka my loving wife, convinced me not to chance it and I ended up taking the car to work. The day however brightened beautifully and although it was cold I could not resist going back home during lunch and swapping my car for the motorcycle. I rode Maria back to work, the temp was around 31-32 degrees or so but my riding gear kept me warm along with the heated grips on Low setting. By the time I went home the roads were dry and temps were now in the upper 30's. Nice ride.

Today, it was 28 degrees at the house when I set off for work in the morning around 0700. Roads were still dry and traffic not too heavy. It was a nice ride in again and the sun came up as I rode along, I saw the temps go up to 32 degrees when I arrived at work. Again the riding gear kept me warm along with the heated grips and the awesome protection Maria's fairing provides her rider. I checked the wind chill charts later and I figured I was at best doing 45mph during the commute so the worst wind chill I was exposed to in the areas not protected by Maria's fairings was 11 degrees! I could feel a layer of cold on the windward portions of my arms but it never made me shiver or feel cold if that makes sense.

The ride home today was in the mid-50's! I skipped wearing the overpants and I think I could have even done without the jacket liner. I stopped by the post office and picked up the letter from the Sturgis BMW dealer with the title to my motorcycle! I can register her now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Riding in Sleet and more stuff for Maria

First the weather, the forecast was for showers turning to snow by evening so I figured I had plenty of time get home before then. I rode the motorcycle in and the temperature registered by the thermometer did not dip below 47 degrees on the way in. Not too bad at all actually.

The day got progressively colder and it was 40 degrees by 1030 when I went to get something from the motorcycle. By Noon it was 37 degrees, sprinkling and beginning to sleet so I made a dash for home by way of the bmw dealer where I picked up a set of engine cover guards. Got home safely in 40 minutes of slow and careful riding, wiping the water droplets from my helmet's visor and watching sleet accumulate on the motorcycle's windshield. Finished my workday working remotely and got to work on the new farkle by 5pm or so. Glad I left work at noon since it was snowing by 2-3pm!

First order of business was the engine cover guards, I had to remove the engine spoiler and the rubber cover on the fairing that protects the fairing from one's right foot. Since I left the fairings on and the instructions (cryptic and lacking in drawings) did not call for removing them as they did for RS motorcycles; there were some ackward angles to deal with. Some cursing and skinned knucles later I had the guards mounted finally. They feel quite secure and hopefully I'll never have to test how good they protect the engine covers. I'll have to check the bolts over the next few rides to ensure they stay put since the instructions did not say to use loc-tite to keep them in place.

So why did I not get these guards before so they would have protected the left side engine cover this past weekend you ask? Good question. I had ordered them online, not realizing to check with the local bmw dealer first. The online dealer got the order on 10/9 and failed to do anything with it till 10/16 when I got an email saying they were finally acting on the order. They claimed delays due to their recent "open house". So their lack of timely service meant no engine guards in place last weekend. Needless to say I canceled the order and they won't be getting my money.

Second order of business was the installation of the handebar risers or "bar backs" from moto-techniques that came via fedex today. They went on smoothly and with no hassles. I had to unhook one of the cables on the right side of the motorcycle to get some needed slack since I was moving the handlebars back and up about and inch or so.

Of course, timing is everything, there's 2 inches of snow on the ground as I type this so it's very doubtful I'll be able to ride Maria into work tomorrow in order to try out the new risers.

Pic from Vendor Site

Monday, October 16, 2006

A reminder of how small our world can be and proof of Maria's power and versatility

What a small world, I had posted a "introduce myself" entry in the BMW Motorcycle Owner's Association or BMWMOA; and not even a couple of hours later I get a message from the first owner of the motorcycle! Rich is his name, from Killdeer, N.D.

We've exchanged emails and such and he was gracious enough to send me some pics of Maria while he was the owner. One of which was so cool I thought I'd post it here. Rich had hooked up a trailer hitch onto the motorcycle and used it to pull a trailer behind the motorcycle! Now if that does not say something about the RT's ability to pull more than it's own weight, I don't know what does!

Here's a pic of how the trailer hitch attached to the motorcycle, cool stuff.

Thanks Rich, not only for the pictures but for taking such good care of the motorcycle.

New Farkle: Kaoko Cruise Control

Found this deal on the BMWMOA site's "flea market" on a barely used Kaoko Cruise Control unit and it arrived today! It was installed in under a minute and it's engagement/disengagement is easily deduced and mastered. Can't wait to try it out tomorrow. All I was able to try tonight was engaging it with the throttle just slightly twisted from idle to see how it held.

As with my Honda Aero 750, now I'll be able to momentarily take my right hand from the throttle to shake it out when it cramps up during the longer rides. It was not as cheap as the Vista Cruise Control that I had with the Aero but it sure went on easy!

From the Kaoko site:

1)Throttle grip 2)Friction nut 3)Special Handlebar End-weight
4)Bar Weight Retaining Screw 5)Grub Screw

More to follow once I get some riding in with this unit.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

To Boulder and Back

I went for a ride this morning and decided to just take the E470 Tollway to where it ends near Boulder. $10 in tolls gets you there in about an hour, going about 80mph most of the way. The weather was briskly cool and sunny, so perfect riding weather. Maria just cruised along, making no perceived extra effort at maintaining 80mph.

I get to Louisville shortly after 10AM, fueled up (48mpg) at a gas station on South Boulder Road. I then took South Boulder Road in towards the mountains and hit Boulder City limits soon afterwards. South Boulder ends up near the base of the foothills of Boulder and I stopped there to take a picture of the Flatirons for which Boulder is famous for; only to discover I'd left the camera at home! Oh well, I am sure I'll be up there again, transiting Boulder to go to points West and NorthWest.

Turned around and headed south on Broadway which turned into CR93 which I rode all the way to Golden, nice smooth road with winding turns and little traffic this morning. South of Golden the road becomes CO6 which I took heading south until I entered Lakewood and was inside the Denver Metro area. Once I realized CO6 was going to become 6th Street I turned off on Wadsworth Blvd and "enjoyed" city traffic riding until US285 which I took North back into Aurora, did an errand and got home by Noon.

Not a very exciting or eventful trip, mostly just riding around, practicing stops and starts using only one finger mostly on the front brake lever and relying mostly on the foot brake for stopping at lights and such. It's a much smoother process and both the headlight modulator and brake flasher worked fine to get the cager's attention at intersections and stops. I saw several bikers out riding, trying to get one more ride in while the weather is good.

Maria, all clean after the ride

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Safety Farkle for Maria and some thoughts re my dropping the motorcycle

Notwithstanding the recent events showing me to be the most dangerous thing for Maria so far; in terms of having dropped her twice now....I have added a couple of safety-related farkle.

Comagination's headlight modulator and Kisan's Tailblazer brakelight flasher. The comagination modulator was not as simple an install on the beemer as it was on the honda. In other words, not a simple plug-in plus the beemer's wiring is hard to access through the top of the plastic fairing. Got it done however and now my high-beam lights modulate when it's light out and stay steady on when it's dark enough to trip the light sensor. The tailblazer went in very easy.

I just installed the brakelight flasher but am sure it'll work pretty close to the previous version of brakelight flasher I had on the Aero.

Did some more research and realized three things re my recent drops of the motorcycle.

1. You must not use the front brakes at all for slow maneuvers, they're just too strong/grabby and will lock up the front wheel in nothing flat. Use the rear brakes only, using the right hand to control the throttle within the friction zone to help keep the motorcycle upright. These motorcycles are apparently known to spin the wheel all the way to its stops if you are slightly turning and grab the front brakes. Hence, avoid the front brakes on slow turns!

2. DON'T look down at the ground, because the spot you're looking at is exactly the spot your motorcycle will head to and fall on. I now recall, vividly now, looking at the bad spots on the ground covered in gravel and that's exactly the spot in each case where the motorcycle ended up. Must keep eyes up and level when doing slow turns and coming to a stop.

3. I am not the only R1150R or RT rider out there who's dropped his motorcycle doing exactly the same damn things, there's many. There's also stepping into potholes while coming to a stop, forgetting to put out the kickstand, and stopping on unlevel surfaces or slick surfaces causing these zero speed/low speed drops.

Going to try and practice, slow speed maneuvers, with plenty of stops and turns at low speed tomorrow. Yeah, it's a heavy motorcycle, but good techniques will help as well, use the motorcycle correctly instead of fighting it.

Another Ride, Another dropping of the motorcycle.

I definitely have some more training/thinking to do apparently now that I ride a much bigger motorcycle, which is more top-heavy and taller than Gretl used to be. I went riding with a co-worker today and ended up slipping on a sloping portion of parking lot with gravel on it barely 30 minutes into the ride!

A much more serious drop this time, I fell onto my back but was unhurt due to the riding gear, but the left side mirror incurred some paint dings and I dug another divot out of the left-side engine cover. Those engine guards can't get here soon enough! Bummer. This time I did not try as hard to keep the motorcycle up, thinking the engine covers would stop the motorcycle, and she went over more during this fall.

I picked up the motorcycle with Jim's help, surveyed the damage, brushed myself off and we proceeded onwards. I was a bit shaken by this second fall in as many days. I really have to be careful when choosing a spot to stop the motorcycle in parking lots and such where I am going at real slow speed and thereby have very little maneuverability with such a motorcycle with such a high center of gravity. Gone are the days of easily flatfooting a motorcycle with a low center of gravity which was Gretl. Maria takes a bit more muscle and care. Maria's front brakes are also much more stronger than Gretl's front brakes, can't brake the same way with the beemer and the brakes grab quite easily. This can cause you to ride forward under inertia and put you in a bad position to control the motorcycle.

We had started at the Chatfield reservoir and ridden down Deer Creek Canyon, till we got to Fenders and headed south till we got to US285 where we headed South. I believed we had missed a turn and had turned into this gas station to talk things over with Jim. That's where I dropped the motorcycle dammit. oh well.

We proceeded onwards and took the CR126 highway down to Deckers from US285. A winding road with some twisty portions. Jim took the lead and he definitely could take those twisting turns faster than I cared to at the time. I figure I still had the motorcycle drop fresh in my mind, and my confidence in my riding abilities was a bit shaken so I hung back and was content to keep Jim in sight as we traversed CR126 all the way to Deckers.

We stopped before the scenic overlook on CR126 and I found out the hard way that since I can't flatfoot the motorcycle easily, that parking the motorcycle pointing DOWN a slight incline, facing a fence is not the smartest thing in the world. I could not, despite all efforts, back up the motorcycle while sitting on it! I could not overcome her weight, given my leverage or lack thereof. I had to dismount, back her off away from the fence just enough for me to remount and then do a sharp u-turn using a duck waddle till I got her clear enough to use the engine to get me going away. What a pain. I must really give careful thought as to where I park her in the future.

We then continued on and took a short break at Deckers where we were told the road south to Woodland Springs was open again to motorcyclists and that the pilot truck was going to be guiding southbound traffic at 1330. We left at 1330 from Deckers and just missed the dang pilot truck so we turned back towards Deckers. Once there we headed North on CR67 or South Platte River Road which bordered the river of course and wound its way north. The pavement ended shortly North of CR40 (Pine Creek Road) and we debated for a bit whether to continue on or backtract.

We decided to keep going on the dirt road, with Jim in the lead and me following cautiously behind him, wary of dropping the motorcycle again. After about 4-5 miles the dirt road ended and became rough pavement/gravel road. It is here, after we crossed the "history south platte bridge" than we came across a historic site, the South Platte Hotel.

Here's the hotel in the present.

Here's a pic of the hotel in her heyday.

None of the buildings surrounding the hotel in the old picture are there now, she stands alone behind some wire fencing. Interesting how time changes things.

Note, finally found out the name of the rock formation that I'd seen on my previous trip out here, its called the Long Scraggy Peak! The road that lead us to the South Platte Hotel borders it to the east along with the Platte River.

Here's a map we found at the end of CR 96 where it mets up with Foxton Road, a map which I'd seen on my first ride with Sanoke, which helped me get my bearings back to US285.

This depicts our route North from Deckers for the most part.

So, a great ride overall, despite dropping the dang motorcycle again. Lots of twisting roads though the weather proved cooler than predicted. We both had to don our cold weather gear for most of the ride. Jim, on his Vulcan 1500 Cruiser started feeling the cold since he had no windshield or fairing like I did and we called it quits around 1430 or so. We got on US285 and headed back towards Denver and we parted ways where I70 and C-470 exits are located on US285. I kept heading inwards towards the city and went to the beemer dealer where I put an order in for touch-up paint!

I wonder if they make rubber bumper-type protectors for BMW motorcycle mirrors? : )

Friday, October 13, 2006

Golden, Lookout Mountain and Kittredge

Had business in Golden today, finished up around noon and decided to ride up Lookout Mountain. The route is part of the "Lariat Loop" I believe and is a nice twisty ride all the way to the top where The Buffalo Bill Museum and grave are located. I saved the museum and grave for another day. That's the beauty of the business I have in Golden, the customer is located on 19th Street which leads right up the road to Lookout Mountain so you get to be next a cool ride after doing the work.

Near the top of Lookout Mountain with Golden in the background

After I descended I got to US40 and headed east back towards Morrison via CR93. Once at Morrison I headed back west on 74, aka Bear Creek Rd through Idledale and Kittredge and ended up in the town of Evergreen where I turned around since I did not find any place there that caught my eye for lunch. I had spotted a deli in Kittredge, the Red Door Cafe, nice little joint where I had lunch.

Afterwards I took CR120 or South Myers Gulch Road, through Indian Hills and finally intersecting with US285. I had originally inteded to go further South on CR122 but took the wrong turn and ended up heading East on US285 and then C470 heading East till I got off at Wadsworth at the Chatfield reservoir. I then took the usual back way through Waterton Canyon, Sedalia, Castle Rock, Parker and back home by 1500. Lots of twisty roads today, and Maria did them all beautifully.

The only downer for the day was when I slipped on gravel while coming to a stop in a parking lot in Golden just prior to my business appointment. I dropped the motorcycle. Yep, it had always been a matter of time but I had kind of hoped it would happen AFTER I had installed the engine cover guards that I have on order. But no, I dropped her this morning, scuffed up the bottom edge of the left side engine cover dammit. You have to bend down and look to spot it but I know it's there.

The good news is that I've confirmed what I had read, that the engine covers hit the ground first and prevent the expensive plastic fairing of the motorcycle from getting scratched on the ground. I managed to lift the motorcycle up off its side, heavy sucker, and was on my way to my appointment. I was a bit bummed out about scuffing the engine cover but kind of glad they did sustain the impact well, no leaks, and the fairing came through unscathed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Riding Maria back home

Morning broke over Custer in the form of overcast skies, windy and cold. We bundled up in our riding gear and headed out around 0830, taking the same route back that we took coming up.

My new motorcycle, the BMW R1150RT, aka Maria, rode beautifully throughout the trip. As I got more and more familiar with her handling, the better the trip got in terms of riding comfort and confidence. We added layers as we traveled since the day seemed to get colder, not warmer. The sun only peeked out once during the trip, otherwise overcast and cold. It even rained a little bit on us as we drove through Wyoming I think.

Through it all, Maria performed like a champ. Her heated grips precluded the need for glove liners which I then lent to one of my riding buddies. The one with the VTX 1800 was really suffering the most from the cold since his motorcycle did not have a windshield like we did. I gotta tell ya, the electronically adjustable windshield on the beemer is a great thing. In the fully up position it blocked the wind and its noise with ZERO buffeting experienced by me. In the fully down position once could feel the wind in one's face, just like if the screen was not there. Of course there's many positions in between fully up and fully down to suit one's needs. It significantly reduced the wind noise as well.

No wonder the other motorcycle manufacturers are starting to offer the same in their sport tourer motorcycles. Not to mention the fairing on the motorcycle which blocked a lot of wind from the gloves themselves seeminly, there were points in the ride today where I shut off the heated grips since they were not needed!

Although the riding position is very different from a cruiser's riding position for the rider, it was very comfortable for me. Every time my knees would start getting a bit sore, I'd just lean forward closer to the tank and rest my legs into the fairing and this relieved the pressure on the knees. I could point my feet downwards and sideways while staying on the pegs to also flex the leg muscles. Heck I could even slide backwards and upwards onto the pillion seat to stretch out the legs in that direction as well. No more sore butt symptoms either! Either the seat on a beemer is great when stock or it's a custom seat and I just don't know enough about bimmers to know. There were even a couple of times I stood on the pegs to stretch out the thigh muscles and it was no problem, it would not have been that easy on a cruiser.

Because she's a bigger motorcycle than my former Aero 750, I find myself not able to flatfoot her fully when standing still which is something I am slowing getting used to. Perhaps it'll be better with the old army boots on since they add about an inch to my height when I wear them. I can almost flatfoot the motorcycle when pressed fully forward against the tank.

Yeah, I know the seat height is adjustable on a beemer but I've got the seat in the lowest position right now! You have to wonder what the BMW guys have in their mind as the standard height for a German driver. The all must be at least six foot tall over there in the minds of the beemer's designers. : )

Only real hitch so far with the new motorcycle is that the riding position causes you to easily lean forward and put pressure on your wrists/hands. You have to conciously pull back into a straight backed riding position to relieve said pressure otherwise it cramps up your hand pretty quickly. I found wrapping my thumb above the grip vice below the grip helped as well. I am still going to have to explore some cruise control option for this puppy so I can rest/shake out the throttle hand easier and not lose speed while doing so.

Not much to say about the ride, wet and cold, at least it was not very windy for the most part! My riding gear came through with flying colors again, wore more layers this time which probably did not help the pressure on the knees.

So am I very pleased with my purchase of the R1150RT, I see what will hopefully be many long trips in my future, in comfort and with good performance. My wife says I proved to her that I was competent on the motorcycle so at least she's confident in my ability to ride safely. She'd been in the minivan trailing our group of three motorcycles all the way up and down from Custer, S.D. We're figuring it was just shy of 1000 miles round trip, a great riding adventure since it was the first long distance trip for two out of the three of us. The weather on the way back sucked but it was still a great ride, no one got hurt and no close calls during this ride. Nice.

Maria in her new home

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Goodbye Gretl, Hello Maria

I went to Sturgis today in my mind intending to just "look" and test drive the pre-owned 2004 BMW R1150RT they had there. I suspect my wife knew that my mind was pretty close to made up and only a few gentle nudges where needed for me to splurge and buy it.

Rob, a co-worker friend of mine rode up with me. He came along not only to keep me company but to be the voice of reason per my wife's instructions. Rob's job was to make sure I was making good choices and not get overwhelmed by motorcycle lust, for this I am very grateful to Rob.

We left from Mt Rushmore which we all visited as a group, we went via Rapid City and I-90 to get to Sturgis. It was a very windy day, with the strongest and longest lasting gusts of wind I'd experienced in my brief motorcycling career! Incredible, scary at times and definitely something else.

We get to the Sturgis Yamaha/BMW dealer and talked to Pat. He showed me the RT, the GS and it variations and discussed tradein values for Gretl and such. He offered me $1500 more for Gretl than the BMW dealer in Denver and I think this is what really sold me on the RT. She was a beauty, great shape and specs, and damn near every farkle I'd been wanting on a motorcycle.

I took her out for a test ride and she was incredibly smooth, fast, nimble and easy to ride. I can't readily "flatfoot" her as I could with Gretl since I sit higher up with the RT. That's something I will have to get used to, along with having dual controls for turn signals now vice both sides combined into one control as on Gretl. I hit the horn button by accident when I meant to signal a left turn once. She's got a loud horn!

The RT idles as smoothly if not smoother than the Honda Aero...quite different from the C model that I had test riden in Denver! Apparently, according to the Sturgis BMW salesguy, they actually designed in the vibration on the cruisers to appeal to the cruiser crowd that BMW was trying to make headway into. This apparently did not go over big with BMW owners and the C class motorcycle was a short lived thing with BMW. For this I am mightily glad. Just goes to show you can't type classify a whole brand by what you experience with one single model.

So we go away for lunch, this was around 3pm and rode around Sturgis for a bit looking for a place to eat. Sturgis was quite sedate and uncrowded of course since the annual motorcyclefest for which its known had been over and done with for weeks. I did not think to take pics, it just wasn't "sturgis-like". It was a quiet, dusty little town. We discussed the BMWs merits and came up with questions to ask the salesguy once we were done with lunch.

We go back and at that point I told the guy, let's do this. About 30 minutes later I signed the papers, went deeper into debt, got the familiarization briefing on the motorcycle. They topped off her tank and Rob and I hit the road trying to get back to Custer before nightfall. This did not happen.

We took Vanocker Canyon Road south out of Sturgis(where the dealer was located by the way). We took one wrong turn which led us down a dirt road for about a mile until it dawned on my brain that we should turn back. The RT did fine on the dirt road which was of similar qualities to some of the dirt roads that Sanoke has taken me down in our rides in Colorado. Anyways, we get back to the pavement and cruised a really twisty and nice road all the way to 385 where we then turned South towards Custer.

Evening was falling as we sped towards Custer, the motorcycle was performing beautifully and I was having no issues keeping up with Rob's Kawasaki 1000 Concours. We got back to the hotel in Custer around 1845, it was dark and I came back to a worried wife. She was right to worry of course, because the wildlife comes out at night in the Black Hills and let me tell you we saw deer and cows and more deer on our travels south. Luckily neither of us impacted with one and we made it safely back. I promised my wife never to do that again. Not sure what I could have done today though, we got such a late start back but no, never again will I ride on unfamiliar roads, in areas where deer are prevalent, in the evening/night hours! It's just too risky.

Once at the hotel, everyone admired the motorcycle, I was informed by my wife that her name is now Maria. Still following the "Sound of Music" motif you see, now that I the captain have found Maria, there are to be no other motorcycles. I believe this is a very fitting name for the BMW since she'll last for years, no way I'll outgrow her capabilities for years and she's going to be a very good commuter/touring motorcycle. Once I get some kind of cruise control on her of course, my hand was a bit sore and I missed the vista cruise control on Gretl. I had no sore butt pain on the over an hour long ride back, knees got a bit sore but shifting positions forward on the motorcycle eliminated that. It's nice how well she seems to fit me so far.

Here's a pic of Maria from the dealer's website, more to follow.

Manufacturer BMW
Model Year 2004
Model R 1150 RT (ABS)
Color Titan Silver Metallic
Stock Number: B473A
Miles 19437
Engine Air/oil-cooled, twin-cylinder
Displacement 1130cc
Bore x Stroke 101 mm x 70.5 mm
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Torque 74 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Fuel System Bosch Motronic MA 2.4 Electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Cam in head, 4 valves per cylinder
Horsepower 95 bhp @ 7,250 rpm
Ignition Two spark ignition system
Transmission 6-speed manual
Clutch 180 mm (7.09 in.) single dry plate, hydraulic assist
Final Drive 2.91:1
Frame 3-section frame using engine as stressed member
Length 87.8 in.
Width 35.4 in.
Wheelbase 58.5 in.
Seat Height 30.7/31.5/32.2 in
Ground Clearance 6.0 in.
Dry Weight 592 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 6.6 gallons including 1.0 gallon reserve
Suspension Front: Telelever w/central spring/strut. Linear-rate coil spring. Twin-tube gas-filled shock absorber. 4.7 in. travel
Rear: Patented BMW Paralever swing arm & shaft drive. Single-tube gas-filled shock absorber. Variable rebound damping. Progressive-rat
Brakes Front: BMW EVO 4-piston calipers w/dual 12.6 in. rotors
Rear: Single 11.2 in. rotor w/twin-piston caliper
Tires Front: 120/70 ZR 17 tubeless (Metzler 880s)
Rear: 170/60 - ZR 17 tubeless (Metzler 880s)

Friday, October 06, 2006

396.7 Miles

That's the mileage Gretl racked up today from the gas station near the house to the hotel in Custer, South Dakota. It took us nine hours to ride this distance, with multiple stops for gas and just stretching out sore muscles.

All the motorcycles did great, though when my wife saw me riding with my two riding buddies on their larger motorcycles she came to the realization that yes, perhaps I do need a bigger motorcycle! She apparently giggled to my friend's wife who was riding with her that it looked like I was riding a Vespa when compared to one friend's Kawasaki Concours 1100 or the other friends's Honda VTX 1800! It's all good, it helps move me closer to a bigger motorcycle.

And a bigger motorcycle is what I thought about on those stretches where a little more horsepower would have come in handy in order to pass slower moving vehicles more quickly and safely. A bigger motorcycle with perhaps a longer wheelbase and more legroom to stretch out on. A bigger motorcycle to bull through the headwinds with ease as opposed to sometimes struggling. These were the thoughts running through my head at certain points during the ride.

Don't get me wrong, Gretl did great. As long as she was not called upon to exceed 85pmph when passing or on some of the more boring stretches of road in Wyoming, she delivered what I needed.

The ride through Wyoming was windy as expected but not too bad, it was rolling hills and flat range at first and when near the S.D. border it became quite moonscape-like. Lots of rocky mesa-like rock formations. I could picture what the geologists say that the whole area had been sea bottom at some point eons ago.

We got to Custer at 1630, having made only one wrong turn, which is pretty good I have to say. Checked in, went out for a steak dinner nearby and now tired and fed, making these notes before calling it a night. I've half a mind to go to Sturgis tomorrow, it's about 70 miles from Custer, and take a test ride on that BMW R1150RT but we'll see how I feel in the morning. The temptation is high to trade Gretl in and ride the beemer home! : )

Thursday, October 05, 2006

First Big Trip on a motorcycle starts tomorrow

Riding up to the Black Hills National Forest area to the town of Custer, SD. Two co-worker rider friends and I are riding up on our motorcycles with my family following in the "support" van. It's just shy of 400 miles one way and we're pretty much avoiding the I-25 superslab on the way up. Having a support vehicle is nice since we can stow all our non-essential gear in the van and cruise the roads without too much excess weight.

Looks like it'll take us about 10 hrs with stops and such to get there so we'll be leaving early to get there before dark hopefully. The weather is predicted good for tomorrow and Saturday, a bit iffy on Sunday but we shall see.

Still debating upgrading to a bigger motorcycle. Still have an eye on one of the two R1200C Cruiser motorcycles at the BMW dealer but the finances may not work out. I'll definitely have a better idea after this long trip whether my Gretl is a keeper or not.

I hope to report on the ride tomorrow night. Meanwhile, here's our route:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Test rode a couple of BMW cruisers today

The local BMW dealer had a couple of used R1200C Cruiser motorcycles for sale. Apparently this was BMW's entry into the Cruiser market, they apparently did not do well enough as a class to be continued though according to the salesguy.

They let me test ride both of them after signing away all my rights. I rode the R1200C with less mileage(11k+), better looking paintjob (no scratches), smaller saddlebags/windshield and less bling and farkle. It had a rocker gearshift which took some getting used to but she ran fine though I could hear some whining while accelerating which was bothersome. She also idles rough when compared to the smooth idle of my Honda Aero. Apparently that's normal for BMW motorcycles with their "boxer" engine. The vibrations quickly dissapear once you start rolling and its a very smooth and quiet ride. The route outlined by the salesguy involved a bit of highway driving and before I knew it I was doing 90 and the motorcycle was not really working hard! Nice.

The second R1200C had huge saddlebags, a huge windshield whose top edge was annoyingly right in my sight line so I found myself either trying to look through it or above it. This windshield produced heavy buffeting above 65mph to the point where I could not read the road signs and got a mild headache out of the short time I was on the highway. This one had floorboards and a custom shift lever which allowed very little room for the toe of my boot to slip under it to shift. I did not like this arrangement and neither did my left knee after several iterations of shifting up and down in traffic. This motorcycle though rode smoother than the previous R1220C without evidence of the whining noise the first one had exhibited. This motorcycle as about $1600 more in price due to all the farkle and such and had racked up over 32k in mileage.

As I rode back to work in my smoothly idling Honda Aero, I could not help but notice how much smoother the idle was. The R1200Cs where definitely more powerful and smoother once moving but the experience of riding them was not one that said to me: "Buy me now! I can't live without you."

Seemed to me also the exhaust note on my Honda was a bit louder than the beemers....I would have thought it'd be the other way around or perhaps I was not paying that much attention to the noise when riding the beemers since I was concentrating on not breaking the motorcycle. Nice riding motorcycles, we'll see what kind of trade-in offer the dealer makes me if any.

If these don't pan out, there's a nice looking R1150RT up at Sturgis that might be worth looking at.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thinking of upgrading.....

Yep, my co-worker friends who are motorcycle owners told me it would happen but I thought it would take longer than it did. What's that you ask? The feeling that I should move up to a bigger engined motorcycle!

Sure, in the back of my mind I always thought that there was a bigger motorcycle in my future but it's been less than six months since I got Gretl and already I am thinking of trading her in. Sad.

It all started being more than a thought about two weeks ago as I was fighting a very strong headwind on Interstate 70. Throttle was full out and I was barely holding 70mph into the wind. I would have been out of luck had I had to pass or been in need of more speed to get out of something's way. It just was not an option.

So, I've got the upgrade bug pretty good right now. Here's the motorcycle I think I want to move up to but who knows what it'll morph to by tomorrow:

BMW R1150RT, a radical departure from the Cruiser look.

or perhaps:

Honda Valkyrie, a six cylinder monster.

then there's the:

Honda VTX 1800, biggest production V-twin, over 750lbs empty.

Or, I can stay with Gretl, who other than a bit underpowered on the superslabs in high winds, does everything I need her to do without complaint and great fuel economy. A bigger motorcycle would of course not get the 50-60mpg I am getting now, more likely in the 40s instead. There's a price for more power.

I am going, with co-worker friends, up to Black Hills National Forest this coming weekend. It'll be Gretl's first long distance ride so I guess I'll know at the end of that trip whether she'll stay with me for the long run or not.