Thursday, March 31, 2011

Denver Area Tech Day for Airheads - April 16, 2011

Do you have a BMW Motorcycle from the late 70s (or earlier) to really early 90's?  Want to gather with others who share your love of such simple and reliable steeds from Bavaria?  Come join us then at the planned Tech Day in the Denver Tech Center this coming month!

Tech Day: Where riders of a specific marque gather at a location to share their knowledge, experience and expertise with other riders as to the care and maintenance of their particular motorcycles.
It has been quite a while, that I know of, that a Tech Day for BMW Airhead motorcycles has been planned for the Denver Metro Area so I thought I'd help spread the word about one coming up next month.
From the host: Richard Paschen:
Bring your old BMW Airhead to the Denver Colorado Airhead Tech Day and Chile-Meat, 16 April 2011 at 0900hrs.  
We have never hosted a Tech Day before, nor even heard of one in the area so here we go!  The fun starts at 0900hrs and available for general use will be a double garage and large area of concrete driveway.  
Spring tune ups and refreshers will consist of setting valves, spark plug changes, timing, carburetor synchronizing, fluid and filter replacements, exhaust nut service as well as anything else you'd like to try.  
We will be able to collect your used oil for proper disposal.   We've got molly grease if you want to do a spline lube.  Tools on hand include a steering head wrench, hand tools, an exhaust nut wrench, timing lamp, torque wrenches, swing arm bearing puller, a small air compressor, an airhead manometer as well as a colormetric device, a multi-meter, grease, and anything else that you would like to bring along yourself.  
There will also be a Clymer’s Manual and a Haynes booklet on hand for reference and online access if you want to visit Snowbum’s or Dwayne’s sites.

As you may imagine, work is first come first served but we will try to group like things together as much as practical.  Shutdown will be at 5:00PM. If you'd like to try something ambitious please let us know in advance.  If you would like to offer some particular expertise to the others, let us know that too!  Parts, oil and oil filters and any tools you might need beyond those already mentioned are up to you.  If there is something nifty you’d like to share – Bring it!  

We'll have Texas style Chile, some sodas and water available.   Donations for anything other than that can be taken on the spot.

The address is:
7734 South Poplar Way
Centennial CO 80112
303 721 6993 H
210 365 0677 C

   This is off of Quebec St. between Dry Creek and County Line Rd near Quebec and C470.  Google it or call for directions.    
I am planning to be there to take photos of fellow Airheads communing with their fellow enthusiast, hoping to see a transmission input spline lube as mine will be due in about 8000 miles or so.  I hope to see you there.
Ride Safe.  Ride Aware.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prairie Wanderings

Mostly cloudy day today here on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains with a forecasted high only in the mid 50s at best.

I spent the morning doing checks and maintenance on the girls in the garage, just basic TCLOCS stuff.

After lunch, no chores remained undone, I headed out on Vikki to see what we could see to the East of us.  In less than ten miles, I was pretty much cruising on dirt and roughly paved roads with prairie grass and the occasional house or ranch lining the horizon.

The winds were intermittently gusty but bearable at first, it would get much more overcast and cold about 90 minutes into the ride but the start was quite pleasant for early Spring here in Colorado.

Steve of Scooter in the Sticks had commented to me during his recent visit that he always liked shots of motorcycles with a road leading off into the far distance and wide open spaces all the way to the horizon.  I pretty much road while looking for just such photo opportunities.

Along the way, I found that the Bridgestone Trailwings on Vikki are pretty crappy on loose dirt/gravel roads, especially where gravel had built up even just slightly.  I'll have to get more more aggressive threads when it comes time to replace the current tires.

The following shots are spots I liked along the big loop I rode centering things roughly on the small town of Bennett, CO.

 Heading North on County Road 137

 R.R. Crossing East of Bennett, CO along CO36

 At the Watkins National Guard Armory, located at the Front Range Airport 

"On my Cayuse, I will wander over yonder till I see a Mountain Rise...." 

 On Hudson Rd, spotted strangely shaped objects on the horizon

The objects turned out to be solar panel arrays at some Solar Energy Research Facility

By the time I'd taken the last picture above, things had turned a bit cooler and I motored on homewards to a warm house.  About 80 miles of wandering the Eastern Plains of the Denver Metro Area.  Looks like we've got some kind of weather front coming in, hopefully it'll bring some much needed rain for the area.

Hope you got a ride in this Sunday!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Riding with Scooter in the Sticks and also meeting RichardM

A happy confluence of events led to my meeting two fellow moto-bloggers yesterday and today.  Steve of Scooter in the Sticks fame and RichardM who writes about riding in Alaska on his Airhead Beemer among other subjects on Richard's Page.

In Steve's case, he was attending a conference of magazine editors here in the Denver downtown area this week and had blogged about it.  A few postings/emails later, we'd arranged to meet on Friday afternoon after he was done with the conference.  He took the light rail to the station closest to my home and I picked him up in Martha's BMW cage.

A cage you ask!  Yes, for when I asked Steve what size helmet he wore, he said it was XXL!  I had nothing like that and didn't want to risk picking him up via the Ural sidecar and not having my spare helmet fit him, ATGATT you know.

I made it up to him though as I had still some work to do after we got back to my house.  I turned him loose on Vikki, the V-Strom after ascertaining my spare helmet did indeed fit him and my spare riding jacket would fit as well.

Scooter in the Sticks, pioneer moto-blogger and photographer par excellance!

Steve asked when I wanted him to return home, I told him 4PM, which would give him an hour with Vikki.  It would actually be closer to 2hrs before I'd see Steve again, he managed to get himself "lost" in the cookie-cutter neighborhoods amidst which I live.  : )

Still, it was time on a motorcycle, I am sure it was not time wasted.  Hmmm, come to think of it, was he really lost?  : )

My loving wife fed Steve and I dinner and then she headed off for a meeting with friends.   Steve and I, after he'd found out he didn't have work in the morning, headed off  on the Ural so I could show him that not all sidecar rigs were bad things to ride.

As we were taking pictures of a nearby photo-op spot, a rider on a 2003 Royal Enfield had spotted us with the Ural and he came over to get a closer look.  He seemed quite excited about Natasha, and looked her over while Steve and I took a closer look at his ride:

Note Steve's stylish riding gear, he was only in a helmet as he was riding Monkey.

As night arrived, I had him get a feel for riding Natasha in a local school parking lot, and once he seemed comfortable with her quirks and noises, he rode her all the way home from the school while I rode Monkey.  Steve did great and commented how much smoother the ride was on the Ural.  Noisier and tractor-like of course and yet a better experience than on the Piaggio with sidecar rig he'd recently tried out.

Steve was now free to spend the night at my house but we needed to retrieve his stuff from the hotel.  So of course, we set off on the Ural and cruised into the Denver Downtown area via side roads.  Steve seemed to quite enjoy riding monkey and he did a great job of leaning outwards on right-hand turns as I would slide towards him to counter the centrifugal forces involved.  Or perhaps he was trying to just move away from me?  Hmmmm.

We rattled and rolled our way to Steve's hotel, the Grand Hyatt on 18th and Welton Street.  The valet seemed quite interested in the Ural and we chatted as Steve went to get his stuff and settle the bill.  My pictures of the area in front of the hotel entrance didn't turn out, go see Steve's blog tomorrow for a picture of Natasha in front of the hotel.  He won't get home till late tonight so I doubt he'll be blogging when he gets there.

I got us lost on the way back out of the downtown area and elected to use the I-25 super slab, on a Friday night, to speed our way back towards the suburbs.  It was a bit nerve-wracking as I was the slowest vehicle out there that night but thankfully we were on the southbound side, the northbound side was all clogged up with construction!

Oh and as Mr Jack Riepe had commented in Steve's blog that he figured we'd be out carousing "all the way to even 10PM), here's a picture for him:

It's past 10PM Jack, heck we were up till almost Midnight!  
(the scantily clad girls were in the other room, Jack, really...)

All the above was Friday, on Saturday we woke to beautiful blue skies and somewhat brisk temperatures.  After breakfast, Steve and I headed out towards Red Rocks Park as he had a whole morning to kill before his flight in the afternoon back to Pennsylvania and the snow.

Steve elected to ride on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer because she had heated grips.  The temperatures were slightly below freezing so I understood completely.  I rode Vikki, the V-Strom and we made our way across Denver using US285.

Less than an hour later, we cruised through Morrison just shy of 9:00AM, past the 20 or so BMW motorcycles parked in front of the Red Rocks Grill (meeting time/place for the ColoradoBeemers Club) and onto the entrance to Red Rocks Park just past the edge of town.

I signaled Steve to take the lead at this point and we would spend the next hour or so slowly wandering about the park, Steve stopping where he wished to take pictures.  Here's some of the shots I took while he did his thing:
 Vikki at the rock tunnel leading to the North Parking Lot at Red Rocks

 I believe the above is Picnic Rock

 That's Lookout Mountain in the background.

A view of the valley from Red Rocks Park.

A short video of Steve, riding in Red Rocks Park, his riding jacket is underneath the stylish plaid jacket in order to stay warm.

Once Steve was satisfied with the amount of photos he'd taken, we headed out to Lookout Mountain.  A had myself a "senior moment" however and we ended up taking an hour long detour by way of Parmalee Gulch Road, which while enjoyable in terms of twisty canyon road riding, cut into the time we had left before we had to get back to the house and ready Steve to go to the airport.

Still, I finally found my way to the right roads and up we went to the top of Lookout Mountain.  We took a short break and visited Buffalo Bill's Grave which is located at the top of the mountain.  We then made our way down the "twisty" side of  Lookout Mountain road.  There was some bicycling event going on apparently as the place was swarming with bicyclists.  There were also clueless cagers in the cars, passing said bicyclists on double yellow areas, muscling into our lane as we descended!  Steve handled it all with aplomb.  

Once down from the mountain, we found a gas station in Golden (after I had another senior moment and ended up riding the wrong way on a one-way street); Brigitta had hit reserve in the gas tank while up on the mountain you see.

The rest of the ride was a race home on C-470 and E-470.  No issues, and the wind was noticeable but not making life "interesting" as it can do this time of year.  Got Steve home with one minute to spare and we both piled into the cage for the ride to the airport.

After a late lunch, I said my goodbyes to Steve and he entered the secured area of the airport.  He would be meeting with RichardM who was coincidentally transiting the airport on his way back to Alaska from a conference in Arizona!  

Once Steve left to catch his flight, RichardM was gracious enough to come out to the main terminal and we met up and chatted for almost two hours.  Turns out both of us have something more than Airhead motorcycling in common, we're both Network Engineers.  Richard however has been doing it a lot longer than I have and holds a very senior architect-type position with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

I asked Richard on life in Alaska, we talked about our motorcycles, sidecar projects we're both working on and just network geek stuff in general.  It was a good time and I was glad to have physically met Richard:

RichardM at DIA

So, a good ride with fellow blogger Steve and a nice conversation with fellow blogger Richard.  Quite the last two days.   I hope they both had smooth flights back home.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Riding into Spring with Vikki

Ah, the first official day of Spring here in the great state of Colorado and I was riding Vikki, my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom into the mountains.  The weather was sunny and forecasted warm in the Denver Metro area, it would be a bit overcast and colder up at Loveland Pass, today's destination.

I at first rode along the standard non-fast route into the mountains, then quickly realized something: I was riding a motorcycle which could go fast!  I got on the I-25 slab and motored north at a good rate of speed, Vikki just humming along with no seeming effort, and then we headed west on US-6 to its eventual intersection with westbound I-70.

The winds were pretty fierce as they rushed out of the canyon walls formed by the I-70 super slab.  I got off the highway quick and continued on US40, hugging the northern walls of the hills which border the I-70 highway.  I got all the way to Buffalo Overlook and stopped Vikki at the usual spot where I see the snow-clad peaks of the Rocky Mountains for the first time:

The winds continued to be pretty strong, making things "unsettling" at times while I rode along.  So I got off the El Rancho exit, tanked up and then continued on US40 from there.  I enjoyed relatively solitude on this two lane road which parallels the hectic pace of nearby I-70, past Floyd Hill and rejoined it three miles east of Idaho Springs.

The winds had steadied down to constant speeds by this point thankfully, so I was able to make good speed on the superslab as I continued westbound towards the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Continental Divide.  As I emerged out the western end of the tunnel, I saw snow-capped peaks filling the horizon and it finalized my decision to ride towards the town of Dillon for photos.

I got off at the Silverthorne exit and headed north on CO9 for a few miles in order to find a nice spot to pose Vikki at with a couple of mountain formations one can see from I-70.

 Vikki poses by someone's driveway entrance on CO9

 Panoramic view of the far of Eccle's Peak and Mount Silverthorne
(I think)

Mount Silverthorne?

I then headed south on CO9 past the small downtown area of Silverthorne towards Dillon Reservoir.  I was looking for the spot where I'd photographed Brigitta last year:  LINK.  I found and rode along the Dillon Dam Road, the folks downstream of this dam before hope it never breaks, they'll be completely swept away by the huge amount of water held in check by the dam.

I rode into a spot called the Dillon Marina I believe, which provided these nice views of the frozen-over reservoir and bordering mountain peaks.

Motoring onwards, the road lead me back near the I-70 Slab and Dillon itself.  I spotted the sign for Swan Mountain Rd and knew it would lead me to the spot I wanted.

Panoramic view of Dillon Reservoir
Click HERE for a pic of the same spot in June 2010

The photo objective for Dillon achieved, I continued east on US6 away from Dillon and soon was climbing rapidly upwards towards Loveland Pass.  The roads were fine, wet in spots which were easily avoided but not much room on the shoulders for motorcycles to safely stop.

I got up to the pass with no issues and here's some of the views from there today.   You'll note the heavily overcast skies; things were quite "brisk" at the pass.  I did not linger there very long.

 The mountain views to the north of Loveland Pass

The ride down the pass was dry and smooth as well.  I was soon motoring eastward now on I-70, Vikki once again in her element, her overdrive sixth gear smoothly rolling up the miles back Denver.

I'd gotten quite cold up at Loveland Pass but I could feel the degrees climbing steadily as we plunged downwards in altitude.  The sun came out from the mountains as well and it felt good on these old bones of mine.

I got home shortly after 2PM, perhaps 200 miles and about 4.5 hrs in the saddle today.  The new topcase did fine and came in quite in handy when I had to shed layers once it got too warm for me in the city.

A good way to greet Spring here in the Rockies, hope you got a ride in today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Topcase for Vikki the V-Strom

So the farkling continues on the new-to-me motorcycle, Vikki, the DL1000 Suzuki V-Strom.  Her first farkle was barbacks/risers to place the handlebar grips a bit higher and closer to me for the longer rides.

This week, the topcase I'd ordered from BestemUSA Motorcycle Accessories last weekend and it arrived on Thursday.  Installation was pretty straighforward on the V-Strom and the hardest part was mating a power lead wire to the brake light's power cable.  (not much room in the tail section of the V-Strom to move around in with one's hands).

The topcase is similar to the Givi topcase of similar dimensions.  It's also, based on my experience with the JC Whitney topcase, much superior to the Whitney knockoff.  For example, it comes with a built-in LED light which once you hook it up, lights up when you apply the brakes.  Hopefully it'll catch some unwary cager's attention.

Note the LED Brake Light above the chrome piece with the BESTEM logo

You can, supposedly, put two helmets inside but since I tend to ride solo when on two wheels, that's not a major issue.  I just needed something to stash the work laptop securely within during my commutes to and from work.  Strapping the laptop bad down on the pillion seat had become a bit of a chore and was causing some rub marks on the paintwork.

The "universal" mounting plate worked pretty well with the V-Stroms's cargo rack, and no cursing was involved so you know it was not hard at all to do.  Some drilling, some filing, swapping out the motorcycle's rear mounting bolts with the ones provided by BESTEM and it was all secure.

You can unlock and pop off the topcase in less than 30 seconds if needed, and you do have to remove the case when you want to remove the motorcycle's seat.

I hope to get in a good long ride tomorrow, so more scenic pictures hopefully to follow the below pictures.

 Vikki with her new topcase

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Vikki's first farkle and changing out her air filter

Today I had time to install Vikki's first farkle, it was a set of machined billet steel barbacks and risers. I bought them online from a fellow stromtrooper called Blair who operates SV Racing Parts.

I had found myself reaching a bit forward with the stock bar mounts on Vikki during last weekend's riding and wanted the grips brought back about an inch and a bit higher so I would not be leaning forward slightly.

They're very nicely machined parts and fit right onto Vikki. I will admit I mounted them in a hurry and badly the first time around but Oscar fixed me up today with a bit of work from his tap and die set. ( I now know how to use such tools and own my own set )

Barbacks and Risers from SV Racing Parts

I also had a chance to do my scheduled maintenance task on Vikki, apart from just topping up fluids and such that I did last weekend.  Vikki is just shy of 11,000 miles and per the service manual, one should replace the air filter.

Suzuki packed so much technology into its motorcycles, and it comes at a price for the home wrench turner.  You have to remove a few screws, plastic covers and last but not least....the fuel tank has to come off!

It took me quite a bit as I was going slow in order to not damage things.  I am sure it'll be faster next time as I did not have to figure some fasteners out due to the manual being a bit terse in terms of instructions.

Here's the toolkit that comes with the motorcycle, not too shabby:

Removing the plastic side covers was pretty straightforward though I found the Givi Crash bars to get in the way of things.  Oh well.  Of course, I'd just filled up the tank so it was quite heavy but by taking things slow and careful, it all worked out.

You have to remove the fuel quick-disconnect (a bit of a pain until you realize there's two tabs to loosen)
You also have to remove an electrical coupler (lower right of picture)  
I also found, loose, the hose from the tank to the couple which mates it to the downtube for gas overflows, fixed that.

Here's Vikki, with the fuel tank removed, and the air box in full view

Eight screws removed, the top is simply pulled off, exposing the old air filter
it was not too dirty but since the manual called for its replacement.....

Here's a top down view of the inside of the air box
Not too dirty but I cleaned it out anyways
You can see the butterfly valves that lead to the top of the throttle bodies

Here's the new filter I bought online from HiflowFilters
It mounted right on and then it was just a matter of screwing the air box cover back on

The rest of the task was just putting things back in reverse order.  I found a couple of things that needed fixing which led to my riding over to Oscar's place so he could teach me how to use a tap and die st.  The left side cover's mounting screw and mounting hole were stripped slightly and I found I was missing a rubber grommet for the trailing edge of the cover.

Oscar fixed the screw and mounting hole and the grommet is on order from the local motorcycle dealer.

All this burned up the morning though and so not much riding got done today, I hope to do some extended riding tomorrow to get a feel for the new barbacks.  Vikki rode great as usual, her throaty growls on acceleration bringing a stupid grin on my face as I rode to and from Oscar's house and the hardware store.

Finally, I leave you with a picture of Long's Peak which is visible from my new employer's office.

Long's Peak from South Glenn Mall, at 12X Zoom

Sunday, March 06, 2011

First real ride with Vikki the V-Strom

Spent most of the morning sorting out things on Vikki, making sure fluid levels were correct, tire pressure optimal, and just in general taking a good long look at the motorcycle.

It was almost Noon as I motored out of the neighborhood, Vikki's engine purring underneath me as overcast skies lent some pretty good lighting to the Denver Metro Area.  Today it would not get above the low 50s in terms of temperature and there were gusty winds through the entire ride.

I got on westbound E-470 and quite enjoyed the ease that Vikki achieved 80+ mph in a very short time.  The winds did not bother us much and traffic was very light as I made good time to Morrison, Colorado.  I got there faster than usual as you can imagine and maneuvered Vikki to a gas station to fill up her tank.

I continued North, now on CO93 from Morrison and reached Golden soon enough.  I kept going North as the plan was to go to Boulder and hopefully meet up with this guy who was advertising an old sidecar rig on

By 1:00PM I was in Boulder, having thoroughly enjoyed the performance and smoothness of Vikki's overdrive gear or sixth gear.  She would, at one point, hold 85 mph at just under 4500 rpm, very nice.  I have no doubts that with a sidecar attached, she'll comfortably hold 75 mph all day long.

Once at Boulder, I stopped at a gas station to call the guy selling the sidecar rig.  No response, left him a text message asking him to call me.   Waited around for a bit, nothing.  Oh well, another day perhaps.

I cruised to US36 to further exercise Vikki's legs but the slab riding got boring fast.  I doubled back towards Boulder and exited at the Baseline Rd exit.  Baseline Road leads one to the Chatauqua Center for Boulder but al so offers great views of "The Flat Irons", rock formations for which the town is known.

 Vikki at Baseline Road with the Flat Irons in the background

Quite capable looking, isn't she?

Still no call from the seller so I motored on out of town and turned West onto CO72 thinking perhaps of seeing how close the snow I was seeing cresting the foothills really was.

It turned out to be quite close, less than two miles into Coal Creek Canyon Rd, snowflakes started appearing in my vision.  I stopped at the first safe spot and got this shot:

You can see the snow cresting over the canyon's rocky hills

Though the snow flakes did not last, I chose to turn tail at this point as I'm still getting used to Vikki's handling characteristics and introducing snow on the road didn't seem at all wise.

I got back on CO93 and headed South, transiting Morrison as the skies grew a darker gray.  Soon I was running at 80 mph, with no effort mind you, heading back they way I'd come on C-470.  Got home with no issues except for some really strong winds near the home neighborhoods.  I am thinking perhaps the forecast for snow for tomorrow might be accurate this time.

Friday, March 04, 2011

And Baby makes Three!

A day full of significant events today.

It was my first day of "unemployment" since my last day with Sungard was yesterday.  No worries though, I start a new job as Senior Network Engineer with Pearson Education this coming Tuesday, the 8th of March.

As you know from my previous posting, my trip to Texas had failed miserably in securing for me a second sidecar rig.  Though the performance on the R90 had been great, it's age and transmission issues got me thinking perhaps I needed to go with a newer model Beemer such as an 1100/1150 BMW GS instead for a tug.

Days went and nothing in my searches online found any GS's that were reasonably priced as candidates.

One of my co-workers, Oscar, strongly encouraged me to look at Suzuki's V-Strom models.  He'd checked them out himself a while back and been most impressed.  Me?  I'd always thought dual sport mean BMW GS, as I'd been an early drinker of the BMW kool-aid.  I wanted dual sport as whatever rig would eventually replace Natasha (my Ural sidecar rig whose motto is "so what shall break next?") would have to allow me to ride on snow and mild to moderate dirt roads/trails.

I resisted at first, thinking I would be straying from the path of Teutonic righteousness and light but in the end realized I'd taken major steps off that path with my acquisition of the Russian Ural.

Feverish research and checking out of information online at led to the discovery of a lot of fellow BMW riders who'd defected to Suzuki in their choice of dual sport steeds.  Their tales of bulletproof reliability were a siren song to my ears.  The many pictures of their exploits off road rivaled the ones I'd seen on Beemer forums extolling the adventures of GS riders.  Finally, the clincher was the price of entry was at least half of the cost of going with a used GS.

I started searching for imagery of  V-Stroms with sidecars.  I decided early on that the DL650 would not have the power to pull a sidecar and the long range plan is to attach a sidecar to the V-Strom.  Perhaps something like this:

image src: google
A DL1000 V-Strom with what appears to be an Ural Sidecar
Something similar could be in my future

The motorcycling gods then chose to smile upon me by allowing me to spot an ad on Craigslist yesterday for a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 motorcycle for sale in Denver.  Several emails and a call later yesterday evening and I had an appointment to meet with Michael L; the man selling the V-Strom.

The Craiglist Ad

For those of you unfamiliar with the Suzuki V-Strom (and until a few days ago, so was I), it's Suzuki's dual sport offering sold in direct competition to BMW's R1200GS Dual Sport.  Pretty much similar specifications but at a much lower cost.

Here's a link to Suzuki's website, for more info and specifications for the curious amongst you:  LINK

As I was "unemployed" as of today, I rode Natasha over to the vicinity of Michael's address in order to be on time for the appointment to check out his V-Strom.  I had some time to kill so I checked out the surrounding area and cruised through nearby Washington Park.

Washington Park, Denver

I met Michael at 12:30 today in the Cherry Creek district of Denver, a very nice and established area of town.  In fact, Michael's condo building was listed in the National Historic Landmarks Register:

He brought the V-Strom out of the garage next door and we spent the next hour or so talking about the motorcycle's history, performance, provenance and such matters one discusses when thinking about buying a motorcycle.

The major selling points for me were the custom Bill Mayer seat that Michael had them create and put on immediately after he took possession of the motorcycle in California.  Michael then rode the V-Strom almost 1500 miles through high heat and desert night back to Denver, making a few stops along the way.  The V-Strom did the trip with not a single problem and with great aplomb according to Michael in a letter he'd sent back to Suzuki Corporate back in L.A.

Michael had also outfitted the motorcycle with engine guards, flush mounted front turn signals (the stock ones tend to break off if you drop the motorcycle) and Suzuki had put in HID headlights for him as part of the setup.  The lights apparently lit up the desert night in an outstandingly bright manner on his return trip from California.

We shook hands on the deal and after transferring of funds and signing of the bill of sale, the V-Strom was mine!  I could see that Michael was having a hard time selling her off, as he knew they're getting scarcer and scarcer and he really had loved riding the motorcycle.  He'd even named her: Vikki, the Strom.  V-Strom, get it?

I assured Michael she would received loving care under my hands and would have a good home with my other two motorcycles.  He also gets visitation rights!  : )   Can you tell he and I got along pretty well right from the start?  Michael, thanks for such a well taken care of motorcycle, remember to bring your daughter along on your visitation of Vikki, I'll give her a ride on Natasha, the Ural sidecar!  

I rode Vikki home, she performed flawlessly and I immediately started bonding with her and her superb riding performance.  I easily saw why Michael enjoyed riding her so much.  Her powerful 1000cc engine propelled me through late afternoon traffic with hardly any effort.  I soon adapted to her throttle response, brakes were excellent and handling was nimble and light.

Once my loving wife got home from work, she took me back to Michael's place in the cage and I retrieved Natasha from where I'd left her parked.  The weather guessers had called for a chance of snow today you see and I wanted to get Vikki in my garage before it hit.  As it turned out, both motorcycles made it home with no snow.

Vikki's odometer reading when I got her home.  Nice gauge display isn't it?

Between getting her temporary tags at the DMV and being engaged by my sons in a "World of Warcraft" game after dinner, I'd lost all the good light for pictures of Vikki now that I am the owner.  I'll post some tomorrow, I promise.

In the meantime, here's one I took while she's in the garage, not great but it'll give you an idea of what she looks like:

Vikki, 4 March 2011

And so, Vikki being a 2004 model, is the baby of my three motorcycles.....hence the title of this posting which was Martha's idea.  Ain't she great?

The plan now is to ride her like she is for a few months, as she's already proven to me to be quite an enjoyable ride.  Sometime in the Fall if not sooner, I'll start work on getting a sidecar for her and a subframe mount from Dauntless Motors probably.  I will, make all efforts, to keep her rideable solo.  I suspect her riding fun factor will cause me to delay her sidecar days for a long time.

Note: for those of you wondering why not just buy a brand new DL1000 for the MSRP of $9799, they're not available for 2010 or 2011 apparently!  I could not find any in the inventories of the local Suzuki dealerships and it seems Suzuki may have quit making the 1000cc model.  I'll have to do some more digging to find out why.  I had spotted an article online where the theory was that in Europe anyways, the 1000cc models were having problems meeting the strict emissions requirements put out by the EU.  

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The R90 Sidecar Rig - a Texas misadventure

O'Dark thirty, that's what we'd refer to it in the Army when one had to get up at some upgodly hour in the early morning in order to either "Stand To" and await a dawn attack on our artillery position (it's the rule, one attacks at dawn when there's growing light and your enemy is supposedly groggy from waking up) or to get things ready to get moving to the next position for more fire missions.

So, this past Sunday, it was O'Dark Thirty or 3:00AM when the alarm clock went off at my beside and I groggily got out of bed to get ready to drive the rental car down to Amarillo, TX.

Amarillo is where Perry, of Perry's Motorcycles of Fort Worth had agreed to trailer a R90 Sidecar rig and meet up to turn it over to me. I'd rented a car the day before and had packed it and ready to go so I was on the road by 3:36AM, leaving my family still sleeping warm in their beds.

The ride down was uneventful and it didn't take me long to get back in to the "swing of things" in terms of staying awake and alert while driving. I made good time and by 6:30AM I had crossed over the New Mexico state border, driven through Raton Pass, and got fuel and food at the junction with US287/87.

From there it was another 4 hrs to Amarillo, TX. Only one incident along the way, I was going 80 in a 70 mph speed limit area and one of the Texas State Patrol stopped me. I thought I was going to get a "performance" award for sure but when he found out I was enroute to pick up a vintage BMW motorcycle with a sidecar rig; all he said then was "That sounds pretty cool" and he let me off with a warning.

The Toyota Yaris I rented, 447 miles from my house to Amarillo International Airport

Keeping steadily to the 70 mph limit from there on, I got to the rental car parking lot without further excitement. The GPS in the rental car was useless in finding the place and so Perry had the same issues finding me! After a bit of wandering around the area, he and I finally met up in person after weeks of emails and phone calls.

She looked good didn't she?

She was quite beautiful to my eyes and I eagerly listened to Perry's instructions on its individual care and maintenance, it's controls and such.

Perry gave me the title, I gave him the remaining balance on the motorcycle, we shook hands and he went off back home to Fort Worth. The winds were pretty fierce throughout this whole time, making it hard to even stand in one position when the winds hit you!

I packed up the sidecar with my tools and stuff, returned the paperwork on the rental car and away I went to fuel up.

The R90 handled beautifully in spite of the increasingly stronger winds that kept buffetting me and the rig. The horizon, both in front and behind me as I rode on US287, was blotted out by a solid looking wall of sand and dust picked up by the winds.

The last time I'd seen dust storms like that, had been while on active duty in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. Not exactly ideal riding conditions you might say.

Stil, the R90, with the Dneper sidecar rig pulled strongly in spite of the very strong headwinds I kept encountering. When the winds hit me sideways, she'd pretty much hold onto the road though there was one particular gust that blew me onto the neighboring lane.  That sure got my attention! When the winds hit me headon, I'd have to gear down to fourth gear and she'd still hold 60mph easily....I was quite pleased with her performance (in between fearing for my life) from the waves of dust clouds I road through.

Sorry, no pictures, just picture a big brown horizon-blotting cloud, coming at you at shelter around you, just wide open plains covered in dry grass.

I made it past Dumas, TX, now on US87, when I felt the transmission fall out of gear! Hmmmm, I thought, you dumbass, you didn't click it fully into gear. I snicked it back into gear and carried on a few miles west of Dumas. Then, the transmission fell out of gear again....dammit I thought, something's wrong.

Still I kept going seeking a safe sheltered spot to stop, until it started falling out of gear and not allowing me to move between gears. I limped into the hamlet of Hartley, whose claim to fame is the Dalhart Consumers Co-Op grain silos and the gas station. I called up Perry on his cellphone and damn if he didn't immediately say he'd head back and come rescue me!

Of course, by then, he was about 140 miles south of Amarillo, battling the same dust storms I had ridden through. He was driving a Mercedes Benz Sprinter Cargo van and pulling a trailer so you can imagine the rough ride he had in those winds which apparently gusted to a maximum of 68mph according to the news!

I had called Perry just before 3:00PM and it was a little past 7:00 before he managed to arrive at Hartley, he'd battled high winds and apparently a very large prairie fire that had invoked I think all the fire engines in the Texas Panhandle! This explained all the fire engines I saw racing back towards Amarillo I'd seen while parked, stranded, by the silos in Hartley.

Hartley, TX

On a sidenote, not one person stopped, as they cruised through Hartley enroute to other places to ask me if I needed help. What's up with that? Do motorcycle riders sit for hours on end by the side of the road in a parking lot in Texas?

I ended up moving the rig over next to the big silos, on the leeward side, to escape most but not all of the sandblasting effect brought on by the strong winds which blew all afternoon and into the evening.

Once Perry arrived, he did a quick check and told me he thought something had broken within the transmission and that he'd have to take her back to the shop.  We got her tied up on the trailer and headed on back to Dumas to get a room as it was quite late at this point.

Enroute to Dumas, Perry proved again he merited the great reputation he has within the BMW motorcycling community and offered me several options.  I chose the one where I'd return the motorcycle to him (he was selling it on consigment it turns out) and he'd refund me the full purchase price.  He returned my check to me and he said he'd mail me the deposit amount soon as he got back to his shop.  Now this, is a shining example, of a man standing by the motorcycle he's selling, even when he's only the middleman!

After a restless night in Dumas (Perry paid for the room to kind of make up for the inconvenience all the above had caused), he dropped me off in the early morning at the Greyhound bus station in Dumas.  Dumas is a small town and the bus station reflected it.  The waiting area was at best described as "disheveled", heated too warmly but the attendant was gruff but helpful.

Dumas' Bus Station

My view of the bus from my seat

The bus departed pretty much ontime and between uneasy attempts at napping (too much noise and movement by the bus), I was able to capture these pics and  film clips out the moving bus window.

Capulin Volcano National Monument

Lunch was 30 minutes in the border town of Raton, New Mexico.  Had I'd been on a motorcycle or in my own car, it would have meant I was 3 hrs from home.  It would be another 4.5 hours till we got to the Union Station stop in Downtown Denver.

The bus I rode home on from Texas

The rest of the bus rise went pretty much downhill in terms of travel comfort as it pretty much filled up in the town of Pueble (which is Spanish for town) and got filled up in Colorado Springs.  Nothing like a bus full of pregnant women with little ones along, what looked like just-released prisoners from CaƱon City's jails, and seemingly down on their luck folks to make one wish for the open road with a working motorcycle underneath him.

We got to downtown Denver around 5:30PM, rush hour traffic was in full swing and hectic as usual.  I got off at the last stop, right after most everyone had departed at the next to last stop, the main bus station for Greyhound.  Schlepping my heavy belonging and riding gear (what a pain) I walked the 1/2 mile or so to the RTD Light Rail station by Union Station.  The rest of the next trip was standing packed like sardines in a light rail car, with the daily commuter crowd, again wishing for a working motorcycle.

My loving wife picked me up at the nearest light rail station to our home, and I drove us home in the cage.  I was sure glad to be home, quite the adventure but nothing to show for it at the end.  Oh well, the search continues anew for a second sidecar rig.