Sunday, July 26, 2015

What I've Learned: Slow in, Fast out

When I started riding, I wasn't on what I would term technical roads very often. The turns were more of the long, sweeping variety. As a result, I could maintain speed through them, and even minor slowing got me through the curve.

As my riding progressed, I sought out twistier, more challenging roads. There are a lot of them here in South Central PA, and they meander through countryside, farmland, and alongside the hills that pass for mountains in my area of the state/country. At first, I thought the best approach to these corners was to let off the throttle and to apply the brakes. This slowed the bike down, and also moved the weight forward, giving a better turning feel. But in these more technical areeas, what I was finding was two things: First, I often came into the corner too hot, approaching at a speed that felt not quite as safe as it should be. Even with the braking, it didn't feel like I was slowing down enough to get the bike around, nd I found myself scrambling to make adjustments while I was in the turn. Second, when I went to accelerate out of the turn, the bike lugged because it didn't have a high enough RPM. The bike felt unnaturally heavy in those moments, not like it was going to fall over, but like it could. I was on a Suzuki SV1000, and the sport-bike nature kept me upright in those situations, in essence making adjustments for my lack of skill.

So I started trying to downshift. At first, I tried to do it in the turn, but that really didn't feel right.  I graduated to a Tiger 800, which is a much more upright bike, and the feel of the lean in the turn was much more dramatic from this perch. On the Suzuki, it felt like I was diving into turns nose first, whereas with the Tiger, it felt more like a tipping over and just riding around them. Interestingly, I also became much more aware of oncoming traffic, because that upright position puts your eyes up with them. Then, I read Keith Code's Twist of the Wrist and saw how downshifting BEFORE the turn sets the whole bike up. The weight shifts forward AND the RPMs are high. I just started tipping into corners, picking the best line, then accelerating out of them. It was like magic.

I'm on the Multistrada now, and I am still experimenting with this (How much brake? How many downshifts - I usually do two? What is the BEST line?). One of the surprises to me is just how far the lean can go. Watching sportbike riders, I think to myself I won't ever lean over to the point where I am scraping knees, footpegs, or bags. Nor do I want to do this. But, there are roads with which I am very familiar, and I have found myself leaning a bit farther into the turns, and actually experiencing that it is more comfortable to lean farther. The bike just WANTS to go in to the lean.

My focus, now that I am beginning to understand the physics of riding, is how to do it more smoooooothly. I have minimized adjustments in the corners, so the steering is less choppy and the turn is one fluid movement of the bike. It's not pperfect, but it's better. Also, the roll on of the throttle is getting better, because I am becomeing comfortable with wht the bike can do.

Smooth. Comfortable. In control. That's a nice turn.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


FARKLING is like eating potato chips. You can't do just one, and as way leads on to way, it's easy to lose track of time, space, and probably money as well, unil you hit the bottom of the chip bag. Or, your wallet.

The new windscreen solved some of the issues, but not all of them. The buffeting was lessened, though not eliminated, and a lot of the noise remained. One of my favorite sites for learning about riding is Adventure Rider, which features a fantastic forum for asking questions. I connected with Dave, who recommended Aztec Spacers, which create even smoother airflow through the screen by making it stand up straighter.

He actually had an extra set and sent them to me. For free. Because sometimes people are just cool like that. They just arrived, so I set about putting them on.
 Out came the Allen wrenchees...again, with the Allen wrenches!!!
The two larger spacers screw on behind the screen on the top, while the shorter one screws on the bottom, creating the more upright position.
Once I installed the spacers with a simple hand-tighten, I put the screen back on. The holes didn't match up (do they ever? Honestly?) and then just tightened the screen back on. It helped to do the top screws first, as they were a little harder to finagle into position. 

Then, the bottom one..
 You can see the space created by the Aztecs.
 Simple, elegant, easy installation.
The test ride was good. The buffeting is almost completely gone. A little toying with the top of the visor improved it even more, to the point where it is almost a non-issue. The noise is still there, but that too is reduced. I suspect most of that is from the wind coming over the space next to the bottom of the screen. There is a small area that angles up, creating a sort of wind ramp, and I think that it is this area that is letting the last of the noise in. 
I will eradicate it. I will win. In the meantime, a HUGE THANKS to Dave, and a few more gratuitous bike shots...


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Let the Great FARKLE Begin!

I have begun to FARKLE the Multistrada. FARKLE is a term that is a combination of function and sparkle, used by motorcycle enthusiasts to describe the add-ons that make a bike safer and more functional, especially for longer trips (A more recent adaptation of the tem turns it into an acronym for Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive). These include lights, heated hand grips, and, in my case, a windscreen that will stop the insane wind noise and buffeting I experience at highway speeds. I had a rainy night and started the project.

From my first trip, I realized that I would have to do something about the noise and buffeting. The wind flowed around the stock screen and came together right on the nose of my helmet. After a bunch of research, I settled on an MRA Vario. It adjusts up and down, offers an additional lip to direct airflow, and looks good on the bike - Winner!

I grabbed the Allen wrench (I'm still not sure why so many of these things require Allen wrenches?) and got started taking the old screen off.

My dad was always a proponent of having a dish to put parts into, and you never realize how good that advice is until a screw rolls away or you're looking for that tiny washer. Of course, he also recommends plastic or metal, a lesson I must have missed.

Gah! She's naked (It's a term I just found recently, denoting bikes with no windscreens and also minimal farkling).
I took the new screen out of the package and was surprised to see it was actually smaller than my current screen. It is also wider, and apparently this width helps to alleviate some of the convergence effect I noted above. Also surprising was the no returns policy of Revzilla. Apparently, this is pretty standard with windscreens, which can get scratched in the installation process.

My father was never too keen on reading the directions, unless he got stuck, at which point he would reluctantly crack them open. I used to be this way, but putting together cribs and Ikea furniture, as well as seeing how well it's worked for my wife for the past twenty years, I have taken to cracking them open toward the beginning of a project. Notice I said toward the beginning, not at the beginning. Consider it a nod and wink to men and our planning process.

I don't know who wrote these directions, but if there was a death penaly for crappy directions, this person would be praying for an electrical outage. They were just awful, and as I said, I've put together Ikea furniture. The pictures were almost completely black, and the prose was non-existent: pretty much useless.
 Still, I got the screen on with a minimum of fuss (it's very intuitive, when you get right down to it) and waited for a dry day to go for a ride. There are spacers that, once you create them...
 ...and attach them, create a little pocket for air to flow up behind the screen.
 Fully installed, it looks pretty sharp.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Quick Spin up the River

I took a little ride up along the Susquehanna River, noodling back and forth across some back country roads. It was a beautiful day for it, sunny with reasonable temperatures and low humidity. I stopped off at the Rockville Bridge, which is still the world's longest stone masonry railroad viaduct at 3,820 feet long. It was built in the early 20th century, mostly by Italian immigrants, and remains a unique piece of engineering architecture.
This is actually a nice place to stop, with beautiful, old growth trees creating a cooling canopy over the little park that sits there.
I took a couple of quick pics and hit the road for home.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

First Ride: Multistrada 1200 Tour de Central PA

I took my first ride with my buddy Brad, a fantastic excursion across South Central PA. After buying the bike, I took it directly to Koup's a local shop specializing in Ducati, less than 20 minutes from my home. Lucky! I was on vacation, so the bike was ready when I got home. Lucky! The oil leak turned out to be a loose oil filter and everything was, as suspected, in ship-top-shape with the bike. Lucky!

Brad has a penchant for finding twisty roads, and this day would be no exception. We gasssed up at the local station (it took four tries to find one without ethanol, a known problem-causer with Ducati's fuel tanks).

The first stretch of road was on the PA Turnpike, a notoriously boring road that is often a required evil to get to decent riding. This ride punctuated the need for a better windscreen for the Multistrada. I know tht each rider's experience is different, but Ducati seem to have created a windscreen that is universally despised by every rider. In all of my reading, I have yet to find a body type, height, or riding style where someone says, "Oh yeah! That screen works just perfectly for me!" Pulling off brought a necessaary respite, and I was sorry I didn't have earplugs.

Barreling through our ride, we reached our first destination, the town of Defiance, PA. We chose that, I think, for no other reason than that it is Defiance, PA. 
It doesn't hurt that the next town over has some great pizza. 
We rode for 225 miles, and it was an absolute blast to be on the Multistrada. Turns, acceleration, handling, and grin-factor were all present! There was also the carnage factor from the road.
It's nice to know that if the pizza doesn't work, there is a backup plan that includes protein! I could not have asked for more fun, or a more fulfilling maiden voyage for the Multi. When asked about it, she just smiled at me...

Test Ride: Multistrada 1200

A 2012 used Multistrada came up for sale not far from me. I tagged one of my buddies, threw my gear in the car, and we took a ride up to see it.

I had not test-ridden one before, but had read a LOT about them. My goal was to find a bike that was exciting in the twisties and capable on longer touring days. By all accounts, this bike fit the bill.

First Impressions
The first thing I noticed is just how beautiful the bike is. There is something about Italian design that can take anything, a wallet, a pair of shoes, a car, or, in this case a motorcycle, and turn it into art. The fit and finish of the bike is superb, and it just goes together. There are people who don't care for the looks of this bike. Those people are idiots.

This bike was completely tricked out with a full Termignoni exhaust, heated hand grips, Ohlins suspension, hand guards, top box, side saddle bags, and center stand, and it ONLY HAD 1,600 MILES. Sitting on the bike, I was impressed with how light it was for how large a bike it was. The weight seems to sit a lot lower than my Tiger 800, or even the KTM I rode. The seating position was comfortable and everything was right where I wanted it to be. The dash is very easy to read, and a quick tutorial on how to switch things around had me feeling comfortable right away. It just makes sense.

The Ride
Starting up the bike was interesting. It actually sounded like it sputtered before the engine caught. I was glad I had read about this first, because it would have made me nervous, but I was expecting it, and once the engine kicked, that Termi exhaust let out a growl. Oh. My. Goodness. The bike sounded like and angry panther. The owner bumped it down into the urban setting so I could get used to the feel of the throttle and the bike under me. He has a two mile twsted road at the end of his driveway, which was a great place to test the Multistrada and get her legs going.

Holy mackerel! This bike was FAST! As soon as I throttled up, she just took off. At 6,000 RPM, she hit a spot that felt like she had been smacked on the backside by the Hammer of the Gods. She just rocketed up to the twisties, and then just rolled, competently and quickly through them. I am by no means an expert rider, but this bike just inspired confidence, going everywhere I pointed her without complaint or hesitation. If the design of the Multistrada is a work of art, the performance is a masterpiece.

I got to the end of the road and had to make a U-Turn. It's such a small and simple thing, the U-Turn, but again, the lightness and maneuverability of the bike just shone through. The throttle control was predictable, and the bike just leaned right right into the turn. A simple twist of the throttle and I was off again, shooting back through the twisties to the point of origin. I was grinning so hard, I almost missed my turnoff.

The Multistrada had a couple of little niggles, namely a small oil leak from the filter and that the throttle cable recall had not been done, but since it still needed it's FIRST service, I said yes to te bike. It promised to be everything I was seeking in a bike, and honestly, it was the easiest "YES" I have had to say since marrying my wife.

I drove the bike home for an hour-and-a-half over mixed riding, with lots of twisties, some highway, an back country roads. I felt immediately melded to the bike, like it was just an extension of what I was doing. The stock screen sucks and will have to be upgraded, but that is usually the case, yes? The Multistrada is an absolutely stunning bike, and I think it looks GREAT in my driveway!