Over the past 15 months, I have managed to ride nearly 30,000 miles on Matte. Over this time, I have taken a bunch of weekend road trips and some week long ones. As I do them, I continue to learn truths about touring around on a motorcycle. I am sure I can keep on adding to this list, but this is what I have so far.
I keep going hot and cold on writing. A lot of this has to do with the situations around my personal life right now. When I am overly stressed, I tend to write less. Right now, I have a lot going on. Overall, I am OK – just really busy. If I have not been visible in the community it is because my personal and work life have been my priorities.
This weekend was Bay to Breakers and I just needed to get the hell out of town. I didn’t want to be around all of the straight drunk people who invade SF and act like complete assholes. Given the number of Irish pubs in my neighborhood, you would understand. I decided to pack Matte up and head out to Death Valley.
1200 miles in 52 hours. I left SF at 4:30 pm on Friday and got home around 8 pm on Sunday evening. It really felt like the trip was longer, but it was really only a weekend trip. It was well worth it – even given the fact that I managed to wear out the chain on Matte this trip.
Otherwise continue down below here for how my trip went.
Instead of selfie filled post, I am just going to post up a lot of pictures from my ride yesterday. Yesterday was the first day since getting the rear tire replaced (due to it getting double penetrated on Monday night) where the weather was good enough for me to get out and get it scrubbed in.
I am glad I did – it was nice just to take a chill ride down the coast.
While it may seem silly to wear a one-piece race suit on a really chill ride – it has become my normal wear when I decide to go out for the sake of riding. I have found that it really doesn’t change how I ride – which is a very good thing. I can see how someone could get more aggressive and ride faster than they should. But for me, there is something just right about riding around California in race leathers enjoying the scenery.
More important than being on the open road is looking around and seeing what is going on. The poppies are all in bloom down the coast. If I didn’t get off the bike and walk around for a bit, I would have never found this bunch of poppies just after I took my selfies.
Often all one needs in life is some roadside food. My goal was to grab lunch in Santa Cruz. But instead I have passed by Pie Ranch and realized that I have never stopped at it. This time I decided that I am going to stop there for pie. I wish I had someone with me to enjoy one of the larger pies like the Buttermilk Meyer Lemon Pie, but the Apple Pie pocket hit the spot.
While I typically take a small tail bag with me – I am not sure a small pie would have successfully made it home. But now I need to think about going to work and starting my Monday.
Time flies when you are having fun. On this weekend a year ago, I brought home Matte from the dealer. Over this last year I have ridden 24,000 miles – something that I would have never guessed I would do. And looking at my spreadsheet – I have driven the car just a hair over 3,000 miles.
Today I am going to make a different thing happen that is just as scary as an American. I am going to sell my car. I took the car to CarMax this morning, and I got an appraisal a bit higher than expected. Might as well just do it instead of talking about it, especially before the redesign hits and knocks down the value further.
I think it’s time to write about this first year. I am going to keep this post updated with links to sub posts.
Last night was amusing to me. I decided that before I spend 4-6 hours riding around coastal and mountain roads that I should make sure the suit fits right and get it broken in a bit. So I just rode around SF for a two hours. While it should come as no surprise to anyone, it really felt like I now was the rabbit that every street racer on two or four wheels wanted to chase. Instead of giving them what they wanted, I just didn’t give a fuck and cruised around at my own pace. I didn’t even care when a scooter rider tried to race me down Oak (and seriously, who does that – the lights are fucking timed for 30!). To me I was just amused.
I am sure I amused some people as well, the guy in race gear cruising around at the speed limit and just taking it chill. When I started riding, my sane friends told me to just not worry about anyone else on the road and do things at my own pace. This might be the best advice one can follow.
Now I can see why people with less self control can get themselves in trouble wearing race suits. I’ve read several articles about it, and now I understand why. My body just clicks into place on the motorcycle in a very controlling, aggressive, and confident position – that was just upright. Once I was able to get some clear roads, I found out how much it made a difference. Going around some of the twisty roads, I found myself going much faster through the corners than I have in the past. Some of this is the new tires on Matte, but the new gear also had an effect.
I also found it much easier to hang my body off to the sides in the suit. To me this is interesting, since the gear I normally wear is pretty much track level gear as well. Since they are zipped together it is not like there is a firm connection between the butt and back. In the suit, it that firm connection meant wiggling my butt forced my back over a bit. That feedback to me is rather paramount – and I think it is the reason why I took some of the turns on O’ Shaughnessy at the speeds I took. I am not going to say how fast I took this turn, but I still had nearly a foot before my knee would make contact with the road and I was already doing a good pace. Off the back of an envelope, I would have to be doing at least 100 mph to be leaned over far enough to where my knees where scraping.
I will continue to say this – if I am ever putting my knee down on purpose on the streets, someone take my motorcycle keys away from me. Conversely, I need to get myself some track lessons and do some track days over the summer. There is something rather additive about all of this as I get more comfortable – just need to do it in a safe and controlled environment.
For me, this suit is that it feels like there are clicks on the positions for me. There is the mostly upright position which for me and my bike is somewhere about a 20 degree forward lean. Then the halfway tuck where my helmet is just getting protection from the windscreen – this is typically where my body ends up on the freeway when there is no traffic. So far so good and going between them was easy. While I could stay between the two – it was clear to me that the suit was designed to be worn in certain body positions and my natural positions fit are there.
Once I found some clear roads, it was time to go down on Matte and I went into a full tuck. It was like I had someone force my back and body down. My belly slapped down fully on the tank, elbows resting on my legs, helmet bouncing on my cell phone mount. Do’h – the phone mount is right were my helmet wanted to go! But there was no middle ground, this suit was forcing me into the correct tuck position and keeping me there. Now keep in mind, my bike is not a race bred super sport and is a bit more upright and takes some effort to go down like this in my normal gear, but it was was effortless.
Being in that position, it felt like I was on the hunt. Now I see why people get in trouble. that was a very primal feeling.
Earlier this week, I found a deal on the Dainese Aero Evo suit that was too hard to pass up as a gear head. So I jumped on it and it arrived this morning. During an all hands call I was listening to, I decided to try and get in. It was an experience getting the suit zipped up the first time. At first I feared that I would have to return it since it was not zipping up. Then I remembered you have to bend over like you are in a full tuck on the bike.
Got one side up, success! Now the other zip was fighting me. After finding some cord to use as a zipper pull, I got the it all zipped up. I was thinking to myself, I really hope this works since the next size up was out of stock and I would have to return and pass up on the deal if it didn’t fit. Next step was to zip up the calf zippers and put my boots on. Somehow I managed to get it on while the chatter of corporate goals and visions continued on in the background.
The sensation of the skin tight leather and armor was just amazing. I knew it would be a tight fit, but I felt like I could take anything that could happen to me. But walking and standing was hard. I know this is an aggressively cut motorcycle race suit, but it really was starting to feel like a bondage experience just trying to move around. But once I sat down and put myself in a position that I would be in on the bike, and it started to feel better.
I know from my other Dainese gear that it will break in a bit and the leather will stretch. The bottom half feels like the Delta Pro pants I bought after losing weight, and those were nearly impossible to get on at first. Now, they fit just perfectly. So my fear in ordering the wrong size was misplaced. Now I just sat around listening in to the corporate chatter while covered in this.
Eventually I decided I needed to make sure things fit with the back protector in, and had to get out. And this is were panic strikes, I didn’t think I could wiggle my way out alone. Uhoh. My left arm is stuck and I am just trying to shake it free. I wish I had a camera running since it must have looked funny, but then my left arm frees up and I am out! I realized I will need to wear some compression gear under it until it breaks in.
Once the call ends, I take care of some odds and ends for work, install the back protector, put on some leggings and a compression shirt, and get back in. It was much easier the second time after spending an hour in it. It was clear that it was starting to mould to my body. At this point I take some selfies. I know, a shock, right?
I head downstairs, setup the camera to take some shots with me on the bike to make sure things fit right when used for it it was meant for. The literal second after my leg was thrown over Matte, everything just hit right and felt natural. Then I put myself in a tuck. Even though this is an aggressive suit, any normal position on my bike was at home for it. While it may be a bondage like experience off the bike, it was worth it. And looking at the selfies of myself, I really felt like me.
Now it is lunch time, so I get out of it, change into jeans, then head out to hunt and kill something. While thinking about it over lunch, it feels like I have gotten both a physical and spiritual second skin. I know over time it will physically form around my body. I can’t explain why, but this piece of gear was already starting to make a spiritual connection with me and I want to explore it more.
I really want to know, what is different about this one piece suit vs my pants and jacket that zip together to form a two piece suit?
Now I can’t wait until Saturday when I am going to ride around the North Bay and break in the suit along Highway 1 and other twisty roads. Let’s start forming these connections close and expand them further. I bought Matte to go explore, I didn’t think it was going to make me start exploring my spiritual side again – that will be a topic of a different post.
I have been a bit silent for the past few days. Last Saturday I finished up the paperwork and rode home my first motorcycle. The last week has been very interesting for me. In a way I feel like I am a new person – something about me internally has changed for the better. But so far it has been an interesting journey. Here is how I started it:
After a bunch of internal back and forth going over should I get a smaller displacement bike in the 300/500cc category such as an Yamaha R3 or a Honda CBR500R or should I get the Honda CBR650F that fits me just right? In the end I decided that fit was way more important than a smaller engine. This was partly due to the fact that the inline-4 in this bike had no real torque spikes and every review mentioned that the power came on smoothly. But also many people who know me all thought that I would be level headed and would keep myself out of trouble. While not a supersport bike, it still puts out 86 horsepower at the crank and 77 at the rear wheel according to most dyno tests, which was something that weighed on the back of my mind.
This was not a decision I took lightly. I was hyper-conscience about what I was going to have between my legs. After I did the wire transfer to the dealer, I was wondering if I made the right decision preventing me from sleeping well last Friday night.
On that Saturday morning, one of my friends who rides picks me up so I can deal with the dealer and then tail me on the ride home. After all of the paperwork is signed, I do a bunch of back and forths in the alley behind the dealer trying to get used to it. Real quick I realize that there really wasn’t much to fear for me. The fit is nearly perfect and I felt no issues controlling it. If I kept the RPMs in a reasonable range, nothing bad was happening. After 30 minutes I hit the road with my friend in tow behind me.
Real quick I realized that I was going to need to do a bunch of parking lot maneuvers, my right hand turns were wide. There was rain on the way and postponed finding a parking lot until Sunday morning. But other than stalling a bunch of times, I was finding this real easy to handle. Part of me was wondering why so many people are against someone new learning on larger bikes, especially when they are a larger individual like myself. But I got home safely, got the bike pulled in in front of my car and decided that I would go find an empty parking lot on Sunday morning, which is a hard thing to do in SF, and practice slow speed turns and turns from stops.
That I did for 45 minutes until a van parked in the middle lot area where I was doing tight figure eight turns. But at that point, I was ready for some coffee and food. And this is where things started to re-wire for me. I was not in my normal neighborhood and I needed to explore. Since I was by the zoo, I just ended up at Java Beach Cafe. But I would normally never end up there since there was no reason to. I immediately start to get what I wanted out of the bike, breaking out my neighborhood and 7×7 square mile of a city.
The next thing I do is drive down Highway 35 until it merges with 280. This forces me to start getting used to starting the bike up hills, but in a very controlled situation with light traffic. Eventually it is time to merge with 280. At this point, I have really yet to be above 45mph, time to open things up a bit more. Without effort, I was doing 80mph and things were just smooth as butter and stable. I got off the freeway a bit later and rode around some roads I cycle and then headed home. This is where I realized that the power of a motorcycle can be insane – while following a BMW M5 on 280, we passed some cars. I looked down at the speedo and saw it indicating 100. I did not feel like I was doing that, but it was time to slow down and stop following that Beemer.
In the end I got home safely. But my adventures continued. Shortly after, I got a call from a friend who needed have his body shaven for an event. So time to make a b-line to the bike again. However, this was my first uphill traffic jam with no opportunity to lane split. By the time I got through it, I was really familiar with the clutch and how to start from a stop up hills on the bike. If anything learning to ride in SF is a trial by fire.
Tuesday made me grateful that I insisted on getting ABS. Someone jotted out in front of me and I had to stop hard on Market St and hit an oil patch on the road. The rear ABS went off, but everything stayed right on the line I wanted and there was no drama. For the life of me, I don’t understand why this is even an option for anyone who wants to ride in traffic or city conditions.
On Wednesday I decided to ride down to the office. I left at 5:45am mainly because I was up and I wanted to beat traffic. There was something magical about my first ride down 101 at dawn. Flying past all of the towns on the Peninsula, breathing in all of the smells, feeling the wind hit me, and watching the sun rise was just one of those magical experiences. It felt right out of a movie.
Once I hit Palo Alto, it started to cool off, and before I knew it, I was tucked in behind the windscreen with my chin resting on the tank bag. Honestly, I can care less if other people think it is douchey to go into a full, or mostly full, sportbike tuck on the roads. But when it is 37 outside and you are going 80 mph being behind the windscreen is a good thing.
On my commute home on Thursday I finally end up lane splitting on 101. And what people forget about it is that people generally make space for you here in the Bay Area. After giving it a quick thought, I saw a good line up until the next bend, and went for it. It wasn’t that bad and way less nerve wrecking than trying to bicycle in downtown SF. In the end, I have never gotten home so quick during heavy traffic periods – I was at my front door in less than an hour! In some ways I wonder if my comfort level is higher because of all of the cycling.
After getting a bit more comfortable splitting lanes, I started filtering more at red lights. All of these little things are becoming a bit less stressful and more natural as I spend more time on the bike. Furthermore, all of my actions are getting smoother. If anything, it seems like there is no substitute for time on the bike.
But throughout this, I know I am exposed. I know that I am invisible. I know that I have something between my legs that have a power-to-weight ratio of an exotic car. There is a healthy respect and fear about what I am doing, and that is still there.