Saturday, May 31, 2014

Walt Ride Day Trips: Good Roads

Walt Ride Day Trips: Good Roads

Here's a route with some good roads from the Butler Maps (Thanks Rob!). This is about 345 miles.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

The Seven Year Itch .... and I scratched it ... !

Yep. Bought a new bike this weekend. Not just "new to me" but literally "new". Yeah ok it has 2100 miles on it, was sold from the dealership to Brian in 2011, but for all practical purposes it is "new".

It is a 2011 Ninja 1000 (i.e. N1K). It is a sportbike with upright ergonomics (see how high the bars are?), reasonably low footpegs and decent wind protection. It also has luggage - a pair of Givi sidecases. But underneath all this, it is a 1043cc sportbike. Radial brakes, 498 lbs with fuel, adjustable male-slider forks, 122 rear wheel hp, 72 lb/fts torque. No traction control or ABS. A modern-day version of the ZRX1200.

And so the process of getting used to another motorcycle starts anew.

The Ninja outclasses the VFR in all but one respect: engine character. The VFR's shining jewel is it's 781cc v-four which has a wonderfully useful spread of power. It has the smoothness of an inline four with some of the midrange of a vtwin. It sounds and feels great at all RPM's. The N1K, on the other hand, is a inline four with all the issues that brings with it. While it has seamless power at all RPM's, it is also a little buzzy and is mostly devoid of character.

Surprisingly, the FJR and Ninja are similarly classed. Both are large inline fours and have similar riding positions. The FJR's 1300cc sends 125 hp to the rear wheel compared the N1K's 122. FJR torque is at 95 vs. the N1K's 72 ft/lbs. The FJR uses that mountain of torque to it's advantage; with only five gears and a 9500 RPM redline, each gear is spaced further apart than the N1K's six cogs and 11250 redline. This means the FJR is a more relaxed ride, with a lower cruising RPM and no vibrations. The N1K is "busier" at all RPM's, imparting a buzz through the footpegs (tingles) and seat (tickles). I'm hoping a good throttle body syncronization will help alleviate this. Nonetheless, the kawasaki is faster than the Yamaha.

The ergonomics are nearly identical between the FJR and N1K. The bars are a little lower, but closer. There is no undue weight on my wrists. Others have complained about the grip angle but I'm OK with it. Speaking of grips, they are the standard narrow sportbike grips which I intend to replace with the Sunline comfort grips from the FJR. My legs are tucked in up a bit more than on the FJR; similar to the VFR. At times I want to stretch my legs out. Maybe this is something I need to get used to? It shouldn't be a problem.

Wind protection is dramatically different. I have four different windshields for the FJR and tried two more; the main problem with the FJR is helmet buffeting. The windshield I use in the winter (VStream) is huge and imparts a little bit of buffeting; my summer shield is a Cal-Sci shorty which has little buffeting is but is pretty loud ... effective earplugs are a requirement. The VStream allows me to ride down to 60F with just a TShirt under my Aerostich; the Cal-Sci shorty is good enough to get through the Nevada desert @ 110F if I'm always moving. But in the MN summer humidity, both shields block enough wind that I don't really want to ride. In contrast the N1K has a little 3-position windshield which imparts zero buffetting and much less noise than the FJR. It will be colder to ride the N1K in the spring/fall, I will need to layer and use electrics more. But overall, the N1K wins the wind-management game and addresses one of the worst aspects about the FJR.

In terms of luggage capacity, the N1K has larger sidecases than the FJR but a smaller rear seat and no top case. A top case is available but I didn't use the one I had for the FJR anyway, as it removes weight from the front tire which decreases grip and makes it handle funky. I'd say the FJR has slightly better luggage carrying ability simply because the bags are tucked in closer and the rear seat is wider. The FJR also has more space under the seats to store stuff, and looks better when the bags are off. Also, thanks to the FJRs torque and beingt heavier, luggage (and presumably passengers) has less on acceleration and handling.

When covering distance the FJR still rules the roost. It is an all-week comfortable bike. No vibrations and significant protection from the elements, good legroom. It is easier to maintain a brisk high speed on the interstate with the FJR than the N1K. I don't have to look at the FJR speedometer to know how fast I'm going, it maintains a steady speed. I haven't reached that point with the N1K yet. The N1K is much more sensitive to throttle inputs and just a little turn results in large speed differences. These are just a few of the aspects that increases the fatigue on the Ninja and the lack of them helps the FJR cover distances easily.

The FJR is no slouch. Let out the clutch, wring it to redline, shift, go to redline again, and the quarter mile is covered in about 11.5 seconds. The N1K does the same in 10.5 seconds and by that you're going 130mph. 130 mph in a bit more than ten seconds. The Ninja does 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, the FJR in 3.3 seconds. All of this is academic because I haven't yet found the balls to take the Ninja over 7000 RPM. There is no traction or wheelie control on the Ninja. I will need to become more acquainted with the bike before I venture into stupid-fast territory. With no electronic rider aids, finding the limits without employing any finesse can be disastrous. 

The same goes for the brakes. The FJR has ABS which will prevent wheel lockup but the N1K does not. In fact, the Ninja doesn't even have linked brakes. While radial brakes are installed on the Ninja, the pads seem "softer" than the FJR and do not have an aggressive initial bite. I will need to do some parking lot emergency stops. I suspect, like the SV650, due to the short wheelbase stoppies will be easy. Unlike the FJR, injudicious use of the front brake will result in wheel lockup which will result in crashing.

Suspension is another area where the bikes differ significantly. I had installed an Ohlins shock and custom forks from GP Suspension on the FJR, the end result is a stiff (but not harsh) ride that effectively controls the bike movements. It also provides very nice feedback regarding what the tires are doing. The Ninja, on the other hand, has a stock suspension which is more plush and feels somewhat vague. Ironically, the N1K is smoother on the highway. Without the bags there was a slight "wiggle" on the rebound which indicates there may not have been enough; with the loaded bags it was fine. The forks are fully adjustable and the rear shock has preload and rebound adjustments; this is something I will need to spend more time on to make perfect. I am considering upgrading the rear shock; with only a few thousand miles on the original shock it still has value on Ebay... if I wait until it is worn out, then it will be worth zilch. More time in the saddle is required before making this decision.

The Ninja weighs 170 lbs less than the FJR. Weight affects every aspect of a motorcycle. Accelerating, stopping, turning, going down the highway, etc. Where the FJR summons it's considerable torque to move it's heft around, the Ninja just does it. Every input to the machine is more immediate; I am less insulated from the environment around me.

Overall, my old FJR compares very nicely with the Ninja. It holds its own in terms of acceleration, braking and turning. It is smoother and more relaxed on the highway, yet is capable of quickly riding through turns. It excels by removing barriers and irritations. So then ... why replace it when it does everything so well?

Well .. it's complicated. I'm ready for something new; a new bike to learn to ride well, and farkle. The FJR had become sort of an appliance ... I get on it, I ride it, and it takes me from A to B maybe via C, D and Z ... all without fanfare, with complete predictability and reliability. It's like oatmeal ... it's tasty, healthy, easy to make, and I enjoy it, but day after day after day after day ... it's time for a change. As good as the FJR is, it no longer "moves" me like the VFR always has, and now the Ninja does.

I would have preferred to wait another couple years and save more money while riding the FJR, but the right Ninja become available at the right time for the right price. The FJR's value has stabilized with the redesign in 2013, electronic suspension in 2014, with relative price increases. The installation of a low-mileage engine in my FJR is also a strong selling point. The 2006-2007 FJR's are listing for $6000-$7000 depending on mileage, condition and farkles (i.e. options like a Power Commander, upgraded suspension etc.

When I think more about it, I think the Ninja is the motorcycle I was looking for when I purchased the FJR (I'm not sure why I didn't consider the FZ1). Coming from the VFR, I knew I wanted a sporty bike that could haul luggage and take me comfortably to far off places. The FJR certainly does that, in spades, as a good sport-touring rig should. I expect the Ninja to do the same, but the balance has changed ... where the FJR lends itself to sport-TOURing, the N1K is more of a SPORT-touring machine. I give up some weather protection and luggage-hauling capability, and gain more performance and a closer attachment to the act of motorcycling.

Just in time for the Walt Ride!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Walt Ride Day Trips: Mt Nebo

Thanks to Paul S. for this suggestion.

Mt Nebo is a mountain (hill?) south of Russellville with nice views. It also makes for a good destination ;-)

There and back, with some creative routing, is about 250 miles and covers some of my favorite roads in the area: 16, 223 and 27.

This would be a good trip if we need to find a larger town (Russellville) for some reason. Otherwise, many of the same roads are covered in my "crazy loops" route.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wal Ride Day Trip: Crazy Loops

Ok this is just for fun: 320 miles of curvy stuff. A loop within a loop. This will cause Garmins to have a conniption fit.

I think this might be my favorite so far in the area, but it is a long day so I would recommend an early start.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Walt Ride Day Trips: Push Mountain Road

Push Mountain Road is considered the "dragon" of the Ozarks. This is short (170 mile) loop with a coffee/lunch stop in Mountain Home. This would be a good mid-week ride to avoid traffic and LEO's.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Walt Ride Day Trips: Johnny Cash boyhood home

If you're a fan of Johnny Cash then this might be a ride for you. Brett suggested this one, and if you're interested you'll need to pre-arrange a visit.

The Cash estate in Dyess, AR is currently being renovated but they do offer pre-arranged guided tours. You'll need to figure out who is going and which day and call these guys to get things set up:

The ride itself is EAST of Fairfield Bay and leaves the Ozarks, going back to the Mississippi river plain which is pretty flat. The ride is about 290 miles round trip. If you want corners you'll just need to swerve in your lane or something.

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