After riding the BMW RT and Can-Am (Brad did not enjoy this "bike" - it just never felt sure-footed, and he felt like he was going to get bounced off of it), we returned to Wenger's. I thought it would be fun to see what else they had, and go out one more time giving Brad a chance with the BMW. As fortune would have it, there was a Yamaha FJR 1300, one of the bikes I had on my list to try...so I did!
I was surprised by the feel of the FJR. First, it was more compact than I thought, and rode considerably lower than the BMW or my Ducati. The reach to the bars is considerably longer, creating a more stretched out position. It all works, but I have to think some adjustments would be necessary to make it comfortable for all day riding.
The bike has tons of power. It's not as abrupt as the Ducati, rolling on smoothly, where the Ducati is like the Millenium Falcon making the jump to hyperspace when you twist your wrist. The FJR rolls up to speed, QUICKLY and smoothly. I liked the screen in the lowest position, but a taller screen would be required to provide the same protection as the BMW for longer touring. Still, it is light years ahead of the Ducati.
I am kind of bummed they don't have a top box for this bike. Seriously? It's a sport tourer. Aftermarket editions are available, of course, but this is just silly. Also, no sixth gear until this year? That is, like the absence of a top box, two-parts puzzling and one-part absurd. The FJR comes with shaft drive (losing the chain would be great) .
I liked this bike. A lot! I would really like to take it out for a much longer ride and really put it through its paces.
Afterwards, we went to Fresca in town, on Carol's advice. We were not disappointed with quantity, though freezer-fries I could have lived without. Great day all around!
I rode out to Myerstown, PA with my buddy Brad to test ride a couple of bikes. I like the Ducati Multistrada I am currently riding, but after 4 shields and 3 helmets with no relief from the buffeting and noise, I am beginning to despair. I have a Cee Bailey (read as: Barn Door) windscreen on the way, but thought I would hop on and try a couple of other possible future contenders out.
Off we went, riding the back roads of Southcentral PA to Wenger's, an independent motorcycle shop. They are not an authorized dealer for any one brand, and they carry a little bit of everything. They are also, incidentally, one of the largest Can-Am resalers in the country. We got to the shop and met Carol. It quickly turned into one of the nicest motorcycle shop experiences ever. They were super friendly and they WANTED us to ride bikes. I picked a BMW R1200RT and Brad hopped on a Can Am Spyder.
The BMW had a great rider position, even more comfortable than my Ducati. The triangle was relaxed, with everything right where you would expect it to be, except the turn signals, which BMW puts one on each of the handlebars (instead of a single switch on the left handlebar). It had a Corbin seat which was hard, but afforded a lot of room to move around, especially fore and aft. It had highway pegs and MondMoto Bullet lights (had them on my Triumph and loved them) to light up the road at night and make me more visible in the daytime. The bike had a great luggage package, too - I like theirs!
The RT shines on the road. I have never been on a bike that returns to its natural, upright position as quickly as this one. Going into corners was great, but winding on the throttle and rolling out of them was even better. It just carved in the corners, inspiring more and more confidence with each dive into the twistier. This bike made me realize everything I am doing with my hands to counter steer, pushing on one side while pulling on the other. Additionally, the brakes might be the best brakes ever put on a bike. They were that good!
Wind protection on the BMW was incredible, and the electric shield worked flawlessly. With the shield all the way down, the wind hit just below my chin; all the way up, and I was wrapped in a cone of near silence. This is an all-day-long sport tourer, and that comfort and protection stands in stark contrast to my Ducati.
However, the acceleration was just adequate, and I wish the bike had more power, more torque, and more room to the redline. The bike has a buzzy feel to it, as opposed to the grunt of a v-twin. I have a buddy who loves the BMW brand and assures me proper chipping and exhaust can really add to the oomph-factor of the RT. The lack of torque is honestly enough to turn me off of ownership of this bike, so I am curious to know what the tweaks bring to the party.
I took a trip up to the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, near State College, PA. One of my accounting firm Partners is a member, and invited me. The club was begun after the Civil War by a Pennsylvania vet who wanted a place to get away from it all. In the 1900s, they built the clubhouse, which stands to this day.
Loading the bike up was a little nerve wracking, especially with the fly rods. Never having done this before, the haphazard appearance of the rods sticking out created a mild discomfort, but slower riding and a less spirited pace at the beginning alleviated this.
And then the throttle cracked open and the Multi came to life. What should have been a 2 hour ride turned into a 4 hour extravaganza. The roads became twistier as the miles unfolded, and some of the best roads in Pennsylvania appeared. Trees, rivers, twists, turns, Sky - this ride had everything. And, not a picture was taken.
We fished and fished, and I caught 4 trout (that's all), but they included the largest brook trout I have ever caught (a nineteen inch fatty) and this beautiful 18 inch rainbow.
I honestly forgot how much I loved to fish, and I am ready to do it more, again.
Some decisions on motorcycles carry an incredible weight, and they are made in hundredths of a second, the brain focusing on all of the available stimuli to make a choice that could have repercussions for a long time. Or, if we're being frank, a really short time. Additionally, there is sometimes a need to override those "natural" responses (you're supposed to slow down when you're in a turn, right? Um. No.) to maintain your well-being. On the Tale of the the Dragon, I saw a guy with a shirt that read "When in doubt, Throttle Out" and it was a solid reminder that so many of our dilemmas on bikes are solved by a very counterintuitive twist of the right wrist.
And then there are decisions that really seem to make very little difference. Like the one I was offered here: right or left?
I had already had the kind of day that riders wish for, especially at this time of year. The humidity was down, a rarity for Pennsylvania of late and the first break we have had in about a month, and the temperature was in the 80s, instead of the usual 90s, or more recently the spikes peaking into the 100s.
I was rolling through York County, a place I usually reserve for riding to work. I have an office in the city, and there are a couple of back roads I can take that are under-travelled, especially in the early morning hours I am on them, making the 35 mile jaunt roll away beneath me. Historically, though, the White Rose City and the surrounding region are a little more crowded than I like, though still not approaching it's Red Rose cousin, Lancaster, which has become completely unrideable on a bike. With York, the problem is not so much the density of the traffic, but the lack of places to pull around and pass. People are generally more aware and respectful of riders, even pulling over to let me pass, and I think the Harley-Davidson plant in York has more than a little to do with that. You won't find that courtesy in Lancaster, a fantastic city (especially if you love to eat, as I do), but now influenced by settlers from Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, and even NYC.
But today I decided to visit York and just see what I could find, and what I found was this decision: right or left? I looked to my right from the bridge I was sitting upon, and the scene was so lovely, I made my decision to follow that. Right on. Note to self: this water looks trouty, and should be explored properly with a fly rod.
And, the next thing I knew, I was on one of the prettiest roads I have ever been on.
Several years ago, the family took a trip to Arizona, and on the advice of my father, I took State Routes 89 and 179 from Flagstaff to Sedona. It's not often that a road, a slab of concrete or asphalt thrown through Mother Nature, has the power to move the soul, but there is no other way to describe what happened to me on that road. I wanted to pull over after each turn, each revelation of a greater depth of beauty, each vista and overlook more powerful and majestic than the last. It had a similar effect on my wife and, even more telling, my teenage daughter.
Two roads cannot be more different than these two, the bizarre red-rocked Mars-scape of Arizona contrasting drastically with the tree-lined verdant tunnel I had found, but the effect was the same. These old growth trees had grown up and up, but also filled in the empty spaces, desperately seeking out the sunlight that allows them to survive and thrive, and the result was a jade tunnel, stretching for several miles on a twisty road.
There was something healing in that place, something powerful and primordial, ancient, and the visceral nature of riding a motorcycle combined beautifully with this stretch of road and these trees. I wanted to stop every ten feet and take a picture (though something is almost always lost in this translation, more than just turning a three dimensional view into a flat, two dimensional one, we lose the spirit of a place. It is a rare photographer who can capture this, like Ansel Adams, I suppose. Rare indeed, and I am not that guy.). I wanted to get off the bike and lay down in this forest forever, like Odysseus and his shipmates in the land of the lotus eaters. At the same time, I wanted to never stop and never get off the bike ever again. Mostly, I wanted it to just go on forever and ever.
It doesn't go on forever, of course. No road or ride or even life ever does, and sooner or later we come out on the other side. It's one of the things I love the most about riding, not the end, but this serendipitous exploration and discovery, and those magical moments when the deepest, most profound discovery is not the one we make outside our helmet, but within ourselves.
I did a couple of local rides in Central PA, just noodling around some familiar haunts. Waggoner's Gap is a short jaunt from home, and I can run a one, two, or three hour ride from here, depending on how long the honey-do list is for the weekend. This was just a short run, but perhaps mercifully so, as it was already more than 90 degrees at 9.30 AM.
The view from the top is beautiful, even when it is hazy, hot, and humid, like it's been for the past two weeks here.
Occasionally, a Sasquatch shows up, too - ARGH!!!
I also rode down Duffield Road to Duffield, PA, which would be completely unremarkable, except that my last name is Duffield. So, that was kind of cool.
I don't know if it is EVER going to cool off, but these leaves reminded me of the promise of Autumn.
So, what's a person to do to cool off? If there is a better answer than Igloo Ice Cream in Shippensburg, PA, I don't know what it is. It's worth the trip, no matter how long the trip...
...though, it should be noted, that blue-black bruise in the sky to the right is a harbinger. Something wicked this way comes, and it involves rain, gale-force winds that had us leaning hard to the left, and lightning. It was the lightning that finally had us ducking for cover...
I committed to wearing All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) on day 1 of riding. I got a pair of Olympia pants, a textile jacket, and a pair of Sidi boots on massive sale. My helmet was an HJC flip up and I had a pair of leather gloves. Not bad, but not the best out there, either. The pants were especially awful, with no breatheability at all.
Recently, I started upgrading my gear I got a pair of MotoPort pants, lightly used, and loved them. The Kevlar is even more abrasive-resistant than leather and it breathes. I also got a pair of Alpinestars gloves that are mesh and reinforced with hard plastic. Much better, and again, breathable. I upgraded the jacket too a MotoPort as well, then added a Shoei helmet.
I feel even more comfortable on the bike now, especially in the heat, and my gear is all top quality. I feel so much safer AND cooler.
The reason I mention this is that today I had something hit me on the knee while I was riding. I'm not sure if it was tossed from the car in front of me, flipped up from their tire, or fell from an overhanging branch. All I know is that it hit me square on the knee...and bounced right off.
I spent some time commuting to work this week. I knew it was going to be hot later, so I gauged where the sun was goig to be at the end of the day, and made sure my whip would be in the shade. It only took me a coouple of years of riding to figure this one out.
I love these back country roads. Berks County, Pennsylvania. It always surprising to me how quickly Pennsylvania gets rural outside of her cities and towns.
The first rule of Italian riding: what's behind you doesn't matter. Unless it's miles and miles of beautiful winding roads.