The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A journey

Yesterday I rode the Wabs (V-Strom 650 ABS) around 180 miles through the heart of the Sierra Diablo. Here is a view from the top, where we are looking down on the Silicon Valley. Or we would be, if it was not covered with a smokey haze drifting in from Big Sur... The road up to Mount Hamilton has a number of hairpin turns, and is done mostly in 2nd gear on the 'Wee, with a few places (the 180 degree switchbacks) needing 1st gear. The road down the other side seems a bit less severe, or maybe it's just that you're going downhill. With the torque and power of a 650cc V-twin fed to pavement through a 150R17 radial rear tire, you rarely need to use any brakes on the downhill, unless you're trying for speed and trail braking. Me, I was enjoying the scenery (such as it was -- is chaparral scrub scenery?). The Weestrom is a predictably-handling bike and had no problem with the curvy road, but I didn't push it either -- pushing a motorcycle you're still learning on an unfamiliar highway is how you die.

Here is the 'Wee in all its glory with its new crash bars and highway pegs. It's wonderful what some rattlecan "satin black" will do, eh? Note how the skid plate reduces the already-limited ground clearance. This just goes to show that the V-Strom is not a dual-sport, no matter how Suzuki classifies it on its web site. Anyhow, I was still in very curvy and steep terrain here, mostly with no shoulder. This was the closest thing to level terrain I could find to stop. Here's another place I stopped: I almost got to test the crash bars here. The sidestand sunk about an inch into the soft tar of the shoulder. It was well over 90F outside, and I was stopping primarily to shove water into me (there was a bottle of water in the tank bag, which is also where the camera lived when I wasn't using it to take pictures of the bike, and there was two more bottles of water in the tailbag).

Somewhere around here, the GPS quit working altogether. I later examined the cable and found that a wire had pulled out of the plug because the screw holding the wire had come loose. A re-insertion of the wire and tightening the screw solved that problem. Here is a closer side view of the bike. You can see the sidestand starting to posthole... The GPS is the silver thing perched on the handlebar on the other side. You can also see the sheepskin on top of the gel seat. This is mostly to keep the sun from turning the seat into a torture instrument ("fried hueves, senor?"). Also note that I've used the aftermarket Madstad bracket to put the windshield down as far as it'll go and tilt back towards me as far as it'll go in an effort to get more air. At the top (Mount Hamilton) I ran into a guy on a Goldwing, he had air deflectors all over the place to try to get some air back into that stable bubble behind a Goldwing's massive windshield. The 'Wee doesn't put as much air on me as the KLR does even with the windshield at its lowest/tilted most position, but it was enough.

After about 60 miles more of curvy road, I arrived at I-5 and headed towards Altamont Pass to get back home on the 'slab. At first I was relaxing, feet on the highway pegs. It was like sitting in an easy chair. The only thing I needed then was a backrest and I would have been completely relaxed. Then the first gust of air from the west hit me -- the winds from Altamont Pass, hitting me from the side. I adjusted the windshield further up and tilted it a little more forward to give me more wind protection, but it didn't help much. Heading crosswise towards the pass, I was getting constantly pounded from the side by the air coming through the pass. It felt like it was gonna rip my helmet off the side of my head! Through it all, the Blackstrom happily chugged straight ahead at 80mph indicated on the speedometer, not breathing hard even on the uphills. Even heading up over the pass straight into the teeth of the gale, the 'strom had no problem maintaining speed without downshifting. 70hp for a 500 pound bike (with 200 pounds of rider and gear on board) simply laughs at such grades and winds.

For the rest... (shrug). I've ridden this route often enough that I don't need the GPS, lucky me because the GPS still wasn't working. I got home, and considered what I'd learned. What I'd learned was this:

  1. The windshield doesn't do a very good job of wind protection when there's a lot of wind blowing. No big deal in the summertime, I'll need a better windshield when winter gets here.
  2. The Suzuki gel seat feels like a friggin' 2x6 under my buns even through the dead sheep pelt covering my seat. The sharp edges between the gel and the foam feel like creases under my buns. Sad to say, I think I'm going to have to invest major bucks into an aftermarket seat.
  3. The highway pegs are very comfortable when buzzing away on the superslab just covering miles. Can't use them in the twisties, of course. But who wants to use them in the twisties?
  4. I need a backrest for best use of the highway pegs.
  5. This is a nice bike for putting a lot of miles on quickly, it is very stable on the highway and has plenty of power to cruise at 80mph all day just as I'd hoped. When I get the automatic chain oiler and the cruise control in place, it'll be perfectly suited for visiting friends in other states.
All in all, it is getting close to exactly what I want it to be. As soon as I get it to that point, then my attention will turn either to the KLR or to the Jeep, and you'll quit seeing so much of the V-strom 650 ABS on these pages.

-- Badtux the Motorin' Penguin


Gordon said...

Checked e-mail again. You were in 'junk'. I have had a moment of prayer with ol' HAL here, and the feathers will be on the way shortly.


Gordon said...

You just keep puttin' up pictures and descriptions of what you're doing. It's a new machine, you're still in the honeymoon phase, and you're making it your own to do what you want to do.

It's even interesting to us old farts whose concession to long trips consists of a phone card (modern) and a longer bungee cord (slightly less modern) than for around town.