300 Miles In One Day On The R6 - Ouch
This past weekend I dragged two friends along (one on his motorcycle, the other in his Mini Cooper S) for a 300-mile, all-day adventure through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. One road in particular has been calling my name for months - California highway 33 between Ojai and the Lockwood Valley Road junction.
It was one of those weird weather days when the coast was sunny but anything a few miles inland was cloudy. We started in Malibu and rode PCH up to Ventura, enjoying the sun until we cut inland on the 33 and stopped in Ojai for lunch. Downtown Ojai is a nice little rustic area with restaurants, galleries and stores. The main drag is small but always congested, but it's a great place to hang out for a little while. There's a legendary golf resort there too if you're into that stuff.
We finished our early lunch and looked up at the mountains above us, since that's where the 33 was going to take us. Clouds were completely blanketing the upper landscape. Couldn't see the top. If we were going to take 33 up, we were going to ride right through the clouds. We decided to go anyway.
The lower elevations were fine, but once we climbed over 3000 feet we rode right into the clouds. My visor started collecting condensation to the point where I flipped it up completely because I could see better without it. Visibility was really poor and I was freezing, but we kept pressing on thinking the road would eventually punch through the lower cloud layer. Our patience paid off.
Climbing up highway 33 (note the cloud line)
The skies still weren't clear as there was yet another layer of clouds high above, but at least it wasn't raining and the ground was dry. We were rewarded with a good 25+ miles of decent road conditions in beautiful backcountry officially known as the Los Padres National Forest. That stretch of 33 is a sport biker's dream; a good mix of long sweepers, elevation changes and tight twisties.
Highway 33 / Lockwood Valley Road junction
We eventually wanted to end up in Santa Barbara but didn’t have time to head north and loop all the way around through Santa Maria. Instead we turned around at the junction with Lockwood Valley Road and came right back to Ojai, then took the 150 over to Santa Barbara. Once we hit the coast we had sunny skies again, and of course Santa Barbara was beautiful as it always is.
The ride home was rather mundane as we just took the 101 the whole way back, but after all was said and done I had put over 300 miles on the R6 in just one day. I think that's about the most I can reasonably take in 24 hours on my bike. Perhaps down the line I'll add a second bike to my stable that is a little nicer for longer rides.
Test Ride: MV Agusta Brutale 910
So lucky me, I got to test ride a 2006 MV Agusta Brutale 910. This was my 2nd time riding the 910, thanks to a local shop that sells only Italian bikes but does "demo days" a couple of times a year to try and entice buyers. It's tough business selling expensive bikes that can get their butts kicked by cheaper Japanese alternatives, but the Italian builders have such a flair for design and sound that one ride is all it takes for some riders.
MV Agusta was reborn in the late 90's thanks to Massimo Tamburini, the man behind the brand's stunning designs. Tamburini also designed the legendary Ducati 916, a bike so revered that some call it the best looking sport bike of all time. It debuted in 1994 and set the standard for modern sport bike design. Put it side-by-side with its Japanese rivals of the day and it just plain makes them look old. But enough about the history lesson. On to the Brutale.
Unfortunately this wasn't one of those flashy test rides at the track like the big sport bike rags get, but at least the unsupervised ride over surface streets, a freeway on-ramp (YEAH!) and a few twisty spots of road gave me a taste of the bike's character. I did this same test ride last year and spent the whole time being overwhelmed by the bike's quick-revving engine. This time I paid attention to the bike's handling abilities as well.
The first thing I noticed about the Brutale is the seating position. It's a standard as far as ergonomics are concerned: there's a riser and handlebars instead of clip-ons, the seating position is upright and the foot pegs are located mid-ship. That's where the "standard" part ends. Start the engine and goose the throttle once, and you'll probably say what everyone else that rode it did. "Holy sh**..."
To say this bike revs up fast is a ridiculous understatement. It makes my R6 feel like a moped. Blipping the throttle on downshifts was almost comedic; I would badly over-rev the engine on every attempt. It's also one of the louder stock exhaust notes I've heard.
Speaking of the sound, that alone was almost enough to make me walk back into the shop and purchase one right there. Roll on the throttle at street speeds and it sounds like you're revving a race car engine beneath you. The sound is so amazingly grunty and aggressive for a four-banger I couldn't understand how they accomplished it. The (supposed) answer came from one of the sales people who told me that the engineers had help from Ferrari. Whether or not that's true I have no idea, but it sure sounds like it's true. In addition to all this sound and fury is a good helping of fast. That's to be expected from a 910cc quasi-sport bike and it doesn't disappoint.
As far as the bike's handling goes, I can't really comment too well on that. It would definitely require a longer ride on canyon roads and a track day to make a fair assessment. What was immediately noticeable is that it doesn't seem as sharp or quick as my R6, but then again the loss of feel attributable to the use of risers and a handlebar instead of clip-ons probably has a lot to do with that. That's not to say it's a slouch, because it certainly isn't. It just doesn't have the feel of a supersport bike. That's probably a fair trade off though considering the Brutale's more humane riding position and ergonomics.
So does MV Agusta deserve almost $15,000 of your hard-earned money for this bike? If style, substance and an amazing sounding engine all wrapped in easy ergonomics are your thing, and you can get over the price tag, this stunner is for you. It's so unlike anything coming from Japan that you'll certainly stand out at the local biker hangout. Except for that one other rider that beat you to the punch. Like that guy I see at Newcomb's Ranch on occasion. Bastard.
Swingarm Spool Installation
Swingarm spools are a must for sport bikes. They allow the use of a rear stand and some also double as crash guards for the swingarm. I purchased a set from Shogun to match the Shogun frame sliders I already have.
If your bike's swingarm is designed to accept spools, the mounting holes should be pretty easy to find. Here's mine on the left side (yes my bike is filthy in this picture, but it's been raining around here):
It took all of 60 seconds to install both spools with a hex key. Here's the left side again, now with spool installed:
Here's the view from the back with both spools installed:
Now I can finally use a rear stand and my swingarm is protected in case my bike goes down.
No Helmet Required in Ohio
I just got back from a business trip in Cleveland. Although I know not every state requires helmets, it still caught me off guard when I saw a guy riding a Harley without one. The funny thing was he had on every other piece of gear. After that I saw a guy on a sport bike without a helmet, just goggles. About half of the riders I saw while in Cleveland were without a helmet. Weird. To me it's just common sense to protect my head while doing something that puts it at such obvious risk.
Most Annoying Alarm Clock Ever
I'm on a business trip and my hotel room has the most annoying (effective?) alarm clock ever. The snooze button is white plastic that lights up when the alarm goes off; it flashes like a freakin' lighthouse. It jolted me out of bed because I thought something was on fire. The only benefit to the flashing snooze button is that it's an easy target.
That feeling is so fleeting, so brief, but so addicting that I can think of doing little else when the weather is this good. The feeling when the bike is leaned over through a long sweeper, body weight shifted to the inside, head low and forward, tires gripping like claws in the asphalt, exit in sight as I power the bike out of the turn with just enough throttle. On the track or in the canyons, I can't get enough.
Shoei X11 vs. Shoei RF1000 - Review
I'll probably write a full review for the site, but this is just a quick write-up. I logged a good 100+ miles through a variation of freeway, street and mountain roads with my new helmet today. What a difference a properly fitted helmet makes, and what a surprising difference between the X11 and RF1000.
As I wrote earlier, I goofed and bought my RF1000 one size too big, as I didn't understand how a helmet should fit when I bought it. The smaller, more appropriately sized helmet is light years better. No more buffeting at freeway speeds when I check my blind spot, and it seems the visibility is better because it sits a little closer on my face.
As for X11 vs. RF1000, the X11 is noticeably superior. It came wth a breath deflector and chin curtain, which the RF1000 did not. It's more aerodynamic, producing even less lift than the RF1000 (which wasn't bad at all in that department to begin with). The liner is better and is fully removable. The venting is better as well. All in all it's easy to see why many people consider this one of the best helmets on the market. If it fits your head and you can afford it, get it.
New Shoei X11 Helmet
After nearly two years of riding with a helmet that's one size too big, I finally ordered a new Shoei X11 to replace my Shoei RF1000. That was one mistake I made as a noob - I didn't size my helmet properly and got the size that felt comfy instead of the size that felt snug, tight and proper (now that I know what proper is supposed to feel like). I'm going on a good ride this weekend so I'll post some impressions afterwards. So far it's obvious just by looking at it that it vents better than the RF1000, not that the RF1000 was bad.
Motorcycle Maintenance Days
A great thing to do with your motorcycle buddies is to have a maintenance day. If you've got a diverse enough group of people, equipment and mechanical skills, many tedious maintenance tasks can be taken care of while having a good time and some good food. My riding club had its first real maintenance day this last weekend. We had 12 people show up in all, with just about everyone contributing in one form or another. The tasks we tackled were relatively simple: oil changes, chain cleaning / lubrication, replacing headlight bulbs, fairing repair and one attempt at HID bulb installation (a wiring nightmare).
We set up stations with designated areas and people assigned to the various tasks, since certain people had experience doing different things. I was deemed "fairing boy" since I've gone through the unpleasant task of removing and reinstalling my R6 fairings several times. Surprisingly we got a lot done; I honestly thought there would be more goofing off and less actual work getting done. One bike in particular, a 2005 R6, had 7000 miles on it and probably never had any maintenance done at all (the owner had just bought it). The oil that came out of it was the dirtiest I had ever seen. In any case between the oil change and chain cleaning, the owner said the bike ran noticeably smoother afterwards.
Here's a list of things we had, should've had, and hopefully will have for our next maintenance day:
- A place to have the maintenance day (lots of flat space is good)
- Lots of cardboard or other material to keep fluids off the pavement
- Plenty of tools (metric and conventional)
- Rear stand(s) for sport bikes, provided the bikes have swing arm spools installed
- Oil and filters
- Strap wrench and other oil filter removal tools
- Oil pan and used oil storage container (dispose properly)
- Touch-up paint
- Lots of rags you don't mind getting greasy
- Chain cleaning brush (if you want it sparkling clean)
- Chain cleaner or WD-40
- Chain lubricant (get the real stuff, don't just use WD-40)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Air pump
- Distilled water (to mix with coolant)
- Used coolant storage container (dispose properly)
- Factory manuals
- Plenty of food and drink