Thursday, February 21, 2008

Visited states on a motorcycle

I’m one of those people that want to ride a motorcycle in every state. Actually what I’d really like to do is tour all of North America and tour each state extensively, but since that would require a lot of days off and I only have two weeks of vacation per year plus holidays, that’s just a dream for now.

My visited states are colored in, the ones I still need to ride in are white

For now I’m just happy to ride every state, but that isn’t my focus, if it was I’d be done already. It’s just one of those things that I try to incorporate in to my sport-touring and dual-sporting rides. I like to go and see new places. As rides come up, I try to incorporate new states in to my route. The reason I want to ride in each state is to have a better understanding of how the terrain is, how the roads are and what makes each state unique. It’s not just about checking states off the list although I like checking them off to show my progress.

For every state that I ride in, I place a sticker of that state's flag on my GIVI top case

So little by little my progress continues. So far I’ve ridden in 39 states, which means I have 11 more states to go. I also want to ride in Canada and Mexico.

I still remember the first time I rode in each state and on which bike. Those are special memories since there is only one “first time”.

I didn’t sport-tour when I started riding, my first two bikes never even left Illinois. The bike I started sport-touring on was my Honda CBR 600F4. In 2001 I did Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. I also towed the bike to Pennsylvania and rode in Maryland.

First time in Pennsylvania – This is Hershey, PA - notice the street lamps are shaped like Chocolate Hershey kisses

In 2002 I bought a Honda CBR 600F4i and continued touring on that bike for the next 4 years. Well, not so much at the end since I got the 954RR which became my dedicated sport-touring bike. The new states I saw on the F4i were Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan and Missouri.

First time in Tennessee - above picture was snapped at the KY - TN state line

The big rides came with the purchase of the Honda CBR 954RR in 2003, which became my ultimate sport-touring bike and was capable of long distance rides. The new states the 954RR took me to were Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. This bike has been coast to coast, not as one continuous trip, but as many trips. On this bike I have also been as far north as the Canadian border and as far south as the Mexican border.

First time in Colorado, Northeast of Cortez, CO

In 2005 I bought the Ducati ST3, my first real sport-touring bike and continued riding more new states. On this bike I finally visited Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, South Carolina and Georgia. More new states will be visited this summer as I’m planning to finish off the east coast and start on the Canadian provinces.

First time in New Mexico - NM - OK state line

Even my little Dual-Sport Yamaha XT225 has been going to new places. With this bike I have ridden for first time in Virginia and Alabama.

First time in Alabama - Talladega Mountains

In 2006 while I was in Alaska, I borrowed a bike to ride, but I do hope to tour Alaska in the future and actually ride there form home.

First time in Alaska - Somewhere between Anchorage and Girdwood

So what’s left on the “to do” or more like the "to ride" list?

I was going to have that one crossed off the list two months ago, we had our dual-sports in Florida, we were planning to ride the western part of the state, but we got rained out. All the dirt roads were super muddy. I’m bummed, who knows when I’ll have the opportunity to ride Florida again.

Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
So it looks like I have 5 small states left on the east coast to ride my motorcycle in. I hope to be able to get those done on the way back from Canada this summer.

Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon.
This is a trip I’m hoping to do in 2009.

I guess the only way I’ll get to do Hawaii is if I can borrow or rent a bike and who knows when that will be. I have no plans to ride Hawaii.

Canadian Provinces and Territories

Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
This Summer Mike and I are doing a 10 day ride, we hope to ride through the above Canadian provinces, but to be honest, I’ve already started on the route and I’m just not sure we can get through them all in that short amount of time.

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
I hope to do a ride to the above Canadian provinces in 2009.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon Territory.
The above Canadian provinces I’d like to hit on my way to Alaska, whenever that might happen. I’d have to go out of the way to hit Nunavut, so I’ll have to see how much time I’ll have to do the trip.

Mexican States

Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.
Mexico has 31 states. I’d really like to visit them all in one trip, just take like a month off and tour Mexico. That’s my dream, I can dream can’t I? I have no plans right now to ride Mexico, but I’m sure I'll get to ride at least some of it in the next 5 years or so.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The evolution of a motorcyclist

Recently it occurred to me, 100,000+ miles and 8 bikes later, I’m still evolving as a motorcyclist. Looking back at all my bikes, I can definitely see how I arrived here today. But it was a slow process as I figured out my riding style over the last few years. Now I ride a dual-sport, a sport-touring bike and sport bike, but what will I ride in a few years?

I didn’t start riding motorcycles in order to tour on them. As a matter of a fact I rode for a couple of years and never even considered doing trips on my motorcycles.

2006 Yamaha XT225

My XT225 has close to 3,000 miles on it, I've been riding it since October 2006 when I bought it new. After a year, I’m still learning to ride off-road, there just isn’t that many opportunities to ride off-road around here.

For me, the biggest difference between riding pavement and dirt is the mileage. I’m a high mileage rider, I ride far and I ride often. My longest day on pavement so far is 1,021 miles, I did that in 21 hours. On dirt a 100 miles is a long day of riding. And depending on the road conditions, sometimes even 50 miles can tire me out. To this day, the most miles I have put on in a day on the XT225 is 350 miles - 100 miles of those being dirt, the rest pavement.

It’s fun exploring the less traveled dirt roads, that’s pretty much why I wanted to start riding a dual-sport. There are just too many places I can’t go on my street bikes and to me a dual-sport bike is a nice addition to a sport-touring bike. Now there are no roads that I can’t explore.

2005 Ducati ST3

My ST3 now has 22,000 miles, I've been riding it since September 2005 when I bought it new. I can honestly say that this bike has transformed the way I tour now. I sport-toured a lot before getting the ST3, I did that on my sport bikes, but the ST3 allowed me camp on my trips, since finally I had the space for camping gear. Not only could I take all the stuff with me, but the ST3 carries the extra weight well. Sure, the bike feels heavier loaded down with luggage and camping gear, but not so much that the ride is no longer enjoyable. All the sudden I’m able to do multi-days trips and bring everything that I need, and everything is locked away in the hard bags, which means I can do some sight seeing off the bike and I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting stolen.

2000 Ducati 900 Super Sport

I really like the 900SS. I liked the way it sounded, the way it looked and the way it fit me. I bought it used and rode it for exactly one year, June 2006 through June 2007. I only managed to put 3,000 miles on it in that one year.

Even though 900SS was fun to ride, it just didn’t fit the kind of riding that I was doing. First, it wasn’t all that comfortable on the long rides, even though it had Heli bars and a Sergent seat. Second, most of my rides were long rides, so the 900SS sat while I was riding the other bikes. I don’t regret selling it, but I do miss the rattling sound of the dry clutch, my ST3 has a wet clutch, and I miss the way the carbon fiber exhaust sounded. Too bad I installed the new exhaust so late and really didn’t get to enjoy it. I really need to get new cans for my ST3.

2002 Honda CBR 954RR

I have about 32,000 miles on my 954RR, I bought the bike new in July of 2003, but I didn’t really start riding it until September. I needed to get an adjustable lowering link for the bike and no one had one in stock for months. The bike was just a bit too tall and it being my first liter bike, I was too nervous to ride it with out lowering it first. Can you imagine having a brand new bike in the garage for a couple of month and not be able to ride it. It was rough.

The 954RR has all the modifications for sport-touring now. It has a tall Zero Gravity sport-touring screen, Converti-bars, Dual-Star heated grips, an electric accessory outlet so that I can plug in my heated vest, and hard luggage - a GIVI monokey rack and E36 top case. This was the first bike I started using a GPS on and a camera mount on.

I added the taller windscreen when I added the top case in 2005. I needed more storage space for the longer touring trips, I also wanted the top case so I could have a place to lock stuff up on my bike. The top case is awesome, the only thing is the 954RR is just too light of a bike and I’m also too light of a rider, to have weight up high and behind the bike upsets the bike especially in tight turns and slow maneuvers. It’s something that you eventfully get used to, but the 954RR without the top case is a much more fun to ride then with the top case. That’s why since getting the ST3, I have not used the top case on the 954RR, the top case does not upset the ST3, maybe because the bike is heavier.

954RR in Colorado in 2004

Before getting the top case, I used soft luggage on my 954RR. This picture above was taken on my first long ride with the 954RR, it was a 9 day - 5,ooo mile ride out to Utah. By this time I had completed all the sport-touring modifications on the bike so I could be comfortable riding long distances. It is also this bike that I did my unofficial iron butt ride, the "Saddle Sore 1000", I rode 1021 miles in 21 hours. Unofficial because I never turned in the receipts to the Iron Butt Association for the certification.

The 954RR in it's stock form

The clip-ons on the 954RR were pretty low compared to my F4i, my neck would hurt on the longer rides from holding my head up tall to see the road. I guess my arms just weren’t long enough for this bike. I rode it this way from September 2003 to July 2004, but I realized that I would not be able to tour on this bike if I didn’t get after market clip-ons, so I bought the Converti-bars. This was the most important modification for this bike, after the Converti-bars I could finally ride long distances.

2002 Honda CBR 600 F4i

I had 33,000 miles on my F4i when I sold it in August of 2005. I bought the bike brand new in March of 2002 to replace the F4. I did a lot of trips on this bike, but all were short trips of 4 days and less. The bike was pretty comfortable from the start, so I didn’t need to make any modifications. Back then I didn’t use a GPS, didn’t carry any electronics, didn’t need a lot of luggage space. I traveled just with a tank bag and a tail bag.

F4i at the track in 2002

The F4i was the only bike that I’ve done track days with. As a matter of a fact, I signed up for my first track day when I still had the F4, but by the time the track day arrived, I already had the F4i and I was still braking it in. I finished breaking in the bike toward the end of the last session. I did 5 track days that year, the F4i was fun at the track but I got bored with track days, I wanted to travel and see new places.

After I modified the 954RR I only used the F4i for day rides, I did all my touring with the 954RR. But I liked the 954RR so much better then the F4i that after a while I stopped riding it. On September of 2005 my friend bought a ST3, I sat on it and realized that was the bike for me. I sold the F4i and two weeks later I used the money for a down payment on a ST3.

2000 Honda CBR 600 F4 with make-shift luggage

I had 13,000 miles on my F4 when I sold it in March of 2002. I bought the bike brand new in March of 2000 to replace the GS500. The day I sold the F4, I went to pick up the F4i. There was nothing wrong with the F4, it was a great bike, but it had one thing that didn’t fit me, the seat. The F4 had a very wide seat, so it was hard for me to reach the ground. I lowered the bike significantly to be able to ride it. But after lowering it, I had clearance issues, the bike would bottom out and scrape on railroad tracks and bumps. The F4i has a narrow seat, so I didn’t have to lower the bike as much.

I caught the sport-touring bug on the F4. In 2001 I towed the bike to Pennsylvania for a bike meet and realized that twisty roads were a lot of fun. There was no twisty roads near Chicago, so I rode the F4 to Kentucky for 4 days. Then a few weeks later to Minnesota. I was hooked. I now wanted to travel on the bike, I wanted to see this whole country.

All geared up on my F4 in 2001

I had my F4 for two years, but the first year I didn’t ride it very much, I only managed to put on about 1500 miles.

The second year I put on 11,500 miles. I rode the bike to work, and rode it after work. I rode it on the weekends, and did a few small trips with it. I went from not wearing much gear early in 2000, to getting some gear by the end of 2000, then getting better gear in 2001 when I really started to ride more.

Spring 2001, my first real motorcycle jacket

In 2000 before getting real motorcycle gear

1998 Suzuki GS500

I had 2,400 miles on my GS500 when I traded it in on the F4 in March of 2000. I bought the bike brand new in July 1999 after not riding a bike for approximately 7 years. Unfortunately in the 7 years I forgot how to ride. The first month was the most difficult. I dropped my bike a couple of times and questioned if I should even continue to ride. But I kept riding and by the time fall came, I felt confident and wanted to move up to a bigger bike.

Although a good starter bike, I never really liked the GS500, so once I got my riding skills back I wanted to get another bike, a sportbike. Looking back, I’m glad I started on the GS500, sure, I could have started on the F4 and been OK, but the GS500 gave me a lot of confidence in a short amount of time. The truth is, my F4 was easier to ride than my 500GS, but it would have been a lot more expensive if I dropped it. Starting on a naked bike is best.

1982 Suzuki GN125

May 1992 I bought my first motorcycle, a GN125. I’ve wanted to ride a motorcycle since I was 17 years old, but for many years it was just a dream. For some reason I never thought I’d be able to ride a motorcycle, so I never pursued it.

In 1992 I found an ad in the newspaper for used motorcycle for $300 and I bought it. I didn’t know anyone that rode, so I was going to teach myself how to ride. I also didn’t know about the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I figured the bike was cheap, so if I couldn’t ride it, I’d sell it.

I had the guy selling it ride it home for me, since I couldn’t ride it. I read the manual cover to cover and the same day I started riding it. I rode the alleys and side streets for two weeks and finally got enough courage to venture on to the main roads. I rode the bike until fall. Not having a garage, the bike stayed outside in the parking lot all winter. The bike didn’t run very well to start with, the following Spring it ran even worst and I got rid of it. I was hoping to get a newer bike, but with school, work and lack of money, it took 7 years for that to happen.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

International Motorcycle Show - Chicago

Winter is still in full swing outside, but today instead of thinking about riding motorcycles, I’m thinking about sitting on motorcycles. The 27th International Motorcycle Show is in town. I’ve been going to the show every year since 2000 and every year there are new and exciting bikes to look at. This year the show is bigger then ever, even though Triumph has not exhibited in a the last two or three years. Too bad, I‘d really like to sit on the new Street Triple.

Sitting on a motorcycle is a very important thing to do. By sitting you know if the bikes fits or not. And the only way to enjoy a motorcycle is when it fits and when you’re comfortable. That’s why I make a point to sit on as many bikes as possible. Being short, unfortunately many bikes don’t fit me, most are too tall for me and I can’t touch the ground with my feet, it’s still fun to try them on.

The Buell booth usually has some fun displays, here I am doing a stand up wheelie on a Buell Lightning

Draggin' a knee on a Buell Ulyssess

I've always liked KTM bikes, but since I've started riding off road I like them even more. If I was taller I'd be riding a 900 Adventure for sure, I like the way the bike looks and what it can do, go off road and on pavement. But at 5’5” I’ll never ride one. I sat on the 990 Super Duke and the 690 Supermoto, and liked them both - a lot. I just wished I could sit on the 690 Duke to see how it compares to the Super Duke, but I didn’t see it at the show. I’m really digging the naked bikes and the supermotos lately.

KTM 990 Adventure

KTM 690 Supermoto

KTM 990 Super Duke


Over at the BMW stand, I drooled over the F800GS, but the bike is just too tall for me. I really wish they still made the F650GS for shorties like me. The F800ST is a nice bike, very similar to my ST3.

BMW K1200S

I still like the K1200S, although not this color scheme. Boy this bike feels heavy compared to the others.

BMW K1200R

This bike was a lot taller than the 800ST or the 1200S, but I found it interesting.

Benelli Tornado TRE 1130

This is the most time I have ever remembered spending at the Benelli booth. They must have had more bikes this year and a bigger booth, I just never noticed Benelli before. Very nice bikes, the TNT was my favorite, it had a low seat and fit me pretty good, seems like a it would be a fun bike to ride. All the Benellis have a 1130cc triple engine and tubular frames.

Benelli TRE 1130K

Benelli TNT 1130

Ducati 848

The Ducati 848 is a stunning bike, so is the 1098. This design is definitely nicer then the previous, resembling more the 748 and 996 that people liked so much. I wouldn’t mind having one of those, although just like the 999, it’s not as comfortable to me as the 996 was. But I’m sure I could get used to that, not that I’m getting one. I have to say that the Hypermotard is a better bike for me then the 848 or 1098, more comfortable and as I said before, I’m really digging the supermotos.

Ducati GT 1000 sport classic

Ducati Hypermotard

Ducati 1098R

Ducati 1098S

Aprilia RXV

Mike liked the RXV twin cylinder enduro. I saw the Aprilia Shiver, but it looked so much like an MV Agusta Brutale to me, that I didn't even sit on it. I guess I didn't even realize that it was a new bike, it didn't stir anything in me. The Aprilia Tuono and RSV are still nice looking bikes and look nothing like the Shiver, which has very sharp corners the way the Futura did.

Yamaha WR250R and WR250X

Yamaha has a few bikes that I wouldn’t mind having. WR250R and WR250X, both nice but a bit too tall for me, I think I could lower the WR250X and make it work.

I’ve been super exited since I found out that the XT225 has been replaced by the XT250. Not only does it have a larger engine and a few extra ponies, but also a larger gas tank and now it has disk brakes in the back. It sits just like my XT225, but it sure is nicer. I don’t like the round headlight though, everything else is nice. I’m keeping my XT225 for now, I don’t think all those improvements are worth getting a new bikes when there is nothing wrong with mine.

Yamaha XT250

Honda CRF450R

Honda CRF250R

Suzuki GSXR 1000

I'm not getting any Japanese liter bikes, but if I was it would be the GSXR 1000, very comfy.

Kawasaki 650R

This is becoming a very popular bike, especially for touring with the shorter riders. I didn't like it that much last year, this year it's growing on me.

The baby Ninja, Kawasaki 250

I just have to say wow, what a pretty little ninja this is. A really good looking bike, doesn't look like a 250 at all. It was the only sportbike at the show that I could flatfoot.

Kawasaki Versys

This year Kawasaki came out with a bike that is similar to the popular Vstrom. The Versys is tall and heavy, I don't see why they can't make these bikes lighter, especially if they claim that they are good for riding some easy dirt and gravel roads.

There was a lot more gear this year. I went ahead and tried on some stuff that I would never buy. This Icon jacket was a size small and fit me nice, also seemed well made but too cute for me.

Live Fast

And I finally got to try on an Arai dirt helmet to compare it to my Arai XD, I like my XD better, but if I ever needed a dirt helmet, I'd go with an Arai, they just seem smaller to me.