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.


Old School Bill said...

Great blog There is so much more to riding than just bar hopping. I have motorcycle camped from the Florida Keys to Sturigus. Big Fun each & every time. I just love to see gear strapped on a bike. Makes me want to load up & go. Thanks for a great blog. I will keep track of whats going.

Payne said...

"You've come a long way, baby!" :-) Here's to another great 100,000 miles.

Anna said...

Yes, I also like to see camping gear and lots of luggage strapped to a bike, those bikes get a big wave from me when they pass me :)

At the rate I’m going, I’ll hit my next 100,000 miles in the next 4-5 years LOL


Jared said...

Great blog Anna! I've read alot of your trip reports on before and always impressed with the beautiful photos and great write-ups. I LOVE to sport tour myself, and you're absolutely right, once you start it becomes very addicting. I currently ride a 2004 CBR 600 F4i which I bought new in mid October 2004 with 3 miles, and it now just turned 120,000 miles the other day, so we've been a few places together. I plan on doing many camping trips this summer, as I've recently moved to north Georgia from south Florida, so there are many new places to explore.... I love it!!

Good luck with your continued sport touring! Enjoy the trips and ride safe... I look forward to seeing the next 100k miles worth of pictures :-)

Anna said...


Thanks for the compliment. I think I’ve read a few of your posts here and there as well. Great news on the relocation. Now you are only a skip and a hop away from all the good roads and you get to ride all year long. What am I doing here in Chicago? I’ve been stuck indoors for almost 5 months now and it’s snowing again today.

Enjoy the Spring temps down south and send some warmer weather over this way, I need to ride bad.


Mike said...

Terrific post! I loved reading about your evolution...just wondering if your evolution has a BMW in the future?

Anna said...


I was really hoping that the BMW F800GS would have a seat height as low as the F650GS with an option for an even lower seat, but it’s a much taller bike than the 650.

I’ve been drooling over the F650GS for years, I think I’d like that bike a lot, it’s in between the XT225 and the ST3, I could ride fire roads on it and some tame dirt roads and I would be able to tour on it. I just don’t have the money right now to get a fourth bike, I’m not willing to part with any of my current bikes. If I had a choice I'd prefer the F800GS, but at 5'5" I don't think I'd be able to flat foot it even with the lowered seat and on dirt I want to flat foot.


JOAO said...

Adorei as fotos!!!
I liked them photos!!!!

joao luis Horstmann

Anna said...


Muito obrigada!

I used to live in Brasilia, Brasil from 1981-1983... great country!


Jano023 said...

Hi Anna, I loved your writing about your motorcycles. I’m a bit in the same place, where you were when you were 17. I love motorcycles, and I want to buy one in the near future. Like you I’m willing to go with the Suzuki GS500, but I like the Bandit 400 as well. My dream to have a Honda CBR F4i … I don’t understand why did you changed that bike.
So I just wanted to say that I really like your writing about the trips and about the bikes as well. I hope you will keep your good habit of ridding and writing here. I hope if I manage to buy a bike I can put as much miles in the bike as passable.
For your rides have a good tripe, nice weather and safe rode…


Anna said...


Thanks for the compliments. I’m not understanding your question about the F4i? Why did I sell it or why does it look different. If it’s about the looks, I had a small spill and had to remove part of the yellow sticker, later I had the bike painted since the yellow plastics developed some stains and discolorations and cracks.

Good luck on pursuing your motorcycling dreams!


JessieBeth said...

Hi Anna,

I just started riding a year ago after talking about it for 5 years. I bought a Honda CM200T out of my uncle's garage and cleaned it up and fixed it up. It was great first bike! I did learn that you should never trust a 30 year old chain at 60 miles per hour... they snap violently leaving you stranded on the road for hours! I also learned to carry a cell phone no matter how short of a ride you think you are heading out on.

Two weeks ago I bought a GS500 and think I like it, although my husband dumped it about 30 minutes after the sale, so I'm too embarrassed to ride it until I fix it up again. Men.... Anyhow, my problem is that I have a hard time finding bikes that actually fit me (5'0) and finding practical boots that have a heel. I'll have the GS500 for the next year or so, especially once I replace all the wrecked parts (know where I can find a magneto cover cheap?) but will be looking to move up performance-wise next year. Do you have any suggestions on more female-friendly bikes?

Thank you for your great blog! I really enjoyed reading it :)


Anna said...


I’m afraid I don’t know many bikes that are low enough for someone that is 5’0” - I’m 5’5” and I feel like I’m too short for most of the bikes that I want to ride.

As for boots, I wear the Frey Daytona Lady Star GTX motorcycle boots. They are not cheap but worth every penny. The give me about 1.75 extra inches. Without these boots I could not ride the 954RR or the ST3.

With the boots, with the shaved seat on the ST3, and the lowering link on the 954RR, I’m only getting the balls of my feet down on the ground.

My Daytona Lady Star boots are very comfortable, water proof, and protect my feet. They have at least 90,000 miles on them and are as great as the day I bought them. I highly recommend them.

Have fun on your GS500, it's a good bike!

Anonymous said...

Hi Annna,
Just caught your blog while looking at bikes.
I will ask the question as you have done what what I am yet to investigate.
Of the 954, F4 & F4i, which did you find the best as far as height.
God was short on legs when I got there. I too run at 5'5".
Greg, Australia.

Anna said...

Greg in Australia,

I find that the bikes with the split-seats, like my 954RR and the older F4i, are better for a shorter rider since the narrow seat allows you to reach the ground better than the F4/F4i with the wide banana seat. Since I still have the 954RR but no longer have the F4i, I’m not sure if the
F4i was any lower than my 954RR, maybe not, although I had the F4i lowered more than my 954RR. The only way to really tell if the bike fits is to go and sit on the bikes. If you are going to lower a bike, the F4i can be lowered more than the 954RR.

Good luck finding your perfect ride!


Stewart said...

Hey Anna !

Love the picture of you on your first bike- looks so cool !!
I actually got to your blog because i was looking for pics of a cool looking 125 to buy for my first bike !!!
Im from Ireland- so 10++ months of the year arent suitable for bikes
:( :(
This old guy I know has a class looking 2008 Suzuki 125 with lots of chrome- hes getting too old for it- so i hope to pick it up :) :)
I could have bought a step-through
125 cc for only 160 euro !

It had been dropped a few times and was in rough condition- but would have been good to learn on-
but I couldnt get on the long journey to collect it ! :(

But what I do have is this>>

I just need to get mine built !
It says its 80cc - should be fun going through forest trails beside the beach !