Some good news, some bad news, but at least I’ve been riding

When I have good and bad news to tell, I usually like to start with the bad–just seems better to get it out of the way. In this case the bad news is sort of the reason for the good news anyway, so it’ll also be chronological order. Oh, but there’s also the riding…which in general has been good this year as reported in my last post (aside from my head giving me grief).

I took the Stone up over McKenzie Pass this year–I didn’t do the entire thing, but did get down the west side past most of the hairpin turns before I turned around to head back. It’s always beautiful up there and this trip was no exception.

The Bad News

I had another couple of rides locally on the Goose after this, but the last one–yep you read that right–was a doozy. I was determined to get a ride in one weekend and left for a short one on a Sunday. I headed up onto Cascade Lakes Hwy into a stiff wind and basically fought the wind for the entire ride. Between being tired when I started the ride and fighting the wind during the ride, I was pretty wiped. Little did I know at the time that I’d also screwed up my neck. That’s right, my old herniated disc decided to give me problems again…15 years after the first time.

After dealing with the neck for a couple of days I went to see a doctor friend of mine because I was due to head out on a driving vacation with the family a few days later. I was afraid my neck wouldn’t like being on the road for 8-10 hours in the car (when the herniated disc showed up 15 years ago I couldn’t be in the car for more than 45 minutes–and I was miserable the whole time). My friend told me that if I was worried about it I probably shouldn’t go, so I ended up sending my family on vacation to see the redwoods in Northern California without me.

The Good News

Staying home worked. I took lots of ibuprofen. I stretched. I chilled. I stayed off bikes. I got better. And I got on CraigsList. I found another bike and I went and looked–a Honda NC700X owned by the owner of Cibellis pizza. Cool. Then I went and looked at another–a Suzuki V-Strom 650 owned by a gentlemen whose name I don’t recall, but he had great taste in motorcycles. In his shop were no less than seven motorcycles–a W650, DRZ400, DR650, the Wee Strom, a big-daddy Vstrom (the new version), a KTM 1290 Super Adventure and a Suzuki GSXR-750 track bike. There may have also been a TW200 in there somewhere. Ultimately I didn’t buy any of those bikes but had good fun meeting the owners and admiring them.

The following weekend, though, I found and agreed to buy a 2009 Suzuki DR650. The bike was a little more money than I wanted to spend, but had low miles and lots of farkles including the two big ones: aftermarket seat and a great big gas tank. I took it for a test ride and knew immediately it’s what I was looking for and haven’t regretted buying it since.

Once I got the bike home, the customization started immediately: returned to stock height, put the stock kickstand back on, ditched the windscreen and added my universal top case mount for my Givi top case. Within a week or two I’d ordered a jet kit from ProCycle.us and I installed it the day it came in. Of course it created issues with surging that I sorted with a little help from the interwebz. Turns out the carb is very sensitive to air flow/pressure, so I tweaked the airbox cuts I made and extended a hose from the carb that’s tied to air pressure and it runs great.

Made a few other tweaks to the DR as well. One of the previous owners had installed hand guards that prevented the clutch lever from being pulled in all the way so I removed those and reinstalled the stock hand guards. Now I can get the bike in neutral when I come to a stop with it in gear. Also pulled the foot brake lever and installed it one notch down so I don’t have to try so hard to shift gears. Finally I noticed the handlebars weren’t straight after a trip up and over McKenzie Pass–yes I rode the entire thing this time–so I loosened all the bolts tweaked the bars and tightened them back down. Perfect.

Have been riding and loving this bike and will leave you with some gratuitous shots.

Warm 2015 leads to lots of riding…except when my head’s bugging me

This has been one of the warmest years we’ve had so far…or maybe it’s one of the driest…or maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way, there’s been lots of opportunity to ride. Unfortunately for me there’s also been quite a lot of head weirdness. It’s crazy to think that all my issues came from what seemed like a minor concussion two years ago (or it will be on June 3, 2015).

Still have the Ural Patrol and the Moto Guzzi California Stone and still enjoying both quite a lot. Here are a few shots from some rides this year.

A favorite shot of the Ural showing a ride from last winter at Tumalo Reservoir
A favorite shot of the Ural showing a ride from last winter at Tumalo Reservoir
This was taken near Tetherow Golf Course just west of Bend
This was taken near Tetherow Golf Course just west of Bend
I mean...Ural Snowy!
I mean…Ural Snowy!
The Stone catches some rays on an early 2015 ride
The Stone catches some rays on an early 2015 ride

 

Got almost all the major maintenance out of the way already this year. Ural has had all the oil (three different locations) and filter changed plus new plugs and I cleaned the K & N filter. The Goose has had two of three oil changes, new plugs and a valve adjust. Still some minor stuff to take care of but they’re both mostly ready to ride.

I’ve had a couple of odd maintenance bits on both bikes. I lost an engine plug on the Ural–it’s the one that gives a view of the flywheel so you can see the markings for TDC.

Moto Hole O
What happened to the plug?

 

I just happened to notice it missing one day. After trying in vain to order from my normal supplier (after three days of phone tag) I eventually ordered from Pacific Northwest Motorcycles. The part arrived in a couple of days. I think they’ll be my new parts people.

Here's how that hole is supposed to look. Thanks Pacific Northwest Motorcycles.
Here’s how that hole is supposed to look. Thanks Pacific Northwest Motorcycles.

 

The Goose has been just as interesting. First I had some oil seeps that turned out to be bolts in need of torque. The bike shakes a lot, I guess. Today it was a bolt, spacer and acorn nut that holds up the left muffler and also connects the luggage mount. Noticed it missing while on a ride with a friend over to Prineville via the Crooked River Canyon.

This is what it's supposed to look like--though the rubber washer needs replacing
This is what it’s supposed to look like–though the rubber washer needs replacing

 

Luckily there was an Ace Hardware nearby and 20 minutes later I had a better-than-new replacement…complete with a locknut now. Thanks Brian at Ace Hardware in Prineville. Time to do the other side.

After a quick stop at Ace, this is the new setup--complete with lock nut
After a quick stop at Ace, this is the new setup–complete with lock nut

 

I’ve been hankering for a new bike again. We’ve had a lot of rainy and muddy weather and I haven’t been riding because of that–both current bikes are pretty and I don’t like to get them all mudded up. So I’ve been wanting another dual sport. The problem I keep running into is that it’s difficult to imagine finding a bike for the $3000 I could get for the Goose that would put a smile as big on my face. And of course the Ural isn’t going anywhere–I finally found one that I really like. Time for moto number three I guess. But how do I convince my wife it’s a good idea?

Here’s a few more gratuitous shots of the Goose. It really is a great bike and it’s hard to imagine having more fun for the small amount of money I could get for it.

Not me...I'm still married...but that's Mt. Bachelor in the background
Not me…I’m still married…but that’s Mt. Bachelor in the background
The lava flow near Devil's lake is spectacular
The lava flow near Devil’s lake is spectacular
The Stone catches some rays on an early 2015 ride
The Stone catches some rays on an early 2015 ride
Normally there's snow piled six feet high this time of year
Normally there’s snow piled six feet high this time of year

 

Today’s ride, BTW, was incredible. Blue skies for most of it, low wind, another Italian motorcycle to ride with. I was grinning nearly the hole time. Made for a truly great day…one that I’m very thankful for.

Two Italian motos ready to attack the curves of the canyon
Two Italian motos ready to attack the curves of the canyon

Pushed it too far riding

Well last weekend was good right up until I pushed it all a bit too far on the ride Sunday and messed my head up again. I rode the bike over to Prineville via the Crooked River Canyon, then over to Smith Rock for pics, then hit Lower Bridge Road to Holmes Road to Hwy 20 and back to Bend. I realized at the Three Sisters viewpoint between Sisters and Bend that I might’ve gone too far. The next and following days confirmed it. Ugh.

The good news–if there’s good news–is that I’ve been able to continue to function this time. I even rode a little this weekend, but more importantly, I got the tools necessary to pull the Goose’s front wheel and then took it to the Motoshop in Bend and got the new tire installed. I’ve had it out a couple of times, riding gently to scrub the tire in, but so far so good.

Bandit-O Bye Bye

The Bland-It found a new home recently. I sold it on August 22–less than two weeks after buying it. That makes the Bandit the shortest-lived motorbike I’ve ever owned. I didn’t even consider shedding a tear as it left the shop–aside from the $300 a paid for my mistake (bought for $300 more than final selling price). Of course, I still have the Corbin seat to sell, so that number could go down some in the not too distant future, but so far I’ve gotten no bites on that and it’s been on CraigsList since the Bandit went bye bye.

Gone and good riddance. Wish he'd bought the Corbin seat along with it.
Gone and good riddance. Wish he’d bought the Corbin seat along with it, now I have to try and sell that…and worse, probably ship it.

 

After a little bit of CraigsListing–well, maybe more like a little bit of CraigsList obsessing–and one visit to a cool but high-mileage BMW R1100GS, I emailed the owner of a 2002 Moto Guzzi California Stone to see whether he’d haul the bike down to me. The following weekend a special delivery found its way to me.

The new-to-me Moto Guzzi California Stone 1100 arrives courtesy of its former owner
The new-to-me Moto Guzzi California Stone 1100 arrives courtesy of its former owner

 

The first ride had me wondering whether I’d gotten a lemon when two problems surfaced: the gas cap wouldn’t come off…and then wouldn’t go back on…and the shift linkage came apart at the end of the ride. Both problems have been resolved as of right now–both are documented. Neither one was a deal breaker, not when the bike proved to be so enjoyable to ride. As of right now the main thing it needs is a new tire which I ordered the day after the first ride and am currently storing in the shop until I can figure out how to prop the bike up long enough to get the front wheel removed.

I’ve had the bike just over a week as of this writing and have put over 300 miles on it and am happy with it so far. It handles really well, the brakes are great, the motor has plenty of power, it has a big enough gas tank, it’s comfy and it sounds great with the stock exhaust. Could be a keeper.

I rode the McKenzie Pass on it today–both directions–and it was pure joy. Have also taken it up to Mt. Bachelor via Sunriver and out near Powell Butte and Alfalfa (first ride was out that way).

Here are some pics…the bike is very photogenic.

What a nice looking Stone in front of those rocks.
What a nice looking Stone in front of those rocks.
One of my first rides was up to Brasada Ranch which sits on Powell Butte. The view of the mountains is great from here.
One of my first rides was up to Brasada Ranch which sits on Powell Butte. The view of the mountains is great from here.
Nope...not part of the reality series. Just the ski resort near Bend.
Nope…not part of the reality series. Just the ski resort near Bend.
The windshield is nice when there's no wind...but I hate it when it's windy so have taken it off for now.
The windshield is nice when there’s no wind…but I hate it when it’s windy so have taken it off for now.
The Guzzi handles amazingly well for a cruiser--actually it handles amazingly well for any bike.
The Guzzi handles amazingly well for a cruiser–actually it handles amazingly well for any bike.

Meet my Suzuki Bland-It

Nope that’s not a typo. I meant to put the “L” in there. I did mean to call the bike bland. But let me explain…

I went on vacation a little while ago and came back and sold my 2008 WR250R the very next day. I was thrilled. Finally I could start shopping for my next motorcycle–a street bike this time. I was fairly certain I wanted a Yamaha FZ1…a bike I nearly bought back in 2002 but instead I got the Honda 919. Back then I test rode the Honda, the Yammie FZ1 and a naked Suzuki Bandit just like my new bike. I ended up with the 919–mainly because it just felt right…probably just good (Honda-esque) ergos. The Bandit was never a contender back then.

Anyway, I went and looked at several bikes this time: a cool 1983 Honda V65 Sabre, two Yamaha FZ1s, a 1997 Honda VFR and finally the 2003 Bandit. Even though the VFR is very close to the bucket list bike (the fifth-gen VFR…which I’m taking off the bucket list–more on that later) and the FZs were both really nice, I ended up with the Bandit. It was in much better shape, with low miles (8656 when I got it) and it was practically a single-owner bike that had been well taken care of. Oil looked new in the site glass and the bike is in mint condition. Best looking used bike I’ve ever bought. Period. Plus the owner was in treatment for cancer and a lung infection…which made me feel better about buying myself another bike.

Next day I took the bike on a 100 mile ride over to Prineville and back via the Crooked River Canyon. On the ride I discovered many things. First, I found the bike to be completely bland to ride. It wasn’t fun in any way. It has power, but doesn’t feel fast like my ZRX1200R did. It has decent suspension but it’s not terribly confidence inspiring. It’s relatively comfy, but my shoulders, back and knees hurt before I even made it to Prineville (and I won’t even get into the high-frequency vibes at 65-70 mph that bugged the snot out of me). The reach to the bars felt really far for an upright, standard-style bike. The brakes are good, but not great, lacking feel and bite. Oh and it’s a five-speed. That bugged me a little on the test ride, but on the ride to Prineville and back it made me nuts…I just kept reaching for a 6th gear that wasn’t there.

Before I got close to Prinville I was already wondering whether I’d made a mistake and by the time I made it up the canyon on the way back, I was certain of it–I bought the wrong bike. Instead of being annoyed, I jammed…put on my headphones and had tunes the rest of the ride home. Since the bike is so quiet that worked out well.

When I got back to the house, I pulled the bike into the shop, lubed the chain, cleaned off all the bugs and put the bike back on CraigsList. Should’ve just kept the WR250R and put a bigger tank on it. The WR was fun, modern, useful and comfortable. The Blandit is none of those things. I don’t care if I ever ride it again. What a waste of time, energy and money. Hopefully I can fix this before the riding season is up. Not sure what I’ll buy as there’s not much out there I’m interested in, but am thinking about another 650cc dual sport–maybe a KLR.

I’ve done this before–with an MV Agusta Brutale. The biggest difference is the MV was beautiful, sexy, fun and charismatic. It was also brutal to ride–suspension was so stiff it just beat you up unless you were on glass-smooth tarmac…and the roads around here are not glass smooth. I kept the Brutale for more than a month before giving up on it. This time it took less than 24 hours.

And the VFR thing? This is the second time I’ve had a chance to buy one when I’ve had cash and I ALWAYS buy something else. I realized that no matter how much I like the sound of the VFR and all the reviews, I don’t want a bike with all the plastic.

Last but not least, a couple photos of the Bland-It from my one and only ride.

Not a pleasant place to spend any length of time.
Not a pleasant place to spend any length of time.
It's better the further I get from it.
It’s better the further I get from it.
Nothing snarky to say. At least it was quiet enough that I could enjoy my tunes.
Nothing snarky to say. At least it was quiet enough that I could enjoy my tunes.
That's it's best trick...looking good.
That’s it’s best trick…looking good.
I wanted to chuck it in the water instead of ride it.
I wanted to chuck it in the water instead of ride it.