A short discussion about riding, friends, gear and trip planning. This is everything that leads up to our ride to Sturgis this year. Ride reports, gear evaluations, bike modifications and trip preparation. Join me as I get closer to the "ride of a lifetime".
Yesterday, I rode the Ducati Monster 1200 and the Aprilia Tuono back to
back. These bikes are similar in some respects but, by design, they ride
Something about the matte black Aprilia was a bit hot. Like a stealth bomber, I imagined that this nondescript naked bike would help me fly under the radar of the local and state authorities. I'm invisible! Even if they could not SEE me, they certainly would hear me coming!
The Tuono has a 1000cc V4 engine thatlikes to rev very high. To make adequate power, you need to keep your wrist pinned and the noise level high. The seat is as comfortable as the granite garden bench we have in the side yard. You don't sink into it at all, and you imagine you are being ridden out of town on a very fast rail.
The dealer insisted that I ride the Duc again. I had ridden it last weekend and had almost written it off as a noisy, Italian money pit. The bright red color also is a traffic stopper. Or a traffic ticket.
After the Aprilia, the spacious and thick cushion of the Ducati felt like a La-Z Boy recliner. You know what they say about the bigger cushion. It's a ride all day sort of bike. The one thing I discovered about the riding dynamics is this: with a twin engine in the Duc, torque is the order of the day. When you blip the throttle in ANY gear, the Duc leaps forward like a Great Dane after a squirrel. It makes prodigious amounts of torque and, if any of you need stumps pulled, come see me in the spring.
Both bikes are good bikes, but with different purposes. The Aprilia is more of a track tool and the Ducati is more of the gentleman hooligan's bike. It's the bike you would have stunted in your 20's, if crashing didn't stunt your riding career.
The dealer is preparing an offer and, the only question left is when? Do I want to make payments all winter? Not so much. Still lots of season left and the Duc is a 2015 model about to be marked down. Let's see what happens next. Worst case? I'm riding a 2016 model next year, tricked out the way I want it.
I'm a very lucky guy. I know it, and all the guys I ride with know it. We have a few women who ride with us (or us with them, as the case often is) and I consider them all good riders. Of the guys who ride, I'm the only one whose wife has her own scooter. Now, Mrs. Rocket has a LOT of interests, chief among them, her gardens, her hiking, kayaking, family and her music (she's a wicked awesome trumpet player). But, she likes a good ride and even threatens to ride to work once in a while, if she didn't have to dress so purty and professional at the office.
So, when last weekend looked like the first really good weekend to get out for a ride, she sent me an email from work, stating as such and, "Oh, would you rather go for a ride this Sunday or go for a hike?" When you've been married as long as I have, you KNOW that this is a trick question, with only one correct answer.
So, we hiked along the Maine coastline on Sunday, and had a fine time, just the two of us, like a couple of dating teens. We're still good together, after 30+ years of being together. It's important to find someone who shares your interests.
I'll get my ride in (and a new tattoo) on Saturday and I'll try to spoil her silly on Mother's Day. Someone wiser than me once commented that you should marry the person you're not afraid to sleep with. All these years and I sleep like a baby: a big, fat, snoring baby.
Happy Mother's Day this weekend to all the Moms out there. That includes fellow riders Pinkie, Crumpet, and backseat drivers Marie, Dawn and Carol. And, lest I leave out the non-riders, I'll give a shout out to my sister and sister-in-laws: Ginger, Diane, Christina and Heidi.
Long Term Test – Viking Bags Classic Sissy Bar Bag
Can we find a better term than “sissy bar” for the back rest
on the rear of a motorcycle?I like to
think of mine as the “Don’t Leave the Wife Behind When You Accelerate Quickly
Bar”…It has other useful functions as
well, especially when you’re taking a longer trip and need a way to secure all your stuff.
I have an older tour pack that has served me well, bought
second-hand from the Klimas Kollection, but this one had so many features that
I liked that I just had to
To that end, I looked for a bag that I could tour with all
summer long and came up with the Viking Classic bag from Motorcycle House (http://www.motorcyclehouse.com).There are lots of dealers clamoring for your
hard-earned dollars but these folks have everything you need in one place.
Where to begin?For
starters, it looks like an expensive piece of luggage, with heavy duty leather
and a hard shell. Look at all the straps that come with it!The only thing that’s missing is wheels on
the bottom and a pop-up handle, which no doubt will be on NEXT year’s
model.Seriously, this is tough stuff.
My last bag was Cordura nylon which is good, but not as tough as this
waterproof leather.It feels as rugged
as my Vanson competition riding jacket!
When it arrived, I couldn't wait to unpack it all and have a look.The chrome buckles look great and have quick
release snaps hiding underneath, so I don’t have to fiddle with buckles when I
have gloves on.The feature that sold me
on this particular model, besides the black leather and chrome, is the
side-opening zippers on both sides of the main bag.On my old bag, I would invariably find one
more thing to bring on a road trip, and have to unpack it all just to drop said
item into the main bag from the top.Here, as you can see, I can leave this bag mounted and easily open and
close to my heart’s content.Which is
another reason I am leaving this on my bike all summer: there’s simply no reason to remove it! You’ll
get the benefit of occasional updates and commentary as I use this to commute,
ride and tour all season long.
The mounting system adjusts to whatever size pad you have.
This is critical now that Harley-Davidson offers the WIDE backrest, as an
option.Hey, if your old lady is
comfortable back there, she’s likely to ride with you more often.Mine came set to the narrowest opening, which
was perfect for the smaller back rest on the VTX.No adjustment was needed.
The bag system also comes with a roll bag also made of heavy
leather.This affixes to the top of the
main bag using two of the provided straps.I won’t use the roll bag day-to-day, but it provides additional volume,
when you need it.There are shoulder
straps to carry this bag, and back pack straps to make carrying the main bag
easy.If you’re dragging all your gear
to a hotel room at the end of a long day in the saddle, this will make that part
of your day a little better.
If you don’t ride in the rain, then you’re not a rider.The bag has a waterproof cover, for those
days when you have to ride through foul weather to get where you’re going.Any biker worth his salt spends more time
riding than polishing. The riders who never cross state lines won’t be looking
into a tour pack system like this anyway.
The main bag zips open from the sides, as I mentioned
above.It also contains an adjustable
shelf unit.I can see how this would be
helpful if you had to carry a wet pair of boots, and didn’t want all your other
stuff to get soaked too.With 4 hook and
loop straps, it divides the main bag into an almost infinite number of
spaces.Inside the bag “doors” are small
mesh pockets, to carry stuff you want quick access to (sunscreen, etc).The outside of the bag is COVERED with
pockets.I’ve got the rain cover
permanently stashed in one, but I have a lot of others to choose from.
When packing a bag this big, remember to keep all the heavy
items low, so as to not affect your Center of Gravity too adversely.The bag mounts securely on a luggage rack or
on the rear seat, if your bike doesn’t have a rack.If you DO have a rack, follow the weight
guidelines and don’t overload it, if you want your gear to arrive at your final
destination along with you!
Here are a few pix I took today after mounting the bag on
the VTX. It looks good!
Tomorrow will be Day 1 of testing and I’ll write again about
my impressions and how the bag holds up to use, sun, bugs and weather.I can’t wait to sling my backpack into the
new bag and get some feedback from the other riders at work. I’m sure they will have something to say!
Sometimes we all need a push. Friend Ken provided that with his enthusiastic text message stating he was liberating his bike from storage this past weekend. After a flurry of messages, we finally connected late on a sunny Saturday and found our way onto a series of twisty back roads that were in surprisingly good condition. Let the games begin!
In other news, after a winter of low activity, I need to hit the gym. I made a halfhearted start earlier this week but am concluding that I need a gym buddy. Someone who won't allow me to quit early, just to head home for dinner or a beer. Hmm.
Any thoughts of getting off this cruiser and onto a sport bike again will need to be met with the discipline to lose the belly that would stand me off that fuel tank. No more chips, no more ice cream. I wanna go #FASTER.
Hope you're doing well and have a riding buddy, gym buddy or other partner who gets you through the not-so-fun parts of life. I'll see you out on the road. I hope you see less of me.
Q: What's long and hard, yet fails to make ANYONE happy?
A: Winter in New England.
It's especially difficult for riders to suffer from a prolonged winter. It feels like it's been 6 months of cold and record amounts of snow here. Finally, at last, warmer weather is here. A prolonged spell of above 50 degrees will melt the rest of the white stuff you see above. The mounds of snow piled up by the plow-boy cowboy will remain until the beginning of May, perhaps longer.
We start today, this tenth day in April, with freezing rain. This too shall pass. The forecast is for steadily warmer weather. This weekend will see me roll Ol' Blue out from under his cover, remove the charger and replace the seat to its permanent position. A test ride will blow the cobwebs out, for both of us.
Auto columnist (and all around superb human being) Jean Jennings writes a great column to cagers telling them how to be safe around motorcyclists. Here is that link: Motorcycle Safety
By the same token, we need to be extra alert over these next few months as the dickwad drivers slowly become aware that they share the road with other vehicles. If I seem angry about the topic of distracted driving, it's because I am. Cell phone use in moving vehicles has made the average poor driver into a complete moron. I'm happy to report that the State of New Hampshire has passed a law banning hand-held use of a cell phone, which goes into effect on July 1, 2015. I look forward to strict enforcement of this and only wish there was a way for us, as riders, to turn in the violators we see, on a real-time basis. Wouldn't THAT be grand? Perhaps I could mount a paintball gun on my bike to mark the vehicles of dangerous drivers, as a warning to other riders?
Don't forget to do your maintenance, check your bike thoroughly before heading out. Stop into your local shop and get it looked at. My local dealer provides a great value in their Spring Maintenance plan. In addition to affixing an inspection sticker, they go through the whole bike, inspecting cables, fluids, brake pads and tires, to make sure all is set for a happy season on two wheels. I call it the Peace of Mind service. A visit there also gives me time to look over the new inventory, to see what's changed over the course of a year and to just dream about the next new bike.
I gotta get to work but, I just wanted to say hello again. I know you'll be out soon, or have been out already. It's time to ride. Keep your eyes and ears open, and ride safe.
It's winter, it's cold and I haven't ridden my motorcycle in over a month. I'm starting to have withdrawal symptoms. Here I sit, looking at a map of the United States on Google's mapping tool, planning a cross-country trip. But, not for me. My son plans to relocate to LA soon and is going to make the big drive across the country. Of course, I'm envious, as I'd like to be riding shotgun or, better yet, following along on my bike. As I sit here, my ankles freezing below my desk, I think about all the possibilities there are on that big map. He could blaze across the interstates and minimize his travel time and expenses or, he could wander the back roads, see the REAL country and meet people along the way. From experience, I know that the second option is the more gratifying one.
Me and Ms. Rocket are just back from a short vacation in Florida. Bad timing weather-wise, but certainly a lot warmer there than here in New England. I saw lots of bikes out and thought about taking some pix but, since I was driving, I didn't have much of an opportunity. Besides, whenever I heard a squid scream by on a sport bike, he was gone before I could even get my phone out of my pocket!
A trip to Florida will surely make one feel old. Several restaurants we stopped at offered senior citizen discounts to anyone aged 55+. Seriously? I know it's just a marketing scheme to drive more people through the door but, personally, I don't consider myself a senior citizen. Hell, I barely consider myself an adult, but accept the fact that I may be considered middle-aged, whatever the hell that means these days. What happened to "60 is the new 30"?
I was fortunate enough early on in my career to get to travel to some great locations. I always tried to get a fun rental car and make the most of every visit. There are so many places that I'd love to revisit: Duluth, MN, Lynchburg, VA, South Bend, IN, Phoeniz, AZ, just to name a few. Some of the places I visited for work became vacation destinations for us, like Nova Scotia. I could go there again and again, and not only in the summer. Halifax is a great city and I have even been to Cape Breton in the midst of a blizzard! So much fun on that trip. I was young and my liver was strong then.
All this talk of traveling has got me wanting to peruse a real (paper) map and start planning. I think a few road trips are in order this year. So, let the daydreaming begin. As my fellow rider Ken B says, you have to put a stake in the ground. I'll do some map reading over the next month or so and try to fit a year's worth of riding into a few sunny months. All right my friends, I hope you are well and inspired to dream a little before the season is upon again soon. A low, slow wave, Joe Rocket
The written review follows below, but the team at Motorcycle House wanted some video content. Go to their site for a full line of motorcycle gear and accessories. Ask for Dewayne Jasper. Tell him I sent you!
Every time I get into a new car these days, I notice how
much is changed or improved over the car I've been (until now) so happy
with.Besides that “new car smell”,
there are tons of advancements, from electronics to power increases. The same
is true of motorcycle gear.It gets better every year.
I've had a
pair of Alpinestars boots for about 2 years and they've been great.Alpinestars is a company that knows riders and how to
make great products for them. I've never been unhappy with the older pair, that
is, until I got this upgrade.It's like
stepping out of a Toyota and into a Mercedes-Benz. I got this new pair of boots from Motorcycle House.
The first thing I noticed was NO MORE LACES.I HATE laces when riding.Do you know how many times I've managed to
loop a lace over a shifter and not been able to put a foot down at a stop?We only learn from our bad experiences.
S-MX 1 boots have a full zipper on the inside of each shoe that allows easy
entry.The strap across the front
ensures a comfortable fit.
Heel protection is great, as are the toe sliders on the
outside edge of each boot.These are
comfortable street boots, but look to be built for track duty.
Like many of you, I ride to work when I can, and the choice
of shoe is important from the standpoint that I have to wear these all day and
not stand out too much to the management team.I wore these just this past week on a hot day and found them to be ALL
DAY COMFORTABLE.On my ride home, I
enjoyed the cooling air that the fabric front allowed to circulate through the
These boots look great, are purpose-built and are comfortable to
wear all day long.I almost forgot to
mention the small heel is perfect for hanging off your pegs to give your legs a
bit of a rest on a longer ride.As
always, Alpinestars raises the bar for riding gear.These are a great value for anyone looking
for a comfortable riding boot, but who may not need the protection of a taller
Enjoy the second half of the season. A little more heat still to come and then on to much cooler weather.
Perhaps it's the kid in me that thinks of an all day ride in these terms. I can't ever remember having one of these dentist's 401Ks as a child, probably because my parents were too smart to let me overindulge in pure sugar. I had too many cavities as a kid, so maybe they were too broke from all that dental work to acquiesce to my juvenile demands. Now, as an adult, the controls (or lack of them) fall squarely on my own shoulders. This past Sunday's all day ride was an all day sucker. A 10, if you will. After a leisurely breakfast, Ms. Rocket and I rolled the bikes out and pointed them west. We had a loose plan to ride northwest to Rutland, Vermont. I had been there a year ago looking at a small tow-behind camper, the T@b Little Guy trailer. The missus hadn't seen one up close and, even though they didn't have any new units for sale, except for a hail damaged one, it provided a destination on the other end of some great roads.
With a late start and a goal of "lunch" in Rutland, we were hard-pressed to make good time. Long about 12:30 or so, Stephanie declared that she was "a bit peckish". I knew of a good diner just on the far side of Hogback Mountain, so we stopped. Seemed like all the holiday tourists were waiting for a table, so we strode up to the counter and plopped ourselves down onto some available stools. A quick bite, and one or two too many iced teas later, and we were down the road again. It was already a hot day and the over consumption of liquids was a recurrent theme that day. I felt a bit like Whizzer. The day was sunny, very warm and dry. At an earlier stop, I could feel the sun beating down on the back of my neck. We were dressed suitably, wearing all mesh gear and jeans. No exposed skin to get a burn. The roads were largely unobstructed. Any time we passed through a town we did notice a bit more traffic than usual, but it was a holiday weekend after all. I love the roads in Vermont! Once you get into the mountains, it's a constant winding back and forth and over and down. Our pace was good, spirited at times, but respectful of the traffic and conditions. We eventually arrived in Rutland, mid-afternoon. The Italian restaurant I had in mind was in another city. We used Yelp to find the Vermont Tap & Ale House and had a great butter and garlic pizza, which is really just cheesy garlic bread pizza style. We found the RV dealer a few miles down the road. We took a cursory look at the sold units and the pock-marked one. The prices are off-putting, close to $20,000 for the luxury of standing up and a kitchen. I liked the coffin on wheels for half the price, but I doubt I'd dump money into another depreciating asset. Pointed home, we had a minor disagreement over the route the GPS selected. By then, we were already hot and tired and too full of caffeine. A couple of miles of radio silence sorted me out and we cranked the throttles and rode into New Hampshire again. Sadly, one of our favorite roads, Rt 123, was a mess. The bumps and cracks from the past few harsh winters have torn up a once-great scenic road. Now, it was hang on and slow down. Too bad. One last gas stop (and bathroom break, I was fully hydrated!) and we were almost home. All told, just shy of a 300 mile day. Lots of sun and twisty pavement. A 9 hour day and still plenty of sunlight when we arrived home. Ah, the joys of summer riding! I hope your holiday was independently wonderful. Now is the time to get out and ride. Make yours a safe one. A low, slow wave, Joe Rocket