Sunday, February 28, 2010

Z Rex

I'm not sure exactly where the blame falls. In the end, I must take responsibility.

On one level, the problem is that I've pretty much done everything I want to do to the KLR. That left me with time to think about other motorcycles and other motorcycle projects.

Then, there was the enclosed motorcycle project which started in my mind again when I showed the Monotracer to someone new and got me to thinking about what I would do differently. Part of any enclosed motorcycle project would be a donor bike with good horsepower and torque to power a heavier vehicle and, whatever the layout chosen, the wheelbase is going to grow significantly. I decided that a chain drive left my options open, since its easier to stretch a chain than a shaft.

There was also the question of salvage versus usable motorcycle as the donor. I spent part of the Christmas holiday and some evenings on the road looking into salvage motorcycles and figuring out that they just aren't that great a deal.

Then I arrived at Nissan to find that Chris Winkler and Eric Heuschele had sent their bikes down to Arizona to ride in the good weather. Eric was coming later, but Marco Diniz was going to ride Eric's bike, a new to him Kawasaki ZRX 1100.

I looked up the specs on the ZRX and it looked pretty good, good torque with a wide torque band, chain drive, and available at pretty low prices. Seemed like a good donor bike for my project. Now Eric's bike is a perfect condition, Eddie Lawson replica, so its far too nice to be a donor, but it got me thinking.

When we arrived in Northern California, we had the first day off and it was a beautiful Sunday. The weather was not very realistic for winter, but sunny and 70 deg F. It got me to thinking about how nice it would be to ride a motorcycle on these beautiful twisty roads in this gorgeous countryside. That's when I made my big mistake. I thought, why not just look at Craigslist and see if one of those ZRX's like Eric's is available. I could buy it and ride it while I'm here, then ship it home. And there, in Craiglist, was a 2001 ZRX 1200, an even better choice for my eventual project with more displacement, torque, and power. The price was right and it lived just 2 miles from my hotel.

The next morning, I figured out how to get the bike home, if I bought it, then called and set up an appointment to check out the bike. It was the least popular color, black with blue and silver (who cares!), and had been used enough and farkled enough that I wouldn't care about messing with a classic. The good news was that it was owned by a cop who was a fanatic about maintaining his toys. A deal was soon struck and I picked up the bike last night.

This morning, I made a few adjustments and took off for a 200 mile "get to know ya" ride.

First of all, the power is immense. With me aboard, the combined weight is about 650pounds with 122 Hp from the factory. That's a Viper power to weight ratio. It's got torque too. I don't think I've managed to get to wide open throttle yet.

The exhaust is aftermarket and it has that nice "ripped cloth" sound of a good inline 4 cylinder. The idle is a little lumpy and the flywheel must be very light because it revs instantly. The best part is the popping on engine decel. I know a lot of people like the sound of a good V twin, but I like this just fine and I think its pretty high up the list of excellent motorcycle sounds.

The bike has a much heavier front weight distribution than the KLR, so if feels like if flops over in low speed corners. Marco said this bike likes to turn a lot more than his VMax. Imaging the difference between the VMax and the KLR.

This bike is extremely at ease on the freeway and generally likes speeds over 45 mph better than it likes 15 mph hairpin curves. John Chamberlin talks about his BMW being a great highway bike and his Yamaha being a great around town bike. I expect that the ZRX and KLR have similar differences, but I think I'll still be taking the KLR on long trips. Even though the ZRX is rock stable on the highway, the seating position, road surface flexibility, and relaxed cornering of the ZRX don't compete with the KLR. Yes, I'm a little cramped from the waist down on the ZRX. I'm also pretty sure I would have done Ca Hwy 128 today at a higher average speed on the KLR than I could even after I'm more comfortable with the ZRX. That's OK though, what a hoot the ZRX is on the straights and in high speed sweepers.

I probably should have waited and bought something that was more practical like a Caponord or Tiger 1050, but those bikes are a lot more expensive and I really like messing with the bike and developing it to my tastes.

No, I'm not a Kawasaki fanatic. 2 at once is just a coincidence. And yes, my yellow helmet and jacket don't match the new bike, but I like the yellow for visibility and I don't care if they don't match.

My ride today was pretty much a dream motorcycle road. Up the Old Redwood Highway to California Hwy 128 west toward the coast. First a lunch stop for BBQ at the "Hamburger Ranch and Pasta Farm" in Cloverdale. Then over the mountain and through the hills on the twisty part of 128.

After Navarro, the vineyards disappear and you follow the river through sweeping corners amongst the redwoods. You've got to be a little careful in here, because some spots stay damp all day long. Note the banking on the curve in the background.

Later, you emerge on the coast with a short ride up the Pacific Coast Hwy to Mendocino.

Hey, not every photo has to have a motorcycle in it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

But its a dry fog

Some mornings, the fog is warm and practically massless here in Northern California. When I go for my morning walk, my face and hair get damp on the front side, but the sides and back stay nice and dry.

OK, I've been in California, north bay to be specific, for a little more than a week now and here are a few ways that I know I'm in California.

- Millions of drivers that act like they are sleepwalking.
- A Sunday afternoon traffic jam (see above).
- A sign in the eastern San Joaquin valley, not near anything at all, "Vacant Land, 40 acres plus or minus, $250,000 per acre"
- A middle aged couple, both women, holding hands while shopping in a grocery store in a small town far from San Francisco.
- A small town middle school with its own skate park, half pipe, ramps, and rails, all in concrete.
- Walking in Armstrong Redwood Forest and hearing a sound from the general area of a tree ahead. Arriving at the tree, finding a middle age women sitting and meditating inside the tree in a space between the roots. We nicknamed her the "ommmm lady."

Dan in Armstrong Forest.

Redwood Elephant