Monday, July 20, 2009

Spice of Life

Variety. What a world we live in that we have the option of hundreds of different makes, models, sizes, shapes, and colors of two-wheeled entertainment! My Dad just bought his first bike: a Yamaha Star-950, and graciously allowed me the opportunity to try it out. Before getting into the meat of this post, allow me to caveat that I am much more of a sport/sport-tourer guy than I am a cruiser guy. But beyond that, I am definitely a motorcycle guy. So onward...

My first impressions of the V-Star 950 were of its excellent ergonomics. The bike was easy to mount, the controls well-placed, and the seat height pleasantly low. The mid-size weight of the bike felt very manageable. My Dad got the touring package, so it included the side bags and windscreen. One minor negative was that the voluminous side bags are not large enough to hold a full face helmet. The windscreen seemed excellent for around-town use; most will probably want something a bit larger for heavy-duty touring.

A turn of the key and press of the ignition was rewarded by a very nice exhaust note. The sound is beefy and low without being obnoxious. I snapped it into first gear and pulled away smoothly. The clutch required very little effort and had a nice wide friction zone. The throttle response was a bit jerky at the slowest (walking) speeds, but quickly became steady at anything above that.

I was a bit hesitant on turns because I had heard that cruisers in general, and the 950 particularly, do not allow for very deep lean angles. But what I found was that the bike actually handles quite well. I made some pretty sharp slow-speed turns without incident. I did not try to get a knee down or anything, but also didn't have a problem scraping the floorboards.

What I ultimately learned was how fun it is to ride something as different from my normal experience as a cruiser. If you are in the market for one, I recommend you take a peek at the 950. It offers a great selection of features at a rather economical price point. And the new engine is fuel-injected.

Now who has a Ducati 1198 that they'd let me try...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scratch That Itch!

I have read many posts recently from motorcyclists who, due to injury, vacation, work, or other interruption, have to take time off of riding. They frequently lament the fact that riding is a crucial part of their lives -- one that is sorely missed when absent. I wholeheartedly agree! I find that if more than three days go by without riding, I start really missing it. I am a motorcycle addict.

But scratching the riding itch is not the intended subject of today's post. I refer instead to the most horrific condition known to the motorcyclist: the itchy nose. A herd of deer bounding into the road? Bah. Potholes the size of lunar craters? Who cares. The psych ward at Bellevue driving hummers and talking on three cellphones at once? A mere triviality. Going 65 MPH on the freeway and having an itch flare up on ones proboscis? Epic, monumental, tragedy.

I have tried all manner of solutions. The "jam fingers up the chin gap and waggle them around" technique is spotty at best, and impossible if you have a well-sealing helmet. The "throw open the visor, violently poke the itchy spot, and close the visor before angry bees or chunks of road hit you in the eye" approach often leads to temporary loss of eyesight -- and worse, the itch remains. "Letting go of the itch in a zen-like meditative state wherein you accept that suffering is a natural part of life" only seems to anger the itchy gods. And the whole idea of just "pulling over and properly dealing with the situation" is, of course, absurd.

So my helmet's off to those who wear the hard plastic yarmulke! They may be missing the front of their face when they have an unplanned dismount, but their nose will not itch.