Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: May 2011


Pre-San Jose Trip Warm-Up: 900 miles in 3 days

Two weeks ago, in preparation for my 6000-mile round-trip ride to San Jose, CA, I had the chance to do some practice long-distance riding over three days via highways.

Day 1: Columbus to Cleveland (Akron and Aurora) and back via I-71, I-80 and I-271 (approx. 294 miles)
Day 2: Columbus to Champaign, IL via I-70, I-465, and I-74 (approx. 297 miles)
Day 3: Champaign, IL to Columbus via I-74, I-465, I-70 (approx. 297 miles)
Total miles (approx.) = 900

I was lucky those three days to ride in 60-85°F and encounter rain only twice (short sprays in Indianapolis on the way to and from Columbus). However, I did realize a few things after taking this "quick" trek through three states.

1. Fatigue. After doing this mileage regimen for several days, I still felt comfortable on the saddle. However, thanks to a six-day work week, I definitely need at least a day or two to relax and do nothing before shooting for the 600+ mile days (or more).

2. Warmth/humidity. I will definitely need a mesh jacket before this trip. I chose to ride without my evaporative cooling vest and it was quite warm on the return to Columbus. Thanks to my trip to Cleveland, I have my sights set on the Olympia Airglide Mesh 3 women's jacket in a neon yellow/black. This jacket also includes a waterproof and thermal liner that will allow me to use the jacket in temps below 50 degrees. Other option is to dig out my retired FirstGear mesh jacket that has been with me through two cross-country campaigns and use it one last time.

3. Resting the wrist. After all the straight-line riding I have decided to plunk down the money and pick up a BrakeAway Motorcycle Cruise Control. Believe it or not, I have done multiple cross-country trips without the use of a throttle-lock device, relying only on a Crampbuster wrist rest to maintain speeds for long periods of time. That's definitely going to change.

4. Adding lights. Eleanor's getting one extra upgrade with the addition of LED auxiliary driving lights from Real Time Industries. These lights bolt directly to the bike via the front fender screws, eliminating any need for extra brackets. This will definitely help in the more remote areas of the country when additional light will be helpful in seeing farther ahead on the road.

That's all for now. Going to continue riding and getting accustomed to those huge numbers again for this trip!


In Memoriam: the Subaru "Taxi" (9/29/04-5/13/11)

After six years and 109,881 miles, the 2003 Subaru Outback wagon that I've owned since college was totaled by insurance under unforseen circumstances. Not the way I wanted to see that machine go.

I'm going to miss this car. I acquired it during at the beginning of my second year at USC as a replacement to my "first" car, a 2000 Ford Taurus SE, a vehicle that my brother put more miles on than I did due to the fact that my parents didn't allow me to drive to school because I was female and by default, inferior and unable to operate a vehicle safely. (That's a story/social commentary on Asian parents for another day.) That Taurus got me around from Point A to Point B, but it didn't capture my heart like this Subaru station wagon did.

I chose the Subaru for a few reasons. I wanted a car that was a wagon to carry all my hockey goalie gear, all-wheel drive, reliable with an excellent track record, and NOT a Honda or Toyota because damn near everyone in CA owned one. But most importantly, it was a functional car that did everything I needed it to do. And as soon as I got it, I was free to roam wherever I desired to go.

I rolled out of the dealer lot of Timmons Subaru in Long Beach, CA with exactly 18k miles on the odometer. By the next week, torrential rains had hit Southern CA and stuck around for more than two weeks straight. As streets flooded due to clogged-up drains and non-desert level rain, my car sliced through the daily commute as other vehicles stalled and were trapped in the watery mess. Within the next couple years, that car would see many a hockey trip, long drives of the CA coast to San Francisco, the occasional trip to Las Vegas, moving days for friends, professional videography sessions, and more drop-offs and pick-ups from LAX airport for more people than I could count. Thanks to all those passengers that I moved from here to there with the Subaru, it earned the name "Taxi."

The Subaru was my motorcycle before I became a fully competent and confident rider. It was my freedom and escape from the "nos" and "you can'ts" that I'd hear in my household on a regular basis. Heck, at one time, a trip to Vancouver, BC, Canada was even in the works! When the motorcycles became my primary vehicles, the car was always there whenever I was ready to travel to another hockey game or had to take more passengers than the bike would allow. Here's some of the interesting moments I was able to get with the camera:

Las Vegas (January 2008): I make the super-wise decision to drive the Taxi STRAIGHT into a packed pile of Zamboni-dumped snow at the hockey rink. Matt triumphantly stands in front of my mess. Ironically, it never got stuck in snow in Ohio, and there was whole lot more of it here!
Las Vegas (August 2009): The Taxi proves that it can haul more than just passengers. It manages to pull a trailer containing two full-size motorcycles, a scooter, and every possible inside orifice stuffed with things to take to Ohio. With the car now gone, we no longer own any of the vehicles in this picture, trailer included. :(
Somewhere in Iowa (August 2009): Fuzzy takes full advantage of the Subaru's A/C system. He was in the front seat for the entire trip!
Columbus, OH (11/27/09): The Subaru sees REAL snow for the first time. It survived two Ohio winters, not bad for a car that was never expected to leave California!
December 2009: Oh Taxi, where did you end up taking us to? On a bright note, we were able to drive to much larger frozen ponds to do some real pond hockey!
On a bright note, the car won't see its demise in a junk yard crushed into a cube. The owner of Mullins Body Shop in Galloway, OH, the place that I had the car towed to, liked it so much that he bought the car off of me with the intention of repairing and using it again. I wish him the best of luck, especially because the car's front suspension was twisted like a twig.

That car was a tough act to follow, but I'm sure that its replacement will serve us well as it did. The Subaru's successor is a Forest Green 1999 BMW E39 528i wagon with 108k miles on the odometer that we picked up from Carmean Auto Group in Carroll, OH. Matt pointed out that, according to BMW nomenclature, the wagon is technically a 528tai (t = touring, a = automatic, i = fuel injection). If it were an all-wheel drive version (designated by BMW as "x"), it would've been a 528taxi! That would've been quite fitting, actually.

Here's to [hopefully] many years of potential adventures with the Bimmer. Now it just needs to earn a name!


Test Ride Review: 2011 Triumph Tiger 800

Last week I took a field trip to Akron, OH to participate in a Triumph demo event hosted by Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph with hopes of test riding the new Triumph Tiger 800 and Sprint GT 1050. For the second time that I've attended these events in the last year (the other one being at MOTOHIO European Motorbikes in Columbus), Triumph didn't make the Sprint GT available for test rides. I speculate that they're selling them like hotcakes. Here's my last blog post regarding the Sprint GT.

Triumph has two versions of the Tiger 800: the 800 and 800XC. The latter is a more off-road oriented version with spoked wheels, a taller, wider seat, and handguards. I test rode the regular 800 in Crystal White.

2001 Triumph Tiger 800. The XC model (also in Crystal White) is in the background.
Test Ride Remarks:
I rode an 8-9 mile round trip route through main streets and residential roads. The crawling traffic allowed me to test its balance in slow speed maneuvers and I was extremely impressed. Acceleration was quick and shifting was smooth. Like its big brother, the Tiger 1050, the powerband was easily accessible in every gear. In the sharper corners, the Tiger leaned into curves without much effort and its lightweight chassis made it easy to flick around. Braking was crisp and sensitive with stainless steel brake lines included standard (Japanese bike makers, please take note).

The Titanium/Carbon Fiber Arrow exhaust is definitely a nice upgrade!
The on-board controls include a digital speedometer, fuel gauge, dual trip odometer, analog tachometer, and *drum roll* gear indicator!
Factory option saddlebags (as shown on the Tiger 800XC). Notice the notch made to accommodate the exhaust pipe.
I would like to see how this bike would fare in long distance or prolonged rides. In terms of traveling range, the 5 gallon tank in addition to it being an 800cc triple cylinder bike would make it a formidable long-distance rider. I would estimate this bike to get anywhere from 45-55MPG which would make it super economical at the pump.

- Well-balanced and extremely easy to handle around corners and slow-speed maneuvers.
- Spirited six-speed engine with full range of power available with the flick of a wrist.
- Optional Arrow titanium exhaust has a wonderful deep sound and burble to it.
- Cleated footpegs are standard and ready for those occasional dual-sport excursions.
- Adjustable stock seat height from 31.9-32.7 inches.
- Just knocked the Tiger 1050 off my already short list of bikes to acquire!

- Handlebars are a quite wide and could be tilted back a bit further.
- Clutch's friction zone takes longer to engage (the lever has to be nearly all the way out for the bike to start moving).
- High-mounted exhaust pipe will make mounting saddlebags a little challenging.
- Shorter inseam riders may need to make a few adjustments.

Special thanks to the guys at Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph for hosting this test riding event. If you're ever in the Cleveland (Akron) area and want to stare at bikes and hang out in their gorgeous showroom, come by for a visit!

For manufacturer information about the Triumph Tiger (and their other bikes), visit


Independent Motorsports goes to the circus...

With the circus in town here in Columbus, OH this week, I think it would be fun to share this story.

I had a customer come into Independent Motorsports on Tuesday carrying a rear wheel to a 2008 Honda Rebel to have two spokes replaced. When I asked him how soon he needed it, he answered, "I'll need it tomorrow to prepare the bike for my act."

It turns out that he was a performer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and his "act" involved riding a Rebel across a high-wire up to 70 ft. in the air! Since wheel spokes aren't a very common thing that's carried in stock at most motorcycle stores (they don't break often enough to justify it), I started calling multiple Honda dealerships in Ohio. After several calls and six shops later I came across the guys at Western Hills Honda Yamaha in Cincinnati who had four of the spokes in stock and were able to overnight the parts to our store where one of our awesome techs reinstalled and trued the wheel in less than an hour.

His "wheel" is a stock rim with a large strip of tire rubber riveted down to the inside. There is a deep groove in the middle to accommodate the high-wire that he rides on. According to him, his Rebel has also been modified with a large sprocket for extra torque for short, precise movements and his fuel tank plugged up for, well, just watch the video below to find out why.

This the Honda Rebel 250 wheel that rides across the highwire.
Close-up of the tire groove
So here's our customer, Alex Petrov, entertaining the masses on that high-wire bike. I'm proud to say that I helped get him back in the air again! This is probably the best use of a Honda Rebel that I've seen in a long time, and a very strange (and short) commute from point A to point B. I'm proud to say that, yes, we service motorcycles for commuters and circus folk alike!


On 600cc Sportbikes: Some experience required...

Today I'm going to talk about the 600cc sportbikes. Colloquially referred to as the "crotch rocket," these quick, lightweight, and nimble motorcycles have achieved fame through many a music video, movie, and of course, the professional sportbike racing circuit. They're cool looking and already look fast when just standing still in a parking lot. However they've also achieved an extremely negative reputation, earning some labels like "the young man's bike," "squid machine," and "suicide rocket" thanks to many riders that have gone down while riding, been severely injured, or even killed due to inexperience or excessive speed while riding these performance machines.

And there's the riders that dream of owning their very first bike?!

I thought about this the other day while I was on I-270 test riding a stock 2007 Suzuki GSX-R 600 sportbike in preparation for putting it on the sales floor. With the exception of an aftermarket exhaust pipe and a red windshield it was identical to a model that would be delivered brand new from the factory. I rode the bike from the shop, traveled down the road to get the feel of the bike, and then entered the freeway in second gear, accelerating through the on-ramp. Feeling that I was still getting power from the bike, I continued in 2nd gear until I merged onto the main road.

I looked down at my gauges: 85MPH @ 12,000RPM. The bike's red-line is 14,000RPM, and I still had four gears to go!

As I shifted to third, I let off the throttle to slow down to a more acceptable 70MPH and then proceeded to shift up to 6th gear and coast four more miles before exiting, reentering the freeway in the opposite direction, and returning to the shop.

Here's that 2007 Suzuki GSX-R 600. 85MPH in 2nd gear? You betcha.
Over and over again it still boggles me when I get the young buck (this also applies to women riders too) into the dealership that's never ridden before, never touched a bike, still hasn't picked up the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) manual to take the test to get the learner's permit, and is filling out the credit app to get financed for a crotch rocket, solely basing that decision on the appearance of the motorcycle and in some cases, the fact that the friends have one or that "he/she doesn't want a cruiser." This is about the same as purchasing a Ferrari when you still need to learn how to drive the 4-cylinder Toyota.

Don't let the engine size fool you! At the hands of an experienced and trained professional, the 600cc sportbike can zip through the sharp curves of a racetrack with exact precision. In fact, racebikes contain the same engine and frame as their stock counterparts with the exception of lighter bodywork, customizable controls, and upgraded suspension among other modifications. Most riders, including myself, will never take these bikes to their limit in any normal street situation. So when I hear someone deciding to trade in their bike for "something faster," I really would like to ask them if they've taken their bike to its maximum speed. (Eleanor has reached a GPS-measured 137MPH riding straight on I-15 toward Las Vegas with me on the saddle in 5th gear and she wasn't even finished yet!)

For a beginning rider that hasn't had much experience with two wheels, there are many entry-level bikes that are designed to offer versatility while making power available yet manageable. Most of those bikes fall in the "standard" and "dual-sport" categories. Click here for a list of a "just a few" well known models.

There are quite a few potential riders out there that don't prefer those "slower" bikes and want to look cool down the road, but believe me, nothing shows more foolishness (and stupidity) than watching a sportbike rider barely able to creep through a right turn and then crank it over 100+MPH down a street in a straight line doing a wheelie.

I do understand that there is an image issue when it comes to the sportbikes. They're sexy and fast. You won't see "Biker Boyz" on Vespa scooters (lots of that stuff was fake anyway). And for the major motorcycle brands, releasing a new sportbike model every 2-3 years helps them stay up with the latest trends and technological innovations in motorcycling and for some companies, keep them surviving. The 600cc sportbike is an enjoyable ride when its rider is experienced enough to appreciate its sheer power and agility. However, that experience is best learned on smaller displacement motorcycles that will not overwhelm a new rider.

And another thought...sportbikes rank among the highest in insurance rates among motorcycles because of the frequency of claims on this type of bike, the main demographic of the riders that operate them (usually young males 18 and up), and their high rate of theft (of course YOU want one, and so does everyone else!). Try this: find an insurance company online, request an insurance quote online for a sportbike, and then get one for a dual-sport or standard bike of the same or similar engine size. You'll be amazed at the difference in rates. Through my insurance company, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A is cheaper to cover in a year than a 2007 Kawasaki ZX-6R.

If you're one of those people who will acquire one of these fast bikes, I urge you to respect your right hand (the throttle), do what is necessary to educate yourself of advanced riding techniques, and practice your cornering and control on a regular basis. This goes for anyone who rides a motorcycle. Continue learning your bike every time you ride it. You'll realize very quickly that it is faster than you think.

Click here for the sequel to this write-up, "600cc Sportbikes: Idiots Not Recommended."