Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: July 2011


Test Ride Review: 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

I had the chance to test ride the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 as part of the festivities of AMA Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio last Sunday. I had wanted to ride this bike mainly because I had owned its last predecessor released in the United States, the 2008 Kawasaki Z1000, for a time and was curious with this addition to the Kawi family. (The 2009-2010 Z1000 was identical to the 2008 but only released in Europe due to low sales in the U.S.)

For the 2011 lineup, Kawasaki has the option of both the Z1000 and the Ninja 1000, two bikes with the same engine but with two different personalities.

For less flashiness, the Ninja 1000 is also available in a black/black color scheme.
I often refer to the Ninja 1000 as "the Z1000 with clothes." It is, literally, a Z1000 with a more touring-inspired fairing that would be ideal for the daily commute or the long haul. There are even factory options for hard bags if you're really travelling somewhere!

The digital speedometer/analog tachometer combo is a very similar style to the 2008 Z1000 and includes a double trip odometer and fuel gauge. I would've liked to see addition of the gear shift indicator that's included on both the Kawasaki ZX-6 and ZX-10 sportbikes.
We set out on a series of local twisty roads in the Mansfield area to test the bike's acceleration, braking, and cornering. My rear suspension was set up for someone who was lighter, so I found myself drifting into turns a little more than I wanted to. I did, however, like grippiness and response of the OEM tires on this bike, Bridgestone Battlax BT016R Hypersports, and enjoyed flicking the bike quite aggressively through a few switchbacks and tight curves. In terms of power, I didn't notice too much of a difference between this bike and my previous 2008 Z1000, whose engine was about 50cc smaller with a fewer horses. But unlike the Z1000, I found this Ninja 1000's throttle much smoother and much more crisp response than its predecessor.

The 2011 Z1000/Ninja 1000 feature another take of the unusual stock exhaust, a distinct, yet love-or-hate feature of the Z1000 series since 2003.
- very standard, upright naked bike ergonomics
- adjustable windshield
- lightweight feeling (for a liter sportbike) and easy to flick around
- smooth throttle with very little abruptness
- options for hard luggage

- suspension is soft in the front, definitely needs stiffer springs
- wish the stock adjustable windshield was larger, but that can be fixed with an aftermarket solution
- $10,999 MSRP price tag may have some people looking at fully-faired sport-touring bikes instead

In conclusion, Kawaski has made a great bike that combines the zip and nimbleness of the Z1000 and the versatility of a sport tourer in a very functional package. I would recommend this bike for those weekend long-distance trips where the destination brings on the twisty roads or as an everyday commuter that still possesses an excitement factor.

Even with the new Z1000 and the Ninja 1000 out on the market, I still consider the '07-'08 Z1000 a formidable standard bike that will do just as much as the 2011 model. You can't go wrong with any of these bikes, and with a little suspension tweaking and some luggage, you'll be able to go rip down any paved road.

Special thanks to Sue Slate from the Women's Motorcyclist Foundation for the opportunity to jump on a Ninja 1000 last week!


Fuzzy! Best. Rat. Ever. (2008-2011)

Fuzzy retired to the great messy kitchen in the sky at 11:45PM last night at the approximate age of three years. He fell asleep on my lap peacefully in a warm blanket. We're going to miss the little bugger, but he put up a heck of a fight against a very brief illness. Of course he didn't leave without overhearing me tell a friend his life story in an hour. Always wanting to look cute and be the center of attention until the very end...

He leaves behind a lifetime of memories and lots of food particles and stolen pieces of paper under the bed. He spent many a night sleeping underneath bedsheets and frequently next to our feet. He probably ran farther with pieces of food in his mouth bigger than his head than any other rat that I've known, granting he had the liberty of the hallway whenever we were home.

When we lived in CA, Fuzzy was notorious for using Post-It Notes, pens, and five $20 bills as bedding in his igloo. He also found shelter in my used helmets and was often seen sticking his head out of them whenever he smelled freshly cooked pasta in the kitchen. A food conniseur, he has enjoyed tasty samplings of meat, poultry, fish, bread, pesto pasta, and the giant strawberry or piece of cookie for desert. He loved root beer and would often sample some whenever we popped a bottle open. He also had this thing for Thin Mints and gum that I'll never understand.

Fuzzy gets his own root beer. Sort of.
What a tough act to follow. Not too shabby for a rejected, up-for-adoption, one-eyed hairless rat from a PetSmart in Tustin, CA.

To see some of his shenanigans from some of his better days, visit

To see him steal stuff off my old video-editing desk in CA, visit

And, just to watch nibble "cheese," visit

Looks like he won't have to beg for his favorite strawberry-favorite yogurt drops; he's got them by the bucket wherever he is now. :)

Fuzzy chills out, like usual...wrinkles and all.


Diana's Final Memorial in the CA Redwoods (7/9/11)

After hanging out with friends at the WOW Ride-In in San Jose, I spent an extra couple days in CA to attend the memorial service of Diana Thornton, one of my Columbus riders that passed away to cancer last August. Coincidentally, she lived in the San Jose area for 15 years while she worked for in the Bay Area and then transferred to Columbus, OH where I then met her. She was a long-time Women On Wheels® member that helped start both the LA Iron Angels and the Buckeye State Lady Riders, two chapters that  I've served as a director. She will be missed dearly, and I was very honored to be part of her final send-off in the California redwoods.


ATV Safety Class @ Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, CA)

Sometimes to have a lot of fun, you gotta get a little dirty!

As part of the festivities of the Women On Wheels® 25th International Ride-In taking place in San Jose, CA last week, I had the opportunity with five other WOW members to take the ATV Safety Class ran by the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. It was held at the Hollister Hills SVRA (State Vehicular Recreational Area). Learning curriculum and material provided was from the ATV Safety Institute.


Food Review: Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria (Emeryville, CA)

Since my trips back to CA appear to be very far and few in between, I usually make a list of food places that I "must" visit before returning back to that one other state I live in now. I think I've just added another place to my list, that is, when I end up back in Northern California again.

For lunch, my old high school friend took me to Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria in Emeryville to try one of their unique artisan pizzas. Every day of the month, a different pizza is made with unique ingredients, and the list is usually revealed a week at a time on their website. For today (Sunday), it was topped with sweet potatoes, Pasilla peppers, feta, and lime oil. I was curious about this combination, especially with the sweet potatoes, but I was extremely astonished by the amount of flavor that this pizza had to offer.


Taking Eleanor home, the Northern Route.

I left from Elko, NV yesterday at 6AM and was at the California border by 11AM. It felt wonderful to cross back into the Golden State again, and reentry via I-80 offered some of the most scenic (and twisty) roads that, if you took your eyes off course you could end up in a barrier. That was the kind of intensity of riding that I had missed being in Ohio for so long, where everything around me within a reasonable distance is a straight line or a meandering curve. In CA, even the freeways are interesting!

Iron Butt BunBurner 1500/SaddleSore 2000 Report

"To be insane, you must have discipline." - Hudson Leick

This report has been completed in between my two stays in Elko, NV and Oakland, CA after an Iron Butt adventure that involved four time zones, 45 hours of travel, and nearly 3000 miles on the motorcycle. Here's a little recap of my travels.

Eleanor's all geared up and ready to ride!
Departure from Columbus: 12:30AM EST, 6/30
Final Stop for BB1500: Rawlins, WY, 9:30AM MST, 7/1
Final Stop for SS2000: Elko, NV, 7:30PM PST, 7/1

The route was very basic: I-70 to I-80 via I-29 from Columbus, OH to Green River, WY. According to Google Maps, the total came to 1520 miles, enough for the BunBurner ride (1500 miles in 36 hours). I originally planned for this route to be a shot for the more extreme BunBurner Gold (1500 miles in 24 hours), but due to severe closures on I-29 in Iowa due to flooding in that part of the state that I didn't know about in advance, my connection from I-70 was delayed so badly mid-day that I was trapped in the state for nearly two hours, eliminating the possibility for Gold. However, the extra 200 miles I covered trying to find an alternate route brought my final destination for the BunBurner a lot closer.

And I ride, and I ride, and I ride...

So after a broiling run through most of 100+ degree Nebraska and 285 miles to go on the BunBurner 1500 attempt, I had to call it a day after getting caught in the middle of a severe storm that had winds nearing 50MPH and throwing me around on Eleanor near to Big Springs, NE. The tradeoff? A nice dinner with steak and second round with a regional favorite, Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Yup, it's genuine fried bull junk. If you've seen some of the other stuff I've eaten, this would probably be quite benign.
By the morning it cleared beautifully and it was easy to get to WY to finish off the final leg. I was glad that I waited for that sunrise because that portion of I-80 was some of the most scenic portions of interstate I've ever ridden. I had missed the pretty part of I-80 in Wyoming when Matt and I moved to Ohio in 2009 because we connected from I-25 from Fort Collins, CO instead of from Reno, NV.

Crossing the WY border during the final stretch of the BB1500. Yahoo.
After completing those final 285 miles for the first certification, I had over 12 hours to ride 500 miles to earn the SaddleSore 2000. That was completed quite casually with a stop for ice cream and a rest stop in Utah. I ended up in Elko, NV with a total of 2050 miles and three hours to spare.

This is gorgeous, and it was only the rest stop!
A member of the local wildlife. It saw my camera and took a stand.
Some additional notes...
My two biggest challenges were boredom during the long stretches of road and the heat wave I experienced in Nebraska. While I rode through the night, there wasn't much to see, so staying alert really involved a lot of good music and comedy routine selections. The same thing applied during the day; lots of songs and switching between channels on my XM radio. Also, with hours and hours on the saddle, I had to use several methods of keeping myself from getting too sore. Some methods included standing on the pegs while moving a crawl in work zones, engaging my BrakeAway cruise control mechanism, dangling the legs, and perching my feet onto the passenger pegs. As for the heat, my evaporative cooling vest saved the day, but the dry heat (100-105 degrees with crosswinds) made the last stretch of road a bit fatiguing. Keeping my CamelBak filled with ice water was a lifesaver as well.

I was lucky that the weather on the second day was relatively mild. Riding through the last portion of Nebraska into Wyoming was actually quite chilly with temps in the 50s and a crosswind. I had to use my Gerbings heated jacket liner and gloves for the first three hours of travel until it warmed up enough to just ride with my thicker Aerostitch Roadcrafter jacket. By midday I was back with the mesh jacket and didn't even need the cooling vest at all.

Contrary to popular belief, I did NOT drink any coffee or have any energy drinks during this entire journey. I had long days but I was able to sleep 6-7 hours a night which was sufficient and just enough to keep me from waking up groggy. The big key was keeping hydrated with lots of water and stopping at regular intervals.

The ability to ride through those miles comes with time. If you're thinking of doing these kinds of rides, work up to them and practice, practice, practice!

I think my vacation can start now...!