29 December 2012

Oh, Deer ...

... what a way to end 2012.

Don't worry, I'm okay! Let some photos tell the story.

Left side Gas Tank

Left Barkbuster Handguard

Engine Guard

Tank Again

Jacket

Left Chest - Torn

Right Chest - Zipper Completely Done ...

Left Arm

Right Arm

Left Knee

Right Glove - Explains the damage to me

Left  Boot

Helmet

Right Arm

Left Arm

Left Hip

Right (Hairy) Leg

So, what's the story? To make it short as I'm typing this with my left hand: Hit a deer on Page Mill Road, just enough to push the front wheel to the right, highsided the bike on the left side at around 20 to 25mph and threw myself on the front. Some bruises, a broken wrist, a  damaged bike, 4 to 6 weeks with a cast on the right arm.

Bummer ... it was my second ride after the surgery, I was slow. Unfortunately not slow enough to stop in time to avoid the collision.

Awaiting appointment with orthopedist to get permanent cast and insurance adjuster to discuss the damage to bike and gear.

First thought: Damn lucky I didn't do anything bad to my just healed chest
Second thought: Damn, no riding again until wrist is healed
Third thought: Great riding gear saved this stupid ass
Forth thought: Need quite some new riding gear ... shit ...
Fifth thought: hopefully the bike isn't totaled, I was nearly done farkling

Last thought: Hopefully 2013 will be a better year.

08 December 2012

Statistics

  • 96 minutes - duration of the surgery
  • 1 day - time in cardiac care unit
  • 4.5 days - overall time I was in the hospital
  • 11 days - time I took as sick leave
  • 17 days - time from surgery to first day of working from home
  • 4.5 weeks - time from surgery to being back in the office
  • 4.5 weeks - time after beta blocker dose was cut in half (from a tiny dose anyways, I had to cut the minimum dose pills into half pills, one half for morning, the other for the evening)
  • 5 weeks - time after which I completely stopped any painkillers (after being told I was under-medicating because I still felt some pain ... go figure!)
  • 206km - distance I have walked with the GPS / heart rate monitor (Garmin Forerunner 305) attached since then
  • 40 hours 12 minutes 45 seconds - time I spend walking these 206km
  • 4.3km - average distance of my walks, 9.33km being the the longest
  • 8 weeks - stopped beta blockers completely yesterday (had an appointment with the Cardiologist)
  • 90 - resting heart rate when discharged from the hospital
  • 74 - average resting heart rate right now (goal: mid to low sixties)
  • 1 - occurrences of blood pressure above 120 (126 happened once)
  • 1 - occurrences of resting heart rate above 100 (after a heavy dinner)
  • ~ 8cm - length of the surgical incision
  • 0 - times I want to repeat this whole experience
  • 10 weeks - time from surgery to when I plan to ride my bike again

29 November 2012

More Testing

Last week we did some more fooling around:

Andrea on a 2012 BMW R1200R

Guido on a 2012 BMW R1200R

Of course I could not test ride the bike but as you can see, Andrea is in full gear and this shot was actually taken after she came back from a test ride on exactly this bike. 

The test ride was in a quiet residential area as this is certainly a bike that requires some confidence and a steady hand. A 1200cc boxer twin is not an engine to take lightly ... But Andrea managed it great! And she liked it except that "it is still quite a handful". 

And I agree, the bike is not big, but it is compact, not light, very powerful, and as she said, quite a handful. I have not ridden one yet, just sat on some and have ridden earlier version (R1100R and R1150R). It's a bike I always loved, the optic is great, it's not too big. Nothing on it that shouldn't be, but also nothing really missing. A great allrounder. 

This is certainly not a beginner bike, but a dream bike for a lot of riders. It's not cheap, hard to find used in the US, and the prices seem to stay fairly high. 

Oh, and BMW has a special edition of it:

90 Years of BMW Motorcycles - Special Edition R1200R

Oh, and Andrea definitely takes the better pictures ... At least that's what the voice in the background here said ... ;-) 

17 November 2012

IMS San Mateo - The Photo Session

Too Big - Triumph Trophy 1200

Too Fast - Ducati Multistrada 1200

Too Small - Honda CB500F

Too Slow - Honda CB500X

Too Ugly - Kawasaki Versys 650

Too Dangerous ;-) - Yamaha Motocrosser for Kids

Too much "Ape" - Harley Davidson with "Ape Hanger Bars"

Too "feet forward" - Harley Davidson Sportster 1200

Too much Sofa - Suzuki Burgman

Just Right? BMW R1200R

What's the discount for two?

14 November 2012

Progress

Cabin fever. It's really bad. And it gets worse. 

Two weeks ago I wrote about my progress after the surgery I had in October. Since then it felt that not much has changed. I was walking daily, up to 4.3km, sometimes even twice a day. I still thought I was feeling the same kind of pain levels each day, had good and bad days, and didn't see that much progress.

But to be honest: progress was there. And it was good. After being at home for about three weeks, I started having enough energy in the evening that I couldn't sleep on my back anymore. That was something I had feared for a while as I generally sleep on my front or my side. And if you ever had cracked ribs, you know how sleeping on the front or the side goes with that: not at all! So, after these three weeks of being damaged and tired enough to at least fall asleep at some point during the night, I was done. No way I could sleep on my back anymore. Then I checked with the surgeon's team and they told me that I was allowed to sleep on my side. YEAH!!!!

Since then I generally sleep well, though I wake up being stiff and sore. But I can feel it getting better every day now. Less waking up, less discomfort in the morning. I'm on the right track!

Today was the final check in with the surgeon's team, a long hour of questions and answers and some checks with an experienced cardiology nurse. So far, everything looks great. 

But ...

The big downside - I'm not allowed to carry anything heavier than 2.5 to 5kg (~ 5 to 10 pounds) for the next two weeks at least. Then not more than 10kg (~ 20lbs) for another few weeks. No riding my bicycle for the next four weeks. At least I'm allowed to drive my car again. Of course, I'm not allowed to get into an accident, but that's something I like to avoid anyways ... 

What it also means is that it will be another four to five weeks until I can ride my Tiger again. It'll be close to Christmas by then! The poor Tiger is sitting in the garage, cold and sad, waiting for me. And I can't ride. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Interesting New Bike

I'm not certain what happened during the last year, but somehow, somewhere, someone must have heard me. Or maybe I had one of these rare moments of enlightenment and understood what the motorcycle market, especially the US market is missing.

I asked for a medium displacement bike, touring capable with good quality luggage, a not too small fairing, under 220kg weight, no chain, at least two cylinders, good ergonomics, decent range per tank.

And see what we got, the BMW F800GT:

2013 BMW F800GT

2013 BMW F800GT white

2013 BMW F800GT in full touring trim

I have to admit, I really like what I see there. It's an 800cc twin cylinder bike, less than 215kg fully fueled (though without the luggage), belt final drive, 90HP, very frugal engine (I regularly got 4L/100km (58mpg) with my F800GS and I think the GT will be even better because of better aerodynamics), sport touring ergonomics.

It might be a bit sporty from the seating position but other than that, I absolutely love what BMW has done here. They have taken an excellent bike, the F800ST, and refined it in all the major points:

  • More comfortable seat
  • Higher handlebars
  • Better luggage
  • Slightly bigger fairing
  • More stable (longer swing arm meaning a longer wheel base)
And they kept the excellent touring characteristics the bike already had:
  • Roughly around 400km (250 miles) range on a tank during relaxed touring due to the extremely efficient engine
  • A maintenance free belt drive (Why can't more manufacturers jump on that?)
  • A lively engine that feels nice and smooth at normal touring speeds, but has the grunt and the power to ignite some real fun on the back roads
There is certainly more to say about this and the above points are just what comes to my mind when looking at the press material for the bike, but I really have to say: BMW nailed a great sport tourer. This is the first worthy successor to the mighty Honda VFR750F of the 90s. I'm very excited about this bike!

I'd love if they had one at the IMS in San Mateo so we can take a closer look at it.

Oh, and there's more - but that's for another post. At least Honda and Ducati are bringing bikes that hit a nerve with me. Great times to be a motorcycle enthusiast. 

And no - the Tiger is not an endangered species here. No worries. I'm just excited that manufacturers are finally adding some really nice bikes to the medium weight and displacement market. About time.

28 October 2012

Some Things in Life ...

... are better not experienced personally. I can think of a few right here and now, but one that I definitely know now is this: very invasive open heart surgery.

I know because I had exactly that 16 days ago. It was a long standing issue I had since birth (though I never knew), which never manifested itself until a few years ago, and also one I knew since those few years ago I had to deal with at some point in my life when things started to get worse - and of course, at some point, they did.

Therefore, earlier this year my Doc suggested that I get over this and see a specialist, and also plan for the procedure later this year. So I went, saw a specialist, and was told it's always better to plan these things on your own schedule instead of having them done in an emergency situation - so I started planning.

Waiting for a quieter time at work was obligatory for myself, I'm just more relaxed when I know I have shipped a product, it's out for a while, people use it, there aren't too many bad bugs around it and overall work quiets down just enough to be not completely crazy. I determined that the best time would be somewhere mid to late October and so I called the surgeon in August. Somehow I managed to actually call them on my birthday, I really don't know what I was thinking but I got an appointment for the 12th of October and then the long, nervous wait started.

I went to the hospital in the very early morning of the 12th, was put under within about 45 minutes or so and woke up early in the afternoon in the CCU. Breathing tubes were still in, I was strapped to the bed, couldn't move, couldn't speak, was insanely weak and also insanely uncomfortable. I think it took another two hours until the tubing was taken out which was a major relief and the restraints were taken off (they were there so I couldn't hurt / injure myself or anybody else while waking up). I stayed in the unit for the night, incredibly weak and uncomfortable, under heavy pain killers and other medication I don't even want to start thinking about.

During the next day, some more tubing was taken out of my body, some of the catheters came out, too, and after the first walk in the hallway (I got about 30 meters or so until I was shivering from cold and weakness and had to sit down again), I was released to the Telemetry unit in the same hospital. My beloved wife Andrea was with me all the time! She was soooooo strong to go through this! I don't know how to thank her properly!

The Telemetry unit is probably called this because patients are wired for pretty much all life related signals, they probably also read thoughts and manipulate the future there ... Anyways, this unit was much more "normal" than CCU. I had a normal single bed hospital room for myself, thanks to good insurance, with its own bathroom, TV, and so on. The next few days there were fairly unpleasant, I was slowly getting better, but still on very strong pain killers every four to six hours as well as other medication and infusions. Most annoyingly, as some study revealed that low blood sugar helps with faster healing, I was pricked in the fingers every four hours for a blood sugar test and given insulin whenever the values were not at the lowest possible. Man, they poked every single one of my fingers a few times, I was so sick of this after a few days ... Basically I was probed, pricked, and poked every two to four hours. Even during the night!

Tuesday came, I was feeling okay, was stable, able to slowly walk around a little bit and – can you believe this – discharged from the hospital in the afternoon, giving to the loving care of my wife who had taken a few days off (part work from home, part off) to look after me. This is now 12 days ago and I've gotten better and stronger with each day.

Today, I'm on much, much weaker OTC pain killers, just twice a day, some other medication I'll have to take for a while, and I walk about 4 to 7km (~2.5 to 5.5 miles) per day outside, normally two or three walks of 30 to 35 minutes. Fortunately the weather has been very good most of the time and I can feel strength coming back. Very slowly unfortunately, but it is coming back. For the next few weeks there is a stringent walking exercise regimen I'll have to follow to build up my endurance again, but I think I'm on the best way to get there eventually. It'll just take time.

And you know what the worst of all this is? I can't ride my bike. I can't ride my bike for another freaking seven to eight weeks! It'll be Christmas by then. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh! My bike is sitting in the garage, hibernating peacefully and I sooooooo want to ride. I have cabin fever already and there's absolutely nothing I can do. I hate the situation. And Andrea can't even take the Tiger out for a long spin as she's not comfortable with the size and "newness" of it. The poor Tiger will have to wait for me getting back on my feet and getting my upper body usability and strength back. Poor Tiger! Boooooh!

Okay, enough rant - tomorrow I'll start working from home, that will get my thoughts occupied for a bit, but it still won't help all that much. I want to heal faster. Much faster.

Overall I'm very happy that this is done. It's not fully over, I still have to recover quite a lot, but the worst is done, I'm healing, I'll hopefully be 100% okay after a few months, and I'll be back riding as soon as is safe for me.

I can't wait ...

11 October 2012

Bikes and Taste

It's interesting how important looks are for some people - like me. I love the looks of my car. I like the looks of my Tiger. I loved the looks of my GS (but I actually think it's not a pretty bike - I just loved the look). Now there are some bikes on the market that are super interesting for someone like me who likes upright tourers for mainly bad roads.

First and foremost the new water cooled GS:

2013 R1200GS

I think the side view looks really good. Nice lines, good proportions, not the best paint job ever, but okay. Nice optical integration of technical features like shaft, exhaust, boxer engine, and the hidden away water coolers (though it's likely not really water in there). The tank follows a nice line and if it's at all like the 2010 model it won't feel "fat" as soon as you sit on it like for example the Tiger Explorer does.

I'm not certain about the new beak design though:

2013 R1200GS

The beak looks a little bit like a "Spork". It might be okay in person, or I might get used to it, but the initial reaction was that this is the single completely out of line thing on this bike. Maybe along with the weird "handles" on the sides under the windshield. It's kind of weird looking. Wrong, out of place. Whatever. Will have to see it in person.

The new GS comes with semi-active suspension which adjusts compression and rebound damping on the fly while you're riding. This is pretty awesome for tourers like me who like a stable ride but still want it comfortable and swallowing the little (and big) bumps along the way. The engine is now partially water cooled, not really, but in crucial areas, has 125HP (+15HP), the exhaust and shaft switched sides, and a lot of small other changes.

I'll have to test ride one when they come to the dealers next year.

Another very interesting bike is the 2013 Ducati Multistrada - also with the same Sachs semi-active suspension, although with a conventional fork in the front instead of BMW's Telelever. The 2010 Multi was already a superb bike in the suspension department, so it will be interesting to see how this model year works out.

Engine wise, Ducati has worked on the areas a rider like me is interested in: low speed manners. A second spark plug, different fuel injection path, different fueling, and other modifications are there to make it more rideable at low engine speeds. A very welcome addition to a very good looking bike.

2013 Multistrada 1200 S Touring

The Multi is one of those bikes I'd love to love, but the 2010 model I tested fell short in many areas that are very important to me. Nevertheless, I will test ride the 2013 model to find out how it feels as Ducati has now addressed every single point on my list of things I didn't like. It still has chain final drive, is a Ducati, and it is freaking expensive, even compared to the Bavarian bikes. But they have addressed all the things I mentioned in an earlier post here.

2013 Multistrada S Touring

Overall, optically a very good looking bike, clearly Italian, the "beak" is again something to get used to, but by far not as bad as the GS above and it really doesn't look out of place.

Now, seeing these two bikes, I was really hesitant to put the next two photos up here. It's the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000. For model year 2014 the Japanese have worked hard to re-define the definition of "ugly":

New Suzuki V-Strom DL1000


New Suzuki V-Strom DL1000

I certainly hope that this is just a concept bike. It redefines what I had as a picture in my head for the word "fugly". The lines of the design are hilariously out of anything that would make sense, nothing flows the right way, the color combination looks like random picks and the "beak" + bulging lights combination is breathtaking - in the worst possible way. Maybe I have to see this one in person, too, but I fear my impression will be even worse than from the photos.

Wow. I am not surprised that the Japanese manufacturers struggle so hard in this day and age. I might sound harsh here, but really, this is the ugliest motorcycle I have seen in a very, very long time. Who is the supposed customer base? Blind people? Then good luck selling them motorcycles. If Japan doesn't import some better designers soon, I fear they'll have even more trouble selling motorcycles in the Western hemisphere.

Now to finish this topic and rant with a truly classic good looking bike, here is one of my all time favorites:

2012 R1200R

Congratulations to Bob from here for his "new to him" blue R1200R. Beautiful bike! Can't wait for him to write more about how he likes it and how it works for him.

16 September 2012

Farkle Time Again

It's that time again ... we have most of our longer trips for this year done and I'm getting the things I wished I had for those trips. Oh well. Better late then never I guess. 

Traxxion AK-20

The first one is hard to capture in photos and even harder to describe why wanted it:

Traxxion AK-20 Top Cap

You have to look to the right of handle bar riser - the thing were there fork leg comes up through the upper triple clamp. That's the top cap of my new Traxxion AK-20 fork cartridge.

I finally bit the bullet and "fixed" what Triumph should have done in the first place - the really crappy front suspension of the Tiger 800 Roadie. The OEM suspension has an overly pre-loaded, weak (0.6kg/mm) spring, with way too much compression damping and way too much rebound damping (though still not in balance with the massive amount of compression) and no adjustment options at all. What that means is that the Tiger Roadie has a tendency to "bounce". It pushes the front up way too much when going over slight bumps, it's not very comfortable and especially not very confidence inspiring on curvy but bad surfaced roads. 

To cut it short: this is the first bike I ever owned where the suspension is crappy enough I felt the need to spend serious money to fix it. Bummer, but true. I never had a bike that had such an unbalanced front suspension. Some were way to soft, other's to harsh, but none was ever so completely broken.

And let me tell you: it was soooooo worth the money! 

The OEM suspension is not adjustable at all, therefore there was no way to get it less bad without opening it, getting a new spring and a re-valve kit at the least. This would have meant another compromise as though it would have been much better, but it would still not be adjustable at all. Therefore I decided to go with a cartridge kit from Traxxion, the AK-20, which has full pre-load, compression, and rebound adjustment. 

Right adjustment cap

In the photo above you can see the right fork leg cap. The black allen socket is for pre-load adjustment (available on both fork legs), the little red socket is for rebound (right, red, rebound - easy to remember). The left fork leg has the compression damping adjustment. The cartridges also came with springs selected for my weight (0.875kg/mm).

After installation the values were set to what Traxxion recommended and they were spot on. The rider sag was exactly where it should be for the 180mm travel forks: at 55mm. 

Now the Tiger is 
  • more comfortable,
  • more stable,
  • way more compliant on large and small bumps, sharp or soft,
  • way less "bouncy".
I'm very, very happy with the results and can only say "Shame on you, Triumph, for delivering such a nice bike with such a crappy front suspension".

The rear is not quite as bad and not quite as far off as the front, therefore this has time for a later re-visit. I might still do it but will give the market some time to come up with nice adjustable rear shocks. 

Btw: the front cartridges can be taken out again, sent to Traxxion, and re-worked for a different bike if that's necessary at some point. Pretty good!

Jesse Odyssey II Luggage

Our trips lately have become longer and more involved. We were looking for luggage solutions for a while where we could just lock the cases and leave the bike alone at least for a short time without worrying too much. 

I am totally aware that anybody who wants to steal will still easily get into the cases with just a bit of force but it follows the idea of "out of sight out of mind". Hard cases hide the fact whether they are loaded or not, they look "closed properly" and are at least a little bit harder to steal from than a duffle bag strapped to the rear of the bike.

I looked at most solutions out there and really wasn't sure what to do. Again, quite a good selection, at least when you also start looking outside North America as some of the available options are just too expensive when bought here.

In the end I settled on Jesse Luggage this time around. They have fairly large sized boxes without getting overly wide (97cm right now, can be brought in about 3cm with a narrower exhaust). These boxes have some benefits I really liked:
  • They are not too wide for the volume they have (94cm min with a listed volume of 105 liters). I really don't believe the volume is really over 50 liters per box, but I'd say there are probably about 80 to 90 usable liters and that's more than good enough for me.
  • The boxes can be moved forward or back depending on whether you need space on the passenger footpegs or not. That brings weight lower and more forward in the cases where I ride alone with luggage (99.9% of the time so far).
  • Opening is from the top, so stuffing them with all the bits and pieces for a trip is simple. Getting stuff out from the bottom is easy, too, as long as I use stuff bags or liners.
  • They look okay.
  • They weren't too outrageously expensive.
  • The racks look fairly nice, even with the boxes off.
Once I have used them a bit, I'll do a full review and will also outline some really nice details that I had not known before buying them. 

Here are just some pictures with them on the bike for now:

Jesse Odyssey II - Rear

Front

Side view

This setup isn't nearly as narrow as what I had on my R1200GS, right now it's actually 15cm wider, but it is still within a reasonable limit. At some point I might get a smaller after market exhaust and pull the right side another 3cm in which makes it pretty much the same as the handle bar width. That I can live with.

Overall capacity with the setup you see above is somewhere between 135 and 150 liters, about the same my Mazda MX-5 had as trunk space ... this will likely work for Andrea and me for short to medium length trips. For longer ones we might add capacity to her bike, too, but a longer trip is likely far in the future. This setup easily works for a week or two for the two of us.

Wine Country - Three Day Ride

Again, I'm about two weeks late with writing. Over the first September weekend, a long weekend with Monday being a holiday, we took off North this time. We hadn't been anywhere beyond San Francisco with the bikes together before and therefore it was about time to explore that area a bit more.

Saturday started super early as we wanted to be through SF and over the Golden Gate Bridge before the "normal" traffic started. Weather was so so, chilly here in the South Bay, cloudy on the way up the Peninsula, foggy in San Francisco and North on Highway 1. Nevertheless, it's always an experience going over Golden Gate Bridge, the first time on a bike for Andrea.

We didn't stop until it warmed up a bit and we were along the coast. I'm not totally clear where this photo was taken, but very likely somewhere around Bodega Bay.

Somewhere on HW1, North of SF

Tiger Tamer

GS Tamer


"The Bird" (we were near Bodega Bay where the movie was filmed)

Lunch break along the coast

Enjoying the great weather

The route was basically just going North on Highway 1 up to Point Arena where we took a look at the Lighthouse (they wanted $7 per vehicle to get closer so we decided it's not worth it, took some photos and were off again).

Point Arena Lighthouse

Near Point Arena we turned East and headed over to Ukiah on some seriously twisty roads. Very nice riding, not much traffic, most of the traffic actually pulled over and let us pass. Thanks for this, if you ever read this!

We finished this day with a dinner in a small diner in Ukiah where we stayed in a Best Western Hotel. Dinner was a monstrous Chef Salad for Andrea, and a reasonably sized steak for me. Both were excellent.

Dinner in Ukiah

Enjoying myself with a glass of wine after a long day

During the next day (Sunday) we explored a little bit of wine country, of course we didn't do any wine tasting and we stayed far away from the typical tourist roads, and so it was an excellent day on the road. Just very, very hot.

East Shore of Clear Lake

At the spot you see in the photo above on the shore of Clear Lake there were mosquitos the size of small cars. They tried to carry us away as soon as we stopped, tried to force their way into luggage, helmets, gloves, wherever. Wow, they were annoying. It was a very short stop ... makes me rethink the idea of a lake shore property - I'd rather settle for something at the coast. Cold but free of mosquitos.

Another lake along the way

From Sunday to Monday we stayed in a Hampton Inn in Rohnert Park where we got a decent room and a very good breakfast for a reasonable price - even over the long weekend.

Next day brought us back to the coast where we finally found the famous home from "The Birds":

Potter Schoolhouse, Bodega, CA

Along with the church that can be seen in the same movie:

Saint Teresa of Avila Church, Bodega

Making perfectly clear who's allowed to park here

The rest of Monday was riding home - South on Highway 1 again, over Golden Gate Bridge (make sure to have $6 per vehicle in cash), through San Francisco, then again on HW 1 along the coast to HW84, quick coffee at Alice's Restaurant, and home.

It was a great trip and we had loads of fun again.

Btw: I'm thinking of creating a page (and subpages) where I put all the GPS routes I recorded on these days. These could be downloadable and could be used as a base for trips. Is there any interest in that? Leave a comment!