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.