Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brits in the Blood

I hop on the elevator after leaving the bike in the garage. It's about 38 degrees, and I'm full gear. The thermostat cable hangs down to my knees from under my shirt like a cybernetic umbilical cord. I punch the number for the first floor, and the pale eye on the control panel illuminates as the elevator door slides closed.

I get to share the ride with one of the building maintenance men. "Cold out there, ain't it?" He stuffs his hands into the pockets of his coveralls and grins at me.

"Yup." I smile back. I can't say much else as my face is too cold. I laugh instead. "A Ninja. I ride a Ninja." The face shield of the helmet I'm carrying mists over with condensation.

"Mmmm, fast," he says. He lowers his head and sighs. "I ride old British bikes." He smiles at me again and not all his grin is joy. "I'm a glutton for punishment."

We both laugh. The elevator doors open, and we spill out into the lobby. We separate, both on foot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big Green Machine published an online article detailing the diversity of the Kawasaki company. The article outlines how Kawasaki began as a shipping company in 1878 and follows the company's progression into the mid-1990's. Today, Kawasaki's holdings include not just the powersports division of which I'm so fond, but also Kawasaki Heavy Industries, manufacturer of aerospace components, tunnel-boring machines, biomass powerplants, robots, and bullet trains. Read about it here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Temple to the God of Speed

One more spot I have yet to visit in the flesh.

A new motorcycle land speed record of 360.913 mph was set at the Salt Flats on September 26 of this year by rider Rocky Robinson and his team, Top 1 ACK Attack. The previous record of 350.884 mph was set in 2006 by Chris Carr and builder/owner Denis Manning.

Tilting the Horizon

I almost forgot how exhilerating a new tire can be, just how far a bike can lean on fresh rubber. I spent a few hours yesterday on the local roads, tilting the horizon through Amish country.

Old House and Truck

Delapidated Barn on the Edge of Amish Country

Tobacco in the Barn

Overlook Along the Little Kentucky River Valley--Rt. 1036

Little Kentucky River Valley from Rt. 202

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On the Road Again

I picked the Ninja up from the shop yesterday morning and rode it back to the house. Although I nearly entered withdrawal from not being in the saddle for almost a week, I decided to leave the bike at home and take the cage to work. It was raining, and I didn't feel like risking a new front tire, new front brake pads, and a virgin chain and sprockets against the wet pavement.

I'm planning to get a little saddle time in this afternoon in the dry weather to take the shine off the front tire. I'll probably find an open parking lot somewhere so I can practice a little emergency braking with the new brake pads. The new chain and sprockets run so smoothly they felt like they were greased with butter. All the "repairs" made to the bike over the previous week were actually routine maintenance. With a little over 38K on the clock, it was just a matter of time before some of the hard-wearing parts needed replacing.

I'm looking forward to catching some of the Autumn foliage with the camera later today. There's a brief period between rust brown and on the ground around here where the leaves put on a quintessential display.

So, what's the cost of the 650's routine mainenance?
  • New front tire: $160.00
  • New front brake pads: $38.00
  • New final drive chain: $80.00
  • New font sprocket: $35.00
  • New rear sprocket: $55.00
  • Labor: $90.00

The cost of being able to dip low enough into a corner to scrape a footpeg and still be able to stop in event of an oncoming vehicle crossing the centerline: pricele...wait a minute...that comes to about $460. Holy shi...(THIS COMMENT CENSORED BY THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR EXCELLENCE IN BIKER CONDUCT. HAVE A NICE DAY.)

Well, at least I'm on the road again. Here I am, shellin' out the cash again...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ninja in a Bind

Last weekend, while exploring local roads, I could feel the chain on the bike was binding. When under load, in other words while pulling forward in gear, the chain would pop hard enough to reverberate through the bike. I could feel the vibration through the foot pegs. Normally, assuming proper tire inflation and up to date maintenance, the Ninja rides as smooth as velvet. In it's current condition, an irregular rhythm has crept into the 650's steady grind.

I cleaned the chain, degreased and scrubbed. Initially, the cleaning lessened the sensation echoing through the pegs and frame. But as the week wore on and the fresh chain lube thinned, the binding grew steady worse.

So, the bike's in the shop again for the second time in two months. I'm probably looking at a new chain and the possibility of replacement of the sprockets. The front tire, a Bridgestone, has peaked over the past 10,000 miles. A new front shoe should arrive by Wednesday. The shop's going to take a gander at the front brakes as well.

I have a tendency to blame the manufacturer rather than miles when something wears out on my machine. I recall repairs made on machines I've ridden in the past, like the Virago, for instance, which devoured three starters before reaching 20,000 miles and constantly fouled plugs. Or the '78 Yamaha, my first bike, which ran for a total of 15 seconds on my first attempts to start it up, 15 spluttering, coughing seconds. Compared with those examples, the Ninja's crisis might better be described as routine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Low Can You Go?

I'm leaving the Waffle House this evening after a late dinner with friends when the grill cook calls to me from over the counter. "You on a bike?"

"Yep," I say. I hold up my helmet.

"You're gonna freeze tonight." The cooks smiles. He's only got a couple teeth left in front that aren't black.

I raise my arms in the Joe Rocket jacket. "It's insulated, ballistic nylon. Waterproof, too."

"Still cold out there."

"I've got heated gear."

The cook's jaw drops open. "What? You've got a heater on your bike."

"It plugs into the bike and has it's own thermostat." I hold open the flaps of my jacket. "I wear it under this. But it's not quite cold enough for that yet."

The cook shakes his head and returns to the grill, standing over which, I'm certain, he is toasty warm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cafe Racer

The 650 Ninja's heart thrums like a cafe racer dressed in formal wear. In a city like Louisville, the beat of that heart parallels the pulse of the cafe life. Cruising up Floyd Street and heading for River Road, I catch the glow of an illuminated espresso sign at Floyd's intersection with Market. I can see the neon open sign in the window and decide to stop in for a late night cappuccino before riding home. The Espresso sign hangs over the entryway for Derby City Espresso, a brightly lit shop tailored with leftover furniture, bar stools, local artwork. The barrista whipped up my beverage, and I sauntered out onto the downtown sidewalk to a table by the street to enjoy it. The angled spaces lining the north side of Market Street are perfect for motorcycles, and the table out front under an umbrella and shade tree permits a lustful eye to roam over the machines backed to the curb.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I was burning some time cruising through Google Video and came across this safety promotion from the UK. Great footage, fabulous machine, and snappy soundtrack.

THINK! is a road safety campaign in the United Kingdom aiming to reduce fatalities among motorcyclists and others who share the road with larger vehicles. The website reports the goal of reducing road injuries by 40 percent in adults and 50 percent in children. The site also proposes that the purpose of Government campaigns concerning road safety is to reinforce the notion of personal responsiblity for safety on public roadways. It'll be nice when that idea catches on over here.