Spring is open house season, and it seems that every shop within several hundred miles is offering some kind of spring open house event. Hermes is a great shop, and they make a decent barbecue at their open houses, so second only to a tech session, the magnetic draw of the spring open house was too much to resist. It just so happened that I also needed a few quarts of oil, so that was more than enough excuse for the round trip. It was a nice event, and I was even surprised to see another Dakar show up. Nice low mileage bike, with some custom paintwork. I had a good conversation with the owner, and we exchanged some contact info. Some nice BMWs and triumphs showed up at the dealership deals in both. They were mostly new bikes, but still fun to walk around and look at and talk about what else some of the owners had in the garage. One barbeque chicken sandwich later, I hit the road for the return leg...
All of a sudden, the temperature warms up to a balmy 40 degrees, the skies are clear, and there is a chance to go for a ride. However, there are patches of slushy ice and snow, roads that were never plowed, cracked and broken pavement from plows, and cold temperatures. A perfect day for a ride if you have an R100GSPD. The R bikes like the crisp air, and the heated grips (even though they only work on the high setting) made it a pleasant ride. I put some sea foam in the tank as I don't know when we might be out again, but if the roads are reasonably clear, the PD is the automatic steed of choice.
Have you ever passed a side road that you wanted to try, but didn't have time that day ? Me too. However, many months later I finally had the time to go down a narrow lane with a stone wall on one side, that wandered off into thick trees. It turns out that this narrow lane continues for about 2 miles and then turned to gravel. It looked like it could be someone's deiveway, but there were no signs and I continued on. IT crested a small rise and then descended into a massive cornfield either side of the road. This continued for half a mile in a mixture of gravel and grass. Then it began a rise and became more rocky as it climbed back into thick woods. It continued for a few miles through beautiful woods with a house here or there. It eventually became groomed gravel again, and a mile or so later it was a narrow paved lane. In total, it was only perhaps six or seven miles of offroad, but it was a great surprise. If you have a road that you have been meaning to go down, be sure to do it. You never know what great roads you may be missing close to home.
This must be the year of the tire. I have purchased more tires this year than in the previous 3 years. However, they were all purchased for good reason. The Avon Distanzia tires on the GS were well beyond their "use by" date, and since I was contemplating taking the bike to the national meet in Sedalia, I could not risk them at sustained highway speeds. I needed some dual sport tires that could travel 1000 miles, participate in offroad events, and then make it 1000 miles home. After looking around and reading a bunch of reviews, I settled on Shinko 705s. Many reviewers had changed to them after Distanzias and were reporting great wear, great traction, and great value.
They arrived a few days later and on they went. After taking it easy for about 20 miles, I began to lean a little further. They held their line quite well, and were a marked improvement over the Distanzias. More compliant and a little less noisy on pavement. I did a little bit of gravel just to get them scuffed up a bit. So far, so good.
The weather for the annual Gathering of the Nortons did not look good. It was raining and cold in the very early AM, and the forecast called for rain all morning. When the weather is lousy, there is no match for the BMW community when it comes to getting on with it anyway. However, on this occasion, the gang was planning to ride some pretty old stuff that did not see rain if avoidable. Todd was bringing a side car, and I was planning to take the R60 on its maiden voyage with the carbs still not fully sorted. We decided that more modern equipment was the wise choice, and the R100GS was a natural choice.
Once on the road, the weather forecast turned out to be wrong (surprise !!). The sun peeked out, and the morning steadily improved. We followed a circuitous route to the event, and the GS zoomed along with some much more modern and sporting equipment (K1200S, Guzzi Nero Corsa, etc). A nice ride that ended at a great event (see Norton Gathering 2012). I am looking forward to some more miles coming up.
The truth is, I was inspired by watching the first stages of the Dakar on TV. It is true that the machines there bear no resemblance, now that they are 450 cc rockets, and it is true that there is no terrain like the Fiambala or the Atacama desert anywhere within a several thousand miles of here (I did find a little gravel ;-), but no matter. Once upon a time, the GS PD won that event more than once, and inspired the production version that I have. It says Paris Dakar right on the bike! So my ride for a series of errands around suburban America on this day was the R100GS PD. The contrast could not be more striking, but I had a good time anyway. Much as I love this bike, I am hard pressed to imagine how anything like it could have blazed across northern Africa even 20 years ago. I imagine that the bikes are so much better today, and that it took supreme riding skills and stamina to make it through that race back then. Much respect.
Fall is beautiful in the northeast US. Cooler temperatures seem to suit air/oil cooled engines well and following the sweltering record-breaking heat of the summer, it is a welcome relief. Vibrant fall foliage creates Van Goghs and Cezannes everywhere. Just look in any direction, and add a frame. However, the beauty of fall is also the coming of much colder weather. You must enjoy fall because, as the name implies, things can go downhill from here for the riding enthusiast.
On this particular day, the weatherman said sunny with highs in the low 60s. I was headed out with a friend and neighbor for a few hours of riding starting early. In this case, early meant 40 degrees. And 40 degrees meant 30 degrees on the bike at speed. Standing outside it did not feel that bad; just a crisp morning with a little frost here and there. I had already committed to take the PD, and I refused to wear full winter gear as it felt ok, and it was still October after all. We of the limited riding season cannot admit defeat so early.
A week or two earlier, I had made a couple of adjustments to the rear shock aimed at improving rebound damping, and I had synched the carbs. The bike responded by increasing horsepower by 10 bhp and torque by 10 ft lbs. Or so it felt. What a difference, it was now more stable in the sweepers (relatively), and pulled stronger in the higher rev ranges. This made it a much better street bike. I am sure the cool air helped, but that would not be as exciting as unlocking double digit gains with cable adjustments!
Once we hit the highway for a brief stint, everything felt fine, except for my hands. The hand guards on the PD are positioned to do a fair job against light brush off road, but they left fingertips freezing in this case. Cold hands are a weakness of mine, and I had just recently suffered the consequences of mis-judging the weather (see squandering the attention budget), so you would think i would be better prepared in the glove department. Well you would be wrong. What's that you say, turn on the heated grips? Well the switch had been rather finicky. The low position did not work at all, and on this occasion, the high position failed as well. End result, no heated grips. Note to self, always bring the heated gloves along.
The riding was glorious, and the roads were relatively empty. Sunlight filtered through the state forests as we rode, the roads were dry and lightly sprinkled with falling leaves, the riding gods were pleased this day. We stopped at a Diner in White Haven, and I adjusted the hand guards a little, and used fine sandpaper on the heated grip switch connections. Low remained non-functional, but high was now working. As we left, the temperature climbed into the sixties, negating the need for either repair. C'est la vie. We had a glorious return trip with the PD performing brilliantly, and being every bit the match for a Honda about 15 years younger. Fortunately, frosty ground and frosty fingers cannot detract from a great motorcycle.