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Updates and First Ride of 2016

pc800

A lot’s gone on since I last posted five months ago. Most notably, the bike had a garage to spend the winter in – mine. Elana and I moved into a house together in early December. Thanks to unusually warm weather, I was able to ride my bike from my old apartment complex to the new house, and tuck it away in the garage for the winter. I’ll be able to take much better care of the bike now. Not that I was slacking much before, but DIY oil changes are now possible (it’ll be getting one soon), as well as a whole lot of cleaning that I haven’t had the facilities to do properly. It’s also great to put a roof over it. The cover that Elana got me last spring is already looking rather well worn after only one season of use, so it’ll live inside year round – except when I’m riding it, of course.

I’m living about half an hour west of where I used to, farther away from Boston. This means I’m much closer to the types of roads I prefer to ride. Even the road I live on now is a fun set of twisties. Western MA and NH are both pretty close, which means I’m going to have some fun riding ahead of me this summer, especially since I won’t have to spend an hour or two fighting my way out of the slow congested suburbs anymore.

It’s been a rather mild winter. We’ve gotten a little snow and a week of particularly cold weather, but we’ve also had fairly mild temperatures a lot of the time, too. Today temperatures rose well above 50*F. This has happened a few times already, but today was the first time it happened when I had no other plans. So I decided it was time to pull the PC800 out of its winter slumber and take a short shakedown cruise. I added air to the tires and oil to the engine, but the battery didn’t need a boost to crank enough to get the engine to fire. I’ve gone through a couple of batteries that died just from sitting outside for the winter, so I’m glad that’s not an issue this year. After testing the other systems in the driveway, I headed out. I filled up with gas to dilute the Sta-Bil in the tank to help it run better.

Then I set a course north, first through some of the back roads I don’t yet know through my new hometown, then out to Rt. 119 through Willard Brook State Park – one of my favorite twisty  bits. I’m pretty thrilled that I’m so close to this area now. Then I took Rt. 31 up into NH, bombed around a little bit, and came home. All in all I was only gone about 90 minutes or so, but any opportunity to ride in “winter” is a good one. Both the bike and I are a bit out of practice. I didn’t want to wear myself out, nor go too far from home just in case the bike developed new problems while resting for the winter. But it didn’t, so life is good.

As I was able to maintain higher speeds than I’m used to on clear, open roads, I realized just how much wind noise there is in my helmet. The problem is that the Clearview windshield is too short for me. I mean, it works fine, but the wind deflected over the top of the windshield into the top of my helmet. If I duck my head an inch or two, it’s extremely quiet, but riding in that position will give me cramps in a real hurry. It isn’t a problem at slower speeds, but I’m going to be riding at higher speeds where I live now. Even when I commute to work I’ll have 15-20 minutes on the highway now.

My friend Bob has a windshield extension on his ex-cop Harley that he says works rather well, so I started researching something similar for my PC800. I ended up ordering a Puig clip-on visor from RevZilla. I won’t need to  drill any holes in the windshield, and it looks like it will adjust nicely to direct air over my head instead of into it. I’m looking forward to installing and testing it. I’ll be sure to show ‘n’ tell you all about it.

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It’s Alive!

Elana and I went up to Brian’s yesterday and extracted the bike from behind his dad’s old Mercedes. There was an oil spot on the cardboard we had conveniently left under it – the result of my tiny leak all winter. We topped it off. The lights turned on with the ignition, and the engine cranked over when I hit the starter. It needed a boost off Brian’s charger to get through the extra cranking necessary for the first start of the year, but it fired up and ran great! It just had a little extra smoke in the exhaust, thanks to the Sta-Bil in the gas.

i geared up, set up my phone to navigate, and plotted a non-highway route home. And then I rode – first ride of the year! The bike worked perfectly. Elana watched her phone closely for a call from me in case I ran into trouble – as happened a few times last year – but not this time. I had a pleasant ride home with no excitement whatsoever – in other words, perfect. Even better, the bike had no problem restarting itself after a 90 minute ride. No new battery necessary this year!

But that’s not all. I also managed to revive my crashed TomTom GPS. I researched the problem online, and found a solution that basically involved nuking it from orbit, then letting the TomTom Home software download and rebuild it. It worked! I didn’t even lose my Canada maps.

Of course, it’s raining with temperatures in the 40s today. But I’m back on two wheels. I plan to hang into the PC800 until the Marauder is up and running, which I’ll work on some more soon, just so I can ride. I’ll also start working hard on selling the Silverwing, just to finally make it go away.

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On the road again – or not

Finally, after a great deal of time and expense, I finally got my bike back last Wednesday. It’s running beautifully, which makes the sting to the savings account hurt a bit less. Naturally, as soon as I got it back, it rained for two days, including July 4. But I had other plans anyway, and it cleared up for the weekend, so I set Saturday aside for my first full day trip of the year. I think Elana was as psyched to get on the bike for a day trip as I was.

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We started with a highway cruise out Route 2 to Westminster, both to get to fun roads more quickly and because Elana wanted to see what high speed highway riding was like. Then I took us up Mt. Wachusett, which she had wanted to see since seeing my pictures from last month. (I’ll be posting some video of the ride up and down later.)

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We spent some time up there, sightseeing, taking pictures, and so on. Visibility was amazing – even better than my last time up there. The Boston skyline, over 50 miles away, was clearly visible. So was Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. If I knew where to look, I probably could’ve seen Mt. Greylock, too – a view spanning the full width of Massachusetts. We planned to end up out that way later.

I took us down the mountain, out to Route 62, and to the end of the road in Barre. Then we hopped on 122 – past the point where I lost power the last time I was here – to 202, around the north end of the Quabbin Reservoir. Then we had some fun back road twisties to get over to 116. I intended to follow 116 out to Adams, then hop the Mohawk Trail and Route 2 all the way home.

We stopped for gas, and ended up chatting with a guy on a Honda ST1300 – a bike I lust after. We talked a while. After Elana got on the bike behind me, he pointed out that my back tire was soft. I checked, and indeed it was – very soft. It didn’t take much investigation to discover that the valve stem had started to come out of the wheel, causing a slow leak.

I was livid. I had a leak, from the valve stem, after getting my back tire replaced late last year. I had them check and fix it when I got my new front tire. They charged me for the repair, even though they hadn’t installed it correctly in the first place, but I didn’t raise a fuss at the time since it had been several months, though not many miles. This was exactly the same problem, and still not properly repaired.

Time for what NASA called RTLS – Return To Launch Site abort. I finagled the valve to leak as little as possible, pumped the tire as full as I could, and set a course for home as quickly as we could get there. We picked up 91 (having established that Elana is fine with highway travel) and headed for Route 2, which would take us straight home. It was only one exit. But before we got there, the back of the bike started shimmying back and forth. It got worse quickly. As soon as I sensed it, I pulled over, probably avoiding a really nasty crash by reacting so quickly. The cause was obvious – the back tire was as flat as a pancake.

The next hour was spent fighting to arrange a tow. I’ve never had a problem with AMA’s roadside assistance before, but the guy I got on the phone this time had no clue. And then we realized my membership had just expired at the end of June, and he transferred me to another number to renew – a number that’s closed on weekends. Meanwhile Elana discovered that her AAA in our area won’t tow bikes, ever. Thanks to my smartphone, I managed to renew my AMA membership online. I called back and got a very clueful woman, who, upon taking some info about my renewal, put the tow through at member rates.

The tow truck guy was awesome. I’ve had bikes towed many times and never had issues, but this was the most secure I’ve ever seen it. We dropped it at Elana’s place. The first guy on the phone wasted so much of my time that it was then impossible to get it to the shop before they closed. Her place is 20 miles closer than home (I was already over my 35 mile coverage) and 2 miles from Central Mass Powersports. I’m not even dealing with the other shop anymore – just asking CMP nicely to fix it right. Right now I’m waiting for a call back from them to schedule a pickup at Elana’s place – a service I didn’t even know they offered.

All’s well that ends well, but I just can’t seem to catch a break. I briefly considered selling the bike and giving up on them completely, but I was super angry at the time and have since come to my senses. So although we were technically out with the bike all day, I don’t count the two hours on the side of 91, nor the flatbed ride as part of it. Maybe one day I’ll have just a relaxing day on the bike like I’m supposed to.

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“The waiting is the hardest part”

It’s been two weeks of the nicest riding weather we’ve had all year, and I still have no bike. The shop did call me after looking at it, with an estimate and to get my authorization to do the work. That’s a nice bonus over my last shop experience. All spark plug wires and caps are getting replaced. Hopefully that does it. If not, back to the diagnosis drawing board. I feel dumb not being able to do this work myself – I’ve changed plugs and wires on cars a zillion times. But I’ve already made the problem worse by tinkering with it. It’s probably best for me to bite the bullet and throw money at it instead.

Elana and I had planned an overnight trip to Lake George last weekend. Since the tent and sleeping bag go where she sits, we got a hotel room instead, and we’re really looking forward to the bike trip. But with no bike, the nature of the trip changed. We still went, but we took my Subaru BRZ instead of the bike. It was still fun and relaxing, but in a very different way. That car is a blast on the back roads of NY and VT, but it was a very different experience than it would’ve been on the bike. The loop around Lake George was tedious with traffic rather than a fun ride. There was more emphasis on destinations – dinner at Davidson Brothers Restaurant and Brewery based on a local friend’s recommendation, a visit to the Saratoga Auto Museum which has a Mustang exhibit rather than the BMWs of last year, lunch stops old and new, the hotel with no tent to set up or air mattress to inflate… It was a very pleasant trip for both of us, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t the same. And I practically shed a year every time a bike went by, which was often.

It’s almost the end of June and I still haven’t even managed a decent day trip yet. Plus I wouldn’t have touched the car for a week of perfect weather for commuting. And there’s no definitive end in sight. I just can’t seem to win.

Times like this, I’ve often started thinking about replacing bikes that acted up on me and kept me from riding. When my GS1100L kept me off the road for a year, I swapped it and some cash for my Silverwing, which led me to my road tripping career. And I have had second thoughts about attempting a cross country trip on the PC800. Not only does it have a small gas tank compared to larger sport tourers, I’m seeing that its rarity can be a problem for finding parts for repairs. That could force an abort of a cross country trip if I break down halfway and run out of time while waiting for parts. I’ve even questioned whether I can even pull off my cross country bucket list trip at all. But I’m not giving up yet. It may be true that the PC800 isn’t the best choice. It may not be. But it will be at least a year before I have the vacation time saved up to use for such a trip, and possibly longer depending on logistics and life in general. I’m not throwing the dream away.

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Re-tired

Last Thursday I brought the bike to the shop. Naturally, this caused a major temperature drop, and the coldest ride I’ve ever taken on a bike. I didn’t want to know how cold it actually was, but I’d guess around 30F – cold enough that I wore more layers than I ever have on a bike, and was super careful of any patch that looked wet, because it was probably ice. The bike almost didn’t even start, it was so cold. But I made it to work, and then to the shop after, where I left it and got a lift home.

Yesterday I rearranged my schedule to work from home and get a lift to the shop while they were open to pick it up. (Scheduling is hard when the shop hours are identical to my work hours.) All done. New front tire. Also replaced the back tire stem to fix the leak. This is the stem they installed last summer, after my Canada trip, and that had leaked ever since. It only got bad recently, but still.

They also completely redid my front brakes – new pads, resurfaced rotors, and fresh fluid. Only problem is I hadn’t asked for this, they did it without checking with me, and the whole job ended up costing me twice as much as I’d expected, during a month where I’m already strapped for money. I still need to check the inspection report to see if it was required for the sticker (which I did get), but they still should’ve called me. I would’ve postponed it till next month, since the bike was still legal until the end of May, or possibly done it myself to save some money. I’ve done brakes in cars many times, then driven them on race tracks, and lived. I’m all for good brakes – and tires, which is what brought me there in the first place – but they should’ve checked with me. At least it has a shiny new inspection sticker, and should need nothing else for a while.

Now all I need is time and weather to ride. Of course, as soon as the bike is back, it turns cold and rainy again. My next few days are filled with preparation for the Empire State Performance Rally this weekend, where I’m driving one of the sweep vehicles (no, not the BRZ). It’ll be great fun, but not at all a motorcycle’s job. And I’ve temporarily swiped the ham radio from the bike to use at rally, so no APRS for a little while. Still, I hope to at least sneak in at least a day trip sometime in the next few weeks, and start commuting on the bike – once this crazy New England weather allows me to.

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Slacking

I apologize for leaving you hanging for exactly a month in the middle of my Greatest Hits Tour. Life’s been quite busy, even to the near exclusion of motorcycling, and it simply hasn’t been on my mind. I’m thankful for my photos and for APRS to remind me where I’ve gone and what I’ve done so that I could actually finish this!

At this point my riding is extremely limited. It’s too cold before or after work to ride, leaving me only a scant few hours on the weekends for it. My weekends have been mostly busy with other things lately. It’s likely I’ll be putting the bike away for the winter before too long. Some friends who just bought a sweet garage that just happens to have a small house attached have offered to put it up for the winter, so I’ll make those preparations just as soon as they’ve moved in and arranged the garage enough for me to fit the bike in there.

I do have one more trip to write up from late September. I hope to get that posted and finally caught up soon.

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Home from New York

This is just a quick note to say I’m home safely from my New York trip. Nearly everything went exactly according to plan. The bike had a couple of minor issues along the way, but nothing major. I took lots of photos and will be doing some proper write-ups about the trip soon.

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I’m OK

Yes, I live near Boston. I work there. But I wasn’t at work yesterday, a few blocks from the finish of the Marathon. I also was not among the ham radio volunteers working the event this year. I was actually on my motorcycle at the time of the bombing, 30+ miles away.

I could write more, but I really have nothing to add. I just wanted to put that out there.

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Let’s get this party started

I’ve already written a number of motorcycle road tripping related posts in my personal blog. My first few posts will be slightly revised versions of those to kick things off.  That’ll provide the context for my “real” posts, which I’ll pick up from there.

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