Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Concours First then Chewin' the Fat!

Well the Concours hit the mileage, 600, right on cue. Just as I arrived this morning, following a chilly ride, at Greenwood Performance Cycle Inc, the odometer rolled onto exactly 600 miles, oil change timed to perfection!!! Troy greeted me, took the bike and noticed the mileage - "How the hell did you do that?". "If I told you I would have to kill you, no, absolutely no idea" as I walked towards the showroom "can you add a little air in the tires too - there both at 39 psi - should be 42!" Oh I love those little gizmos!

Bike safely in the hands of their mechanics I strolled into the showroom to look at the bikes. Sharon came over to say hello, asked how things were going and I got introduced to one of the co-owners Richard. We chatted about the Conc', how it was running and then discussed some comparisons with his FJR1300. Richard actually test rode the Conc' prior to my collection of it the other weekend. He liked it a lot and commented that even though he had only ridden it 5 miles he generally felt that it was , all things considered, a better bike than the FJR. He said that it was very stable, extremely smooth and had zero torque reaction from the shaft, all of which I agreed with. Who says taking a test ride before you buy isn't worth it? Me, cause I never do but riding and buying motorcycles is an emotional thing and if you make your decisions led from the head instead of the heart then maybe it's time to find another interest! That's why the Japanese make so many models, variations and add new models all the time because we are all after different things. The demand is there so to be successful you need to make sure you can identify and supply the demand and once you have met and satisfied it you put something else out there that creates another demand and 'antiquates' what you've just bought. The 'vicious' circle of 'want' increases - the Japanese have mastered this to an art. All the magazines add fuel to the fire with their generally fickle tests and 'this years model is better than last years because the turn signal flashes a microsecond quicker'. Who the hell cares but guess what a lot do, it's called fashion and 'keeping up with the Jones' (Sorry to the mags as generally they do a good job and of course have to satisfy their market also - 'The Ficklers")

Richard then proceeded to tell me a little about their background. How things had improved with managing the business, etc. when they moved to their current premises where they had the space necessary to appropriately show their products with a large, very clean and warm workshop area that enabled his mechanics to do the work they are trained and love to do in a conducive environment. We spoke some more on labor relations, etc. and both agreed that you can have a great product but if you don't provide the back up and the follow on support, which is predicated on having the right people with the right attitude in the right surroundings, you are doomed to fail. Nothing Peter Drucker would leave his grave for here but nice to know Richard knows what is needed - respect Sir and to your staff.

We made our salutations and parted. I proceeded to look at the bikes, a non ABS Conc' was nice, a nice looking Hayabusa in a bronzy orange color but what took my eye was a new 2006 'BRIGHT' yellow GSXR1000. I grabbed a coffee and looked over the Gixxer a little more closely. What a really nice looking and petite machine - it looked like you could just pick it up, put it in your pocket and walk out with it - amazing how your perspective changes when you've just ridden an almost 700 lb sports tourer for 80 miles!! I looked at the price, nice, good deal, "stop it" I said to myself, not out loud of course, I look stupid enough without talking to myself and reinforcing that fact! I walked away drinking my coffee and stopped thinking such thoughts. What did I say earlier about the heart leading the head, this time the head won - only just though?

Then there it was a KTM Supermoto, slicks, front and rear, wow wee that's the baby for me!!! Sharon came over just in time to save me. We started discussing accents and how important it was for them to be maintained along with local dialects. I reflected on the BBC back in the old days and the horrendous local news programs that used to be broadcast with newscasters who spoke like they had the proverbial 'plum in their mouth' and were educated at Oxbridge. Thank goodness sense eventually prevailed in the early 70's and local news began to be reported by local people. You got 'Eee by gum lad there's trouble t'mill' and 'D'ya ken that canny wee hoose down the road Jimmy' wonderful stuff. If you get the chance check out a BBC show from the late 90's called 'Chewin the Fat' you'll love it - any Brits reading this will know exactly which sketches from that show I am referring to - you'll love the banter!

So back to the bikes. Before I knew it Sharon said "oh look your bike is ready" Wow if felt like I had only just got there. I complained that they hadn't given me enough time to look around the showroom, maybe a good thing cause that KTM was on sale too.

Keith, the service manger and co-owner was with my bike and explained that all was good, the throttle had been adjusted as it was a little tight and that they had slowed the tick over down as it was a little fast. He then proceeded to show me where the idle adjustment was so that as it 'broke in' I could reduce the idle as the engine became freer. Music to my ears, etc. etc - at last a dealer who a) Does things without being asked, b) Provides a genuinely interested attitude and guidance to help and c) Knows what the hell he is talking about - it was like being back at 'Hailwood and Gould's' shop in Birmingham, England in the early 80's. (By the way yes the great 'Mike the Bike, and the not so great Rob Gould - I still have the Yamaha scarf Mike Hailwood sold me personally 3 weeks before he and his young daughter got killed by a jerk in a lorry, sorry truck, returning from a local fish and chip shop one evening). I offered my appreciation to Keith, paid my dues, very reasonable by the way and said 'sithee in 2 weeks for the 3,000 service' they laughed but we'll see those grins disappear when I arrive there sooner than they may think.

So I jumped on board, fired her up and rode back to work like a Cheshire Cat with not a care in the World occasionally taking her up to the 6,000 rpm mark in all gears - note occasionally officer. What you need 10,500 revs on this thing for will be a thing I shall only ever find out on a race track or if I take it to the Isle of Man or Germany, honestly officer.

Well this will do for todays post. Another will follow shortly after I break the first 1,000 miles hopefully this coming Saturday - I will have some nice pictures to include also.

Monday, October 29, 2007

If there is anything that evokes eroticism in a motorcycle then there is only one manufacturer, Italian of course, not Ducati though it's MV Agusta. I remember back around '81 some friends and I were just settling down to a pint in a pub at Swarkestone Bridge in Derbyshire, England following a glorious motorcycle ride. (For interest and those of Scottish descent this bridge was the farthest south Bonnie Prince Charlie got to before being stopped by the English. Pretty impressive when you think Swarkestone is about 200 miles south of the Scottish border). As we sipped the gorgeous Burton Ale we heard this sound like we had never heard before. Down went the pints and we all ran outside. There in front of our very eyes three MV Agusta Americas thundered past. Oh Lord what was there to do, three of the most rarest and expensive bikes ever made going past us - we must have crashed and gone to heaven without noticing. No we looked at each other, our jaws touching our chests and in total disbelief, we were still alive.

Twenty four years and forty bikes later something unexplainable happened. I chanced across an article that compared three Italian Superbikes, the Ducati 999R, Aprilia Mille R and the MV Agusta SPR. I read it, read it again and then once again. The SPR just did things to me, therein the article referred to the seventies MV Americas and how collectable they are now, never mind then and that the SPR would be following the same path. (That day at Swarkestone Bridge reappeared crystal clear like it was only the day before!) I need one, I have to have one, emotion took over. The next few months I scouted for the bike of my dreams then, low and behold, a brand new SPR, #250 of only 300 made, became available at a dealership, Corse Superbikes, in Wisconsin. This was it, a few calls and within a day a deal was struck and arrangements made to collect the machine. Of course living in Michigan at the time, February by the way, arrangements needed to be made - no riding this baby home! So a friend offered to drive me in his truck to pick 'her' up. We drove the seven hours from Charlevoix and visited our close friends in Chicago on the Sunday as I had arranged to pick 'her' up first thing Monday morning.

#250 of only 300 ever made in 2004 - two of them were used in the Movie 'I Robot'

Monday morning came and we're at Corse Motorcycles. There it was getting PDI'd it was everything I expected and some - they were sorry to see it go. We loaded it onto the truck and then began 8 hours of hell. We decided to drive back through Michigan's UP and I must say that probably 7 of those 8 hours was spent with me looking backwards as I was so worried that 'she' would fall over. Not in a month of Sundays of course would she fall because the way I had tied her down a full grown African elephant couldn't have moved!

So we got home, unloaded 'her' and the family all came out to view the beauty, and boy oh boy, was she a beauty, all agreed. The following weekend came and the roads were cleared of snow, well I thought so, on with the Aerostich and off I went. After 20 miles, frozen solid I came back safe and mesmerized. During the ride it became apparent that the four underseat silencers not only looked like organ pipes but created a sound that an 18th century church organ would be proud of making. Not only does she look beautiful she sounds beautiful - I that juncture I will refrain from any further references to 'her' and 'beauty' before I get myself into trouble, it's SPR from here on in.

Well the months passed summer came, I rode the SPR when and were I could, until I shipped it down to South Carolina just over a year after I bought 'her', sorry 'it'. I registered it in SC and rode around like a Cheshire cat where and when I could. Heaven, good smooth roads, warm, and sights never before seen what else was there for 'An Englishman in New York'?

Then it happened. The nightmare you would only have in the darkest of your slumbers. Sunday afternoon, I'm with some friends and believe it or believe it not one of them is the friend who drove me to pick the SPR up in the first instance who I had not seen since that trip. We were travelling to take a boat ride when I got a call saying that one of my bikes had been stolen and recovered but smashed. Please no, please let it be the FZ1, maybe the Monster but not the SPR. We spun the car around and drove to the location where I thought I securely parked my bikes. The closer we got the more I panicked and hoped that the SPR was untouched. We pulled into the parking lot and I jumped out to look through the wire mesh 8' high fence that was about 60' away from where the three motorcycles where parked. I looked and looked, the 'organ pipes' I could see instead of being horizontal and in a beautiful line two of them were vertical! The police were called, the insurance man turned up and eventually off she was taken - for good.

That was it, I never looked at it again for three weeks between the theft until it was taken away. I just couldn't bring myself to look at it. My friends and colleagues would bring one of my other bikes out to me when I needed to ride I just couldn't bring myself to look at it. The thief and the story that goes with this appalling incident does not warrant me wasting anytime here writing or you reading what I write let's just say the law stinks and the good suffer to allow the bad to continue to get badder - it opened my eyes believe you me. The pictures below show the aftermath taken by a friend.

Yes that is skin and do I feel sorry - no!

You can imagine what he looked like, no leathers and no helmet.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sixteen and there!

Concentration, focus, control - motorcycles a way of life and bring so much to developing your life you could write a dozen books about it and still only skim the surface.

Mick Jr, Deals Gap, September 2006

You Meet The Nicest People On A Yamaha!!!

Here's Wendy and I on the trusty steed after passing the 'following' Mini Coopers at Deals Gap. Great fun, great scenery, great ride and great people. See you next year Dragon!!!

Ducati Monster S4 and Superlight Mk 1

Well here they both are, my lovely '92 Superlight Mk 1 (#79 of 500) and '02 Monster S4 (# X of 50,000!). So different yet so similar and exactly 10 years apart.

Both are 90 degree V twins with Desmodromic valves and of course Red in color but that's about it that's similar between them. They are as different to each other as a Honda Fireblade is to a Honda ST1100.

The Superlight (900SL) has rare Marvic wheels with Magnesium spokes and spun aluminum rims, they weigh nothing - you have to hole one without a tire on to believe how light they are. The engine is a 900 2 valve per cylinder air cooled with slightly larger Mikuni carburetters than it's sibling the less expensive 900SS. It has a single seat, carbon fiber fenders and cast iron fully floating rotors that rattle when you ride as opposed to the dry multi plate clutch that takes over the rattling when you come to a standstill waiting for that green light!!! ( They also go rusty after a ride in the rain but soon clean up of course when you ride it again!) It handles like nothing else. I rode it around the TT course back in '97 (not in a race I'm afraid) and left a couple of GSXR's and R1's behind going towards and through Glen Helen. (They soon caught up with me though and left me for dust as it became less bendy). This '92 model was only made for one year and was replaced by the Mk2 which lost the Marvics, too expensive and also a number of other subtle things. The Mk 1 is also the only model with the little bubble on the top of the tank for the 'crash spill' line as opposed to the more common oblong section you see on the Mk2 to Mk 5 versions. the cast iron floating rotors were dropped from the Mk3 until I think they put them back on the silver FE version of '98.

Then there's the Monster. A Monster with a 916 motor - wow, had to have one. Liquid cooled 4 valve engine and almost 40 bhp more than the Superlight but no Marvics, no cast iron floating rotors! So what the Monster has in motor the Superlight has elsewhere. This is also a very nice bike that handles well but differently. It is also surprisingly a nice 'one up tourer'. I have ridden it from Charlevoix northern Michigan to Ann Arbor and back on the same day without any pains or groans and could have done another 100 or so miles more.

Both are beautiful bikes for very different reasons.

Both have carbon fiber silencers, the Superlight are Quills and the Monster are Leo Vinci, the sound is just inexplicable and in my mind nothing, absolutely nothing comes close to that Ducati thump - music even to the toneless.

Need to know anymore reasons why everyone should ride a Ducati at least once?


Like Father Like Son

So as the title, Like Father Like Son, here is my 16 year old son Mick Jr. on his Suzuki DR400SM in 2006 at Deals Gap. A really fun machine the Suzuki. He graduated to this from a Yamaha XT225 after riding small off road Yams since he was 3 years old.

Nice style. Again looking ahead, not into the corner, if you have to do that when you're in the bend you've got it all wrong and Deals Gap can be unforgiving. Nice line,and ala 2 stroke style, covering the clutch just in case the engines seizes - old habits die hard and he's only 16!!!
Tipped over nicely, all is clam, relaxed and neat, still looking ahead, planning, seeing and avoiding if necessary! One finger covering the front brake should, in the unlikely event, be necessary.

Touching the apex of the corner, head tipped up nicely while the body is in line with the bike, no need for knee down or hanging off stuff here.
And it's away we go to the next one. See some other posts for his snowboarding adventures in Utah as he attempts to become professional.

The FZ1 and Deals Gap

Well here we are approaching one of those gorgeous bends at Deals Gap. Givi luggage loaded, tank bag and Wendy one the back. Eyes focused on what is ahead!

Tipping it in , looking ahead, out of the bend, too close now to be looking at the bend need to know the way out. Toe slider commences contact, Wendy's grip tightens!

We're in now, the smile is unavoidable, if there is a heaven on Earth this is it!

The foot rest is down, the grinding gets louder as the main stand joins in!!! Lovely.

The grin grows larger, the next one is in sight and we (I) can't wait.

Peg is down, main stand is down but we are not and we're getting ready for the next one! You can guess of course what we did when we got to the end - we turned around and did it again and again!

The Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS

Concours 14 ABS Delivers

Well after a lot of deliberations, reading and thoughts the BMW GS1200 was going to be the next one in the stable THEN the 2007 Iron Butt Rally happened. Wow BMW's breaking down everywhere, final drives being the major culprit and more to the point no official response from BMW.

What was I going to do, the FJR1300 although nice was getting just a little long in the tooth, and my '01 Fz1 complete with Givi's, Ivan's Jet kit, Leo Vinci pipe, Corbin, PIAA's albeit chain drive and a couple of hundred cc's less was approaching 37,000 miles? But it still hadn't missed a beat and something a little more different than the FJR was necessary hence the Beemer thought!

Then it happened I got a copy of Superbike magazine, a Brit motorcycle rag I have subscribed to since Issue 1 back in 1977. There on page 17 was a '1st Ride' article entitled "Family Values" announcing that Kawasaki were back in the tourer market after 10 years!

What was it, well the 1400GTR, or as it is known on this side of the Atlantic "Concours 14". Well well well. This looked good, ABS as an option, that monster of an engine from the ZZR1400 but with VVT, variable valve timing to bring all that lovely power and torque lower down the rev range and a fancy shaft drive set up to remove that weird torque reaction raising the back end up. (Having owned shaft drive bikes such as the XS750, 850 and 1100 over the years torque reaction can be quite an unusual experience - if you've had one you will know what I mean). Additionally good size QD panniers, electric adjustable screen, soon to arrive top case and Gel seat - Kawasaki dealer here I come - auf wiedersehen (sp) BMW!

So I popped to my nearest dealer during lunch and there it was, a beautiful 'Neutron Silver' (black is only available in Europe) Concours but no ABS. Eventually, and this can be the theme of another story, a salesmen appeared and asked if I needed help. I asked when could they get an ABS version and his response was "Well give me the deposit and I'll get you one in 6 weeks" OK Mr. Salesmen your opportunity to sell me a 14 grand motorcycle due to your subtle approach just went out the window - I am now going to take my 14k elsewhere - bye.

The following day, Saturday, the wife and I rode up to Greenwood, South Carolina, on the trusty FZ1. We chanced across a dealership there, Greenwood Performancecycle Inc. ( who sell Kwaks. In we popped and again another Concours 14 without ABS. Once again a salesmen appeared, "Lovely bike what do you think? Hi", shook my hand and I agreed. I asked when would they get an ABS version in? He advised that one was on order and hopefully mid October delivery. I said great, we chatted and I left my email address. Off we went for a ride.

A couple of weeks later I get an email stating that the Concurs 14 ABS is scheduled to arrive next week and was I interested. I said yes but didn't know when I could make it up there so if they had a sale sell, if not and when I could get there, I would be interested. A couple of weeks passed I called and yes it was still there. We discussed, I got a price, top case and Gel seat in the deal - see you Saturday.

Arrived Saturday morning (10/20/07) and there it was, all ready to go. Paperwork completed - great job Sharon, mandatory familiarization tour and we were good to go. Gel seat and top case on back order but no big shakes. Keep it to 4,000 for the first 500 and then bring her in at 600 for it's oil change. "So you're open tomorrow" I stated , only joking. Sharon took a couple of pictures for the dealership web site and off we went.

Well we got home a little after 6 that evening and the Kwak had 400 miles on it. Gorgeous, both I and the passenger, Wendy, had zero complaints. Also 4,000 revs in 6th equates to around 85 mph so no complaints there also. The gadgets are good, the trip computer useful and the KIPASS, albeit initially strange, is great. Altogether a well built high quality motorcycle.

On Sunday we took her out for a short run to add another 100 miles so that I could increase the revs to 6,000 rpm. Off we went towards Lexington, SC, the long way around from where we live near Chapin and we go to the traffic circle (roundabout) on 378 (you locals will all know it of course). Nothing on it so off we go for 2 laps - wonderful! The Fz1 goes nice around there and so does my Monster S4 but wow, for a nearly 700lb motorcycle, two up, this thing handles - I am pleased to state that the edges are off the left hand side of those Bridgestones - yeehaaa! Guess where it is going Spring next year, yes you have guessed it, Deals Gap, one of my most favorite sections of roads in the whole World, can't wait.

So a week has gone and it has 600 miles on the clock. An email has been sent and I hope to get her in for the first service this week so that we can ride her properly next weekend, do some serious miles. I can then add another chapter to this first and satisfying one.

Others with a Concours I would love to hear from - please post freely.

Other bikes in the stable include, the aforementioned FZ1, S4 Monster, a '92 Mk1 Ducati Superlight and a Suzuki DRZ400SM. Posts from owners of these also welcome. I also have a copy of every Superbike magazine from Issue 1 1977 so if anyone needs some information about any bike from that time to now just ask.