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VIR 2008 when i discovered the fun of "canoeing"
i stumbled upon this account of my trip to vir for the superbike races in 2008 . seems i was playing with yamaha thumpers then to. a 1980 yamaha XT 500. it was fun and now the bike sports a 19 inch wheel /the front end off a 250 ninja/ a disc brake/ and a vescon high capacity fuel tank.. then i blew it up at 102.5 mph. and bought a sr500 in the mean time. intend to reinstall motor in xt before the end of the year!!
i got back from vir last night about 10:30. it was a beautiful night ...perfect temperture...nothing but the moon to light my path and a small red headlight/flashlight hanging off the back of the "Fonzi" replica sissy bar/backrest to mark "my spot".
just a cruis'n along at a terminal velocity of 55 mph. which luckily and conincidentally was all my "canoe" and i could muster with the ultra tall gearing and two fireflys emiting all the illumination the headlight could project....
it was quite a trip....canoe trips are always like that. you CANNOT hurry a canoe...can't be done. progress is made but you must play by the "rules" and accept what's "possiable" and not anguish about "couldv/shouldv/wouldv". canoe trips teach paitience and calm the mind of the ambitous. they give you time to reflect and consider more of life. to SEE things............................................ .................................................. ...
to get chased by THE fastest black lab TWICE in two days..............with 150 miles between both races!! tha dog could move!! or maybe i need a faster canoe! if i am riding my zebra or my tdm ; the dog would not have even twitched. he saw i was paddling a canoe and did the math in a microsecond. "i can CATCH that one"!!!
on the way home during the "second" encounter; i heard him say "OH YEAH.. ! I GOT EM THIS TIME"!! in a moment of doubt shrouded with fear..i "firewalled" the throttle and remembering i am riding a kick start motorcycle . i prayed to the gods of speed and providence. PLEASE don't fail me NOW!!
how did this adventure come about. it is derek's fault and rick lee's fault....and my computers fault..and matt's mom's fault!
these are some of my very best friends. for assorted reasons and due to failed communication (computer email won't work). i was unable to reach any one....apologies to earl shaw who went with me last year.
just got back from mid ohio on the zebra. nobody to ride with. hmmmmm that means no speed pressure or expectation of reasonable pace..? hmmmm.
i am traveling by myself. what about the yamaha xt500? its a fun bike but does not mix well with more modern reasonable tackle. kinda like flying in a formation that includes f-18s and a fokker tri plane!!!??? the stall speed of the F-18 is graeter than the top speed of the triplane!!! this is fundamental and even before YOU hear the rest of the story...
yeah i was traveling on a wing and a prayer. trip was mostly fun but there was amazing comic realities...all of them rider/owner induced. some of them stem from a lack of information ..that was only lacking because of procrastination.
do you want to know what happened?
if so then read on.
i got a late start as i swapped parts fixing the speedometer. speedo corrected...i now have "Data" with which to evaluate gearing changes and fuel range/mileage...best operating range for motor to successfully acheive power/mileage/speed/comfort.
preparations to bike to enhance the "canoe":
i installed a small cheap 1/4 fairing that was laying in the yard next to the engine less trials bike. quicke shot of black gloss paint and 4 zip ties and i was ready to rock!
i installed some bicycle "stunt " pegs so i could work on my "moves" and also have an alternative foot position. they worked great. did not drag and added a splash of chrome to the bike. i plan on installing at least 1 more pair somewhere forward on the bike.
i used a zip tie as a cruise control . i deployed it in the cliff everett style...worked perfectly. in fact , its effectiveness and minimal cost make it absolutely THE most cost effective mod i have ever done! it allowed me to ride sans hands for several miles at a time. it was especially good when i was reading my books or writting letters to friends.
i insttalled the low pipe and the harley davidson shocks gifted me by the "LONGHAIR" (jOHN BALKO) from back roads triumph. the low pipe worked okay. it does drag when cornering sometimes but the sparks are really cool at night. neat effect.. the shocks add a certain "Koolness" factor that is always appreciated as my bikes and i tend to be professionally "UNKOOL". "nice shocks"! to which i stand a little taller and reply "they're off a Harley. of course i am waiting for some one to respond "i did not know tha bilge pumps needed shocks?"
last week i went up two teeth on the countershaft sprocket. seemd okay around town. this gearing combined with the 44 on the rear made for very relaxed cruising . this extreme gearing made 4th and 5th overdrives. it would only pull redline in 3rd gear. how'd it work.......not great. in a word .."i shot myself in the foot" the gearing worked around town because the mph was low/calm enough not to expose the flawed thinking. out where the big dawgs live and the kenoworths and the volvo trucks. the increased air drag above 60 mph required more "throttle" to overcome ..which sucked gas dictated a canoe paddling program that was "planned " and choreographed to keep my alive....keep the speed up reasonably well....and balance all the other factors. in the xt wide ratio gear box....third is "the money gear" most versatile and flexiable. there is a significant ratio jump to 4th. i changed the gearing and lost on all fronts. if i only went 1 tooth that might have worked to perfection. i have done THIS before with the TDM.. you would think i would learn but i seem to have to keep relearning lessons.....
i decided that since derek was not going and he has saved my butt many many times after running out of gas and trying to turn a motorcycle trip into a walking adventure. i added a small 1 gallon portable reserve fuel tank to the back of the Fonze bar. i sure am glad i did. the tank on the xt really came off of a TT500. it is shiny and aluminum BUT it does not have a reserve setting on the petcock. AND it is very very small capacity. just a tick over 1 gallon! when combined with the broken speedo.......i really had no idea what the range was? i now know...the bike will suck air at 70 miles!!!!! that's right ....on a trip that lasted 434 miles. i made at least 7 fuel stops. IF I HAD ANY RIDING BUDDIES ALONG WITH ME ......I WOULD HAVE BEEN LYNCHED!!
bike ran well. vibration was not an issue. even mirrors stayed clear. the honda street handlebars have some kinda weight in them that must help deal with the vibes.
handling...fantastic!! a real giggle
gas mileage not bad always above 50 mpg
cruise control /stunt pegs/ergos generally great. the seat was a solid feeling secure place upon starting out. after 434 miles of carrying a big person.....the support got up and left. seat will be up graded
when the tummy is full and the weather is good and there is no pressure of expectation. fun place to be!
fuel range is miserable. i spent last week kreem coating the xt tank (much larger) and the yamaha xv920 tank (much much much larger 5 gallons). a change will be made..
the gearing will be moved back to something more normal. but the experiments will continue....i have 5 fronts and 2 rears to chose from. I KNOW THERE IS ONE COMBO THAT WILL BE MOSTLY IDEAL/REASONABLE FOR MOST USES.
THE BRAKES...HORRIABLE ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. i swear i will never take the performance of a modern hydrualic disc brake for granted again. single leading shoe drum brakes just do not work. most bikes that have these do not refer to them as brakes. my xt just has not yet given up the charade. gotta go! i have the complete front end off of a honda xr400. but i am first going to try the fork legs /wheel/brake assy off of the xv750 virago. or maybe the complete front end off an an suzuki vx800. rear drum can stay. i have a strong grip but at no time could i even take that 90//90/21 contact patch near the threshhold of traction!! drum brakes suck.
kick starting. i am sitting here typing this with a sore arch on my right foot. there is a procedure to make it easier to start but i am unable to comply or master it . i just gorilla stomp the demons out of it until she fires. thankfully , it was a somewhat easy starting bike. usually about three kicks would do it. i was disappointed that my "left" leg developed a sympathetic injury. the bright blue hematoma behind the knee was quite painful and irritating. i did not help me win any sympathy from miss suzuki ..........i tried. the injury came from one time i kicked the big whilst trying to start it/exorcise a particularly stubborn demon. i lost my balance and my left leg contacted the "FONZI" bar mount very firmly. kick start is good as a back up to an electric boot. it is also okay on a bike that is "ONLY" used as a canoe. there were times when i found my self dreading having to turn the bike off. kick start bikes are like animals.."they CAN smell fear". this is a well known FACT.
things i am going to do:
fix gearing,get brakes, reinstall high pipe(does not drag,makes more power), adapt a more comfortable perch, test stock carb,reinstall luggage rack with givi mount, install stock tank or oversize tank.
the trip was great fun. i am glad there was no one riding with me because the things that i dealt with using humor and optimism would have got me shot ----lynched---left for dead by riding buddies.
so how fast was the bike? not very ...at redline in third gear i could muster 75 mph. redline in 4th not possiable. redline in 5th ? just a dream. highest speed of the trip 80 mph down hill. but she ran 60 mph at 3400 rpm in top .
how bad were the brakes? well the initial strong squeeze would cause the weight to transfer and the front to dive. then however the fork springs would realize what was going on and would "FIGHT BACK" further slowing would cease. heart rate would climb and hi speed math would commence in my cognitive mind ..calculating time-speed-distance to hard thing! rest of mind would consider place foot firmly against back of tire or finding a soft place to land..
stayed at my sisters house. she and husband wayne got a new dog ...woodstock. he is really neat. even woodstock was asking me "WHY"....why are you riding that canoe? i tried to explain about adventure and potential for introspection and reflection about a life...lived? chanllenges and journeys and...... i do not think he got it. just kinda lifted his leg and blessed the contraption anyway.
watched the olympics.....the marathon coverage mad me tired ..very tried. i wondered it the people running the race "enjoy" themselves or if they just love "suffering". kinda like the tour de france bicycle race when during one particularly gruesome climb the commmentator said when refering to a contestant "he suffers well"..........................whew!
sunday dawned bright and we headed to vir . i followed amicably until we got to yanceyville nc and it was time to start my "run". wayne KNEW..! he pulled over and told me where they would be setting up.. i thanked him and left the pit at full chat ....heading for bray hill. bike running for all it was worth ....making those thundering booms just like a matchless or norton manx or ajs7R.....we were in it now!
firewall the throttle sit back and enjoy.....i 'm ALIVE! mostly third gear but a few experimental forays into 4th when the road seemed agree. FULL THROTTLE....OR "FULLL NOISE!"...better make that "full chat"............the norton manx and i danced over the rolling hills and thru endless corners! tucked in to cheat the wind ..hugging the tank ..trying to be efficent..focusing ahead. sheer joy! excitement...........extasy! the sound of the bike running as hard as it can ...throttle hard against the stop! the sound ...the urgency....the determination. 70 mph or 170 mph....the mind cares not the difference. it was pure sensory bombardment ! i walter mittly flowed along that road on that day...and i was king. reality is not nearly as satisfying as "joy", imagination and the passion.....motorcycles-life-adventure it is all there!! eventually we approached governor's bridge. mindful of the trees and their tendancy to drop stuff on the road. gov'nors bridge is the slowest corner at the isle of mann. after running so hard for so long...must be correct and accurate. mindful of the perception.......................milton nc. VIR!!! we have arrived.
i went and got my tickets at will call. once again i left the bike idling..just did not want to embarass myself by not being able to start the norton in front of a crowd. i also did not trust the matchless not to get stage fright and refuse to fire. it could lead to a " coniption". coniptions are usually reserved for american females who are royally pissed off at some thing.. my wife swears that the coniption bug also affects males...........you have not seen a coniption until you see a 6'9' 250 lb brain damaged fat boy get knocked "off balance".............it defines ugly............dangeroust tooo!
i spent the morning trying to give my extra ticket (purchased ) for wife away to deserving friends and associates. if my computer had not rebellously flicked me the bird ...i could have used my email to alert any of you about the possiabilitiy. i had ricks number and dereks number and motoman.......and tried one of waynes friends. in the end i did what i had to do........i got the ticket and took up a strategic position with the hope of selling same. it took forever to sell it......35 seconds! never got my helmet off!! and i had 6 people (unassociated) vying for it . i should have held an auction....
we set up base camp in the esses section. my happiness at being at vir was dampened as there was a serious clean up going on. my inquiry as to the nature of the clean up was sobering and very sad. in the red bull rookies cup series there was a terriable set of circumstances that can only be considered a tragedy. apparently one of the riders lost the front going into the right handed turn five. he and the bike came to a stop on the pavement near the left hand edge. this is THE racing line....hard cornering and throttle will carry racers to that spot as they exit the corner. the first rider who fell charged with adrenaline and anxious to remount his bike jumped to his feet and snatched the small 157 lb bike to its wheels and started to get back on. ...he never got the chance. the next rider thru...doing what you are supposed to do and not being able to see that far around the corner and committed to exiting the corner at full chat..was suddenly confronted with a bike and rider "standing" on the line. i am told the collision was horrific. when a rider is down on the ground a bike will tend to go over you . if you are not flat on the ground the bike and momentum go thru you. i did not see it but both individuals were air flighted out. it is a tragedy.... the guy that fell and got up just did what his instincts told him to. the racer racing would have his vision way out ahead of the bike but his concentration would be on maximizing his exit......my prayers go out to everybody and their families and to the spectators who are fans of motoracing but had to see this lessson in reality
i went to demo ride the ducati hypermotard. "MADMOTOMIKE" riding a ducati hypermotard? DENIED!!! what !? how can this be? the look in the face of the coordinator was unsmiling and unyeilding. hhhmmmmmmmmm! i will have to investigate. maybe i should have used an alias..
there was a big crowd at vir ! the biggest i have ever seen! i fell in lust in the suzuki tent....the 2008 white suzuki drz400 supermoto ........was too crisp to ignore or to reist....got to have one of those! in white for sure. actually made me remember that i already own a great one and to steel my reslove to finish the darn thing!!
my bucket list is not very long but i did something i have never done before. i got to pet a tiger.....and have our pic taking while petting the tiger! i was so thrilled..and proud to ! i sure am glad i saw the opprotunity for what it was. it is safe to say that i may never have that opprotunity again.
then a strange thing happened. ben spies came up to me and asked me to do a favor. said that he never gets to take any pics when he is on the track. said something about being too "busy" in the moment. he asked me if i would be willing to risk everything and take some pics from the track during the fan ride. he wanted pics of the spectators from the track perspective for his memoirs. i stood tall with pride and told him that while i am not quite as fast as he is and in spite of grave peril for my canoe and I....we would get it done!
i rode and took pics of other riders and spectators and reveled in the irony of the situation....there i was taking pics of THEM taking pics of me!! i made some connections..several pretty girls with cameras were amused as i waved the camera at them and took some shots! the canoe worked wll ...it was stable and secure as i allowed the bike to mind it self while i immortalized some spectators. the only issue was the guy and girl on the big dawg motorcycle. he saw me taking pics and pulled up next to me! i figured if i took his pic he would go away........WRONG!! HE Interpreted it as intrest in his gross chrome monster. so HE assumed that i WANTED TO Take pics of his bike . worse i felt he thought he would make the sacrifice so that i a "canoe pilot" could take pics of what he thought i should WANT?!! i could not get rid of the guy....
then an organizer on a cruised up on a cruiser and interuptted my mission. he told me that i was holding up the group by riding so slowly and taking care of ben's request. there was ..........open track ahead of me. and i am MADMOTOMIKE. I DID what i had to do..........i fire walled the throttle and headed for the deep end of the tach shifting gears with out the clutch.. turn one is approaching ..set the entry speed..deep lean angle...(mindful of the pipe grindage)......still clutching the camera i railed thru two and set up for a long graceful into turn three. took a low angle camera shot in three and four . managed the get the camera thru the transition so i could down shift....(needed the clutch to down shift lest i be sloppy and appear in competent)
so there you have it ..my yamaha xt500 canoe.....is a racebike. its been on the race track. bikes that go on race tracks are usually refered to as racebikes.
the racing was great as usual but the happening was funtastic. motorcycle people and late summer fun! mix in the ride and it becomes a must see /must do event!
the ride home:
this is the tricky part. late in the day....it is gonna be dark when i get home. suddenly the missing taillight lenses and the inoperable tail light are serious issues. luckily i had a headlite flashlight my wife gave me for fathers day . switched to red and strapped to the top of the fonzi bar ; this became my rear marker light. mix this with the bike's inability to sustain the pace on the interstates and my desire to survive dictate a "no interstate" way home. hmmm it is deer time........i am riding a bike with 6 volt electics. the headlight beam is extremely marginal. beam appears to reach 5.5feet in fron to the bike. lite is soo dim it illuminated next to nothing. furthermore if i did have a deer interaction...how would i find the bike to start it and get back on my way. 6 volt system and a magneto. it was interesting going. i made it thru the twisty forested bits to lilington nc before the night really fell. refortified on a foot long tuna salad sub from subway i headed for home. my tactic was to live in my mirrors and "leech" illumination off of cars and other motorcycles. i am sure the sport touring bike did not know what to make of the appirition that fell in with him on his way home. the trick with the motorcyclist was to stay close enough to benefit from his spread of light and yet stay far enough away not to trigger fear or apprehension. using the cars was actually better as they have more light and tend to not drive over things in the road. so all i had to do was stay in the left wheel track....far enough back not to intimidate/annoy and keep my attention out wide and to the rear. i was thankful of the bright moon as it was illuminatng better than my headlite..
so there iwas cruising carefully along..all sensors on full alert and set to maximum range. things were almost tolerable ....until the fog rolled in
i had to laugh. it is a fundamental truth about adventure......you never know how things will turn out. got to do the best you can with opprotunities as the come your way. minimize the risk as much as possiable. prepare for the worst -hope for the best . keep a good sense of humor as you journey.
the fog was just the last challenge of a truly great canoe adventure. i would not rule out another canoe trip once i deal with change to the canoe that must me carried out!
see you on the river.
ROAD ATLANTA IS IN TWO WEEKS...TOM ARE YOU LISTENING?..JOE..RICK...DEREK..MATT..EARL... MARC..
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