at the head of an arrow...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by neduro, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. neduro

    neduro Addict

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    The joy of motorcycling is not something easily captured in words. Part of it is the smell of fresh cut hay on a mid summer ride, part of it is the feeling of being sucked into the bike in a corner, part of it is the feeling of satisfaction of doing something inherently difficult, well. And part of it too, is the equipment. A good motorcycle reflects a discipline of thought, an expression of engineering competence, that tolerates no excess.

    And there is perhaps no more perfect reflection of this mode of thinking than the modern 1000cc sportbike. These bikes are unbelievably light and make power that 500 GP bikes only dreamed of just a few years back, and yet, they are so refined that they tolerate even a novice, provided that the rider knows their own limits.

    Go take a look at one. Immediately, you’ll see precision parts, often of exotic materials, on display everywhere on the bike. These parts have been hogged out and refined until no excess material remains, only what is needed to do the job. They have huge radiators and pressurized airboxes and brakes big enough for a dumptruck, all of which would not look out of place under a factory tent. And yet, they are available at minimal cost from dealers everywhere. Buy one a generation or two back, and they cost about what bags and tax do on a new BMW.

    These observations are not offered idly, of course. Sportbikes are my first motorcycle love, and when I get a moment in a bookstore, sportbike magazines are the ones I pick up. I learned to ride just a few years ago on a CBR, and to this day, my head spins whenever I hear an inline four wind up. However, after a few near death experiences of the triple digit sort, I swore them off, resigning myself to a life of slow BMW ownership and dirt riding.

    Lingering in the back of my mind, though, was the knowledge that this promise to myself could be legitimately dropped if I could change my approach to sportbikes such that I could ride them more safely. Perhaps, I thought, I’ve matured enough that I can keep the inner squid contained.

    Time will tell. This weekend, on a trip to Phoenix for other reasons, I relieved Motozilla of his R1. Let the madness begin.

    [​IMG]

    The first generation R1 has long been a favorite bike of mine, on the short list of “must own” models. Trendsetting at it’s release, it has since been eclipsed in terms of outright performance by the never ending missile race between manufacturers. However, in spite of the few horsepower that it cedes to the latest and greatest, its performance envelope remains ridiculously wider than most riders and far, far beyond safe limits on any public road. The styling, in my biased opinion, is an outstanding tribute to its mission, and good enough to place it in the rarified company of the 916 and such.

    Compared to the BMW, the R1 is a whole new world. First, the level of mechanical precision and directness expressed by the R1 is worlds beyond the GS. The R1 feels carved from billet, as though the entire motorcycle were of a single piece. By contrast, the GS feels like a collection of spare parts flying in loose formation.

    [​IMG]

    In addition, the BMW lets its few horses come out of the barn grudgingly. True, the bike makes useful torque that allows it to get down a twisty road as fast as most anything in creation, but the motor doesn’t seem happy about it. Whenever more than 5k revs appear on the clock, you can hear it yelling, with a distinct german accent, to knock off the horseplay... Capable though it may be, playful it is not.

    By contrast, the R1 has many horsepower, and like stallions cooped up through a storm, they can’t wait to go for a run. They are released with amazing smoothness- the throttle feels like a rheostat where one simply dials up the amount of eyeball flattening they would prefer. A twist of the wrist sees the digital speedometer increase so quickly that only every 7th or 8th number is marginally recognizable.

    [​IMG]

    What makes the R1 a neat bike to ride is the feeling that there is always more. More power, first and foremost, but also more handling and more braking and more everything. It feels so utterly capable, so calm and composed and unstressed at whatever I happen to be doing at the time. It feels, for lack of a better way to express it, like being at the head of an arrow, an arrow with incredibly precise controls.

    If I am going to own this thing for long, my resolve to ride it differently than any other motorcycle must hold true.

    On the BMW, and certainly on the dirtbikes, I ride as hard as I know how, which is not to say I abuse them or take undue risk, but that I push for what they have to offer a rider of my skill. I look at the world as a physics problem, wondering how fast I can approach each corner, and how late I can brake, and how near the limits of clearance and adhesion I can circle.

    I cannot take this approach on the R1, or it will certainly end in tears. The throttle cannot be to the stop on straightaways or the county jail will be my home for a night sometime soon. I can’t use the brakes for all they are worth, or I will wind up with a Buick hood in place of my rear wheel. Instead, I have to savor the feeling of that deep well of capability that is the R1. I can explore it on the track, but almost nowhere else.

    In the past, I’ve argued that using most of what a bike has to offer is an advantage. It’s better to ride a slow bike fast than the reverse, I would say. And some days, I still think that’s right. But other days, it’s fun to ride a MotoGP bike to work, even if I just wobble around slowly on it.

    [​IMG]


    I leave this tribute with a final thought. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, motorcycle purchase are not rational decisions. So, if you’re going to be rash, you may as well get what makes your heart tick most.

    If you haven’t ridden a liter bike, but have always wanted to, all I can say is don’t die wondering.
    #1
  2. HarveyMushman

    HarveyMushman Long timer

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    Very, very well said. I've never ridden such a bike but I've often wondered what one would be like. Your able description is in line with what I've suspected. Thanks, and enjoy. :thumb
    #2
  3. kirkmoon

    kirkmoon Making up for lost youth

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    Cool Ned. Nice reverie.

    Just be careful. :thumb
    #3
  4. Thinc2

    Thinc2 Paciugo

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    Man, the quality of writing on this forum is unbelievable!

    So Neduro, what''s the answer - have you matured enough to suppress your inner squid?
    (Have any of us? Will we ever? I hope not :)
    #4
  5. Drif10

    Drif10 Accredited Jackass

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    Excellent story, Ned. You did a damn fine job of capturing the feelings, and communicating them thru words. Well done. :thumb

    I've ridden the R1, GSXR's, even an RC45 (talk about a narrowly focused bike), but I've always had a spot in my heart for middleweights. The combination, for me, is always about balance. The balance of weight, power, maneuverability, and giggle factor is so intrinisic to what makes for a fun bike. The big bore bikes have the Holy Fuck factor, but because it's so much, it makes me nervous, and the rides on the liter bikes leave me unfulfilled.

    A CBR 600, or an R6, really get my blood flowing. Turn and burn, stuff it into a corner, and rail around the corners. I guess my riding roots are at the heart of this. Everyone was racing PE 250's and IT 250's, well, I was on an XR200R. Got into road bikes, best friend was on a GS 750 then an 85 GSXR 750, my scoot was an RD 350. Roadracing, there I was on a production CBR600F2, running in Unlimited GP with the big bikes. And having a total blast the whole time. Didn't always win, but be damned if I didn't finish in the top 5 time after time, giggling like school girl in my helmet. Playing David just suited me.

    So whenever I get on a different bike, my view is colored by my time on the small bikes, and I assess the bike based on it's giggle factor. The R1 has it, but it's little brother does more for me. And my RD even more so. On the roads around here, I took on a ZX10 about 3 weeks ago. On a nice twisty road, of course. Me and my 22 year old bike left him behind.

    It's a good time to be riding, isn't it? :ricky
    #5
  6. neduro

    neduro Addict

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    Ever seen the magnet that reads something like "dear lord, so far today I have not sinned. I have not thought ill of anyone, I have been tolerant of idiots and not coveted my neighbor's wife. But in a few minutes, lord, I'm going to get out of this bed and start my day and from then on I'm going to need some forgiveness."

    So far, I've been good. Does that answer your question?

    The 600's are really gutless at elevation when they aren't on the cam. Ruins the balance. A 130 hp R1 turns into a 100 hp R6 up here... but one that has more torque.

    Or that's my excuse, anyway. As for the Zed-ex and your RD, I suspect the software has more to do with that than the hardware, if you get my meaning.

    It is, indeed, a good time to be riding.
    #6
  7. Drif10

    Drif10 Accredited Jackass

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    Interesting point, hadn't considered that detail, as I live at about 500 ASL. You're at what, 5k?

    As for the zed, some of that is possible, but I've always found the big bikes more difficult to ride quickly, because they can get you into trouble so much faster than you can ride your way out of.

    Giggle bike I wanna ride: Lisa's Duke. On some of her local roads. Would have to buy her new tires when I was done, though...:ricky
    #7
  8. Sidewinder

    Sidewinder Adventurer

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    The quality of the writers and speakers,yes speakers,on this very special forum are much above the normal trivial noise that radiates from most sites. I mentioned speakers, when the writer of a piece seems to be talking directly to you as you read then he truly is a speaker.
    thank You


    Sidewinder
    #8
  9. 309

    309 Special Purpose

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    Ever done any track riding? Got a set of leathers?

    That thing should be enjoyed in it's natural environment.....
    #9
  10. nomiles

    nomiles Sledge-o-matic

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    Great read... Thank you :thumb
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  11. neduro

    neduro Addict

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    Yes and Yes and it will be, and soon.
    #11
  12. Jim Bud

    Jim Bud Long timer

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    You make me want one, and I'm really too old, and I can get in enough trouble with a 600 # machine, and I'm too poor, and boy you make me want one.....

    thnaks,

    jim bud
    #12
  13. motozilla

    motozilla Long timer

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    I miss it already but I'm glad you have it, Ned. Reading your story let me know that it went to a good home and that you'll appreciate it in the way it was meant to be appreciated. :thumb
    #13
  14. spagthorpe

    spagthorpe Long timer

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    :cry I miss my 98 R1. It was probably the best bike I ever owned. I'm really not sure why I sold it. It was a good five years though. Lots of track time, lots of back roads. I wish I could find a woman as loyal. I'll always remember that bike.
    #14
  15. Jean-Luc

    Jean-Luc Throttle committed

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    Great writing Ned :nod Really loved the description of your feelings since I can relate to many of them...

    The R1 is one of the only sportbikes I really tried and I remember going back after the R1 ride to my V-Strom that I considered quite "precise": suddenly the front appeared completely loose, almost scary :huh Thankfully the engine (usually perceived as great) was lymphatic enough to be on par :evil
    #15
  16. (sp?)

    (sp?) flaming ahole ;)

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    the R1 made my short list back in 99. it was the lure of an exotic italian v-twin that finally stole my heart though.

    I changed her oil recently and put Stabil in her tank today. Riding season for sportbikes is pretty much over in the Pacific NorthWet.

    dammit!
    #16
  17. YakSpout

    YakSpout Obstacle Allusion Supporter

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    Ned, I couldn't have put any better myself. Thanks for your words.

    Some may wonder about sportbike posts on an A denture riding site, but I think my 6-mile commute to downtown LA is enough adventure for anyone to take on a daily basis. I brave clueless drivers (I swear that riding through K-town will be the death of me), potholes that could swallow a tank, inclement weather (just kidding, I live in SoCal :rofl ), school kids jaywalking and nearly-invisible homeless guys pushing shopping carts across the street in the dark.

    While I'm doing all that, I not only have to reign in 135 ponies, but I have to keep convincing myself that even want to. The local constabulary frown on displays of one-wheeled prowess.

    But when I can find the time each week to escape the inner-city madness and play in the hills, it's all worth it. :nod Long, snakey stretches of champagne asphalt with nary a car in sight. Climbing above the fog and breaking into blinding, flat light before most of the city has wiped the dreams from the corners of its eyes. A burger joint that saw better days before the Interstate was paved 25 miles to the east serving up a $5.00 lunch special. An ice-cold beer when I've returned the beast to its stable. They own me 5 days a week, but for forty-eight glorious hours, I'm doing it my way.
    #17
  18. docgonzo

    docgonzo Old Gadfly

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    Ned, there is NOTHING like riding one of these liter bikes if you love motorcycles. They are totally too fast, totally dangerous, totally overkill for the street, and even the track, for mear mortals. But Oh so sweet!

    I've had a 2000 Honda 929 since the bike first became available. The Honda equivalent to the R1. 25,000 miles of street, including a VERY memorable trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway on a Sunday morning before anyone else was awake.

    The bike was like dating a supermodel. Way over my head, and frightening, but worth the experience. I finally came to the conclusion that it was too fast for the street, and I stripped it down for track only. Here's a photo of the bike in it's Rossi Replica Sharkskin bodywork at VIR:
    [​IMG]

    After you have perfected the wheelies, and figured out that your license can't take the bike on the street, make it into a track day bike only. It will be too fast for that venue as well, but at least you will be safer.
    #18
  19. AntWare

    AntWare Lost In Translation

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    Man And Machine...great story Ned.

    There's nothing like a little one on one time to help you reflect on what makes you happy. I often sit and wonder if everybody has a hobby or a passion that gives them as much enjoyment as riding has given me, or maybe I just got lucky at an early age and found what many spend years searching for...I feel sorry for people that don't ride :(:

    I've been in turmoil for a while over selling a bike or two, I can't ride 'em as much as they deserve. Every few weeks or so I'll talk myself into selling the R1, so I dust her off, check fluids and tyre pressure and take her for one last spin...then fall in love with her all over again.

    [​IMG]


    Enjoy your new toy mate :thumb
    #19
  20. oio

    oio Been here awhile

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    Great piece of wordsmithing and nice bike.

    Riding a sportbike can be an adventure, too. Maybe a little different from an off-road motorcycle adventure, but adventures come in many different forms – climbing a steep line on a 6,000 meter peak in Peru or betting it all in a poker game in Las Vegas.

    Adventures have their risks and rewards. Real adventure requires stepping outside the comfortable boxes we build around ourselves and acquiring the skills to control those risks.

    Welcome back to the world of sportbikes.

    101 on 95 in Utah

    [​IMG]
    #20