Day 1: Packing and We’re Off [COTA Trip Part 2]

Part 1

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Part 2: I ALWAYS pack light. When I travel for work, my week-long bag fits under the seat in front of me on the plane. I abhor lugging a ton of crap with me while travel especially when I’m travel to a location that I can pick up necessities close by. So for this trip, it was unusual to have two saddlebags, a tail bag, and a tank bag to fill up with all my stuff. I decided to make a list a couple days out from departure date so I could check things off of it as I acquired or packed them. The list looked like this:

MotoGear:
-Jacket
-AStars Gloves
-Possible waterproof Gloves?
-Boots
-Helmet
-Helmet Visors: clear and Smoke
-Tank Bag
-Tail Bag
-Saddle Bag
-Ram Mount
-Waterproof Box
-Earplugs
-Rain Suit
Electronics:
-Phone
-External Battery
-Sena SMH-10
-Drift
-Canon Camera
-Sony Mic
-Headphones
-Phone Charger
-Phone Cable
Clothes:
+1 Jeans
+1 Shorts
+6 Daily items(socks, boxers, etc)
Misc:
-GP Tickets
-Sunglasses
-ZipTies
-Leatherman Tool
-Mini Compressor
-Chain wax
-Chain cleaner
-Bug cleaner
-Microfiber
-Printed Directions
-Cash
-Gorilla Tape
-Huggies baby wipes
-Paracord?
-Bungie net
-Air/Pressure Gauge
-Kickstand Puck
As you can tell its a fairly good starting point for any long trip on a motorcycle. If I were to fault this list at all, it would be on the lack of true maintenance items, such as extra wrenches and flashlights, but all in all, my list worked out well for me. Feel free to leave a comment below about how you would alter my list.
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I didn’t pre-pack all of the items into my bags like I should have. Instead, I tossed everything, included the bags, into the back seat of my truck and took off for Indianapolis. After buying the last minute items I mentioned in my previous post, I feared I had too much stuff to fit into my bags – quite the opposite. I was able to fit all of the listed items in the bags without using any of the optional expanding zippers. I figured out how to strap the tail bag and saddle bags to the rear pegs, attached the magnetic tank bag to the bike and started it up.
Just as we started warming the bikes up, we received a light drizzle as a sign of things to come. The maintenance staff from the apartment building I was leaving chatted with us a bit. He was shocked that we were out riding in the rain, but even more interested that our final destination was 1100 miles away in less than optimal weather. Any with a simply, “Good Luck guys!” we were off!
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To say day one of the trip was boring would be an understatement. We had clear skies for a fleeting second as we rounded Bloomington, IN with an open stretch of the newly opened Highway 69. We made some excellent time as we headed south for Evansville, IN – our destination for lunch. After our pit stop for some food and gas, we were in our second state, Kentucky. It was in Kentucky that I realized two things; 1. This was going to be a long ride having to stop every ~110 miles for gas in my bike and 2. Kentucky drivers still suck. Getting off the bridge at the beginning of Kentucky, a driver in the right lane decided to stop on the highway (reduced speed to 50 mph) and make a u-turn across the 3 other lanes. A quick and decisive action later and we were in the clear, but this was not how I wanted to start our mid-afternoon stretch of the trip. Thankfully, it was pretty smooth sailing from there on out.
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We made our way through Tennessee fairly quickly and jumped into Arkansas to make our way around Memphis. Day one was ending with around 550 miles on the clock in the small city of Forrest City, AR. We grabbed a hotel room, ordered pizza and unloaded the bikes. A group of three to four Harley’s were out front of the hotel and chatted with F4iGuy about their three weeks of travel across the Midwest. They were averaging 200-300 miles per day and planned to be out on the road for the better part of a month seeing the great USA. After waiting for our Pizza for over an hour, calling the store to figure out they just didn’t make our pizza nor care to make our pizza (thanks Pizza-hut!), we grabbed some food in the hotel convenience store and called it a day.
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2500 Mile Trip to Austin MotoGP: Part 1

TripMap

2500 miles. This seems like a tall order for 4 total days of riding. The most miles that I have done in one day has been 500 so this trip would be pushing the bar for the most miles traveled during one day, one trip, AND one round trip. Despite the miles, I was determined to make this mototrip IMG_4589happen. I had come up with the idea to make the ride from Indianapolis to Austin after a few too many beers with my riding buddy, Jonathan. We have taken trips with another friend of ours to North Carolina/Tennessee many times, as well as attended the Indianapolis Motogp, but we had yet to take a long distance trip. I decided that we should attempt the long ride and along the way, scratch off the saddle sore 1000 off my bucket list. This trip was decided over a few beers, but word spread pretty quick about the undertaking, and I was given the chance to test out some sport bike specific saddle bags, tail bag, and tank bag from the company I work for. While I work in the Marine segment of the company, we are rather closely linked to our motorsports division, so they reached out to me to test the luggage on my long distance ride of a sport touring bike, the FZ-1.

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Pre-Trip Planning. ha. I would like to report that I lined up my items that I was taking with me days ahead of time, test fit my luggage on the bike a few times, mapped out and planned the routes we would take while printing said predetermined routed, and securely packed my personal firearm and ammunition away safety in accordance with Federal law. The truth behind this was that I spent the few weeks before the trip fixing the FZ-1 making it road worthy. The time and effort spent on the FZ-1 would be a post in itself, but the TL;DR version is that the thermostat was no longer keeping a tight seal causing the bike to leak coolant at intermittent times. After replacing hosing, clamps, and the entire theromstat, I was 80% positive that the bike was roadworthy. I had the original thermostat from the bike JB-welded together in case the replacement didn’t arrive in time, but the replacement off of ebay arrive the weekend before I left on the trip. During this time, I tossed a new Michelin Pilot Power 3 rear tire on the bike as well as purchased a RAM mount for my iPhone 5 for the handle bars. The phone mount, luggage, and attempt to fix my coolant leak combined with the addition of an external battery, meant that I was ready to hit the open road.

IMG_4586Trailering the bike? I made the decision to trailer the bike from Ft. Wayne to Indianapolis (120 miles) to start the trip. the decision to trailer was mainly based on my return trip after we had completed a saddle sore 1000, of which, I would most likely abhor the finial 120 miles home after my riding buddy reached his final destination. I will say that I got many questions about trailering the bike a total of 240 miles when I was already planning on riding a total distance of >2200 miles. I will say that I am absolutely certain about my decision to start and end my trip with trailering the bike. I left work as early as I could and loaded up the bike as quickly as possible to hit the open road. I was actually rushing down to Indianapolis in order to make it to Cycle Gear before they closed. I had a few last minute items that I wanted to pick up, of which, was a set of waterproof gloves, and some form of textile or mesh pants. I ended up finding both items that I needed with time to spare.

[CONTINUED]
Day 1: Packing and We’re Off

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2002 Honda CBR F4i: Review

This is the fourth post in a series about the motorcycles I have owned.

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Before and After

The F4i was my first bike purchase that I didn’t actually see myself riding. At the time, I still had the TL1000R and the Kawasaki zx-6r so the F4i would have been my second inline 4 added to the garage. On paper, the zx-6r was lighter with more horsepower. The zx-6r was also better looking, in better condition, and an overall better quality bike. So why did I purchase the F4i? The conditions were just right.

At the time of the purchase, my wife (girl friend at that time) had taken an interest in learning to ride. The F4i was lowered two inches for the previous owner and I knew the zx-6r would put my wife on her tip toes. The thought was that she could learn on the F4i and I wouldn’t be too worried about the Kawi taking a parking lot tumble. The other main reason I wanted to pick up the Honda was because I knew the owner from Youtube. I met him and his wife when we went to the Indy Motorcycle Expo. We kept in touch and for a variety of reasons, he needed to sell the bike. He was trying to sell it with a broken radiator which did not allow the bike to run for very long for the potential buyers. This made it pretty difficult for him to find a buyer because very few people will pick up a used bike with 12k miles without hearing it run. I knew he was asking around $3k for it, but more importantly I knew what I wanted to spend on it. I sent him a message that said something to the effect of “hey I hope you can sell the bike for what you are asking. I saw you lowered the price on it already once, but let me know if you can’t find a buyer. I’d be willing to give you $2100 and go out to that burrito joint for the bike as it sits today.”

What I didn’t realize was how badly he wanted to get rid of the bike. I got a message about 4 days later saying that a few people came to check it out, but no one made the purchase, or had the cash. He told me if I wanted to pick it up for the $2100 + dinner it was all mine. I hopped in my truck, picked a buddy up, and made the hour trip to go pick it up. I felt bad that I was unable to grab dinner due to a time constraint of having work early in the AM, so I settled on buying the F4i for $2200. This was a fair price for a bike that I couldn’t test ride, needed some work, and was in a worse shape than I originally thought.

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I knew the tank had a pretty good sized dent in it from an accident, but I didn’t realize the tires were about shot, and the rear shock was ultra soft. The photo above shows the original condition of the chain and sprocket vs. what the exact same chain and sprocket looked like after a little scrubbing. The first thing I did was order a new radiator off of Ebay. Upon taking the bike apart, I realized the crack in the radiator happened when the front suspension was bottomed out hitting the curb of his driveway and force the aftermarket Nautilus horn right into the radiator. The front fender had a hole the size of a post-it note from the incident as well. The next step was to sand down the tank and bondo the small dent that couldn’t be popped out. This process was a much longer undertaking than I expected.

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I had a ride planned from Indianapolis down to Louisville for a charity ride and was up against the clock. Ultimately I decided not to attempt the tank painting and then put 500 miles on it the next weekend so I opted for the plastic dip as a temporary solution. I sprayed the tank, put a new set of Pilot Powers on, flushed all fluids, changed the oil/filter, and took off down towards Louisville. I decided to take the F4i instead of the zx-6r to stretch its legs a bit and put it through its paces before my girlfriend rode it. 500 miles later and it was still in one piece.

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That summer I alternated riding the F4i and the zx-6r around town and down through southern Indiana. I loved the more upright position of the F4i, and the deep undertone of the exhaust that the Honda I-4’s are well known for. This particular example of the F4i was in much need of some proper suspension. The lowering of the bike by 2 inches through the use of a modified dog-bone wasn’t helping its case either, nor the 1.75 inches the forks were moved up in the triple clamps. The bike was noticeably slower in a straight line than the 636, but by no means would I call it a slow 600. It required a few small maintenance items that summer, including a new cam chain tensioner, which are known to weaken on these Honda’s over time, but nothing major.

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At the end of the summer, I ultimately would have liked to keep the bike for some touring purposes. At the time however, my girlfriend told me that she didn’t want to ride a sportbike, but wanted a more upright and standard bike to learn on. This was some good, sound logic that I had to agree with so I listed it for sale. I had around $2850 wrapped up in the bike and ultimately sold it for $3200. The owner I bought it from would have liked to buy the bike back from me on a payment plan, but I had just purchased an engagement ring at the time and needed to build the ol’ savings account back up for my piece of mind.

My wife learning to ride
My wife learning to ride

Pros: This bike just felt light. On paper, it was heavier than my Ninja, but while riding, it wanted to hit the twisites. Comfort was also it’s middle name. I remember putting 300 miles or so in a day full of spirited riding. The longest I put on this bike was the first trip i mentioned earlier to Louisville, KY from Indianapolis, IN and back. Another benefit is that these are commonly used for stunt bikes so the stock OEM parts can be picked up pretty cheap. The F4i is also a decent chunk of change below the 600rr market value, around $500-1K less in my area. I also like the metal tank on the F4i as opposed to the plastic covers on the 600rr because this allows the use of a magnetic tank bag much easier for commuting or touring.

Cons: These are notorious for the cam chain tensioners going bad. If you go a quick google search, its a VERY common thing for the cct to go bad and then be replaced with a manual cct. The problem I had with this is the area where the cct gets installed on the F4i is tucked right inside the frame and very difficult for those with large hands to get to it without dropping the motor. My example of the F4i also needed a serious rear shock upgrade. I have been on a later model F4i, an 06, and that example had a much nicer, tighter setup so I think it was unique to my bike having some terrible suspension and being setup way too loose.

Overall: 7.5/10. The performance of this bike was down from my 636, but what it lacked in raw power band goodness, it more than made up for in comfort on the road. I was choosing to ride this 2:1 over the Kawasaki for the specific reason of comfort along with the increased capacity of the cargo compartment. I tend to recommend this bike a lot of times to people who have a little bit of experience and want to dabble in the super sports, while remaining comfortable enough to ride all day. I miss my Honda.

Who I Am, and Why I’m Here

I decided to enroll in the WordPress course called Blogging101 as a way to improve my simple, newly established blog. The topic for today is ‘who I am and why I’m here.’

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2012 – US129

 

In short, I am Connor and I am here to share my catalog of experiences on two wheels.

I am a Design Engineer by trade, a Purdue Boilermaker by merit, and a husband by request, err choice. After completing my bachelor degree from Purdue, I moved away from my hometown with the desire to never move back. This choice was not because I disliked my hometown, but rather my desire to experience new places. After more than two years away, and my wedding later, I was coerced to move back by both my bride and a desire to work in the Powersports industry.

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Friend on his R6 at Grattan – Not me

This blog was created as an outlet for me to post the things I am passionate about – motorcycles. I tend to take a decent amount of motorcycle trips each year and wanted a place to catalog the information. This year – 2015 – I have also committed to doing at least one track day. This has been a dream of mine ever since I first attended a sportbike track time event with a friend back in college. We drove up to Grattan Raceway over one weekend and I watched the various levels of motorcyclists riding to, and sometimes past, their limits. I saw how much people were enjoying their time and knew this was a must for me. So I will use this blog to track my progress to race-readiness as well as include my journeys around the map on two wheels. I have had a side hobby, if you can call it that, of recording my rides, talking to myself during these rides, and tossing the footage up on Youtube. This started as a very small community using any sort of camera that would crush into your helmet, not obstruct your view, and not have buttons pressed by your nose. With the advances in action cameras, many people have picked this hobby up so I like to think it makes me look less weird than originally.. right?

Anyways, come join me on my journey on two!

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Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/c90FTW

Instagram: https://instagram.com/c90ftw/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/c90ftw

Circuit of the America’s MotoGP Trip 2015

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https://instagram.com/c90ftw/

The trip to  Austin, Texas in April is coming together. Our first day will be a stretch of 570 miles to Little Rock, AR. Day two will then be 520 miles as we enter Austin. We went ahead and made the decision to split the trip up on the way to Austin. The return trip will be our first attempt at a SaddleSore 1000. As I am gearing up mentally and – well, with motorcycle gear itself – it’s pretty exciting to be revisiting Texas. I have only been able to travel through Texas once and it was for a short two day stint while I was on a job interview. My hope is that the thoughts of warm weather from Texas will keep us comfortable enough through the colder northern states. The average-high temperatures for this time of year in Indianapolis are typically around 50F. Austin on the other hand has average-high temperatures right around 80F.

I’m hoping the downtown Austin scene will be reminiscent of the Indy MotoGP downtown night life. I have heard great things from /motogp talking about the events so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If there are any suggestions from people who have been there before, I’m all ears.

I still need to grab a new rear tire on the FZ1 before I set off. Some annual maintenance will also need to happen, but its just some ordinary fluids and such. I should be pretty much set for gear, but I’m tossing around the idea of getting a new set of gloves and the Sena SMH10. I have used this set previously from the other rider who is joining me, but its about time for me to grab a dual pack of my own for future rides with my wife. Other than those few items, I should be ready to roll out. I’ll have an update post later on before I leave with a pack list so keep the reader open for that to hit.

2001 Suzuki TL1000r

This is the third post in a series about the motorcycles I have owned.

2001 Suzuki TL1000r
2001 Suzuki TL1000r

The TL1000r, commonly referred to as the TLR, was the third bike I have owned. I purchased this bike while I still had the Kawasaki 636 to ride around. Because I owned another bike that ran, I decided to pick up a bike that would need some work at a great price. The bike had a decent amount of go fast parts and looked to be in great shape cosmetically, so I went for it. I was able to get a great price on it because the previous owner had zero mechanical skills, had no idea what was wrong with it, and needed money asap. This is the first bike that I review which is still in my garage today. 20121104221936628

I purchased the TLR with a known problem. There was a significant clicking/knocking in the motor. I tore the bike down and tried to chase the problem. While the bike was apart, a member  on the forums that I was on happened to be selling a ‘running’ motor. I weighed out the pros and cons of picking up another motor and decided to bite the bullet and purchase the second motor. It set me back $400 but I also received another fuel pump, fuel pump boot, and coolant overflow reservoir. All in all, it was a much better deal than the motors on ebay going for 800+ plus shipping. I dropped the old motor and installed the new motor. I replaced the plug wires and ran some hotter coils from the SV1000. I also took the time to do a popular airbox mod from the forums. After doing this, it was ready to ride – or so I thought anyways.

2001 Suzuki TL1000r
2001 Suzuki TL1000r

I ended up having problem after problem with the motor and electrical system. I replaced seals, gaskets, and connectors. I chased gremlins that would appear and disappear with no rhyme or reason. I also had the coolant freeze and blow out 3 out of 4 freeze plugs on the top end. After a couple friends help, and countless beers later, the mighty twin fired up. I was able to take it for about a mile ride down the road to prove out that it was running. Shortly after, I ended up moving to another place and winter had set in so no more riding happened that season. The following season, the TLR proved to be very cold blooded and stubborn. Still to this day I have been back on it only two more times for short rides to help with the tune. Ultimately, I have chosen to spend my time riding other bikes I have owned rather than spending my time trying to fix and tune the TLR. As I said previously, I still hold on to this bike, the extra motor, and the various parts removed and replaced over the years. A part of me really wants to make this bike special and turn it into a custom weekend cruiser. There is just something special about the early days of a V-Twin powered, fuel injected, torque monster super bike.

2001 Suzuki TL1000r
2001 Suzuki TL1000r

My Pros and Cons section will be short due to the minimal distance I have ridden the TLR out on the open road

Pros: V-Twin, Torque-monster! The sound this bike makes is incredible. A large user base of people who support these bikes and continue to ride and maintain them despite their age (last TLR was made in 2003.)

Cons: Heavy compared to a modern sport bike. Styling is dated. VERY cold blooded. Odd location of battery makes the plastics have a weird cut-out. Tries too hard to look like a baby Hayabusa.

Overall: 5/10/ My rating on this bike is mainly due to the amount of time all the repairs took. It’s not reflecting the overall rating of how this bike SHOULD perform, but rather, how this bike DID perform while I’ve owned it. In all honestey, I believe this bike to be capable of 8’s or higher if I had purchased a well running, good example of a TLR.

2006 Kawasaki ZX-6R

This is the second post in a series about the motorcycles I have owned and my review on each.

2006 Kawasaki ZX-6R
2006 Kawasaki ZX-6R

The Kawasaki 636 was my second motorcycle. I had decided that I wanted to get into the inline-4 world of bikes after test riding a friend’s CBR 600rr. I was still new to the motorcycle world, and honestly a bit naive, but my search was to find a 600cc inline-4 that could keep up with my friends. I was ready to graduate college and had many riding friends through school, but I felt I needed a fast bike. Come to find out, I just needed to learn to ride better, but that’s a whole new story on its own. So I had a very open search parameter for my next bike and I was determined to choose a bike that felt good, looked good, and didn’t have many miles. I had $4k burning a hole in my pocket from the sale of the SV and my summer jobs. After a week of searching and checking out a few local bikes, I saw a Plasma Blue 636cc for sale about 120 miles away. Ironically, it was less than 2 miles from my parents house so I jumped in a friends truck and took off.

Pros: This bike was fast. It was way more aerodynamic than the SV I owned. The Kawasaki was also categorized as a true sports bike so I didn’t have a weird time trying to describe the type of bike I rode. The stock suspension was adjustable and fully capable to handle a novice rider like myself. I was also able to ride with a passenger with much less of a strain on the bike. Parts for this bike seem to be ewverywhere, not as available as the SV, but still available. Lots of stunt riders have chosen the 636 as their platform of choice, so many stock pieces can be found on the forums from people converting their bikes over. The brakes were nice and tight throughout my ownership as well. Aside from normal wear and tear items such as tires, oil, gas, a battery, brakes, brake pads, coolant, and a mirror, the Kawi performed flawlessly. It was truly a capable bike that performed (and felt) as a true sport bike.

Kawasaki ZX-6R in Robbinsville, NC
Kawasaki ZX-6R in Robbinsville, NC

Cons: The battery. Hands down, the most ridiculous place to ever have to service a battery. I understand that the battery placement was chosen by the design team to move the weigh of the battery as far forward as possible for racing, but no one wants to remove the seat, fairings, and a gas tank to get to the battery. The stock exhaust is one of the tamest sounding bikes on idle and through about 7k rpm. I ultimately kept my stock exhaust on the bike, but I will say that it was hard to hear when riding with a buddy. Insurance. As I said previously, this bike was listed as a sport bike and as such, the insurance was sky high for a 23 year old. I wont say the Kawi was the most comfortable bike, but it did have a few ergonomic challenges that I would list as a con. Its a sport bike so I knew what I was getting into, but 400 mile days were brutal. Ninja. Technically this is the staple bike for Kawasaki, but I hate the brand recognition of ‘Ninja’.

Kawasaki ZX-6R
Kawasaki ZX-6R on my trip to US129 – Tail of the Dragon

Overall: 7.5/10. I really loved this bike. it was a bike that I felt one with while riding. I ultimately chose to sell it because of the ergonomics and lack of storage options. I have some soft bags that would go over the passenger seat, but there wasnt much for them to strap down to. The tank is half metal and half plastic (the airbox is up there) so it was hard to get a magnetic tank bag to stay put. Ultimately, I wish I could have kept this bike and then get a more touring capable machine at the same time. I kept this bike three seasons but only put 5k miles on it. As I begin my path to get on the track, I keep thinking that this would be an excellent bike to ride for multiple seasons on the track.

Youtube: First recorded ride on the ZX-6R: http://youtu.be/5AJHAJ0yWyY

Youtube: Tail of the Dragon Trip 2: http://youtu.be/O4IeuDzQ1pQ