Experience: 20+ years
Facebook: Brian Edwards
August 16, 2011
Bellingham and Back
One of Mary’s business associates (a German to English translator) is moving to Germany this summer for what could end up a being a long-term stint in the old world. I saw this as the perfect excuse for a nice long road trip to say Auf Wiedersehen. Mary would take Amtrak and I would take the Ninja and we’d all meet up in Bellingham for a 4-5 day vacation. Bellingham is about 300 miles north of Portland, about 100 miles past Seattle not far from the border to Canada.
It all came together this past weekend and worked out even better than planned. After arriving in Bellingham on Thursday night, we headed east with Hilary, James and their son Ronan and set up camp outside of the town of Winthrop. Turns out the town had burned down in 1890, but was rebuilt in 1893 to look like an old western town. I thought that 1893 was the Old West, but apparently I was mistaken.
Anyway, getting to Winthrop, situated in the Methow Valley along Highway 20, part of the renowned Cascade Loop Highway, was great fun on the Ninja 1000. The 170 mile or so route was incredibly scenic with smooth, twisty roads leading through alpine vistas of stunning glacier-covered peaks.
Near the highest passes, there are signs warning about strong winds and indeed it was windy. In the back of my mind, I was wondering if the wind might shove me around in the curves – nothing like getting blown down a 1,000-foot crevasse to put an end to the fun. But I didn’t need to worry. I could certainly feel gusts tugging at me, but the bike stayed perfectly planted banking through the bends – the faster the better it seemed.
The only bummer was all the construction work along Highway 20 and on some of the other back roads I explored during the trip. In the Pacific Northwest, summers are short and crews have to take advantage of the sunshine and lack of rain. I did take it easy through a 10 mile or so stretch where crews had sprayed some sort of fresh oil on the road. The word oil always makes me a bit nervous even though I didn’t notice any slippage.
For the ride back, Hilary pointed me to some back roads along the much-touted Chuckanut Drive and some great views of the San Juan Islands and the upper Washington coast. There were some twisty bits, but given the narrow road and many driveways and cross streets, I focused more on the view and enjoyed the pleasure of riding a motorcycle on a nice day as opposed to sitting at a desk. One could definitely get used to this.
After a stop in La Conner for coffee, it was off to battle Seattle traffic before turning off at Puyallup for a 50+ mile detour along the roads heading out toward Mt. Rainer. This only added about 10 miles total distance and avoided a lot of freeway miles. After sitting in traffic, I was amped for some spirited riding and indeed there were some very fun sections. And, of course, some construction delays.
Although the backroads are where the fun is – at least on a Ninja 1000 – there’s no way around a certainly amount of freeway around here. You either have to add a lot of extra miles, or slog through small towns, or both. I tried to find a decent compromise for the 900+ miles I logged over the last few days.
While the Ninja isn’t necessarily built for rolling down the interstate, you’ll be happy to learn that it does just fine on the open road. I just turned up the music and settled in with a group of cars going about 85 mph and thought about desk vs. Ninja. Very happy to be out riding.
A few images from the trip:
Fueling up before the long trip north.
Enjoying the scenic overlook at Diablo Lake in the North Cascades.
Glacier melt and silt makes the water in Diablo Lake greenish blue. Otherwise it would be crystal clear.
Ok, maybe not so much. These cops are literally stuffed, but hey, they slowed me down heading into Winthrop.
Ronan wanted to keep the Ninja. Who can blame him?
La Conner is certainly in a special location. The Washington and Oregon coasts in the summer are amazing, especially on a motorcycle.
August 4, 2011
With the odometer fast approaching the 2,000 mile mark, I’ve noticed a change in my relationship with the Ninja 1000. Namely, I am starting to be more comfortable and confident on the bike. It’s like we’ve settled into a routine where I’m one with the machine. Jumping on the bike to run down to the gym or run errands around town feels completely normal.
But where I really feel the difference is on more spirited rides. I’ve been doing a weekly Wednesday ride that often includes a number of pretty fast riders, led by Rob Blaque on his ZX10R. The first few rides, I felt that I was just hanging on by a fingernail. Now, as I log more seat time, I’m starting to feel like I can push it through the corners a bit harder. We’re still a ways from true knee-dragger pace, but not dogging it either.
One of the best feelings in motorcycling has to be the rush of leaning way over in a corner right through the apex and then getting hit with some strong g-forces as you nail the throttle coming out of the turn with the back end gradually pushing to the outside. Bonus points if the front end comes up a bit. Following right behind guys on ZX10s, Ducatis or even an Aprilla RSV4, the Ninja 1000 holds its own in terms of braking, cornering and acceleration prowess. I’m sure these guys would walk away if they really pushed the pace, but for most fast group rides the Ninja is a capable machine.
Some of the roads we ride, such as Logie Trail in the vid below, feature some tight bumpy corners. Here the Ninja’s compliant suspension and precise steering are valuable assets. Given all my dirt biking and dual-sport experience, I’m most at home in the slower and tighter roads. That said, as I’ve logged more miles, I’m starting to feel more confident in the fast sweepers as well.
The versatility of the Ninja 1000 is impressive and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I feel so comfortable on it in a wide variety of situations.
For all you motorcycle riders and music enthusiasts out there, I put together a playlist of some motorcycle tunes using the new (to the US) Spotify service which has some handy sharing features. If you have some killer playlists for motorcycling, send them my way and I’ll add them to my Droid. I’m planning a 600+ mile ride to Bellingham, Wash. and surrounding areas next weekend, so I’ll need them!
August 1, 2011
The Art of the Motorcycle
When Mary and I sat down to plan our various summer activities, one of the must-see trips on the list was a visit to the Thunder at CAM exhibit showcasing some exquisite examples of rolling motorcycle art. Even better, the exhibit was only running for two week at the Coos Art Museum in the little town of Coos Bay along the southern Oregon coast.
We had originally planned to go the weekend of July 16-17, but rainy weather and some conflicts led us to the push the adventure out a week. Turns out the exhibit closed on July 23 sharp at 4 p.m. We had our marching orders. The ONLY way to go see a motorcycle art exhibit is via motorcycle. No other form of transportation allowed.
Since the Ninja 1000 – at least in its current form – lacks touring accoutrements such as saddle bags or a tail trunk, the plan was to pack really light and stuff everything we needed in my touring jacket and a light backpack, the key ingredient being our debit cards.
On the appointed day, we motored out of Portland about 8 a.m., having plotted out a route that would include lots of costal vistas. After about an hour, we pulled off into the town of McMinnville, famous for the Evergreen air museum that includes Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. Even better, was the discovery of a breakfast and lunch spot called the Crescent Café. If there were a way to give a six star rating on Yelp, this place deserves it. One of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had.
Off to a great start. The weather gods were in our favor this day. The skies were blue and the temperature perfect, making for a lovely 225 mile or so ride past resorts, wind-swept dunes and charming beach towns. There were plenty of vistas along the way, and a motorcycle is clearly the best way to take it all in. There is a huge difference between a car and motorcycle for rides like this. And while bicycling seems nice – there were plenty of bicyclists touring the Oregon Coast Highway — the constant traffic would be a downer.
Since we were two up, I kept the pace moderate, only tapping the Ninja’s bountiful power to zip past egregiously slow motor homes and campers from time to time. And besides, what’s the rush? Oh yeah, the museum closes at 4 p.m. Hustling down the highway, we started to notice some hotspots on our bottom ends. Shifting around helped some, but we probably needed to pack a pair of padded bike shorts for this one.
While the seat of the Ninja is comfy for two to three hours, it is a bit firm for longer trips. Were this bike to stay parked in my garage, I might consider a softer seat for touring, and keep the stiffer seat for canyon and in-town riding where it’s perfect. In all other respects, the Ninja performed admirably as a touring rig. It has plenty of power and stays perfectly planted even with a heavy dose of cross winds from time to time. The adjustable windshield is a handy addition, and there are no worries about vibration. The bike is just smooth, and that’s a very good thing on the long and winding road. We were also most impressed with the gas mileage which was easily over 50 miles per gallon.
From a passenger perspective, the pillion proved to be comfortable enough for an hour or two at a stretch before needing a short break. Mary found that she could pull her tailbone in and use her legs to shift her weight around. At 5’ 3” she’s on the compact side; taller passengers may find it to be a tad more cramped.
Motoring into Coos Bay, at one point we ended up riding behind what turned out to be an older BMW R60 and what I assume was a new Indian made to look like a classic Indian twin – itself a rolling piece of art. Not surprisingly, this pair ended up in front of the Coos Art Museum and I managed to grab some shots of the Ninja 1000 (and Mary with her helmet hair and all) with the old bikes. As you can see in the photos below, it made for an interesting contrast.
As for the exhibit itself, it was definitely worth the trip. Not to be missed was the 1914 Cyclone, one of only three known to exist. The other two are in museums. I also tracked down the lone Kawasaki in the exhibit – a late 60s H1 Mach III, notable for being the quickest production motorcycle in its day. In this case, speed equals art. Oregon Live has a great write up on the exhibit if you want to learn more.
Following a sound night’s sleep, we noodled our way back into Portland, leisurely poking along the coast highway and stopping frequently. In all we logged some 450 miles. It turned out to be a great way to spend the day and the weekend – a warm breeze and a cool bike. Thank you CycleWorld and Kawasaki.
July 19, 2011
Lane Splitting in Oregon
I noticed that some of my fellow lucky devils with 2011 Ninja 1000s live in states that allow lane splitting – the practice of rolling carefully in the space between the lanes of slow-moving cars. As a Southern California native, I saved myself countless hours years ago slicing through traffic on my 1987 Ninja 750 like a Border Collie rounding up snails. Not once did I even have a serious close call.
Given my perspective as an experienced lane splitter, I was greatly disappointed to learn that lane splitting is illegal in Oregon. After living here for a while, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Interesting laws are part of what we do in Oregon. For example, our largest city’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Portland Weird.”
Sadly, I don’t think the no lane splitting law is going to change anytime soon. In talking to a few car drivers and even some motorcyclists, it appears that the general consensus is that people think lane splitting is dangerous and they can’t understand why it’s allowed in California. With its precise steering, instant throttle response, good ergos, excellent brakes and ample torque, the Ninja 1000 would certainly be the perfect tool for negotiating bottled up highways.
Unfortunately people are not looking at this issue from the perspective of the guy on the bike. From that perspective, sitting in traffic almost certainly involves more risk than lane splitting – for instance being rear ended while in a truck has a far different outcome than what happens if you get rear-ended on a motorcycle.
And the potential to get rear-ended is very real now that so many drivers are inclined to play with their smartphones while driving. It’s not just talking anymore. I actually saw a driver the other day playing Angry Birds (or some other game) while sitting in traffic. Needless to say, distracted driving is a serious problem. Lane splitting, especially on a supremely capable motorcycle like the Ninja 1000, keeps me away from all that. I can look ahead and easily take evasive action. Parked in traffic, my options are much more limited.
Hopefully the NTSA or some government or private group will do a real study and conclude that lane splitting is so great that it will lead to world peace and cure cancer. In the meantime, my only consolation in all this is that the traffic jams in Oregon are nothing like LA’s non-stop carmegedon.
July 5, 2011
July 4th Weekend – Thinking About Bikes
The Ninja 1000 spent the last weekend alone in the garage while Mary and I went canoeing and camping in the Cascade Lakes area of Oregon. We have a tradition of celebrating the 4th camping near a quiet little lake (it will go unnamed so it stays nice and quiet) and this year was no exception.
We also take our canoe out on some of the lakes in the area. This year we hit Clear Lake, Fish Lake and Suttle Lake. While Clear Lake is amazing – the water truly is clear – our favorite had to be Fish Lake. Interestingly, the lake dries up completely over the summer and turns into a meadow. Seems the lake is situated over lava rock and as soon as the snow melt is gone, the water simply drains off.
The stuff you find out.
Driving out to the lakes in our cage, as us motorcyclists often call our cars, trucks and vans, we noticed plenty of motorcycles along the many fun looking mountain roads. Interestingly, the vast majority seemed to be cruiser style bikes.
Over my motorcycling life, I have had the opportunity to ride many different styles of machines from virtual race bikes to full-on cruisers. Of all the bikes, the ones I liked the least were the cruisers – they make a lot of noise and vibrate a lot without generating much forward motion. Then, as Mary noted, the seating position does you no favor, putting all your weight plus the force of the wind on the small of your back. With the big floppy handlebars and the low footpegs, they can make about as much speed through corners as our minivan before wallowing and scrapping hard parts.
Maybe I’m missing something about the cruiser experience, but I just don’t get it. Why are these things popular? Especially when you can get a far more comfortable, versatile, faster and no doubt more reliable machine like a Ninja 1000 or a Z1000 for less money. The Ninja would leave any $15,000+ motor company product dead on the side of the road without even working up a sweat.
Yet, here were all these cruisers on the road. I think there must be some sort of mass hysteria that leads people to buy overpriced antiques just so they can look cool going slowly around corners. For my money, I’ll take function over form any day of the week.
June 29, 2011
Group Ride on Skyline
For some mid-week entertainment, I hooked with a regular fast-paced street ride that leaves every Wednesday from a nearby Starbucks. It’s posted up on the Pacific NW Riders forum (along with many other fun-sounding rides) and I figured it would be a great way to spend the evening and meet up with some local riders.
In this part of Oregon, summer usually doesn’t hit until AFTER July 4 weekend, and this year was no exception. As in the video below where we dust off an Audi S4 – who I don’t think was trying all that hard – we found some pavement along Skyline that was still semi-dry. But as you can see, by the end of segment the skies opened up and we decided to call it quits. One of the riders was in a perforated leather racing suit not exactly meant for rain.
Since I had on some warmer clothes, I circled back and logged another 45 minutes or so of riding before heading home for dinner. I was bit apprehensive about riding in a group, worried that I would either get in over my head or get dusted. The Ninja 1000 is just so confidence-inspiring and not to mention fast that I really had nothing to worry about. It ended up being a lot of fun. Can’t wait for next week and clear skies.
Part of the overall motorcycle ownership experience is what happens when you take your bike in for service. The same goes for any new vehicle – you expect the dealer to take care of you in a friendly and efficient way. It’s all about customer service.
Now if I were to buy an econobox, I would have different expectations than if I were to buy a Porsche or a BMW. For the econobox, it’s hey buddy, get in line. For the Porsche, I want teams of exceedingly efficient German guys waiting like the pit crew at LeMans to get my machine topped with fluids and ready to roll.
It’s been a while since I last owned a new anything, so I was bit curious to see what the experience would be like for the Ninja 1000’s 600 mile service.
I’m happy to report that at Beaverton Motorcycles at least it was more Porsche – as befitting the bike itself – than econobox. No waiting in line. I made an appointment at a convenient time. Once I sorted the paperwork with the service advisor, my bike was promptly wheeled back to the clean, well-appointed shop for service. No blarring rap music or dingy, grease-covered stalls going on here.
I then strolled across the street for some coffee and a yummy snack at Portland Bagels and checked up on email. Couple of hours later, the bike was waiting for me. Not only were the service chores completed, but the bike had received a much-needed bath. I like that.
Feeling good, I had to run over to dealer side and pick up some Kawi swag – added an all black rapper-style baseball cap to my look. It so black you can just barely see the “K” logo. My daughter says I must bend the brim down.
I’ve always been a Kawasaki rider – now more than ever.
June 19, 2011
A Perfect Father’s Day
For Father’s Day weekend I took my 450F dirt bike and the Ninja 1000 out to my friend Steve Pierson’s 4,000 acre ranch near Condon Oregon for some camping, shooting, riding and equipment repair.
Most of Saturday was consumed with removing the front end of a back hoe that got partially flattened when an enormous boulder landed on its front arms, nose and bucket. We managed to use a cutting torch to hack off the arms and used a dozer to pull it out. Needless to say, it took most of Saturday after being delayed by a big rain storm.
Sunday was another story. The weather cleared up and it was the perfect day to hit the virtually empty roads between Condon and Heppner in north eastern Oregon. I decided to ride into Heppner – about 50 miles from the ranch. It’s hard to describe how perfect this road is for just about any pace you’d like. The pavement is smooth and free of ripples or gravel and the lanes are wide and well marked. In the 50 miles, I might have seen four cars total, and a guy on a BMW touring bike I blew past like he was standing still. Well he sort of was…
Adding to the fun are an abundance of elevation changes and curves marked 35 or 45 that can be comfortably taken at close to double those speeds. My plan to ensure a safe trip was to back off a bit going into the corner and once I could see where it was going, drop the hammer.
This is my first experience spending much time on a liter bike and I’m still figuring it out. In no way, shape or form was I tapping the bike’s full potential. But nowhere is it written that you have to get every iota of potential from a machine in order to have fun. Whatever I wanted to the do, the bike was up for it. At some level, it’s good to know that there’s more performance left to be explored as my skills improve. The bike is also very user friendly and confidence inspiring. It grips to the pavement tenaciously and is nimble yet rock steady at speed. As the revs climb, a few vibes get through, but nothing objectionable. All-in-all, it’s a great platform for hammering the back roads
Sadly, I took some video of the ride using the Contour and I was so excited to hit the road that I neglected to lock down the fitting where it attaches to the fairing. The resulting video is just too shaky to watch for more than a few seconds. I’m certain there will be more opportunities.
Once in Heppner, it was clear that these roads are anything but undiscovered. There were plenty of sport touring bikes rolling through town with groups putting in big miles. I chatted with a guy at the Willow Creek Diner & Bakery (if ever in Heppner, stop there - great food) who was wrapping up a 9-day back road tour that took him from Everett, Wash. to Jackson, Wyo. and back. Maybe some day. I think with the right packs, the Ninja would handle a trip like that just fine.
Heading back to the ranch, I encountered a major head wind, but just tucked in behind the windshield for the high-speed stuff and just kept turning the throttle. Still fun, but life on a bike is better with a tail wind. Once at the ranch, we did some dirt biking and then I headed home to a delicious dinner of steak and family time. My daughter even baked a highly addictive (and thinning) cake. Epic riding on an amazing machine, awesome food and a family that puts up with it all. It really doesn’t get much better.
June 16, 2011
One advantage living north of the 45th parallel is the very long days we enjoy this time of year. Let’s not talk about the gloom of winter for now – those days are in the rear view mirror.
Following a long day of work, and then working out at the gym, running errands, etc., nothing beats enjoying those long days with an evening ride through the west hills of Portland. It is seriously beautiful, as you can see in the snapshot I took during last night’s ride. Rather than taking pictures of my kids, I take picture of my Ninja 1000. For now at least, it’s my baby.
As for the riding, the roads are open and smooth with lots of flowing curves. On this particular occasion, I happened upon a good rider on a Triumph Speed Triple heading my way down Thompson Road toward home. Being of a similar mind, we proceed to zoom around corners marked 15 mph at somewhere north of 50. It wasn’t like I was going to let a guy on Triumph get away from the Ninja!
Summertime and the living is easy.
June 13, 2011
This past weekend presented the perfect opportunity to convince Mary that it was time to go for a ride on the Ninja 1000. She had been eyeing the passenger seat a bit skeptically, thinking she’d like something with more padding. Say like what you’d find on a Concours.
The occasion was the Grand Floral Parade, one of the big events in Portland’s annual month-long Rose Festival. The parade draws a couple hundred thousand people from across the Portland metro region, and leads to massive traffic and parking problems. A motorcycle is by far the best way to avoid the snarls and find a close-in parking spot.
Given the option of breezing into the parade and parking near our friends, or sitting in traffic and hoofing it for long distances, the Ninja came out as the best choice. Turns out it was a GREAT choice.
We packed a couple of camp stools, a thermos of coffee and some goodies into a backpack and headed out. Instead of the “June-uary” weather we often see in Portland this time of year, the weather was a perfect 70. Off to a good start.
From the driver’s perspective, the bike was just fine with a passenger on board as we rolled through the hills and worked our way through town. Mary keeps herself fit and trim, so she didn’t add that much weight. And I was able to knife past a few traffic jams and find a great spot – they actually had motorcycle parking.
Mary, as it turns out, enjoyed the ride. The seat is far more comfortable than it looks, and she commented that the bike is smoother than my previous bikes. There’s very little vibration and the drive train is glitch free. Spot-on fuel injection helps keep things calm and mellow. She liked sitting up a bit where she could take in the sights and sounds. I liked that she held on tight…
The parade was lots of fun with many lively bands and floats and civic dignitaries. We then grabbed some brunch at the Cricket Café (Yum, Painted Hills hash and bacon-blue omelet) and decided that we wanted to keep motoring around. Next up was the Rose Garden at Washington Park and a pleasant ride through the twisties. Sadly, a wet spring meant that there were no roses in bloom at the Rose Garden.
Guess we’ll have to make a return trip – once again on the Ninja, our freedom and togetherness machine.
June 8, 2011
Evening Stress Relief
Since I work from home most of the time, my commute consists of walking down a flight of stairs with a cup of coffee. Normally I’m very happy with this state of affairs. With the Ninja 1000 sitting in the garage, I almost wish I had a need to commute every day.
But since I don’t the alternative is to simply take the Ninja for a ride, basically wherever I want. Today, I followed one of my favorite bicycling routes that involves lots of climbing and a nice decent on lightly traveled roads. Needless to say, I made the loop a LOT faster than possible via bicycle. And speeds that seem crazy fast on a bicycle are nothing on the Ninja. It just stays planted with light, responsive steering.
The camera gods were friendly today and I finally got some reasonable footage of my ride. Here’s the stretch from Skyline at around the 1,000 ft. level down Springville Road to around 150 ft elevation. There was some slurry seal gravel in places so I kept the pace down a bit. Still fun.
June 7, 2011
Dodged a Bullet
One of my goals with the Ninja 1000 Experience is to see if I can actually get through three months without adding any more points to my record.
After a day of work and workout at the gym, I treated myself to a cruise along Skyline Drive (does every city have a Skyline Drive?). After a fun series of corners and short straights I caught up to a string of slow-moving SUVs and minivans. No worries. The Ninja is just as happy following soccer moms as it is banking through corners at a sporting pace.
When I pulled up to the stop sign by the Skyline Restaurant – without a doubt the perfect place to stop after a good ride along Skyline – I noticed a dark green car with a light bar pull up and stay glued to my tail. (Love those mirrors.) Uh oh. State patrol. Just how fast was I going back there? Did he see me? Apparently not. Just a warning to remind me that Johnny Law is all about keeping speeds legal on Skyline. Message received loud and clear.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I was being profiled. When a cop sees a guy on a sharp looking Ninja on a twisty road, we all know its game on. I’m sure it’s the same for Porsches, Mustangs and Corvettes along this road. But let’s face it, with all the new houses, bicyclists, joggers and cross traffic, this really isn’t the place to crank it up
Fortunately, I know where there are some far less trafficked – and patrolled – roads in the neighborhood. There it really is game on.
June 5, 2011
I probably shouldn’t say this too loudly in case my mom is reading this, but the Ninja 1000 is most definitely a willing partner for those who want to engage in behavior that, shall we say, is on the socially irresponsible side.
My view on street riding is similar to the way I like to ski. While I like to go fast, my preference is smooth fast carving turns. I can do jumps and such when I ski, but I have the most fun on a fast slope without a lot of bumps where I can execute nice flowing turns. On bikes, it’s all about charging into turns, arcing smoothly around the apex and then rolling on the power. I simply can’t get enough of that, and my red Ninja excels at this pursuit.
Given that bent, I’ve not spent much time thinking about wheelies, stoppies or other tricks I’ve seen people do on the street. Wheelies are part of the arsenal in the dirt, but of limited value on the street. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure the Ninja 1000 was much for wheelies.
Boy was I wrong.
I like wheelies on my dirt bike, so what the heck. Holy cow. This thing lofts the front wheel like there’s no tomorrow. Big grin inducing power wheelies are a piece of cake. The Ninja’s Z1000, street-fighter roots are still intact. Is this a good thing? Who knows. But it sure is fun.
From a versatility standpoint, the Ninja 1000 is hard to top. From running errands around town to long trips to spirited sport riding to even stunts, this bike can do it all. And not just be used for the purpose, but do it well. Fantastic.
June 3, 2011
Lunch with NW Dirt Riders
Since Cycle World and Kawasaki were nice enough to literally give me a brand new Ninja 1000 to ride around for three months, the least I can do is show the bike off to my buddies – members of the Northwest Dirt Riders.
Today we all met up at Mike’s Drive Inn over in the Sellwood area. This is a well-established part of town known for its rapidly deteriorating bridge, horrible traffic jams on the main drag and antique shops. Mike does make a great burger using Dave’s Killer Bread for buns along with heaps of blue cheese.
While the members of the Northwest Dirt Riders primarily like to do their riding on forest trails and MX tracks, there was a lot of interest in the Ninja 1000. Dirt or street, anything with two wheels, good handling and power is bound to be appealing. After much poking, proding, testing the seating position, etc., the bike was deemed a winner.
One key advantage is that with street bikes is that I can go for an invigorating ride at anytime right from my driveway. Dirt biking is much more of an ordeal, involving loading up the bike and schlepping for 45 minutes or more each way.
Following lunch, I took my chances and motored over the Sellwood Bridge and the Willamette River. Video evidence below. This bridge is rated a one on a scale of 0-100 of bridge quality. Some say it’s not actually that bad, but let’s face it: Bridges have been known to fall down. I made it this time, and am truly thankful I don’t have to drive it every day.
May 31, 2011
Rad Bike Dude
One thing that won’t be happening over the next three months is that the Ninja 1000 will be sitting in the garage getting cold. Not going to happen.
For Memorial Day weekend, we had already planned a dirt bike trip to my friend Steve’s 4,000 acre ranch between Condon and Lone Rock. This place is so sparsely populated that I’m pretty sure there are more wind generators than people. The roads are wide, smooth and wound up like a knot – the perfect place for some throttle twisting.
We finally headed out around 7:30 p.m. after my soccer matches for the long drive to Condon. I was Ninja-mounted while my wife Mary was in the truck with the 450F and camping gear. About 10 miles into the journey, the skies opened up right when I was on the upper deck of the somewhat treacherous Marquam Bridge. There was about as much water on top of the bridge as in the Willamette River below. I can report that the Ninja handled it all in stride and stayed rock steady even over the slippery metal expansion joints.
A few miles later as we headed east into the scenic Columbia River Gorge along Highway 84, the rain subsided and we were treated to sparkling waters and incredible vistas. The Columbia River Gorge began forming some 12 - 17 million years ago. The most drastic changes took place at the end of the last Ice Age when flooding cut the steep, dramatic walls that exist today. There is no finer way to experience the Gorge than on a motorcycle with some good tunes flowing through the headphones and the sun gradually going down over your shoulder.
For the long ride through the Gorge, I kept expecting a variety of aches and pains. But they never came. The lack of vibration, neutral seating position, effective fairing and comfortable seat all worked together to make for a pleasant, cramp-free journey. And the adjustable windshield is not just a gimmick – it really worked to keep the wind off my chest as the temperature dropped.
We turned off at the 84 at Biggs Junction and stopped at the Pilot truck stop for some coffee and a quick snack. While standing by the bike, I noticed a guy in minivan who just couldn’t take his eyes off the Ninja. Before long he came by and asked if his daughter could look at the bike. As if. Sure enough, the guy had ridden bikes pre-family and was now missing it deeply. He PR’d the bike to his wife, but she wasn’t buying it. Hang in there pal, your day will come.
While cool to show off the bike to the family guy, the big ego stroke came when a group of teens on their way to a state track meet couldn’t take their eyes off the Ninja and proclaimed “rad bike dude.” No doubt, this machine is a looker.
The rest of the 60 or so miles to the ranch were cold and uneventful. Darkness fell hard. There are few lights out there and the inability to see around the curves made charging hard a bit dicey so I just cruised. The lights on a bike do a great job of illuminating the road. No issues really.
While I wish I could report about a weekend involving high-speed assaults on remote open roads, the weather Gods had different plans and it rained off and on, mostly on, for the better part of Sunday and Monday. I did manage some dirt biking but it was just too wet for sport riding and I ended up trailering the bike home. To quote the governator, “I’ll be back.”
May 27, 2011
A Memorable Start to the Weekend
Friday May 27 was certainly memorable, and not just because it was Memorial Day weekend.
First, it was my wife’s birthday and we had a fun champagne and cake reception with some friends and neighbors. But from my selfish perspective, it was the day I got the email that my Ninja 1000 was ready to be picked up at Beaverton Motorcycles.
Taking a break from party prep, we battled the get-out-of-town-for-the-long-weekend traffic down to the dealer. There I hooked up with Dave and Jerry (cool tie Jerry) and picked up the machine. I also needed a new helmet since the padding in my 20-year-old street helmet had turned to dust – I’ve been dirt biking and dual-sporting of late. I picked up a spiffy new Scorpion “Rapture” helmet that somehow seemed appropriate.
The bike looked every bit as attractive in person as it does in photos. What’s more, I could now more fully appreciate the little details and design touches that make the bike a visual treat. Red is my favorite color (after all I’m a redhead) and I was very pleased to see that my bike was dipped in a vat of red paint.
Turning the key and pressing the start button was a bit of surprise. What no choke? Oh yeah, don’t need that with FI. Take off was clean and the bike has that lovely four-cylinder ripping sound when you blip the throttle. In just a couple of minutes, I started to feel right at home.
You see, my last serious street bike was a 1987 Ninja 750 – essentially the grandfather (or great grandfather) of the Ninja 1000. For those of you not familiar with that era Ninja 750, it was an inline four with sport touring intentions. The emphasize was on sport and it hammered, but was still very comfortable thanks to a Norton featherbed style frame that resulted in very little vibration and great handling. Seating position was also comfortable. I loved that bike and racked up 30K miles on it ripping around SoCal. It was very painful to sell, but three kids and obligations pushed motorcycling to the side for a while.
The Nina 1000 was similarly vibration-free as my old bike. The handlebar height and seat position all felt perfect and within minutes; everything I loved about my first Ninja was right there, including great handling and bountiful acceleration and braking. Unfortunately, a few minutes into the ride, the clouds opened up and there were rivers running down the streets. No matter. I still had a huge grin on my face. Many thanks to Cycle World and Kawasaki for giving me this opportunity.
Once home, there were many oohs and ahhs. There really is nothing like a new machine to make a day a good one. The next three months should be a blast.
Next: Tripping through the Columbia Gorge
May 16, 2011
There are two critical criteria for periodical editors: domain expertise and writing ability. On the former, I have been riding and wrenching on motorcycles for nearly as long as I can remember, starting with an XR75 and working through dozens of machines. I have a deep and abiding passion for all things with two wheels and a motor. I can accurately evaluate what's going on with a bike and make adjustments or repairs. On the writing side, I have a degree in journalism and have worked at magazine and newspapers. Currently, I'm a PR professional focused on high tech and do a LOT of writing about very technical subjects like oscilloscopes or content management software. If I can make this interesting and understandable, I'm betting I'll be fine when it comes to motorcycles. Count me in!