• Aug 30 2011

    Hurricane Irene: The Aftermath


    Yesterday we posted about riding at midnight during Hurricane Irene, but that was hardly our only adventure over the weekend.   After the rain stopped, we headed to our friend Juanjo’s house in Brooklyn to pick up the bike we had stored in his garage during the hurricane.  As we were about to head out, he suggested that we go for a ride to see the effects of the storm.



    After we wheeled the bikes out of his garage, he hopped revved his up and dumped the clutch, spinning the bike in a neat circle.  This wasn’t going to be an ordinary ride.  Indeed, less than two minutes into the ride we turned onto a street where a giant tree had fallen and was blocking the road.  Upon closer inspection we saw that it had crashed down onto a Bentley and a Hummer!  There were so many uninteresting cars on that street; it was as if the tree knew what it was doing.



    Our friend then suggested we head on to Hoboken, NJ because it was the nearest place that had reported floods.   We rode across the Brooklyn Bridge, through lower Manhattan, and through the Holland Tunnel.  From there it was a short ride to Hoboken, and when we arrived we couldn’t believe our eyes.  Massive pools of water filled the streets, and it was impossible to progress without riding through it.  Juanjo eagerly blasted through the first water crossing—we proceeded more tentatively.  It went that way through the day.  He looked totally at home blitzing up and down the street and spraying water everywhere, but after we saw him in one section over a foot deep, we began to think the whole idea might be a bad one.



    Riding in the water wasn’t difficult; the front tire creates a bow wave and the rest of the bike stays relatively dry.  The electronics are far from the water, and the intake on our bike was right below the gas tank.  We lubed the chain when we got home, but besides that (and the thread of a cracked exhaust as it gets shocked by the cool water), there wasn’t much risk.  A dropped bike could get hydraulic lock and bend a rod, so we reminded ourselves to kill the bikes if they looked like they were going over.



    It was fun to get out and have a look around after the Hurricane—seeing all the water in person had much more impact than reading a news story or watching the tube.  We’re even more thankful now that we live on high ground.



    Photos by Juanjo Viagran

  • Aug 29 2011

    Riding in Hurricane Irene: New York City Sleeps!


    Anyone reading the news last week would think that New York City was going to get wiped clean off the map by Hurricane Irene. Mayor Bloomberg ordered everyone in the most vulnerable flood zones to evacuate, and there was a system-wide shutdown of public transit. It sounded, in a word, apocalyptic.


    To us it sounded like an adventure. While our friends and relative battened down the hatches, we stared longingly out the window and reminded ourselves that if we were on a motorcycle trip and faced adversity like this, we’d be over the moon with excitement. Why not head out into the hurricane and have a quick, hour-long adventure?


    At midnight on Sunday Hurricane Irene was picking up steam as she hit NYC, and we could take the anticipation no longer. Properly attired and ready for action, we headed downstairs and fired up our trusty Honda Cub.



    Off we went—roaring out of Ft. Greene toward Dumbo. In the strong winds, red lights were treated as stop signs; it seemed awfully silly to wait in a downpour for trees to fall n us when there wasn’t a single car in sight at the vast majority of the intersections. The only person we saw on our ten-block tour through the cobble stone streets of Dumbo was a police officer guarding an entrance to a subway. Near the waterfront, we crashed through an unexpected massive puddle and a huge V of warm water soaked our feet. It was gametime!



    On our way home from Dumbo we saw to our amazement that the Brooklyn Bridge was still open. Rather than going home, we got on the bridge. It was almost empty. There was one car on the first half of the bridge; after it passed we stopped and walked around, right in the middle of the bridge, pretending New York was a ghost town. When we got to Manhattan and headed north, Sixth Avenue too was eerily empty all the way to West 4th—north of that the odd taxi prowled the streets and ruined the effect. Then the wind seriously picked up. Gusts picked spray up off the roadway and blew big drops into our eyes. It was touch and go for a little while; puddles camouflaged potholes and raindrops camouflaged potholes—we had the feeling that the bars could be ripped from our hands at any second by a hidden cleft in the pavement.



    Then we headed down Seventh toward Canal. One manhole cover was dislodged and was only partially covering the hole—It was a reminder that very real dangers do exist out on the streets besides cars, busses, and falling trees. Dropping a wheel in there would mean an off, without doubt. We avoided it easily; there wasn’t a single car on Canal Street.


    Back in Brooklyn, the BQE (the highway that loops around the perimeter of western Brooklyn) was—you guessed it—completely deserted too. There was a headwind of at least 40 mph, and the Cub struggled to hold onto third gear.



    In NYC, Irene didn’t seem so big and bad. Most of the damage she caused was from flooding, and the winds weren’t quite as dramatic as we had expected. The anticipation had been very exciting though—and everyone on the streets today was relieved that it didn’t turn out worse.


  • Aug 26 2011

    Dream Weekend: California Superbike School


    One thing’s for certain: there will always be many more sportsbikes than there are capable sportsbike riders. The current crop of machines is so capable that only talented and experienced riders have any chance at getting the best of them.


    Whenever we see an inexperienced rider on a brutally fast and capable sportsbike, it’s hard for us not to wonder if a smaller bike might be better for learning. Its nothing against the rider, it’s just that it’s a lot easier (not to mention more fun) for a new rider to ride a slow bike fast than to struggle with something really powerful. The truth is that it’s impossible to learn to wring a sportsbike’s neck on the road while remaining safe. To learn to ride fast, you need a track and a trainer.



    Keith Code has dedicated his life to training riders to get the best of sportsbikes. His brainchild is the California Superbike School and it is widely acknowledged to be one of the very best. The classes are held all across the country, and students can ride either their own motorcycles or the schools’. In the classroom, Keith Code coaches students about the proper riding position where to look, and speed management. On track, professional instructors follow students individually before offering tips every few laps.



    The California Superbike School has more tricks up its sleeve. Keith and the boys have dreamed up several training aids, like the Lean Bike, the Slide Bike, and the “No BS” Bike. Each has a different purpose. The Lean Bike allows riders to lean as far as they can without low or high-siding, the Slide Bike allows riders to get comfortable sliding the rear tire under power or braking, and the famous “No BS” Bike helps riders discover that weight transfer isn’t what steers a bike.



    At around $2000 for a two day course, Keith’s class isn’t cheap. But after stepping astride a superbike and heading out on the open road, it’s hard to argue that it wouldn’t be money well spent. Two thousand dollars would buy a full system, shocks, and a remap. Or, it could buy an understanding of how to ride a superbike. We know where our money would go.


    California Superbike School


  • Aug 25 2011

    Metzeler Tires Are Great, But Have You Heard of Mousse?


    Metzeler makes a range of tires, from racing slicks to touring tires to motocross tires and beyond. We also make a product that you may not be familiar with. It’s like an inner tube but never gets flats, and is used in off-road competition.


    It takes a lot of preparation to ride in the top levels of off-road racing, and the last thing any competitor wants is to DNF because of a flat tire. Metzeler has the answer. Mousse is just like an innertube but is made from foam and so cannot be punctured. To aid with mounting, a properly-sized mousse provides an equivalent tire pressure of about 10 psi—too low for street use but perfect for a rocky enduro; in a harescrable situation, mousse provides traction but prevent pinch flats. Check out the terrain these riders have to cover:



    Mousse converts report that mousse substantially reduces the mental load of racing. It’s easy to back off on the really rough stuff in order to preserve the tires, but with mousse it’s not necessary. Is that less mechanically sympathetic? Yes. Is it necessary to win at the top level? Absolutely


    As with any product that is so specialized, there are caveats. Roling resistance is slighty greater, and a lubricant must be used on the inside of the tire to prevent premature wear, but the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks, and many a top-rider has used mousse to make it to the podium without wincing at every bump.


    It’s not too hard to change either–check out this video at Enduro Talk.


    Metzeler Mousse Page


  • Aug 23 2011

    What Motorcycle Made You Love Motorcycles?


    Jalopnik is our favorite car blog, and their latest “Question of the Weekend” was What Car Made You Love Cars? It made us think back to our childhoods and wonder, what motorcycle made us really love motorcycles.


    We remember hoping before every pre-teen birthday that we would receive a green Kawasaki. It would have been a two-stroke KX60, although we didn’t know what a two-stroke or a KX60 was back then; all we knew is that we’d seen a green Kawasaki somewhere and it looked like tremendous fun.


    The Kawasaki was more about motorcycling than actually being blown away by a motorcycle. The first time we were ever completely floored by a motorcycle was before our tenth birthday. We strolled in to a Honda motorcycle dealer in 1990 and saw an RC30 sitting on an elevated circular display stand. Fabulous! The bike looked taught, had a great face, and the lovely rear wheel that hung off the single-sided swingarm promised so much.


    Now that we’re older, we understand more about what made the RC30 so special mechanically, but as eight-year olds, the visual theatre did it for us, and began a lifelong obsession with motorcycles, particularly homologation bikes.