Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Have You Ever Had to Make Up Your Mind?

As you might remember from previous posts, I am seriously thinking of finding a new bike.  Not necessarily brand new, but new to me.  Something a little more upright, something with a little more space between the foot pegs and seat so my knees aren't as cramped therefore making it more comfortable for longer distances.

We have been looking at several makes and models and kicking tires for a few months now.  I think we have it narrowed down to a short list of bikes...well, so far anyway. The list seems to be rather fluid and changes weekly. Here are a few that have been on the list recently.....

A used 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada in pearl white popped up on Craigslist a few weeks ago.  I immediately loved the look of the bike and started doing research.  It is essentially a Hypermotard they have added some touring features to.  

(Photo courtesy of Asphalt and Rubber - 2013 Ducati Hyperstrada)
It seemed to tick all the boxes and weighs 6 lbs less than the Gladius.  I became a little worried about the electrical issues mentioned on the Ducati forums.  2013 was the first year of the Hyperstrada.  We never made it up to Portland to check it out in person and the ad disappeared sometime in the last few days.  I am thinking someone took a chance on it.

Another bike on the short list is the Honda NC700x.  Princess Scooterpie has an NC700 and loves it. The NC700x has a little more off-road appearance in that the beak and 'frunk' (front trunk) where the fuel tank should be, are different. I am not sure it really has any changes beyond that.  There is a local dealership in the Portland area that is selling hold-over brand new 2014's for $5,000.  Pretty darn good price for  a new bike with warranty.

(Photo courtesy of - 2014 Honda NC700x)
This bike seems to tick all the boxes but I do wonder if the 17" tires will do any better in the gravel than the Gladius.  (*note all three bikes in this post have 17" tires) I also wonder about getting used to the fuel filler being under the pillion seat so you always have to get off the bike to fuel it.  And if you fuel it up while it is on the side stand is it being filled all the way.......

We have thought about other bikes as well; BMW Sertao, Ducati Scrambler, Triumph Tiger 800, Suzuki V-Strom 650, Honda CB500X, KTM 690 Duke, Yamaha FJ-09..... (FYI - an FJ-09 with TKC-80 tires on it really tall)

Last Friday I was off work at noon and we drove to Sublimity to visit Power Yamaha.  They are also a Kawasaki and KTM dealer and have several hundred used bikes of all makes and models in stock.  Our intent was to ride our motorcycles there, but the weather was not cooperating. The highest we saw on the thermometer of the Fiat was 108˚F (42.2˚C). Not only did we not ride there, but the blazing sunshine made it a wee bit difficult to sit on any bikes since most were outside in direct sunlight. Those black seats get mighty hot in the sun.

I did sit on a 2016 Kawasaki Versys 650 and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the ergos and the price.  I wonder how easy it would be to maneuver when parking and/or at a standstill because of the 33 inch seat height and 476 lb wet weight.  While I wasn't flat footed I felt sure-footed even in sandals. It is 30 lbs heavier than the Gladius, but I think that is half fuel - it has almost 2 more gallons in the tank than the Gladius.

(Photo courtesy of - 2016 Kawasaki Versys 650)
Currently the dealer has the 2016 Versys 650's on for $6,999 and the LT version with color matched hard panniers and hand guards for $7,999 (both are $1,000 off MSRP).  I have never really been a fan of Kawasaki.  Not sure why, just never cared for their bikes.  Didn't really like my Ninja 650R when I had it. It always felt too top heavy to me. I guess this is why I was surprised when the Versys appeared to be a comfortable fit when I sat on it.  LINK to specs on the Versys.

At some point I know I'll need to test ride a few bikes.  I don't like test riding because I don't enjoy riding unfamiliar bikes.  The whole scenario makes me anxious, but I also don't see a way around it.  

The hardest part of bike shopping is trying to see what make and model might tick the most boxes while still prioritizing wants and needs.

I think my first priority should be an upright riding position, followed by weight/height, and lastly gravel road capability.  Oh yeah, price and insurance costs should be in there somewhere too.

So, have you ever had to make up your mind?

- Au Revoir

" The inability to make has decision has often been passed off as patience." - Author Unknown


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dog Days of Summer

What are the dog days of summer you ask?  "The sultry part of summer supposed to occur during the period that Sirius the Dog Star rises at the same time as the sun; now often reckoned from July 3 to August 1.  A period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence."

We haven't really been doing too awfully much lately in the way of motorcycle riding or mountain bike riding.  Since early June almost every weekend has been taken up.  Sometimes with visitors from out of state, Troubadour teaching Team Oregon classes, and/or visiting with family from out of town.  I think we had one weekend in June where we had no plans and every weekend in July was booked, but August looks a little more promising.  Our first weekend off together with no prior engagement on the calendar is in the middle of August.

While Troubadour has been busy teaching, going to the Black Dog Dual Sport Rally with PolarBear, and moto-camping with his work mates, I have been holding down the fort.  Yard work, housekeeping, grocery shopping, and picking 24 pounds (10.88 kg) of blueberries.  I work a half day on Fridays, so one Friday afternoon we went out raspberry picking as well, although we only picked 10 lbs of them.  The freezer is now stocked for another year.

While I haven't been on the motorcycle much, if at all, I have been riding my bicycle to work and back a few times on the days when I don't have errands to run after work.  It is only 3 miles each way but at least it is exercise.  And because I ride on a path that parallels the Oregon State University barns and pastures, I get to say good morning to the alpacas, llamas, sheep, and cows.

Since I have no moto-content in this post, I've included some photos we've taken over the last few months, but hadn't posted.

(Looking south on the Oregon coast near Cape Perpetua)

(Oregon Coast near Cape Perpetua - early June)

(Trobairitz - Photo by Troubadour)
*          *          *          *
And just because we haven't been on the bikes doesn't mean we haven't been to Eugene or Portland in the Fiat and eaten tasty vegan food.

(Eugenewich Sandwich at Cornbread Cafe in Eugene, Oregon - Photo by Troubadour)

(Red velvet and black forest vegan cake at Sweet Life Patisserie in Eugene, Oregon)

(Buffalo Bomber 'chicken' burger - my favorite at Veggie Grill in Beaverton)
*          *          *          *
We purchased some new patio furniture and have been enjoying it after work.  We can see the hummingbirds while we sit.  They have been drinking out of the hosta blossoms and up above is also a feeder.

(Hummingbird visiting the hosta blooms - photo by Troubadour)
We used to have interesting wildlife out back as well.  A family of deer liked to hang out in the grass  just beyond the back fence.  

(Deer enjoying the morning sunshine)
The occasional bird of prey would stop by inside the yard too.

(Cooper's Hawk I believe - sitting on the pergola in the backyard)
I say "used to" because they've torn down the forest behind our house.  We bought our house 10 years ago and have always enjoyed the forest out back.  For the last year or so we've known the owners had applied to build a 12-house subdivision, it didn't really hit home until coming home from work one day to find the trees had all been cut down and the machines had moved in.  It felt like FernGully.

(A view of the backyard looking at the construction behind us)

( A zoomed in view - we are now exposed to a main road that was hidden by the trees)
While we don't have the critters resting near our yard, we do see deer occasionally as they walk through the construction zone.  There is still a large forested area on the other side of the busy road that they wander over to.  I sure hope people slow down for them as they cross.
*          *          *          *
We bought a new made in Oregon Stanton sofa sectional earlier this year and it took Basil a week or two before he would go near it.  I took the following picture when we finally caught him accepting it.  He was sleeping on it this morning when I left for work.  He has adopted it now just as he did the patio furniture.  It is his mission to get cat hair everywhere.

(Basil - deciding he liked the new sectional)
*          *          *          *
Our nephew Max turned 2 years old in March.  For his second birthday we bought him a Stryder type bike from REI.  He was supposed to receive it near his birthday, but we weren't able to actually get it to him until early July.  We met my brother, his wife, and Max in Eugene and had a picnic in the park and enjoyed a sunny afternoon.

(Max and Uncle Troubadour at Alton Baker Park in Eugene, OR)
Poor Max - his legs weren't long enough to touch the ground (the seat wouldn't go low enough) so he put his legs up on the frame and Brad pushed him around.  He was quite happy with that. My brother has since taken the seat post off and zip tied the seat to the cross bar and it works fine for him.

That about sums up our summer so far.  While the weekends in June and July have been occupied, August and September should be a little better and we hope to get out on the road bikes and dual sports more.  Fingers crossed.

- Au Revoir

" Summer has set in with its usual severity." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I leave you with a little tune about Dog Days........


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

One Covered Bridge and Two Gravel Roads

On Sunday afternoon, Troubadour and I decided to go for a wee pootle to get a picture of the bikes with the Wildcat Covered Bridge in Lane County.

(Corvallis to the Wildcat - Austa - Covered Bridge)
We headed south out Bellfountain Road to Coon Road.  Coon Road east to Territorial Rd and then further south to the town of Cheshire on Highway 36.  From Highway 36 we headed west to Poodle Creek Rd and then took it south to where it intersects with Highway 126 at Noti.  We took Highway 126 west past the hamlet of Walton.  A few miles before the bridge we turned right onto Wildcat Creek Rd. It was a nice little gravel road and the Gladius handled it well.

Upon arriving at the bridge we realized it was closed for repairs.  Doh!  Good thing we didn't try and get there from Highway 126.

(Wildcat Covered Bridge - built in 1925, signage down and closed for repairs)

(Proof it was the Wildcat Covered Bridge)
From the bridge we had two choices.  Do a few more miles of gravel on Old Stagecoach Road and end up at Swisshome and take Highway 36 back home, or return to highway 126 and reverse course.  Highway 126 is a very busy road and so we chose the gravel.  Narrow winding could we resist.

(Narrow winding road leading to Swisshome)
It was an awesome road.  No traffic, nicely graded gravel.  I kept it to about 2nd gear and 20-22 mph for most of it.  We encountered multiple railroad crossings and some cool railroad bridges. With low speeds and no traffic, it was easy to stop to enjoy the view and take some pictures.

(Lucy and Max having a little break)

(A beautiful gravel road through the coastal mountains)

(Troubadour taking pictures of some cool blue moths/butterflies)

(The Foxglove, aka Digitalis, grows wild in the mountains)

(As do some daisies)

(And whatever these magenta flowers were - photo by Troubadour)

(Troubadour turning around to view a railroad bridge)

(Railroad bridge over the Siuslaw River)

(All turned around.......)

(The Gladius and a railroad bridge)

(Troubadour and the road behind us)

(Max and the road up ahead)
A little further and we stopped yet again for a railroad bridge.

(Max and the road ahead)

(Cool railroad bridge)

(Lucy hanging out with the trees - railway in the background)

(Another cool railroad bridge)

(Troubadour waiting patiently as I parked and ran back real quick for the bridge pic above)

(Selfie before getting back on the bike)
We made it to Swisshome and the Highway 36 junction without incident.  We turned right and headed towards Triangle Lake and home.

At the Horton turnoff Troubadour decided to head North along a different route.  The picture below was taken at the last stop of the day by Horton.

(Lake Creek Rural Fire Department)
We stopped here and had a snack since it was around 5 pm.  We consulted the map and instead of heading back to Highway 36 we (he) chose to go over High Pass Road as a short cut to Territorial Road.  This would cut off a few miles.  The map indicated there was another gravel section on High Pass Road.

It was gravel alright.  An unmaintained one-lane road up into the mountains, switchback after switchback, sheer drop on one side.  The Gladius handled it like a champ, I am proud that I managed to do it, although I was clearly on the wrong bike for it.  With all the climbing I knew it was going to be fun going down the other side.  They didn't name it High Pass for nothing.

Twists and gravel going down, down, down; switchback after switchback.  Knees gripping the tank, wrists trying to prop me up.  At one point Troubadour suggested I stand to make it easier.  I was so wadded up on the bike heading downhill there was no way to stand at that point. He chuckled and asked me if I was ready for a different bike yet. Yes, I think I might be.

(Our route home from the bridge)
I was so happy to reach asphalt on the other side of the hill.  I did have to stop twice so that my hand could un-numb. When I ride the Gladius at low speeds and try to control the notchy throttle, especially downhill, my right hand will go completely numb.  It is mighty hard to control the throttle when I can't feel it.  I think it is a combination of wrist position (bars too low) and vibrations since I can ride the TW200 all day without my hand going numb.

Sigh, just might time for a new bike. I love the Gladius but I do believe after 5 years, it just might be the wrong tool for the job.

In total we did 150 miles (241 km) and roughly 20 miles (32 km) of that was gravel.

- Au Revoir

" Bravery is being the only one who knows you are afraid." - Franklin P. Jones

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cape Perpetua Mountain Bike Ride

Troubadour and I had a bit of vacation time we needed to use and my boss was gone for a week at a conference in California, so we both took last week off from work.

On one of those days, when we weren't pulling weeds in the yard or cleaning out the garage, we went to the coast and took our mountain bikes along.  With temperatures in the valley forecast to top 95˚F (35˚C), the coast was the place to be with a high of only 71˚F (21.6˚C).  We took Highway 34 southwest to Waldport, then Highway 101 south to Yachats.  We stopped at the Green Salmon in Yachats for lunch. They used to be a great place to eat and are one of the only places in the land of seafood to get a vegan meal.  Unfortunately the tempeh rueben sandwich we ordered was incredibly salty.  When will restaurants learn that salt doesn't equate flavor?

From Yachats we drove south on Highway 101 and stopped at the Cape Perpetua Visitor's Center in the Siuslaw National Forest.  I was pretty sure they sold the one-year Northwest Forest Recreation Pass. Most places along the coast require a pass or a daily fee for use.  It is way cheaper to pay the $30 for the pass than to pay a daily use fee every time you park somewhere. We were in luck, they sold the necessary pass.

While there we started chatting with the Forestry workers about local mountain bike trails.  Our original plan was to ride at the horse trail/recreation area just North of Florence.  We've had friends that have ridden up there, but the forestry workers seemed to think bikes were banned.

Not wanting to chance it, we opted for the Cummins Creek trailhead. Just a short 6 mile (9.65km) out and back lollipop trail and the only one in the recreation area where bikes are specifically allowed.  

(Cummins Creek Trail - Cape Perpetua, Oregon)

(Cummins Creek Trailhead)
The trail started off relatively easy.  An uphill grade with a nice wide, fairly even trail.  Easy peasy.  And then it gradually got narrower and narrower.  We stopped a few places along the way for pictures, and for me to huff and puff and get my heart rate back down to a dull roar.

(Troubadour on a Trek on the trail)

(Narrower and narrower)

(And narrower)
At one point the trail was almost overgrown and we had to heft the bikes over a small dry creek bed and over/through a fallen log someone had cut an opening in.  Wide enough for hikers maybe, but not quite wide enough for bicycle pedals, just ask my shins, but we pressed on.

We were still on an uphill grade after 3 miles.  I had a copy of the above map with me and from what we could see we were on the upper portion of the trail.  At one point we thought we'd come to the lookout turn off but it was so steep and had so many tree roots that it would have been hard to push the bikes up it.

We eventually came upon the below sign.  It really confused us.  We had no idea where we were. We couldn't think of anywhere we'd missed a turn and there was only the one way to keep going, more uphill and more overgrown trail.  We didn't want to end up at the Visitor's Center or the forestry road since it would be a long way back to the car so we erred on the side of caution and reversed direction.

(Which way do we go?)

(Trobairitz on a Cannondale - photo by Troubadour)
Sure didn't take us long to get back down the hill.  Back through the fallen log and dry creek bed and then zoom, it was a great descent.  Troubadour stopped a couple of times along the way, since he is a faster rider, and snapped a few pictures of me.  The above picture was one of those.

Back at the car, we were still confuzzled as to what went wrong.  From the map it did not appear we could have taken a wrong turn.

Ah well, load up the bikes and head north on Highway 101.  We stopped at the Cape Perpetua viewpoint just above Devil's Churn for a look see at the Pacific Ocean.

But first a picture of the trusty Subaru with the bikes.

(Subaru Forester at the Cape Perpetua Viewpoint)

(A view to the southwest - the tide was out)

(Interesting tidbit regarding early travel in the area)

(Standing at the viewpoint looking up to the parking lot)

(Wild purple flowers, I have no idea what they are)

(And these clumps of succulents were growing on craggy overhangs.  To me they looked like Celtic knots)
We got home early in the evening where we found Basil asleep on the sofa.  He appeared to be enjoying the 'cool' setting on the ductless system we'd installed last fall.

(Are you comfy Basil?)
Troubadour checked his Strava tracks/map on the laptop once we got home and it turns out that while we thought we were on the upper part of the loop the whole time, we were actually on the longer lower part of the loop.  Our best guess is that if we had of pressed on we'd have been walking our bikes down that really steep section we thought was the trail to the lookout.  I think this time we chose wisely to turn around.

Our temperatures over the weekend broke record highs, and also broke the record for warm nighttime temperatures.  Luckily the high pressure system has moved on and our high is only supposed to be 70˚F (21˚C) today. Good thing too, since we have a moto-blogging compadre coming tomorrow to visit, hang out, and attend the Vegan Beer and Food Festival this Saturday in Portland (No, we won't be riding, I'll be the designated driver).

- Au Revoir

"Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live." - Mark Twain , "Taming the Bicycle"