Archive for science

Surrealchemist has his first bike

During the LLS ride, I gazed upon Mr. Furious’ gorgeous new Moto Guzzi V7 Racer and thought: “He’s going to sell that within six months.”

I was wrong. He got rid of it in three months.

Why? The Guzzi V7 is a great machine, but it’s only 55 HP… at the crank. Probably closer to 40 HP after the shaft drive takes it’s power tax. Furious needs triple-digit horsepower to be satisfied. Meanwhile, Konrad Urban put a crowbar to his wallet and bought a new BMW R1200GS, which made his Triumph Sprint redundant. Furious had rode on the Sprint and pronounced it Full of Goodness, but Furious also has no garage to keep two bikes.

Along comes Surrealchemist, with his freshly-minted motorcycle license. He was looking at the usual suspects – Suzuki SV650, Kawasaki EX500, maybe even a Ducati Monster 620. Knowing that he was in need of a forgiving bike but tempted by more enticing machines, Furious made Surrealchemist an offer he couldn’t refuse: $500 off the public asking price of the V7.

Test rides were taken

img_2589 img_2587

And so a deal was struck.

Clown rule number one was triggered.

The weather report for yesterday called for a pick thunderstorms, and it was correct! However it showed that the thunderstorms would not be coming through our area until the afternoon. This gave the opportunity for Josh and I to drive up to Mr. furious’ house and pick up SC’s bike. Mr. furious is on vacation in upstate New York, but he graciously left the bike unlocked and ready to roll with all of its paperwork and extra parts so that we could pick it up without him being home.
SC came to my house around 10 AM, and I threw my gear into his Volkswagen GTI. We were at the furious ranch before 11 AM. Of course several cats greeted us and demanded attention. The motorcycle was exactly where it was supposed to be, in his shed along with a box of parts extra fender, and The original fly screen. Like some drug deal on breaking bad, SC put the cash in the secret place, locked the door, and collected the pre-signed title. I hopped on the bike and negotiated the treacherous gravel driveway and we were off.
This turned out to be an excellent chance to test and evaluate the biker. I had meant to get a test ride when we were down in Maryland for the leukemia and lymphoma Society charity ride several weeks ago. But I never got the chance. The short answer is that the bike is in excellent ride! Is it superfast? No, absolutely not. But it all works, and it is an excellent bike for a first-time rider like SC.
Some observations:
Motor: at first I was a little bit disappointed with the power output of the transverse air cooled pushrod 750 cc V-twin. (Ha! Siri just corrected “cc” to mL) it does have a remarkable amount of torque starting from idle. You can easily roll away just by releasing the clutch and not giving it any throttle at all. But at first it seemed a little bit wheezy. Like it had half the horsepower that it should. As I got more comfortable with the bike I realized that it was because the throttle has a huge amount of travel! If you keep on rolling on the throttle, you keep on getting more and more power. This means that you need to adjust your wrist position a little bit so that you can twist the throttle further than you would expect. Maybe I have just gotten used bikes with a more hair – trigger throttle. This kind of throttle behavior is great for a beginner rider! There are no surprises. The engine gives you what you ask for, when you ask for it. Once I got used to the throttle the bike is an incredibly torquey fun ride! It has something over 50 hp at the crank, which translates to something less than 40 hp after the shaft drive takes it’s toll. I deem it a worthy motor.
Brakes: pretty much the same as the motor. The bike only has a single front desk but it is also a fairly light bike at something around 425 pounds. The brakes are progressive and predictable, which is excellent for a new rider. The rear brake in particular actually works better then many more expert level bikes. They are not what I would call “amazing”. They just work as they’re supposed to without risking throwing you over the handlebars. Again I am used to bikes with hairtrigger brakes, so just because I say that these brakes are not spectacular does not mean that there is anything wrong with them. In fact they are much better for a beginner rider because just like the motor, they give you the braking power that you want when you ask for it. They are not “one finger brakes”. You do need to use a little bit of hand muscle in order to get The stopping power that you want.
Chassis & suspension: when riding  someone else’s bike, I am not about to risk it at 9/10 level. But from normal riding on back roads and on the highway I can say that the chassis and handling are indeed up to snuff with modern café racer type bikes. The bike feels nimble and light and eager to turn. Again excellent choice for the new rider because they handling is confidence – inspiring and predictable.
Dealership experience: apparently, Josh forgot to check off the “provide more than 6 ounces of fuel” option to this used motorcycle dealer :-). The low fuel light started blinking as we were driving through downtown Newton New Jersey which is only about 12 minutes from the furious ranch. It was full-on by the time we got onto New Jersey Route 15. No problem! There are ample gas stations on route 15 and this gave me a chance to stop and be sure that everything was cool with Josh.
When we got the bike to my house, the weather report showed that we still had about an hour before the skies would open up and drench us. So I offered to take SC for a local backstreet training ride so that he could have a chance to get used to the bike being led by an experienced rider (hah!). It helps that we both have Bluetooth helmet intercom systems so I was able to lead the way and listen to SC and give him pointers. We rode around my neighborhood and the old Greystone psychiatric hospital which are good, safe roads. They are mostly 25 mph zone’s with one section of 40 mph. I do note that SC is a little bit tentative on his speed and tended to fall back even when I was riding just below the 25 mph speed limit. Not surprising for somebody who is taking their first tentative steps of actual road riding.
There was indeed one puckering incident: in one 90° left-hand turn, SC got a little bit of target fixation, and ran wide. I heard rather distressing noises over the helmet intercom. But no crash. I was stopped at a stop sign, and looked into my rearview mirror. SC was on the lawn of the house on the outside of the turn! He was watching the trees and the curb instead of the road and hence ran wide and onto the grass.  So SC got his first taste of off – road riding!
After maybe 40 minutes of riding, it started to drizzle. So SC got to experience his first rain ride as a motorcyclist as well! But discretion is the better part of valor and I decided that we should park the bikes. As it turns out I do indeed have enough room in my garage to park three motorcycles. SC and I had to do a little bit of cleaning up, but we were able to move the Buell towards the back of the garage and put both Italian bikes at the front.
The Guzzi will live in my garage for a few days until work schedules allow me to shuttle it down to SC in Highland Park. Probably should plan to visit SC at lunch time over the next few weeks when our schedules permit, so that I can take him on a few more guided rides. But I expect him to be totally comfortable with this bike within the month!

New bike for SCIENCE

The Ducati 916 was my dream bike when it came out. When it was introduced in 1994, it was unbelievable. The design alone was stunning, groundbreaking. It took the motorcycle world by storm and other manufacturers eventually copied it for their open class sportbikes. It was Massimo Tamburini’s magnum opus, and sealed his position as the greatest motorcycle designer in the world.

At the time the 916 was out of reach for me. It cost something like $17,000 in 1994, about twice what other liter bikes cost. Absolutely out of my reach. But I bided my time and in 2008 I acquired a 2001 996, and my dream bike was in my garage.

996 in Connecticut

But as Spock said: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” What i found was that the 996 was exactly what the motorcycle press said it was: a pure track machine with a horrifically punishing riding position. Aggressive almost to the point of being useless on the street. It was my second bike, my garage sculpture that I took out on occasional Sundays for a half day ride (even though I did do a 1,500 mile long weekend tour on it… once).

Maybe I came to feel that it was becoming a bit too much of an object of art and less of a riding bike. But I planned to keep it, maybe forever, as an icon to the purest sportbike ever made.

And then Surrealchemist passed his MSF course and started looking for a bike, And i went to help him pick a model. And so I visited a used bike dealer. And they had my OTHER dream bike sitting there, in pristine condition. Right there on the floor was a 2010 Ducati Streetfighter S. Essentially a naked version of the Ducati 1098S, the direct descendant of the 916/996/998, but set up for street use rather than track use. This was one of the bikes that I fantasized in my ideal 5-bike garage. It too was prohibitively expensive when new ($18K for this “S” version), just not quite as bad as the original 916. Also, it had been discontinued for 2016, so now it was a potential endangered species.

The model in the used bike shop had 3,200 miles on it and not a scratch. The asking price was about $500 below the blue book value, and they made me a decent trade-in offer on the 996. And so I pulled the trigger on the trade.

Streetfighter with Redhead

And there it is, in my driveway, with my standard daughter for scale. Here are some of the details:

CF farkles

Carbon fiber EVERYTHING!

Brembo stoppers

Brembo stoppers

Brembo Radial Monobloc brakes. Currently the best brakes in the world.

Streetfighter front view

Slim profile as only a Ducati twin can have. Note the bar-end mirrors, installed by the previous owner (the only mod he did).

Other items not shown:

  • Ohlins suspension front & rear (that’s like $3,000 worth of shocks alone)
  • Forged alloy Marchesini wheels (another $3,000 at least if I bought them myself!)
  • 155 HP Testastretta motor
  • Traction control (it NEEDS it!)

I will be adding some of my own mods Real Soon Now. Look for further posts.

New Bike Ride July 2016

Konrad Urban. Thynk3r, Gary Miller, an I went for a jaunt through the black earth of Pine Island NY today. The theme was “show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” New bike, that is.

Emerald Point panorama

The meetup was a gentlemanly 9:30 AM at the Chatterbox on Rote 15. Mr. Furious joined us for the first hour on his vintage 1967 Triumph.  Ah, the smell of classic motorcycling: unburned fuel and neets foot oil!
Emerald Point bike parking
We rode through Stokes forest, being careful of the moss-covered slimy dark patches. Then High Point to Pine Island, Warwick NY, and finally the Emerald Point on Greenwood Lake (a favorite Maggot Sunday ride stop). Lunch and 2 beers and great company. Surprisingly few bikers, which is to say we got a seat in the shade without any waiting.
Emerald Point Batman shot
Upon leaving the EP, Konrad and I exchanged bikes. That new air/water cooled BMW Boxer is a damn fine ride. Shockingly upright riding position after the Streetfighter. Gobs of torque, and the pro-shift “no clutch” feature is really cool. Almost like automatic transmission. It matches revs on downshift, slick as snot!
Long shot of Emerald Point Parking
There was an inkling of a plan to head to Piscataway and support Josh in his MSF testing, but Konrad pointed out that such a visit could be more stress than support. Plus it would be over an hour on the slab, so we chose not to.
East to ride, ride to eat
A good ride. Good ride indeed. No hardships, sonit will soon be forgotten and never spoken of again.

LLS Charity Ride, June 2016

The Weather Gods had mercy on us.

I have a three day rule: Don’t start getting freaked out about the weather report for a motorcycle ride more than three days ahead of the event. The accuracy of the weather report is *still* not worth having a panic attack over until you get within the three day forecast timeframe.

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With the ride planned for Friday, I looked on Tuesday… or I was going to when Bota beat me to it. The outlook was grim. 90% chance of rain Friday in NJ and MD. 20% on Saturday (small consolation), 80% on Sunnday. In other words: potential drenching on the days when we would have no choice but to do a 4 hour ride down and up. The “travel days,” where the motorcycling is potentially more of a chore than a joy. I am a bit weird in that I like the ride to and from the main event, as long as I am riding with friends. Especially the ride out. The anticipation builds and if things are right you are not in a hurry and can enjoy a simple ride. But if it is a monsoon, that sucks the fun out of it. Then it is a task that needs to be done to get you to the event, and I will deal with that, but it loses the magic.

Then again, this ride might have some maggot magic regardless of the weather. Mr. Furious had just acquired a Sena bluetooth helmet intercom, and he had convinced me to do the same. Konrad and Marcus already had them, and put them to good use a few years back on the Banjo Run. Later on we found that MJ and Thynk3r also had compatible units. So if the blurb on the box for my brand-spankin’-new Sena 20s was to be believed, we would be able to set up an intercom group between up to 8 riders!

….remember those words: “up to” 8 riders. 😛

I made sure my bike was fully packed and ready to roll on Thursday night. On Friday morning I would need to dial in to a meeting for work. I was on vacation, and I had a co-worker acting as my backup, but I’m a tool that way and I wanted to hear what was going on for at least the first few hours of the meeting. So I was ready to roll as soon as the maggots started arriving at my house.

First up was Marcus at 9:45. That was fifteen minutes early from the planned time. It had been raining hard all morning, but I was checking the weather radar. We were under a band of rain that was just about to peter out. After that was clear air out to Pittsburgh. More important, the next band of rain was a blobbly line running from the Southeast to the Northwest. My eyeball forecast told me that if we got into that rain gap, the further South we went, the further away the rain got. In other words, if we got moving SOON we could ride in a patch of dry weather!

I was starting to get antsy by 10:15, fearing that we would miss our gap. But Mr. Furious and Konrad showed up around 10:20 and so I calmed down.  The plan might just work!

But the Equipment Gods were not going to let the Weather Gods show too much mercy. Just as he dismounted from his bike at the end of my driveway, Mr. Furious experienced a freak mishap: He dropped his helmet. Onto the pavement. Hard.   Snapped off one of the visor retainer panels. Feck! He called for the box ‘o repair materials that he had given me as a gift last year, plus some packing tape. Jerry-rigged driveway repairs ensued and the visor was temporarily re-attached.and we were on our way. Next stop: Molly Pitcher Service Area on the NJ Turnpike, to meet Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynker.

Before we even made it to the highway, mishap #2. At a traffic light (corner of E. Hanover Ave and Ridgedale), Konrad told me we had to pull in to the gas station. I vetoed that (wrong side of the street) and we pulled into the Agway. Mr. Furious had dropped his (prescription, transitions) glasses in the street. He and Konrad went back to search for them, while Marcus and I fiddled with the Sena headsets to set up communications. After maybe 20 minutes Konrad and Furious returned. The glasses had been found… crushed 🙁

Since we were there we took the time to set up the Senas for bike-to-bike intercom. Remember the promise that you could connect up to 8 headsets into an intercom group? We were never able to get more than 4. Pairing two was dead simple. Adding in a third also easy. Getting the 4th to connect? Well… we did it. Several times. But nobocy NOBODY could figure out what dance we did to get it to work. We would just tap in the first three, then everyone would randomly hit buttons until the 4th joined. Very frustrating. Maybe we should spend some quality time with the manuals but I suspect the issue is version compatiblity. Konrad and I were the only ones with the most recent 10s/20s models. Furious had a 10u which was a special one designed to integrate with Arai helmets. MJ and Marcus had older models, and Thynk3r was from another manufacturer. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than 4 headsets in an intercom group requires A) the latest firmware on all headsets, B) only recent Sena headsets, and C) a more complicated dance of buttons, since it is only the Sena 20s that supports that. The 20s has 2 full Bluetooth chipsets wired together, and apparently must act as the hub for 2 groups of 4 somehow.

Regardless, we departed once again, now about an hour late. Weather was holding at “overcast” but not raining.

With the communicators working, Furious called for a stop to make further helmet repairs. We were on Route 287 close enough to the NJ Turnpike that I asked if it could wait for 10 minutes. Furious said yes, so we stopped at the toll plaza at the entrance to the NJTP. Helmet communicators do indeed have a great deal of utility. Text messages were sent and received. If I recall, other maggots were already at Molly Pitcher and we were still more than 30 minutes away.

The stop lasted maybe 15 minutes while Furious adjusted his packing tape repair. We were off again and onto the Turnpike. The weather worsened slightly and we had some light drizzle. Not enough to harm us in our rain gear. Mr. Furious started his signature battle cry for this trip, shouting “PENIS” into the intercom whenever asked for a check in.

Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynk3r were all waiting for us at Molly Pitcher. I started my tradition of blowing my stack for the weekend whenever someone asked me why we were late, or why we hadn’t left yet, or why we weren’t taking a different route. In fact, I was on edge for some reason the whole weekend. It did not take much to set me off. I blame work stress.

Most of the bikes in the group had large gas tanks, and we were slated to meet Scrounger about 60 miles away so only Marcus filled up at Molly Pitcher. So of course when we got on the road, ten minutes later Mr. Furious calls out that his reserve light just came on and we need to stop for gas.

The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is a gorgeous bike. I love it. I respect it. I want to have sex with it. Mr. Furious is a FUCKING HERO for riding this beautiful Italian lady on a maggot ride. Dark grey with a fabulous red frame (not just ubiquitous Ferrari/Ducati Italian red… a deep rich red like arterial blood). The engine on the Guzzi is out and on display for everyone to see, and it is a mechanical sculpture representing purpose and simplicity. Did I say I love this bike?

Oh, it also has a tiny gas tank. From this point on Mr. Furious was careful to fill up whenever the opportunity presented itself, and there were no more low fuel lights.

But it did mean that we made another unscheduled stop at the next rest area. Those who had not fueled up at Molly Pitcher all did so here because… why not?  Since the NJTP rest area gas stops are notoriously congested we ended up close to 90 minutes  late at the end of the stop.  Also, at this gas stop Bota asked if there was a Harley dealer nearby. My answer was A) Why are you asking me? B) There is ALWAYS a harley dealer nearby, and C) Okay, yes. I happen to know that there is Famous Mike’s HD in Newark DE right on our route. So a stop was planned. At the same time MJ asked what we were planning for dinner. Wut? Why do you ask?  Because there is a BBQ joint near Famous Mike’s and she wants us to pick up food for tonight. I am watching my schedule sink rapidly to the bottom of the ocean, drowning.

At the end of the NJTP we lose track of Thynk3r. It is assumed that he has no EZPass. Knowing that EZPass is needed again in 5 miles to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, we use the helmet communicators to plan our stop. We pull over and wait for Thynk3r after the bridge tolls. It turns out that he thought that WE were behind him, and had stopped to wait for us. Another 15 minutes delay added to the schedule.

Famous Mike’s (now Rommel’s) HD is only 3 miles past the bridge. We pull in and Bota goes in to get… A snap chain for his leather vest. THAT’S the crucial part we had to stop for. To save time, MJ heads off to the Sunset BBQ and Crab house to place our order. By the time Bota is done, Thynk3r decides he needs fingerless gloves and just as we are getting ready to saddle up to join MJ he goes into the store.

How do you spell “conniption?” Is it “kenipschen?”  Whatever it is, that’s what I have.  We are now well past 2 hours behind schedule. Scrounger texted us that he got sick of waiting for us and went on to Bing’s. By the time I calm down enough to ride, Thynk3r is back out of the shop (no gloves purchased… never asked why but that problem got fixed later). We head over to meet MJ.

The Sunset BBQ and Crab Shack is indeed just over the overpass from the HD dealer. it’s also a garden center. From seeing the proprietors, I think it’s also a Blues Heritage Site. The place and the owners look like they belong in Mississippi. Or at least South Carolina. Which is to say it is a really heavyset black woman and her silent but friendly husband. MJ has ordered a few dozen crabs, a few racks of ribs, and some sides. The crabs take some time to steam, so we settle in and wait. While waiting, Konrad and I decide we also need pulled port after the woman behind the counter came out and gave us all samples. We ask for hot sauce, and she insists that we have to taste it before she will put it on the pork. Hah! I scoff. I have survived Tincture of Flashbang. No so-called “hot” sauce can bother me. But to humor her I taste it. HOLY SHEEP DIP! It’s not flashbang, but it’s too hot for general consumption. Mild sauce, please!

Schedule completely thrown to the wolves, our next problem is where to put all the food. Nobody expected to need to take on extra items, so everyone was pretty much void of extra luggage space. MJ was able to consolidate and clear one saddlebag, and I was able to squish my sleeping bag. Others did likewise and we fit the food.

Under ideal conditions we would have gone overland and found our way to Route 13 so as to save time and avoid the building Route 95 pre-rush hour traffic. But after getting directions from BBQ lady and the Blues Man, I decide discretion is the better part of valor and put the maggots back onto 95. The alternative route from the BBQ folks was too full of “turn Left at the building where the old Dairy Queen used to be.”

Did I mention the weather? Other than slight drizzle at Molly Pitcher we had no rain. Weather radar showed our gap between showers continued.

Bota with Slingshot

And so we made it to Bing’s by around 6 PM. About 3 hours later than planned. Bikes were parked. Rooms and couches were claimed (it was a BIG crowd, even for Bing’s house). Ccarl arrives. Bottles are cracked open. A crab & BBQ feast is laid out. Bing and Brenda’s new French Boxer dog (Olive) is adored and petted. You know, the usual.

LLS Bikes

The Weather Gods had smiled upon us. Probably because Mr. Furious made multiple sacrifices to the Gear Gods.

Bing was the voice of reason and forced us to bed by 12:30 AM. Unlike the normal maggot trip, we had a hard schedule to keep to on Saturday. We had to be at the LLS Charity ride by 8:30 AM, or else. So we had to be awake by 7. So beddy-bye for all.

…Only to be awaken at 7 AM by Bing blaring the full-house audio system. Yesyesyesyes Dad. I’m awake. I have a “level 3” hangover (moderate headache, mouth like a toxic waste landfill, but no nausea) which is taken care of with some Advil. We saddle up, get breakfast at the former Holly’s (now a boring Royal Farms gas station/convenience store with the worlds slowest service). Then we head to the Poker Run meetup site.

This is where we see the magic of Scrounger’s borrowed Polasis Slingshot in action. It draws an instant crowd wherever it parks. Custom Chopper? Nobody interested. Boss Hoss? (the former king of drawing a crowd) ignored. Wherever it goes, people ask to take PICTURES of it.

The Poker run? It’s a poker run on the Eastern Shore of MD. Which is to say the roads are straight but scenic. The weather is perfect in the morning. Cool, dry, partly cloudy. As part of a Poker Run we move at a… measured pace. Some maggots might complain that it was too sedate. I say that a motorcyclist should be able to enjoy the ride without an adrenaline hit sometimes.

There is a beer stop on the Chesapeake Bay at Noon. For the last 30 minutes leading up to that we are apparently riding in the middle of some major Triathlon. There are runners, bikers, and probably swimmers everywhere. Police directing things too. The Poker Run gets separated into two groups and mine ends up at the wrong bar. So we go off-road to cut across fields, through people’s back yards, and over tiny foot bridges to get to the right place.

It’s a good stop, right on the bay. I’d go here to hang out on a Saturday in the summer. Watched Cigarette boats pull in and fuel up. Pitchers of Fat Tire are shared. I have that and some kind of Shandy because I don’t want to get wrekt.

Then it is off to lunch which is at a marina on the C&D Canal. That was nice. But I’m getting tired of typing and making up shit.

The final stop on the Poker Run is The Jetty near Bing’s house. Another nice dock bar on the bay. By now there is live music and a big crowd. We have some traditional MD bay drinks (Orange and Lemon Crushes). Listen to music, and find out that Mr. Furious won the Poker Run raffle!  A lesser man would say that this was righteous payback for all his gear troubles the day before. But Mr. Furious is by no means a normal man. Instead, he donates his winnings back to the LLS charity and adds ANOTHER few hundred dollars of his own. The rest of the maggots bask in the reflected glow of his magnanimity!

But the weather has changed. Normal people would say “for the better,” but 90 degrees and bright sunshine can be bad for people in ATGATT motorcycle gear. It’s getting uncomfortably hot and so the maggots want to head back to Bing’s to switch into shorts and drink.

Annie had different ideas. She wanted to go to the supermarket to get food to make for dinner (Annie demands the formalities be observed regarding the entertainment of a party of 12 bikers) and the liquor store for Bloody Mary and Sangria fixins. Since I know where the supermarket and liquor store are, I am drafted to lead. Also because Bota is… in a state. A state of dubious fitness to ride. Konrad and Furious come along because… reasons.

It quickly becomes clear that the reasons for Konrad and Furious coming along are insufficient. So they leave after a few minutes hanging out in the supermarket parking lot. Meanwhile Annie is stocking up and Bota is shopping like a 3 year old. He is grabbing random stuff and throwing it in the cart, which Annie has to put back. When they come out, Annie sees me all alone and has a minor freakout. Because she has a full banquet of food and was counting on 4 bikes for transport. My bike has full saddlebags BUT I had half of them filled up with gear from other Poker Run riders (rain gear, cameras, etc). We were so short of storage that Annie had to carry some bags in her arms on the ride back.

The rest of the evening is another great party night at Club Bing. The only abnormal event worth noting was the giant hissy fit that I threw. The less said about this, the better. Suffice to know that it involved me screaming “FUCK YOU” over and over, and stomping my way out on the porch to be alone and stew. But by the end of the night I had calmed down.

MJ and I win the “stayed up latest” award. For me, that award was also the “sleep on the small couch” award. Bing’s house was FULL. Bota and Annie in the bedroom with the full size bed. Scrounger and son Ben in the twin bed room, and MJ in the other bedroom. Konrad and Marcus on the full couches in the basement. Furious in the full couch in the office. Bota fell asleep early and claimed the big couch in the rec room (That’s MY coudh!). So I got one of the 4 foot couches. So did Thynk3r so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

I had nightmares because I looked at the weather report. 100% chance of rain on Sunday. Crap.

In the morning we got up and I checked the weather report. Still crap. Check radar… Hmmmm… There is another one of those gap-in-the-showers things. So we plan our travel around it. And I’ll be damned… it works again!  Marcus left early, but Bota, Scrounger, MJ, Thynk3r, Konrad, Furious and me all head out at the same time. Maggots peel off as necessary to get to their own homes. But other than a slight mist on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, it is dry all the way to the last split off. I head on 287 while the NY/CT riders stay on the NJTP.

For my final leg, around Piscataway NJ (30 minutes from home) it turns foggy and cold. It had been hot and muggy at the last gas stop, but now it was zip-the-vents-closed chilly. And foggy, which sucks for keeping the vizor clear. Ten miles later it is pissing drizzle in the cold fog, which is a visibility nightmare on a motorcycle. It does that all the rest of the way home for me. A whole 20 more minutes 🙂

The Weather Gods needed to show me that although they can be merciful, they are not to be trifled with. They smiled benevolently on us for this trip, which could have been a living hell on Friday and Sunday. But although we did not have perfect weather on those days, it was still not bad. Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you need.

SCIENCE’s Buell reviewed by Regular Car Reviews

in mid-summer, I offered up both of my bikes for the Regular Car Reviews YouTube channel.  Mr. Regular, who is based in the Kutztown PA area, was glad to have my 996 to review. But…

He thought it was a Porsche 996, not a Ducati 996. I get that all the time!

once I corrected the confusion, he opted to do the Buell, since he had just reviewed a Ducati 900ss (a bike I once owned).

so here it is:

If you watch Regular Car Reviews, you know he can be pretty brutal. IMO he was fairly complimentary to the Ulysses. I pretty much agree with the majority of what he says.

Note that he threw me a HUGE favor on the tires. I had not bothered to look at the tires since Catskillcade 2015 (write up still pending). My rear tire was bald to the cords, victim of harsh Catskills roads and owner neglect.  Mr. Regular lied for me, saying something about commuting every day, which is the kind of thing that will mollify rabid internet bike complainers.  Thank you!

 

Cars & Croissants Cedar Knolls NJ November 7, 2015

Non-ride Report: Cars & Croissants Nov. 7, 2015

Shop Rite parking lot, Cedar Knolls, NJ

As usual, there was an amazing variety of vehicles at the Cars & Croissants meetup. These pictures are only the ones that I deemed “interesting.” There were tons of pedestrian Porsches, BMWs, etc.

Countach

Lamborgini Countach

 

Pantera 1

DeTomaso Pantera. This was my dream car when I was in high school. Mid-engine American V8 meant to show those EuroTrash how an exotic car could be built.

 

Pantera 2

The Pantera’s wing is a beuty of 1970’s excess!

 

American 1

The Morris County C&C has everything, not just european exotics. Here is something ‘Murrican. There were a lot of Corvettes, Mustangs, SRTs. Oddly not a single Camaro!

 

Steamer

Not only “modern” cars either; this Stanley Steamer was driven in from 20 miles away under it’s own power. It burns Jet fuel! (closest thing to the whale oil it was originally designed to use, apparently)

 

Panoz 2

This is a Panoz… Roadster? Not an Esperante. They use a Ford V8. There was a Saab dealer about 10 minutes from here that actually sold these things new a few years ago.

 

Panoz 1

IMO the Panoz is so ugly it’s cool.

 

IMG_1946

Obligatory Cobra. This one is a Superformance.

 

IMG_1944

SBV8

 

IMG_1974

What is this? It looks a bit too long to be an…

 

IMG_1975

An MG? I guess. Is it stretched?

IMG_1986

Holy crap! Yes, it’s stretched. To fit a Jaguar 4.2L V12! No wonder it sounded like Satan’s Chariot!

IMG_1985

This MG is an unbelievably beautiful FrankenCar. THIS is why I come to C&C!

IMG_1948

Ferrari…

IMG_1967

Ferrari…

IMG_1994

Ferrari… (yawn) there were a few others… not worth posting photos.

IMG_1968

(snore) another Ferrari WAIT WHAT?!?!?

IMG_1988

This is apparently real. Not a replicar. That is an honest-to-god ~$3 Million original Ferarri… ummm… Daytona or something? Sitting in a Shop Rite parking lot along with other more pedestrian cars.

IMG_1989

Obligatory Ferrari motor shot.

Below: a bevy or britcars. By no means a comprehensive photo list. There were several Austin-Healys.

IMG_1949 IMG_1950 IMG_1952 IMG_1954 IMG_1956

 

IMG_1979

HOLY UNICORNS! An Ariel Atom?

Noooo. It’s actually a Superlight sometin’ sometin’. Made in the USA and shockingly street legal in NJ.

IMG_1982

Engine bay shots. Forgot to ask what was inside.

More British Iron:

IMG_1955

That’s a TV-fookin’-R

IMG_1956

TVR Engine bay.

No Britcar section would be complete without a batch of Lotii (Lotuses?):

IMG_1976

Early Esprit

IMG_1977

Later Esprit Turbo

IMG_1978

Exige

IMG_1984

Who brought this POS 2007 Elise Type 72D with a Sector111 Katana-2 Supercharger? It looks filthy, like it was autocrossed two weeks ago and not cleaned.

IMG_1990

Aston Martin Vantage

IMG_1991

The Aston has a gorgeous leather interior. I want to roll naked on those seats.

Here are some of the other cars I found interesting. This is by no means comprehensive; the turnout of diverse vehicles was truly amazing!:

IMG_1957

Something American that I didn’t identify, but it had…

IMG_1958

FABULOUS WINGS!

IMG_1959

NSX

IMG_1960

Lancia. There was at least one other Lancia and a few interesting 1980’s Alfa Romeos (one GTV6 that I recognized from previous C&C events, that had been race-prepped)

IMG_1962

Something old I didn’t identify. Scott Colby said it was a Rolls, I think.

IMG_1963

Another Unicorn: Tesla Roadster, pre “Model S” era

IMG_1964

Tesla batteries.

What is more American than a Dodge Viper? I Dodge Viper with a fuckin’ squinting eagle painted on the inside of the hood!

 

IMG_1973

Nicely race-prepped BMW M3

IMG_1993

Fiat X-1/9. I have a soft spot for these. Love mid-engine 4-cylinder rust buckets.

 

That’s it. It’s amazing how many interesting cars live in the Morris County NJ area, and how cool a plain C&C event can be, even on an overcast November day. Sure, when they run it at Paul Miller Porsche they get a bigger turnout, but it’s mostly plain-jane Porsches and Ferraris.

 

 

 

My Hour-and-a-Half Tesla P85D Test Drive

On Friday I had a business meeting in Princeton, NJ, about 90 minutes from my house. My co-worker Brian had just bought a Tesla P85D – that’s the Performance model with dual motors and over 650 HP (going to 760 HP when the “Ludicrous Speed” firmware update goes in any day now!). On the way home, Brian let me… no insisted that I drive the car all the way back. Brian is a really trusting guy 🙂

 

 

That’s me, driving the P85D for the first time. The video does NOT do justice to the experience. I have driven or been driven in some very Hi-Po cars. 850-HP Mustang GT500, 750 HP Viper, and some heavily worked Grand Nationals/GNX, all driven very hard by crazy owners (or myself). I have taken a 150 HP motorcycle on the drag strip and wheeled the first 60 feet. NONE of that compares to the feeling of the Tesla. The key thing is that the Tesla produces peak torque from a dead stop, 0 rpm. So the first half second of the launch is like nothing a gasoline-powered vehicle could ever do (except maybe a purpose-built top fuel dragster).

Watch the video: when I punch it, you see the camera jerk. That is impossible to prevent. If your head is not held against the headrest, it will smack into it. You get the same sensation in your inner ear and in your gut as you get on a modern high-end looping roller coaster. I am not kidding when I say that there is a moment of dizziness as the car takes off.

I tried some fast turns, just to see how it feels. The specs on the car put it at way over 2 tons. It certainly does not feel like a sports car. It feels very… Solid. Like a really big Benz. Part of it is that the weight is carried very low. All the batteries are under the floor. So when cornering hard in a fast sweeping turn, there is zero roll and absolutely zero looseness. The car is very tight and the steering has no lash in it so it feels like a high-end GT sedan should.

The car itself is beautiful, in metal-flake blue with tasteful carbon fiber accents:

IMG_1440 IMG_1439 IMG_1441

 

And yes, here is proof that it’s a real P85D:

IMG_1438

It has a roomy trunk!

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The interior is absolutely worthy of the rather steep price. Reminds me of a high-end German car. Apparently it’s totally customizable, and the buyer gets to pick what kind of leather, headliner, dash accents, etc. It has by far the largest touch screen I have ever seen in a car for the dashboard management system:

IMG_1433

That is at LEAST a 22″ screen, and it controls everything. There are only maybe 4 physical buttons in the dash. The rest is software controlled.

And you can do amazing things. Like, you can control the suspension height and the car will remember the setting for that exact GPS location. So if you have a speed bump in your neighborhood that you need to manage, you do it once and the car will lift it’s skirt over that bump every time in the future.

You can also make changes to things like the degree of simulated engine braking. You may note in the video that I comment on this; Brian had the car set to very heavy “engine braking”, so you drove it like… an electric car (duh!). Lift the throttle past a certain point and it would go into regenerative braking so that for 90% of the drive I never had to touch the brake. And I was reassured that when it brakes harder than a certain degree, it also lights the brake lights so as not to confuse the cars behind you. It was a little unusual at first, but I got used to it quickly and I could see that you might want to set it that way.

If this is the future of electric vehicles, Bring it on! This ain’t your father’s crunchy-granola Birkenstock-wearing hair shirt suffering Electric Vehicle. The Tesla is totally amazing, and I think this was Elon Musk’s plan; build a car that people actually desire. Make it so cool that people see an EV as a thing to aspire to, not something you do because it’s good for you.

The Tesla P85D is like eating your steak, not eating your vegetables. And that is a very good thing.

 

 

Big/Little

Big-Little

Big-Little-2

Autocross Training

by S.C.I.E.N.C.E

I’ve been doing more and more track days and autocross events over the past decade, and there has been one common thread to all of the times that I’ve put wheel to track:

I’ve started the day with a raging hangover.

Why would someone go to a racetrack and risk thousands of dollars in damage to a beloved car (and possible bodily injury) at anything less than 100% physical and mental capacity? Because I have good friends who live reasonably close to all the racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region. So I stage my travel from a friend’s house, and inevitably there is catching up and drinking the night before.

This time I swore it would be different. No hard alcohol would cross my lips, and I would be at the Starting Line SCCA Autocross training event at Bader Field in Atlantic City fresh as a daisy and ready for action.

Google Maps © 2014

supported by sparbalu.com

 

And so I did as I promised: no boozing on Friday night. I merely stayed up until 2:00 AM catching up with my old friend who I had not seen for at least… a month. Tech inspection was set for 7:30 AM, so I had to wake up at 5:30 in order to have time to shower, shave, eat breakfast, and travel the one hour down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City.

My alarm app went off at 5:30 sharp. Shower? Shave? nobody will see my face inside the helmet! snooze. It went off again at 5:40. Breakfast? Overrated! Snoooooze. At 5:50 I dragged myself out of bed, threw on my racing suit (shorts and a t-shirt… this is only Autocross, ferchrissakes) and hit the road. At least I had the sense to top off my gas tank the night before.

Bader Field is on the bay side of lovely Newark-by-the-Sea Atlantic City NJ. It’s a disused airport that now has a minor league baseball park and acres of empty tarmac just begging to have cones sprinkled about for automotive fun. Which is exactly what the South Jersey chapter of the SCCA does, at least once a month during the racing season. This weekend was to see one of the regularly scheduled Autocross races on Sunday. But I was there on Saturday, for the all-day Starting Line Autocross class. For $325 I was promised a full day of training that would slash many seconds off of my pathetic dilletante’s lap time, plus add a year to my SCCA membership and give me free entry to one South Jersey SCCA autocross. Presumably they were expecting that the students would stick around for real event the next day, but I was on a time-limited kitchen pass because my elder child’s high school graduation party was on Sunday, and if I was not there grilling for the relatives I could pretty much kiss all my motorsports privileges goodbye forever.

So there I was, sleep-deprived and looking forward to a long day of hard driving followed by a 2-hour slog back home before a major life event party. Irresponsible, you say? I say “what kind of a father would I be if I did not demonstrate PASSION for automobiles to my children?”

I had enough time during tech inspection to break out my trusty 12V “Taurus SHO Spare Tire Alternative” and up-pressure my tires from the factory spec 29 PSI to an Autocross-hard 38 PSI. Note to self: remember to drop the pressure back down before going home on the GSP!

The driver’s meeting was the usual stuff. Blah blah blah safety blah blah blah have fun blah blah blah volunteer based sport so all of you will be doing cone duty when you’re not actually driving blah blah blah…

WHAT?!?! Cone duty? Fookin’ CONE DUTY? When you pay $300-odd dollars for a track day at a road course, THEY provide the corner workers and send someone to turn down your seatbelt and put a mini mint on your driver’s seat between sessions. I have done occasional Autocrosses before, and normally you do one session of cone duty to support the racing. Today we were going to be doing more or less constant cone duty. In the summer. Thank God it was about 73 degrees and overcast… for now. Also, this was a class made up mostly of Autocross n00bs (like me) who were undoubtedly going to be punting cones across the pavement right and left.

But I jest! Cone duty is part of the charm of Autocross. And you should always suffer for your passion.

And so the training began. The schedule was to do slalom, skidpad, and figure-8 drills in the morning, followed by a full-on Autocross (at least 14 runs each) in the afternoon. All sessions would start with the student at the wheel for 2 runs, then the instructor would take over for 2 runs, then back to the student driving for the rest of the time. This was an excellent approach, IMO. It gave the chance to first feel the exercise, then see how it’s really done, then spend the lions share of the time working towards matching what the instructor had done. For the morning exercises, there was an instructor in the car giving pointers the whole time.

I started on the slalom, and it looked like this at first:

Okay, so the camera takes 15 mph off the speed but even so I was slow. My instructor had me work on rythm, setting up for the next turn, and feeling the loading on the tires shift from left to right so that I was maximizing grip throughout the rapid waltz through the cones. After some pointers and seeing the instructor do it, it looked like this:

See how much faster that looks? No? Well, it was. My instructor was elated. She said that I “got it” and that I had mastered the slalom.

Next up: Skidpad & figure-8. The drill here was to feel the limits of traction, find out how throttle can control over/understeer, and for the bold, some controlled power sliding.

Watch closely. I am power sliding on the exit to many of those turns. I’m so proud. So was my instructor. I get another gold star for mastery. And one of the best parts of the skidpad? Hardly anybody launched a cone into the grass!

The figure-8 was the same idea, but with left & right transitions added, and a mix of sharper turn radius for complication. The GoPro ran out of battery, so no video for that.

NJ cuisine lunch was provided: submarine sandwiches… I mean “hoagies” (this is SOUTH Jersey, which aligns with Philadelphia vernacular). I set up my folding camp chair and table to prove that a Lotus Elise can travel in STYLE. I also applied more sunscreen, because our 73 degree overcast day had turned into an 80 degree cloudless day with a UV index of 11.

 

I must admit that I was feeling both eager and whipped for the upcoming full-on Autocross. The lack of sleep was catching up with me, and the slalom cone duty had involved some fair amount of sprinting to replace cones before the next student ran you over. The hoagie helped, as did about a gallon of water and Mountain Dew.

For the Autocross session the drill would change to 2 runs behind the wheel, 2 runs observing the instructor, 5 runs behind the wheel with the instructor shouting orders, and finally 5 runs solo, honing your skills and chasing the instructor’s lap time.

We were divided into two run groups. I drew short straw and ended up in group #2… cone duty first, race second. But first we walked the track…

Although walking the track was not behind-the-wheel practice, it was a very integral part of the training. We walked the track with a group of instructors who took us through the thought processes of  reading the course. They pointed out that although there were over 200 cones on the track, there were only 12 cones that mattered. These were mostly cones at the apex of turns, but even the apex didn’t matter on some turns. The trick was learning how to identify the high value turns where you could make or break your run, and differentiate them from turns that merely kept you from short-circuiting the course. After we walked the track with the instructors, we walked it again alone. I would have walked it a third and fourth time if they let me. It was clear that memorizing the track was going to be a key to good lap times. There were also pointers about starting out with a fast run, and then building upon that. This because in a real Autocross you do not get 14 runs. You get maybe half that many, and so you need to start from as high a position as you can in order to maximize your lap-to-lap improvement.

And so I baked in the sun while the first 10 students did their laps. I noticed that this was about a 40-second course. Meaning the instructors were doing it in the 37-second range while the students started around 46 seconds. Uh oh. It was 2:30 by then, and I was beginning to feel we might not get our runs in.

Then disaster struck. From my cone worker position I was facing the intercoastal waterway and the casinos of Atlantic City. My fellow student on the other side of the track was facing the entrance to Bader Field, and he suddenly got agitated. I turned to look and saw five (5!) police cars slowly driving the taxi ways. They were certainly coming for us.

Things ground to a halt for an hour. We were in the dark, reluctant to come in (because, y’know, police) but feeling silly just standing around. Eventually someone realized that we had cell phones with the email from the Starting Line people in them, so we called their number. The cops had arrived because they did not see the paper permit for the use of Bader Field on file. This was a bureaucratic screw-up that they should have been more accommodating about fixing. They KNEW that the field was used for these events fairly frequently. Eventually they got to the right assistant deputy mayor and we were allowed to continue, but now hopelessly behind schedule.

Starting Line stepped up and made it work. They really kicked it into gear and started running 3 cars on the track at a time. A little nerve-wracking for us cone workers, but it got the first run group done in short order and it got me on the track.

While I was waiting for my instructor, the Starting Line people allowed us to take hot laps with the non-instructor volunteers, who were all very good Autocrossers. I rode several laps with Nicole, the wife of one of the Starting Line guys. This was an excellent thing to do since it gave me more time to memorize the track, and see how it should be done. Nicole drove a prepped Honda Civic, and she was hella aggressive!

Finally, it was my turn. My instructor, my LADY instructor was an SCCA pro running in the fastest, most competitive class at a national level. She had been giving me gold stars up until then.

Now… I brought shame upon her, upon my dojo, and upon the spirit of Emerson Fittipaldi. I was not fit to the laces of the pilotis of the lowliest experienced Autocrosser. “I saw you do the slalom PERFECTLY before! Why do you dishonor me by screwing it up so bad now?”  I was running 45 second laps 🙁

I wanted to tell her that it was because I could only perfect ONE part of the course at a time right now. That I had just improved these skills but they had not yet become muscle memory. I wanted to, but I did not. I just begged forgiveness and tried again.

Eventually I went solo, and this is what I did:

There are two runs in that video. The second run was my fastest of the day: 39.04 seconds. Not too shabby, given the instructor had run 37 seconds. Here is my final run, with the instructor coming out with a clipboard to tell me the good news. Now sensei was HAPPY:

I was elated. I felt that I “got” it, and that with a little practice I could shave a second or more off my time. I knew where I hadn’t pushed it hard enough, where I was dogging it, and which turns had room for the most improvement and HOW to get that improvement.

The day ended with hats for everyone, another gallon of water, admonishments to come back and redeem your free racing coupon. Also a caution not to hoon it up when leaving the field, lest the cops be even less friendly in the future. I hustled out of there so I could do my familial duty.

Around 20 minutes up the Garden State Parkway I remembered that my tires had +9 PSI in them. I didn’t want to know what happens to Toyo R888 grabby-grab tires when run on the highway at that pressure, so I pulled in to air them down and get a Red Bull to keep me awake and alive on the way home. At the Parkway service area, I had  “Lotus Moment;” While sitting on the ground with the tire pressure guage, a very pretty woman in a black tube dress asked if she could take a picture. “Sure,” I say “give me a second and I will remove the chubby troglodyte from the frame.” She laughed, and got what she wanted. A picture of a gorgeous car without it’s less-than=gorgeous driver.

Made it home before dark. Sore. Exhausted. Supremely satisfied.

 

Maggot Down!

Today was a perfect motorcycling day. August, 77 degrees, dry, only a few puffy white cumulus clouds to be seen. It doesn’t get much better than that. So when my lunch meeting at BNYM got switched from Somerville to Newton (i.e. at Mr. Furious’ house), I decided it was too good to waste and I took the Buell.

All was well until Old Swartzwood Road about 5 miles from the Furious Ranch. Old Swartzwood is twisty, tight, and very hilly. I’ve done it by car several times and thought “Man, this would make a good road to take the Maggots on for a ride.” Oh how wrong I was. You see, Old Swatzwood is tar ‘n chip and criss-crossed by poor drainage of the type that can sometimes spread a nice layer of pea gravel across the road. Something like this:

Gravel of Death

gravel. GRAVEL!

Yes… Yes it would look EXACTLY like that, because that’s where I went down going 10 mph on a tight, steep downhill corner. I was tiptoeing along because the road looked like it could harbor this kind of thing anywhere. On the downhill I was coasting with the clutch pulled in, very slowly, and holding the bike back with both brakes. The front end locked and the wheel tucked in the blink of an eye, and I flopped over. Here are some other views of the road:

Gravel close up

 

Furious car with a wide view

Now for the pictures of the damage

The whole bike view of the aftermath. Not too bad, from a distance.

The whole bike view of the aftermath. Not too bad, from a distance.

Close up of the left saddlebag. Note the new road rash.

Close up of the left saddlebag. Note the new road rash.

Close up of windshield area. More road rash.

Close up of windshield area. More road rash.

Maybe you can see the gauze on the road rash on my forearm?

Maybe you can see the gauze on the road rash on my forearm?

Luckily, this was my OLD Arai RX-Q which I was retiring in favor of the Signet-Q which is still with J&M getting the headset installed. Whew!

Luckily, this was my OLD Arai RX-Q which I was retiring in favor of the Signet-Q which is still with J&M getting the headset installed. Whew!

My trusty Aerostitch Darien jacket.. NOT A SCRATCH. Those marks are stains from the tar that I slid through. The fabric itself is unharmed. My shoulder and elbow are unbruised too, even though they took the brunt of the impact.

My trusty Aerostitch Darien jacket.. NOT A SCRATCH. Those marks are stains from the tar that I slid through. The fabric itself is unharmed. My shoulder and elbow are unbruised too, even though they took the brunt of the impact.

 

So the net-net is that I need a new windshield, front plastic piece, and hand grip protector. Those things should be available on eBay for not too much dough. The saddlebag will be more pricey. I’ll also need a new antenna from J&M (it broke as the bike flipped a little as it slid). The front brake lever was a little tweaked but I moved that back into shape by hand. Other than that, not a mark on the frame, exhaust, or engine.

When I rode away to Rancho de Furioso I did notice that the low oil pressure light came on. I expected this because the bike fell seat-down/wheels-up on a pretty steep hill, and that means that the oil would slosh away from the oil pump pickup. I rode carefully, stopped the engine to coast on downhills, and the oil pressure came back in a few minutes. I think I’m OK there.

Me? Oh, glad you asked! I have a nice bit o’ road rash covering my kneecap, and my forearm lost a good few layers of skin where the Darien jacket rode up, dragging my shirt underneath because I had the sleeves loose and wide open due to the warm weather. I will be OK as long as I don’t contract flesh-eating bacteria.

–S.C.I.E.N.C.E.