Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Car Shopping

My wife wants a new car. More accurately she wants to replace *my* car. I drive the designated dog car. Lately she's been taking the dogs to the park on a daily basis and it's making a mess of her nice new Audi.

Maybe you're thinking "Hey, why doesn't she just drive your car? Are you some sort of territorial bastard that won't share?" Of course the answer to that is "Yes, I am a territorial bastard. I pee a circle around my motorcycles at least once per week. ... But not when it comes to something as cookie-cutter as a 2003 Subaru Forester. It's a glorified toaster. She's welcome to drive it." The problem is it's a manual transmission and she doesn't want to learn how to drive a stick.

So she wants us to get a new dog-friendly, automatic-transmission, AWD car to replace my Forester.

Well, if we're going to get a new car, I have some requirements too. We should get something that can tow an enclosed trailer (at which point I can go out and *get* an enclosed trailer). Since it will mostly be doing car-type-duty it should get decent gas mileage and drive like a car.

After a little shopping our short list is:

Dodge Nitro R/T
Toyota Highlander
Toyota RAV4 V6

We haven't driven anything yet. I suspect we'll find that the RAV4 is the most logical choice for us. But I'll want the Nitro anyway.

This could turn out to be a big win for me. I could end up with a new car, a new trailer *and* additional spending money. How? Because of how our finances work. There's MyMoney, HerMoney and OurMoney. A new car would definitely be paid for with OurMoney but since I bought the Subaru before we were married any money we get from selling it is MyMoney. And it will be more than enough MyMoney to buy a trailer.

Well, maybe putting that money towards the Ducati loan would be a good idea too. That was a big MyMoney purchase.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Incontrovertible Visual Evidence

I just received some more pics from my track days in Pahrump so I thought I'd post a few more of them.

Here's a snippet of the video they took of me at the track:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cruising the Sky

My trip to the track in Pahrump also included a trip to Tucson to visit family.

Since the trailer I borrowed had room for two bikes and I couldn't convince anyone to join me (Dave, Joe and Jason, this is where you should feel guilty and ashamed of yourselves) I decided to bring the Suzuki. That way I could enjoy the Tucson weather if the opportunity arose.

It turned out to be a good idea. (Insert Guinness-ad "Brilliant!" here.)

Just outside of Tucson is one of the best mountain roads anywhere. It covers about 25 miles from Tucson up to Mt Lemmon Ski Valley. The scenery ranges from the Sonoran Desert to pine forest as you climb from 3000' to about 9000' in elevation. ... Well, here's a good description. The road is Catalina Highway but it's less commonly called Sky Island Scenic Byway.

I hadn't been on Catalina Highway since I lived in Tucson in 2002. Back then they were in the midst of a long-term repaving project of the entire road. But, much to my delight, they've finished that project. That means gorgeous smooth wide asphalt for 25 miles.

In 2002 I would get up early and get in a few spirited mountain "laps" before the cars showed up in force on the weekends. (I'm not the sort of person that drags a knee on public roads, but if I were, Catalina highway was one of the best places for it. It wasn't hard to find times where there was zero other traffic on the mountain.) But for this trip I had the Suzuki. It's a much different ride on a cruiser. Not better, not worse, just different. You pay more attention to the scenery than on the sport bike. But it can still be a spirited ride.

If you're in Tucson with a bike it's a ride you won't regret.

I'm starting to think that moving back to Tucson might be worth the 20% pay cut. A couple hours each weekend on the mountain might save me enough in therapy costs to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pahrump Revisited

November 8th and 9th STAR held their year-end track event at Spring Mountain in Pahrump. Since I had a new bike I figured it would be a good way to get it out on the track for the first time. (1. The riding season around here ends in Min-October. 2. My impression of open track days here isn't good, there's just too much chaos.) So I borrowed an enclosed trailer and a truck to pull it with and headed down.

As always STAR put on a great event. They now have professional photographers that take pictures of the on-track action. The pictures are then used in the classroom sessions to help illustrate what you're doing well and not so well. You also have the option to buy the pictures of yourself. Here are a few:

You can see how my spray paint turned out on the racing body. The nose and fairings are sprayed. The tank and the tail section are OEM. The bellypan isn't OEM but it came already black.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you have a sport bike you owe it to yourself to take it to the track. You don't have to be a daredevil or a speed freak. If you're the conservative type think of it as learning the capabilities of your motorcycle to make you a better and safer rider when the unexpected happens on the street. Regardless how you validate it, going to the track is an absolute must.

I know there are some people out there (well, assuming *anyone* reads this blog at all I guess) that think "That bike is too expensive to take to the track. What if you wreck it?" True, that would stink. I'd cry and whimper and spend a week naked, in the corner, in the fetal position. But bikes like this are designed for the track. That's their whole purpose in life. Otherwise they might as well be in the living room as sculpture. ... Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad idea either. :)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Who's Crazy Now?

Earlier this week I stumbled across this. (If that link doesn't resolve it's a listing from a local collector car dealership for a 1976 TR6. They're asking $22950.) Normally when I see things like this, particularly from a dealership, I discount them as someone seeking a bigger sucker. But I haven't kept up with the market value of TR6s lately so I decided to take a look.

Believe it or not $23,000 for a high-end TR6 isn't totally out of line. NADA page for a 1973 TR6 I'm not crazy enough to think either of mine could command top dollar, but even in the lower ranges the value has come up.

I might be able to turn a profit on the green one.

I might be able to get 1/3 of what I've put in to the white one.


I've spent the last several weeks trying to get my motorcycle ready for it's track day in November.

I hemmed and hawwed about how I should paint the fiberglass racing body. Should I try my air sprayer and use real automotive paint? Should I go to a professional painter? Should I use aerosol spray paint? I spent about a week trying to decide. In the end the cost of the equipment and materials was just too high to justify the automotive paint. (I bought the fiberglass in order to save money after all.) Ditto for getting a professional paint job. So rattle can it was.

In the end spray paint was definitely the right choice. The paint job wasn't limited by the quality of the paint, it was limited by quality the bodywork under the paint. Clearly I need more practice. In the end the paint job came out ok for a track bike but it's not hard to see the flaws. I invested about $100 and 20 hours into it. I still have a few odds and ends to clear up but once I finish I'll post some pictures.

This weekend I've tried to finish the other prep work. Mostly removing stuff I don't need or want at the track. This is the first time taking the Ducati apart so it's been slow. (I could track-prep the Daytona in about 2 hours.) Everything from finding and removing fuses to pulling off the license-plate bracket. Hopefully it will be easier next time.

I had hoped to spend some time this weekend sync-ing the carbs on the Suzuki. (Since I'm going to the track day alone with a trailer big enough for two bikes I figured I'd bring the Suzuki along.) Unfortunately that will have to wait for another time. Probably next weekend.

I ordered two sets of Dunlop 208GP tires. (Since Dunlop is one of the sponsors of the track school I can get a pretty good price.) So far both rear tires have arrived but niether of the front tires. ... I'm considering just using the OEM tires for the track days since I don't have many miles of them (and no miles on the edges).

A piece of advice if you have a Ducati: Buy the shop manual. At first I was a little disappointed that they come on CD instead of a hard copy, but so far I've been impressed with the content.

Another piece of advice if you have a Ducati: Don't live in Seattle. The riding season is clearly already over.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Family Portrait

Here's one big picture that pretty much shows where all of my disposable income has gone over the last 15 years.

Friday I signed up for another couple of days with STAR. I'm going back to Pahrump NV in November. I've put about 900 miles on the Ducati so far but it's still fairly intimidating so I thought the best place to understand it's track manners was at STAR (instead of with a bunch of bozos trying to cram one last trackday hurrah into the Seattle riding season). I think I'll be able to borrow an enclosed trailer and a truck to tow it with so I don't have my Ducati spending the night out in the open at the Notel Motel during the trip. Plus the trailer is large enough to take two bikes so if no one else joins me on the trip I might take the Suzuki as well.

Now I just need to figure out how to paint that fiberglass race body before I head down there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I may have been dropped on my head as a child

That Ducati 1098 Tri-Colore isn't at the dealer any more. Someone snatched it up on Tuesday.

The problem is that 'someone' was me.

Here's my 12-step program for Ducati ownership:

1. Lose mind.
2. Find a banker who has also lost thier mind.
3. Buy Ducati and race bodywork.
4. Break-in Ducati.
5. Figure out how to paint fiberglass.
6. Service Ducati.
7. Get extra bike protection widgets.
8. Break-in Ducati some more.
9. Paint fiberglass.
10. Install race bodywork and widgets.
11. Go to track.
12. Try to stop giggling.

So far I'm on step 4. (Well, a little bit of step 12 too.) With some luck I'll get comfortable with it and get it to the track this season.

It's a little hard to get a truly accurate picture since I'm limited to < 6000 rpm during the break-in picture. But early indications are that it's scary powerful. It's 100lbs lighter and has 60hp more than the Daytona.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sweet dreams are made of these.

Wow! March 4th?! Eeek, I'm not very good at this am I? Oh well, you get what you pay for and I'm sure none of you are paying for this.

What's happened in 5 months? Well, the weather got nice so I got out from in front of computer and did stuff. What stuff? I can't remember but I'm sure it was fun.

... Uh ... Hmmm..... 5 months? .... What *did* I do? ...

Track days! Right! Three tracks days at Pacific Raceways. June 2nd + 3rd, and July 30th. On June 2nd I snapped the chain during the first session. I thought it was going to end my whole weekend but luckily I had an extra link and with some help I was back in the action after missing only one session. Here's one of my laps:

BTW, that's a new camera setup on the bike. I replaced the Archos AV500 recorder with an Aiptek MPVR. The Archos couldn't handle the vibration very well since it writes to an HDD. The Aiptek writes to a CF card and it works pretty well. (And it's smaller.)

July 30th I was at PR again. I was pretty sick so I only ran 4 or 5 sessions and most of those I came in early. Much to my surprise I was able to get a knee down in turns 2, 3, 4, 6, and 9. (Six really freaked me out, it was totally unintentional.) My lap times weren't spectacular but I did manage to see 133mph on the computer at one point. (No, mom, I wasn't watching my speedometer at 133mph. The computer records my max speed and I check it when the session is over.)

My group at work was given the week of July 30th off. (Hence being at the track on a Monday.) I thought I'd take some time to myself and drive out to Glacier National Park. In preparation I finally had the other 5 Redlines put on The Triumph. I know my dad thinks I'm crazy (for many reasons we won't get into here) but the Redlines really do make a difference. They somehow just look right.

Gentlemen, please remove your hats as we observe a moment of silence to commemorate the loss of our beloved original spare. .............. For 32 years it sat patiently in the trunk. Ever vigilant. Always ready to step in when needed. It was a fine old tire and I'll miss it terribly.

But in the end I decided it wouldn't be too smart to drive 4 days with the top down if I was sick. So I never did go to Glacier. (No, I could not have put the top up. I have a convertible. If the top is up I might just as well be driving a coupe. And that's just silliness.)

The same day I had the Redlines mounted I had new tires put on the Daytona in preparation for the track day. While they were being mounted at a local dealer I made a strategic error: I went upstairs to sales. Why was that an error? Because I found one of these on these on the floor. Whoever had put a deposit on it couldn't finish the deal and there no one else was waiting for a Tri-Colore. (The other 1098 models have a waiting list almost a year long at this dealership.) I tried it on for size and woudn't you know, it fit!

I talked with the sales guys and the service guys and they were clearly conspiring against the sensible part of my brain. But I managed to escape with new tires and before their Jedi Mind Tricks forced me into a new Ducati. I got in the car thinking "Whew! That was close! Good thing someone even dumber than me will snap that up. And probably even before my credit union opens again."

Except... I stopped by the dealer today and it is still there.

Waiting for me.

Calling to me.

It must be a sign.

Maybe it's the re-incarnation of that original spare. ... Maybe I should get it. Maybe it's trying to keep looking out for me. ... Right?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mud Bath

I took the bike to work on Friday. Some folks were planning to ride to the premier of Wild Hogs in the afternoon. I was going to join them on the off chance that the weather was cooperative. Of course this is Seattle so ... well ... yeah, that didn't happen.

But an odd thing happened at 11:30. I decided to go for a lunch ride with a couple other crazy fools. They wanted to get a burger at a little cafe in Fall City which is a 30-minute ride. Me? I just wanted to burn some gas.

It was raining. The road was wet. And I have no rear fender to speak of. I ended up covered in dirt.

It was great!

Did you worry about getting dirty when you were 7? And when mom told you to get out of the rain didn't you mutter something about "When I grow up I'm going to do what I want!"? ... So? Are you eating ice cream everyday? Are you playing in the mud?

Friday, February 16, 2007

On the Road Again

Good ol' Willie. Anyone know if he's paid off his taxes yet? ... Oh well.

It actually happened on Wednesday. I picked my Suzuki up from the dealer! (What? You don't think that's exciting? Just because I've done that about 2 dozen times in the last few years? Ah, okay, here's the important point -->) WITHOUT A TRAILER!

That's right boys and girls. It's alive and kicking and coming to a yuppie-biker-hangout near you.

It runs pretty good in the mid rev range. I'm not sure it's getting enough fuel once the revs pick up. It's a little early to say. My hope is to push a tank of gas through it this weekend. (If the weather cooperates.)

I've covered about 25 miles so far. And I've learned a few things already:
1) Mirrors are almost useless on a bike. But not as useless as having *no* mirrors.
2) If you have a short rear fender and you ride when the road is wet, you're going to get a nice disgusting stripe of grime on the back of your jacket.
3) Riding a cruiser with forward controls is absolutely nothing like riding a sport bike. (Although the riding position is oddly similar to the driving position in a TR6.)

Work items left:
- Polished / chromed final drive.
- Polished / powdercoated lower front legs
- Replace the oil cooler with something slimmer.
- Hide / cleanup the bluing on the front pipe.
- Get a speedometer cable.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sit Happens

I decided to move forward on the Suzuki last week. I need to get a seat installed before it will be safe enough for the guys at the dealer to ride it, and that's a pre-requisite for them to be able to tune it.

So I called Richs Custom Seats. Explained that I'd need a new pan and a new seat. I got the "bring the bike down and we can figure it out" response I expected. I made an appointment for Saturday.

I figured the process would look something like...

1. Bring the bike down Saturday morning.
2. Spend 15-30 minutes talking over what I wanted, what was possible, and deciding on a plan. Leave the bike behind.
3. Come back a week or two later (once the pan was done) to do the foam fitting. Take the bike.
4. Come back a week or two later to pick up the completed seat and sign over my first born son as payment.

Instead the process was...

1. Bring the bike in 10:45am Saturday.
2. Spend 15 minutes talking about what I wanted and what could be done with what I had.
3. Hang in the shop talking motorcycles with Rich, his employees, and a number of other customers (most of whom we're also a little surprised by Richs process).
4. About a dozen times get asked by Rich to verify that the shape / style / fit of the seat was what I expected.
5. Leave about 6:00pm with the bike and the finished seat.

Yeah, it cost me the day but now I have the seat done instead of waiting until the end of the month. Plus it only cost about 60% of what I expected. (Partly because they were able to modify my existing seatpan instead of having to create a new one from scratch.)

Next time I'll just have to remember to bring a book.

If you look close at the picture from the right side you'll also see the other little change I had to make. I had to move the rear brake reservoir to keep it from touching the exhaust. One of my finer successes: I spent 45 minutes and about $0.89 to make the bracket.