During the winter, Walter Meyers at
Seattle Cycle Service had outfitted the FZ6 with a brand new
suspension setup, making a giant difference in how the bike handled.
Utilizing R6 forks in the front and a well-tuned Penske spring set
in the rear, the bike responded fabulously to all types of surfaces.
The ride had so many back roads, it seemed
at times you weren't even in America. As we rode through Dallas (yes
- there is one in Oregon), I commented to Bob it seemed more like
going through Italy. He returned from the restroom, straddled his
bike and rode off as his GPS instructed him verbally, "Girare a
sinistra sulla strada statale 223
" We both had a laugh on that,
until he made a wrong turn and the woman officiator began yelling at
him - "A girare intorno, siete andati nel modo sbagliato!" but
neither of us speak Italian so it meant nothing. It only took us
four 300 mile days to figure out how to use a Zumo.
My friends Eric and Steve Folkestad put
on the Hell's Canyon rally each June in Baker city. They had
requested my presence on Saturday night to receive some sort of
lifetime achievement award. At the tender age of just fifty, I
begged Steve - 'Won't you let me die first?' He wouldn't have it, so
I had Moto International mount a new set of Avon Viper Strykes on my
02 Honda Silverwing and off I rode - on the back roads. Having just
released my third touring book, Motorcycling through Central and
Eastern Oregon, I enjoyed several days of those roads and couldn't
get enough. I can never get enough of that area.
Early in July, Bruce Scott and I headed to
the Columbia River Gorge to handle pre-riding chores for the
upcoming Rally in the Gorge.
You'd think after eight years
we'd know every road there, but we still end up on new ones. For
this trip I'd selected my 88 Honda NX250. Its light
weight and dual
sport setup make it a good choice both on and off the pavement. My
latest 'Ride with a plan'
technique was learning how to use
copious amounts of compression to control the bike, greatly reducing
the amount of braking and jerking around of the bike through
corners. Getting there by way of FS 25 on the east side of Mt. St.
Helens was done primarily in second and third gears between 7,500
and 9,000 rpm. The 250 thumper redlines at 9,500. I touched the
brakes about three times in total between Randall and Carson. The
result - one of the most fun rides I'd ever done on a motorcycle.
While in the Gorge
we pre-rode the fun
run, visited with the Stevenson Chamber of Commerce, our caterers
and Sherriff Brown. In Skamania County
there are a number of gravel
roads you won't find on maps. They are not in an atlas, not in a MapSource GPS program and certainly not on a folding map. But they
are there, as we found out
and Sherriff Brown was helpful in
providing the details. 'Turn right at the five way and head west' he
said, and so we did. The road was wide, it wasn't rutted but the
next several miles of large crushed rock made for a challenging
afternoon. Between the high RPM antics around St. Helens and horsing
the bike through Skamania's mystery roads, the chain on the NX250
was pretty much toast. I made it home and threw the chain away.
Don't waste your money on non-O-ring chains.
We now took a brief pause, loaded up the
Element and went to Redmond Oregon to attend a small gathering of
German motorcycle enthusiasts. And then it was back to work.
For the rally in the Gorge I went back to
the FZ6. Greg Maust and I headed to the Gorge the Sunday before and
again, I played the high rpm game around St. Helens, only this time
on a sport standard rather than a dual sport. The results? Another
ride for both of us.
The rally was a great time and gets more
fun each year, even for the staff as we streamline operations and
sneak in a little riding time ourselves. I enjoyed the fun run
taking a 200 mile test
ride on Kymco's new fuel-injected Downtown
model, which perhaps would be better titled the Cornering Monster.
After passing a dozen or so sport bikes between Multnomah Falls and
Vista Point, it was clear Kymco had built a fantastic low CG ride.
On the way home from the rally, the
National Park Service confirmed the FZ6 was capable of doing 55mph
in a 35 zone. Uh oh...better call Jeanie Muckelstone.
Greg's rear tire after that fun ride
along Mt. St. Helens, the poker run around Mt. Hood and then a trip
up to BZ's Corner.
All the while, our Sasquatch dual sport
pre-rider, Bob Owen (enter a third Bob) was busy working his way
through the lower Cascades range and up the Oregon coastal range
hammering out the 2010 Sasquatch route. Washington State seems to be
a piece of cake to pre-ride compared to what we came up against in
Oregon. In Oregon you get to deal with many forest fires and several
layers of government and private timber organizations. In the end,
Bob had crafted a great route. In mid-August sixty seven
riders thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for the full five days of
this second annual event. For this trip
I pulled my 88 Honda NX650
(big brother to the 250) together. Different bike, same problem -
thanks Pro Caliber Motorsports of Bend for providing a new O-ring
chain on that fateful Tuesday morning.
August ended, but riding season was far
from over. In early September
Bob Tomlinson loaded up his 08 BMW
F800ST, I loaded up the FZ6 and we headed north to scout Canada five
days in search of a route for a possible road trip tour in 2011. The
conclusion was that while Canada has some great roads, they are
spread far enough apart from each other to make for a very
un-interesting tour. Canada is in short supply of the endless
threads of twisties such as those found in Oregon.
Bob O. working on the Sasquatch
pre-ride. The braided beard is so no one will mistake him for a
But was the idea of running a road trip
tour in 2011 dead? Not yet. There was one more place to visit before
the fall moisture set in - Idaho.
Steve Schiller (CMA) and Tim Bernard
(Happy Trails/CMA) had invited me to their rally in Kamiah, Idaho
mid-September. I had my reservations. Weather was one of them. Tim
simply emailed back - 'high 60's in the day, low 50's at night.' I
could live with that if it really worked out that way. And it did.
The tires on the Silverwing only had a few thousand miles on them at
this point. Knowing there would be plenty of twisties on this trip
opted for it again.
Steve had put together a number of ride
maps taking riders away from the mainline of US 12 and sending them
out into the back roads in the area. The long weekend was a blast,
discovering hundreds of miles of roads I'd never been on before. And
as a result I was able to cobble together sections I'd ridden in
Eastern Oregon, connect them together with the new Idaho discoveries
and create what should be an excellent five
day Road Trip:
tour in 2011.
I wasn't home yet though. Upon carful
inspection of the rear tire in Kamiah, there was a problem looming.
Lack of tread. Tire depth is measured in x/32s and in this case
there was 0/32s of tread depth after 3,500 miles. The price one
pays for sticky cornering rubber versus hard touring compounds. I
was in a bit of a panic and called David Hough to consult. We
discussed ways of nursing a balding tire and getting the Silverwing
back home on what little rubber it had. The sides of the tires still
had tread. Knowing that I'd have to ride from Cle Elum to Seattle on
the flat center surface since I-90 is the only option, I opted to
create a return route with as many twisties as possible to
Cle Elum, so more time and mileage could be spent on the outer edges
of the tires. And it worked. On Sunday morning I rode out of Kamiah
beginning with several miles on a gravel road, and wound my way back
over a route that took some ten hours to complete. At each stop I
checked to see if the threads had appeared. David and I had
discussed earlier what comes after that, but it never occurred and I
limped into Seattle without a flat.
Riding season ended. Oil changes, new
tires and general maintenance are on the list of things to do this
winter. It's friends like Eric & Steve F., David, Bruce, Greg, Tim
and Steve S. that make riding in the Northwest so much fun. And of
it goes without saying - thanks Bob, Bob and Bob.