Friday, June 8, 2012

May 27, 2012 - Ride to Cape Blanco & what's left of Sixes

I love living here on the Oregon coast, for me it’s the perfect retirement spot. I seem to find myself visiting the same places without ever growing tired of them. 

Take Cape Blanco for instance, it’s the western-most point of the lower 48 and there’s a lovely state park located there. Along with that the Cape Blanco lighthouse is open for tourist visits several months out of the year, always an interesting spot to visit and only 20 miles south of my home.

Today I rode down for a look to see what was up and met a great lady hostess at the entry to the light house. She and her husband are from the Denver area but spend a lot of their time working as volunteers in Oregon State Parks System. They live in their 5th-wheel RV and stay at various sites for a few weeks, then move on to their next assignment. Not a bad lifestyle for retirees. 

On the way home I stopped off to have a look at the little settlement of Sixes. Nearly abandoned it still has an active post office next to the old gas station that’s now out of business. 

Just down the road a hundred yards or so the old Sixes Grange has been recycled as a “Market Place” offering hand crafted items made of driftwood and antiques, and oh by the way, Bingo. Bingo....eww...

So that’s it for now kiddies, another exciting rambling ride through the local scenic countryside around my stomping grounds. Today’s ride is a done deal, time to head home, see ya later.


Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012 – The lowering Kit, Part Two

Yesterday afternoon I picked up Red Girl and brought her home. Greg had spent a considerable amount of time installing the lowering kit and his diligence paid off; the bike now sits around 1.38” lower just as the kit advertisement said it would.  
It wasn’t an easy install; the difficulty he encountered was dealing with the mono shock spring assembly. Evidently it requires a special compression tool which the shop didn’t have and he was forced to get creative using other devices. He tried to explain how he’d gotten around this but I wasn’t able to follow him so I can’t pass it along; suffice it to say the job got done and I didn’t have to pay for any lost time.

I arrived back at the shop in time to watch him adjusting the front end and when he was finished he helped me load her onto my trailer for the ride home. I make it a habit to stop and check the tie-downs after the first couple of miles; this has saved my bacon a couple of times when straps or ratchets were about to give way. This day all was as it should be and I continued on my way home.

Of course by the time I arrived home it had started to rain again so I wouldn’t get a chance to go for a ride; Red Girl would have to spend the night on the trailer. Unloading bikes during rain storms isn’t my deal so I put her cover on and called it a day.
Today was much the same; heavy rain again, nearly all day. Late this afternoon it finally let up and Linda helped me balance things during the unloading process. I’ve unloaded bikes by myself but I really like having someone to lend a hand, especially bikes as heavy as Red Girl.
Sitting on the stock saddle I’m really impressed with the difference, I can now sit with both feet flat-footed on the ground with a slight bend in my knees. My inseam is a scant 29 ½” so this is a major improvement over the stock height and well worth what it cost.

Here’s how the expenses broke down:
Metissel lowering kit including shipping:             $190.00
Honda World 3 hours shop time@ $70.00:        $210.00
Total installed cost:                                            $400.00
So do I think it was worth it and would I recommend it to others? You betcha! Considering what so many of us spend on farkles like GIVI cases, GPS’s, custom saddles, and more this was a steal. Not only will it improve the handling by lowering the center of gravity it also adds to the safety factor by reducing the chances of dropping it.
PS – Of course it’s raining again!               

May 28 update

I've been on two short rides so far, around 200 miles total and the bike handles great. Being able to stop with both feet flat-footed on the ground without reaching makes all the difference in how easy it is to ride. This puts Red Girl on a par with my Ninja which so far has been the best bike I've ever ridden. I highly recommend this mod to anyone with a short inseam.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22, 2012 – May as well do Heli Bars too…

Right after ordering the lowering link kit another item came up for sale on the NT riders’ forum. One of the members had sold his bike but before doing so he’d removed the Heli Bars kit. It’s a fairly expensive item and like most aftermarket accessories it wouldn’t affect his selling price that much. Most riders know this and if they have time will remove their add-ons for separate resale.
Heli Bars kit mounted on a demo bike
This aftermarket kit includes all the necessary parts to reposition the stock handlebars 2 ½” taller and 3 ½” rearward producing a 4 ½” overall net gain for the rider. In simplest terms the rider now sits bolt upright with no forward lean, a truly comfortable touring position for most riders. Well...older ones anyway.
The Heli Bars Riser is intricate and well made
The kit includes several items, the riser with power outlet and RAM ball installed; plus new brake line, clutch cable, and push-pull throttle cables. The new cables are required due to the extended rearward location; the shorter factory cables simply would not reach.

After making my appointment with Greg at Honda World in Coos Bay to install the lowering link kit I realized this would be the opportune time to have the Heli Bars installed. I called back to see if we could add that to their work order and was told it wouldn’t be a problem; just bring the kit along when I delivered the bike to them on Tuesday.
Realizing they’d probably never seen one of the kits and since it might require several hours to install I made arrangements for a ride home figuring they’d keep the bike overnight.
Thanks to Toby our Aussie Shepherd I arose early this morning. I was anxious to see what the weather was doing and as predicted it was raining. The 35 mile ride to Coos Bay looked like it would be a delight…
My alarm clock - goes off at the same time every day
It's wet out there...
It rained most of the way in and I was glad I had decent rain gear. I arrived at Honda World right on time and Jerry Smith, my ride home was waiting. Not the quad & trailer, he drives a Honda SUV. Nice.

After going over the revised list of things I wanted done I turned the bike over to Greg. His new estimated time for installing both kits was now up to six hours. Besides the kits I’d added an oil change with filter plus air filter if they have one. This isn’t going to be cheap! Of course the increased amount of time also meant it wouldn’t be ready today, so some time tomorrow I get to see the results of all this.
For information on this kit follow this link to the Heli Bars website:
In the mean time I’m planning my next move, maybe adding a trailer hitch if that’s feasible. Huh? Trailer?

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012 – The Lowering Kit, Part One

After arriving home one of the first things I ordered for Red Girl was a lowering kit. Made in Germany by Metissel and available through the California firm Wild Hair Accessories it came in at $190.00 including shipping from Germany. I found the dealers easy to work with and they were great about staying in touch. Delivery took several weeks due to the slow shipping method but I was in no hurry.
 For those interested here’s a link to their site:             
That tidy sum gets you a shortened version of the mono-shock’s mounting link which once installed properly produces a saddle height 35mm lower than stock. That’s about 1 3/8” in American speak, more than enough to make a big difference to vertically challenged riders like myself.

Today I met with Coos Bay Honda World technician Greg and scheduled the installation for next Tuesday. His estimated time for the job is 2 ½ hours and maybe less, depending on what he encounters during the process. That seemed reasonable enough for me and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing the results.

Also recommended by Metissel is the shortening of the side stand by 20mm or about ¾”. I’ll probably have that done by the local fabrication shop where I have all my welding done. One of the best mods I’ve done to a bike was the addition of a “Fat Foot” device to the side stand on my Ninja.

The Fat Foot increases the area of the kickstand's foot several times over which helps prevent sinking into soft surfaces such as wet grass, sand, and even warm blacktop. Since no one makes a Fat Foot for the NT700v I'll have a facsimile made when I have the side stand shortened. 
Metissel further advises "Due to the change in the chassis frame geometry caused by the lowering, the driving characteristics may change slightly and the freedom to tilt could be restricted. Please adjust to the new conditions by driving carefully for the first few kilometers.” I’m not anticipating any problems since I don’t begin to approach the limits of my bikes performance, especially in cornering.
The following photo of Red Girl parked next to writer Jerry Smith’s Gold Wing clearly illustrates another reason for my choosing the NT700v. The wing weighs nearly double that of the NT and believe me, it can be unwieldy at times. The NT700v is closer in weight to my Ninja and once lowered should have very similar ergonomics.
That’s it for this post; I should have a follow-up with the results next week.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

August 2011 - In the Beginning – I meet Red Girl

I first saw Red Girl when she was listed for sale on the Adventure Riders Forum, an on-line assemblage of motorcycle riders from all over the world. This is the place where riders come together to share their stories, learn from others, and buy & sell motorcycles and related gear. It’s the best place to hang out if you’re a biking enthusiast even if you don’t ride.
According to the AD Red Girl was located in Malta, NY, around 30 miles north of Albany. Tony Morris, the ADV rider offering her for sale was her second owner, a fact which nearly put me off. My thinking was there must be something dreadfully wrong with a bike barely a year old and already up for sale twice.
Tony’s Ad read in part:
2010 Honda NT700v                                                                                                                                                              Now approx 12k miles
Ricor Intiminator fork upgrade for a better ride
Triumph fork gaiters
Fresh oil change
New Pirelli Scorpion tires
Great description, good price, but it was the photos that got me. I mean, who can say no to a red Honda?

I’d done some very intensive research into this model and couldn’t discover any known issues or history of troubles; in fact the NT700 is well known in Europe as the Honda Deauville where many of the owners use them as daily commuters due to their high degree of reliability. Added to that the model has been on sale in Europe since 1998 being first being introduced as the NT650V and later in 2006 rebadged as the NT700V when the engine was enlarged to 680cc’s, thus establishing a long life history.
I know little of Red Girl’s past except her first owner, also a New Yorker was an experienced motorcyclist who buys and sells machines on a fairly short term basis. Tony whom I bought her from is somewhat the same and shortly after buying her another model caught his eye and she soon found herself back on the block. The resulting Ad on Adventure Riders Forum was the first I’d seen for a pre-owned example of these scarce (in the USA) machines and I jumped at it.
Tony’s asking price was very agreeable and on August 22nd we were able to strike a deal over the telephone.  With the business done I would fly back to New York and ride her home, a typical “fly and ride” deal a lot of bikers do. To help make things easier for me Tony offered to pick me up at the nearest airport in Albany, NY, around thirty miles from his home. He would also receive and store a couple of boxes containing my riding gear plus the GPS I’d use on the way home.
Besides the riding gear I included a small tank bag for which I ordered a special mounting bracket that fits over the gas filler; the idea being to keep the bag off the tank’s painted surface and at the same time making for a quick-release for refueling. This was shipped directly from the retailer to Tony’s office and as a pleasant surprise he installed it on the Honda in readiness for my arrival.

Another item that I’d ordered in advance was a set of bar risers from Motorcycle Larry’s, a company that handles a lot of support items and farkles for the NT700v. These are small metal brackets that relocate the handlebars up an inch or so and back towards the rider another inch. This makes a huge difference in riding comfort as it reduces the amount of forward lean the rider must endure. Old guys like me really appreciate not having to bend our backs too far.
MCL Bar Riser Kit
Included in the riser package was MCL’s optional GPS mounting kit complete with RAM ball. This item is compatible with lots of aftermarket farkles including the Garmin Zumo 550 that I use.

My allocated time for this trip was a bit hurried as I was actively involved in the remodeling of a small building I own in Portland and I couldn’t be away more than a few days. I headed home to Bandon to pack, after which the fastest means of getting to NY was to catch the red-eye flight out of Eugene back to Portland and then non-stop into Albany where I would arrive early the next morning. Thanks to Tony I didn’t have to check any bags and that made my flight a lot more enjoyable.

The Red Eye to New York

Albany Airport - I must have swapped planes somewhere?

As he’d agreed Tony was waiting to meet me and with no baggage to claim we left for his place, stopping off for a bit of breakfast and a get-to-know-you session.
We arrived at his home mid-morning, the sun was shining and it looked like a typical late summer day, not at all what I’d been expecting. Hurricane Irene had swept through the area just a couple of days earlier and I’d nearly cancelled the trip but as it turned out she was less violent than had been expected and damage to Tony’s area was minimal. He rolled Red Girl out of the storage building and she was beautiful, not a scratch on her anywhere and looking like a brand new bike. I was smitten!

I meet Red Girl for the first time. Wow...!

We immediately set about installing the handlebar risers and tank bag, then wired up a temporary connection for the GPS. At the same time we installed an auxiliary power plug that would accommodate my electric heated vest. What? Who’s that snickering? Hey I’ve been cold, I’ve been warm. I like warm better.

Tony and me working on Red Girl's farkles
Tony probably wondering about the wisdom of all this....
Power Outlet for my heated vest. What?
As part of the handlebar riser kit the new centrally located GPS mount went on easy. We also mounted the MotoFizz tail bag that would serve the function of a top box on the ride home. You wouldn't believe how much stuff one of these expandable puppies can hold. In addition to that they're super easy to remove from the bike at the end of the day.

GPS mounted - Note the cool map case on the tank bag
While we were busy installing things “Ramblin Dan”, one of my on-line scooter buddies who lives close by to Tony showed up for a brief visit. He’d invited me to stay with him since Tony was scheduled to go pick up his new bike that night, the one that would be Red Girl’s replacement. 
Ramblin' Dan - Rogue Scooterist
Once we’d finished all the installations including another wash job by Tony I was ready to go for a spin.

Tony! She's clean already, enough!
There was a Honda dealer located twenty miles or so north that would be my target destination; I wanted to pick up a vinyl tank guard before setting out for home.

Honda dealer aka "Sportline" dealer. What's that all about?

Tank Protector Gizmo - nice item, it works
This is an item that covers the rearmost part of the tank and protects the finish from belt buckles. The dealer had them in stock and I bought one thinking I’d install it for the ride home. As it turned out I didn’t get around to it for nearly a month after I rode home but I was careful not to lean against the tank and no scratches occurred.

After riding around the area for 50 miles I headed to Dan’s place where I’d spend the night. We ordered in pizza and beer and spent some time mulling over the best options for the ride home.
After yakking it up for a couple of hours it was time to hit the hay; I’d been up for a long time and since I never sleep during flights I was ready to crash. Dan had to work the next day so we both got up early, had coffee and said our goodbyes. Red Girl was loaded comfortably and I was off.

What follows are excerpts from daily emails that I sent home & to friends during the ride west.
Sept 02 Friday – On the road again!
Hi People,

I'm alive & well, think I'm in Farmington, NY but couldn't swear by it. This afternoon all the fast living finally caught up with me so I grabbed the first overpriced motel I could find and crashed early.

Red Girl is performing better than I expected, nice level of power, good stoppers, good handling, and the fuel economy is hanging just over 50mpg. The windshield adjustments are easy and I've used 3 out of 5 already; neat feature.
Tony and I installed a set of bar risers that moved the handlebars up an inch or so and back around 1 1/2" which made a huge difference in ergonomics. The bike is light enough that I can ride and park anywhere with confidence, something we take for granted with our 3-wheelers but very welcome on a 2-wheeler. I'm able to stand flat-footed on one side and tippy-toed on the other which is adequate for me. Dan was able to stand flat-footed while the bike was on the center stand! Must be nice Dan, eh?
So far only one mishap has occurred, the GPS went south about an hour into the ride this morning so I had to perform a bit of roadside maintenance. It turned out to be the temporary power wiring I’d made up had failed leaving the GPS to run full time on its internal battery until it went flat.

Using spare electrical bits I managed to fix it while at the same time whack a couple of nice holes in my finger. It’s now back on line and functioning as it should be. My finger will take slightly longer.

I'd planned on visiting several friends on the way home but it looks like I won’t be able to; my daughter sent photos of the office building I'm having remodeled and it appears the contractor has either left town or decided to take a long holiday as nothing seems to be getting done. With that to deal with I'd better skedaddle home and see if I can light a fire under him and go for a ride later.

I also wanted to write a blog on the ride back but I don't know how much I'll get to see so maybe it will have to wait. Anyway thanks to all of you for your interest and especially to Dan for his hospitality (and beer), I'll try to get back on line later and answer the questions some of you asked.



Sept 03 Saturday – Is this Ohio? Is it?
Hi People,
Today was hot as hell so I gave my swamp cooler vest a total work out and I'm pleased to say it still functions. Some of the McDonalds customers may have wondered what I was doing in the restroom while saturating it with water but it was a great place to "fill up."
Because it was so hot I bailed early again, think I'm in Ohio somewhere as the motel says Perryville or something like that so I’m probably close to Dayton. I'm not bothering with a map as the print's too fine which makes my eyes bug out so I'm letting the GPS take me home. Naturally it prefers riding the slab with as many toll sections it can locate. I wouldn't mind but the damn roads are in miserable shape and I can't help wondering where all the toll money goes. Not on maintenance that's for sure.

I finally broke down and called my contractor from hell and he was ecstatic to hear from me; seems he's running a bit low on funds to which I responded that I have lots of bucks in the bank just waiting to send his way as soon as the project is finished. His new promised date is next Wednesday and I told him I'd be there for the final walk-through, check in hand. In other words I lied. Payback is hell boys and girls; you should never mess with old people, we’ve got nothing to lose.

A couple things of note before closing today’s post: Evidently the folks in Ohio don't cotton to drinking much beyond tap water; I received a stern warning not to go running around the motel with a beer in hand. Do I look like the sort who would subscribe to that behavior? Not me, nope, never.

As a bit of an update on Red Girl I wanted to mention the AirHawk seat pad is once again proving its worth by saving me from Monkey Butt. I hope that's not too graphic....
There's a bit of the expected hand grip buzz you always get from two-cylinder engines so I'll probably look into resolving that at a future date. She already has a very expensive set of bar-end weights added but they don't seem to be helping a great deal so maybe a set of cushy grips will work?

Overall she seems to be a great little beastie, I rode her on gravel for the first time this afternoon and she was stable as could be. I also did some very tight low speed U-turns (missed a couple of turns & had to reverse course) and she behaved with great manners; actually a bit easier than my scooter Red Dog.

It looks like that's today's report, sorry but the camera stayed in the bag all day so no exciting pics of Ohio to post. Maybe I'll take a couple tomorrow before leaving the area?


Sept 04 Sunday – Iowaaaaaaay! One of my favorite places!I'm in Grinnell, IA tonight, covered a bit over 500 miles by riding the toll roads all day. The new bike takes some of the boredom out of it as she’s so nice to ride. Lots of traffic cops in all the states so far, must be the holiday weekend that attracted them. It's almost like watching sharks in a feeding frenzy or maybe more like riding in Florida on any day of the year.

I beat most of the nasty storm that was moving into the Ohio region, got just a few sprinkles this morning, then sunshine for the rest of the day. Last night it hailed golf ball sized nuggets while I slept through it all. In fact I didn't get up once during the night...go figure?

Sept 06 Monday – Labor Day… Izzit legal to ride today?So what’s it like to wake up in Ogallala Nebraska you ask? Yawns…snore…  And while you’re asking you might include the question just where the heck is it? Simple, it's located 513 miles west of wherever I was last night. Look it up, you’ll see. The perfect holiday retreat…zzzzz…zzzzz

I was happy to see it was sunny this morning but still cold enough to require my heated vest. Which by the way being's how I'm so damned fat I can't get the thing zipped up? It still did the job though and kept me toasty warm until around noon when things warmed up enough to go without it. I love modern technology.
I saw a couple of wrecks today, probably to be expected since it’s Labor Day, right? The first one involved a herd of confused HD riders, no one apparently hurt but they were still confused looking like you get when you run off the road unexpectedly....I wouldn't know anything about that, eh? The second one involved an upside-down cage with a couple of folks on stretchers while others involved were sort of hanging out; no doubt they were probably all talking to lawyers about cricks in their necks. That last one had ended up on the huge grassy median that separates the east-west lanes and from the looks of it they were all packing enough clothes for a week-long visit to Grandma’s. Gear, clothes, undies, etc., were strewn for a quarter of a mile, it was a helluva mess.

I remained on the slab all day enjoying the nice 75mph speed limit which really enables you to move right along. Then the construction zone from hell showed up and I found myself parked in the dead-stop-to-2mph mode for about 45 mins, just 5 miles short of my goal for the day. That was fun. Anyway I'm holed up in another cheapie motel and stuffed full of meatball submarine sandwich & warm cola, genuine manly food. Life on the road remains good.

Red Girl continues running really well; no more hesitations like before so I think the gas was probably bad. This is a great road machine that loves to run steady at 85+ mph.  At this rate I hope to make Portland by Friday at the latest; the contractor from hell swears the building will be done. Fire maybe?
Sept 07 Tuesday – Escape from Salt Lake City
After WY, MT, etc, I overnighted last night in Salt Lake City, Center of the Known Universe. For some reason I seem unable to find cheap motels in this town and always end up spending double what it would cost elsewhere. All through this ride I’ve stayed in motels that ranged from crappy - the kind I usually frequent - to really swell ones managed by people who need to be more observant about whom they let onto their premises. The hour was late when I arrived so I didn’t do any exploring, just stuffed my face with food and hit the sack.

Sept 08 Wednesday – Overnight in Lake View and the final ride home
After leaving Salt Lake City I continued onto Lake View, OR where I froze my patootie off. Don’t these people know about summer? I stayed in the same grungy old motel as the last time I rode through this area and had a decent dinner at the nearby Mexican restaurant. In the morning I met another rider at the motel with a really filthy old beater BMW. His collection of vintage scarred-up leather saddle bags looked like something out of the dump but he seemed the frugal type and was proud to show them off.  When I pointed to Foxy as being my shiny new ride he was totally unimpressed. Guys who ride old BMW airheads are often like that, at least I used to be back in the days when that was my ride. Once the chest pounding ritual was out of the way we shared a table over breakfast and swapped lies about our roadworthiness. He was better at it than I.
The remainder of the day’s ride was through familiar territory that ultimately took me by a couple of rider buds who oohed and aahed over Red Girl like she was the 2nd coming. After that I did the right thing and actually went home. Both of the dogs pretended to know me and since herself is running for office and involved up to her ears in campaign stuff I have the run of the place to myself. Nice and restful indeed.
Before closing I thought some of you might be interested in these brief stats:
On the way home I rode 3 days that logged over 500 miles each and one that went over 635, all easy as pie. These may not sound like a lot to some but for me the only other bike I've ridden that enabled me to log that many daily miles was my Gold Wing.  By comparison my normal daily mileage when touring on the Ninja ranges between 275 – 375 miles; substantially less than on Red Girl. It would seem then the added weather protection provided by her fairings and adjustable windshield makes a huge difference in comfort thus enabling me to ride longer.
Traffic for the most part was a non-issue; once past the ugly snarls on Labor Day the only other real delays occurred when road construction workers (Let's Get America Back To Work!) people messed around delaying traffic as long as humanly possible. All of this with zero evidence that anyone was actually engaged in the work thing.
Anyway I'm home at last and in conclusion I can honestly say I’m glad I bought this shiny red bike. I’m thinking she’ll prove to be one of my better moves, contrary to most of my calls.

Take care people, and drop by this blog from time to time; I'll be posting whenever something new is added to Red Girl plus who knows, I may even get to go for another ride soon.