Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Ride Far on a Sportbike.

This summer, not counting regular ass riding around in cities, I have clocked nearly 3000 miles. 

The total distance has made me realize how utterly achievable it is for me to travel the trans-American highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Already, I am dreaming of the day when I can ride from Virginia to California, mostly on back roads, hopefully. 

My travels have also brought me to a proper reckoning with my gear. I figure I should share my revelations, for all the sport bikers out there who might want to rock exit to some place far away.

For me, an important aspect of riding is being comfortable. I don’t want to ride for an hour with wet undies or a heavy ass bag on my back jacking up my shoulders. There are a lot of people who deal with this stuff like its whatever, but that ain’t me. So keep this in mind as I offer these suggestions.

1) Get a more comfortable seat. 

Sportbike seats are made to transmit feel to the rider. So they are hard. That is not what’s up out on the highway. So get some gel shit or a Corbin seat or something. Then, for good measure, get some bicycle shorts that have all that padding around your sit bones. This single thing will improve your possible saddle time most of all.

2) Wear your best helmet.

Your best helmet is the one that is most comfortable. I  used to rock an old Scorpion EXO-700 in the city. It was perfect for daily riding to and from school. But if I had it on for more than an hour, it would jack my face with pressure points. So for long distance, you gotta make sure that the lid won’t give you a headache. This is what you are paying for, I think, when you buy a Shoei or Arai or whatever: comfort over a long period of time. (To be fair, I think the new Scorpions are coming around on this too. That EXO-R2000 seems quite nice.) So make sure you are properly fitted. 

3) Be ready for the rain.

I have a mesh/leather Rev’it! suit that has a rain liner. The jacket liner is too short, so I replaced it with a Fox MX rain jacket, which is perfect. It is a bit of a hassle to put on the rain pants, since they go on underneath the suit and not on top of it, but they work perfectly when they are in place. However, I think it is best to have rain pants that just go on top of whatever you are wearing. That way, when you see the clouds, you can just pull off right quick and pop it on, as oppose to risking indecent exposure charges like I have to. 

Also, your boots have to be waterproof. I honestly don’t know why the very first pair of boots I ever got weren’t Goretex. There is no advantage whatsoever to regular leather race boots. One should either get the “air” version of these boots, for hot weather, or waterproof boots for moderate weather and rain. Leather boots cost marginally less and take for fuck ever to dry out when you do get caught in the rain, as all dope riders do. So, seriously, if you are going to get race boots, get waterproof race boots. 

Held. My new favorite gloves.

You also need waterproof gloves. I have had a couple pair over the years and I can say quite easily that the Held Air N Dry gloves are the best. Mainly because they are two gloves in one. So, when it is not raining, you can cool your hands all serious, and when the torrent is coming down, you can be dry from that Goretex goodness. I didn’t think they could be so dope until I tried them on for myself. Yeah, they cost a lot. Yeah, they are worth it.

The R35 is in the middle. Do not buy if you are less than six feet tall.

4) Keep the weight off your back.

I have a few bags. A small Ogio tank bag. A Cortech tail pack. A Kriega R35 with a US10. Here are my thoughts: Any tail pack that isn’t waterproof is a waste of money. Yeah, sure, you can pack your stuff with plastic bags to stay waterproof, but that is just extra shit to do. The ideal zone is to rock a Kriega US20, with maybe a US10 on top of it. These bags strap quite brilliantly to the tail of even the smallest rear sections, of which the R1 is a serious contender.  That way you don’t have to worry if your electronics and such are going to be okay. Plus, Kriega bags are quickly attached and detached. So you don’t have to fumble with taking off your seat and shit just to take your bag into the motel or brothel or where ever you are visiting. 

For the tank bag, however, I have a bit of a different perspective. This is because I feel the tank bad should be the bag of gear and should be easy to access. A Kriega bag is not really going to fit this description because of the way they close up (they roll and snap. The Ogio bag just unzips at the top like regular). So I kind of like the Ogio tank bag. In it I put all my gloves, my other visor, balaclava, and the little ass toe shoes I walk around in. All that. And, because I’m a hypocrite, I pack them in a plastic bag in case of rain. Because, look, those rain covers that cheap moto bags have may block a light drizzle, but they don’t do shit about rain.

5) Water. 

So, I don’t keep much in my R35; Mainly I wear it so that I can carry things around whenever I get to where I am going. However, I do stick a water bladder in it so I can sip throughout the ride. Riding hungry is alright. But riding thirsty is fucking madness, kids. 

Peep the left arm.
6) Smartphone and Charger.

Okay. Got a trick for you. Sportbikes don’t usually take kindly to GPS mounts and all that. There just isn’t the space for these things on the clip-ons. So this is what I did; I got a cell phone arm band type thing from ebay and put it on my left forearm. Then, I put a stylus in the top clear pocket on my tank bag. So, when I pull off the road to check where I am going, I don’t have to remove any gear or unzip anything. Also, when I get to my destination city, I can just turn on the phone navigation and use it to get me to the address. Obviously, I can’t use it in the way that people do when they are driving; I can only afford the quickest of glances when out on the road. But that is really all you need to find a place. And the mounting there on my arm makes me feel kind of like a sci-fi superhero. It worked out so well on my last trip, I am thinking about getting the arm band sewn into my jacket, so it can always be perfectly placed for my quick glances.

Yeah, and if you are wondering where to pack your phone charger, let me help: Put that shit in your jacket pocket. That, way, when you stop off at Starbucks or whatever roadside nasty you have to eat at you can just plug in right quick, get some charge.

7) Oh, and about that phone…

I don’t know about IOS, but Android’s Google Maps are quite useful. Here goes the style. First, you can tell Maps to cache certain areas so you don’t need to have coverage to access them. This is offline mode, which is accessible from the menu. Next up, you can save particular locations in maps by “starring” them. This means that you don’t have to search for a place over and over again. You just click on the star on the map and you can navigate there. This simple thing makes it way easy to chart a course from spot to spot out on the road. Also, you cats need to know about Glympse. If someone is waiting on you, this can hip them to the moment when they need to open the gate or put the tea on. 

If you are thinking that your phone won’t be able to sustain the use of these apps because its battery is shitty, you need to get that shit modded by some nerds. I run Avatar ROM and I can get 20 hours with moderate use. 

Alright. I have one other piece of advice which is a bit more personal. It goes like this:

8) Make an adventure out of that shit.

I watched this show recently. Neal Bayly Rides or something. This cat took a bunch of GS riders on an adventure to some janky ass white privilege-confirming orphanage. Maybe it was the editing, but this whole thing had the look and feel of the lamest ride ever. At every turn they were at some nice ass hotel, soaking in swimming pools, having boring conversations with each other. One cat didn’t even want to eat the basic snacks of whatever country they were in. I say no to this.

If you are going to be on the road, then meet new people. Have conversations with motherfuckers that you would never talk to. Stay in places that aren’t hotels. Couch Surf. Or even rock that AirBNB style. Or camp somewhere, if you have the kit. Or sleep under a truck. Look, you don’t ride a motorcycle because it’s safe. You ride it because, as the man says, you can live more in 5 minutes going fast on two wheels than some cats do for their whole blood clot lives. I got a homie retired in the suburbs right now who used to race, who once got passed by Kenny fucking Roberts on the track. This cat put 60,000 miles on the devilish 2004 ZX-10 without ever scratching the tank. Cops used to knock on his door wondering if he was the guy who evaded their sirens out on the road. That is what I’m talking about. If you have to look back on your life, then let there be moments when you courted danger and uncertainty for no other reason than because you could, where you came out on top or paid some price. “Adventure is discomfort recounted at leisure.” We live in a nation and age of incredible opulence and security. The least we can do is try to get jacked up every now and then. 


It seems daunting to ride for a long time on a bike that does not seem to be made for such a thing. Even for those who have bikes closer to the touring spectrum, there is a kind of apprehension about covering the miles. But here is a general fact: If you can ride for 45 minutes straight, you can ride for an entire day. Maybe your wrists or knees start to hurt a little. Sure. But you can adjust your weight and stretch out in the saddle and you won’t be riding for longer than your small ass gas tank will let you anyway, so there will be plenty of breaks. 

Some cats have travelled around the world on a Sport Bike.
You can probably travel around Florida.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tampa to East Lansing.

I rock exit early in the morning. The Tampa ground is wet from a week of constant rain. There is more rain in the forecast, but I don’t have time to wait it out. I wait for the realization that, oh, I left something behind, as I merge onto the highway. It never comes. In fact, nothing comes at all. There is no voice in my helmet, no stream of terrible reflection. So fresh on the road, I attend only to the movement of traffic and the feel of my bike. 

The revelation of the road is a product of the temporal attitude toward it. The first ten miles of a fifteen mile trip are experienced quite differently than the first ten miles of a fifteen hundred mile trip. Cats like to say that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" on some inspirational, let’s-get-it-started foolery. But the first step of the thousand miler feels and means something much different than the first step of a cat who is looking for the bathroom at Starbucks. One settles into the bike differently. There is a different kind of investment as you look down the road. I wonder what it must be like for the riders who have ridden down the entire continent. 

The dampness of the morning quickly fades and what is left is sunshine and moist air. All vents are open; upon my face, there is alternating sweat and salty dryness. Hours pass before I form a single continuous thought. I pass the town where the race track is. I heard from a guy at a dealership that the track only has a few years left. The owners will not repave once the asphalt has degraded past ride-ability, he said. 

I have to get back to that track soon. It is the place where I beat my ghost, the spot that holds evidence of my levels up in my lap records. If I don’t ride it before it closes for good, I will be without a valuable self-reference, unsure exactly what my confidence levels should be. That race track is my measure of man. 

In Atlanta I meet insane traffic and a friend who is in an insane process. She is in “depletion,” the final stages of diet before a kind of bodybuilding championship. She is loopy from a lack of food and spends the evenings standing naked around the house as her layers of spray tan dry upon her skin. For two days we speak about body politics and the education of black women. At a local dealership she gets fitted for a helmet and I buy some waterproof gloves for the rain that I know will be coming soon on this trip. On the second morning, she leaves to rock the stage and I hit the streets for Kentucky.

On the way I think yet again about a friend’s son. The kid is recently out of jail. I spoke to him once about his notion of his future. I was dismayed, though not surprised, to learn that he didn’t really have such an idea. He did not dream. I tried to build a space for hope with the best words I knew. But prep talks are only as good for the moments just before a game. There are zones from which I don’t know how to recover; I wish that I could have spent more time with him. 

Outside of Nashville I stumble upon a breakfast spot that looks good. I leave it though, overtaken by a kind of nausea brought about by the reality of gentrification. I have never had such a feeling in New York; this is quite mysterious. Instead I hit Nashville proper. I dismount after parking on a downtown street and hear music from a metal box installed on a corner. It is playing Johnny Cash. Further down the street is a museum for the Man in Black. Closed. I have come too early, like Nietzsche's madman.

In some back alley diner I eat a sandwich and learn that a friend of a friend has died under terrible circumstances. Once again I think of people that I wish I could have spent more time with. I also think that the problem with the world is not that there is so much suffering, but that the wrong people suffer. My tea is bitter. 

On the next stretch I sing rap songs in my helmet to keep the voice from creeping in. After awhile I see signs for caves. Mammoth Cave. Cave City. Finally I stop and ask the women at the gas station to point me to the nearest cave, which is atop “Gun Town Mountain.” The cave entrance is near an event space at which one can see gunfights and cancan shows. The cave guide is short dude wearing a shirt that says “slacker.” He. Knows. A. Lot. About caves. “From the book of rocks comes the history of the earth," he says.

In the not so distant old days, people didn’t know that caves were an ecosystem. They nearly destroyed entire cave systems with artificial light and the oils from their hands. Not because the knowledge about this wasn’t available back then; it’s just that America didn’t care so much about science for a while. Not until after Sputnik, says the guide. It was the race to beat the Russians to the moon that caused us to care about the lessons of the natural sciences. It is kind of a pathetic motivation for knowledge, but it is also essentially American, I feel. 

On the exit from the cave, I see a huge building with a statue of a Tyrannosaurus out front. The cave guide said that there weren’t any fossils in Kentucky. Guess the people at Dinosaur World thought they would address that.

Why are roadside attractions so strange? A palace made entirely of corn. A cafe staffed by naked women. A “Mexican” theme park in a racist ass state. I suppose that there is no hope for a high minded roadside lecture on existentialism or a history lesson on the housing crisis. But I would totally pull over for that shit.

In a short time I hit Louisville. In a neighborhood full of little boxes made of ticky tacky, I meet the brother of an old friend. It is always a bit strange to see the family of someone you’ve known for a long time. For some reason I always default to a notion that my homies just emerged fully formed from an egg or some such shortly before I met them. But here I get an intimation at least of the history, the zone in which these cats came to be. Even a small picture can give a deep glimpse.

I talk with man and mother over BBQ then sleep soundly. On the exit from town I run into a Harley rider who has clocked 219,000 miles on his bike, which he bought new in 1988. I have no anti-Harley jokes in the face of this legend of a man. His bike looks brand bloody new. Says he once rode from Daytona to San Diego. I tell him that I will make such a ride one day, though I will probably end in the land of the East Bay Dragons instead of Cardiff by the Sea. He looks at my bike and wishes me the luck that he knows I will need.

On the highway I see a pink SUV. Happily Homeless, it says. Has a link to a blog. At a gas stop, I look it up. Looks like the woman is on the road contemplating love and grief. I wonder if one can consider anything else while going place to place but never ending up at home. 

The road drones on. In Michigan the road quality drops off as the cop presence increases. Fine with me. I slow down and cruise until I finally land at the campus of MSU. It is a city unto itself, a kind of terrible island of undergraduates and low speed limits. I meet some professors and come to rest in a hot dorm room. I am grimy and sore.

I hit the bed and stare at the ceiling. In the next four weeks, there is only a philosophy. But already I am looking further forward to some nameless moment of peace, with my kid maybe. Or in a woman's arms. Or out on the road alone between nowheres. Like the woman in the pink SUV, I am homeless. But fuck if I can figure out the happiness part. 

I park my bike so that I can see it just outside of my window. In soaks up halogen and moon light. In the day I go walking and come to a bridge. Beneath it are truths that can only be recorded in spray paint. Okay, right, I remember. I'm not the only one.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Indianapolis. Day Two.

Today were the races, followed by a flex to Louisville. My trip so far has been almost adventurous. I am looking for a word to capture this. Splendiforus maybe. Or just awesome.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Indianapolis. Day one.

So. I got here. But the first party i hit did not involve two wheels. It's crazy out here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Test for an exit.

Tomorrow i leave Lansing. My next stop is Indianapolis, where i will attend the Motogp races.
I have loaded the blogger app on my phone so i can post pictures and such during the general festivities tomorrow. (I am composing on it now; fuck if i know what the formatting is going to look like.)

Really, I have no idea how this is going to work out. I have no ticket, no lodging and no one to meet there. I have been so distracted by academic life in Michigan that all of this has escaped me.
Non-preparedness guarantees adventure, yo.

Tomorrow. 260 miles to destiny.