Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On to a supersport

So I just took my first trip on a Supersport 600 - a 2006 ZX6R, to be specific. The first of many...


I'm coming off some serious saddle time on a 2001 SV650S, and while I welcome the challenge, this Ninja is just a little intimidating.

First of all, it's got a more aggressive sitting position, but I knew I was signing up for that. So, moving right along...

Second, the steering is unpredictable. At least I can't predict it - not yet, anyway (Boy, do I sound sure of myself or what?). The balance of throttle and counter-steer necessary to hold your lean angle is weird on this bike. There's a very sudden drop-off point - I arrive there when I'm holding a steady throttle, and increase counter-steer just a bit. I find myself in this panic sitch where I need more throttle (or less counter-steer) to stay up. Of course, this is relatively low-speed driving which I assume the bike wasn't designed for. Regardless, is this characteristic of a shorter wheelbase?

GOBS of power, and I haven't even touched the top 3rd to redline. I have a feeling I'll have to ease my way there.


The bike is adjusted for 160 lbs, and I weigh-in @ a whopping 130. I assume this explains why I have this sensation that the front of the bike is bouncing all over the place. On a nice clover-leaf off ramp, I tried to have a little safe fun. But I was continuously caught off-guard by a very active front wheel. Felt every discontinuity in the road. That's not dramatic enough; I took a tour of every discontinuity in the road. I could draw a picture of what each one looked like after I went over it. Is this what great suspension feels like, or is this what mal-adjusted suspension feels like?

Good times await!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hands free!

The MR2 we bought back in February has been a blast, but it had a few audio skeletons in its closet:

  • The driver side speaker stopped working completely

  • The CD player never worked since we bought it

Fed-up with one channel of audio for long trips, we finally broke-down and forked-out the dough for a new head unit. I like knobs and analog-esque controls, which basically means that I hate every aftermarket radio I find. So I started to look at other features, and quickly got caught-up in the Bluetooth capabilities offered on some models. Long story short, I went in with my only requirement being aux-in, and put my money down for a radio that had aux-in, USB, iPod compatibility, and Bluetooth.

I paired-up Megan's iPhone and immediately fell in love with the ability to have a conversation with someone, hands-free, from the car. Even more so, I got a kick out of every one in the car participating in the conversation. Sure, it's only a 2-seater convertible, so every one adds up to...well, two of us. But just think how fun it would be in the Element!


This Bluetooth revelation hit me so hard, I dumped my TracFone for a new Bluetooth-enabled TracFone (they're floating a great deal at the time of this posting, btw). I mean come on, $29.99 for a new phone with BT, no strings attached? I'm a sucker, what can I say...

So months later, I began researching how to add hands-free cell phone operation to stock radios. I fell for Parrot's products hook, line, and sinker. I like stock radios (they have knobs), and Parrot's lower-end CK3000 would let me keep the Element's stock radio with benefits (<-- Bluetooth). Where do I sign?!

Crutchfield. That's where! Well, a day or two after purchasing the CK3000 and a Honda ISO harness, UPS showed up at my door with the goods. Damn that was fast. I got around to installing it a week+ later (I had some fork repair still in the queue). First of all, the CK3000 (and probably all of the Parrot products) is a rat's nest. I don't necessarily mean that negatively. I just mean, holy sh*t, there are yards and yards of lots of wires and funny little boxes with connectors and plugs and ... stuff. I'm not easily-intimidated when it comes to DIY, but I must say that the mess that fell out of the Parrot box intimidated me a little. Just a little...

So I had the mess of wires in the Parrot box, and the Honda ISO harness. Speaking of which, why does one need the ISO harness? Well, apparently, European cars have these ISO harnesses on all car radios. Parrot's products cater to those ISO connections, and aren't compatible out-of-the-box with US vehicles. You need one of these ISO cables to convert your stock wiring to ISO connectors. Then, you will be able to easily hook-up the Parrot kit. Yikes, that's confusing. Especially since hands-free cell-phoning is becoming law in some states. Whateva...

So I connected all these connectors at the dining room table: plugged all the loose connectors from the Parrot kit into the loose connectors on the ISO harness. Then, I took the disaster of wires, draped over my shoulders (a copper scarf), to the car outside. I threw the mess in the passenger foot area and removed the radio. Then, I laughed. Ha ha ha ha! Here's the stock harness that plugs into the back of the radio (imagine it's here, anyway), and over here is the radio. They plug into each other. Simple. But over there is about 6 feet of Parrot/ISO mess that I need to put between the stock harness and the radio.

Ha ha ha ha ha...

That's a lot of cable to manage and stuff into the small cavity behind the radio. *sigh*. Game on!


Well, I did it. I found a place for the mic (on the rear view mirror), and snuck the long wire to the back of the radio. I found a place for the little control unit, and snuck that wire to the back of the radio. I then plugged the parrot mess into the radio, and the stock harness into the mess of wires. Then I cut up my hands scraping into all the sharp edges in the dash cavity trying to find hidden volumes where I could stuff some of the parrot mess. And voila. I did it! I screwed the radio back in, stuck the key in the ignition, and got ready to have fun!

That's where the experience turned into disappointment. Somehow, this parrot device made everything insanely loud. The radio, CD player, and the Parrot speaking menu system - everything was *extremely* loud. Three (3) graduated clicks of the volume knob and it was too loud to listen to. That's just not usable. I overlooked that for a few minutes while I paired my TracFone and did a test call. Score, it worked! But oh-my-flippin-goodness it's loud.

Some internet research, a call to Quick Connect, and a call to Parrot's tech support, led me to the following conclusion: the 2007 Element LX's audio system is an "amplified system" - meaning...I don't know what. But basically, there is an amplifier somewhere in the Element's audio system that the Parrot device does not account for. This is the reason for the ear-piercing volume post-installation. what do I do, remove and return it? Can I even do that? I hate being a quitter, and I hate returning things. There must be something I can do. Quick Connect offers an ISO harness for "amplified systems", but you have to be kidding me - $150??? That's more than my whole Crutchfield order! Thanks, and seriously, thanks...but no thanks.


So a heartfelt Thank you! goes out to DesignoSLK, who posted this on the Parrot user forums. Basically, it appears this user figured out a way to attenuate the signal coming out of the Parrot mute box which in turn lowers the volume of audio produced after installing the Parrot device. I copied his information to a 'T', and reinstalled the Parrot mess. What I have now is still much louder than stock, but the resolution of volume control is *much* more reasonable than the unmodified Parrot device. Did I say thank you, DesignoSLK? Well, thank you!


So I think I appreciate Parrot's CK3000, but the mystery of compatibility and mess of wires is less than cool. Worse still was Parrot's official recommendation to remedy my problem. Install a $150 ISO harness made by Quick Connect or use an external speaker solely for the Parrot CK3000. <--unacceptable. I bought this device to use my existing audio infrastructure for phone conversations. And thanks to DesignoSLK, I can!


However, if I ever rip that mute box open again (I'm pretty lazy, so this is unlikely), I'll *most def* put higher-value resistors in place. The 1 kOhm resistors helped, but not enough to be considered permanent. It needs to be a little quieter. Maybe a stereo pot is the way to go...

So put that cell phone down and keep your damn hands on the wheel. It's so easy to go hands-free, isn't it? Is it? I don't know...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Forks: known state

I've read a lot about the SV650's front suspension and I get it: The forks are the result of a compromise to keep the cost of the bike down. There are a gazillion threads on every relevant forum about how to improve the front suspension on an SV, and I quickly got lost in the forest of emulators, springs, and GSX-R swaps. So I decided to rebuild my stock forks to ensure that they're giving me their 100%. This way I'd know exactly what I'm riding on before considering upgrades.

The plan went like this:

  • Set my sag (and create new spacers if necessary)

  • Replace the age-old fluid with 15w oil filled to the stock level

  • Replace the oil seals and wipers (the wipers were getting hard and cracking)

Setting sag

Ideally, you'd have three people available to set sag: One person to hold the bike, one person to measure, and yourself to get on the bike since the sag is being set for your weight. I only had 2, so Harbor Freight's Baxley knock-off held the bike (it did an okay job).


The conclusion was that the stock SV was pretty much sprung for my weight. Score, so I won't have to make longer spacers for the forks. That was easy.

Rebuilding the forks


I got all the parts I needed to do the job (just fork seals and wipers), and finally found the time one Saturday. Well, buying parts ahead of time does you no good when the parts are crap.

I bought a set of Leak Proof Seals for the 2001 SV650S from I'm usually very happy with But these Leak Proof seals were garbage. First of all, they look nothing like the image has up for them. Second of all, the Leak Proof seals are not firm and they don't fit tightly. They are mushy, squishy round rubber rings that would amaze me if they could seal at all. To make matters worse, one of the seals had loose pieces of rubber stuffed into the recess (on the oil side). I thought these seals were supposed to keep particulates out of my forks.


So I dashed to a local Suzuki dealer to get a set of OEM fork seals for the 2001 SV650S. Thanks goodness they had them in stock. While I rejected the Leak Proof seals as soon as I slid one onto the fork slider, I did make use of the wipers that came in the Leak Proof kit. We'll see if they're good for anything.

My Haynes manual helped enormously with disassembling the forks. The pictures were priceless.

Finally, reinstall


I finally got the chance to put things back together in the post-set-the-clocks-back dark. I even copied Mike and pushed the forks up through the top triple a few extra millimeters <--this was to account for the taller 120/70-17 I've got on the front (as opposed to the stock 120/60-17).


Anyway, I took the SV for a ride to meet a buddy for lunch today, and the forks are definitely less divey with the new 15w fork oil. I didn't get the chance to really push it hard or test it on challenging surfaces, but in time...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back from the Smokies...

Since 2006, we've made it down to the Smoky Mountains at least once a year. The roads are unreal and aplenty.

This year the twisty faucet was running quite dry, so three of us made a go of it for 2009. After this weekend, I have gained some serious appreciation for how smoothly all of our previous trips went. Off the top of my head...

  • A trailer's inner wheel bearing disintegrated

  • A trailer got stuck in a ditch on the side of a narrow, inclined gravel road

  • We got lost on a 6+ mile gravel mountain road (on sportbikes) - the road Mike deemed, the Dirt-o-hala

  • We had to drive the wrong way on a narrow, one-way wildlife safari

  • It rained a lot
I'm sure I missed a few mishaps - but it wasn't all bad! We had a sweet ride on the Cherohala Skyway in sunny weather.


I also got a kick out of pushing the Element on the windy road that led up to our cabin (well, the paved part of it, anyway). And I always welcome a dose of driving and riding techniques from the daring couple.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Hemp Jacket

I'm pretty turned-on by Joe Rocket's latest innovation in motorcycle gear: their Hemp Jacket. The October 2009 issue of Motorcyclist has a blurb about the jacket in the GEAR section, and I just took a closer look on Joe Rocket's web site.

Aside from the weird snaps on the inside of the forearms, there does not seem to be any unnecessary hardware. The two-tone style is very slick (in both available colors). This is a smokin'-cool jacket, in my opinion.

If hemp holds-up to road rash, then sign me up for this bandwagon. Rapidly-renewable vegetation that doesn't require pesticides to grow seems like a helluva material for just about anything. Wish I needed a jacket!

Detailed information about the Hemp jacket can be found here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

MP3: Conclusion

It's been about 5 days since I turned my MP3 back in to Eagle Rider in LA. And after a short trip today on my SV650, I realized how absolutely sure I am that once was enough on the Piaggio MP3.

It was hard to touch the ground on the heavy, three-wheeled scooter because the seat was so wide. Sure, some may claim that you are supposed to lock the wheels when you stop, but that's additional operator burden that I don't find necessary. The CVT left lots to be desired, as I found myself "wringing its neck" (a Taylorism) constantly to accelerate fast and to climb hills. It's just not the positive feedback I desire.

However, the machine isn't all bad. The storage capacity right out of the box is phenomenal. I was stuffing my whole leather jacket and textile pants under the seat after arriving at my destinations. And the machine can corner...


...which brings me to the Friday activity that wrapped up my time on the MP3. My buddy rented an MP3 for the day to join me in some West Coast canyon carving. Equipped with a SoCal Mad Map, we attacked some portions of route #9. Quality roads.


While these roads were wicked fun, they also brought out another shortcoming of the MP3: cornering clearance. Once you get into it, it doesn't take you long to start asking yourself what that scraping noise is. If you're in a left turn, it's the center stand. If you're in a right turn, it's the exhaust. It was actually a lot of fun to ride through the twisties, and it deserves credit for offering handling that makes you want to push it harder. However, it also deserves a wag of the finger for surprising you so abruptly with its sudden, low-hanging hardware. I imagine one could lift that rear wheel right off the ground should they come in to a left a little too hot.


So in conclusion, I applaud Piaggio for changing my general attitude toward three-wheelers. It can be done right, and I think they did it. Give me one with foot pegs and a direct-drive transmission and I'll try it again. Until then, hello SV! I missed you...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gaining appreciation

In case the last post didn't make it clear - I'm out on the West Coast for business, and I took advantage of the fact that renting an MP3 was comparable in cost to renting a sub-compact car. Since the motorcycle mags have been favorably-reviewing Piaggio's three wheeler, I decided to give it a whirl.


I've logged about 85 miles since my last post. While I still have to find some serious twisties to test out this machine, I did find one road that was a complete riot to run through with the MP3:

View Larger Map

Palos Verdes Drive - just South of the intersection with Hawthorne Blvd. For about 1 mile, the road is a "slide" area. Apparently this has something to do with the land constantly moving. I'm not too familiar with this geographic phenomenon, but the road is curvy, with constant, significant elevation change. These are short bursts of elevation change - not the kind of roadage that warrants "% grade" signs. I've never been on a road like this, but you could totally feel the coolness in the front suspension of the MP3 while rolling over the rough, inconsistent, twisty asphalt. Even though there's but a foot or so of distance between the two front wheels, you could feel them reacting differently as they rolled over the uneven pavement. It was a feeling like no other - definitely not the kind of feed back you'd ever feel on a two wheeler.


But while this sensation was cool and unfamiliar - it doesn't seem necessary. I could have had just as much fun on the SV650. This begs the question, why did Piaggio bother to make this vehicle? I hope to get a little internet research done tomorrow night to shed some light on possible answers to that question...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Out of place

Yep, that's pretty much how I feel. Why? Oh, for *so* many reasons...


...first of all, if I'm turning handlebars, I expect to be straddling something. But that's not the case on scooters. Slightly awkward, but I'm adjusting.

Second, the transmission (in this case, a CVT). Pickup from a stop is painfully unpredictable - and slow. Once on the highway, it gets even worse. Just try to maintain constant velocity. The throttle is *so* gushy, you're constantly dancing around. It's like driving a boat - any change in throttle position seems to endure a significant delay before the result can be perceived.


And third - the looks. The worst of which came from a t-shirt-and-shorts-wearing sport bike rider. He passed me 2 lanes to my left and made a significant point to turn around and stare over his shoulder before rolling-on and disappearing. I'm guessing I stand out - a fully-geared rider with a full-face helmet on a three-wheeled scooter.

But whatever, I'm tough and open-minded. I recently started running Windows again - I'm pretty sure I can make a CVT and three wheels work for me. Hello Long Beach, CA. I'm about to conquer your roads on the weirdest machine I've ever piloted.

PS - thanks to the Creama coffee shop for the free WiFi. Their bagel sandwiches are the shiznit, and their house coffee is good too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Maximizing efficiency

I don't know if it's the resource conservation, the challenge of surviving inconvenience, or the chance to be different, but it feels good to travel on a motorcycle. I don't mean commuting on a motorcycle, but traveling on one.


We recently outfitted the red SV650 with SW-Motech Quick Lock Sideracks. The aim here was to outfit a motorcycle for weekend travel to family and friends (which we do quite often). We figured that, if we used the motorcycle for enough of these weekend trips, then we could recoup the cost of the sideracks! More on that later - but the opportunity to inject some more excitement into our weekend travel is always worth $229.


We had two Pelican 1550s that were previously acting as top cases for the red SV and the blue SV. So we sacrificed these non-matching cases to mount to the SW-Motech sideracks (saved some serious $$$ that way). After a week of test rides to work, which proved very successful, we decided to put the setup to work on a voyage to Eastern PA.

Our touring machine, 30E

I am most impressed with SW-Motech's product. First of all, the sideracks are easily-removable. So when you don't want your luggage on, it's minimal effort to take it off. This is great when you use the luggage for long trips too, because you can carry your luggage into your bedroom like you would any other bag you packed.

Second, the rack system is solid. We liberally packed (stuffed?) our 1550s with clothes, footwear, and just about everything we'd take with us were we driving in a car. So our cases were quite heavy (I'll weigh them next time). But they mounted just fine and the system of brackets hung onto our cases through all kinds of bumps, leans, and quick stops.

Third? "Nothing. There is no third thing." (Monty Python fans?)


After our weekend trip, we got an accurate calculation of the SV's gas mileage when traveling long-distance. Let's take the average miles-per-gallon for our red SV650 at the time of this writing, 55.34 mpg. Lets compare that to the average miles-per-gallon of the MR2 (since that's what we'd be otherwise traveling in), 30.46 mpg. Now let's see - I remember paying $2.49 per gallon when filling-up on our trip out to Eastern PA - and that was a good price!

$2.49/30.46 = $0.081 (cost per mile driven in the MR2)
$2.49/55.34 = $0.045 (cost per mile driven in the SV650)

So how many miles would we have to drive on the SV to save enough money to pay for the sideracks? Well, the sideracks cost $229 plus shipping - so lets say $250. The savings per mile when driving the SV is $0.081 - $0.045 = $0.036. So...

$250/$0.036 = 6,944 miles

That's not bad! If we were diligent enough in choosing the SV over the MR2, we'd make our money back within a year. Will we be that diligent? We'll see...

I highly recommend this product - I've used it transport oil change supplies for our MR2, to commute to work, for a 9-hour round-tripper, and we plan to hit the Raleigh area with it this coming weekend. Maybe this time I'll get pictures with us actually on the bike!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rally Racing Aftershock

I've been a little heavy on the MR2's throttle for the past two and a half days. I think I know why...


Will has been dying to get out to a rally racing event for some time now, and in this fine July of 2009 he managed to organize an outing to the Wellsboro, PA area for the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR). While I'm digging the vast world of motor sports that I am slowly being exposed to, I didn't have high hopes for this trip. Mostly because I knew little about rally racing.


Now that it's over, I'll tell you what - if you want to get sick about modding and racing your car, then you want to hit up a Rally America event like this one. From the crews and their insanely-quick repairs after the Super Special to the cars that are swung through hairpin turns, loosely-bound to the road, this event covered all bases. The best part about it? Show up to a spectator location early enough and you can get so close you'll be able to reach out and touch the cars as their tails whip passed you (of course you'll be pelted with a dose of gravel while you're at it).


Because rally racing doesn't typically happen on a closed circuit, you've got competitors tearing up trails and public dirt roads (shut down during the event, of course). That means that, if you want to see the actual race, you have to pick a spectator location and make the most of watching the machines cruise through that one turn. Then, if you dare, pack up and head to the next location to see them again. Inconvenient? Maybe, but navigating these country roads becomes a challenge in itself. I dug it.


I can't lie - I put down the bike this week to outlet some of this four-wheel desire I've got stored-up after watching these Subarus flung around with their turbos whining, their rotors glowing, and their raw power churning loose Earth at all four wheels.


I'm pretty sure it's decided. This must be a yearly event. Want to join us next time?

Friday, May 22, 2009

IBA Certified!

I began this experience with the question, what value is there in riding 1000 highway miles within 24 hours. And now that it's over, I think I've determined that there is no simple answer to that question.

We gathered at Devil Dawg in Chantilly, VA for the send-off. It was pretty exciting. Four hundred or so motorcycles gathered together and then released to attack the streets. Everyone was excited, so everyone hit the throttle like there was no tomorrow, busting out of the industrial park to cruise my neighborhood streets. Intersections were shut-down by the police to get us all out and onto i66 as fast as possible. I don't blame them, a crowd of bikers like this? I'd want them out of my juristiction before sun-up.


By the time sun-up arrived, I was on i95 South and I'm pretty sure 75% of the bikes passed me. So much for pacing yourself. If I wanted to hang with a group, I needed to step it up to 75 mph. Strength in numbers, so...


Because I embarked on this journey alone, the highlights of my trip were meeting Adam in Suffolk, and meeting Roberta in Blacksburg, (and taking pictures with the disposable cam attached to my zipper). Aside from those checkpoints, I basically ran the bike 150 miles between stops for gas. Except for that tank I emptied on the way to our turnpoint in Bristol (exit 5 on i81). The gas light came on around mile marker 30, and I didn't want to pull over for gas knowing that I *had* to pull over again in Bristol (receiving your IBA certification required obtaining a receipt in Bristol during this ride). So I tucked in, slowed-down to about 60 mph, and finished a 180+ mile tank. That's a record for Megan's SV!


While we had lots of rain during the Eastern leg of the ride, we got the worst of it during the last 300 miles. It hailed. It hailed in the dark. It hailed in the dark, on i81 North. And then it rained. Oh how it rained. I know, for the well-experienced, motorcycling in the rain should really be no big deal. As Mike always says, you have 80% of your traction in the rain. And hell, I've ridden in my share of drizzles and downpours. But I've never ridden in weather like this. The pouring hail mixed with the complete darkness created a situation of dire straits that exceeds most others I've had on a motorcycle. But turning the panic knob down and dealing with the problem always manages to work. Even when your boots are full of water and you have to drive without your glasses because you are incapable of drying them.


I finished behind many and ahead of many, I figure, and after 18+ hours of non-stop highway driving on a 2007 Suzuki SV650, I managed to remain alert to some degree. Upon arriving at Devil Dawg, around 12:30am on Sunday morning, I got in line with a cheery but tired group of riders to get my certification! An event like this appears to bring all kinds. Could be the cause, could be the challenge, could be the camaraderie, could be anything!


I learned that you should keep a second ignition key in your pocket because you might lock the only set of keys you have in your Pelican top case (and then you'll have to fish them out with the legs of your glasses and your fingers). I learned that ear plugs are a lifesaver when you have to drive this fast for this long, so bring many, and different sized ones, because your ear canal changes shape as the day goes on. I learned that it's amazing how long you can remain alert and awake if you eat only when you're hungry, and even then you don't eat much. I learned you can use your right blinker as a hazard light when you're in the right lane - you may p!$$ people off, but at least they can see you. I learned that if you think you should pull over, whether because of fatigue or weather, then you should take the next exit (or pull over @ the next overpass). I learned that you should have a routine for each pit stop, and you should stick to it no matter what happens (otherwise you'll forget to lock your top case, lose your padlocks on the highway, and drive 150 miles with the lid bouncing up-and-down without even knowing it). I learned that there's something special about an event that was organized this well, and that draws this large a group of participants. I learned that all of this is the answer to my original question.


You can learn these lessons individually doing other, less daunting (more practical) tasks. You don't need to sign up for an IBA SaddleSore to get this education. But getting schooled this hard in 18 hours? I think that is the value of riding 1000 miles in 24 hours.


Thanks to Adam & Addison for coming out to meet me in Suffolk, Roberta for meeting me in Blacksburg and bringing all kinds of food, Megan for waiting up for me, and the organizers and participants of the Redwing 19 Ride for 2009. This post pretty much echoes the feeling the event had - skepticism->pessimism->misery->appreciation->satisfaction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whirlwind Tour of Virginia

So I'm wrapping up my preparation for the Redwing 19 ride - tapping all resources to maximize comfort and stamina for a 1000 miles of vertical motorcycling at highway speeds.


I had the pleasure of borrowing Paraag's windshield! We worked outside his apartment in the pouring rain to remove this from his unique 1981 Yamaha Special 400. While I appreciate the offer immensely, it proved not so compatible. The shield fit the SV quite well, but my head was too far above the top of the windshield. So all the deflected wind ran over and around my helmet. At 40 MPH it sounded like I was going 70 MPH. Too loud!

View Larger Map

I'm predicting lots of miles with little variation. There will be much more to say after the event, so I'll just let the route soak in...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Up to NY to see the Model S

Still drunk on voltage from our test ride in February, Megan and I jumped at the chance to attend a private viewing of the Tesla Motors Model S sedan in Manhattan.


I mean seriously - "invited" by Tesla to a "private viewing" of their new model? How could we pass on that? Even the reality that the event was 4 hours away on a Wednesday night couldn't deter us! Oh how I payed for that decision today running on only a few hours of sleep...


...but back to the subject. Tesla seems to do everything with style, as this event was in the IAC Building, which was like nothing I'd ever walked into before (thanks to Ankur for helping us get to the building). Slick lighting, Tesla decorations, brochures on tables, and motion pictures all over the walls. High class stuff!


As for the goods they had to show: a Roadster, a fake Model S, and a Teslafied Smart Car (the last of which I got no pictures of). My father, who met us along with my sister, finally got to sit in a Roadster!


They had a Model S on display, but it was a dud. There was no interior (the windows were highly-tinted to keep you from noticing), and some of the components appeared to be fake (the brake rotors and calipers were curious).


And then there was the Smart Car. I'm not a fan of the Smart Car, but I respect it and think it would prove a much more respectable EV than the moronic version they brought to the US that runs on high-test gasoline. It appeared that they were seriously tinkering with the one we got to sit in.


Finally, at 11:30pm we got our text message telling us that our ride was ready! So we dashed across the street where they were giving extremely short demo rides of the Roadster and real, drivable Model S. We jumped in the S with another couple, and a Tesla driver took us for a spin. He figures the machine we were riding in, all things considered, was 50% representative of what will roll off the assembly line in 2011.


Five thousand to reserve an S, huh? Hmmm...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hungry For Throttle

That's the way I like to sum up my first track experience of 2009. Easter weekend this year found us at Summit Point's Shenandoah circuit for back-to-back track days with Team ProMotion.

View Larger Map

It rained, uninterrupted, from the time we got up early Saturday morning until after lunch, which made for some slow laps around the track. Megan always says, "better to rain at the beginning than at the end." That's for sure, because I ended up spending the first half of Saturday getting my race line just right. So when things dried-up late in the afternoon, confidence was high.

Day one ended with boiled hot dogs, coffee, and way-cold temperatures for mid-April (down in the 30's). We woke up Sunday morning to the light ridicule of our RV-equipped neighbors. You know, the ones who had heat all night!


But this was where the back-to-back track days payed-off. I hit the ground running Sunday morning with the track fresh in mind. By the third session, I was hungry for throttle. Where for most of Saturday, it was...

  1. slow down

  2. lean-off

  3. turn

  4. apex

  5. exit

  6. apply throttle mid-day Sunday, it was...

  1. slow down

  2. lean-off

  3. apply throttle

  4. turn

  5. apex

  6. ROLL ON

  7. exit


Gradually arriving at the latter order of operations allowed me to maintain the smooth as the aggression set in. It was awesome. Thanks to Megan for shooting!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Trusty Trailer


It's that time of year again - the first track day is cresting the horizon and it brings to mind all that trailer maintenance I've been putting off. Repacking the wheel bearings, fixing the license plate mount, rewiring some of the electrical...

We purchased a Harbor Freight trailer in Spring of 2006. The product came highly recommended from our friends who pioneer all the trends in motorcycle activities (at least from our point-of-view). The biggest reason this product is popular among our group is cost. For $330 (plus shipping), you get a 4x8 frame with 12" wheels. Add the bed material of your choice, and you're done. However you get what you pay for, and the Harbor Freight trailer definitely has its share of design flaws. The folding hinges shear, the rear half ends up sagging, the wiring layout results in a poor ground, and the list goes on. But these problems are easily surmountable with a bit of thought, as we're still going strong 3 years later.


We neglect our trailer; living in a townhouse makes it tough to protect our 4x8 friend since we store it on our property. It's out in the weather every day of the year and that's reflected in the red powder-coating, which has faded significantly. But there has been no detrimental corrosion whatsoever.


It has turned out to be a great tool for us. And at this rate, we expect to pull this thing behind us for another 3 years.