Riding the 2014 BMW R1200GS

It was Saturday, it was a beautiful spring day around these parts of the world, and the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon (EMCWOR) had a 2014 BMW R1200GS demo hanging out in front of the store. I had some time to kill while my Multistrada was being worked on the shop last Saturday, no need to twist my arm… I will take the BMW out for a spin.

2014 BMW R1200GS

2014 BMW R1200GS

The quality of the fit and finish remains the same with BMW motorcycles. The overall design and the ergonomics of the motorcycle shows the project team paid close attention to who adventure riders are and how this bike was going to be used. Well, they’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, they know who we are. They invented this segment of the motorcycle industry.

I had ridden the 2013 water-cooled model last year (see 2013 R1200GS report here), but that bike was a base model. This 2014 model had the fixings. I was especially looking forward to trying the Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (Dynamic ESA).

Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) as one of the modes

Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) as one of the modes

Dynamic ESA is not unlike what is available in the 2013-14 Ducati Multistrada and called Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS).  Although there are differences on the way these two applications work on the BMW and the Ducati.  More on that later.

Sachs Dynamic ESA

Sachs semi-active suspension, BMW calls it Dynamic ESA

Besides the riding modes, this bike had heated grips, cruise control, the ability to turn ABS off with a switch (instead of a convoluted menu driven process like in my Triumph Tiger), and a wheel-shaped control that operates the GPS.  The bike comes set up for a GPS (Navigator IV base).  It also has an ESA suspension adjustment (normal, soft, hard).

ESA adjustment, besides cruise control

a ESA adjustment, besides cruise control, ABS switch, and the wheel which controls the GPS

This bike was equipped with the Garmin Navigator IV (Navigator V should already be available for sale).  The position of the GPS is great in terms of eye-sight. It probably could be set up a bit higher up for me; as it was, it partially covered the tachometer.

GPS set up from BMW, with lockable base

GPS set up from BMW, with lockable base

With these specs this 2014 BMW water-cooled came from the factory set up for what we call adventure riding. From show room floor to your dreamed adventure ride, nothing else needs to be done. That’s one of the reasons this bike remains top of the heap on the adventure corner.  Another reason being how it performs on whatever terrain you define as adventure riding. And in the unlike scenario something goes wrong with the bike, you have BMW service and support basically on all corners of the world, including an unrivaled 3-year warranty.

But not everything is perfect… you have to get used to that beak. If Bauhaus applies, form follows function, there must be a reason for this ugly duckling shape, right? Or not. I have not discovered that yet.

The beak.

The beak.

And if you read my review of the 2013, there is the side stand issue.  It hinges from farther ahead on the bike when compared to my other bikes. I have to make a conscious decision to move my foot forward to find the tab to deploy it each time I park the bike.  But maybe all 1200GS bikes were like that?

The sidestand

The side stand attaches to the bike further ahead than other bikes

But it is all out of sight, out of mind when you get the bike going, you don’t see the beak, you don’t need the side stand. The red 2013 I tested last year was brand new. This white 2014 already had 750 miles on the clock when I took it out for a spin. This may explain why the motor of the 2014 felt more willing to rev than the 2013, although the 2013 was already an improvement from the 2012 and 2011 models I tested. First thing you notice is the typical BMW boxer exhaust note, but on these water-cooled bikes it sounds angry, goes well with the motor’s revised stance.

Nice exhaust note!

Nice exhaust note!

Once in motion I immediately started playing with the settings.  I settled with Dynamic for the ride mode (options are Dynamic, Road, Rain and Enduro — this model could be set with Enduro-Pro as well). And the suspension was set to normal (choices are Hard, Normal or Soft), with the pre-load at “rider without luggage” (other options are rider with passenger and/or luggage). Settings can be changed using a couple of buttons in a very intuitive way. And you can change settings on the go, I closed the throttle, with the clutch in, and changed settings. The riding mode takes a few seconds to take effect, but it is all very clearly displayed.

Setting riding mode and suspension action

Setting riding mode and suspension action

On “Dynamic” mode the bike felt engaging, something I didn’t quite experience with the base model.  The bike really smooth with a touch of aggressiveness. Not a Ducati, of course, but it is plenty good, I never felt it underpowered.  And like my previous ride with the 2013, it settles on a very nice touring mode at 4RPM at 70MPH. At that combo you can cruise in comfort all day long.  And from there the bike still has enough torque to accelerate without the need of a downshift.

Plenty of power and disposition to make things happen in the twisties

Plenty of power and disposition to make things happen in the twisties

It is in the “Dynamic” mode that the bike feels more aggressive, and in that mode the fueling shows a bit of an on/off edge when coming off a start. This mode is good for when you want to push it hard. But when coming to town or you are tired and just want to take it easy, change it to “Rain” mode. I observed that in rain mode that engaging characteristic disappeared, in a Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jakyll way, the bike assumed a more compliant role, riding becomes effortless. I did not try the “Road” and the “Enduro” modes.

Great bike from all angles. If you don't stare at the beak, that is.

Great bike from all angles. If you don’t stare at the beak, that is.

The bike felt always ready for action, it was a willing partner to whatever came to my mind. A true rider’s motorcycle, or a comfortable and compliant tourer.  Unfortunately, once again I did not try it off pavement. But there is nothing there to make me think it would not work well on dirt and gravel roads.

Overall, the bike felt really planted on the road and all types of curves and pavement irregularities.  The main change in the 2014 was the addition of a steering damper. I never felt the 2013 needed it, but then I only rode it for 50 miles. There were reports where people noticed a head shake with the previous bike. In any case, if there was any issue there, the 2014′s steering damper solved it.

Steering Damper is standard equipment on 2014 models

Steering Damper is standard equipment on 2014 models

Overall, I liked the bike with semi-active suspension better than the “analog” suspension of the 2013 base model.  But I like technology, I enjoy the benefits of electronic assistance. Both BMW and Ducati use Sachs technology for their semi-active suspension.  However, the Dynamic ESA in the BMW felt softer than its DSS application on the Multistrada. It could be that the BMW is geared more for comfort on its three modes (Soft, Normal, and Hard) while Ducati may have dialed their application to a more sport oriented mode.  Maybe there was more to the BMW settings that I missed, maybe I should take it for another spin. Yes, I need to do that. Maybe the shop should let me try it on a gravel road.

I forgot to mention earlier: this bike comes with LED headlight lights.

I forgot to mention earlier: this bike comes with LED headlight lights.

Having said that, the BMW felt solid at all times, and in my opinion, the Dynamic ESA felt more solid than the “analog” suspended base model I tested last year. I did not feel the Dynamic ESA was lacking anything compared to the Ducati DSS, and I actually wish the DSS had a setting where the suspension felt more comfortable and compliant on its softest setting for when I’m just touring.  Overall, both BMW’s Dynamic ESA and Ducati’s DSS, in my opinion, are the way to go for large displacement motorcycles. For me, there is no looking back to analog suspension on these big bikes.  Even KTM has joined this effort!

Looks good in front of the Starbucks or a Winery in the valley or on a dirt road somewhere.

Looks good in front of the Starbucks or a Winery in the valley or on a dirt road somewhere.

Talking about KTM, I’ve been trying to score a test ride on the 1190 Adventure. First the local dealer told me I needed a chaperone rider, and since they didn’t have the staff to do that, I could not ride it at that time. I checked with them now and they say they sold their demo. They have a bike on the floor but it is not a demo and their demo allocation is done for this year. It reminds me of the Long Way Round when Charlie wanted a KTM, but KTM did not trust they would make it and denied them of the 950 Adventure bikes for which Charlie lusted. BMW gave them the bikes and well, the rest is history… which, as history itself tells us, it tends to repeat itself. What?

So... would I buy it?

So… would I buy it?

The question is: would I buy the BMW? Like I said before when I tested the 2013 bike, if I were down to have only one bike, this bike would be a top contender to the job. I can say this with more conviction today than before about the 1200GS:  I really like the new character given to the boxer motor since they became water-cooled; the Dynamic ESA hit the spot for me; and although it is fun to customize a bike for your travel needs, the BMW R1200GS remains one of the few bikes ready to ride, from the showroom to your dreamed journey to the end of the world without adding any accessory.

If you are in the area, stop by at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon (EMCWOR), take it for a ride and decide for yourself.

Posted in Bike Reviews | 2 Comments

Observations on Public Transportation

In the last several months I attended work related meetings in Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Portland.

Washington DC, March 2013

Washington DC, March 2013

In all of them I made use of their public transportation system. Using those systems was convenient to me in terms of taking me where I needed to go, it was efficient in terms of how fast it took me to where I needed to go, systems were sufficiently clean, and they were also inexpensive when compared to the alternatives.

Washington, DC, March 2013

Washington, DC, March 2013

In some cases, like in Chicago, when I first was introduced to its train system several years ago, I was actually in a cab going from downtown to the airport and traffic was at a standstill just outside downtown. I asked the driver how long it would take to get to O’Hare (ORD) and his answer was about 90 minutes. It would mean I would miss my flight. So he drove me to the next train station and probably less than 30 minutes later I was safely at the airline’s desk at the airport.  And at a fraction of what the cab ride would have cost me.  I never looked back.

Chicago, March 2013

Chicago, March 2013

A couple of weeks ago I was in Philadelphia, participating at a conference in Philadelphia’s convention center. Hotels in the vicinity of the convention center had no vacancy or were rather expensive. I had no problems selecting a hotel by the Philadelphia airport. To be honest with you, I did not research whether there was public transportation from the airport to downtown Philadelphia. I just booked the hotel and hoped for the best.

Marriott Hotel at the PHL

Marriott Hotel at the PHL April 2014

I was pleasantly surprised by Philadelphia’s public transportation. From my hotel room at the PHL I walked probably no more than 5 minutes and I was at the train station where trains departed every half hour to the city center.  Trains departed at the :12 and :42 of every hour. Everyday I timed my trip from my hotel room to the station so I did not wait more than 5 minutes to get on the train.  I picked the 6:42am train and at 7:10am I was in the city center.

Arriving in downtown Philadelphia

Arriving in downtown Philadelphia

Perfect! But not only that, when exiting the train at the East Market station, it dropped me right by the Reading Station Market.

Reading Station, Philadelphia, April 2014

Reading Station, Philadelphia, April 2014

Where I could have a nice breakfast before attending the meetings.

Reading Station Market, Philadelphia, April 2014

Reading Station Market, Philadelphia, April 2014

Or I could walk directly from the East Market train station right into the Convention Center.

From the East Market station to the Convention Center

From the East Market station to the Convention Center

At the end of the day, I would find my way back to the East Market station.  And I would be back in my hotel room some 25 minutes later, and at a $12 round trip.

East Market Station

East Market Station

During the years I lived in Columbus, from 1987 to 2005, I witnessed the growth of a town driven by a perfectly designed system of highways.  Not unlike some other mid-western towns, this system of highways was a great example of the “if you build it they will come” growth model. In the specific case of Columbus, it determined the car-dependent suburban sprawling to be the rational and efficient way for the city to grow.

It has been 7 years since I last was in Columbus. During my time there, its wide spread geography and its well designed systems of freeways worked well for me.  Besides the morning or evening rush hour, the rest of the time traffic flowed relatively well around its system of freeways.  I have to say I made great use of the freeways in Columbus, favoring them over the back roads and shortcuts through the city.  But while in Columbus, I also got in the City and Regional Planning master’s degree program at the Ohio State University. So I learned a few tings about urban planning and design. At the same time I knew the highway system in Columbus worked well, I also knew, should the city grow as expected, eventually his system would not only collapse, but it would offer no alternatives for viable public transportation.

Just recently I visited the Central Ohio Transportation Authority (COTA) site to see how things were going over in Columbus and took a look at their projected traffic and transportation alternatives. Traffic has become a problem and is projected to become worse as population growth in the metropolitan area is projected to remain decentralized and spread throughout the suburban areas. There are no visible transportation corridors now. Nor in the future according to this projection, where pockets of growth, in red, are spread almost evenly throughout the mapped area.

Projection of Population Growth in Columbus Metropolitan Area through 2035

COTA Study: Projection of Population Growth in Columbus Metropolitan Area through 2035

That means, its original plan is working well to maintain the automobile as the main transportation mode. But that’s also when the urban area’s sprawled nature is likely to become a problem. That will be the time when building more freeway lanes, if that was possible, will no longer be a solution. And because the sprawled urban area does not provide the economies of scale, the corridors of transportation that would favor trains or light rail, besides cars crawling on freeways, the only viable alternative is a bus system, which is more flexible and not as dependent from the economies of scale provided by well defined population corridors.

Bus Routes in Columbus, past trends and projection

COTA Study: Bus Routes in Columbus, past trends and projection

And with this projected population growth, COTA’s solution for Columbus is the Bus Rapid System (BRT), which is not expected to be in place until 2016.  And it is projected to operate with only one line.  BRT is something from which Eugene already benefits. Controversial as it may be for the business community (some business possibly won’t benefit from it and will incur costs from its development), the current BRT line here in Eugene (called the EmX) has positively impacted public mobility between Eugene and Springfield. And it could actually have been one of the factors in the process of revitalization of downtown Springfield.

The point remains that a large urban area like the one in Columbus, with 2 million people in its metropolitan area, about 10 times the population of the Eugene/Springfield area, has become a victim of its well executed suburban-focused growth plan.  It worked too well. But now what?

Meanwhile I will continue to use public transportation, whenever it is available. When growing up in Porto Alegre (Brazil) I despised it – despite the fact that BRT was available in my home town in the 80′s, making public transportation rather more efficient than car transportation (more on this on another post, when I will discuss the phasing out of electric street cars in Porto Alegre in 1970).

Although I saw  benefits of public transportation as a graduate student at the City and Regional Planning program, I stayed away from public transportation as much as possible. Be it from the global warming perspective, or simply from the cost savings it promoted when I used it in my recent work travels, I have to say I now finally appreciate and enjoy the benefits of public transportation.

Posted in Other Stories, The Book | 4 Comments

What’s in Lincoln City?

Not much. Except that it is often where my friends find rental houses for the weekends when we get together on the coast.

Lincoln City, March 2014

Lincoln City, March 2014

I had this trip marked on my calendar long time ago. When was it going to happen again?  Those dates arrived in a hurry – I was coming back from Massachusetts Friday afternoon, and the original plan was to get home, unpack one bag and then pack another, and head to Lincoln City and there still Friday evening.

View of Manhattan on flight DC to Hartford, CT

View of Manhattan on flight from DC to Hartford, CT, Marc 2014

But I had caught a cold in Massachusetts and I was still on the mend so I thought about giving up on the idea of going to the coast and stay at home and rest.  But the weekend was clearly a Spring weekend, very sunny to the point I had not seen yet this year around here.  And the Ducati was calling my name.

The blue skies and the Ducati

The blue skies and the Ducati

I managed to  go, and I’m glad I did.  But instead of sticking to the Friday afternoon plan for the trip, I decided to take my time to rest and recover and go Saturday afternoon. Saturday morning I woke up feeling better and even gathered enough energy to do some house work.  Or at least I got started on it.

Saw dust, finishing the arbor on top of the front gate

Saw dust, finishing the arbor on top of the front gate

Eventually I organized the bike for the trip. Put the panniers on it, which were still with dirt from my trip to the California Sierras last June, the last and only time I had these guys on the bike, I believe, besides when I got it home from the dealer the first time. The bike just doesn’t look the same with them.  I like it when it is light and streamlined, like so many other things in life.

Making eye contact with a black angus cattle. When will they rebel?

Making eye contact with black Angus cattle. Uncomfortable.  When will they rebel?

It was well past 2pm when I go on the road. I started by going north through the Willamette valley and I would then cross over the Coastal range at some point.  I was surprised by how cold it felt while riding. Maybe it was my cold lingering, negating its demise. But in fact, it was chilly out there, despite being sunny, and probably my lingering cold had something to do with it as well.

Black Angus young bulls.

Black Angus young bulls.

I topped the tank off in Philomath and got on 20 towards the coast, the shortest route from there to my destination.  The plan was to get to Lincoln City at around beer time.

Non-ethanol gasoline is your bike's friend

Non-ethanol gasoline is your bike’s friend

Before getting to 101 where I would encounter the traffic of Newport, Depot Bay and Lincoln City itself before I would get to the house, the clever GPS suggested I took 229, going north just after passing by Toledo a few miles from Newport. I expanded the view on the GPS and noticed how the road connected to 101 right on top of Lincoln City, and how it had many curves. Why not?

229, connecting Toledo to Lincoln City

229, connecting Toledo to Lincoln City

It turned out to be quite a nice road, going by Siletz, no traffic and plenty of nice curves here and there. How long has it been since I last said what a nice motorcycle this Ducati is?

The Ducati on 229

The Ducati on 229

I got to the beach house at a good time, and it seemed any time was a good time as all who were there were having a great time. Coincidentally the house was just 200 yards or so from another house we had rented a couple of years ago.  I parked the bike on the gravel driveway and could see the bike straight from above, from a balcony on the third floor where the kitchen and the living room were. Nice view of the bike, weird house.  But such set ups are not uncommon on the coast, where they often design houses taking into account where you spend the most time to be where you have the best views of the ocean. Hence the bedrooms on the first and second floors, and the kitchen and living room on the third floor.

Seeing the bike from above

Seeing the bike from above

Soon I was enjoying barbecued oysters and beer, a nice appetizer.

Oysters and Beer

Oysters and Beer

At some point a couple was driving by the road in front of the house on a Jaguar sedan and waved and shouted something at us with smiling, friendly faces. We talked to them and learned they had rented this house for this coming June. They were going to get married in this house, could they take a look at the house? But of course, come in!  They came up, got a tour of the house, gave us business cards and a promise of half rental price on a condo they own in Cabo San Lucas. Well, what about a week in Cabo San Lucas in the winter? Great place to go riding. And to top it off they took our picture!

21 people, 5 different countries, an Ohio connection

21 people, 5 different countries, an Ohio connection

As you can see, it was quite a group of people.  Some were there just for the day. The core of them I’ve met 20+ years ago in Columbus, OH. I think all of them in this picture had a connection with Columbus, either they were born there, or went to the Ohio State University, like was my case.  Others are their children! None on this crowd lives in Columbus anymore, but Columbus is our connecting point. And eight of us (seven on this picture) moved from Ohio to Oregon in 2005. An exodus of biblical proportions, almost to Oklahoma standards. There you go, the three O states in a couple of sentences that almost made sense.

Since we are talking about Ohio, here is my move in 2005. Everything I owned in one truck and one trailer.

Since we are talking about Ohio, here is my move in 2005. Everything I owned in one truck and one trailer.

This trip had a special meaning to me. Just this last couple of weeks my office received notification that we will be consolidating our efforts. Instead of the current setup that we have six offices spread around the country, we will have only one office, starting at some point this fall. Who knows where I will end up after all is said and done.  I already have some options in draft mode to stay in the region. Change can be good, but I hope I don’t need to move. Bottom line, these are stressful times for me and my colleagues, and also for my clients across the region.  So it was good to see some old friends from my Ohio connection at this time. It could be that in the future I will be part of the annual visitors group, coming to the Oregon coast once a year for these reunions with the core people who lived Ohio in 2005.

Soon dinner happened. I’m not sure how it came together, it was a real mess int he kitchen.  I found a plate, silverware, found some food and found a corner of the room, as far from the chaos as I could be, and enjoyed my dinner in as much peace and quiet as I could get.

Something got cooked

Something got cooked

Then there was the sunset.  I could not zoom the electric post out of the picture to only have the sun on the frame without getting the roof of a house to the left. So I decided to work with the post.

The sunset and the electric post

The sunset and the electric post

Eventually I went downstairs and placed a tarp on top of the bike.

I think I need to get a real bike cover

I think I need to get a real bike cover

Some of my friends have long forgotten about old cars and their need to use keys to unlock doors. What an ancient concept when you unlock keys with remote controls, right? Well, my Ducati does not even have an ignition lock, just a button and a proximity “key”.  So what happened is that one of the guys borrowed Chris’ keys to go to the Suburban and pick something that was in the Suburban and well… to make this story really short, he broke the ignition key on the passenger’s door lock. Now they were talking about going to a hardware store and wiring a “start” button on the dash with the ignition wires and all sorts of contraptions to solve the missing/broken ignition key. I suggested we remove the broken key from the lock and make a copy of the ignition key. What a brilliant idea! Successive groups of guys (I was in one of these groups, of course) with flash lights went to the Suburban to “fix” it, and at some point I mentioned we should do that when we were all sobered up and caffeinated in the morning. No, one last group had to go there to fix it now. In the end they managed to push what was left of the key further inside the core.

Morning at roads end, Lincoln City

Morning at roads end, Lincoln City

But in the morning, 90 dollars and 10 minutes later, the broken part of the key was out of the lock and a locksmith had a new key made, actually not one, but two keys, since before that Chris had only one ignition key. The guy said he would show up at 10:30am, he was there at 10:24!

Minute three of the process

Minute three of the process, broken key had been removed from the lock

Of course, we gathered around the van and asked stupid questions about his job, his prices, and his business ethics. After all, he had the tools and know how to open any lock he wanted.  He simply sad he was out of the AAA circuit, where 24/7 was the way to go. He now picks clients how he picks locks.

Around minute 9, second key being finalized

Around minute 9, second key being finalized

This Suburban, you should note, was on my first trip to the Steens, when the Suburban still belonged to Sierk, and Sierk & his wife, and Chris and a few others brought the beer, my tent, and food on my first adventure into the high desert of Oregon.  All I did was ride my motorcycle there.  Now the Suburban is burning one distributor after another, and short of spending big dollars to diagnose the problem to find the solution, it will be sold.  A “new,” as in about 10 years old or so, Suburban will be the replacement.

The Suburban at the Alvord desert/lake.  June 2006

The Suburban at the Alvord desert/lake. June 2006

Once the Suburban’s broken key was resolved, kitchen cleaned, the cars loaded, it was still morning and the party was over. They were going to hang out at the beach for a little while with the kids, I wanted to be on my own.  I had a lot on my mind and decided to just ride back home via 101, following the procession of cars and RVs. Not a time to be on the moment, just a time to be with my thoughts, and following cars gives you just that opportunity. But I did made some of my typical stops and some different ones this time. A different one was Depoe Bay, world’s smallest harbor.

Depot Bay, March 2014

Depoe Bay, March 2014

It really is a small harbor.  This is it.

The harbor.

The harbor.

And the real challenge is the connection between the harbor and the ocean. Boats have to go through a channel between walls of rocks, not on a straight line, with waves at the ocean side to make things interesting.  Must be quite the experience.

The channel

The channel

Lots of whale watching and fishing boats come and go full with tourists and paying fishermen on weekends, maybe on week days as well.

Whale watching tours

Whale watching tours

I was about to leave when I saw two boats approaching. I had to wait and see the action.

Boats approaching the channel to the harbor

Boats approaching the channel to the harbor

The boats stay at the entrance of the channel, I guess the captain examines the wave action, makes calculations of some sort, wait for the right time to enter the channel.  Once they commit, they have no choice but got for it. And they go at speed on the first section, where waves pose a challenge, waves could easily throw a boat on the rocks.

Going fast!

Going fast!

By this time a crowd had gathered to see the action. Boat passengers celebrate the passage and wave at the crowds. Protagonists and witnesses interact.  Entertainment for all.

Boat watching.

Boat watching.

The next boat took a while to commit for the passage. They sure need a radio to know if no one is coming from the other end.  The boat was bobbing up and down, waiting.  I can only assume if someone has a tendency to be sea-sick, stay away from these trips.  This waiting time, with the boat being tossed by waves, this bobbing must be the ultimatum for a food reversal process.  Eventually they made it.

Second boat makes it to the channel.

Second boat makes it to the channel.

Once they clear the first few yards, then it is all good. Tacklebuster makes it into the harbor.

It's all good.

It’s all good.

And that was it. And that was Depoe Bay.

101 goes through Depot Bay

101 goes through Depoe Bay

Time to get back on the road.

The Ducati patiently waiting

The Ducati patiently waiting

I continued south, made a stop in Yachats.

Yachats and the Tsunami Warning

Yachats and the Tsunami Warning

This time I did not go to Ona.  I did not go to any restaurant, actually.  I just wanted to go home, finish my arbor project, and fire the grill. It would be a first barbecue this year.  But I first had to make a stop in Mapleton. This time I did a longer loop, and despite topping it off in Philomath I did not have enough gas to go home.  Also, I had the bags on the bike they add to the wind drag.  But it did 46 mpg and after it was all done, I realized I still had one gallon left in the tank. Yes, I could possibly had made it to the gas station close to my house, but at the expense of not having fun on 36.  I’m glad I filled it up.

At the Mapleton gas station.

At the Mapleton gas station.

Now it was time for me to forget the uncertainties of work and concentrate on my riding. Time to be in the moment, the true motorcycle therapy. And fun I had, I was home in no time.  Because I had that extra fun on the twisties she made only about 44 mpg on the last leg. The bike crossed the 5,000 miles mark right at the fun spot of my way back home. That made me happy.

5,000 miles and counting.

5,000 miles and counting.

Total for the weekend 280 miles, 450 Kms.

280 miles.

280 miles.

And I still arrived in time to complete my homework.

Homework completed!

Homework completed!

And another chapter on the Ducati adventure has been written.

Time for the bike to rest

Time for the bike to rest

Maybe I should move to some place sunnier and warmer… and with different roads. Maybe I can manage to stay here. Time will tell. Until then, I will enjoy my stay here as much as is possible.

Posted in Riding the Ducati, The Book | 12 Comments

Pacific Coast Loop – March 2014

The weekend before last I ran into my friend Ricardo and his wife at a local grocery store. I had not seen him for a while, as we usually see each other on the soccer pitch and both of us are out on injuries for quite a while. Getting old sucks. Anyway, I got an invitation for dinner from them, and then Ricardo and I talked about riding.  And we made it happen. Yesterday Doug and Ricardo showed up at my house and we went for a ride.

Setting up for a ride. Saturday, March 15th

Setting up for a ride. Saturday, March 15th

We stopped at the gas station with the non-ethanol pump on 99 and Irving and there was a long line for that good pump. It was the beginning of a nice weekend and people were getting the good gasoline for their toys or for the small motors of machines involved in yard work. Soon it will be warm enough that boaters will be lining up for the good gas as well.

We took 36 to Territorial, to Monroe, and from Monroe we took Alpine road all the way to Alsea.  At some point on Alpine road Ricardo thought his front tire needed air, so we stopped at the gas station in Alsea.

Checking air pressure on front tire of the Super Duke.

Checking air pressure on front tire of the Super Duke.

Tire air pressure was okay. We think it probably was the Alpine road pulling its tricks. Despite the appearance of being clean, it is a seldom used road, I would say it is not the best surface for traction may give that wondering feel upfront. All was good, we carried on to the coast via 36.

Alsea Mercantile, in Alsea, of course.

Alsea Mercantile, in Alsea, of course.

We hit the coast and made a left on 101 and went straight to Yachats. This time I suggested we went elsewhere other than Ona for lunch.  But Doug and Ricardo were set on Ona.  Fine with me.

The three  bikes at Ona's parking area

The three bikes at Ona’s parking area

Doug ordered the two-eggs with bacon and the server told Ricardo and I, both of us ordered the Manila Clam chowder, that we would be envious of Doug’s order.  And she was right, it was quite a plate, the bacon looked really fresh.  It looked really good even when the Manila Clam chowder with a couple of slices of freshly baked bread is a great choice.

During one of my loops I went next door to Ona, to this joint (photo below) for a greasy burger. Perfect for a cold day and it matches better a biker atmosphere. But they took a long time to serve and the food at Ona is far better.

The "joint" next door

The “joint” next door

This time there was no rain at this part of the loop, just a heavy ocean mist, enough to require wiping the visor regularly.  We stopped for one quick photo shoot of the ocean.

The forever eroding Oregon coast

The forever eroding Oregon coast

Just a minute and we got back on our bikes and got on our way to Florence.

Nicest bike I've ever had...

Nicest bike I’ve ever had…

From Florence we took 126 to Mapleton for a shot of non-ethanol gas. Well, they needed it, not my Ducati.  They did not look too happy when I bragged about my bike’s computer indicating I had another 100 miles to go before the bike would need a fill up. I’ll be more subtle next time. Maybe not.

The KTMs need a refill. The Ducati looks from the distance.

The KTMs need a refill. The Ducati looks from the distance.

We said our goodbyes here. Twenty or so miles down the road the two of them would take the cut-off from 36 to Noti and cross 126 towards Territorial and get to the south Eugene area where they both live.  I would stay on 36 and beyond to Prairie Rd, it is almost a straight shot all the way to my house, on the wrong side of the tracks.  But we rode together all the way to their turn off point and it was quite fun following them. I was really glad I was riding the Ducati, each time I get more comfortable on this bike, trust it more, use it better.  I just don’t like the switchbacks and very tight corners with it. But 2nd or 3rd gear, low-to-mid speed corners it shines. I’m not even mentioning the long and sweeping corners on 4th gear at 5,5K rpm as you open it up at the apex in that sweet spot of the motor. No words to describe the feel, the sound, the experience the machine generates.

I stopped at the Chevron on 99 and Irving and filled it up, it took 4 gallons to fill the tank.  That means the bike made almost 50 mpg. The bike practically had 1 gallon left in the tank, which would be good for another 50 miles or so.  250 miles between fill-ups is not out of question for this bike.  More distance is certainly possible from a full tank if taking it easy.

Back were I started: 4 gallons for the loop

Back were I started: 4 gallons for the loop

A few more miles and I was back home, it was another great day for a ride. About 200 miles completed (the GPS showed 191 miles as it was turned off for a few miles when one of the connectors came lose).

About 200 miles for the day

About 200 miles for the day

I did this entire loop on Urban mode, with 150 High.  I usually do it on Touring or Sport mode, both on 150 high, but with a bit harder suspension setting, especially on Sport mode. I had not slept very well the night before, so I was looking for comfort and not performance. I don’t know what else to say, except that this is an amazing motorcycle. I’m already looking forward to the next time I will take it out for a ride.

Posted in Riding the Ducati | 11 Comments

Pacific Coast Loop – February 2014

Sunday morning the sun was out early. Doug would be joining me on my first Pacific Ocean loop of 2014.  The Ducati is ready!

Ducati getting ready for first ride of the year

Ducati getting ready for first ride of the year

Because one of my neighbors’ cats picked the Ducati as a territory marker (he has done it twice – forcing me to wash the bike each time to get rid of the stench and to protect the bike from corrosion) I now have to set the bike up inside the garage, closing the door when I’m not there because he shows up out of nowhere to do his deed. I’m researching (google, of course) ways to prevent that behavior, but I already learned it is a difficult and practically impossible task.

I’m thinking a battery operated low voltage electric fence, like the ones used with cattle, at the right height around the bike should do it without hurting the cat. Maybe it is too much work. What about pine-sol or citric oil on the ground by the garage door or around the bike when it is outside?  I’ve also heard that once a marking spot is established, cats never let go of them, and other cats start using that spot as well.  Rest assured I’m not going to go as far as this guy on the video below went to stop cats from marking on his car.  It is worth a watch! (no cats were “damaged” in this “humane” process, I believe).

Cats aside, the day was promising, weather forecast mentioned a dry Sunday in the area and coast. Doug showed up and we took the bikes to the gas station to top them off with non-ethanol gas. My plan is to ride enough miles to use most of the gasoline in the tank and then get a full tank of new, fresh, non-ethanol gasoline.   Two things I noticed on the bike, after being in storage for four months.  First was the start button getting stuck on the depressed position. To bring it back I had to remove the gloves and dig it back by its edges manually.  Ducati has sent me a new button, but it has since been back to normal operation by itself so I won’t install the new one.

Start button getting stuck on the "pushed" position.

Start button getting stuck on the “pushed” position.

The second thing was condensation on the main dash area.

Condensation on the main dash board

Condensation on the main dash board

It went away at some point during the day (here it was already going away, only around the RPM numbers between the 2K and 9.5K numbers).  But it came back on the next ride (yesterday) and also went away during the ride.  I’m not too concerned about it, soon it will be dry enough that it won’t be there again.  But it worries me if that will happen every winter, as I fear eventually it will damage the dashboard.

On the way to the top of Mary's Peak

On the way to the top of Mary’s Peak

From the gas station we rode 99 north towards 34 and from 34 we went west towards Alsea. It was not raining, but most roads were wet in forested areas. We made a detour to Mary’s Peak and the road had probably just been opened for the season. It was covered by a real mess of branches, leaves, gravel and water. Closer to the top, there were patches of snow to make things yet more interesting.

Areas with last signs of snow closer to the top of Mary's Peak

Areas with last signs of snow closer to the top of Mary’s Peak

Doug climbed that mountain like a maniac. By the time I got to the parking area at the end of the road, his bike’s motor had probably cooled down already.  I don’t know how he manages to ride so fast on treacherous pavement conditions but then slows down on dirt roads.  He probably thinks the same about me, but on reverse, how do I ride faster then him om dirt and chicken out on pavement under certain surface conditions.

Doug ogling at my bike

Doug ogling at my bike

The views were really clear. Sisters and Mount Bachelor at the Cascades.

First blessing of the season from my three sisters

First blessing of the season from my three sisters

It was cold up there, just above freezing. We went down the mountain, towards Alsea.

Going down from Mary's Peak

Going down from Mary’s Peak

Doug suggested we had a cup of coffee at Deb’s Cafe in Alsea. Good idea to warm up our hands on a hot coffee cup and stay indoors for a little while.  I had started with minimum heat on my hand grips, by the time we stopped at Deb’s Cafe at had it on medium.  On my way back from the coast I had it on maximum.

A coffee stop at Deb's Cafe

A coffee stop at Deb’s Cafe

We met two fishermen at the cafe, working their way to get steel head trouts. Once they heard about my connections with Brazil they wanted to know about fishing over there. I recommended Argentina to the south, instead, for fly fishing. They talked about expeditions in the tributaries of the Amazon river, a completely different experience than fly fishing in southern Argentina. I’ve never been to the Amazon region in Brazil except for an airplane fuel stop once, and it was at night.

We continued our journey towards the coast and eventually found our way to Yachats.

Yachats

Yachats

We had lunch at the Ona restaurant, where else.  When we left the restaurant we encountered persistent rain.  Great weather forecast, where is the “promised” dry Sunday?

Persistent rain.

Persistent rain.

Nothing to do but carry on. We made a stop at the Heceta light.  Now it is the “getting wet” type of rain as it is really coming down.  And Doug pointed out to me that he does ride in the rain (a remark from my comments on two of our last Steens adventures). Well, he really doesn’t like riding in the rain on dirt roads. And you know, between you and me, he is right.

Anyway, he has been hinting that he wants to ride my Ducati and complaints I’m not letting him ride it.

Not this time.

Not this time.

My answer:

  1. He already rode one bike exactly like mine when we tested the Multistradas 2010 and 2013 back to back in February 2013 (it was reported here) so why bother riding it again?
  2. If he buys the KTM 1190 (which he talked about in the past weeks and now he dismisses it) I will gladly exchange bikes with him for at least one entire leg of one of these rides. That would be a fair exchange wouldn’t it?

Anyway, there we were, the wet bike and the Heceta Lighthouse.

The Bike and the Lighthouse

The Bike and the Lighthouse

And it was nice to see it working on low visibility, how lighthouses are designed to operate.

Heceta Lighthouse in Action

Heceta Lighthouse in Action

We continued south under steady rain to Florence and from there we went east to Mapleton where we stopped for “clear” gas as some people call the non-ethanol gas.

Clear, non-ethanol,gas

Clear, non-ethanol,gas in Mapleton

Soon we were on 36 for the home stretch.  The further from the Ocean we got the less rain we encountered. I got back home at about 5 pm I believe.

229 miles.

229 miles.

It was great to be back on the saddle. The bike performed really well.

Back Home

Back Home

This ride took place in February 2014, and it was a great reminder for why I got this bike in the first place.  This ride was long overdue, since, except for the few miles the day before, I had not ridden since October 2013, which makes about 4 months without riding this winter!  Well, at least I’ve been riding my bicycle to and from work.

Next will be the ride I did yesterday, with Doug and Ricardo. Same loop.

Posted in Riding the Ducati | 10 Comments

First ride of 2014

It was still February when finally the riding stars aligned for me for the first time in 2014: I was here at home, it was a weekend, and the weather was reasonable. I had been eying the KTM 1190 adventure motorcycle, the new arrival to the adventure motorcycle world, for several months already.  It was sometime in January when I paid a visit to KTM Country here in Eugene and got to see it for the first time.

KTM 1190 Adventure Demo @ KTM Country

KTM 1190 Adventure Demo @ KTM Country

My target for that sunny (the sun sort of came out at some point) and relatively warm Saturday was to go to the KTM dealer and take that bike for a ride.  Got my camera ready and set the Tiger 800XC for its maiden voyage of the year.  My maiden ride of the year!

Tiger 800 XC set up for the first ride of the year

Tiger 800 XC set up for the first ride of the year

My bikes were on a battery tender rotation throughout the winter, so the Tiger’s battery had plenty of juice and it was ready to go at first crank.  I checked fluids, air pressure on tires, and did an overall review on things.  I decided to take this bike, as this would be the one to go in place of the KTM, if I ever went that direction in the future.  I got reacquainted with the Tiger, went towards Fern Ridge, taking the long way to get to the KTM Country store,  making sure the Tiger’s fluids got a chance to warm up to operating temperature before I would bring the bike back home to who knows when I would be riding it again. After all, this is still winter!  When I arrived at the KTM store I learned they had a new arrival, an Orange one, besides the grey demo bike.

Orange 2014 KTM Adventure @ KTM Country

Orange 2014 KTM Adventure @ KTM Country

They explained to me that they’ve been getting the KTM 1190 Adventure R model, the one with a 21 inch front wheel and more set up to offroad riding. But those are all pre-sold or sell as soon as they arrive.  Besides the demo, at the end of February they had two standards, this Orange one and a gray one (about to arrive) both unsold at that time.  The orange bike looks a lot better in person. At least that’s the way I see it.  Although I would go for the gray one if I ever went the 1190 route.  Also, I would not go for the R model, no need for that, since I’m not going to go motocrossing with such a large bike. The standard should be plenty good, more than enough for gravel and dirt roads.

2014 KTM  Adventure Standard

2014 KTM Adventure Standard

To make this story short, I did not get to ride the demo bike.  Staff were busy at the store, one on the back working on a bike and only one in the front, with customers.  Since they require a “baby sitter” or chaperone for test rides, at least that’s what the guy in the front told me, I did not get to take the bike for a ride.  Maybe if they knew me (0ne of them does) they would let me take it for a ride. Anyway, it simply did not happen this time, I may go back and try again.

So I got back on my Tiger and went back home.  I made some 20 to 30 miles in total with the Tiger, enough to get reacquainted with the bike and with riding.  The following day, Sunday, the weather forecast indicated a dry day for Eugene and for the coast until late in the afternoon. So that was my plan: take the Ducati for my Pacific Ocean loop.

Posted in Riding the Triumph | 2 Comments

2013 Oregon Discovery Rally

This post is well past its time, but I just don’t feel I can start posting this year’s rides before properly completing the 2013 riding season. And especially because this last proper ride of 2013 became a relevant one for me when in December I received worrying news from one of my riding friends.  I will explain.

Dry Creek Store, along Hwy 138, East of Steamboat

Dry Creek Store, along Hwy 138, East of Steamboat

Travel and weather ended the 2013 season almost abruptly to me. In some winters I never actually stopped riding. But on others the combination of when I’m here and available to ride and when the weather is good have not matched, which was the case of 2013.  Isn’t that always the case that we know winter will be here, but we never know when will our last ride of the season be? And doesn’t this actually apply to everything in life?

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The European Motorcycles of Western Oregon organizes yearly motorcycle rallies.  These are well organized events called “Oregon Discovery Rally”. Every year they scout an area and camp site on varied locations across the state and provide breakfast and dinner for participants for 3 days. Meals are pretty good actually! Usually the “headquarters” location is selected so that it offers a good variety of riding terrain and geographic features around it. As is typical, from these headquarters riders self-organize and plan daily rides in smaller groups.

Small group ride

A small group ride on the 2013 Oregon Discovery Rally

At night, by the campfire, you get to hear stories about where people went, their successes, trials and tribulations, we exchange information so we all learn from each other which helps the planning of the next day’s ride.  And it is great to re-live rides, maybe some of us will tell taller stories than others.

I’m not a fan of group rides, especially when it goes on dirt roads.  I’ve described here my pet peeves on this already, mostly originating from my dislike from eating dust.  But at the same time, it was on one of these rallies, in 2008 in the Ochoco area of the state (Read that report here), that I met a group of riders who have since become, all of them, very dear friends of mine.

Discovery Rally, 2008

Discovery Rally, 2008

In 2010, not on an Oregon Discovery Rally, I met a couple from Switzerland, Oliver and Monika, who were riding through Eugene.  They were picking their bikes up from service at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon and I happened to be there also picking my BMW Dakar up from service. That evening I had dinner with them.  Oliver and Monika became friends with Scott and Madelyn of the ECMOR and also with me, and since then they have been coming here every summer to ride their bikes and also participate in the Oregon Discovery Rally. Eventually Oliver’s brother Christian joined the fold as well.

From left to right: Christian, Monika and Oliver

From left to right: Christian, Monika and Oliver

Knowing Oliver, Monika and Christian would be here for the 2013 Rally was an incentive for me to join the Rally. This year’s Oregon Discovery Rally was based out of the Horseshoe Bend, a handful of miles east of the Steamboat Inn, along Hwy 138, where the Umpqua River does a perfect horse shoe bend.  Knowing this was going to mostly be a paved roads rally, with some gravel roads on optional rides, I prepared my Tiger 800XC for the event. And the Tiger matches very well their BMW F800GSs and F650GS.

The Tiger 800XC Ready to Roll - September 2013

The Tiger 800XC Ready to Roll – September 2013

From my previous posts, you already know Christian had arrived earlier and rode Oliver’s bike and joined us on a trip to the Steens just the week before. When his brother arrived, Christian returned that bike and borrowed another F800GS for the rally.  I picked him up where he was staying and together we went towards the Horseshoe Bend campsite.  Oliver and Monika would be riding towards the campsite later.  We would all be arriving a day before the start of the rally, so we could help the shop crew with the setting up of the campsite kitchen.

Picking Christian up to ride together to the Rally

Picking Christian up to ride together to the Rally

We stopped in Cottage Grove for lunch.

Lunch in Cottage Grove

Lunch in Cottage Grove

From there we went due east along the Row River and eventually took Sharps Creek road to the southeast which would spit us right about the Steamboat on 138.  We met a large group of cruiser riders on one of the passes.

Adventure bikes and and Cruisers

Adventure bikes and and Cruisers

This area is nice, it is the route Rod sets for us riders to attend the the Cycle Parts’ (local Triumph Shop) annual Steamboat Inn Lunch Ride.

View from one of the passes on Sharps Creek Rd

View from one of the passes on Sharps Creek Rd

We arrived on the campsite earlier than the others, prompting me for a relaxing nap before jumping into action to help set the kitchen up and set up my tent.

Taking a nice relaxing nap!

Taking a nice relaxing nap!

When the crew arrived we quickly set the camp kitchen up.  The next day we started our rides in the area, first we made a visit to Watson Falls.

Watson Falls

Watson Falls

Then on our way back to camp we stopped by the Toketee Falls.  This day was the only ride I led while on this trip.

Toketee Falls. Very impressive volume of water.

Toketee Falls. Very impressive volume of water.

From this time on, Oliver took over the role of route planning. Oliver is very organized and every evening he diligently studied maps, prepared routes and then transferred the information to his GPS.  That means from that time on I only relaxed and enjoyed the rides following him and the rest of the gang.

Oliver and Scott, planning the next day's ride

Oliver and Scott, planning the next day’s ride

The next day we took a dirt ride towards the general direction of the Crater Lake.

More water falls.

More water falls.

We stopped by the Natural Bridge on the Rogue River, where the entire river goes under volcanic rock for a 100 yards or so.  The photo below depicts the river when the water shows up from under the rock.

Rogue River coming out from under a natural rock bridge

Rogue River coming out from under a natural rock bridge

The following day our group went to Crater Lake, Oliver (with the red helmet) ahead as always.

Crater Lake Park Entrance

Crater Lake Park Entrance

The Crater Lake is always great for photographs.

The Tiger is back at the Crater Lake

The Tiger is back at the Crater Lake

It was as if I was visiting my Uncle Benito and my friend Francis. Both passed away in 2013.  My uncle died in April, when I was on a trip to Crater Lake. Francis died in early May, and his connection to Crater Lake was because of his pride of the deep blue color of the Mediterranean by the Straight of Messina, more precisely in Mortelle where his Sicilian home was located.  The deep blue waters of the Crater Lake will always remind me of him.

The Deep Blue Waters in Crater Lake

The Deep Blue Waters in Crater Lake

We went around the Crater Lake, stopping by the various look out places.

One of the many stops around Crater Lake

One of the many stops around Crater Lake

Mount Thielsen?

Mount Thiessen on the background

Mount Thielsen on the background

Just about this time a wasp entered my helmet through the open visor and found its way between the helmet and my sun glasses and stung me. I’m allergic to most bee stings, so the reaction soon started to take place. Thankfully its venom was not too strong, I was sort of fine, despite a seriously swollen face and some discomfort.

Mount Thiessen

Mount Thielsen

So I continued the ride with everyone, exploring other areas surrounding the Crater Lake.

Volcanic Spires on Pinnacle Valley

Volcanic Spires on Pinnacle Valley

At some point I decided it was better to abort this ride and go back to camp and rest, I was afraid of further effects from the wasp sting. Scott and Kendrick decided to baby sit me on my way back to camp, following my bike closely, making sure I was not going to collapse or something. Thanks guys!  I should get my EpiPen (Epinephrine auto-injector) prescription filled.

Overall, it was a great location for the Rally. We could not cover all the different attractions in the area.  But on evenings, while exchanging information with other groups of riders, we learned of areas we had missed. There is always a next time.

Daily Ritual: Fueling the bikes at the Dry Creek store.

Daily Ritual: Fueling the bikes at the Dry Creek store.

Phone home!

Another daily ritual: Christian trying to call his wife.

Another daily ritual: Christian trying to call his wife back in Switzerland.

Impromptu Sandwich.

Wild black berries by the road.

Wild black berries by the road.

Very cold water, by my standards.

Another daily routine: Everyday, after the ride, Oliver, Monika, Christian and I would found our way to the Umpqua for a very cold but energizing bath.

Another daily ritual: Everyday, after the ride, Oliver, Monika, Christian and I would walk down to the Umpqua for a very cold but energizing swim.

Ice cream anyone?

Very civilized riding. Includes ice cream stops.

Very civilized riding. Included ice cream stops.

But what made this trip important, in retrospective, is that by late December I learned Oliver was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, something he discovered after suffering from renal problems for a little while. It is a blood cancer, generally thought to be incurable but highly treatable and remission possible.  The bad news is that he will not be riding in 2014, which made me look back at the 2013 ride and associate a more special meaning to it. The good news is that Oliver is reacting positively to the treatment.  Although he can’t travel in 2014, it looks like he will be back to ride with us in 2015.

Oliver, Cesar and Christian, September 2013

Left to right: Oliver, Cesar and Christian, September 2013

I’m considering Oliver’s situation as just a blip on the radar, as remission is not an impossible scenario to his condition, and with treatments getting better and better the prognosis becomes more and more positive, and therefore I look forward to riding with him in the future.  But it serves me as a reminder.  We will all go one day, one way or the other. Every moment counts, and to me it is the best incentive to always see the best on everyone and everything.  I’ve learned to never take anything or anyone for granted, but I’m crawling in terms of always making it happen in the moment.

To Oliver and to his full recovery!

Posted in Riding the Triumph | 4 Comments