A look back at my 2012 Riding Season
The 2012 riding season was an extraordinary riding season for me. I mostly rode a bike that is completely different than what I traditionally ride. A bike that pushed my road riding boundaries, took me out of my comfort zone in many ways, and maybe it even conspired to put me in danger’s way every now and then. It sequestered my riding choices demanding my almost exclusive attention.
To put things in perspective, 2011 was the year of the Tiger, the Triumph Tiger, that is. It had arrived by the beginning of the summer of 2011 in my garage. The Tiger is similar to all my other bikes in what concerns to the enduro style of riding, including that straight up riding position. Just that it performed so much better on the road than all my previous bikes performed. In terms of power and comfort there was no comparison between the Tiger and my other two bikes. Its touring capability was the reason I got the Tiger and it did not disappoint, it helped me appreciate what riding on paved roads could deliver and took me on longer and farther away rides in great comfort. And I should add with great performance from the triple motor.
Although I really enjoy riding the Triumph, I wanted to explore yet a bit more of what pavement riding could bring. That’s why in early May 2012 this naked sport bike showed up in my garage. And very quickly it sequestered my 2012 riding season from its regular scene. At the same time the Ducati StreetFighter 848 came to my home, the BMW Dakar left for another home (I hope it has been treated well). In essence, except for being naked, everywhere else the Streetfighter is a different animal when compared to my other bikes.
I had ridden several Ducatis before the Streetfighter. Twice I rode the Multistrada 1200, a Monster 696 and a monster 1100 evo, and a Hypermotard 1100 evo sp. The Hypermotard, what a nice riding experience!
But I had never owned a Ducati. Once you experience the Ducati, the V-twin feel, if you happen to like it you are done for it. On all of these Ducatis that I rode I felt there was a significant contrast between the attractive, even if awkward at times, Italian design and that rough on the edges, but powerful, V-twin motor. The contrast sets in when you push the start button and the rumble of the motor takes you somewhere else, possibly back to a past era, maybe that of a 1950’s Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.
Whenever I thought about owning a Ducati I always thought about the Multistrada. But at this time I wanted a more street oriented bike, something with not much separating rider and road. My enduro bikes have tall forks with long suspension travel, tall handlebars, tall instrument clusters, windscreens; things that bring comfort to a rider but unfortunately it comes with a cost, it separates rider from the action, from the road feel.
I chose the beautiful Streetfighter 848 for the job. Except for the motor the SF 848 is the same bike as the SF 1098. Besides the lower displacement it also has suspension and brake components that do not quite match the 1098’s performance level. In my opinion, however, the 848’s claimed 136hp is plenty of power for such a compact motorcycle.
This motor is a de-tuned version of the 848 race motor, not unlike what the 1,200cc TestaStretta motor in the Multistrada is from its parent 1198 race motor, making it a more tractable motor for the street.
The bike arrived at my house at the beginning of my riding season, in beautiful metallic yellow color. It looks great on photo and much better in person.
As I mentioned earlier, it is a joy to ride my Triumph Tiger, absolutely no questions about it. But since the yellow bike arrived my riding preferences were sequestered, the SF 848 demanded my attention almost exclusively.
The exceptions for riding the other bikes were very few. It happened on the few times I went riding on dirt roads with my friends Doug and Riley when I took the most appropriate bike for those roads, the little Yamaha.
And the few times I took the Triumph were when I went on overnight trips and needed to bring camping gear with me. And one time when I went on an organized ride with the folks at the local Triumph shop.
Other than that, every weekend I went for a ride, yellow was my favorite color.
At first things were a bit awkward. I took it out for a spin towards the valley, not too far from home. Although its handlebars are not as low as in the SF1098, its position is forward and low enough, quite different than what I get on my enduro bikes. My feet wanted to find the controls directly under my body, but they were farther behind and higher up. The result is that my knees were bent on a narrower angle and my wrists had to deal with my upper body weight at slow speeds. On short rides, it is perfectly all right.
I did not realize, but eventually I got used to it. As I took it on longer rides, eventually my legs and arms gradually became more and more accustomed to the bike’s ergonomics, and eventually that more aggressive riding position felt more natural. And on the occasional times I took the other bikes out, it was shocking to realize how tall the handlebars on those bikes were. Even the Tiger, that I always felt its handlebars to be too low and far forward for an enduro machine, they felt upright enough after I accumulated riding miles on the Streetfighter.
Something else changed as well. As time passed my riding mode went from cautious and conservative to faster and aggressive. The machine was a transformer in its looks and in what it was doing to my riding style. I would be riding along, enjoying the scenery, nice curves approaching ahead, and there are plenty of those here in Oregon, and I would crank up a notch, or two, and enjoy the curves in a way I had never experienced before.
This bike made me re-think riding. When I mentioned it pushed my riding boundaries, most of it was in terms of performance and comfort. In terms of performance, it naturally increased my cornering speed. I bought Keith Code’s Twist of the Wrist II and I could not put it down until I finished it. I have to say the bike and the book took me to another level.
In terms of comfort, no matter how well I adjusted to its riding position, I could tell it would never give me the long distance riding ability a touring bike gives. I know it can be done, and people ride sport bikes everywhere. People even take sport bikes on transcontinental rides! But those are likely exceptions. For me, it never felt adequate for long distances. But yet, I wanted to ride this bike, and only this bike time after time.
Something had to give. I fell on a pattern of rides with no more than 200 miles (like my Ocean loop or the Cascades loop). And still I would arrive home more tired than what the 200 miles of riding should have represented. But no matter how tired I felt on Monday, by Tuesday I was already planning my next weekend’s ride, and when Sunday arrived, yellow was the color of choice.
This bike became my favorite bike. When riding at slow speeds I would raise the visor to better listen to that motor and appreciate it when it sounded its crispiest at about 4,500 when cruising in second gear going through a small town.
It also sounded great at 6,000 rpm, but it felt its greatest at 7,000 to 8,000 rpm in its sweet spot. I think the best experiences with this bike were when I would be on second or third gear, on the range between 6,000 and 9,000 rpm, on long sweeping corners and I would slightly roll off the throttle on approach to a curve and then partially roll on the to settle as I leaned it into the curve, and then rolling more after the apex, and I would glance at the dashboard in anticipation of DTC get into action, the three red flashing lights indicating traction control had been activated. Than I would slow down, go up to fourth gear or fifth and cruise until the next set of curves, go back down to 2nd or 3rd and repeat the action. Those were the best moments with this bike, and that is what I believe this bike is at its best. Not on city streets, not on touring rides. It is about aggressive riding on the twisties.
All of that is really great. But yet I wanted more. I wanted to have that V-twin, but I did not want to get restricted by comfort (or lack thereof) that would limit the distance I wanted to ride on a certain weekend. I did not want to get to my garage and feel that my preference for that bike determined where I would go for a ride.
Therefore, as the season progressed and the more I wanted to ride the Ducati, the more I felt the need to go back to the drawing board and re-examine my bikes and my riding choices. My questions were simple: what riding I want to do and what three motorcycles would be a best match to accomplish that riding. If I could afford four motorcycles it would be simple, I would simply add something else to the mix. But three bikes is already an extravaganza, so I should limit it to that and re-think my riding priorities.
I definitely want to continue riding on gravel and dirt roads, that’s the terrain where I started riding, that’s where I’m mostly at home. Oregon offers so many possibilities. There are so many dirt and gravel roads where the little WR250R Yamaha is an ideal motorcycle. You can’t beat a light weigh, well suspended motorcycle on that type of terrain. Therefore, the WR250R is a keeper. It could be eventually upgraded to a 450, but that is another story.
But there are also some rides in Oregon which include good portions of pavement mixed with gravel roads where the Tiger would be a better fit than the WR, when carrying tent and supplies on self-supported long rides. I’ve been dreaming about places such as Alaska or neighboring states, or even the Baja of Mexico where the Tiger would definitely be a better fit than the WR. The Triumph could eventually be exchanged by something else on that size with that similar dual purpose capability. There are options out there but for now it is a keeper.
And then there are the short and long distance rides strictly on pavement, from day trips on my ocean and mountain loops to long distance, multi-day trips. Sure, the Triumph can perform double duty and be great on those rides. As a matter of fact, the Triumph could be my only bike. If there will ever be the need to downsize, that’s probably the bike (or the bike’s size and style) that I will keep.
But there is something that the Streetfighter brought to the equation: the on road performance, the being at home on the road, that fast turn in, the sport bike feel for the road. I need, well… No, I want something else for the road.
Therefore, by the end of September I had made my mind and by October, on a gray day, with very mixed emotions I went on my last ride with the yellow Ducati.
The beautiful yellow Ducati, the one that taught me so much about riding, the one that expanded my horizons and so quickly became my favorite bike, went away. No matter what bike it is, the one thing that I dislike the most is to let them go.
But it needed to be done. In part this was about regaining my riding options and where, somewhat in jest, the Stockholm Syndrome comes to play. Every now and then the term “Stockholm Syndrome” lands in a conversation. If you are not of the generation that witnessed the actions that eventually coined this term, or have not googled it when you heard it for the first time, the term Stockholm Syndrome was coined in the early 70′s to describe the reactions of four bank employees to their captors. These four people were held for several days by bank robbers who threatened their lives but also showed them kindness. What was surprising to all who witnessed the events is that the four hostages strongly resisted the government’s efforts to rescue them and actually defended their captors.
As experts on these matters understood better what happened with the four hostages the term was further defined. Someone can “get” Stockholm Syndrome if the following conditions are met:
- Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one’s captor is willing to act on that threat
- The captive’s perception of small kindnesses from the captor within a context of terror
- Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor
- Perceived inability to escape.
Well, my experience with the Streetfighter matches those conditions. Every time I went on a ride it only felt into place when the riding was more aggressive, a clear threat to my survival. But the thrill was great; undoubtedly it gave me great satisfaction while pushing the envelope of my riding ability and riding comfort. Each time I went to the garage, the only color I saw was yellow and all I wanted to do was to ride the yellow machine even when the next day I would feel tired for it. And it sequestered my riding modes making me hostage of the 200 mile loops that matched this bike’s best aptitude.
Kidding aside, I made my mind about the changes and hopefully I will be able to complete the process in the next few weeks. Although it doesn’t look like I’m a patient person, or that I plan things well, I believe I am and I do. The reality of the matter is that before I purchased the Streetfighter I had originally planned to stay with it for about two years only and then I would re-evaluate the situation already with thoughts of a change or an upgrade.
I’m just implementing the plan, albeit a year before the original plan. Changes in the Ducati line up helped anticipate the change. And since I would not be riding it in the winter, and an opportunity for a new home for the bike appeared, it went away in October 2012. I’m looking forward to my 2013 riding season, hoping to have a more balanced approach to my riding. In the end, it will be what it will be, and I can only hope it will be as much fun as it was last year.
I will not miss the riding position, although that is what brought me closer to the road. I will not miss the dashboard with very limited information, and which is situated too far down, much below the rider’s line of sight. It makes for checking the “vitals” too much of a distraction from the road.
I will miss that direct connection to the road. I will miss its beauty. I will miss its compact size. I will miss its aggressive stance. I will miss its color. I will miss its riding character. I enjoyed this partnership, the 2,851 miles (4,590 km) of riding we had together!
Good bye Streetfighter 848. Hello…
Note: I’m not the first person to relate a vehicle to the Stockholm Syndrome. The other reference to such connection, that I came across, was from Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame. He was describing the feeling he got about a Lamborghini during a Top Gear show in 2009 or 2010. He actually mentioned it as the Helsinki Syndrome, but we all know he meant Sweden and not Finland.