With Only A Motorcycle: The 6-month Report

October 26 was the six month marker from when my motorcycle arrived in California and I commenced my solo-moto experience.  I don’t know why the first half a year of anything is an event to be marked, when I had ticked off significantly less minutes on my clock there was a point where six months seemed like an eternity, but after having been with my wife for more than seven years, owning the same motorcycle for more than ten years and working at the same place for 12 years, six months seems pretty insignificant now.  Still, when that day ticked past and I realized that I had reached six month mark since the start of life without a car I knew that inevitably I would have to sit down and take stock of how how things have gone thus far.  Am I where I thought I would be in six months?  Is it all that I hoped it would be and more?  Am I regretting the decision?  Am I having second thoughts?

Maybe that is why the first six months of anything can be such a significant event, especially in important undertakings.  In reality you are still in the middle of great upheaval but you desperately need to seek self assurance that you made the right call, that you are on track to great things.  Even through the self-professed insignificance of the moment for some reason there is still a desire to make it known that I have hit the six month milestone.  Part of that is because I am sure that there are some that feel that this is some sort of lark and that once I get it out of my system I'll be back in the "cage."  The six month mark is definitely my first real opportunity to wave the fact that I am still solo-moto and doing fine in their face.  It also provides the opportunity to solicit acknowledgement from people that do get the what living without a car which is more valuable to me than the opportunity to throw it in the face any detractors.

So what has it really been like thus far?  Frankly, I thought I would have been going on more long rides and and having more adventures than I have been.  A glance back on what I have written thus far shows that I have spent a healthy bit of my free time wrenching and not riding.  Part of that I am sure has to do with facing the reality of being stranded out in the middle of nowhere quite early on.  I think that gave me a laser focus on maintenance and impressed a real desire for everything to be right with the bike before going off and riding just for kicks.  Consequently most of the miles I have put on thus far have been commuting to and from work with the exceptions of a ride to Sterling Winery, my Clear Lake Ride, a couple of rides to SanFrancisco and my adventure to the Laguna Seca MotoGP Race.  I do feel that the FZ1 is now at a place where I have all the major mechanical issues addressed and hopefully that will mean more trips.

The truth is that there are still a number of things that I I would like to address when time permits that aren't keeping me for going on a long ride.  There are tell-tale cracks on exterior of the carb boots, I know that they are not leaking because I know what a bike with actual leaky carb boots runs like.  I'd like to have a project where I replace those and install some remote vacuum lines for easier carb syncing.  I need to get some brake pads to have on hand for the inevitable moment where the current ones wear out and truthfully the rear disc could stand to be replaced too.  I have ordered a new seat cover when I discovered that even more seams are starting to pull apart.  Eventually the rear tire will need to be replaced.  After servicing the front forks the thought that the rear shock probably needs a service or replacement with an acceptable spec low mileage rear shock off of a different model bike (which would probably the cheaper option) is in the back of my head all the time as well as the thought of replacing the swing arm bearings.  And then there is the never-ending cycle of drive chain maintenance (more on that later).

So there's a lot on the maintenance to-do list and I guess that brings me to the major overall conclusion that if I had it to do all over again I would have though long and hard about getting a brand new motorcycle or one just a few years old with very few miles on it.  I think about how much better it would be to be know the bikes entire history and have a clean slate to start with maintenance wise.  It would have been a much more fun first six months had I been able to just walk out to a brand new bike and just thumb the starter and be ready to go with the confidence that I know everything about this bike and not wonder what unknown issue might pop up.  Lets be honest; most motorcycles are garage queens that get taken out for weekend rides and trips to the local bike night.  When that is a bikes main use it's easier to ignore the little maintenance issues that pop up over time and start to pile up.  Now my bike was a 2001 with 30,000 miles on it.  Imagine if I had bought that same year bike with even less miles it probably would have been in much worse shape!  Now as far as the 2001-05 FZ1 as an all-around do-it-all bike I couldn't ask for more.  Obviously there are more refined versions available now; the 2014 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS comes to mind but the design thesis is pretty much the same between the two bikes.

As far as the actual act of riding goes I have now ridden in 112 degree temperatures and am currently riding in low 50s - high 40s at night time now.  Riding in high heat sucks there's no way around it and my riding motivation pretty much shrank to heading out only for the essentials on those days.  Cold weather is another set of challenges I have the proper gear to be comfortable riding in cool weather but with it still getting up into the 70's mid-day you end up trying to find the right spot of the fence to sit on.  Right now I am working swing shifts so I only wear jeans and the heavier riding jacket (vents open) with the non gauntlet gloves.  I still get a little warm in traffic and if I have to stop off in a store it can get pretty hot in the jacket and then when I am heading home at 10pm (jacket vents closed) it's quite nippy but that is the best balance.  When I was working nights last week I actually busted out the insulated over-pants, full gauntlet gloves and riding boots because the sun is gone and the temps are pretty consistent.  But then you get into the deal where it's taking me almost as long to get ready to ride to work as it does riding there.  The one thing that I haven't had to contend with yet is rain, so far I think we are still at 4 days with noticeable rainfall since moving to California with the rainiest (of course) being the day I decided to rebuild the forks for the FZ1 on the porch.  If I can make it through the winter which I am told will be much wetter I will be able to safely say that I can stand to live the solo-moto lifestyle, yes the biggest challenge is yet to come.

There are other little idiosyncrasies that I have picked up on since I started riding in here in California maybe they exist everywhere and the awareness comes from commuting full time on a motorcycle.  Probably the most frequent annoyance is at intersections with stop signs; I can roll up on one and the car will already be sitting there stopped and they will wait until they see me stop and actually put my foot down before they go.  When I was learning to ride back in Wisconsin one of the skills they taught us was called (literally) the "California Stop." Where you basically stop and balance without putting your foot down on the ground.  Well I've gotten pretty good at it now that I am in California but it would seem that no matter how good I am at balancing the person at the intersection is not going to go until they see that foot on the ground.  If they would just go after their car had stopped and they saw me stopping they would be through the intersection and I would be on my way without needing to put my foot down, it's petty but it's really annoying.

Another thing that is definitely a California thing, possibly a product of the higher volume of cars and the 4-5 lane highways (the HOV lane doesn't make it any easier either) is that basically any lane can be the "fast" lane at any given time or at all times.  In the Midwest there was a general rule that the faster traffic stays to the left and then the speeds get progressively slower as you move further right.  I can't figure out if I like this or not; at times it's maddening and I feel like I am inhabiting the same space with a bunch of self-entitled pricks who think their time is more important than others, other times I revel in the mêlée that is the California Highway System.  There haven't been too many times that I haven't felt 100% safe while riding on the Highways mainly because at any given them there is a good chance that I am the quickest, most agile thing that is in the general vicinity.

When I have gotten out onto the b-roads it is quite a different story there.  There are so many great roads that it's hard to pick which ones you want to try.  I have from time to time run into the problem of finding myself at the start of a road that looked really great on Google maps but then it turns out that it's unpaved.  But that has happened to me in Wisconsin to and that is all part of the adventure as far as I'm concerned.  But for as many times as that happens there are at least 10X more time you find yourself gnawing away at the last remains of your chicken strips tempted to put a knee down if only you hadn't traded in your leathers for more serviceable textile kit.  You see a lot more motorcycles and if there are cars a lot of them are out for a thrash too.  For some reason I haven't been too keen on checking hitting up the motorcycling must-sees maybe it's because of their proximity now but bing that it's cooler now it might be a good time to hit some up, there will probably be less Ricky road-racer types out there and more die-hard riders to meet.  The next weekend a moto-mecca may need to be checked off.

Have I mentioned how much Lucas Oil Products Inc. Chain Lube sucks?

Well it does, its sloppy and messy, I knew it was a bad purchase after the first 20 miles but I had it and I thought I would just grit my teeth and bear it until I ran through the can but enough was enough.  The product itself is messy and runs all over the place and then once it gets onto your swing-arm sprocket and wheels it acts like a magnet for dust dirt and grime.  The product that I am used to and have been using for years before this is Maxima Racing Oils Chain Wax and that was what I went back to but there was the issue of the shitty mess that they Lucas Oil Chain Lube had left behind.  I also picked up some MaximaRacing Oils Clean Up: Chain Cleaner.  

Getting the whole mess cleaned up meant taking off the counter-shaft sprocket cover and the rear wheel to clean both it and the swing arm.  You can see the gummy sticky globules of build up in there.

It took a lot of elbow grease and my hands and fingernails were dirty for about a week but the end result was worth it.  And a week later the swing-arm chain and sprocket all look pretty much the same as in this picture.

That's about it for now I did receive my seat cover and put it on the seat but this is already a long-winded update so that will have to wait till later.

Thank you to all who stop and read.

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