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What To Do While Not Riding.

IMG_1165I had knee surgery recently to repair two tears in the meniscus in my left knee. The injury was not motorcycle related but it means I’ll be off the bike for a while. So, what to do while I can’t ride?  Well, I took advantage of the down time to get through a few projects I’ve wanted to do.

The first was to get my bike ready for the spring riding season, even though I can’t ride it for several weeks. I changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, rear tire, and gave it good once over. I tightened all the nuts and bolts and lubricated everything. All pretty straight forward except for changing the Air Filter. I have to hand it to the folks at Kawasaki, 12 bolts, 3 plastic rivets, 3 body pieces, and several connectors to unplug just to get to the air filter. Total time to do everything except the air filter was a few hours. The air filter was another solid hour. It kept me busy at least and even though I couldn’t ride my bike I still got to play with it.

Up to this point I’ve been a little shy about doing the service work on my Concours. It’s a very complicated machine and not like anything I’ve worked on before. Being able to take the time to work through the service knowing that I wasn’t riding took a lot of the pressure off. If I didn’t finish the work I wasn’t missing anything and could get back to it when I had more time. Of course it turned out it was easier than I thought and once I got into it everything was very much the same just in different places. I didn’t take on changing the spark plugs, that’s a task for another long weekend. Something about having to remove the gas tank … not sure I’m ready for that yet.

IMG_1169Next I organized my gear by building custom shelves, a rack, hanging cabinets, and generally putting things in their place. It’s so nice have all my gear in one place. There’s also a practical reason for organizing and hanging up my gear. We moved to a new house last summer and I had a similar setup in my old house. Having a place to hang sweaty or wet clothes is great for letting them air out and dry. They tend to last longer when they have good airflow. It also helps them smell better next time I use them. The other reason is for convenience. Like most people, I don’t like to search for something. If it’s not in reach when I need it I’ll find an alternate solution. Having my riding gear all in one place means when I get ready to ride everything I need to grab is right there. I’ll have options instead of only using the jacket I can find, and I will use the gear that’s appropriate to the ride I’m going on.

I realized as I was putting my bike back together and organizing my gear that they had a similar purpose. Having my gear all together makes it easier to know what I have and what condition it’s in. Organizing my tools and other bike related cleaning and maintenance materials also helps me know what I have, how much I have, and where it’s at. Working on my bike regularly helps me understand it. The more parts I look at, and  work on the more familiar I am with my machine and how it works. The more familiar I am the more apt I am to know if somethings wrong and I might even have an idea of how to fix it. My gear collection grows as I understand what different conditions require in terms of protection and comfort. The more comfortable I am the longer I can ride and longer my riding season is. My tool collection grows as I work and maintain my bike. The right tool for the job is always the best tool to use. So too does my understanding of my bike grow as I ride it and work on it. The more I know the better I can care for my bike and extend my riding.

This train of thought brought me back to my knee surgery. I’ve tried for several years to “get in shape”. I know intuitively that it’s important. Looking down the barrel at 40 my body isn’t going to bounce back on its own. So, while I work on my bike getting it into shape for the summer I concluded I need to do the same to me. Just like a bike that’s out of tune, it might run for a while but eventually it’s going to need some work to get it going again. The amount of work really depends on how well it is maintained. My body is very much the same. I’ve missed a few regular service intervals at this point. So, as I get my bike in order I’ll also be working on getting me in better shape this summer too.  Let’s see if I can tune this body up before it’s too late and I get put out in the shed with a tarp over me.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Concours 14, Motorcycling

 

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Concours 14 – One Year Review

Tail of The Dragon, Sept 2011

As of June 6th my Connie is officially one year old. It’s been a great year of riding (14,000 miles!) and getting to know the bike better. The Concours is a complete departure from any bike I have owned. Because of that it’s been a learning experience for me. I’m happy to report that the bike and I are getting along famously. Like in all relationships there have been some compromises, but nothing that’s a deal breaker.

For me, the most dramatic difference between the Concours and the cruiser style bikes I’ve ridden in the past is the riding position. The Concours has classic sport bike riding ergonomics albeit more upright than the race-replica speed bikes. I have been delighted to discover that my body agrees well with this ridding position. It actually allows me to shift my weight around and the option of supporting myself with either my legs, trunk or arms. This freedom of movement has proved invaluable on long rides to reduce fatigue and increase my saddle time. One thing that I really miss from my H-D are the highway pegs for stretching my legs out in front me. There are options for that on the Connie that I’m looking into. I haven’t decided what the best approach will be yet.

I have made a few modifications that have even further amplified my comfort level. The first add-on was a set of Grip Puppies. The grips on the Concours are a bit smaller in diameter those on my H-D (or any another bike I’ve ridden) . The Grip Puppies not only increased the diameter of the grips but also add a bit of cushion.They went on easy and haven’t moved, even when soaked in a rain storm. Next I added a set of Handlebar Wedges from Murphs’ Kits. These aren’t exactly bar risers, though they do raise the bars about 1″ and bring them back about 3/4″. The main purpose as stated by Murphs is to move “the stanchion toward the steering bearing which elevates the handlebar ends about an inch and makes them more horizontal. It also brings them closer to the pilot a small amount. The effect is to remove some of the compound twist in your wrists.” With my ape like arms I thought full bar risers might put the bars to close to me so I went with the wedges and am very happy. I still have the stock seat and haven’t seen a need to replace it as of yet. The seat works just fine for me. I did flirt with a sheep skin seat cover from Aerostich for a bit (no sheep jokes!). It’s a little too much for daily riding but I still use it for longer, multi-day rides as it does allow more airflow than just the stock seat.

Of course who can resist adding onto their bike when there are so many options out there. I installed a Coocase S50 Astra topcase from Twisted Throttle with a back rest. I also replaced the plastic stock luggage rack with a metal one for greater support. I’ve really appreciated the extra storage. The topcase also matches the bikes look so closely that it’s hard to tell it didn’t come with the bike. The Stop/Running lights on the case also add more visibility on the back end which is always good to have. I mounted a weatherproof case from Biologic for my IPhone on the handlebars. The case is actually designed for bicycles but works great on the Concours. It allows me to have the phone mounted where I can see it for GPS navigation and to charge it while in the case. The case has performed well in the rain on many trips now. You can’t submerge it in water but it does keep the rain off while it’s on the bike. I think it’s a great compromise.

I’m planning two more modifications in the coming year. The first will be a taller windshield. At 6′ 2″ the stock screen is a little short and I have a hard time finding a spot where I don’t get a lot of buffeting. I think that a midsize screen like the Cee Bailey’s Euo Cut windshield will do the trick. This should allow me to keep the screen in a mid-height position that will cut the buffeting at the top of my head but still not be a drag on the aerodynamics of the bike. The other mod will be to add another power outlet. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why there’s a place for a second outlet in the dash on the Connie but it does not come from the factory with one. I’ve needed the second outlet on a few trips, mostly to charge other peoples devices, and think that adding it will be worthwhile.

My Connie has been in for the break-in (600 Miles) and one maintenance service (7,000 miles) so far. At the first maintenance service I replaced the very worn out stock Bridgestone Battlax tires with Michelin Pilot Road 3’s. It was very disappointing that the stock Bridgestone’s didn’t last more than 6,000 miles. So far (except for a puncture in the rear tire) the Pilot’s have been far superior in both wear and feel. Other than normal maintenance the Connie has been rock solid over this year and is getting ready for it’s 15,000 mile service.

Here’s to another great year of riding.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Concours 14

 

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Comparison: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14 Part IV – Ergonomics

Comfort is a subjective topic. Being an avid reader of all things motorcycle I’ve observed that one person’s perfect bike setup is another person’s idea of medieval torture. Having read a number of motorcycle travel books and blogs comfort is a key topic but the approach varies widely. I’ve seen everything from an almost stock FZ1 taken around the world to a KLR fitted with a Gold Wing seat by it’s owner to thousands of dollars spent on new seats, handlebars, grips and pegs. What this means to me is that what’s comfortable is purely a personal choice. Having ridden mostly cruisers up until recently my idea of comfort was grounded in the standard ergos for that segment of the market. Big and wide padded seats, floor boards, and laid back seating are all standard elements of the riders contact with a cruiser and the reason that this is such a popular motorcycle type. It’s familiar. It’s the way we are used to sitting in our office chairs all day. The feat-under-the-seat riding position of a sport bike is pretty foreign to most people unless they’ve logged some time on a horse and even then only if they’ve ridden English vs. Western (which is a whole other debate/discussion). I’ve been fortunate (?) enough to have experience riding horses both ways and now bikes too. So, what do I prefer? Motorcycles, but that’s a little off topic.
 
The differences in rider ergonomics between the Ninja and the Concours are really one of  scale. To make sure that I wasn’t just fooling myself into thinking this is true based entirely on the fact that the Ninja is smaller than the Concours, I rode them back-to-back down the same road. The Ninja has generally the same seat to peg to bars relationship that the Concours does, just more compressed due to the size of the bike. This ratio of the comfort triangle goes a long way toward the idea that this bike can be a sport-touring machine. It all but cements the Ninja as a great around town/commuter bike which I can attest to personally. As I mentioned before though, comfort is subjective. At 6′ 2″ the compressed ergonomics of the Ninja make an already small bike, for me, feel even smaller. In the twisty back roads and mountain passes near my home, this is a good thing. The Ninja feels small and maneuverable while also building confidence taking corners tight and exiting fast and planted. The Connie is more than capable of strafing the back roads too, however there’s a little more bulk to bustle around and as such greater effort needed to garner the same results as the Ninja. This puts the Ninja’s sweet spot, for me, at short or moderate length trips preferably on twisty fun roads or as an around town errand runner (like picking up some ice cream on a hot summer day after dinner).

                 

 
 

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Comparison: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14 Part III – Wind/Weather Protection

The first two motorcycles I owned had no wind protection, meaning they had no windshields. Being cruisers, they were also absent any protection from the weather, other than what I was wearing. It wasn’t until I purchased my Harley-Davidson Electra Glide that I even understood how much wind and weather protection can improve the pleasure of riding. Now after riding the Ninja 1000 and the Concours I understand even more. Both bikes have adjustable windshields, the Ninja’s manually adjusts to three preset positions and the Concours’ is electronically adjustable.

Ninja Up Ninja Mid Ninja Down
Connie Up Connie Mid Connie Down

In addition to their windshields, both bikes also have a fairing to help with airflow and protect the rider from the elements. The fairing in both cases also serves to push hot air from the engine away from the rider and they both do this very well. I am pleasantly surprised at how well both bikes manage heat. I’ve been stuck in hot weather in stop and go traffic and been cooler (relatively) than I ever was on my Harley. Part of that I’m sure is that these are both liquid cooled bikes, but I have to give credit to the engineering that went into moving the hot engine air away from the rider. No longer do my thighs burn as I stand at a stop light in 90 degree heat waiting for the light to change. Don’t get me wrong, there is heat, but not nearly the level of what is put off by an air cooled engine on a hot day. The similarity in the bikes regarding wind and weather protection pretty much end there.
 

For pure, clean airflow from the windshield to the rider the Ninja is better than almost any other bike I’ve ever ridden. In all three positions the air stream is clean with only a little buffeting in the tallest setting. I’m 6′ 2″ so that’s saying something for this little windscreen. The windshield is not adjustable on the fly (while riding) like the Connie (and as also indicated on the warning label next to the adjustment latch) but takes only a second to change at a stop light or sign. There’s no tools needed, just push down on the latch tucked into the fairing on the right side under the display screen. Not being able to adjust the screen while riding has not been a problem. I usually keep it set to the middle height which still allows air to reach me but does not blow me off the bike when at higher (legal) speeds.

I wish that I could say the same for the Connie’s windshield. In all possible settings there is wind noise and buffeting. The lowest setting is the quietest and the cleanest but it’s still produces some rough air and noise. The benefit to an electronically adjustable windshield however is that, in the few instances where I’ve encountered rain, being able to move the much larger Concours windshield all the way up has kept me pretty dry while in motion. The same cannot be said for the windscreen on the Ninja 1000, it’s just too small to really provide great weather protection. At it’s highest setting the Connie’s shield works well to keep most wind from reaching the rider. I know that this is helpful on the highway from personal experience and I’m sure that it will come in handy when the temperatures start to drop. Wind noise and buffeting when the screen is fully erect though almost negate these benefits. I’m just glad I wear ear plugs. A nice feature of the Concours is the ability to preset the windshield to one of 4 factory set heights so that the shield raises to that height when the bike starts. Setting 1 is full down and setting 4 is full up while 2 and 3 are mid-low and mid-high respectively. The shield retracts to full down when the bike is turned off.

On weather protection, the clear advantage goes to the Concours. It’s designed to push wind and weather past the rider and creates a nice bubble to sit in and just enjoy the ride. The Ninja’s fairing seems primarily built to decrease wind resistance and move engine heat away from the rider, but not for weather protection. In a side-by-side picture it can be seen that the Connie allows the rider to tuck in behind the fairing and the windshield where the Ninja 1000 just does not have the same level of protection.

It’s no surprise to me that the purpose built sport-touring motorcycle, the Concours, has better weather protection. It is surprising that the Ninja 1000 provides the cleaner wind flow and does that with a much smaller windscreen. I’d still not want to take the Ninja into a hard rainstorm, but I’d love to see a windshield built for the Concours that moves air past me like the Ninja does.

Next Up for the Comparison: Ergonomics, a chat with Isosceles …

 

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Comparison: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14 Part II

I thought that it might be best before launching into a comparison of two bikes to make sure that I introduce them. While readers of the Cycle World Kawasaki Ninja 1000 Experience blogs may already be familiar with the Ninja 1000, you may not be as familiar with, what I consider its big brother, the Concours 14.

Kawasaki describes that Ninja 1000 as an “open-class sport bike” that is “bred for the street”. With its 1043cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, fuel injected, inline-four power plant mated to a slick 6 speed transmission with chain final drive pumping out 136 horse power, the Ninja 1000 is all sport bike at heart. Add to that an upright sitting position, padded seat, and adjustable windshield and Kawasaki has created a great all around platform for whatever riding style you may be interested in. I can personally attest to the Ninja 1000’s capabilities as a commuter and back road blitzer. The Ninja 1000 could easily be modified with saddle and tank bags to make it an excellent sport-touring bike, with a strong bias toward the sport end of that segment.

The Concours 14 is categorized as a supersport-touring motorcycle by Kawasaki.  With a 1352cc four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four with variable valve timing connected to a 6 speed transmission and Tetra-Lever shaft drive pushing out 102.0 lb-ft of torque @ 6,200 rpm and 133 horse power,  I think the designation is well deserved. The Connie is well suited, as I can personally confirm, for long distance touring and is also very capable on curvy back roads. Kawasaki have loaded up the Concours 14 with a plethora of gadgets and technology: traction control (KRTC), ABS, linked brakes (K-ACT with two modes), economy fueling mode, heated grips, electronically adjustable windshield, tire pressure monitoring, and a unique keyless ignition system (KIPASS) . All that and water proof had bags and you can understand why this is a touring bike to rival BMW, Yamaha or Honda. Voted Best Sport-Touring Bike by Cycle World in 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Concours 14 is truly a great bike.

 

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Comparison: Ninja 1000 Vs. Concours 14

I thought that it would be a good time to write up a comparison of the two bikes that I currently own. Both have roughly the same mileage on them since I bought the Concours 14 a few weeks after taking delivery of the Ninja 1000. I had considered writing up a comparison between my Harley Davidson Electra Glide and the Ninja 1000, but decided against it. There are too few similarities between the bikes and far too many differences. I felt that a comparison between the sport-touring bikes would be more appropriate and informative. I will say that making the switch to a sport-touring bike from the H-D was a pretty big one. I often feel like I’m learning to ride a bike all over again even with over 1,000 miles on the Ninja 1000 and the Concours. Riding position, shifting, lean angle, and power delivery are all vastly different between the two styles of bikes. I will, inevitably, make references to the H-D, and cruisers in general, in my review as that’s my primary reference from a riding perspective, but I won’t be making a direct comparison between the H-D and the sport-touring bikes.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting comparisons of specific features of the Ninja 1000 and the Concours 14. I plan to cover the following topics: windshield/wind flow, ergonomics, power delivery, general ride quality, fit and finish, and amenities. Since these two bikes are both manufactured by Kawasaki, and have a sport-touring bias, there will be some similarities in the areas that I plan to cover, but I can assure you that in most cases they approach them differently.

Stay Tuned …

 

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Get a Grip Miles: 564 – 663

Being new to sport bikes I noticed fairly early that the grips where thinner. This combined with the forward riding position on the Ninja took a little getting used to. I received some advice that really helped me be a lot more comfortable. Basically, never lock your arms, and grip the tank with your legs to help support your body on the bike. I know this is probably sport riding 101 for most. Having only owned crusers this was all new to me. The other thing that really helped me was some information I picked up from Sport-Touring.net. To help with the little bit of buzz that comes through the bars and the smaller grips they recommended trying Grip Puppies from California Sport Touring. These are slip on covers for your existing grips made of CE Foam. They really do just slip right on with a little water and dish soap. I rode to work today after installing them last night and they made a world of difference. The Ninjas grips are now more comfortable and thicker. Problem solved. Now … what to do about that seat ….

I also had a fuel up today on my ride home from work. You can check out my stats at Fuelly.com:
MPG: 40.1
Miles: 163.0
Gallons: 4.066

 

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