Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last Ride of the Year

The Last Ride of the Year has been held in Stockton, Alabama every December 30 for the last 14 years.  Bob, Kurt, Rocky and I slabbed it down yesterday morning from Atlanta - 315 miles for me, and probably about the same for the rest of my group.

Most of us met in Newnan for some bacon and eggs at 7:00 am. Then it was off to the freeways. My new RT is now fully sorted for electronics with the addition of my SPOT Satellite Messenger. The trip was to be a test of all the farkle.

The first thing I learned on this trip is that the buttons on the SPOT completely preclude it from being manipulated while riding. They are tiny, indented, and require an exacting small finger for an exacting certain time. So now I know to leave the thing in tracking mode all day and forget about it. Don't expect many automated Facebook SPOT posts from me.

The second thing I learned is that Elizabeth loves tracking mode on the SPOT. I had shown her my personal tracking webpage the night before. She checked it when she got up yesterday and immediately called me on the phone. Since my phone is now tethered to the Zumo 665, I talked to her while bombing down I-85. She could tell where I was (within a ten-minute window, of course), and really enjoyed watching my progress. Apparently, if you keep a window open in your browser, the progress automatically updates.

And yes, it is wonderful having the cell phone available while riding. The Zumo is tethered to my iPhone, and any audio it is playing will be interrupted while the phone is in use. The J&M MA-967 feeds the sound to and from my J&M Elite helmet headset with microphone. Reception between Atlanta and Mobile seemed to be seamless. Anytime E wanted to find me, or vice-versa, reception was there. She's worried I'll be leaned over in a curve and she will startle me, but I have assured her that if I am busy, I won't answer.

If the phone rings, or spoken directions need to be given by the Zumo, mp3s and Audible books are stopped. I miss nothing! This is a great feature. I was listening to an audio book for most of the way down - it resumed about a half-sentence back each time it was interrupted. XM radio is a stream, so you are going to miss some of that beloved ABBA song if a call comes in or the Zumo needs to tell you to turn left.

We rolled into Stockton at 11:00 local time, just as I predicted.

Both legs of the trip, down and back, included many electronic and visual sightings of the Georgia and (especially) Alabama State Patrols. My Adaptiv TPX Radar Detector gave us plenty of warning, and no licenses were harmed in any way. Plus, since the unit is waterproof, I didn't have to stow it away in the approximately one hour of rain we had on the trip. I love the TPX just as much as I love my Zumo.

Bob, Jim, another great guy whose name escapes me, and I bombed it back to the Atlanta area with only one stop for gas. I added 6.2 gallons to the RT in Lower Alabama ("LA"). That's called cutting it close, y'all, as its tank holds 6.6 according to BMW Motorrad and Bob. While we were stopped, Bob suggested I put the RT's adjustable front seat in the high position, which I had never tried. The new configuration was easier on my back, which is still getting used to the bike, but I am not sure I am going to keep it high - there's much more wind noise, I think.

E watched my return progress with the SPOT and had a nice salad, pasta and wine waiting for me when I got home. What a fantastic day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Thing EATS Asphalt!

The new RT had it's first real ride after farkling yesterday.  I took the pic here out in the middle of nowhere, near Avera, Georgia, heading back from the Dutch House in Wrens with a top case full of xmas casseroles. This is the second year in a row I've made the casserole run. I love south Georgia in the Winter. Beautiful vistas, well-paved, empty roads, and a few old-standby restaurants. Some are even open on Sundays (the Dutch House is not).

Most of the work done by BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta shows up in the picture of my dash here. From the left are the Zumo 665, my old 276c, and the Adaptiv Radar Detector. What you don't see is the J&M MA-967 integration unit. Those excellent mechanics spent hours getting my system together and their work was magnificent.

The MA-967 integrates sound for my Zumo and the Adaptiv radar detector, and powers the Elite Series headset with mic that J&M installed in my new Nolan N-103 helmet.Since the Zumo can hold mp3s and Audible books, and is subscribed to XM Radio, AND is paired with my Bluetooth iPhone, I have a complete entertainment and communication system on the bike.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the Sargent heated seat I installed myself.

So how did the system perform yesterday? Fantastic. Not a single hiccup. Not one! The Adaptiv detector even saved my bacon twice, if you know what I mean - excellent sensitivity, and extremely easy to use and interpret. The sound from the detector, different alerts for the different types of radar (and laser), interrupts the music in my headset, and the auxiliary LED warning light is right in my line of sight.

I started out a bit late for me, leaving the house at 8:15 am so that my wife could get out early for a book signing. Since I had breakfast at home and not at the Palace Bagel, I probably saved a few minutes of time anyway. I had loaded two routes into the Zumo the night before, one heading to the Dutch House, and one coming back. If I'm out for a day-ride with a particular destination in mind, I always break the instructions into separate "there" and "back" routes in the same gdb file, with the file name including destination, month and year. That way, I can track my arrival time to the destination, and I can always find the file later to ride the route again.

The new netbook I got for the bike, an Acer Aspire One, handled Garmin's MapSource and all the maps just fine, and while I only slightly modified an older route (make sure you recalculate the route in MapSource if you are using a file created with an older set of maps), the small screen was not a problem. I hit "Send to device", the program found the Zumo, and I loaded it to the unit's internal drive. I took the Aspire on the ride just in case, a first for me, but never bothered to take it out of its neoprene case.

That morning, I told the Zumo to take me to Wrens, and we were off. The Coffeehouse was my first choice for music. Wow, does the Garmin XM antenna perform! My old K1200GT had a standard magnetic car antenna for XM use, and it would not receive signals about 15 to 20 percent of the time I was on the bike, even in south Georgia. I never missed a single note yesterday. I was planning to spend a lot of time also listening to some of the 1,300 mp3s I had loaded to the Zumo's micro SD card, but I kept the XM on most of the day, trying to get it to zone out. Never happened.

And wow, the Elite series headset from J&M performed, too. It has THE BEST quality sound I have ever experienced in a motorcycle audio system. I could actually hear all the quieter parts of songs for the first time. It does not hurt that the Nolan, in combination with the excellent stock windscreen on the RT, is a very quiet helmet.

Routing was perfect, and my road selection was, of course, sublime. A few slight variations from past trips to the Dutch House turned out to be just as good as prior roads. I messed around with several variations of non-map information display on my two GPSs, since I now have the ability to show seven variables about travel between the two. Average moving speed is my new mantra, and that variable is displayed in the bottom left corner of the old 276c. (I was at 63 mph for the day - not bad for a ride that was 80% state and county roads.)

The Sargent seat kept me nice and warm on this adventure, and is much more comfortable than the narrow, soft stock seat. I was ready for another 400 miles when I got home at 3:30 pm. I love this bike. It's shaping up to be an Iron Butt Rally finisher.

Next up? How about Audible Books? Weather on the XM? A safety camera subscription? How about all of those. My goal is to have them up and running for the Last Ride of the Year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

J&M Audio Gear

I'd like to welcome my newest sponsor in my Iron Butt Rally Adventure. John Lazzeroni and his wonderful colleagues at J&M Motorcycle Audio have provided me with the MA-967 system for audio integration of my Zumo 665 and Adaptiv TPX Radar Detector. John also supplied an Elite Headset with a volume control on the cord for my Nolan N-103. The volume control is a very cool feature.

Now why would I take a perfectly good Bluetooth-ready helmet and put a cord on it? Because John Lazzeroni (the "J" in J&M) told me to, that's why. John loves his own Bluetooth module for the N-103, and the 30 hour battery life is best in the business. But the battery is not hot-swapable, and takes more than my expected sleep-time every night to charge in its housing. So while the J&M Bluetooth N-103 is the state-of-the-art for touring motorcycling, the M-967 is where it's at for extreme long distance riders.

I told Elizabeth I was going to wear the helmet to bed. She rolled her eyes. Again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Safety Camera Subscriptions for Garmin GPSs

Reading the manual actually helps sometimes.

Somewhere in the depths of the Zumo 665 Owners manual, there was a brief mention of a subscription service to a safety camera database. So I got on Garmin's website and searched.

Safety Camera Subscriptions from Cyclops are available for several regions on several different lines of Garmin products. I have not tried the subscription yet, but I am certainly going to subscribe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sargent Seat

 The new Sargent seat was delivered by the brown truck this evening. My goodness it's good looking.

And I sat on it, too. Feels like butta. It is wider than the stock BMW seat, just enough for my skinny backside. But what a difference those few inches make. The support is spectacularly better than stock.

On Saturday, I'll trade out the plugs for the heat (yes, I got both the rider and passenger sections heated).

This long distance bike is coming together nicely.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zumo 665

The new Garmin Zumo 665 came today. All I've done so far is unwrap it. BMW of Atlanta will install it with the OEM GPS mount for the RT. I'll transfer my current XM subscription and add weather and traffic, too. Tonight, I'm adding a bunch of mp3s to the netbook so that I can load them to the 665. And Keith Richards' LIFE will be the first book I'll download from Audible.

The Zumo comes with City Navigator NT. That will go on the netbook, too, and route planning will commence this weekend.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Netbook for the Bike

Just a quick post to test the new netbook recently purchased for the bike. Note that I won't be mounting this Acer Aspire One in the dashboard area. I'll just keep it in the top case. It's pretty small though (10.2 inch model), so it might fit near the tach....

I'm already getting used to the keyboard. I can type with all ten fingers. I do have to stop being lazy with the right caps key on this smallish form-factor.

Based on the CPU Meter Gadget that came with Windows 7 Starter, I'm going to have to install that 2 gig stick I bought for it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Compare and Contrast

Yesterday was a revelation.

After a quick banana and grapefruit juice breakfast, Ushuaia and I set out for Lookout Mountain with a picnic lunch in the top case. This wasn't my first day-long ride on her, but it seemed like it.

Two weeks ago, the day after I made the big purchase, I toured southwest Georgia. It was freezing. I had a planned route but no GPS to prompt me, so I spent a ton of brain power making sure I stayed on track. I spent the whole day learning the new-for-BMW controls locations. In short, I was distracted.

Yesterday was a revelation.

For the first time, I really rode the bike. I knew the general direction I was headed. The potential routes were endless, I knew them all by heart, and I didn't care which one I took.

Two weeks ago, I thought the RT was a more relaxed bike. That was the word. But it's not the word. I think the 2011 R1200RT is graceful.

My old K1200GT, I now know, was a beast. It was heavy but powerful. It took muscle to lean over in a curve, but it stayed on track at startling lean-angles. It was not near as refined as some, even I, thought it was.

My first good curves on Ushuaia came mid-morning yesterday on a road a bit south of the Pocket. A road I had ridden on nearly every motorcycle I have ever owned. I was suprized by the ease of tip-in on the RT. It just leaned over. No fuss. Stopped leaning at the angle I wanted. If I used countersteer, I didn't notice it.

Then I jogged left to Subligna, my favorite name for a community in Georgia. Just south of town is a nice sweeper. The old re-release R100RS would twist like it had a hinge near the footpegs when I bombed through that sweeper. I barely noticed the curve on the RT, but the scenery was nice.

Up to 136 and across Ida Ridge. God what a great two-mile stretch of road. I passed a talented local on the outside going up the hill, scraping the edge of my new boot. Ushuaia loves to lean, and the effort to bring the lean-angle further and further down was nonexistant. I don't even recall, again, using countersteer.

Two weeks ago, when the ride was over, I thought I would need to rethink average speeds - miles per day - on the new bike. I thought I would generally ride slower with the RT. I guess I should have thought about the fact that I got home a half-hour earlier than I predicted, even with two wrong turns.

My new journey's lunch was at noon sitting next to the RT, trespassing on the precipice of Lookout Mountain overlooking River Cove Farm. Fifteen acres for sale; way too much per acre. A thermos of tomato soup, PBJ, some smoked almonds.

On the way home, I felt so ahead of the game that I stopped at a farm store for locally-grown x-mas presents for my friends and family.

Yesterday was a revelation.

Yes, the RT feels a bit more relaxed. But what it is ... is graceful.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I walked into BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta at about 12:30 today, and got home at 4:00 with Ushuaia. Elizabeth came up with the name while we were still in the driveway, taking pictures - first thing that came to her. (The color is called Polar Metallic by BMW Motorrad.)

I LOVE this bike.

Accessories will be mounted soon. And yes, I'll be riding tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Test Rides

The weather here in the southeast USA is spectacular in October and November. Riding is heavenly. Of course, I like riding pretty much any time, but that's a different story. On my way up to the mountain cabin, I stopped at BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta to buy another pair of those great tights I blogged about earlier. Alas, my size was sold out, but Lynda is ordering more.

So I had to test-ride a few bikes. I just had to.

Bob pushed an Adventure into the parking lot for me. When he fired it up ... wow, the gurgle from the pipe was throaty. The best sounding BMW I have ever heard. We made sure it was road-ready together, and that's when I noticed it had only eleven miles on it. Fitting, considering the name of this blog, and what I have gotten myself into next June. I decided to not put too many miles on the bike. And for that matter, I really needed to feel what the Adventure was like on the freeway. I slid my leg over the beast. It's tall, but I have long legs. Not a problem at all, maybe even a feature. My current K1200GT is a bit cramped for my 35 inch inseam.

Getting out of the dealership can be tricky with high traffic, especially if one is heading north. I gassed it. 'Twas a nice feeling. The Adventure has plenty of torque. It seemed to develop power at a fairly low RPM, but I wasn't keeping close tabs on the tachometer. I do know the powerband starts earlier than on the GT.

A few rights and a left to test ground clearance (it was excellent), and I was on I-75 heading north. The tank and windscreen offer good protection. About the same as the GT, but with buffeting in different places. I think the wind off the top of the screen is somewhat less pronounced than the GT, but also less linear. It's hard to describe. Less volume, more turbulent. The screen is adjustable along an arc, and this one was set to the top position, which was not changed during my 22 mile ride up I-575.

I reset the average miles-per-gallon calculator in the on-board computer. It showed 42 mpg for most of the ride. I'm not sure if I should believe that calculation. I've read wildly varying mileage testimonials for this and other oilheads on the internet, and all of them claim more than 42.

The seat, set in an unknown position since I think it is adjustible, pushed me towards the tank. It seemed to be sloped downward. As Bob noted to me afterwards, the seat is great for a day in the mountains, but I will strongly consider an aftermarket saddle for the IBR - for whichever bike I choose.

I stood up on the pegs at speed. I could fully extend my shoulders if I pulled my palms (only) off the grips. I still had full control of the bars. That means lots of room. The pegs themselves are very wide, with two or three cross-bars, so they distributed my weight along a larger portion of the bottom of my foot. I'm not used to that. I could get used to it. Quite comfortable.

The instruments are small, but I tend to ignore the tach once I get used to a bike. And I'm also used to getting my speed with my maps - on my GPS. It's a more efficient viewing experience.

Oilheads vibrate at idle much more than new-gen K-bikes. At 80, the Adventure was approximately as smooth as my GT. The GT pushes more vibration to the pegs and grips than you might expect. The Adventure's vibrations seemed to be a lower frequency, which was more pleasant.

I returned to the dealership without incident, despite the trooper on the side of I-75. Sometimes having a few cars around you is a good thing. Bob and Lynda and I chatted about the Adventure. Considering the 2011 IBR starts in the vicinity of a certain state with a certain Haul Road, it is still my top-ranked bike for the November purchase.

But then Bob pushed a 2011 RT into the parking lot. He is an evil man. I loved my short ride on the RT. Again, it idled more roughly than the GT, but it was far more smooth than the Adventure at all speeds. Wind protection was wonderful. I didn't even need the screen in its top position. It handled buffeting from 18 wheelers much better than the Adventure, and about the same as the GT. It is by far the most comfortable motorcycle I have ever ridden. It fit me even better than my old K1200LT fit. If it weren't for the Alaska factor, I would have bought it yesterday. Okay, I was running late to get to the cabin, too, and I was in charge of making dinner.

So I got on my trusty old beat-up GT and rode off into Friday afternoon traffic. I opened up the 'Stich and lowered the windscreen. And here's the next problem - I really like my bike. So I have to choose between three options for next Summer's madness. I think I might be a lucky man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adaptiv Technologies TPX Radar Detector

I'd like to welcome Adaptiv Technologies as a sponsor to my 2011 Iron Butt Rally participation. The TPX Radar Detector was designed by motorcyclists for motorcyclists. It's a "fully customizable, complete system designed specifically for motorcycles." Features include its "angled LCD, large buttons, and water, vibration and shock resistant design." Certified by Speed Measurement Laboratories, Inc., the TPX is the perfect accessory for the long distance motorcyclist. I intend to use the TPX Radar Detector throughout the Rally, in all states where it is legal, to help keep me alert and aware.

The Motorcycle Accessory Mount is a fantastic accompanyment to the TPX.

Mine are on their way from the factory, and I'm tracking the Fed Ex shipment hourly.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Comfort is Key

We joke around a lot in the motorcycling world, but these BMW underpants are VERY comfortable. I picked them up at BMW of Atlanta yesterday. I've only tested them around the house (and on my FB page, where we had lots of laughs). A 500 mile ride tomorrow should give me some good indications of true comfort.

I also intend to test tights from LD Comfort in the near future.

So, what exactly do you wear under your armored riding shell? I used to wear a lot. Nike Fit Dry knee-lengths, then a pair of Draggin' Jeans over those. Tomorrow, I'll just have the tights at the right under my Darien pants.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

BMW Ducati Husqvarna of Atlanta

I spent an hour with Bob and Lynda Wooldridge at BMW Ducati Husqvarna of Atlanta this afternoon. I've known them, and Jon Davis too, for many years. I've never purchased a motorcycle anywhere else, and more than 90% of the rest of my motorcycle money (other than fuel) has been spent with these good folks.

While there, I picked Bob's brain about the Rally. He is a wealth of knowledge about long-distance riding, and I learned much in just a few minutes. Lynda told me all about the GSA.

I went home mostly empty-handed, but there is a good bit of my drool on a charcoal grey R1200GSA. Elizabeth prefers the yellow one. I'll be lucky if I can hold out 'til Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Motorcycle Musings

What bike should I use in the 2011 Iron Butt Rally? That question occasionally wakes me, and I've considered several.

My 2006 K1200GT, seen to the right here with me piloting it through the Dragon is my first option. It's already in the garage. If I keep it, it will have about 80,000 miles at the start of the IBR. And it will need an auxiliary fuel tank, something I consider to be a mechanical complication.

I've also considered the BMW R1200RT. It's lighter and more comfortable than my current bike. It has a greater range, too, and might not need an auxiliary tank. The RT was the first replacement bike I thought about when I knew I won a place in the Rally.

But then BMW announced the new K1600GT, and suggested it would reach the US by April of next year. Just in time, right? I don't think so. I want more time in the saddle of that new, heavy bike than two months.

A few days ago someone mentioned the 8.7 gallon tank on the R1200GSA. In a pinch, it will get me nearly 400 miles without a fill up, and would preclude the need for an auxiliary fuel tank. And it's just as comfortable as an RT.

Stay tuned for my decision in the coming weeks.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Riverside Catfish Restaurant

Several Iron Butt Rally Finishers met at the Riverside Catfish Restaurant on October 2, 2010. It was my first meetup as a Rally participant.

The 2011 Iron Butt Rally

And so it begins. From now until next Summer, I'll post here daily on my planning and participation in the 2011 Iron Butt Rally. I've already started the process, and I'll fill you in over the next few days.

I plan to keep this blog on topic. If I stray from the Rally, it will only be to share a nice riding experience with you. This blog currently feeds to my Facebook Wall, and I will work to get it into my Twitter feed shortly.

Feel free to comment all you want here about my experience. And I take requests, too. Thanks.