Sunday, April 26, 2009

Broken things

Had a couple things break today. Well, the first may have broken a while ago and I just now noticed. I bought a pair of Joe Rocket Sonic boots last year, and now they're coming apart next to one of the seams. On both sides. Not good; looks like I've got to order a new pair as this doesn't look easily fixed. Got to give the Joe Rocket boots a big thumbs down.

And when I was riding home from church today, I had my clutch cable break. Luckily it was less than a mile from home and I managed to ride home in first gear - the transmission doesn't like to be shifted without it. Looks like I'll need to order a new cable... or maybe get two of them, since they're pretty cheap and I've heard a lot of GS500F riders carry a spare.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mental Conditioning

From what I have seen, many riders try and avoid hitting the roads when they aren't dry. Well, most of us try to avoid hitting the roads at all, but you know what I mean. I generally will stay off the bike when there is a pretty good chance that I'm going to get poured on, or if I would have to start the ride in the rain. But I made an exception for today since the weather after 7 am was forecast to be amazing (along with sunny days for the rest of the week, but I digress.) Riding to work on wet roads and a light sprinkle got me thinking about something: how should road/weather conditions change the way you ride?

Riding a motorcycle, especially for commuting in Atlanta, is always an exercise in defensive driving. Wet roads before dawn just magnifies that. I'll try to give a list of things to be more conscious of while riding in these conditions.

First, wet roads:
  • Give yourself more space for stopping, the tires will be more likely to skid under hard braking.
  • Take turns more slowly, for the same lower-traction reason as adjusting your braking.
  • Be on the lookout for debris that rains might have swept into the road.
  • With light rain, beware of oil rising to the road surface.
  • Watch out for the paint on the road, the lane lines, turn lanes, etc. The paint has very little traction to begin with and a layer of water only makes it more slick.
  • Lastly, remember that drivers seem to forget how to use turn signals, brakes, and the gas pedal when it's raining. (At least this is the case here.)

Second, when the sun is down:

  • Be as visible as possible, for me that means my reflective vest.
  • As a corollary, use lane positioning to be sure your lights are out of other drivers' blind spots.
  • Use other vehicles lights to aid in seeing the roadway. Motorcycle lights are notoriously dim, if you have cars in front of you, look at the section of the road they illuminate, too.
  • Flash your brake lights when slowing down, a flashing light attracts more attention than a single, steady light.

And remember, never trust the drivers around you, no matter what the conditions are. I had a truck try to merge into my lane this morning; had I not have been watching him I may not have slowed down before he had more than just a tire in my lane.

Ride safe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SHAD luggage - first impression

The SHAD luggage arrived yesterday. I'm pretty busy with a book deadline and the MegaMeet coming up, so I can't install it right away. But I couldn't resist pulling it out of the box and having a look. Here are my first impressions.

The very first thing I noticed is that it's big. Each side case is 42 liters. You could fit a helmet into one of these. A single side case looks like it's about the same volume as both my current saddlebags and my tank bag put together. They'll definitely make my bike more useful for running errands, or if I want to go on a road trip a couple days long.

The quality looks pretty good too. There was a scratch in the powder coating on the mounts in one place, looks like it may have happened in transit. The cases themselves are a fairly nice looking matte finished plastic. The frames look like they've been welded together with a MIG by someone who knew what he was doing. It's not the most immaculate welding I've ever seen, but it looks like it'll hold up and there isn't too much spatter. By the way, the bar for "the most immaculate welding I've ever seen" is a pretty high one, as my former employer had a YAG laser welder that seemed able to defy the laws of thermodynamics.

I'll put it to one of the real tests of quality soon enough - seeing how well it fits the bike. But it looks like a pretty comprehensive kit.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hard luggage for a GS500F

I've had a set of Cortech saddlebags on my GS500F for a little more than a year. They are quite handy for carrying rain gear, stashing warm clothes when the weather heats up, or putting a to-go box in when I've got leftovers from the Mellow Mushroom. But they don't stand up all that well to the elements. They are not fully waterproof, and the top of them has faded from red to a washed out pink. The sides still look OK, and I suspect the black saddlebags may hold up a bit better, but still, I've been thinking I should upgrade to hard luggage.

Finding a bolt on kit for hard luggage for a GS500F isn't easy. Sure, I could fabricate something, but I don't mind spending a bit extra if it saves me a lot of time. Givi and many of the other major manufacturers don't have kits to put hard saddlebags on this particular bike. They do have bolt on top case kits, but for some reason, I'd rather have a set of saddlebags. Five Star sells a bolt on mounting kit, but it's very expensive (around $500 without the bags) and their dealers list it as special order.

Finally, I managed to find an eBay auction for a set of Shad luggage that included a bolt on mounting kit. I know, there's an obvious joke that this sounds fishy. But I did a bit of looking around, and I've turned up that Shad luggage is made in Spain and there are quite a few positive reviews of their luggage kit for another Suzuki, the DL650 V-Strom. So today I ordered a luggage kit for the bike off eBay. I'll let you know how it turns out.