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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sleepy Hollow - Part Two

I finally went on my group ride.  I've gone on rides with two other riders that are friends of mine, been involved with groups of riders that I don't know - forming a informal and unofficial group for mutual protection while zipping down the highway.  These things don't count for me.

Kimmie meeting new friends.
I've been wanting to go on a group ride, an organized ride out to somewhere I've never been, for sometime.  Finally I got the chance.  

I'm not sure how many scooters eventually made the run to Sleepy Hollow.  Kimmie was the only Kymco scooter.  The group consisted of mostly Honda Silver Wings, Burgmans and two Aprilla's.  One or two off name brand scooters, surprisingly enough, no Vespa's were to be seen.  A Harley and and Gold Wing rounded out the group.

I fell into the middle of the group and we quickly left the main part of the route (please see the map) to take some side roads.  There were some thrills as the group traveled along at about 50 miles an hour through various sweeping turns.  Over hills and through Florida's central back country.  It was pretty cool to top a hill and see all the other bikes in front of me.  During this part of the ride I was worried about two things.  I wanted to keep up with the group and wanted to make sure that I made the turns well.  Some turns I felt fine in, one I wish I could have back as I entered it to quickly and cursed to myself as I ended up wide cutting off the cyclist behind me.

On and on we went.  A few beautiful places called to me to take photographs.  An old dilapidated barn that called out to be explored.  A lake with a lone single tree sitting out in the water, the light playing over the water.  A strand of cypress trees off in the distance.   If I had been alone or a smaller group, I would have stopped, but the phalanx kept moving on down the road, and so did I.

There was an incident before we got to Sleepy Hollow which bears mentioning.  One of our group went down.  I was immediately behind him and he froze in a turn, becoming fixated on something right in front of him.  The back tire went squirrelly and down he went.  It seemed to happen in slow motion, I veered to the left to go around him and then pulled off, only to find myself in soft soil and unable to get off the bike because it would fall.  Luckily the other riders were able to see to him quickly.   He was shook up but not hurt badly (due to privacy concerns I will not go into more detail concerning the accident).

After that the ride had a different feeling,  a slower pace was called for as we negotiated the last 10 - 15 miles or so.  Each of us understanding that the slower pace was for him, and it could have been us that went down.

Once we arrived there you paid $6 and stood in line for food.  Basically from the conversations I had with other riders, it's pretty much what ever they have in the kitchen.  So it's not uncommon to switch from steak to fish or chicken without any warning.  It was actually better than it looked.

Sleepy Hollow is an outdoor restaurant that sits right on a river.  They had a decent cover band playing and lots of shade.  Sitting next to a river a few boats pulled up, air boat rides were available.  Here are some additional pictures.

An idea of the crowd

Kimmie copping an attitude around the boys
Then along came a spider....
The view from the dock.
I ended up breaking from the group on the way home.  They were going to head back the same way they came and I wanted to ride the route suggested by the site.  I was disappointed that I did that.  The way home was more or less straight.  Little changed in the way of the view.  If I would have stayed on this road I would have returned to the starting point.  I didn't do that.  Deciding to cut cross country and head home via a different route I got a little lost, which is never a bad thing...although for some odd reason my GPS on my phone would not work.

OK...Keep heading inland and eventually you'll find a road you know.   I did it was I-75.  So I jump on I-75 for a few miles and look for the first exit it happened it was for Dade City.   Literally 12 miles from where I live.

Would I ride with this group again?  Yes.  Although I think I would do better with a smaller group.  Our group leader was amazing, keeping everyone together and driving at a pace that suited most of the riders.  He was very attentive when the rider went down.  I like the idea of being able to pull off the road if something unusual catches my eye.  I like the idea of traveling at a pace suited for me.

Overall it was a great day, the sun was shining.  It wasn't to hot.  I got to to do some much needed recreational riding and got some much needed practice on twisties.  That's all that matters right.  The ride was 146 miles total.

UPDATE:  I had to go to work this morning, only to discover a flat rear tire.  Guess I picked up a nail or something.  :(  I guess Kimmie didn't like being ridden that hard.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

The first non-commute ride of the year - Sleepy Hollow Run Part 1

Ever since I got a larger scooter, I cut my teeth on a Yahama Zuma 125, I've been wanting to go on a group ride.  For a variety of reasons this never happened.  My regular job requires me to work 4 PM to 1 AM most nights, including weekends.  Sometimes other plans interfered   Sometimes illness or just bad luck.

So when 2013 rolled around on of the goals I had set for myself was a group ride to somewhere, anywhere. I have been a member of various scooter clubs at least in theory for a while.  So when I had a free weekend and the St. Petersburg Scooter Club planned a ride up to a biker bar in Floral City, Florida...I couldn't resist.

The Sleep Hollow Run according to was  a 68 mile run from where I would be meeting the group.  The run was well reviewed and I had been warned it might be a little twisty.  So I spent a few hours on Friday prepping.  Made sure the oil and coolant were good.  That I had the proper air in the tires.  I even watched a Motorcycle Safety Foundation video on safe group riding procedures.   Even got new batteries for the camera.

I also decided that my Kymco, which I've nicknamed "Kimmie" has a personality.  Generally speaking I don't name my machines, but I picture her as being a punk rock girl.  It seems that if I treat her right she'll make me happy and always get me home.  If I treat her bad or abuse her...then there will be hell to pay.

This trip would serve as our "first date."  We are a couple, Kimmie and I, but I'm not sure if I will grow to love her like I did my Burgie.  It's a arranged marriage.  Only time will tell if it turns into love.

So I'm ready, I'm looking forward to taking Kimmie out on the roads and seeing what she can do.  Pictures and maps to follow soon.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Earning my Rounder stripes

Living in Florida, it's easy to be a Rounder.   According to their website a Rounder is:

The Rounders are men and women who enjoy their motorcycles so much they ride them year round. The group was founded by a bunch of Mid-Westerners (inspired by a Kook on the East Coast) who ride them even when the temps are below freezing or above hot. The object of becoming a Rounder is to have fun, promote safe, responsible motorcycle use on a regular basis for as much of the year as you can. In the spirit of fun we have concocted the following levels of Rounderhood following the Fahrenheit temp scale:
100's+ Red Hot Rounder
90's Sweating Rounder
80's Half Baked Rounder
70's - R&R (Rounder Relaxing)
60's -Jr. Rounder (Just Riding)
50's - LOTF Rounder (Looking Over The Fence)
40's - FOTF Rounder (Fringe of the Fringe)
30's - Half Rounder
20's - TQ Rounder (Three Quarts)
0-20 - Rounder
Sub Zero - KHOF Rounder (Kook Hall of Fame)

Members can proclaim themselves to be in the various categories based on the truthful telling of their riding conditions. If you lie, then a pox be upon you and may your valves need constant adjustment.

To be a True Rounder, you have to ride every month of the year.

If you have a motorcycle and like to ride it, then you can be a Rounder.

I have ridden my bike in 90 degree weather, I have ridden my bike into the low 20's here in Florida.  It has been miserable to ride in sometimes, with rain so hard that I have been soaked to the bone in.  Winds so fierce that I felt I was leaning at 30 degrees just to keep the bike up straight.  

Photo from
These idiots ride in the snow.  

I want to be one of them.  

It's only in the last few days that I have truly felt like belong to such a honored group.   Over the past few days here in West Central Florida we have had rain and wind gusts up to 30 miles to hour.  At night, when I ride home from work at 1 AM, the temperature's  dipped to freezing or below.  

I feel like one of them because I was one of a handful of bikes on the road.  Even during the day when the temperature was in the mid 50's...I counted maybe a dozen bikers.  Here I am on my little scooter doing what "real motorcyclists" are afraid to do.  I am out nearly every day riding, in all types of conditions.

I'm proud of that.  I am also amazed and impressed by the insanity of taking a bike out in "less than ideal" conditions.  Of course, if I still lived in Pittsburgh, would I feel that way?   I have to say that yes, I would. I don't get to do much recreational riding. But when asked what I like about riding...I said the following "I think it's something primitive. Just you, the distractions. Your fully committed to keeping yourself and the bike safe...because the road below you is unforgiving. It's being on that edge...not being stupid, not being foolish...but connecting to the world around you. Smelling the flowers as you pass, feeling a stone as it kicks up and strikes you. Your fully alive.  Your fully engaged."

Now that being said.  I'm not stupid.  I'm not going to ride if I don't feel I can't handle the circumstances.  There have been times when I just didn't want to ride in because it didn't "feel right."  So I guess I'm hooked.  I guess I'm a "Rounder."

To read more about the Rounders see this article from Rider Magazine.   

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Creating a Roman Holiday

Today is Valentine's day.   For me, it's not really about getting a crappy overpriced card or a box of sweets for the sweetie.   It's about taking a moment and thanking her for everything she does for me.  I was very surprised when she found this little thing for me.

Imagine my surprise when you press the button and it starts to shake and rumble and plays "Born to be Wild."  Which I suppose anyone who has ever wandered the highways and byways of America has belted out at least once at the top of their lungs.

For a few reasons I won't go into here the lovely Sue will not go 2-up with me.  Which is fine, I don't feel ready for her to ride behind me.

But we do try to keep the romance alive.  William-Sonoma blog has a couple of ideas about creating your own Roman Holiday.    Here the intrepid couple jumps aboard an iconic Vespa to explore the city of San Francisco spending the whole day eating, riding and enjoying each other's company.   I'm sure other's have done something similar as well.  That's one of the things I love about Susan...we explore.  Bok Tower Gardens, Solomon's castle, a rebuilt piece of local history.  All these things we have explored as a couple.

So on this Valentine's day I am going to be thankful for all the woman in my life, past and present, who have made me into the man that I am today.  I do love and appreciate ALL the woman in my life each and everyday.  Well V-day may be more about selling sappy cards and overpriced flowers, it's still a good day to remember to not take those special to you for granted.  :) 

Now hopefully your loved one just might slide up behind you and whisper in your ear "OK Baby, let's go."  I am looking forward to that day when Sue and I both feel ready to ride together 

Just please don't drive like that.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Accentuate the positive

There is an old saying about you never get second  chance to make a first impression.  In some ways the Kymco has impressed me.  For example I like the sporty look of the scooter, it feels more like a sport bike in some ways.  Whereas my old Burgman felt like a Cruiser, or to quote some wit:  "A barcalounger on wheels

I like the clicking noise the turn signals make because I'm horrible at remembering to turn them off.  The little cricket buzzing in my ear is a nice reminder to do so.   I also like the corning in the Kymco, it seems to take a curve at a better angle then the Burgie ever did.  Of course, I might have just gotten better at cornering.

Two things really surprised me, one was the windshield.  While certainly on the replacement list, it seems to direct the air up and over me much better than the stock Burgie shield ever did and there is a definite reduction in buffeting because of it.  At higher speeds the Burgie's stock windshield seemed to "quake" a little.  No such issue with the Xciting's windscreen.

One of the other things that surprised me is how well it handles cross winds.  Maybe I've gotten better at driving in them, but the Xciting seems to cut through a cross wind easily.  I remember having to feel like I was practically leaning on one side of the Burgie to keep it upright one day during some punishing Easterly winds.  While I've not had the experience of taking the Xciting out during a day like that, I've been impressed with it's ability to handle the winds so far.

The fuel tank is the Silver Circle on the right.
The convenience of the fuel tank is nice as well.  I an pop the lid open, fill up the tank, replace the nozzle and put my wallet away all without having to dismount the bike.  The only issue I have with it is the very small tank, it only takes a little over 2 gallons to fill it completely.  Frankly I've not down the MPG calculations yet but a rough guess puts my MPG around 65?  Certainly not a shabby number.

Finally the seat is very comfortable, surprisingly so.  No matter what I did, including adding a beaded seat, to the Burgie I suffered from the dreaded "Monkey Butt."  Some days were better than others of course, but the seat on the Kymco is firmer I guess?  So far all I have done is commute on the bike, so this impression might change but for now I've no complaints.

I can't help but wonder if the performance I've experienced out of this bike is because I'm used to the much larger Burgman, where the Xciting seems "heavier" is some respects it's also a much more compact scooter.  The storage is horrid, I have room for a full face helmet and gloves under the seat and not much else.  Where in the Burgman I was unable to place my full face helmet, my jacket, gloves and a sweater under the seat when I was work.

Another positive is there is a hook to attach a grocery bag to in the pass through.  A thermos on a carabiner might work as well on those hot days.

Unless something changes drastically in the next year or two I think I'll be on the Kymco for at least three years.  Lots of time to let it grow on me I suppose.  Plenty of time to...oh go ahead and sing it you two:

Saturday, February 2, 2013

You can't always get what you want...

But like the man said...sometimes you get what you need.

I simply wasn't planning on buying a used 2009 Kymco Xciting 500.  I originally had my eye on a slightly used 2012 Burgie with a Givi Windshield and top box on it. Somehow the dealer let me walk out the door because he was an pimple in the lower and back side of the human body (OK maybe not but I didn't care for him). His loss.  

In fact, the link to the dealership that I was dealing with used to be on my website.  I had bought my original Burgman there as well, however after my incident with a bolt and a few other minor things my satisfaction with them was low.  Plus I thought they were trying to take advantage of me.  They are designed for a high turnover of bikes, and I am not the unknowing boob that I was over a year ago when I bought my first Burgman.  Don't treat me like I was.  I also spent most of my adult life in sales, you work with the customer to make a deal, you don't let your ego get in the way (considering we were only $500 away in price). I thought I had a legit and fair offer.  They would not work with me.  Oh well, their loss.  This is the end of my ranting and raving. 

Up the street from him was a Honda/Suzuki dealership.  I was looking at a 2008 Kymco Xciting 500 as well as a Piaggio MP3 500.  Frankly they were not my first, second or third choices and I really wasn't impressed with the Kymco at all.  There were several "traditional" bikes I was looking at too, but in the end I decided to stay on a scooter.  A Honda Silver Wing was also in the running but was sold late on Friday (after I was told it was still available).

I was not even looking at the possibility of buying a 2013 Burgman, I could not really afford it...but I let myself get talked into with some gentle arm twisting.  They were willing to work with me. In fact, I was told I had it with the exception of crossing the "T's" and dotting the "I's."   As the pictures show, I am not riding a new Burgman.  That deal fell through, much to my regret.  

Pic by West Coast Powersports

What I ended up with was a 09 Kymco.  Yep, the bike that really didn't excite me in the first place.  She's got slightly over 4,000 KM (or about 2400 miles) on her, is dark metallic silver and had a displacement of 498 cc.  So she's slightly more powerful than my previous 07 Burgman 400.  I was able to pay cash for her and walk away with a new helmet out of deal, that's about it.  It's not what I wanted and frankly I am not sure how long I'll keep her, but at this stage in my life...sometimes you get what you need.  Life is to complex for me not to have another ride. 

The mirrors are crappy and to short for me.

It's a little strange driving a new bike.  This one is a little heavier and a little more powerful than the bikes I've ridden before,  I need to go off into a parking lot somewhere and do some emergency stops and such...just to get used to the handling.  In about two weeks (Feb 16) I plan on taking a 100 plus mile ride up to Crystal Springs with the Suncoast Scooter group.  Another first for me.

Can you think of a better way to break in a new (well, new to me) bike?  To get used to her?  I just hope of capable of doing 100 to 200 miles in one day.  In any case it should be an exciting adventure and should serve as a good shake down for the bike. 

First impression:

1)  I rode it home from the dealership at night and on the freeway.  All told about 60 miles.  One of the reasons I decided to buy the scooter in the end was the "Malossi" stickers on the side.   Malossi makes parts for racing bikes, and it seemed strange to me that the previous owner would put Malossi stickers on the bike without actually putting in Malossi parts.  That meant the previous owner probably knew what they were doing and took good care of the bike.  I hope so anyway.  When I opened her up on the highway, the tachometer stayed low.  A good sign that I might be right. 

2)  I already need to replace the crappy stock mirrors.   Way to short.  

3)  The low beam light is fine, but the high beam bleeds to much off into the sides of the road.  I already have a solution (maybe) based on something I read in the Burgman Forums.  LED's might solve that issue.

Thanks to Daboo from the Burgman forums for the idea.
4)  The Kymco has no storage.  A top box is not a luxury.  It's a necessary. 

5)  This is weird. The speedometer is in Kilometers.  The miles per hour gauge is small and hard to read.  GPS might be in order here.