Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yamaha, Suzuki and a day on a Harley

What an interesting few days and I'm not just talking about the amazing ride I took yesterday (monday).

Motorcycle related news came with a strange twist, from the announcement that Anthony West will miss the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Sunday to the unveiling of two completely different types of bikes.

After missing the first half of the racing season, the KTM Team bike has proven a mechanical nightmare. It's broken down so much and with the last three races being 'fly-away' rounds the factory hasn't even had time to fly out the parts to the various distant venues. The team didn't want to risk the bike breaking down on Phillip Island, which tends to be a fast track and could endanger rider Anthony West.

Read more about it at Fox Sports.

As for the bikes, Suzuki annouced a new powercruiser and Yamaha revealed they'll show a hybrid concept bike at the Tokyo Show.

Suzuki is joining Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Triumph in an obviously crowded field going after a market that's been dominated by Harley Davidson.

They're coming out with guns blazing too!

The motorcycle's piston is one of the largest on the road at 112mm and the stroke of 90.5mm indicates the engine will be of a different character to its contemporaries, with short skirt pistons, and four large valves feeding fuel injected mixtures from the beefy 56mm throttle bodies.

You can read the entire specs and what Gizmag thinks of the new Suzuki M109 in full here.

The concept bike from Yamaha falls into the other end of the spectrum using the high output lightweight compact YZF-R6 600cc motor and an electric motor to move it with lots of gizmos like voice activation of the navigation system, mobile telephone, intercom communications with the pillion and other similarly equipped riders plus a dazzling array of advanced technologies such as headlights which turn to the inside of the corner and rear cameras playing through LCD screens in the dashboard.

Whew. Is it me, or does it look like the thing Sylvester Stallone rode in Judge Dredd?

You can see, and read more about this new bike which will be called the Gen-Ryu at Gizmag.

The ride of a lifetime...or least of a weekend
With the chance of rain getting down to only ten percent between the east and west coast of Florida, Monday became the day of choice to ride. But since nearly everyone else would be working I wouldn't be running into that many other riders.

I'd wanted to check out both Goodland and the ride around Lake Okeechobee, so why not do both! Okay it would be a lot of miles but I had all day, right?

Didn't start the day as early as I would've liked and it was 10.40am by the time I was getting on I-95, but with clear traffic I had headed out west on I-595, south on 27 and then south onto Krome Ave arriving at the start of Tamiami Trail by 11.15am.

Tamiami Trail was a beautiful ride, everglades on either side and an open road in front. The skies were clear for the most part with an occassional cloud racing across the sky from west to east looking slightly threatening. I passed the countries smallest Post office, a dead alligator (surely not the same one I saw last time I came through here) and another biker!

With my gas tank showing just above half full I had the perfect excuse to stop off at the same gas station where my girlfriend and I stopped on our last trip across and stretch my legs. Pulling in sometime later I happened to park next to the same sign we had our picture taken at some two months ago.

Then I noticed it. Signs stuck over all the pumps, 'No credit or ATM cards accepted. Sorry.' Guess who had no cash! Walked towards the store hoping that the problem was limited to the card readers on the pumps but no, the hand-written signs stuck on the doors told me it was the whole station was affected. No biggie, I remembered seeing several more stations on the way to Naples.

A few spots of rain and a few miles later I found the next station just in time for a light shower to start. As if that wasn't enough to tick me off the only gas the station had was the cheapo, unleaded 'sorry you can't put this in your bike but thanks for visiting' gas. But this was the perfect opportunity to dig out my map and see how close Goodland was, of course taking my time to let the rain run it's course.

I couldn't believe it. I looked up, looked back down at the map and looked up again. I was standing at the intersection for the small road that led into Goodland! How convenient. Or was it? The road was one of the smaller lines on my map of Florida and with my gas gauge slipping under the halfway mark, I really didn't want to get lost on the back roads in the everglades. Not really the way to spend a day off.

By the time the rain let up enough to ride again I'd decided to give the road a shot. Not even a quarter of a mile down route 92 and the sun came out in all it's south Florida glory, drying what very little rain the showers had left behind. The road was one of those cool long stretches with water on one side and wild vegetation on the other with the only thing to interupt my being one with nature was the stark thought of running out of gas on an abandoned road. I didn't have to think twice about stopping for directions when I saw two old men sitting on the bank well and truly settled in, Lexus SUV hatch open and fishing poles everywhere. They confirmed Goodland was in fact further down the road but there were no gas stations in either Goodland or the next town along, Marco Island. According to my odometer my deuce should've had a good thirty miles worth of gas left in my tank, but would ever it suck to be wrong.

The worrying was put on hold when I went over a high bridge with breathtaking views of the snaking bodies of water bordered by groves of stumpy trees as far as the eye could see.

The Goodland town sign welcomed me as I came off the bridge with a road twisting off behind me. That must've been the way to the small town but as much as I wanted to follow it down for a quick visit, it was smarter to press on and find a gas station. Isn't it funny when you just know you're riding through a town where you should really stick to the speed limit? This was one of those towns. Beautiful houses, perfectly manicured lawns and very expensive cars in the driveway comforted me into knowing that a gas station couldn't be too far. It wasn't too long before I found a station, filled up and turned around to find out exactly what was down the road by the Goodland welcome sign.

One of the first unexpected treats for the ride was the winding road leading into Goodland that had me wanting to open up my Deuce and really take the corners, but the thought of some small town sheriff sitting around the next corner kept the speed down. Well sort of.

The town was a collection of bait stores, houses and restaurants with no one seemingly around and everything apparently closed. My casual plan of having lunch overlooking the water was disappearing quicker than any remaining appearance of any rain that may've come through here.

Sat on my bike long enough to take the pictures, look around and soak in the atmosphere which you know had to be totally different with bikers, tourists and fisherman filling the streets and restaurants on the weekends.

The bustling town of Goodland!

Headed back up the road through Marco Island again and just past the gas station I filled up at earlier was a small place called 'Nana's Restaurant'. Wanting to take in some local flavor I decided to eat there, but I no sooner backed in the bike and was getting off when a flurry of people coming out to watch me cumilated in large gentleman walking up to tell me they'd just closed.

Gettin' hassled by the man!

Back on the bike and going in the right general direction it was obvious I needed cash, food, some place to sit and check out the rest of the route and not mention giving my butt a rest from this saddle. Where else would I go but PUBLIX!

Initially it was for a sandwich but when standing in the Deli a greek salad took my fancy. Returned some phone calls, memorized the upcoming route with highway numbers and headed out. By this time it was 2.30pm and it seemed I'd have enough time to take the longer northern route around Lake Okeechobee.

Had to take I-75 north to get to highway 80 which would take me east across half the state. Anyone who's driven along this part of the country will tell you that although it's continously congested, the freeways flow pretty quickly outside of rush hours. I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or not, but everyone seems calmer on the west coast of Florida making this freeway riding a lot more enjoyable than my native Fort Lauderdale experiences.

As soon as I made it onto highway 80 the road became emptier, spaces and fields bigger and the congested freeway felt like a lifetime ago. Where as I rode through the water dominated everglades earlier, this scenery was full of farm fields and cattle with ranches marked by an old-fashioned mailbox on the street and the houses off in the slight distance.

This is America. Middle of nowhere, an abandoned shed.

A road crying out to be ridden!

Good looking bike!

There were plenty of bugs about. I thought I still had raindrops on my glasses but realized when they weren't drying up that they were actually small bugs. I've had larger insects hit my chest and neck on other rides but this time one nailed me so hard on my collarbone I flinched. When I went to check that spot my fingers found a small pool of blood. Whatever it was must've disintergrated when it hit leaving behind all it's bodily liquids. Nice.

Some fifty miles later 80 met highway 27, which went either way so sure enough I opted for the longer scenic route. Lake Okechobee is the largest lake in Florida and is popular with both the boaters as well as the bikers. The road was a small two lane road with slight curves as it followed the shore with views of open farmland and pastures, going through small towns built around the tourism the lake brought in. A lot of bikers enjoyed riding around the lake and I could see why. The perfect ride was brought back to reality with an ominous dark haze on the road ahead of me. Instinctively, I pulled over, dug out my windbreaker (contrary to my resolution to get proper waterproofs I still didn't have any) and rode into the rain.

Well it was more like a storm. Trucks were bearing down on me, I couldn't wipe my glasses quick enough and finally had to pullover, steering through the aquaplaning and onto a building site. All I could do was sit and wait out the storm. I was already soaking wet so there was no point looking for any cover so I switched off the engine and wasted my time with checking my bike and how wet I really was until the storm passed over.

When it was safe to head out I rode with my 'wet-gear' on for another forty minutes. It looked like any further chances of rain had moved on so I stopped (again), dug out my spare shirt, rearranged my knapsack and made some calls to set a time to meet some friends at restaurant towards the end of my ride. With the rain and frequent stops I was about an hour and half behind my informal mental schedule. This would put me riding through the countryside in the early evening dusk which didn't worry me too much, but the thought of getting nailed by all those bugs would just be uncomfortable and annoying. One more stop to put on my leather jacket and then it was all road until I made it to the restaurant.

It was a long ride, but certainly fun. I ended up putting 425 miles on my bike. Here's the route I took;

For the technical people out there;
I-95 South
I595 West
27 South
Krome (997) South
Tamiami Trail (41) West
92 South
back to I-75 North
78 East (turns to 80 East)
27 North
78 North
441 South
441 East
I-95 South

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice ride story & a wicked ride to be sure, wish I was with you on my Road King Classic!