BMW S 100 RR Planet Power!

December 12, 2011

The only thing keeping your blood cool is the wind rush!  

This is BMW’S sale slogan for that bike – and whoever came up with this- brought it right to the point!!!

It was another dry, beautiful and warm December day here in the Bay Area when I arrived with my scrubby looking CBR 600 at the BMW dealership to test that mean and extremely lean BMW Superbike. What was awaiting me was superb engineering, compact 193 horsepower wrapped into precious low weight metals and shaped into a definite eye candy of a light-weight superbike with a total weight of only 450 lbs (204 KG).  Titanium valves and rocker arms help lowering the total engine weight to a measly 59 KG (132 lbs).  This bike is practically screaming for a race track. It is a beast!

Here it is. Still in the showroom.

I cannot even mention all the technical gimmicks I was just about to experience but one detail is so mind-boggling that it was like sitting in a space ship. I am talking about the Race ABS – “the” device to play around between Rain, Sport and Race mode.  What does that mean??? Well- in laymen terms- it plays with throttle response and power control. Let me be the judge of that one (Yikes).

Here are some of the basics- four cylinders, inline engine, bore and stroke 80 mm x 49.7 mm , 999 cc, maximum output 193 horsepower at 13000 RPM, 6 gear HP gearshift assist  – means up shifting without interrupting the shift flow with a bothersome clutch process. All of these details remind me to well that this is a pure bred race bike rather than a street bike. The last thing really fascinating me is the integrated lap time tracker. LAP TIME TRACKER???

I sat on it. It is a low bike. I am only 5’9 inches (175 cm) and to me the bike seemed very low. This was a clear indicator that we are not talking about a cruiser. Organizing myself into riding position I already felt the pressure of my own body weight (6 lbs(3 KG) heavier than the engine weight of this bike)   on my wrists, shoulders, neck and lower back. I didn’t expect anything else. It was almost like sitting on a full blown GP bike. Small, compact and precise!  I lifted the bike off the side stand with the movement of one finger. The bike fell into position like a fluffy feather tumbling in the air. The overall engineering, geometrics and ergonomics of that bike make every rider feel like it was custom tailored to the individual rider’s height, weight and seating position. It was like this bike was made for me. Period. I sat on it and I felt like home.

The engine roared. The dashboard lid up like a Christmas tree with all kinds of little numbers, letters and flashlights but then stayed set with a digital number board. God forbid the electronics fail…..

I started with the DTS (Dynamic Traction Control) in Rain mode. The smoothest of the settings of the DTS and ABS. The seating position is race like, low, like a tiger on the prowl in the jungle. Smooth, quiet, powerful and I would like to say safe.

The freeway was my first acceleration point. Wow— I hardly touched the shift lever and I was already in sixth gear at 4000 rpm and still had a power band-with like in second gear @6000 rpm on my Honda (????) how did I get so quick into 6th gear??  The whole bike is dancing underneath me with ease and grace. The bike is like an obedient dog. It doesn’t do anything what you don’t want it to do. The control is with the rider. I played around with the shifting. I couldn’t even rev it up higher than 5000 rpm on this short stretch of Freeway but had constant power flow and speed. No unnecessary downshifting and playing around with the throttle…. It was just hovering along like a purring cat totally content and in its element.

Exit to some of the back roads. Ok- I switched the electronics from Rain to Sport. An instant change was noticeable in traction, power control, and throttle response. Wow – who came up with a concept like this?  I paid better attention to my shifting and the rpm’s. The engine is smooth, the power is balanced, and the sound is subtle. Some little turns. The bike is low; I shift my body weight and the bike falls into that left turn effortlessly and stuck to the road like a butter knife cutting through soft margarine. The low rpm pull the bike through the turn like on tracks and the feeling was rather as it was pulled by 193 horses instead of propelled by them. There is no doubt in the geometry of the frame, swing arm, suspension system, front fork. Everything plays in perfect harmony like the precise game of the almighty universe.

Once I had some open road in front of me I accelerated a bit harder and the only thing cooling my blood was the wind rush!

On my way home I switched to race mode. Hellloooo—I am a race chick and cannot go slow. This bike practically seduces me to do the inevitable. RACE MODE.  Wham- these Germans mean it when talking about RACE MODE. The traction immediately switched to the nature of a beast. The rear wheel wanted to break out, the throttle response was aggressive and lurking for any predators.

The interplay of perfect geometry and power development makes the bike practically fall into the turns by itself and I had to make sure that the 190/55 tire ( 6.00 x 17 inch rim)   made the best out of the pavement. I only can imagine how this would play out on the track. Dream on.

Back at the dealership I felt my body screaming as loud as the engine for freedom and wide open race tracks. My wrists were sore and my neck was stiff. The seating position is tough, the suspension is stiff, the aerodynamics are perfect and beautiful but whoever is riding this bike should be in physical shape.

My conclusion of the trip to the “planet of unleashed power” is that this bike is as tame as a pussy cat and as wild as a beast in one package. It is highly intelligent and offers several options in how it can be handled by the rider. It is extremely user friendly for anyone who just wants to enjoy a tame beast on a Sunday afternoon, yet a challenge for every racer chasing a world champion title in the World Superbike Championship.

The German motorcycle magazines are talking about the Japanese bike crisis and with BMW setting the bar for excellence extremely high with this bike I can see the argument. This bike is so full of itself, yet humble, that its performance cannot be challenged so easily.

What a piece of machinery!   Triple thumbs up!


Modern female Adventurers

September 12, 2011

Two weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link about two German girls traveling across Canada and the US.  This famous mouse click nowadays makes it possible that I can connect to total strangers on the road. Technically we are strangers but in our heart we are bikers, one big happy family. But technically we are strangers who just hooked up with a mouse click.

To be exact in this case it was through a motorcycle adventurer traveler forum. Word travelers, motorcycle world travelers, adventure travelers, one forum after another, you name it – there is a forum for absolutely everything with the sole purpose to connect  people,  to link , for people to communicate  and finally to talk  to each other from the most remote locations. Likeminded strangers hooking up with each other, meeting people one was never able to hook up before. People you possibly never would have met before under any other circumstances.  How cool is that?

Well, in our case now – the link led to a mail, the mail turned into a call and a hearty  “howdy” between three fellow country women and the howdy turned into a breakfast invitation at my place. The girls arrived.

Katja and Nadine from Cologne, Germany. Two big bikes, packed like participating in the stampede of the Gold Rush in the Yukon, packed for being on the road for 365 days.  They are already on the road since 165 days!  By the time they arrived in San Francisco they already had clocked around 15.000 miles. The trip started in Miami and went north into Canada before going westwards via Vancouver to steer south along the US west coast. The  final destination is  Los Angeles where they are planning to ship their bikes to Australia,   after Australia to New Zealand and then back to Europe in another six month or so.

Not only people can be found with the socially stimulating forums and the art of  linking  travel buddies and likeminded people, also couches, sofas, sofa beds, floors, cushions, airbeds and everything that can be used to crash  a night or two can be found all over the world. Cool – I have to say.

Let’s go back 30 years when I was on the road. No Cell phones, no E-mails, no Internet, no GPS no forum, no couch surfing. We relied on campgrounds, road sides, bridges and other remote areas to rest our tired heads at night. We relied on “organic people meeting” on the road. Organically offered couches or sofas through organically met people on the road. Nothing else!  In a way it was cumbersome but adventurous. We found the occasional party because we coincidentally ran into the right people at the right moment at the right place. Nothing was planned or linked. Everybody was on their own. Survival at its best.

Here  a good example of 1886 in the desert….  my bike , the sun and me.

God forbid the bike broke down in the desert….. I remember I was sitting out there for hours waiting and hoping for my friend’s navigational finesse to find me. One wrong move and we never would have found each other. No Cell phone, no E-mail, no GPS, no couch.

So- is this the evolution of traveling?  There is no right or wrong – it is just different. It has its advantages nowadays –and the more I think of it – there are no disadvantages whatsoever. There is only one question I am asking myself.  Does all of the supporting technology suck the air out of an adventure?  I don’t know. I haven’t had the chance to travel in modern times (so to speak) on a motorcycle and I still have to wait awhile before my transition period allows me to hit the road again. For the time being I am happy with local rides on my Honda.

Here is the travel blog of Nadine and Katja. Actually written in German but Google volunteers with the translation which can be very funny at times. As much as Google wants to be on top of everything- it still needs some training in the translation department….

niniundkatjaontour

I wish Katja and Nadine a great trip and many more adventures they will remember for the rest of their lives. There is nothing better than Drinking the Wild Air – at least for a little while in your life.

Keep on riding !!!!


About crocodiles and facelifts!

October 15, 2010

No, I didn’t get a facelift, I strongly hope my current face will hold up for a couple more years, and I am against the killing of crocodiles to manufacture purses or belts….. nevertheless my Blog has undergone a facelift and at one point in my life I carried around  a baby crocodile in my purse ( not made of crocodile skin) .  

About the Blog – there will be more design changes coming up and updates in terms of the book publishing date etc. Stay tuned – it is just about to become exciting. Things are moving along nicely and I have to be prepared for the next steps.  My days are running along in the same format as described in last week’s blog post and again tomorrow, I am off to another audition!

In the meantime please read an excerpt from Chapter 19 “Tales of Mexico” of “To Drink the Wild Air” when we roamed around the Mexican jungle driving back on fire roads from the state of Chiapas to Mexico City in my pink Volkswagen.

On the ride back to Mexico City, we passed a kid by the side of the road selling an iguana. It was pretty common in the rural areas to sell exotic animals on the black market. We stopped to check it out, not that either of us was in the market for an iguana, and then we noticed it was actually a baby crocodile. The kid wanted fifty pesos (five dollars) for it. We bought it. Juan figured he could get perhaps as much as five hundred pesos (fifty dollars) for it back in the city. I understood his reasoning because that was a lot of money for him. However, we were not equipped to transport a 16-inch long crocodile, and the only suitable receptacle we had with us was my purse, which was rather some kind of a Mayan hand-woven shopping bag. My wallet and other important things had to move out and go elsewhere so the crocodile, with his snout taped to keep him from biting, could move in, and on we went. We stopped for the night and took a hotel room, where we let the little crocodile roam loose in the bathroom. Before we went out for dinner, we took the tape off his snout: It was too cruel.

The next day, a Sunday, we made it without any problems to Puebla when the car died again. Thank God, this was closer to general civilization, and we found a shop immediately. While waiting for the car we were lying in the grass right next to a little creek. Juan was playing with our exotic pet, having put it on a little leash and let it swim in the water. This must have stimulated its better nature, and suddenly there was this vicious reptile with an open mouth full of sharply pointed little teeth jumping vertically out the water, chasing Juan’s hand. Juan had damn good reflexes but was a nanosecond too slow when one of the razor-sharp teeth sliced open one of his fingers. After that, we both had a bit more respect for the little brute. Now we had to deal with a broken car, a crocodile in my purse, and Juan’s bleeding finger.

The mechanic didn’t have the part we needed in stock, and we would have to wait until Monday for the car to be fixed. We considered that we were at most a three-hour drive from Mexico City, and that Juan had to be back at work on Monday morning, so we opted to continue our journey by public bus. The crocodile was safely tucked into my purse, but both of us were far too scared to touch it again to put tape around his snout. I prayed it wouldn’t have another fit and chew its way out of the bag. My prayers were not heard. As we entered the already packed bus, I squeezed myself in between all the standing people to find a good spot to hold onto during the drive. At first, the crocodile was quiet and motionless, but then I felt a sudden movement. I ignored it, and a second later, it tried to escape with a big jump from my purse. Juan was not even close by my side so he couldn’t help, but other people noticed my commotion and a woman started to scream. She had seen the head of the croc peeking out of the bag. I tried to grab the animal’s tail and body from the outside of the bag and was lucky enough to have prevented the worst. I pulled it back down and was terrified at the thought that I had to restrain a pissed-off crocodile on a three-hour bus ride. I managed without any further hysterical outbreaks of either crocodile or fellow travelers and was relieved when I finally shoved it into the bathtub at home.

We bought some live mice to feed it, and I was actually scared of it by then. Juan eventually got rid of it before my landlady found out I had a live crocodile wandering around my bathroom.


Guatemala

August 5, 2010

Ah, that trip to the biggest remaining Mayan Pyramids in Tikal located in the northern part of Guatemala will never slip my mind. Not only because it was adventurous but also because I had a headache for one week afterward. Normally this is a one-hour trip by airplane from Guatemala City to Tikal but I choose the “Tikal Express” to take the long and torturous road by ground … without bridges or roads….     

                                                                     *****

                                                                   Chapter 18

                                                           Lawless and uprooted

The bus left early in the morning from Guatemala City with a projected arrival time in Tikal in the evening of that same day. The road, as mapped, wound through the jungle up northward toward the Mexican border, and it looked to me as if there weren’t that many roads at all near Tikal; I found myself wondering how this regular bus would make it to our destination. The trip started normally, with many stops and a constant flow of passengers. Finally, we left Guatemala City behind and headed into the wild countryside, where the paved roads turned into lousy dirt roads and the suburbs morphed into rural areas, but at least there still were roads, until that is, we got to a raging river we had to cross…without a bridge. This bridge was swept away by the current after a bad thunderstorm, and the government had never rebuilt it. God only knows how many years ago this happened, but then again this was Central America, and clocks definitely tick differently there. All bus drivers and passengers were left to sort out their own solutions as to how to cross the river and continue to their respective destinations. As everyone around me discussed and argued about what to do, I could understand enough of the conversation to hope that the driver would choose to head back to the main road and find another bridge. But I think this was too logical for the Guatemalans. The driver decided simply to cross the river by driving through the water!

I wasn’t exactly afraid of this venture because I was fit and could swim if it came down to it, but the possibilities of being stuck in the bus in the middle of the river without a chance to escape painted a bleak picture. I was wondering if the driver really knew how deep this river actually was, to be able to make such a bold decision for a load of people. It was one of those situations when I just trusted my guardian angel and went with the flow of things because clearly, nobody had really thought this plan through. People around me were nervous, and the children were shrieking with alarm. Water started flooding the floor of the bus but not high enough for it to be a threat to life. Slowly we slogged our way forward across the currents of the river. The ride was rough, the riverbed was littered with rocks and debris of all sorts—maybe even pieces of the bridge itself—and the trick was not to let go of the gas pedal. The worst thing would have been to lose the little speed we had and get stuck in the middle of these raging waters. It took about an hour for this crossing, including the arguing that preceded it, but finally we made it to the other side in one piece and wet feet. In the end, I had to admire that bus driver’s initiative.

                                        


Chapter 9 – The wingspan of a free spirit

July 22, 2010

This is an excerpt of Chapter 9  and I thought it is a nice story to remember.  It seemed that to those times all my vehicles had names.

“Henry” was my car and my home and ” Quasimodo” was my streetbike. Here in the pictures you can see Quasimodo at its best.  I only can say that this bike was beyond difficult and unreliable – but nevertheless it was fun. The combination of heat and injuries on my part and  technical failures and inadequacy of  touring on the bike’s part made this trip the most memorable of all.

I went flying through the red sand of the Monument Valley, drifting and sliding, enjoying the freedom and adrenaline of dirt bike riding, feeling like a young mustang just released into the wild. My mustang analogy came to a screeching halt somewhere in the middle of the valley, when I ran out of gas again and had to wait quite a while for the others to come along. This was not the first time this had happened on this trip, and we already had figured out an effective mode of towing my bike to the next gas station.  After about five miles of riding with Bernie’s foot pushing my bikes rear end we finally arrived at the only gas station for a radius of at least one hundred miles, totally exhausted from the heat.

Besides being sweaty and covered with layers of dust from the valley’s red sand, I was still limping. I felt like an old cowboy who’d been riding through the baking heat of the endless prairie, happy to find a way to feed his horse, when I finally put the hose into the gas tank of my bike awaiting new life. The pavement was melting like butter in the sun, and the tar stuck to the bottom of my tennis shoes.

            While filling up, I saw that the bike was starting to tip over in slow motion. Its side stand sank into the ground like a toothpick through a club sandwich. I tried to prevent the worst but reacted too late; the bike toppled over like it was nothing more than a plastic toy in a stiff breeze. A closer inspection showed that the side stand hadn’t sunk into the tar as I’d first thought; it had broken altogether. The side stand’s welding seam, loosened by the merciless vibrations of the engine, was now neatly severed from the bike frame, clearly resigning its duties. No side stand meant that I couldn’t park the bike anymore unless there was a wall or other firm, heavy object I could lean it against. Now I needed to look for a shop with the equipment and the willingness to weld the stand back on to the bike. Just in case it could be salvaged, I put the broken part into my luggage. Even in the sweltering desert heat, the mood of the travel group was frosty; they were getting fed up with my bike and its problems. Now we also had to worry about how to prop the bike up every time we stopped, and it was about to get worse…a lot worse. The bike lay in the hot sun like a dead coyote. We picked it up, and, as usual, Bernie tried to kick it back to life for me. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. As Bernie’s profanities echoed through the valley, I noticed that the drive chain was hanging off the rear sprocket. How the hell had that happened? Somehow, I had lost the safety nut and bold of the front sprocket, which made the sprocket rotate off the drive shaft and the chain rotate off the sprockets. Both parts were most likely somewhere out in the desert of Monument Valley, gone forever.


Chapter 8 / Meet Henry

July 1, 2010

Let’s move away from the animal stories although there are many more. This is an excerpt  of  Chapter 8 (Fearless), talking about my arrival in the US.  Daytona Beach was one of my first stops. From Spring Break to Bike week to the 200 mile race of Daytona, I made the best out of  four weeks of fun, sun and bikes. Read the story and meet Henry….    

                                                              ****

My first action point on my “to do” list was to check out the beach events, bars, discos, and meet new people.

Parking in Daytona was scarce, so the city arranged for huge parking lots along the scenic beaches; I would drive Henry onto the beach as close to the water as I dared, and then go off with new friends to hang out at the bars and check out whatever was going on.

 

Unfortunately, coming from a landlocked part of Germany, I was woefully unfamiliar with ocean tides. One morning at around four a.m., I returned with some people to the beach parking lot, after a successful night of barhopping, to discover there were no other cars in sight. Ironically, Kevin had just started to explain the workings of ocean tides to me when it hit me like a ton of bricks: Where the hell was Henry? Everyone else had been smarter than I and had moved their cars to safety before the high tide rolled in. As I scanned that huge, empty beach in a panic, I wasn’t even sure anymore if I was at the right spot; the beach looked completely different bathed in the predawn moonlight rather than in the bright sunshine and vibrating beach life. Finally, I made something out there in the distance…in the dark waters. Poor Henry was no longer parked so much as he was nearly floating; the water was already at the height of the hood! My panic escalated as I realized that Mother Nature was just about to take everything I owned with the crash of the next wave.

  I ran straight into the water up to my thighs. I did not know what to do; I’d never had to save a drowning car before. All I knew was that I couldn’t afford to lose Henry with all my belongings inside. I tried to dig out the tires, but it was no use. Some other people saw my predicament, and Kevin organized them to help him to look for a Jeep with a towing winch. They all started running frantically up and down the beach. Meanwhile, struggling with the tide, wet and agitated, I started to salvage my stuff from the trunk, thinking it wasn’t going to be long until Henry floated away and there would be nothing I could do to prevent it.

Finally, Kevin came back with the owner of a sturdy Jeep and a winch. It was a job and a half for that Jeep to pull Henry to safety, as the car’s tires were already sunk deep into the wet sand with powerful waves pulled in the opposite direction. We managed to salvage Henry. The car was saturated, and it took several days for it to dry out under the Florida sunshine. The salt water left some ugly stains on the interior; but that V8 engine was indestructible. After some initial sputtering, it ran just fine despite having taken an unexpected dip in the Atlantic Ocean.


Camels

June 24, 2010

I am surrounded by animals on a daily basis, mostly by birds. The Bird Hotel gives me the pleasure to meet many of my beautiful feathered friends in my own house.   

Looking back, though, in my life I had several encounters with a variety of different species. Sometimes just for one specific purpose like providing transportation, needed at one particular moment and other times they came into my life for other reasons.

Throughout the book in different Chapters, you’ll find selected references to these encounters. Today I stick with some of the sturdy animals I have had the pleasure with on my travels in Egypt.  

The camel :