Friday, July 27, 2007

Caledon Hills badlands: Sunday, July 15, 2007

Two weekends ago I went exploring the Caledon Hills area north of Toronto with my friend Steve and we found these amazing badlands on Old Baseline Road just east of Creditview Road.

Here's an aerial view of the badlands from Google Maps.

And here's a map showing this stretch of Old Baseline Road. The badlands are just east of Creditview Road.

We then rode east on Old Baseline Road and north up Hurontario to find out if Forks of the Credit Road -- which runs between Hurontario Road and Missisauga Road -- had opened up yet. I was up there in May with John, another friend, hoping to check out a hairpin turn John had found there but the road was closed while a railway trestle was under repair. The road was still closed from both ends when Steve and I were there two weekends ago. Wonder how long it will take to repair the trestle?

Here's a map of Forks of the Credit Road showing that hairpin turn. Scary-looking, isn't it?

We then went to check out the Heart Lake Conservation area in Brampton just west of Heart Lake Road between Mayfield Road to the north and Sandalwood Parkway East to the south.

To the left is a Google satellite map of the park. Right before we got there, the clutch cable broke on the Shadow Steve was riding. He had to ride it all the way back to town without a clutch. I've done this before, but have never been able to jam it into 1st from neutral without popping a big wheelie. Steve, who said he'd never done this before, managed it very smoothly. Although there were a few false starts getting down to the highway, he finessed some very complex backed up traffic on the 401 without once stalling out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My first track day, July 8, 2007 (woo-hoo!)

My new Baby has been such a challenge -- she handles so differently from any other bike I've ever ridden that I registered for an Advanced Riders Course taught by Turn2 Adrenalin Rentals and had my first track day up at Mosport on July 8.

The photo on the right is of the Lucky No. 5 -- the Suzuki GXR 600 I rented for the day. It felt much lighter than Baby and was a lot of fun.

When I got Baby in April I never dreamed I'd be zooming around a track and learning to hang my butt off the side of a bike to corner. It was intimidating -- the first time I tried it I thought for sure I was gonna drop the bike on the turn -- but it actually works.

The trick is to perch on the pegs with your toes to make it easy to switch your weight. That means you lose easy access to the shifter and your rear brake, but you don't use the rear brake as much as the front and if you're not trying to be a hotshot you don't need to shift that often...

Here's me standing by the fence beside the drivers' development track we rode at Mosport.

Below a map of the track. We ran it counterclockwise. No. 7 turn in the bottom right-hand corner was a bitch. Looping into the inner track at No. 10 turn and following it around to that tight No. 8 turn was a gas.

And here's a Google satellite map of the course:,-78.675585&spn=0.01,0.01&t=h&q=44.048116,-78.675585

This is my instructor, Dan Sippel. When I told him I'd dropped Baby on my foot and I couldn't ride for two weeks until my tendons healed, he took some time teaching me a new braking technique that would help prevent that. If you hug the dips in the side of the bike with your knees (that's what the dips are for) and scoot your butt way back on the seat, you have to straighten your arms to reach the handlebars, which forces you to hold the handlebars at a 90-degree angle to the frame. That helps guarantee a straight (non-wobbly) stop, even from a fast speed. It's the wobble at the end that made me drop Baby on my foot, so this was a very useful thing to learn.

The gent on the right in this photo on the right is George Budacki, owner of Adrenalin Rentals, which started the Advanced Rider Course this month. The class I took on July 8 was their very first one.

Here's my fellow students and our instructors digging into lunch at the track.

BMW Motorrad Demo Day: Saturday, May 26, 2007

This was a "ladies only" BMW ride demo day organized by Trillium Tours. I tried out five different bikes: the F800S (BMW's light-weight sport model), the F800ST (the sport/touring model), the F650 GS (a lightweight one-cylinder thumper), the R1200R (a roadster), and the K1200S (BMW's power sport bike).

The K1200S in the photo on the left was my favourite. She was the only one of the three sport or sport/touring models that came even close to the response level I get from my Kawasaki ZX-7R (which is 750cc's, compared to this bike's 1200).

I don't know if this was an intentional component of design - but doesn't the top fairing, combined with the mirrors, look like the face of Minnie Mouse?

The K1200S had power to spare in the top gears. At 80 kph and even 100 kph, she didn't even need to move past 4th gear. There were two more gears on top of that. While she had power to spare, the throttle to engine response time did not feel as immediate as it does on my Kawasaki ZX-7R.

The red bike to the right is the F800S. Unlike most sport bikes, BMW's F800S, with a low seat installed, was a comfortable fit for me. I'm 5'4" with a 27-inch inseam and could get the balls of my feet firmly on the ground on both sides. You can order these from the factory with a lowering kit installed that lowers them another 1.25 inches.

The riding ergonomics of the F800S were not as extreme as on my ZX-7R, which forces you to lean far over the tank with your head down to reach the handlebars. Although the footpegs were as far back, I did not have to lean far to reach the handlebars. On the ZX-7R, I can rest my chest comfortably on the tank, taking the weight off my forearms. On this bike, your forearms take all your weight. After almost three hours on this, the F800ST and the K1200S, my forearms were sore and tired.

Because it's a twin, the F800S, despite having another 50cc's more than my four-cylinder ZX-7R, did not feel as fast or responsive.

The power and responsiveness on the F800ST (in the photo on the left) was about the same as the F800S. I thought the 800s would be the closest to what my ZX-&R feels like, because it's a 700 -- but BMW's 800 sport models felt mushy and a bit wuss compared to my Kawasaki. The K1200S was closer in power and throttle response.

The only difference I could see between the handling of the F800S (sport model) and the F800ST (sport touring model) was that the handlebars weren't as short -- so steering was more like a touring bike or cruiser. And the throttle, oddly enough, seemed twitchier on the F800ST. I would have expected the F800S to be the twitchiest of the two, but there we are.

The R1200R (in the photo on the right) is BMW's roadster. Didn't catch the name of the woman testing the seat height in this photo. It was a little tall for me. At 5'4" with a 27-inch inseam, I wasn't quite on my tippy toes but could not get full purchase with the ground on the balls of my feet on this bike. Nonetheless, despite its almost 500-pound weight, this bike felt light for a 1200. And the engine was incredibly powerful. Only needed three gears to move it up to 80-100kph. Wonder when you'd be able to use the last three gears.

That's Liz Jansen, of Trillium MC Tours, in this last picture on the left. She was one of the demo ride guides who led groups testing the bikes during BMW Motorrad Demo Day on a route of country roads in and around Orangeville. That's my crazy helmet on the table in front of her.