RedElk's ZX10R Ride and Adventure review - Kawasaki ZX-10R.net
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post #1 of 12 Old 03-09-2004, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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RedElk's ZX10R Ride and Adventure review

This is it. It might not be what some of you expected, but it's what I'm sharing with you. If you don't want to read it, it ain't gonna hurt my feelings none.

It was an Internet personal message that became one of the highest points in my motorcycle riding life. I take that back. It was one of the highest points in my life... PERIOD!

posted February 13, 2004 0523 P.M.

Give me a call here at my work . . . I have something I'd like to run by you . . . I'll be here till eight or 8:30PM my time.

extremelean

It is common knowledge on many motorcycle Internet forums that the individual known as extremelean worked for Kawasaki Motor Corp. in Irvine, CA. What most of the members didn’t know, including me, was his direct phone number and real name. Now I knew both. I just sat there and stared at it. For over a half hour, I stared at it. Why would he want to talk to me? What in the world would he want to "run by" ME? Since I am a moderator of a ZX-12R forum, was there something he wanted me to change on the forum? Was it something I said on one of the forums? Did it have something to do with my dealer? WHAT? What in the hell did he want from ME? Then I realized that I might find out if I called the number. DOH!

I actually dialed and then hung up. Maybe I didn't want to know what he was going to "run by" me. Maybe I had done or said something so heinously wrong that I was about to feel the wrath of KMC. My mind raced. What could it be that I said or did, that would be so bad? It had been more than three years since I "made a scene" at the Kawasaki booth during the Cycle World bike show in Dallas. I know it did help that the folks I was ranting at were Steve Rice and I think, his "girlfriend" Kathy from KMC marketing, but I didn't know who they were... at the time. Naw, that couldn't be it. Surely they have "forgiven" me for that little "outburst". At least they didn't call security. So, I dialed the number again.

I figured that if it rang more than three times, he was busy and I'd hang up again. Right after the first ring, the phone was answered with, "This is extremelean" (I won't use his real name for obvious reasons). I felt like I was calling my boss. I didn't know what to say. "Uhhhhhhhh, this is Sherman... uhhhhhhh, redelk. You wanted to talk, I mean, run something by me?" , was all I could mumble. Though there was more to the conversation, the punch line was, "We were wondering if you'd be interested in flying out here and taking a test ride on a ZX-10R?" Uhhhh.... WHAT? My idiot-mode kicked in at WFO. "SURE! I might have to borrow some money for the airline ticket and stuff, but I can be out there whenever you want, just say when.", I said. I know he had to cover the phone so I wouldn't hear him laughing. He probably, fell out of his chair, laughing so hard. "No... no. We'll cover all of that. We just wanted to know if you'd be interested.", he chuckled.

Hmmmmm, let's see. KMC will cover my flight, hotel and meals... Get to ride a new ZX-10R... would I be interested? Then I thought to myself, "OKAY! WHO'S PLAYING THE JOKE AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? This is NOT funny!". I was going to just hang up, but I figured I'd play along, even if it really was extremelean. "Oh sure, I'd be interested. What do you want me to do?", I asked. "Well, this is not a “for sure” thing, but if it works out, someone in the Marketing Department will call you next Tuesday and set up all the arrangements. It is very important to remember that you are not to mention a word of this to ANYONE! Not in the Internet forums, your friends or even your family. It won't be a sure thing until your on the plane", he replied. Yeah, right. Get me all pumped up and then just bust my bubble. If I wanted this kind of grief, I'd call my ex-girlfriend.

That Saturday, I went with an upstarting CMRA race team that I manage to an open track day in Texas. KMC was talking about me flying in the following Saturday, which just happened to be the same day our team's opening race weekend started. What was I going to tell them? "Sure guys, I'm dedicated to the team and all, but Kawasaki wants me to fly out there on some secret mission and I won't be able to make it". I had to tell them something. They were counting on me being there. So that's basically what I told them. They believed it more than I did. Geez, go figure. Still, the weekend went by at a crawl. Monday was like time stood still. Tuesday, it felt like time was going backwards.

From talking with extremelean, I knew who the other three people were that was also invited. All of them participate on the same forums I do. By Tuesday afternoon, I was e-mailing one of them about how I figured the whole thing was called off. It was after 4:00 p.m. CST and I still had not heard from anybody at KMC. He too, had not heard anything. About an hour later, the call came. The funny part is that our receptionist told me it was Kawasaki, but they acted like they couldn't remember my name. When she looked at the caller ID, she thought it was my dealer, Kawasaki Sports Center. It was actually Kawasaki Motor Corp.

Sure enough, it was the Marketing Department. They were wanting to know if I could stay an extra day so they could make the flight arrangements. Wow! What a tough question! "Oh... I think I could do that.", I calmly informed them. The caller said he'd turn the information over to the Travel Department and they would be getting back with me. After thanking him, he hung up. WAIT! WHEN WILL YOU BE GETTING BACK TO ME? ARRRRRRGH! All the next day, every time the phone rang, I would run to it. Every time I got to the phone... it wouldn’t be them. By Thursday afternoon, the e-mails started flying again. No one had heard from them and again, I figured the whole thing was called off. When 5:30 rolled around, I knew for sure it was off.

Fifteen minutes later, the call came. Thank God I stay at work after we close. The Marketing rep told me that he'd e-mail my itinerary with my flight and hotel information. Again, I thanked him and waited for the e-mail to arrive. Moments later, it was here. YEAH BABY! IT'S ON NOW! Then I looked at the room they had for me. "KING - NON SMOKING". Ohhhhhhhh, no. I might be very appreciative of this opportunity, but I sure as hell ain't staying in a non smoking room. One call to the hotel fixed that and now all is right with the world.

Having "corrected" that small problem, I figured it would be good idea to check and see what the weather was going to be like for that weekend. Sunny and mid 70's or Sunny and mid 80's? After all, Irvine is in southern California. What is it they always say? It never rains in southern California, right? When the weather forecast popped up on the screen it read, Saturday, scattered showers - Sunday, heavy rain and possible thundershowers - Monday, light rain early then clearing. I knew that couldn't be right. After checking eight different weather websites, they all said the same. Just great. I'll fly out there and all I'll do is spray Plexus on the bikes and polish them. Whoopee. I might even get to ride one up and down in the shop area. What fun. Then I get an e-mail from one of the "chosen ones", telling me that he was going to bring his rain gear. Yeah, I got some rain gear... if I could just find it.

Friday night, I started packing my riding gear. Two sets of leathers (you never know), boots, gloves, helmet, three different face shields (again, you never know) and of course, my rain gear (hoping I would not need it). I'm not sure why I bothered going to bed. All I could do was think of what tomorrow would be. I took my phone off the hook, just to make sure they wouldn't call me and tell me it was canceled due to weather or something like that. After laying in bed for a couple of hours, I figured I'd get up and check the weather again. Surely they changed the forecast due to the unpredictable nature of costal weather, right? Sure enough, they had. The chances of rain on Sunday went from 60% to 90%. Now I knew it had to be a joke. A very cruel joke. There was no way that KMC was going to let a bunch of Internet yahoos go riding on new ZX-10Rs in the rain. I also knew that they weren't going to let us stay out there, on their dime, until the weather got better. Oh well. Weather folks never get it right anyway.

Saturday morning comes and it's off to the airport. I am the king of posers with my fully loaded Kawasaki duffel bag (P/N K99995-960 - also features built rollers and tow handle). When I get to the ticket counter, I hand them my "official Kawasaki travel" itinerary and throw my bag onto the scale. "Mr. McCoy, would it be possible for you to remove some items out of your bag and carry them on the plane with you?", the clerk asked. "Oh no, I can't. It's all my race gear and I need to keep it together", I proudly replied. "I understand. I'm afraid we will have to charge you $25 dollars because it's more than 50 pounds", she said. DOH! So much for being king of the posers. I paid the "fee", but I knew the fun part was yet to come. Baggage security screening. Sure enough, after x-raying the bag, it went straight to the "examination table". Oh, it was worth it to watch them dig around my leathers, helmet and especially my Teknics spine protector.

Once I was in the air, I felt a chill and started to get goose bumps. "It's really happening", I thought to myself. "I'm flying out to California and I'm going to ride a ZX-10R". The thoughts of rain faded away and the excitement of what all was happening was finally sinking in. I had quit trying to figure out why they asked me to come. It's not like I'm a "skilled" rider or anything like that. I don't even "bleed Kawasaki faithful, green". I have posted in the forums countless times that if my dealer (who I am insanely loyal to) sold Suzukis or Yamahas, I'd be riding a Gixxer or R1 right now. After a two-hour layover in Dallas (plenty of time to smoke a half a pack of cigarettes), it was time to board that three-hour flight to the John Wayne National in Irvine. The long flight was an excellent time for me to load the Traxxion "Suspension for Mortals" DVD into my laptop, sit back and learn about sportbike suspension.

When the plane landed, I bolted out and went straight to baggage claim. Not to get my Kawasaki duffel bag. To go outside and smoke a cigarette. Yeah, I know... I need to quit, but since I don't drink, I needed something to calm me down. "Giddy as a schoolgirl" would be the only way to describe how I was feeling. When my bag appeared on the carousel, I ran in and snagged it and went right back outside to smoke another cigarette. While huddled in a corner by the exit door, two guys walked up to me and one said, "You must be redelk. Who else would be standing out here, in a Kawasaki jacket, a Kawasaki bag and ... smoking a cigarette?". It was Fish-Antlers and swft. I have known them both for more than five years. I've read their posts, talked to them on the phone and yet I have never met either one face to face.

It was less then a minute later when extremelean walked up (also wearing a Kawasaki jacket) and said, "You guys ready to go?". Fish had met extremelean before and it wouldn't have been too hard to figure out that swft and I were the other two "guests" of KMC. We loaded up in the van and extremelean asked if we wanted to check in the hotel or go to the "candy store" and look at the bikes before dinner. Man! All these tough questions! Being a Saturday night, the parking lot of KMC was empty. An eerie glow from the parking lot lights made the building and surrounding area looking like some sort of secret government installation. Okay, so my imagination was a little in overdrive at the time. Sue me. Being in a plain white van, watching the gate, topped with barbed wire close behind us just made it worse. I was waiting for the "spy theme music" to kick in at anytime.

We walked up the steps to a huge metal door, extremelean entered another code, opened the door... and there they were. Five ZX-10Rs all parked side by side. There were other bikes parked in the same row that ran the whole length of the shop's wall, but I didn't even notice what they were. Not getting to go to the bike show this year, I had never seen one in person before. They looked so . . . so TINY! At first, I thought they might really be an upcoming version of a 636 or 6RR. When I saw the "ZX-10R" on the tail, I still couldn't believe. I walked up to a green one and started to look at it closely. I was afraid to touch it. Watching Fish get on a black one, I figured it'd be okay to just touch it. I couldn't understand why I was so cautious, but DAMN... it's really a ZX-10R and I'm going to be riding one in less than 12 hours... maybe. For once, the weather forecasters were right. It was raining.

It was time to head over to the restaurant for dinner and meet up with the other person who would be riding with us tomorrow. It was hard enough to figure out why I was there, but our "fourth guest" was one that really made me wonder what the folks at KMC were thinking. It wasn't like he was a bad rider, he was very experienced. It wasn't like he didn't own or ever ride a Kawasaki. He's had several and currently has a ZX-12R (like the rest of us), as well as planned on getting a ZX-10R (also like the rest of us). No, the reason I was stumped on why KMC picked him was where he worked. Our fourth guest of KMC was Kerry Bryant, Vice President of Jardine Performance Products. You know, the folks that make exhaust systems for HONDAS (as well as many other brands, including Kawasaki). In reality, Kerry was the perfect choice to come and take this ride. He appreciates ALL makes and types of motorcycles. It's not like he's "spying for Honda". Quite the opposite. He's a true motorcycle enthusiast and is even good friends with his business competitor, Doug Meyer of Muzzy. It was definitely one unusual group of folks KMC had gathered for this ride.

During dinner, we got to meet the lady from KMC Media Relations who played a major roll in putting all of this together. I almost felt like bowing down to her. Over the top, you say? When you looked at why everyone else was there and then tried to figure out why I was, you might have thought of bowing too. That feeling was quickly dispelled when we all sat down at the table. Almost immediately, the conversation went to motorcycles. Not about the ZX-10R, but about all kinds of sport and dirt bikes. There were a few other KMC folks there and all of it made me feel like I was back home with my riding buddies during one of our regular "bench racing" sessions. We laughed, smack talked and I felt right at home. It was great to listen to them talk of riders like Roncada, Stewart and Hayden. Just blew my mind.

After dinner it was back out into the rain and time to go to the hotel. Though I didn't sleep the night before, I knew I had to get some rest before the big day. When extremelean asked us at the airport if we had brought our rain gear, I knew then we would be riding, rain or shine. Standing out in the rain, waiting to get into the van, I wasn't so sure if this is something I was up to. A strange bike, strange roads and wet pavement aren’t exactly my idea of a "test ride.” It actually scared the crap out of me. Though I try to ride as much as possible, when it rains, I stay in the garage and work on my bike, not go out and check the wet traction of my bike's tires. Now, here I am, getting ready to go out on a bike that one magazine said if there was ever a bike that should be labeled "for expert riders only", this was it and I'm going to ride it in the rain. God, I hope I don't wreck their "experts only" bike, because I sure as hell am no expert. Not even when playing Moto GP2 on my son's X Box.

When I got to my room, I had to log onto the forums and see what was going on. I wanted so badly to start a new topic titled, "HEY EVERYBODY! I'M AT KAWASAKI AND I'M GOING TO RIDE A ZX-10R TOMORROW! Naturally, the "rules" were clear that I couldn't say a word until I got back home. All I could do was just stare at the screen and imagine where my post would be in the list of topics. I started to become numb. I couldn't tell anyone and the TV was blaring more rain was to come. Fish and swft dropped by my room. While swft and I talked about the hotel's internet connection, Fish was looking out my window at the pool and hot tub. "Hey! Check this out! This chick is putting the moves on this guy in the hot tub!", Fish shouted. I felt like jumping up and grabbing him and saying, "My God, you fool! Don't you realize that we are about to go out and ride ZX-10Rs in the pouring rain? Do you not know how serious this is?". I didn't. I couldn't. How could I when he looked at me and said, "Isn't this great? We're about to go out and ride a ZX-10R tomorrow. Is this just great or what?". When they left to go to their rooms, I just sat on the edge of my bed. Fish's words were just echoing in my head. Then it hit me. I jumped of from the bed and shouted out, "IS THIS F**KIN' GREAT OR WHAT?". Okay. I'm a little slow since my "answer" wasn't until they had already left the room, but now... I was ready.

We were all to meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 8:30 the following morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rain had stopped. The skies were still gray, but there were actually dry spots on the roads next to the hotel. After we ate, we grabbed our gear and headed over to KMC. While Kerry and the rest of us started to put on our gear, extremelean was topping off the tanks on our bikes. “This is it.”, I thought to myself, “This is what I came out here for.”. Now, all the excitement and anticipation began to change in fear and doubt. “What would we do if it started to rain? Would we turn back? Would we keep riding? Where are we going? Will there be any kind of support vehicle following us or waiting for us somewhere along the way?”, were just some of the thousands of questions racing through my mind. All I would have to do is ask, but instead I just silently stood there. Staring at the now topped off green, ZX-10R, I was supposed to ride.

Even though the temperature was in the low 60’s, I was starting to sweat. Not only did my rain suit keep the moisture out, it also didn’t breathe. Then again, it might have just been me that wasn’t breathing. All the same, I had to unzip the top part of my rain suit and the leather jacket of my Teknics two-piece leathers. When I‘m at home and about to go for a ride, I always get down on one knee and say a prayer. I never had prayed for a “safe ride“, since I’ve always felt that part was mostly up to me. Instead, I always would say a prayer of “Thanks“. Thanking my Higher Power for just having the opportunity to go out and ride another day. This time, I broke “tradition“. I just asked that all of us make it back safely. I figured that “having a good time“ was up to us. When I stood back up, I lit another cigarette and began stretching. Both in preparation for the ride. I was now ready.

I went to the bike I was to ride and started to put my stuff in the tail storage. After removing the rear seat, I realized the storage capacity was not one of the 10R’s best features. After removing the storage tub on my 12R, I could put an extra helmet visor, a secondary tool kit (in addition to the OEM one), a couple of wash cloths and my old digital camera inside the tail and still has some room left. The 10R’s tiny tail section made it impossible to carry half that stuff. To make enough room to hold one washcloth, cell phone, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter… I had to take out the OEM toolkit. Even if I took out the storage tub on the 10R, it wouldn’t really give me much more room. That is if the tub can even be removed. Hopefully, something can be done with the rear cowl cover or I might have to start shopping for some kind of small tank bag to carry all my stuff (UGH!).

The “Tiny Factor” continued when I threw my leg over and sat down on the bike. Though the seat was typically “sportbike tall”, it felt a tad lower than my 12R. This is pretty important as I am “inseam challenged” at 30 inches. It’s not like I could sit on the bike and be flat footed, but due to it’s narrow mid section, I could actually put the balls of both of my feet on the ground. This is something I can’t even do on some 600’s. The seat pad reminds me of my old ‘97 7R. Though it’s pretty thin and kinda small, it’s appeared to be fairly comfortable. Only time and miles would tell if that was really the case. When I turned the key and started the bike, it looked just like the 10R video. The LCD tach swept over, returned to zero and then sprang back to a little over a grand when I hit the starter.

The instrument display is basically identical to that of the 636/6RR. It’s real compact and is multi-functional. Of course, it also has the lap timer. One thing that spoiled me with my 12R was the fuel gage. Of all it’s multi-functions, a fuel gage is not one of them. Still, it does have a low fuel light which is better than anything my 7R had. On the other hand, at least my 7R had a reserve position on its petcock. Something that has become a thing of the past on the current crop of bikes. I have no idea when the low fuel light comes on. We never went more than 100 miles before refueling. Lacking a fuel gage really will not present too much of a problem. When riding, I’ll usually stop for fuel every 100 miles or so anyway. Depending on how spirited one is riding, I’d figure that if the light does come on, you better be looking for a gas pump pretty quick. Again, not that different from the 12R and its gage’s flashing bars.

The three panel center LCD display has a massive speedo, a smaller, yet very easy to read at a glance temperature gage and a multi-function display that will show the trip, odo, clock or lap times. Toggling the display from the trip meter to the clock was actually easier to do while riding than my 12R. I didn’t have time to set the shift indicator, but it is a feature I look forward to playing with. The LCD tachometer will take some getting used to. I’m not quite sure, but for now, I neither love it nor hate it. It was not as difficult to read at a glance as I had expected, but for now, it does take a little longer than a “brief glance” to get an idea of what the RPMs are.

As I rolled down the ramp leading out of the building and made a 90 degree turn in the parking lot I was immediately amazed over how effortlessly it was to make a slow speed turn. Such moves on my 12R would require some “hossing around” and maybe even a toe tap or two. At parking lot speeds, the 10R felt almost as light and balanced as a GasGas trials bike. Having an open lot in front of me, “squid mode” kicked in and I just had to give the throttle a few blips. Just to see what the bike’s got, ya know? Right off idle, the 10R has a similar “pep” and feel as a 600. Not a “eyeballs pushed in the back of your helmet” torque of a 12R, but still a “get up and go” that could easily loft the front end (not highly recommended while still in KMC’s parking lot) if one was to give it more than a mere “blip”.

Of course, after reaching the maximum velocity of oh, something like 35 mph, I thought it would be a good time to test out those front brakes everyone had been talking about. HOLY S**T! I thought I was going to flip it right there in the parking lot. Either that or it was about to throw me over the bars! Having braided lines on my 12R has let me appreciate good stopping power, but compared to the 10R, my 12R feels like I’m trying to stop by dragging my feet like Fred Flintstone. It was almost scary when there was almost no front end dive as I went from 30+ to zero in what felt like a few feet. It just flat STOPPED! No muss, no fuss… just STOPPED! Time to make a mental note to self. DON’T GRAB THE BRAKE LEVER WITH TWO FINGERS! One will be more than sufficient, thank you very much. That’s ONE finger under ANY circumstance or speed.

While momentarily gathering my senses, extremelean waves for all of us to come in for that “try to behave” talk that is mandatory when letting a group of unknown yahoos take off on “his” (read: KMC’s) new, not yet in any showroom, liter bikes. We all respond with the equally mandatory serious looks and nodding of heads. At the same time thinking, “Yeah, whatever. As if your going to behave yourself.”. Now the helmets go on (I didn’t take mine off), the bikes are started, make our way past the barbed wired gate and out of the KMC “compound”. As we pulled up to the street, I realized that none of those questions racing through my head earlier were answered. Especially the one about where we were going.

As we turned onto the street, I also realized that even if he told me where we were going it would not have mattered. Hell, I ain’t from here. I’m from Arkansas. ‘Nuf said. Time to ride (and keep up with the rest of the group). I had already determined that I was going to like this bike, but I didn’t realize that I was going to be introduced to some of its better features after riding it for less than 2 miles.

I had heard about how “lane splitting” was legal in California. I had even read an article or two about it in some of the cycle magazines. The way it had always been described to me was simply going in between cars on the interstate. Just trying to imagine the concept of going in between moving cars was alien to me. Not to mention the fact that such actions are highly illegal in Arkansas. I think it is still a hanging offense. To me, it sounds like something only the “squidliest” of riders would do. Well, I was about to learn that there was a lot more to lane splitting than just that one aspect.

The beginning of the “test” part of our ride was going to start on California Highway 74. Better known as the infamous Ortega Highway. To get there, we would have to take a short ride on I-5 and get off at San Juan Capistrano. As we rode through Irvine, we came up to a traffic light. As I normally do when traffic is stop, I proceeded to pull up behind the last stopped car it the line. This is where my first lesson in lane splitting was to occur. Instead of obediently stopping behind the line of cars like I did, the rest of the group proceeds to ride right up the middle of the two lanes and stopped in front of all these cars. I was stunned. If I had done such a move back home, some redneck would have opened their door and whacked me before I had passed the second car in the line.

I knew I would have to follow them or I’d be left behind. So I sheepishly made my way up the line of cars still waiting for the light to change. When I rejoined the group, there wasn’t enough room for me to pull in front of the cars like they had. Instead, I was stuck between a car on my right and a 30' RV on my left. I was so close to the RV that I could read the little lettering on its ID plate. What was even worse was the fact that I was in the RV’s blind spot. I was too far up for him to see me in his side mirror, but not far enough in front of him to be seen through his windshield. As a matter of fact, if I had raised my head, I would have hit his side mirror with my helmet. This was the first time I really appreciated how narrow the 10R is in comparison to my 12R. If I had been on my 12R, I wouldn’t have dared made the move in between the cars.

My next lesson came when the light changed and our group started moving through the intersection. Back home, folks would have been so shocked to see a group of bikes, ride up the middle like that, they would have just waited until all of us had moved on before starting off themselves. I learned that’s not how it’s done in the Golden State. In California, when the light changes to green, EVERYBODY starts moving. It doesn’t matter if your on a bike between them or not. When the RV started to move, it started to slowly drift toward the center line... and ME! All I could do is scream, “GO!” in my helmet in hopes that the rest of the guys would get far enough ahead for me not to get sandwiched by the RV and car next to me.

Frustrated and starting to panic, I just whacked the throttle on the 10R. If I had been on my 12R, there would have been a nanosecond of hesitation and then the front end would have started climbing skyward. Thankfully, the 10R does not have this characteristic. Instead, it immediately started to smoothly pull away... at a rapid pace. Not quite like the “eyes pushed to the back of my helmet” acceleration of my 12R, but more like a 600. Or so I first thought. The 10R seems to have no problem accelerating. The only problem is that it builds up speed at a deceptively fast rate.

No sooner did I breathe a sigh of relief after getting away from the RV, I realized that I was about to run into the back of the bikes. Literary. Remembering my braking lesson in KMC’s parking lot, I grabbed the brake lever with one finger and started to gently pull it back. With absolutely no fuss or dramatics, the 10R slowed down and I avoided taking out at least two other bikes before we even got to I-5. At in-town traffic speeds, the 10R is a very forgiving bike. Even when the rider does something (or several things) stupid. The 10R in-town manners actually reminded me of my old ‘90 EX 500. Well, kinda. I would have to gown down about two teeth on my old EX’s counter sprocket to get anything close to the acceleration of the 10R. Still, the 10R’s light weight, small feel and nimbleness were very reminiscent of my old trusty steed.

I hate riding on interstates and will avoid them at all costs back home. Traffic filled with folks talking on their phones and eating their Big Macs are never paying attention to what’s going on around them. At the speeds one travels on the interstate, all it takes is for someone to drop their french fries and swerve into another lane trying to retrieve them to turn a leisurely afternoon ride into a trip to the hospital. To make matters worse, California seems to think that all their interstates need to have rain grooves. Not just in curves, but everywhere. I could feel my arms start to tense up.

On my 12R, it would tend to get a little squirrely and slightly drift from side to side. One would think that its shorter wheelbase and more “race oriented” suspension would have made things ever worse then my 12R. All it took was a couple of miles on these rain grooves to learn that the 10R was not like that at all. I started to relax after I found out that the 10R had a very stable and planted feel to it. The suspension’s low speed damping was amazing. Not just over the irregular surfaces and rain grooves, but even when changing lanes that were not level to each other. In this case, it was my 12R that had a confidence robbing twitchiness on these surfaces. Not the 10R, like I had imagined. Even though we spent the majority of our time in the HOV lane, I was still happy to see the SJC exit.

So far, the roads were fairly dry and the sun was even trying to break though the clouds. As we started onto Ortega Highway, it looked like we might not even need the rain suits. I had been riding with my rainsuit partially unzipped, since it was still pretty warm. Little did I know, but the wind was blowing up my suit and I looked like the Michelin Man. Rather entertaining for the rest of the group. With dry pavement ahead of us and very little traffic, we started to wick it up a little and see what the 10R had.

Since I almost NEVER use the clutch for up shifting, if KHI didn’t address the “transmission issues”, now would be the time it would tell the tale. Though I live to ride on twisty back highways, it took several miles for me to even start adjusting my riding style (if one would call it that) for a bike that weight almost a 100 pounds lighter and didn’t have a “hit” after 6K like my 12R. Needless to say, the rest of the group started to pull away and leave me behind. In the tighter curves that were shadowed by trees and bluffs, the pavement was still wet. My arms (and the rest of me) started to tense up again. When I would ride my 12R on wet pavement, I had to be extra careful with my throttle control when exiting corners. All it would take was being a little too ham fisted with the 12R’s go handle and the back end would break loose.

Since the 10R’s acceleration is so phenomenally linear when rolling on the throttle, my confidence in these wet patches was increasing. At first, I thought the 10R might actually be geared a tad too low. It wouldn’t matter if I was lugging it in forth at 3K or wacking it in second at 9K, the 10R always would have a noticeable strong pull to it. The gear ratios of the 10R’s transmission are nicely spaced to where shifting in a corner always had positive results. That would apply for both up and down shifts. When downshifting to use the engine to scrub off speed, the 10R responded surprisingly smooth. I would say it was very similar to the ‘03 Yamaha R1.

Let me address the question everyone has been asking about the transmission and missed up shifts, right now. First, I would say that I did experience one missed clutchless up shift between third and forth gear. I do not blame the 10R’s transmission, shifting mechanism or anything else. It was solely “operator error”. I’ve done it while riding a ‘02 GSXR 1000 and a ‘03 R1. So to say it was any kind of indicator of a “transmission problem” would mean that Gixxer, the CBR and the R1 had the SAME problem. They don’t have one and if the 10R did have such a problem, it did not become apparent to me at anytime during our 300+ mile ride.

On the other hand, I will say that the transmission is “typical Kawasaki”. Just like my ‘00 12R, my ‘97 7R and my ‘90 EX 500, changing gears has never been “feather lite”. My 7R was probably the worst when it came to requiring a firm foot when changing gears. For the first thousand miles or so, my 12R was similar to the 7R. Fans of Suzukis, Yamaha or Hondas might call it “clunky” or hard to shift, but I’d disagree. If anything, when I was riding the other brands, I found their shifting to a tad vague and loose feeling. On older models, it was almost to the point of being sloppy.

Now, the faithful of the other brands might whine and say I don’t know what I’m talking about, but they need to realize that they are used to their shifting feeling one way and I am used to something that might be slightly different. I don’t believe one is better or worse than the other and I also do not go running around saying that they do not know what they are talking about either. Having said that, I’ll get back to some of the other aspects of the 10R.

As we made our way toward the Lookout Roadhouse, we made a few stops. The first one was just after the waterfalls. Since that stretch of road was so good and DRY, we decided to turn around and run through part of it again. We did the same when we reached the candy store (I don’t remember the name of the place). It was during these “reruns” that I got to check out the suspension even closer. Having watch the Traxxion DVD on the flight, I started looking for how the bike reacted to different kinds of input. Both from the road’s surfaces and from me, the rider.

The suspension was still at the “OEM delivered to the dealer” settings. In other words, for an “average” rider weighing 150 pounds in full gear. That might be “average” in Japan, but it’s hardly what I’d call “preferred settings” for someone who weighs almost 100 pounds more (in full riding gear). We didn’t even have time to adjust the sag. It might have been great for a “soft” ride on the interstate, but I was wondering if it might make the ride in the twisties a bit mushy. There seems to be some validity in Kawasaki’s claim of the 10R’s suspension being “race oriented”. After the two “reruns” on the same stretches of Ortega, the bike felt very stable without sacrificing any of its nimbleness.

Transitions from leaning in one way and than immediately shifting my weight over to the other while going through the chicanes were almost effortless. No more hossing around the weight of my 12R, spending more effort in simply lifting the bike up from one corner. The way the 10R’s gas tank is so narrow and cut in for the knees made it easy for even me to start to slide over and hang my fat butt of the seat. In comparison, it felt like I had to force the 12R into a corner. For the 10R, it was almost like all I needed to do was “think it” and it would happen. Other liter bikes gave me a similar feeling, but this was more like R6 instead of an R1.

The only time I had ever experienced something like that was when I rode a MV Agusta F4. The MV’s power was nothing like the 10R’s, but up until now, the MV was the most fun I had ever had on a bike in the twisties. For me, it was more confidence inspiring than riding any of the other brands’ pre-‘04 liter bikes. Having not been on the other brands’ latest offerings in this class, I cannot say how they would compare. If they are even close to anything like this I’d say that the diehard faithful of any brand are in for a real treat.

When hard braking, there wasn’t really any dive of the front end and I was able to scrub off more speed at a quicker rate than I would ever have dreamed of while riding my 12R. Not that my 12R was that bad. It had braided lines, Braking USA rotors and EBC pads. Even with all those improvements, it wasn’t just the weight difference that made the 10R superior. After getting a little more comfortable to this, I started to carry more speed into the corners. I actually was braking far later than I had ever done before. I really got stoked when I was actually getting close enough to actually see the rest of the group ahead of me. Okay, it might have been during a straight stretch of road, but there really isn’t a whole lot of those on this part of the Ortega Highway.

I don’t know if it is the radial mounted calipers, wave rotors or the one pad per caliper piston, but there is a substantial difference between the two bikes. It was not only better than my 12R, but it was better than any other bike I had ever ridden before. Now that the other manufacturers have also mounted their front calipers in a similar fashion, I’m sure that they too will experience what I’m talking about. All I know is that the option makes the idea of putting braided lines on this bike needs to be moved way down on the list of possible modifications.

By the time we got to the Lookout Roadhouse, I started to feel that this bike could make a “hero” out of even the slowest of back highway riders. I was really looking forward to getting into some twisties and trying out some of the things I had learned about both the bike and what I could do with it. With the sun shining, I decided to take off my rubber rain “boot covers” (a.k.a. “galoshes”). Their toes were a good inch past the end of my boots and made it a hassle to move my foot around the shifter. Lacking room in the bike’s tail section, I just stuck them inside my rainsuit.

Heading down to Lake Elsinore, the number of wet spots on the road got a little more frequent. With the sun still peaking in and out of the clouds, I figured we were still in for some more rain-free riding. At Lake Elsinore, it was back onto the interstate. This time, it was I-15. This time, I had no fear of the rain grooves and the 10R continued to track smoothly and feel completely stable over them. After 20 miles of riding in HOV lanes, we got off the interstate and onto Highway 91. Highway 91 might as well been another interstate, since it was hardly anything worth getting excited about. Equally depressing was the cluster of dark clouds we were riding toward.

We then turned onto Highway 60 and went to Moreno Valley. This was our first gas stop. We had gone almost 100 miles. If I was to guess what kind of gas mileage I was getting, I’d have to say it was in the low 30's. I’m not sure what it was because I was in shock when I saw what a gallon of gas costs in California. DAMN! Over $2.20 a gallon. That’s about 50 cents more a gallon if I was to buy 93 octane at a “high dollar” interstate gas station back home. It’s a dollar more than what I’d pay for 87 octane at the average Little Rock “in-town” station. The best part was seeing the looks we’d get from the other guys getting gas, as they eyed over our four ZX-10Rs parked next to the pumps. Yeah, baby. That’s what I’m talking about. Try that with a gaggle of Gixxers. Ain’t gonna happen.

Of course, by the end of the year, they probably wouldn’t rate anymore than a second glance. Just as if it were a pack of new CBRs or any other group of liter bikes. Still, knowing that this was basically the first time anyone had ever seen a 10R on the street, much less, four of them... this was our moment of “glory” and I was gonna enjoy every minute of it.

Going through the traffic lights in Moreno Valley, I still hadn’t gotten the hang of riding through the lines of stopped cars, but I was no longer afraid of following right behind the rest of the group. The “almost geared too low” feeling gave me enough confidence that I’d be able to pull away from the cars behind (and beside) me. I got tested on this when the road went from four to two lanes and some guy in a Camaro thought it’d be “cool” to cut me off from the rest of the group. As he was looking in his mirror and started to pinch me off on the left, I just whipped the 10R around to his right and passed him on the shoulder of the road. I was already long gone before he even knew what had happened. Nice try buddy.

Again, something I would have never done on my 12R. At least not on the narrow shoulder. All I could guess is that the 10R must come with an “extra set of balls” as a standard feature.

All the joy I got out of putting that yahoo in his place was quickly dampened as we turned onto Highway 79. The sun was nowhere to be found and very dark clouds were all around us. Though it wasn’t raining, all of the roads were wet. As we went across one intersection, I saw something that made me realized that I should have just left my boot covers on. Just on the other side of the intersection was a “puddle” of water. About a 15 foot long “puddle” that was almost “foot peg high” deep. I could feel the lower fairing slightly drag as it made it’s way through this “lake” in the middle of the road. Still, the 10R forged onward like it was nothing. Still, at that moment, I think I would have rather been on my KDX than the 10R. One thing was for sure. My feet were “officially” ... wet.

After about 10 miles, we were back on Highway 74. This part is known by the locals as the Palms to Pines Highway. I guess it would be the Pines to Palms, considering which direction we were headed. It wasn’t really raining that much, but there wasn’t a dry spot on the road. Occasionally, I would come out of a corner and be greeted by a rock the size of a bowling ball in my lane. If it wasn’t a large rock, it would be stretch of gravel and such spread a good 18" of either side of the center line. The Dunlop 218 tires on the 10R really surprised me on this part of the ride. It’s wet weather traction impressed me. It looked as if the other bikes in front of me were sucking the water off of the road and almost creating a dry line on the pavement. I could also see a little rooster tail going straight up from their rear tire. Weird.

Conditions got pretty ugly by the time we had made the Idyllwild split. The temperature had gone from the mid 50's to the mid 30's and we started seeing signs warning drivers (and riders) of ice on the road. “Isn’t this where the support vehicle mysteriously shows up and we ride back to KMC in the warm comfort of a Surburban, or something like that?”, I thought to myself. After a brief stop at the split so KB could warm up a little and give Fish a chance to put on some gear, I got my answer. No, it is not when the support vehicle mysteriously shows up and we ride back to KMC in the warm comfort of a Surburban.

After Fish finished changing in to his warmer gear (KB never really warmed up), we continued riding toward Palm Desert. The rain was coming down harder and it seemed like the temperature was dropping. It was getting harder to see out on my visor. There seemed to be no position I could adjust it to, improving matters. If I closed it and opened the chin vent, it would still fog up. If I cracked it open enough to keep it from fogging, the rain would get the inside of the visor wet. Eventually, neither option worked.

At this point, I had no idea where we were and more importantly, I didn’t have a clue on how far were we from KMC... and the rain kept coming. Though we were no longer traveling at our previous rate, we were still catching and passing cars. While I was basically three quarters blind. At least the rain suit was keeping me dry. Except for my wet feet and soaked gloves. My feet were still pretty warm, but my hands were starting to feel the bite of the cold wind that seem to find every seam in the stitching of my wet gloves’ fingers.

We might have gone 25 miles when it started to become unbearable. We pulled over at a place called Sugarloaf Café to get a something to eat and warm up. I didn’t realize that extremelean was also hoping that the rain would at least slow down before we headed down the mountain to Palm Desert. We would all later discover that wasn’t going to happen. The rain was just going to come down that much harder and it was going to get even colder on the mountain.

The café was a pretty nice place to eat and even had a couple of fireplaces going. We laid our soaked gloves next to on of them. Occasionally, one of us would go and “turn” the gloves to keep them from getting too hot and in hopes of the drying out. The later was a lost cause. Even after most of us tried wringing the water out of them before we went in. Since California is basically a “smoke-free” state, I had to regularly excuse myself so I could go outside and smoke a cigarette. Though their entrance area might have been stylish with it open wooden beams and no cover (yeah, right), the only place I could try to stay dry was under their A/C wall unit. There was some kind of tarp over it and there was just enough room for me to stand under it and watch my shoulders get wet from the tarp’s runoff.

It was during these numerous smoke breaks that I had time to stand there and just look at our very wet and dirty bikes. I found it amazing that for the whole ride from the Idyllwild split, my only concern was trying to keep my visor and eye glasses from fogging up. Not once was I worried about losing control of the bike. Not during braking and not even when we would pass a car. Sure, it wasn’t like I was still trying to slide off the seat or drag a knee, but even after all the rain and the cold, I wasn’t the least bit tense, sore or even tired. If I had been on my 12R, my arms would have been so sore from my getting tense at ever wet curve. On this stretch of highway, that’s all there was. I wouldn’t have cared if I was ten miles or a hundred from home, if I was on my 12R, I would have been calling home and telling them to come get me. Screw this. Little did I know. We were closer to 120 miles from KMC.

After eating, we put our gear back on, including a warm, but still wet gloves and started out toward Palm Desert. On our way down the mountain, we would hit patches of fog. When it finally cleared a bit, we stopped at this overlook. Looking down, it felt like I was at a strip club. For as far as I could see were nothing but the most beautiful, perfectly paved, twisty roads as the snaked the rest of the way down. It was as if E Box was their highway engineer. Ah... Ah! You can look, but you can’t TOUCH! Okay, it might not have been that bad, but for me... it was WORSE. Yes, I WAS going to ride these beautiful twisties. The only problem was they might have been beautiful, but they were also soaking wet and it was still raining. That sight had to be the cruelest part of the whole trip.

I’ve always been kind of a wuss when it came to downhill, sometimes blind, curves. Even when it was dry. It’s so easy to scrub off speed when I’m going uphill, but when I would be going down, I often felt that I was going into the curves too hot. Too hot for me, that is. Now that it was wet, I feared that every downshift would result in my rear tire breaking loose. If it wasn’t that, it would happen because I was applying the rear brake and downshifting at the same time. It was an unfounded fear with the 10R. I would anticipate it on almost every curve and it would never happen. It was as if every time I rolled on the throttle, the 10R would be saying, “Wwwwuuuuussss, (gear change) wwwwuuuuusss”. How insulting. Made me glad to be in the back so no one else could here the 10R mock me and my riding style. Or lack of one.

Palm Desert was our next and last gas stop. The rain had let up a little, but not by much. At least it was warmer, now that we were off the mountain. By this time, we all agreed that we just wanted to get back to KMC the quickest way possible. Even if it meant riding on interstates (GAG!). When we got to I-10, it seemed like the rain was letting up a little more. The guys were getting a little bolder and started lane splitting again. Actually, it was more, KB just wanted to get back. Being the only one of us without any rain gear on, he was completely soaked.

Even with the new found confidence I had in the bike on wet pavement, I wasn’t quite as bold. As the sun was going down (somewhere... we never saw it again), the skies were getting a darker grey. It almost looked as if everything was in black, white and shades of grey. Even the colors of the cars in traffic seemed somewhat muted. It was during this stretch of I-10, just past Palm Springs, when the group almost left me behind. It wasn’t because of their lane splitting, but because of what we were riding up to. At a distance, it looked like a small array of cellular antennas. As we got closer, I could tell that this was no cluster of antennas. I had heard about this place and even remember seeing it in a couple of movies. The first one that came to mind was the movie, Less Than Zero with Robert Downey Jr.

I’m sure I looked like some tourist from... well, from Arkansas, as my helmet would turn from side to side. I just stared in awe of what I was seeing. They seemed to just go on forever. We I road over the next hill and I figured that it would be the end. There were just more of them. All over the place and on both sides of the interstate. I couldn’t believe how close they were actually were to the interstate. It was if the were line up right to the edge of the road’s shoulder. I was shock on how big they really were. “So this is it.”, I thought to myself. “So, this is the infamous Windmill Farm.” The blades looked as if they were over 70' in length. After a while, I would start looking for ones that were broken down or turning real slow. I wouldn’t even want to know how much a set of bearings were for one of those bad boys.

The only reason I mention this is that if I had been on my 12R, I would have felt the current road and traffic conditions were so bad that I wouldn’t have dared take my focus off of the road. Odds are, I would have been so paranoid, I would not have even noticed these rows and rows of behemoths on either side of me. To me, it speaks volumes when someone like me can be comfortable and confident enough on a bike and still be gawking at damn windmills, even when it’s raining and traffic is a bitch.

By the time we had reached Highway 60 at Beaumont, the traffic was getting heavier and the rain was getting lighter. In several spots, it wasn’t even raining. It was here I made my “boldest” lane splitting move of the whole ride. The rest of the group had picked up the pace and were starting to pull away. I’d increase my speed by five, than ten MPH or so and they were still pulling away. Having no idea where I was and watch the rest of the guys fade away, I realized that I was going to have to seriously wick it up if I was going to catch back up.

I’d watch them lane split through the traffic, but by the time I got where they had split the traffic, the cars were not in the same positions or they were changing lanes themselves and cutting me off. Frustrated, I dropped a gear and whacked and dived right into the center of two lanes. I had to continue down the center stripe, passing car after car, since there were no openings in either lane for me to switch over to. By now, I was doing about 80 (“wuss speed” for the locals, I’d guess) on a wet highway posted at 65.

Finally seeing an opening in one of the lane, I knew I was going to have to pour it on if I was going to get there in time. By now, the feel of being between two cars doing 80, when I could adjust both of their mirrors with my elbows, was making me claustrophobic. A smaller opening was starting in the left lane, just ahead of me. I figured that I could dive in that opening and then, if I timed it just right, I could cut across two lanes and almost catch up with the rest of the group.

Rolling it on a little more, I came along side of the car behind that small opening. I looked to my right to see if it was still clear for the diagonal move, than I quickly looked to my left to shoot into the opening that was growing smaller. “DAMN!”, I cursed in my helmet. “WTF does the cager on my left think he’s doing?”. Glancing back to the driver of the car on left, I thought I’d give him some kind of “mean biker look” and he’ll back off. That’s when I first realized that I was still doing 15 to 20 over the posted... while cruising next to a CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL CAR! OMG! If I did such a “stunt” next to a Arkansas State Trooper, I wouldn’t get a ticket. I’d get a ass beating.

Now in full panic mode, I shoot in front of the CHP and than immediately shoot back over two lanes. I thought I might have actually cut the cop off. Since I had yet to figure out how to get the mirrors of the 10R adjusted to where I could see behind me without swinging my elbows out, I’ll never know. Odds are, there was more than enough room to make the move and the CHP was laughing at my “I’m not from here” hesitation. Little did I know, that very same feeling of hesitation was to cost two of us dearly before we got back to KMC.

I was so proud of myself over the fact that I had caught up with the rest of the group, only to find out that they were slowing down to exit the highway. Just great. I make my first banzai move, get all pumped up and these guys want to get of the highway. Go figure.

We stopped at a Carl’s Jr. in Moreno Valley so KB and extremelean could warm up with some coffee. After almost breaking out in a sweat as I was riding between all those cars, I didn’t need anything to warm me up. I just stood outside and tried to call the race team back home and see how they had done in their very first CMRA road race. After talking to them for a short while, the guys were coming out of Carl’s Jr. ane were ready for the last part of the ride back to KMC. When I got to my bike, I panicked. I thought I had put the key in the ignition, but it wasn’t there.

I told swft that I must have left it inside or I just locked my key in the tail section of the bike. As I was starting to run back inside, he casually ask me if I had left it in the tail lock. I looked at the back of the bike and then it hit me. The 10R’s lock is not located in a hole on the side of the tail section like the 12R. It’s not even in the same place as on the 636 or 6RR. The 10R’s tail lock is located underneath the tail section... and so was the key to my bike. DOH! That will take me some time before I get used to that. At least I didn’t lock the key in the tail of the bike.

We got back onto Highway 60 and after just a short hop, turned onto Highway 91. I didn’t know it, but we were still over 50 miles from KMC. Nightfall had arrived and with it came the rain. Only it was different this time. Instead of a constant drizzle with an occasional shower, it was pouring down in buckets. Lucky 12 from Tennessee would call this rain storm a “frog strangler”. It was almost monsoon like conditions with wind gusts that felt like it was going to blow me into the next lane. I couldn’t make up my mind where to put my visor so I could see better. It didn’t matter. By this time, water was on both sides of my visor. Even my eyeglasses had water running down both sides.

By the time we got to Corona, it was like KB could smell the warm garage of KMC. He wicked it up like a man on a mission from God and Fish was following with his eyes glued to his tail light. KB was weaving through traffic like a Singer sewing machine. One minute he’d be in one of the middle lanes and then the far left. Look up again and he’d be in the far right. I tried to keep up and swft had the great misfortune of getting stuck behind me while KB and the other were gradually pulling away in to the sea of blurry tail lights.

I couldn’t figure out why in the hell all these people were out on the highways on a Sunday night. Cars were switching lanes everywhere. Some would be doing 80 while others were crawling along at 40. IN THE SAME LANE! I was freaking out as I was trying to just find some sort of opening that would let me catch of to the rest of the group. It was like a bad version of Top Gun with swft behind me yelling, “TAKE THE SHOT! TAKE THE SHOT!”. All the while, I’d just be sitting there, watching to gap between the cars close and saying, “No. No good. Can’t take the shot.”.

When I finally felt like I could “take the shot” and lane split, the car in front of me shoots into another lane. I glance over at the car, wondering why he jerked over so quick. When I looked back into my lane, I realized why. The car that was in front of him was doing about 40 MPH! ACK! I panicked and stabbed my rear brake. Immediately, the back end of the bike starts to fishtail. Not radically, but probably a couple of feet to each side. I look to the lane on either side of me so I could keep from hitting the back of this car that might as well have been parked. Like an idiot, I’m still on the rear brake and still sliding.

I couldn’t see an opening on either side, but it didn’t matter. Even though I had the back end locked up, I’d scrubbed off more than enough speed to keep from getting anywhere close to hitting the car. The weird part was that all the time the bike was fish tailing, I never once felt that I was losing control of the bike. I knew that I could ride it out. It was that hesitation to “take the shot” and doing the little “stunt” that followed was the moment sealing swft and my fate.

They were gone.

I couldn’t see any of the other riders. All I could see was the glowing red tail lights of what seemed to be thousands of cars and not a single motorcycle tail light among them. The traffic and the rain was getting heavier. The traffic in some lanes were completely stopped while others had cars and trucks whizzing by us. After a few miles, I gave up. I’m sure the bike was more than willing and capable to wick it up and forge onward, but I was not. It was as if I had just gone limp.

Seeing an exit, I pulled off and swft followed in behind me. I apologized, but I had no idea where they were and I sure a hell had no idea where we were. After a few cars had come zinging down the exit ramp and nearly hit us parked on the side of the road, swft suggested that we get to a gas station an try to call them. While riding down toward the end of the ramp, I saw a gas station nearby. I turn onto a divided four lane and after going a couple of blocks, I realized that I couldn’t get to it because there was no break in the median. I then went down to the next traffic light and turned around so I could be on the same side of the road as the gas station.

That didn’t work either. The station didn’t have an entrance connecting to the road I was on. I pulled over to the shoulder and looked around for swft. Oh, this is just friggin’ great. Now I lost swft, too. Thank KHI for the growl the 10R has when you get on it, because that’s how I found him. He had gone around and was looking for a side street that would get to the station. A little further down the road, I thought I saw a side road that might take me to where swft was. When I got to it, it wasn’t a side road after all. It was the entrance ramp to get back onto the highway we just got off of. Oops! Nothing more fun than riding down the wrong way on a entrance ramp in the pouring rain. Even for 50' or so.

When he got back to where I was, we figured that we go on the under the highway bridge and see if there was anything over there. Sure enough, there was a Shell station there and we pulled in to get out of the rain. Thinking that he had his cell phone, I figured that he’d just whip it out, make the call and we’d be on our way. The only problem with that grand idea of mine was that he left his phone back at KMC. That’s okay. I had mine. There was one other slight little problem. Neither one of us remembered extremelean’s telephone extension at KMC. Being a Sunday night, it wasn’t like anyone would be answer the main line anyway.

Then swft said we just need to figure out where we were, look at a map and be on our way. He told me to go and ask the clerk where we were and he’d look it up on the map. Fine. Just as soon as I finish this cigarette. Oh , the frustrations we smokers force upon non-smokers. Needless to say, he was more than ready to get back to KMC. Just as I was more than ready to enjoy a cigarette. He might not have been able to appreciate my determination to waste precious time smoking a cigarette at this critical junction, but he was understanding enough to not just kill me. Instead, he offered to buy me a soft drink and he would ask the clerk where we were.

Simple enough. At least it would have been if the clerk spoke English. Or swft spoke Arabic. While buying the drinks, he repeatedly asked the clerk what the name of the city we were in and he repeatedly couldn’t understand what he was saying. Getting even more frustrated, he paid for the drinks and came out to tell me what was going on. I thought he was kidding. Even if the guy didn’t speak a word of English, surely he could at least say the name of the town we were in. Chuckling to myself in disbelief, I said that I would go in and find out where we were at.

He was right. After asking him to repeat it five time, I still could not understand what he was saying. It wasn’t until the clerk pointed at the station’s state permit that I finally understood what he was saying. We were in Anaheim Hill. Having made this great accomplishment, I went back out to tell swft... and smoke another cigarette. He goes back to look at a map, but can’t find the street KMC is on in Irvine. He comes back out and says that I might try calling the hotel to see if they are there. I called information, got the hotel front desk and asked if any guys had been their on bikes or were looking for anyone that might have rode in on bikes.

Nope. Wasn’t happening. I hung up. We stood there for a moment, then swft suggested I try to call back and see if Fish was in his room. I called back only to find out that the hotel said he had checked out. Oh no. Not so fast, bucko. I remember extremelean making the arrangements at the front desk for swft and Fish to stay another night after we ate breakfast that morning. The hotel clerk was insistent. Fine. I asked if there were any messages that had been left for me and he said that there wasn’t. Not believing that they had booted Fish out of his room, I asked them to connect me to his room number. Someone answered, but it wasn’t Fish. Someone else had his room.



Post is too long. forum won't accept it all at once. Will post the rest later.

The whirlwind is in the thorn trees.
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post #2 of 12 Old 03-09-2004, 09:52 PM
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this is a novel

God must love stupid people, he made so many.
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post #3 of 12 Old 03-09-2004, 09:58 PM
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Is Redelk a journalist? That is a man who is serious about his write-ups. :shock:

Had to take a break a few times in between. Good read, appreciate the work from both of you.
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post #4 of 12 Old 03-09-2004, 11:12 PM
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definitly a good long read, and those mirrors really do suck
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post #5 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 02:39 AM
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bloody hell, I have to take the rest of the day of to read this
but thanks for all the trouble :)
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post #6 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 10:09 AM
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burger could you translate that back to german for some of us?
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post #7 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trikchop
burger could you translate that back to german for some of us?
no problem, but I need inspiration. In my case that comes in the form of some bottles of Oude Jenever, so if you send me a couple, I will be more than happy to translate into german
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post #8 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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He deleted the original post and reposted in two parts to get around the character limit.

PART 1
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was an Internet personal message that became one of the highest points in my motorcycle riding life. I take that back. It was one of the highest points in my life... PERIOD!

posted February 13, 2004 0523 P.M.

Give me a call here at my work . . . I have something I'd like to run by you . . . I'll be here till eight or 8:30PM my time.

extremelean

It is common knowledge on many motorcycle Internet forums that the individual known as extremelean worked for Kawasaki Motor Corp. in Irvine, CA. What most of the members didn't know, including me, was his direct phone number and real name. Now I knew both. I just sat there and stared at it. For over a half hour, I stared at it. Why would he want to talk to me? What in the world would he want to "run by" ME? Since I am a moderator of a ZX-12R forum, was there something he wanted me to change on the forum? Was it something I said on one of the forums? Did it have something to do with my dealer? WHAT? What in the hell did he want from ME? Then I realized that I might find out if I called the number. DOH!

I actually dialed and then hung up. Maybe I didn't want to know what he was going to "run by" me. Maybe I had done or said something so heinously wrong that I was about to feel the wrath of KMC. My mind raced. What could it be that I said or did, that would be so bad? It had been more than three years since I "made a scene" at the Kawasaki booth during the Cycle World bike show in Dallas. I know it did help that the folks I was ranting at were Steve Rice and I think, his "girlfriend" Kathy from KMC marketing, but I didn't know who they were... at the time. Naw, that couldn't be it. Surely they have "forgiven" me for that little "outburst". At least they didn't call security. So, I dialed the number again.

I figured that if it rang more than three times, he was busy and I'd hang up again. Right after the first ring, the phone was answered with, "This is extremelean" (I won't use his real name for obvious reasons). I felt like I was calling my boss. I didn't know what to say. "Uhhhhhhhh, this is Sherman... uhhhhhhh, redelk. You wanted to talk, I mean, run something by me?" , was all I could mumble. Though there was more to the conversation, the punch line was, "We were wondering if you'd be interested in flying out here and taking a test ride on a ZX-10R?" Uhhhh.... WHAT? My idiot-mode kicked in at WFO. "SURE! I might have to borrow some money for the airline ticket and stuff, but I can be out there whenever you want, just say when.", I said. I know he had to cover the phone so I wouldn't hear him laughing. He probably, fell out of his chair, laughing so hard. "No... no. We'll cover all of that. We just wanted to know if you'd be interested.", he chuckled.

Hmmmmm, let's see. KMC will cover my flight, hotel and meals... Get to ride a new ZX-10R... would I be interested? Then I thought to myself, "OKAY! WHO'S PLAYING THE JOKE AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? This is NOT funny!". I was going to just hang up, but I figured I'd play along, even if it really was extremelean. "Oh sure, I'd be interested. What do you want me to do?", I asked. "Well, this is not a “for sure” thing, but if it works out, someone in the Marketing Department will call you next Tuesday and set up all the arrangements. It is very important to remember that you are not to mention a word of this to ANYONE! Not in the Internet forums, your friends or even your family. It won't be a sure thing until your on the plane", he replied. Yeah, right. Get me all pumped up and then just bust my bubble. If I wanted this kind of grief, I'd call my ex-girlfriend.

That Saturday, I went with an upstarting CMRA race team that I manage to an open track day in Texas. KMC was talking about me flying in the following Saturday, which just happened to be the same day our team's opening race weekend started. What was I going to tell them? "Sure guys, I'm dedicated to the team and all, but Kawasaki wants me to fly out there on some secret mission and I won't be able to make it". I had to tell them something. They were counting on me being there. So that's basically what I told them. They believed it more than I did. Geez, go figure. Still, the weekend went by at a crawl. Monday was like time stood still. Tuesday, it felt like time was going backwards.

From talking with extremelean, I knew who the other three people were that was also invited. All of them participate on the same forums I do. By Tuesday afternoon, I was e-mailing one of them about how I figured the whole thing was called off. It was after 4:00 p.m. CST and I still had not heard from anybody at KMC. He too, had not heard anything. About an hour later, the call came. The funny part is that our receptionist told me it was Kawasaki, but they acted like they couldn't remember my name. When she looked at the caller ID, she thought it was my dealer, Kawasaki Sports Center. It was actually Kawasaki Motor Corp.

Sure enough, it was the Marketing Department. They were wanting to know if I could stay an extra day so they could make the flight arrangements. Wow! What a tough question! "Oh... I think I could do that.", I calmly informed them. The caller said he'd turn the information over to the Travel Department and they would be getting back with me. After thanking him, he hung up. WAIT! WHEN WILL YOU BE GETTING BACK TO ME? ARRRRRRGH! All the next day, every time the phone rang, I would run to it. Every time I got to the phone... it wouldn't be them. By Thursday afternoon, the e-mails started flying again. No one had heard from them and again, I figured the whole thing was called off. When 5:30 rolled around, I knew for sure it was off.

Fifteen minutes later, the call came. Thank God I stay at work after we close. The Marketing rep told me that he'd e-mail my itinerary with my flight and hotel information. Again, I thanked him and waited for the e-mail to arrive. Moments later, it was here. YEAH BABY! IT'S ON NOW! Then I looked at the room they had for me. "KING - NON SMOKING". Ohhhhhhhh, no. I might be very appreciative of this opportunity, but I sure as hell ain't staying in a non smoking room. One call to the hotel fixed that and now all is right with the world.

Having "corrected" that small problem, I figured it would be good idea to check and see what the weather was going to be like for that weekend. Sunny and mid 70's or Sunny and mid 80's? After all, Irvine is in southern California. What is it they always say? It never rains in southern California, right? When the weather forecast popped up on the screen it read, Saturday, scattered showers - Sunday, heavy rain and possible thundershowers - Monday, light rain early then clearing. I knew that couldn't be right. After checking eight different weather websites, they all said the same. Just great. I'll fly out there and all I'll do is spray Plexus on the bikes and polish them. Whoopee. I might even get to ride one up and down in the shop area. What fun. Then I get an e-mail from one of the "chosen ones", telling me that he was going to bring his rain gear. Yeah, I got some rain gear... if I could just find it.

Friday night, I started packing my riding gear. Two sets of leathers (you never know), boots, gloves, helmet, three different face shields (again, you never know) and of course, my rain gear (hoping I would not need it). I'm not sure why I bothered going to bed. All I could do was think of what tomorrow would be. I took my phone off the hook, just to make sure they wouldn't call me and tell me it was canceled due to weather or something like that. After laying in bed for a couple of hours, I figured I'd get up and check the weather again. Surely they changed the forecast due to the unpredictable nature of costal weather, right? Sure enough, they had. The chances of rain on Sunday went from 60% to 90%. Now I knew it had to be a joke. A very cruel joke. There was no way that KMC was going to let a bunch of Internet yahoos go riding on new ZX-10Rs in the rain. I also knew that they weren't going to let us stay out there, on their dime, until the weather got better. Oh well. Weather folks never get it right anyway.

Saturday morning comes and it's off to the airport. I am the king of posers with my fully loaded Kawasaki duffel bag (P/N K99995-960 - also features built rollers and tow handle). When I get to the ticket counter, I hand them my "official Kawasaki travel" itinerary and throw my bag onto the scale. "Mr. McCoy, would it be possible for you to remove some items out of your bag and carry them on the plane with you?", the clerk asked. "Oh no, I can't. It's all my race gear and I need to keep it together", I proudly replied. "I understand. I'm afraid we will have to charge you $25 dollars because it's more than 50 pounds", she said. DOH! So much for being king of the posers. I paid the "fee", but I knew the fun part was yet to come. Baggage security screening. Sure enough, after x-raying the bag, it went straight to the "examination table". Oh, it was worth it to watch them dig around my leathers, helmet and especially my Teknics spine protector.

Once I was in the air, I felt a chill and started to get goose bumps. "It's really happening", I thought to myself. "I'm flying out to California and I'm going to ride a ZX-10R". The thoughts of rain faded away and the excitement of what all was happening was finally sinking in. I had quit trying to figure out why they asked me to come. It's not like I'm a "skilled" rider or anything like that. I don't even "bleed Kawasaki faithful, green". I have posted in the forums countless times that if my dealer (who I am insanely loyal to) sold Suzukis or Yamahas, I'd be riding a Gixxer or R1 right now. After a two-hour layover in Dallas (plenty of time to smoke a half a pack of cigarettes), it was time to board that three-hour flight to the John Wayne National in Irvine. The long flight was an excellent time for me to load the Traxxion "Suspension for Mortals" DVD into my laptop, sit back and learn about sportbike suspension.

When the plane landed, I bolted out and went straight to baggage claim. Not to get my Kawasaki duffel bag. To go outside and smoke a cigarette. Yeah, I know... I need to quit, but since I don't drink, I needed something to calm me down. "Giddy as a schoolgirl" would be the only way to describe how I was feeling. When my bag appeared on the carousel, I ran in and snagged it and went right back outside to smoke another cigarette. While huddled in a corner by the exit door, two guys walked up to me and one said, "You must be redelk. Who else would be standing out here, in a Kawasaki jacket, a Kawasaki bag and ... smoking a cigarette?". It was Fish-Antlers and swft. I have known them both for more than five years. I've read their posts, talked to them on the phone and yet I have never met either one face to face.

It was less then a minute later when extremelean walked up (also wearing a Kawasaki jacket) and said, "You guys ready to go?". Fish had met extremelean before and it wouldn't have been too hard to figure out that swft and I were the other two "guests" of KMC. We loaded up in the van and extremelean asked if we wanted to check in the hotel or go to the "candy store" and look at the bikes before dinner. Man! All these tough questions! Being a Saturday night, the parking lot of KMC was empty. An eerie glow from the parking lot lights made the building and surrounding area looking like some sort of secret government installation. Okay, so my imagination was a little in overdrive at the time. Sue me. Being in a plain white van, watching the gate, topped with barbed wire close behind us just made it worse. I was waiting for the "spy theme music" to kick in at anytime.

We walked up the steps to a huge metal door, extremelean entered another code, opened the door... and there they were. Five ZX-10Rs all parked side by side. There were other bikes parked in the same row that ran the whole length of the shop's wall, but I didn't even notice what they were. Not getting to go to the bike show this year, I had never seen one in person before. They looked so . . . so TINY! At first, I thought they might really be an upcoming version of a 636 or 6RR. When I saw the "ZX-10R" on the tail, I still couldn't believe. I walked up to a green one and started to look at it closely. I was afraid to touch it. Watching Fish get on a black one, I figured it'd be okay to just touch it. I couldn't understand why I was so cautious, but DAMN... it's really a ZX-10R and I'm going to be riding one in less than 12 hours... maybe. For once, the weather forecasters were right. It was raining.

It was time to head over to the restaurant for dinner and meet up with the other person who would be riding with us tomorrow. It was hard enough to figure out why I was there, but our "fourth guest" was one that really made me wonder what the folks at KMC were thinking. It wasn't like he was a bad rider, he was very experienced. It wasn't like he didn't own or ever ride a Kawasaki. He's had several and currently has a ZX-12R (like the rest of us), as well as planned on getting a ZX-10R (also like the rest of us). No, the reason I was stumped on why KMC picked him was where he worked. Our fourth guest of KMC was Kerry Bryant, Vice President of Jardine Performance Products. You know, the folks that make exhaust systems for HONDAS (as well as many other brands, including Kawasaki). In reality, Kerry was the perfect choice to come and take this ride. He appreciates ALL makes and types of motorcycles. It's not like he's "spying for Honda". Quite the opposite. He's a true motorcycle enthusiast and is even good friends with his business competitor, Doug Meyer of Muzzy. It was definitely one unusual group of folks KMC had gathered for this ride.

During dinner, we got to meet the lady from KMC Media Relations who played a major roll in putting all of this together. I almost felt like bowing down to her. Over the top, you say? When you looked at why everyone else was there and then tried to figure out why I was, you might have thought of bowing too. That feeling was quickly dispelled when we all sat down at the table. Almost immediately, the conversation went to motorcycles. Not about the ZX-10R, but about all kinds of sport and dirt bikes. There were a few other KMC folks there and all of it made me feel like I was back home with my riding buddies during one of our regular "bench racing" sessions. We laughed, smack talked and I felt right at home. It was great to listen to them talk of riders like Roncada, Stewart and Hayden. Just blew my mind.

After dinner it was back out into the rain and time to go to the hotel. Though I didn't sleep the night before, I knew I had to get some rest before the big day. When extremelean asked us at the airport if we had brought our rain gear, I knew then we would be riding, rain or shine. Standing out in the rain, waiting to get into the van, I wasn't so sure if this is something I was up to. A strange bike, strange roads and wet pavement aren’t exactly my idea of a "test ride.” It actually scared the crap out of me. Though I try to ride as much as possible, when it rains, I stay in the garage and work on my bike, not go out and check the wet traction of my bike's tires. Now, here I am, getting ready to go out on a bike that one magazine said if there was ever a bike that should be labeled "for expert riders only", this was it and I'm going to ride it in the rain. God, I hope I don't wreck their "experts only" bike, because I sure as hell am no expert. Not even when playing Moto GP2 on my son's X Box.

When I got to my room, I had to log onto the forums and see what was going on. I wanted so badly to start a new topic titled, "HEY EVERYBODY! I'M AT KAWASAKI AND I'M GOING TO RIDE A ZX-10R TOMORROW! Naturally, the "rules" were clear that I couldn't say a word until I got back home. All I could do was just stare at the screen and imagine where my post would be in the list of topics. I started to become numb. I couldn't tell anyone and the TV was blaring more rain was to come. Fish and swft dropped by my room. While swft and I talked about the hotel's internet connection, Fish was looking out my window at the pool and hot tub. "Hey! Check this out! This chick is putting the moves on this guy in the hot tub!", Fish shouted. I felt like jumping up and grabbing him and saying, "My God, you fool! Don't you realize that we are about to go out and ride ZX-10Rs in the pouring rain? Do you not know how serious this is?". I didn't. I couldn't. How could I when he looked at me and said, "Isn't this great? We're about to go out and ride a ZX-10R tomorrow. Is this just great or what?". When they left to go to their rooms, I just sat on the edge of my bed. Fish's words were just echoing in my head. Then it hit me. I jumped of from the bed and shouted out, "IS THIS F**KIN' GREAT OR WHAT?". Okay. I'm a little slow since my "answer" wasn't until they had already left the room, but now... I was ready.

We were all to meet for breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 8:30 the following morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rain had stopped. The skies were still gray, but there were actually dry spots on the roads next to the hotel. After we ate, we grabbed our gear and headed over to KMC. While Kerry and the rest of us started to put on our gear, extremelean was topping off the tanks on our bikes. “This is it.”, I thought to myself, “This is what I came out here for.”. Now, all the excitement and anticipation began to change in fear and doubt. “What would we do if it started to rain? Would we turn back? Would we keep riding? Where are we going? Will there be any kind of support vehicle following us or waiting for us somewhere along the way?”, were just some of the thousands of questions racing through my mind. All I would have to do is ask, but instead I just silently stood there. Staring at the now topped off green, ZX-10R, I was supposed to ride.

Even though the temperature was in the low 60’s, I was starting to sweat. Not only did my rain suit keep the moisture out, it also didn't breathe. Then again, it might have just been me that wasn't breathing. All the same, I had to unzip the top part of my rain suit and the leather jacket of my Teknics two-piece leathers. When I‘m at home and about to go for a ride, I always get down on one knee and say a prayer. I never had prayed for a “safe ride“, since I've always felt that part was mostly up to me. Instead, I always would say a prayer of “Thanks“. Thanking my Higher Power for just having the opportunity to go out and ride another day. This time, I broke “tradition“. I just asked that all of us make it back safely. I figured that “having a good time“ was up to us. When I stood back up, I lit another cigarette and began stretching. Both in preparation for the ride. I was now ready.

I went to the bike I was to ride and started to put my stuff in the tail storage. After removing the rear seat, I realized the storage capacity was not one of the 10R’s best features. After removing the storage tub on my 12R, I could put an extra helmet visor, a secondary tool kit (in addition to the OEM one), a couple of wash cloths and my old digital camera inside the tail and still has some room left. The 10R’s tiny tail section made it impossible to carry half that stuff. To make enough room to hold one washcloth, cell phone, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter… I had to take out the OEM tool kit. Even if I took out the storage tub on the 10R, it wouldn't really give me much more room. That is if the tub can even be removed. Hopefully, something can be done with the rear cowl cover or I might have to start shopping for some kind of small tank bag to carry all my stuff (UGH!).

The “Tiny Factor” continued when I threw my leg over and sat down on the bike. Though the seat was typically “sportbike tall”, it felt a tad lower than my 12R. This is pretty important as I am “inseam challenged” at 30 inches. It’s not like I could sit on the bike and be flat footed, but due to it’s narrow mid section, I could actually put the balls of both of my feet on the ground. This is something I can't even do on some 600’s. The seat pad reminds me of my old ‘97 7R. Though it’s pretty thin and kinda small, it’s appeared to be fairly comfortable. Only time and miles would tell if that was really the case. When I turned the key and started the bike, it looked just like the 10R video. The LCD tach swept over, returned to zero and then sprang back to a little over a grand when I hit the starter.

The instrument display is basically identical to that of the 636/6RR. It’s real compact and is multi-functional. Of course, it also has the lap timer. One thing that spoiled me with my 12R was the fuel gage. Of all it’s multi-functions, a fuel gage is not one of them. Still, it does have a low fuel light which is better than anything my 7R had. On the other hand, at least my 7R had a reserve position on its petcock. Something that has become a thing of the past on the current crop of bikes. I have no idea when the low fuel light comes on. We never went more than 100 miles before refueling. Lacking a fuel gage really will not present too much of a problem. When riding, I’ll usually stop for fuel every 100 miles or so anyway. Depending on how spirited one is riding, I'd figure that if the light does come on, you better be looking for a gas pump pretty quick. Again, not that different from the 12R and its gage’s flashing bars.

The three panel center LCD display has a massive speedo, a smaller, yet very easy to read at a glance temperature gage and a multi-function display that will show the trip, odo, clock or lap times. Toggling the display from the trip meter to the clock was actually easier to do while riding than my 12R. I didn't have time to set the shift indicator, but it is a feature I look forward to playing with. The LCD tachometer will take some getting used to. I'm not quite sure, but for now, I neither love it nor hate it. It was not as difficult to read at a glance as I had expected, but for now, it does take a little longer than a “brief glance” to get an idea of what the RPMs are.

As I rolled down the ramp leading out of the building and made a 90 degree turn in the parking lot I was immediately amazed over how effortlessly it was to make a slow speed turn. Such moves on my 12R would require some “hossing around” and maybe even a toe tap or two. At parking lot speeds, the 10R felt almost as light and balanced as a GasGas trials bike. Having an open lot in front of me, “squid mode” kicked in and I just had to give the throttle a few blips. Just to see what the bike’s got, ya know? Right off idle, the 10R has a similar “pep” and feel as a 600. Not a “eyeballs pushed in the back of your helmet” torque of a 12R, but still a “get up and go” that could easily loft the front end (not highly recommended while still in KMC’s parking lot) if one was to give it more than a mere “blip”.

Of course, after reaching the maximum velocity of oh, something like 35 mph, I thought it would be a good time to test out those front brakes everyone had been talking about. HOLY S**T! I thought I was going to flip it right there in the parking lot. Either that or it was about to throw me over the bars! Having braided lines on my 12R has let me appreciate good stopping power, but compared to the 10R, my 12R feels like I'm trying to stop by dragging my feet like Fred Flintstone. It was almost scary when there was almost no front end dive as I went from 30+ to zero in what felt like a few feet. It just flat STOPPED! No muss, no fuss… just STOPPED! Time to make a mental note to self. DON'T GRAB THE BRAKE LEVER WITH TWO FINGERS! One will be more than sufficient, thank you very much. That’s ONE finger under ANY circumstance or speed.

While momentarily gathering my senses, extremelean waves for all of us to come in for that “try to behave” talk that is mandatory when letting a group of unknown yahoos take off on “his” (read: KMC’s) new, not yet in any showroom, liter bikes. We all respond with the equally mandatory serious looks and nodding of heads. At the same time thinking, “Yeah, whatever. As if your going to behave yourself.”. Now the helmets go on (I didn't take mine off), the bikes are started, make our way past the barbed wired gate and out of the KMC “compound”. As we pulled up to the street, I realized that none of those questions racing through my head earlier were answered. Especially the one about where we were going. As we turned onto the street, I also realized that even if he told me where we were going it would not have mattered. Hell, I ain't from here. I'm from Arkansas. ‘Nuf said. Time to ride (and keep up with the rest of the group). I had already determined that I was going to like this bike, but I didn't realize that I was going to be introduced to some of its better features after riding it for less than 2 miles.

I had heard about how “lane splitting” was legal in California. I had even read an article or two about it in some of the cycle magazines. The way it had always been described to me was simply going in between cars on the interstate. Just trying to imagine the concept of going in between moving cars was alien to me. Not to mention the fact that such actions are highly illegal in Arkansas. I think it is still a hanging offense. To me, it sounds like something only the “squidliest” of riders would do. Well, I was about to learn that there was a lot more to lane splitting than just that one aspect.

The beginning of the “test” part of our ride was going to start on California Highway 74. Better known as the infamous Ortega Highway. To get there, we would have to take a short ride on I-5 and get off at San Juan Capistrano. As we rode through Irvine, we came up to a traffic light. As I normally do when traffic is stop, I proceeded to pull up behind the last stopped car it the line. This is where my first lesson in lane splitting was to occur. Instead of obediently stopping behind the line of cars like I did, the rest of the group proceeds to ride right up the middle of the two lanes and stopped in front of all these cars. I was stunned. If I had done such a move back home, some redneck would have opened their door and whacked me before I had passed the second car in the line.

I knew I would have to follow them or I'd be left behind. So I sheepishly made my way up the line of cars still waiting for the light to change. When I rejoined the group, there wasn't enough room for me to pull in front of the cars like they had. Instead, I was stuck between a car on my right and a 30' RV on my left. I was so close to the RV that I could read the little lettering on its ID plate. What was even worse was the fact that I was in the RV’s blind spot. I was too far up for him to see me in his side mirror, but not far enough in front of him to be seen through his windshield. As a matter of fact, if I had raised my head, I would have hit his side mirror with my helmet. This was the first time I really appreciated how narrow the 10R is in comparison to my 12R. If I had been on my 12R, I wouldn't have dared made the move in between the cars.

My next lesson came when the light changed and our group started moving through the intersection. Back home, folks would have been so shocked to see a group of bikes, ride up the middle like that, they would have just waited until all of us had moved on before starting off themselves. I learned that’s not how it’s done in the Golden State. In California, when the light changes to green, EVERYBODY starts moving. It doesn't matter if your on a bike between them or not. When the RV started to move, it started to slowly drift toward the center line... and ME! All I could do is scream, “GO!” in my helmet in hopes that the rest of the guys would get far enough ahead for me not to get sandwiched by the RV and car next to me.

Frustrated and starting to panic, I just whacked the throttle on the 10R. If I had been on my 12R, there would have been a nanosecond of hesitation and then the front end would have started climbing skyward. Thankfully, the 10R does not have this characteristic. Instead, it immediately started to smoothly pull away... at a rapid pace. Not quite like the “eyes pushed to the back of my helmet” acceleration of my 12R, but more like a 600. Or so I first thought. The 10R seems to have no problem accelerating. The only problem is that it builds up speed at a deceptively fast rate.

No sooner did I breathe a sigh of relief after getting away from the RV, I realized that I was about to run into the back of the bikes. Literary. Remembering my braking lesson in KMC’s parking lot, I grabbed the brake lever with one finger and started to gently pull it back. With absolutely no fuss or dramatics, the 10R slowed down and I avoided taking out at least two other bikes before we even got to I-5. At in-town traffic speeds, the 10R is a very forgiving bike. Even when the rider does something (or several things) stupid. The 10R in-town manners actually reminded me of my old ‘90 EX 500. Well, kinda. I would have to gown down about two teeth on my old EX’s counter sprocket to get anything close to the acceleration of the 10R. Still, the 10R’s light weight, small feel and nimbleness were very reminiscent of my old trusty steed.

I hate riding on interstates and will avoid them at all costs back home. Traffic filled with folks talking on their phones and eating their Big Macs are never paying attention to what’s going on around them. At the speeds one travels on the interstate, all it takes is for someone to drop their french fries and swerve into another lane trying to retrieve them to turn a leisurely afternoon ride into a trip to the hospital. To make matters worse, California seems to think that all their interstates need to have rain grooves. Not just in curves, but everywhere. I could feel my arms start to tense up.

On my 12R, it would tend to get a little squirrely and slightly drift from side to side. One would think that its shorter wheelbase and more “race oriented” suspension would have made things ever worse then my 12R. All it took was a couple of miles on these rain grooves to learn that the 10R was not like that at all. I started to relax after I found out that the 10R had a very stable and planted feel to it. The suspension’s high speed damping was amazing. Not just over the irregular surfaces and rain grooves, but even when changing lanes that were not level to each other. In this case, it was my 12R that had a confidence robbing twitchiness on these surfaces. Not the 10R, like I had imagined. Even though we spent the majority of our time in the HOV lane, I was still happy to see the SJC exit.

So far, the roads were fairly dry and the sun was even trying to break though the clouds. As we started onto Ortega Highway, it looked like we might not even need the rain suits. I had been riding with my rainsuit partially unzipped, since it was still pretty warm. Little did I know, but the wind was blowing up my suit and I looked like the Michelin Man. Rather entertaining for the rest of the group. With dry pavement ahead of us and very little traffic, we started to wick it up a little and see what the 10R had.

Since I almost NEVER use the clutch for up shifting, if KHI didn't address the “transmission issues”, now would be the time it would tell the tale. Though I live to ride on twisty back highways, it took several miles for me to even start adjusting my riding style (if one would call it that) for a bike that weight almost a 100 pounds lighter and didn't have a “hit” after 6K like my 12R. Needless to say, the rest of the group started to pull away and leave me behind. In the tighter curves that were shadowed by trees and bluffs, the pavement was still wet. My arms (and the rest of me) started to tense up again. When I would ride my 12R on wet pavement, I had to be extra careful with my throttle control when exiting corners. All it would take was being a little too ham fisted with the 12R’s go handle and the back end would break loose.

Since the 10R’s acceleration is so phenomenally linear when rolling on the throttle, my confidence in these wet patches was increasing. At first, I thought the 10R might actually be geared a tad too low. It wouldn't matter if I was lugging it in forth at 3K or wacking it in second at 9K, the 10R always would have a noticeable strong pull to it. The gear ratios of the 10R’s transmission are nicely spaced to where shifting in a corner always had positive results. That would apply for both up and down shifts. When downshifting to use the engine to scrub off speed, the 10R responded surprisingly smooth. I would say it was very similar to the ‘03 Yamaha R1.

Let me address the question everyone has been asking about the transmission and missed up shifts, right now. First, I would say that I did experience one missed clutchless up shift between third and forth gear. I do not blame the 10R’s transmission, shifting mechanism or anything else. It was solely “operator error”. I've done it while riding a ‘02 GSXR 1000 and a ‘03 R1. So to say it was any kind of indicator of a “transmission problem” would mean that Gixxer, the CBR and the R1 had the SAME problem. They don't have one and if the 10R did have such a problem, it did not become apparent to me at anytime during our 300+ mile ride.

On the other hand, I will say that the transmission is “typical Kawasaki”. Just like my ‘00 12R, my ‘97 7R and my ‘90 EX 500, changing gears has never been “feather lite”. My 7R was probably the worst when it came to requiring a firm foot when changing gears. For the first thousand miles or so, my 12R was similar to the 7R. Fans of Suzukis, Yamaha or Hondas might call it “clunky” or hard to shift, but I'd disagree. If anything, when I was riding the other brands, I found their shifting to a tad vague and loose feeling. On older models, it was almost to the point of being sloppy. Now, the faithful of the other brands might whine and say I don't know what I'm talking about, but they need to realize that they are used to their shifting feeling one way and I am used to something that might be slightly different. I don't believe one is better or worse than the other and I also do not go running around saying that they do not know what they are talking about either. Having said that, I'll get back to some of the other aspects of the 10R.

As we made our way toward the Lookout Roadhouse, we made a few stops. The first one was just after the waterfalls. Since that stretch of road was so good and DRY, we decided to turn around and run through part of it again. We did the same when we reached the candy store (I don't remember the name of the place). It was during these “reruns” that I got to check out the suspension even closer. Having watch the Traxxion DVD on the flight, I started looking for how the bike reacted to different kinds of input. Both from the road’s surfaces and from me, the rider.

The suspension was still at the “OEM delivered to the dealer” settings. In other words, for an “average” rider weighing 150 pounds in full gear. That might be “average” in Japan, but it’s hardly what I'd call “preferred settings” for someone who weighs almost 100 pounds more (in full riding gear). We didn't even have time to adjust the sag. It might have been great for a “soft” ride on the interstate, but I was wondering if it might make the ride in the twisties a bit mushy. There seems to be some validity in Kawasaki’s claim of the 10R’s suspension being “race oriented”. After the two “reruns” on the same stretches of Ortega, the bike felt very stable without sacrificing any of its nimbleness.

Transitions from leaning in one way and than immediately shifting my weight over to the other while going through the chicanes were almost effortless. No more hossing around the weight of my 12R, spending more effort in simply lifting the bike up from one corner. The way the 10R’s gas tank is so narrow and cut in for the knees made it easy for even me to start to slide over and hang my fat butt of the seat. In comparison, it felt like I had to force the 12R into a corner. For the 10R, it was almost like all I needed to do was “think it” and it would happen. Other liter bikes gave me a similar feeling, but this was more like R6 instead of an R1.

The only time I had ever experienced something like that was when I rode a MV Agusta F4. The MV’s power was nothing like the 10R’s, but up until now, the MV was the most fun I had ever had on a bike in the twisties. For me, it was more confidence inspiring than riding any of the other brands’ pre-‘04 liter bikes. Having not been on the other brands’ latest offerings in this class, I cannot say how they would compare. If they are even close to anything like this I'd say that the diehard faithful of any brand are in for a real treat.

When hard braking, there wasn't really any dive of the front end and I was able to scrub off more speed at a quicker rate than I would ever have dreamed of while riding my 12R. Not that my 12R was that bad. It had braided lines, Braking USA rotors and EBC pads. Even with all those improvements, it wasn't just the weight difference that made the 10R superior. After getting a little more comfortable to this, I started to carry more speed into the corners. I actually was braking far later than I had ever done before. I really got stoked when I was actually getting close enough to actually see the rest of the group ahead of me. Okay, it might have been during a straight stretch of road, but there really isn't a whole lot of those on this part of the Ortega Highway.

I don't know if it is the radial mounted calipers, wave rotors or the one pad per caliper piston, but there is a substantial difference between the two bikes. It was not only better than my 12R, but it was better than any other bike I had ever ridden before. Now that the other manufacturers have also mounted their front calipers in a similar fashion, I'm sure that they too will experience what I'm talking about. All I know is that the option makes the idea of putting braided lines on this bike needs to be moved way down on the list of possible modifications.

By the time we got to the Lookout Roadhouse, I started to feel that this bike could make a “hero” out of even the slowest of back highway riders. I was really looking forward to getting into some twisties and trying out some of the things I had learned about both the bike and what I could do with it. With the sun shining, I decided to take off my rubber rain “boot covers” (a.k.a. “galoshes”). Their toes were a good inch past the end of my boots and made it a hassle to move my foot around the shifter. Lacking room in the bike’s tail section, I just stuck them inside my rainsuit.

Heading down to Lake Elsinore, the number of wet spots on the road got a little more frequent. With the sun still peaking in and out of the clouds, I figured we were still in for some more rain-free riding. At Lake Elsinore, it was back onto the interstate. This time, it was I-15. This time, I had no fear of the rain grooves and the 10R continued to track smoothly and feel completely stable over them. After 20 miles of riding in HOV lanes, we got off the interstate and onto Highway 91. Highway 91 might as well been another interstate, since it was hardly anything worth getting excited about. Equally depressing was the cluster of dark clouds we were riding toward.

We then turned onto Highway 60 and went to Moreno Valley. This was our first gas stop. We had gone almost 100 miles. If I was to guess what kind of gas mileage I was getting, I'd have to say it was in the low 30's. I'm not sure what it was because I was in shock when I saw what a gallon of gas costs in California. DAMN! Over $2.20 a gallon. That’s about 50 cents more a gallon if I was to buy 93 octane at a “high dollar” interstate gas station back home. It’s a dollar more than what I’d pay for 87 octane at the average Little Rock “in-town” station. The best part was seeing the looks we'd get from the other guys getting gas, as they eyed over our four ZX-10Rs parked next to the pumps. Yeah, baby. That’s what I'm talking about. Try that with a gaggle of Gixxers. Ain't gonna happen. Of course, by the end of the year, they probably wouldn't rate anymore than a second glance. Just as if it were a pack of new CBRs or any other group of liter bikes. Still, knowing that this was basically the first time anyone had ever seen a 10R on the street, much less, four of them... this was our moment of “glory” and I was gonna enjoy every minute of it.

Going through the traffic lights in Moreno Valley, I still hadn't gotten the hang of riding through the lines of stopped cars, but I was no longer afraid of following right behind the rest of the group. The “almost geared too low” feeling gave me enough confidence that I'd be able to pull away from the cars behind (and beside) me. I got tested on this when the road went from four to two lanes and some guy in a Camaro thought it'd be “cool” to cut me off from the rest of the group. As he was looking in his mirror and started to pinch me off on the left, I just whipped the 10R around to his right and passed him on the shoulder of the road. I was already long gone before he even knew what had happened. Nice try buddy. Again, something I would have never done on my 12R. At least not on the narrow shoulder. All I could guess is that the 10R must come with an “extra set of balls” as a standard feature.

All the joy I got out of putting that yahoo in his place was quickly dampened as we turned onto Highway 79. The sun was nowhere to be found and very dark clouds were all around us. Though it wasn't raining, all of the roads were wet. As we went across one intersection, I saw something that made me realized that I should have just left my boot covers on. Just on the other side of the intersection was a “puddle” of water. About a 15 foot long “puddle” that was almost “foot peg high” deep. I could feel the lower fairing slightly drag as it made it’s way through this “lake” in the middle of the road. Still, the 10R forged onward like it was nothing. Still, at that moment, I think I would have rather been on my KDX than the 10R. One thing was for sure. My feet were “officially” ... wet.

After about 10 miles, we were back on Highway 74. This part is known by the locals as the Palms to Pines Highway. I guess it would be the Pines to Palms, considering which direction we were headed. It wasn't really raining that much, but there wasn't a dry spot on the road. Occasionally, I would come out of a corner and be greeted by a rock the size of a bowling ball in my lane. If it wasn't a large rock, it would be stretch of gravel and such spread a good 18" of either side of the center line. The Dunlop 218 tires on the 10R really surprised me on this part of the ride. It’s wet weather traction impressed me. It looked as if the other bikes in front of me were sucking the water off of the road and almost creating a dry line on the pavement. I could also see a little rooster tail going straight up from their rear tire. Weird.

Conditions got pretty ugly by the time we had made the Idyllwild split. The temperature had gone from the mid 50's to the mid 30's and we started seeing signs warning drivers (and riders) of ice on the road. “Isn't this where the support vehicle mysteriously shows up and we ride back to KMC in the warm comfort of a Suburban, or something like that?”, I thought to myself. After a brief stop at the split so KB could warm up a little and give Fish a chance to put on some gear, I got my answer. No, it is not when the support vehicle mysteriously shows up and we ride back to KMC in the warm comfort of a Suburban.

After Fish finished changing in to his warmer gear (KB never really warmed up), we continued riding toward Palm Desert. The rain was coming down harder and it seemed like the temperature was dropping. It was getting harder to see out on my visor. There seemed to be no position I could adjust it to, improving matters. If I closed it and opened the chin vent, it would still fog up. If I cracked it open enough to keep it from fogging, the rain would get the inside of the visor wet. Eventually, neither option worked.

At this point, I had no idea where we were and more importantly, I didn't have a clue on how far were we from KMC... and the rain kept coming. Though we were no longer traveling at our previous rate, we were still catching and passing cars. While I was basically three quarters blind. At least the rain suit was keeping me dry. Except for my wet feet and soaked gloves. My feet were still pretty warm, but my hands were starting to feel the bite of the cold wind that seem to find every seam in the stitching of my wet gloves’ fingers.

We might have gone 25 miles when it started to become unbearable. We pulled over at a place called Sugarloaf Café to get a something to eat and warm up. I didn't realize that extremelean was also hoping that the rain would at least slow down before we headed down the mountain to Palm Desert. We would all later discover that wasn't going to happen. The rain was just going to come down that much harder and it was going to get even colder on the mountain.

The café was a pretty nice place to eat and even had a couple of fireplaces going. We laid our soaked gloves next to on of them. Occasionally, one of us would go and “turn” the gloves to keep them from getting too hot and in hopes of the drying out. The later was a lost cause. Even after most of us tried wringing the water out of them before we went in. Since California is basically a “smoke-free” state, I had to regularly excuse myself so I could go outside and smoke a cigarette. Though their entrance area might have been stylish with it open wooden beams and no cover (yeah, right), the only place I could try to stay dry was under their A/C wall unit. There was some kind of tarp over it and there was just enough room for me to stand under it and watch my shoulders get wet from the tarp’s runoff.

It was during these numerous smoke breaks that I had time to stand there and just look at our very wet and dirty bikes. I found it amazing that for the whole ride from the Idyllwild split, my only concern was trying to keep my visor and eye glasses from fogging up. Not once was I worried about losing control of the bike. Not during braking and not even when we would pass a car. Sure, it wasn't like I was still trying to slide off the seat or drag a knee, but even after all the rain and the cold, I wasn't the least bit tense, sore or even tired. If I had been on my 12R, my arms would have been so sore from my getting tense at ever wet curve. On this stretch of highway, that’s all there was. I wouldn't have cared if I was ten miles or a hundred from home, if I was on my 12R, I would have been calling home and telling them to come get me. Screw this. Little did I know. We were closer to 120 miles from KMC.

After eating, we put our gear back on, including a warm, but still wet gloves and started out toward Palm Desert. On our way down the mountain, we would hit patches of fog. When it finally cleared a bit, we stopped at this overlook. Looking down, it felt like I was at a strip club. For as far as I could see were nothing but the most beautiful, perfectly paved, twisty roads as the snaked the rest of the way down. It was as if E Box was their highway engineer. Ah... Ah! You can look, but you can't TOUCH! Okay, it might not have been that bad, but for me... it was WORSE. Yes, I WAS going to ride these beautiful twisties. The only problem was they might have been beautiful, but they were also soaking wet and it was still raining. That sight had to be the cruelest part of the whole trip.

I've always been kind of a wuss when it came to downhill, sometimes blind, curves. Even when it was dry. It’s so easy to scrub off speed when I’m going uphill, but when I would be going down, I often felt that I was going into the curves too hot. Too hot for me, that is. Now that it was wet, I feared that every downshift would result in my rear tire breaking loose. If it wasn't that, it would happen because I was applying the rear brake and downshifting at the same time. It was an unfounded fear with the 10R. I would anticipate it on almost every curve and it would never happen. It was as if every time I rolled on the throttle, the 10R would be saying, “Wwwwuuuuussss, (gear change) wwwwuuuuusss”. How insulting. Made me glad to be in the back so no one else could here the 10R mock me and my riding style. Or lack of one.

Palm Desert was our next and last gas stop. The rain had let up a little, but not by much. At least it was warmer, now that we were off the mountain. By this time, we all agreed that we just wanted to get back to KMC the quickest way possible. Even if it meant riding on interstates (GAG!). When we got to I-10, it seemed like the rain was letting up a little more. The guys were getting a little bolder and started lane splitting again. Actually, it was more, KB just wanted to get back. Being the only one of us without any rain gear on, he was completely soaked.

Even with the new found confidence I had in the bike on wet pavement, I wasn't quite as bold. As the sun was going down (somewhere... we never saw it again), the skies were getting a darker grey. It almost looked as if everything was in black, white and shades of grey. Even the colors of the cars in traffic seemed somewhat muted. It was during this stretch of I-10, just past Palm Springs, when the group almost left me behind. It wasn't because of their lane splitting, but because of what we were riding up to. At a distance, it looked like a small array of cellular antennas. As we got closer, I could tell that this was no cluster of antennas. I had heard about this place and even remember seeing it in a couple of movies. The first one that came to mind was the movie, Less Than Zero with Robert Downey Jr.

I’m sure I looked like some tourist from... well, from Arkansas, as my helmet would turn from side to side. I just stared in awe of what I was seeing. They seemed to just go on forever. We I road over the next hill and I figured that it would be the end. There were just more of them. All over the place and on both sides of the interstate. I couldn't believe how close they were actually were to the interstate. It was if the were line up right to the edge of the road’s shoulder. I was shock on how big they really were. “So this is it.”, I thought to myself. “So, this is the infamous Windmill Farm.” The blades looked as if they were over 70' in length. After a while, I would start looking for ones that were broken down or turning real slow. I wouldn't even want to know how much a set of bearings were for one of those bad boys.

The only reason I mention this is that if I had been on my 12R, I would have felt the current road and traffic conditions were so bad that I wouldn't have dared take my focus off of the road. Odds are, I would have been so paranoid, I would not have even noticed these rows and rows of behemoths on either side of me. To me, it speaks volumes when someone like me can be comfortable and confident enough on a bike and still be gawking at damn windmills, even when it’s raining and traffic is a bitch.

The whirlwind is in the thorn trees.
swft is offline  
post #9 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Feb 2004
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PART 2

By the time we had reached Highway 60 at Beaumont, the traffic was getting heavier and the rain was getting lighter. In several spots, it wasn't even raining. It was here I made my “boldest” lane splitting move of the whole ride. The rest of the group had picked up the pace and were starting to pull away. I'd increase my speed by five, than ten MPH or so and they were still pulling away. Having no idea where I was and watch the rest of the guys fade away, I realized that I was going to have to seriously wick it up if I was going to catch back up.

I'd watch them lane split through the traffic, but by the time I got where they had split the traffic, the cars were not in the same positions or they were changing lanes themselves and cutting me off. Frustrated, I dropped a gear and whacked and dived right into the center of two lanes. I had to continue down the center stripe, passing car after car, since there were no openings in either lane for me to switch over to. By now, I was doing about 80 (“wuss speed” for the locals, I'd guess) on a wet highway posted at 65.

Finally seeing an opening in one of the lane, I knew I was going to have to pour it on if I was going to get there in time. By now, the feel of being between two cars doing 80, when I could adjust both of their mirrors with my elbows, was making me claustrophobic. A smaller opening was starting in the left lane, just ahead of me. I figured that I could dive in that opening and then, if I timed it just right, I could cut across two lanes and almost catch up with the rest of the group.

Rolling it on a little more, I came along side of the car behind that small opening. I looked to my right to see if it was still clear for the diagonal move, than I quickly looked to my left to shoot into the opening that was growing smaller. “DAMN!”, I cursed in my helmet. “WTF does the cager on my left think he’s doing?”. Glancing back to the driver of the car on left, I thought I'd give him some kind of “mean biker look” and he'll back off. That’s when I first realized that I was still doing 15 to 20 over the posted... while cruising next to a CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL CAR! OMG! If I did such a “stunt” next to a Arkansas State Trooper, I wouldn't get a ticket. I'd get a ass beating.

Now in full panic mode, I shoot in front of the CHP and than immediately shoot back over two lanes. I thought I might have actually cut the cop off. Since I had yet to figure out how to get the mirrors of the 10R adjusted to where I could see behind me without swinging my elbows out, I’ll never know. Odds are, there was more than enough room to make the move and the CHP was laughing at my “I'm not from here” hesitation. Little did I know, that very same feeling of hesitation was to cost two of us dearly before we got back to KMC. I was so proud of myself over the fact that I had caught up with the rest of the group, only to find out that they were slowing down to exit the highway. Just great. I make my first banzai move, get all pumped up and these guys want to get of the highway. Go figure.

We stopped at a Carl’s Jr. in Moreno Valley so KB and extremelean could warm up with some coffee. After almost breaking out in a sweat as I was riding between all those cars, I didn't need anything to warm me up. I just stood outside and tried to call the race team back home and see how they had done in their very first CMRA road race. After talking to them for a short while, the guys were coming out of Carl’s Jr. and were ready for the last part of the ride back to KMC. When I got to my bike, I panicked. I thought I had put the key in the ignition, but it wasn't there.

I told swft that I must have left it inside or I just locked my key in the tail section of the bike. As I was starting to run back inside, he casually ask me if I had left it in the tail lock. I looked at the back of the bike and then it hit me. The 10R’s lock is not located in a hole on the side of the tail section like the 12R. It’s not even in the same place as on the 636 or 6RR. The 10R’s tail lock is located underneath the tail section... and so was the key to my bike. DOH! That will take me some time before I get used to that. At least I didn't lock the key in the tail of the bike.

We got back onto Highway 60 and after just a short hop, turned onto Highway 91. I didn't know it, but we were still over 50 miles from KMC. Nightfall had arrived and with it came the rain. Only it was different this time. Instead of a constant drizzle with an occasional shower, it was pouring down in buckets. Lucky 12 from Tennessee would call this rain storm a “frog strangler”. It was almost monsoon like conditions with wind gusts that felt like it was going to blow me into the next lane. I couldn't make up my mind where to put my visor so I could see better. It didn't matter. By this time, water was on both sides of my visor. Even my eyeglasses had water running down both sides.

By the time we got to Corona, it was like KB could smell the warm garage of KMC. He wicked it up like a man on a mission from God and Fish was following with his eyes glued to his tail light. KB was weaving through traffic like a Singer sewing machine. One minute he'd be in one of the middle lanes and then the far left. Look up again and he'd be in the far right. I tried to keep up and swft had the great misfortune of getting stuck behind me while KB and the other were gradually pulling away in to the sea of blurry tail lights.

I couldn't figure out why in the hell all these people were out on the highways on a Sunday night. Cars were switching lanes everywhere. Some would be doing 80 while others were crawling along at 40. IN THE SAME LANE! I was freaking out as I was trying to just find some sort of opening that would let me catch of to the rest of the group. It was like a bad version of Top Gun with swft behind me yelling, “TAKE THE SHOT! TAKE THE SHOT!”. All the while, I’d just be sitting there, watching to gap between the cars close and saying, “No. No good. Can't take the shot.”.

When I finally felt like I could “take the shot” and lane split, the car in front of me shoots into another lane. I glance over at the car, wondering why he jerked over so quick. When I looked back into my lane, I realized why. The car that was in front of him was doing about 40 MPH! ACK! I panicked and stabbed my rear brake. Immediately, the back end of the bike starts to fishtail. Not radically, but probably a couple of feet to each side. I look to the lane on either side of me so I could keep from hitting the back of this car that might as well have been parked. Like an idiot, I'm still on the rear brake and still sliding.

I couldn't see an opening on either side, but it didn't matter. Even though I had the back end locked up, I'd scrubbed off more than enough speed to keep from getting anywhere close to hitting the car. The weird part was that all the time the bike was fish tailing, I never once felt that I was losing control of the bike. I knew that I could ride it out. It was that hesitation to “take the shot” and doing the little “stunt” that followed was the moment sealing swft and my fate.

They were gone.

I couldn't see any of the other riders. All I could see was the glowing red tail lights of what seemed to be thousands of cars and not a single motorcycle tail light among them. The traffic and the rain was getting heavier. The traffic in some lanes were completely stopped while others had cars and trucks whizzing by us. After a few miles, I gave up. I'm sure the bike was more than willing and capable to wick it up and forge onward, but I was not. It was as if I had just gone limp.

Seeing an exit, I pulled off and swft followed in behind me. I apologized, but I had no idea where they were and I sure a hell had no idea where we were. After a few cars had come zinging down the exit ramp and nearly hit us parked on the side of the road, swft suggested that we get to a gas station an try to call them. While riding down toward the end of the ramp, I saw a gas station nearby. I turn onto a divided four lane and after going a couple of blocks, I realized that I couldn't get to it because there was no break in the median. I then went down to the next traffic light and turned around so I could be on the same side of the road as the gas station. That didn't work either. The station didn't have an entrance connecting to the road I was on. I pulled over to the shoulder and looked around for swft. Oh, this is just friggin’ great. Now I lost swft, too.

Thanks to KHI for the growl the 10R has when you get on it, because that’s how I found him. He had gone around and was looking for a side street that would get to the station. A little further down the road, I thought I saw a side road that might take me to where swft was. When I got to it, it wasn't a side road after all. It was the entrance ramp to get back onto the highway we just got off of. Oops! Nothing more fun than riding down the wrong way on a entrance ramp in the pouring rain. Even for 50' or so.

When he got back to where I was, we figured that we go on the under the highway bridge and see if there was anything over there. Sure enough, there was a Shell station there and we pulled in to get out of the rain. Thinking that he had his cell phone, I figured that he'd just whip it out, make the call and we'd be on our way. The only problem with that grand idea of mine was that he left his phone back at KMC. That’s okay. I had mine. There was one other slight little problem. Neither one of us remembered extremelean’s telephone extension at KMC. Being a Sunday night, it wasn't like anyone would be answer the main line anyway.

Then swft said we just need to figure out where we were, look at a map and be on our way. He told me to go and ask the clerk where we were and he'd look it up on the map. Fine. Just as soon as I finish this cigarette. Oh , the frustrations we smokers force upon non-smokers. Needless to say, he was more than ready to get back to KMC. Just as I was more than ready to enjoy a cigarette. He might not have been able to appreciate my determination to waste precious time smoking a cigarette at this critical junction, but he was understanding enough to not just kill me. Instead, he offered to buy me a soft drink and he would ask the clerk where we were.

Simple enough. At least it would have been if the clerk spoke English. Or swft spoke Arabic. While buying the drinks, he repeatedly asked the clerk what the name of the city we were in and he repeatedly couldn't understand what he was saying. Getting even more frustrated, he paid for the drinks and came out to tell me what was going on. I thought he was kidding. Even if the guy didn't speak a word of English, surely he could at least say the name of the town we were in. Chuckling to myself in disbelief, I said that I would go in and find out where we were at.

He was right. After asking him to repeat it five time, I still could not understand what he was saying. It wasn't until the clerk pointed at the station’s state permit that I finally understood what he was saying. We were in Anaheim Hill. Having made this great accomplishment, I went back out to tell swft... and smoke another cigarette. He goes back to look at a map, but can't find the street KMC is on in Irvine. He comes back out and says that I might try calling the hotel to see if they are there. I called information, got the hotel front desk and asked if any guys had been their on bikes or were looking for anyone that might have rode in on bikes.

Nope. Wasn't happening. I hung up. We stood there for a moment, then swft suggested I try to call back and see if Fish was in his room. I called back only to find out that the hotel said he had checked out. Oh no. Not so fast, bucko. I remember extremelean making the arrangements at the front desk for swft and Fish to stay another night after we ate breakfast that morning. The hotel clerk was insistent. Fine. I asked if there were any messages that had been left for me and he said that there wasn't. Not believing that they had booted Fish out of his room, I asked them to connect me to his room number. Someone answered, but it wasn't Fish. Someone else had his room.

Even after a couple of cigarettes, I was starting to get frustrated. Here we were on a couple of bikes that weren't even in showrooms yet and we were lost in Anaheim Hill with no way to get in touch with the rest of our group. What do we now? After a minute or two thinking about it, I did the only thing I thought might get us back to KMC. I called my daughter and son-in-law back in Little Rock, Arkansas. When my daughter answered the phone, I told her to get on the internet and go to MapQuest. Since her husband, Lance was already on their computer, she just handed the phone to him.

After I made a few angry sounding comments, he told me to calm down a little. Wrong move. I told him that it was pouring down rain and we were lost. He suggested that it wasn't any reason to get all pissy and I just shouted back, “Look! It’s not like we got windshield wipers here!”. “You mean ya’ll are on bikes?” he replied. “YES! WE ARE ON BIKES AND WE HAVE GOTTEN SEPARATED FROM THE REST OF THE GROUP!”, I yelled back. Though he now understood, I apologized and told him that we were frustrated, wet, tired and just wanted to get back to KMC.

It turned out that we were less than 20 miles away. After getting directions and going over them with swft, we headed back out to the highway. I later learned that the KB and the rest of them had turned off on Highway 55, while swft and I went a few miles further and turned off on Highway 57. While Fish and KB were flying down the highway, extremelean had pulled over to wait for me and swft. He waited for almost 20 minutes, but never saw us go by.

When swft and I got to Irvine, I went around him and thinking I knew exactly where we needed to go. Then the doubt started to kick in. I remember the street names we were passing, but the mileage Lance had given me for this last leg wasn't adding up. I thought we'd gone too far, so I pulled over again. When swft stopped and I told him I thought we’d gone too far, he suggest we go over this next little hill and see what’s on the other side. Less than a quarter mile down the road... THERE IT WAS! KMC! WE MADE IT!

Like Vikings coming home from their conquests, we pulled up to the gate leading to the nice, dry and warm shop areas of KMC. Only one problem. The only people there to welcome us were a row of semis driven by independent truckers returning from some trade show. They had got in early and were waiting for KMC to open the gate the next morning. Just great. Now what do we do? There was a speaker box by the gate and swft walked over to it and started pressing the buttons that would “buzz” various offices like Receiving and such.

Nothing. No one answered and no one came out. Just happy to be back, I just stood by the gate, watching the rain fall past the orange glow of the parking lot’s lights. Thinking there might be some kind of entrance or door on the other side, swft rode around the front building. There wasn’t any so he rode back to where I was. Still standing there... looking at the rain come down. Just as he was pulling up, extremelean stuck his head out a side door. We probably looked like a pair of wet rats, but I knew he was happy to see us (and KMC’s bikes) back in one piece.

Since the rest of the trip didn't have anything to do with my riding impression of the 10R, I'm sure the rest of the trip would be of little interest to you. So I won't go into it.

Now some of you might wonder why I had to write all the other BS about the trip and not just say what I thought about the bike. You'd think I could have just done that and not spend all the time it took to write this and you wouldn't have to spend all the time reading it. If that is what you really think, than you've really missed the whole point of all of this. For me, riding a motorcycle, no matter if it’s a 300 mile trip or just a run down the street, is always... an experience. It’s not just a “physical” trip from point A to point B. It a trip of the mind. No. It’s a trip of one’s soul.

The interaction between a motorcyclist and a motorcycle is unlike that of any else known to mankind. It doesn't matter if it’s another machine, a hobby, sports or even another human being. It’s something I neither understand or could explain. If you read closely, everything you'd want to know about this bike is in this story. Not just simple facts or numbers, but what really matters. How it affects one’s soul. If you want just the facts, you'll never get that from me. If you wish to know how fast will it go at the 1000 foot mark or turn three on the Streets of Willow, you'd wasting your time asking me. I've never piloted a bike down the quarter mile of Gainesville nor have I flew through the corners of Laguna Seca.

What I have done is covered over 130,000 miles of back highways in just a mere handful of states. What I have learned from that is that numbers and facts mean nothing. The hold very little, when compared to the experiences of a good bike and being with even better friends, will have on one’s soul. Numbers will be forgotten. Even a new bike will lose its luster over time. Only the memories of the rides and those friendships that come from them... will last forever.

I would like to humbly thank the folks at Kawasaki Motor Corporation for the giving me what will surely be one of the greatest memories I will ever experience as a motorcyclist. The experiences and friendships made there will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Oh yeah. Your new bike wasn't too bad either.

An interesting footnote. Since I have stayed up so late trying to finish this, I was late coming in to work this morning. Already, I had several messages from my dealer. It’s strange how these things work out. After talking to me salesman, I then had to call my insurance company and give them the VIN of my new 2004 ZX-10R that came in today.

Life is kinda funny about things like that.

The whirlwind is in the thorn trees.
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post #10 of 12 Old 03-10-2004, 09:10 PM
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Sounds like everyone had a good time, but what's the 10R like?
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