08 December 2011

Ride Report: Suspension Setup Ride

4 Dec 2011
I was so ready for this ride I had my things laid out on Wednesday!  I still wasn't sure where we were going.  Cruzman mentioned Blood Mountain as a good place to start the ride but what would we do after that?  The night before, I didn't know what time we were going to meet.  I got a late email letting me know the usual spot at the usual time.

The weather lady said there were storms coming but not until late Monday or Tuesday so I wasn't all that worried about the weather.  I made sure all my cams were charged and the mounts in the tail case and I was ready to go.  I let the dawgs out while I got the last of my gear on and started to get hot about the time they took off chasing something.  If it wasn't for the blonde on the top of Prince's head, I might not have noticed them leaving!

Fortunately they weren't gone long and returned empty pawed so I was able to get them back in the house and me on the bike with no more delays.  When I left, the sky was the inky blue of predawn but filled with clouds.  As I got closer to our meeting spot in Cumming, the sky was a lot lighter but there seemed to be more clouds.

For once, I beat Cruzman!  I gassed up and took advantage of my free coffee coupon.  Cruzman pulled up to the pump as I was walking out of the store and said something about breakfast.  I actually didn't think we were eating breakfast because he said the KSU time was 30 minutes after the meeting time.  But with the wind blowing it seemed a lot colder so we walked over to Waffle House for a quick bite to eat.

Since I had the ideas for where we'd go after Blood Mountain, I was leading today.  It was the first time in a while so I had to get back in the habit of checking behind me and being mindful of my lane position.  We had a short blast up 400 for me to get back in the groove of leading and not following before turning onto GA 306 then GA 9.

That part of HWY 9 is a mix of decent sweepers and straights allowing me to get a better feel for the R1 front end.  It was still a little too firm for my liking because the bumps felt harsh and a little unsettling.  The bike tracked a lot better with the upgraded suspension; the R1 forks work a lot better with the R6 shock than my old ones did.

As we reached Turners Corner, I decided I'd pull over so we could make adjustments before continuing on Blood Mountain.  There was a car at the stop sign and rather than stopping, I turned left directly into the roadside parking area and parked.  I guess Cruzman had to wait to figure out what the heck I was doing because it took him a moment to follow.

Cruzman adjusted his rear shock hoping to get rid of the squatting feeling it had then adjusted both my rear and front to soften them up.  He didn't want to adjust both of mine at the same time but since I had a wrench in hand getting ready to do it, I guess he figured I'd do what I wanted anyway.
Yes it was cold but the temps were rising.  This was the only sunshine we'd see for the rest of the day.

We left with the comms open so that we could exchange observations as we rode up.  At least, that was the plan, but I was busy observing and not talking much so Cruzman started asked questions.  When the road surface changed, he asked "did that change your line?"  When it got a little rough in one spot he asked, "Did you feel those bumps?"

My answer, "What bumps?"  I hadn't felt any bumps, just the smooth road.  The only thing I felt was a slight slip in one corner.  That was a slow speed corner that was fairly sharp.  I felt the slip near the middle but before I accelerated out of it.

I did notice the absence of trees along the way.  Storms were in the area earlier in the week but I didn't realize it'd knocked down trees or anything like that.  In winter, with the greenery gone, Blood Mountain looked bare.  I guess all those little trees'll have a chance to grow now and things'll look a little different come spring.

As we progressed up the mountain, I started talking more about the feel of the bike and the changes of the road.  I didn't notice the bumps nearly as bad as I had been and I still was able to maintain whatever line I chose with very little effort.  There's a section that's kind of like the Chicane section on the dragon with a right left right combination.  Going through there was the smoothest I can ever remember!

Before I knew it, we were at Neels Gap and the Mountain Crossings store.  I was very happy with my setup and didn't want to make any more changes.  It's now something I can live with until I put the final touches on my front fork swap:  Fork Extensions, mount the aux lights, and paint the front fender.  Ideally, I'd like for the upper triple to look more factory than modded, but I got what I got for now.

Cruzman was pleased with the change to his rear shock.  He said he didn't have any more squatting; it was time to move on to the front.  I can't remember exactly what his complaint was, I think it was still too stiff and had been since he serviced them sometime earlier this year.  He did what he did and then talked to a guy in a Nissan 350z.

I don't remember seeing this sign before.
I'm not sure what they were talking about, but at one point he opened the hood and we ogled the engine as he showed us where his cold air intake was.  I'd forgotten to put my jacket on and got cold so I missed a lot of what was said.  The wind was picking up as we left to go back towards Turners Corner to see if we were truly pleased with the suspension.

Mine felt even better but I think it was more a function of me adjusting to it more.  Cruzman said he was happy with his to so when we got to Turners Corner we just turned around and went back up Blood Mountain, pass the Mountain Crossings store and over to 180.  I wanted to take 197 then have lunch in Clayton.

It got pretty windy in the valley on 180 and was the only time during the day that the bike wasn't going exactly where I wanted it to.  There were gusts that blew both of us out of our lane!  (Not across the double yellow, but the lane with in the lane we were riding in.)  That was the windiest it'd been all day and the last time we saw the sun.

I'd forgotten that 180 ends (or begins) at Hwy 17.  We had the pleasure of taking 17 towards Helen before getting on 356 and taking it to 197.  Hwy 17 north (?) of Helen is a blast!  I'd forgotten how much fun that road is.  We could have used it to test our suspension had we wanted to.  I was overcome with the feeling of gratitude on the way down for being able to ride a motorcycle on that kind of road without being afraid and exercising some amount of skill.

Maybe not much skill but I didn't feel overwhelmed by the road.  I think there was a ghost of a memory from years passed when I was up here on my VX800 and really being slow on this road.  I couldn't handle the curves and didn't look much farther than the white or yellow lines.  In fact, I think I followed a car down the road and couldn't pass it.  I'd been riding maybe 6 months at the time and riding the motorcycle was more effort than habit.

It was such a different feeling than the one I had going down 17 now.  It's a different feeling when I get on a bike now than then anyway.  It's probably more dangerous too because I have to be mindful not to get too cocky.  I don't think I will because I still have a healthy respect for what motorcycling is.  I also know I still have so much to learn.

I was feeling the mood of riding when Cruzman broke in and said something about needing a break.  Up until then, it was just music, the road, and the scenery flying by.  There was no gps to consult because I knew where we were going, when I wanted to turn, etc.  It's a completely different feeling than when you're consulting the map on the tank bag or following gps commands.  By then we were already on 197 and I knew that the fish hatchery was coming up and a good place to take a break so we could stretch.

The bare scenery was quite a contrast to earlier in the year.  It looked like this pretty much every where we went that morning.
Baby is more upright on the side stand than Stella.
It was getting close to lunch time so we continued on 197 heading for Clayton.  I remember noticing how different 197 felt on a bike that had decent suspension.  Some of the curves I've had trouble with before seemed to be less troublesome.  Have I learned the road better?  Is it the suspensions?  I can't decide but before I could ponder it, we were at US 76 then in Clayton turning into the BP to get gas.

I had no idea what I wanted to eat and I know Cruzman likes to ride around to see what strikes him as a good spot so he took the lead on our search for food.  We ended up at a Chinese buffet place that also had Mongolian BBQ.  Seems to be a good choice as the parking lot was full of cars.  It was a lot better looking than the Chinese Buffet place we stopped at in October.

The food was better too!  I was so full from sampling stuff on the buffet that I didn't get a chance to try the Mongolian BBQ.  Next time we're eating lunch in Clayton, I think we need to go back so I can try that.  While we were eating lunch, we discussed where we wanted to ride afterwards.  It was after 1 by the time we sat down to eat so I knew that riding into Highlands wouldn't be a good idea.

I didn't want to ride home in the dark and Cruzman wanted to be home at a "decent" time.  It's a theme for winter riding but in the summer, I'll ride in the dark and don't care if I get home at 11!  With that in mind, I thought about the roads around the lake.  I knew there was a way to get back to Helen without taking 76 to 197.  There were other roads and now seemed a good time to explore them.

On the map, it looks like one road so I programmed that road into the gps.
Cruzman wanted to check my digital tire gauge against is standard one.
Matching car and trailer.
We were on 441 longer than I anticipated before the turn.  But once we turned we discovered an amazing road.  It was narrow and wound though a lakeside village around Lake Raburn then took us pass a USGS campground before meeting with Seed Lake RD.  Seed Lake RD follows Seed Lake, naturally, and is much wider and a slightly less winding.  Seed Lake looks more like a big stream or river than a lake.  I had no idea there were three lakes in that area! We rode past the dam and I thought about turning around but decided that I'd stop at the next scenic looking spot.
a Reflection on Seed Lake

Cruzman and Stella in "The Money Shot" 

We took pictures for a while before continuing on.  By this time, I was regretting not using the restroom at the restaurant.  Cruzman has been working with me so that I go when we're stopped not because I have to go so we don't have to stop so much.  I'd forgotten because I didn't really have to go.  I guess standing next to all that water made me remember.

Seed Lake meets up with Burton Dam RD and Bridge Creek Rd.  We continued on Burton Dam RD because I thought it'd get us closer to 356.  Looking at the map, there are some other roads up there we should explore before people start heading back to the lakes.

Those roads were amazing because not only were they winding but there was no traffic on them.  In fact, there wasn't much traffic all day long making it easier to concentrate on the road and how the bike felt.  It was the perfect day for a Suspension Ride even though the sun wasn't shining.  I think it was a beautifully cloudy day.  Perfect.

Before long, we were where I thought we would be and back on Hwy 197 then Hwy 356 heading towards Helen.  I think I picked up the speed a little because my bladder was hoping we'd reach the end and the gas station that's at that intersection.

Fortunately, I didn't have to make it to the end.  There were bathrooms at the picnic area just inside Unicoi State Park.  I pulled in and as I was taking off my helmet remembered our first ride together and all the locked bathrooms.  I was praying this wasn't going to be like that!  It wasn't and I found a little relief.  Except that my stomach was rolling because the Chinese and the Waffle House food was battling.  I guess I'd stopped too soon.
Thank God it was open!
For me, but not Cruzman.  He was in the facility a little longer than me.  We chatted a bit as I stalled our departure because I knew at some point the winner of the fight in my stomach would want out and felt that it might be sometime soon.  For those of you not on prescription meds, you probably won't understand.  My meds make things happen quickly and I didn't want to be on the bike in the middle of nowhere when it did!  I had just lifted my helmet above my head when things changed.  I told Cruzman to stop getting ready to go, I'd need a few more minutes.

The Ty-D-Bol Man was in trouble.
As we were leaving, there was a car pulling into the parking lot and I could only hope that they weren't there for the same reason, I told Cruzman "Hurry up before the get my tag number!"  I didn't want to go to jail for killing the Ty-D-Bol Man.

I told Cruzman to take the lead from there because I wasn't sure how to get to 400 from where we were.  I know how to get to 129 then 985 but that's not the way we were going home.

Riding 400 was a little anti-climatic but it did give me time to reflect on the day.  Up until this summer I'd resisted the idea that one needed to upgrade the suspension on their motorcycle.  I thought that the stock suspension would be fine if you took the time to set it up and adjust it to your liking.  I'd done that with the OEM stuff and thought I was pleased.

But an R6 shock and R1 front end later, I realize I didn't know what pleased was.  The thing is you don't know until you know.  What I didn't know was how much better it could be.  I wondered if I'd made the changes any sooner would I know the difference?  I'm not sure but at least now I know the difference between bad and good.

To me, the OEM suspension felt good.  Maybe because the suspension on my old bike, the Suzuki VX800, was so bad.  When I first got Baby, I marveled at how easy it was to turn.  It's think left your already going left.  It still is but now it's even smoother.

I learned to tell the difference between tires and now I know the difference between RSU and USD forks.  It's night and day.  What I find to be mindblowing is I can still upgrade the R1 forks!  It can get even better.

We ended our ride where we began it, at the BP in Cumming, some 11 hours after it began.  My day on the bike ended an hour later after I rode through some mall traffic with 281.3 miles on the day.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

The ride:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog