A former coworker (and personal friend), just traded his Kawasaki KLR650 for a much more manageable Suzuki DRZ400S.
When Jeff was originally looking for a bike, he told me he wanted something that would be suitable for riding gravel roads, yet comfortable enough for highway speeds and asked me for advice. I told him, if I were to own just one bike, it would be the Kawasaki KLR650. The Swiss Army Knife, or the Leatherman of motorcycles, a well rounded, do nothing well, but everything bike. That, and Jeff stands 6 foot something tall, so he could straddle it well enough. And so it was...
Jeff and his daughter on his then new KLR650
I rode with Jeff, and a couple other coworkers on the OBDR6 (Oregon Backcountry Discovery Route 6) back in July of 2016. Jeff has mentioned more than once how whooped he was riding that weekend, and how much that heavy KLR pig of a bike took out of him.
Me and my XT250 leading 3 KLRs on the OBDR6 (July 2016)
Jeff in hi-vis helmet playing sweep (July 2016)
While working with Jeff, he would mention his previous bikes in conversation, street bikes and cruisers. I suspected that he did not have a lot of off-road or gravel road riding experience, so I concluded that one reason he was so exhausted after that weekend ride was that he was fighting the bike. That, and he was suffering a hernia at the time, oh how familiar that sounds.
Turning the pigs around (July 2016)
During that ride I had my little Yamaha XT250; I bought the smaller bike on purpose, it had been several years since I rode bikes as a kid so I wanted to get used to a smaller bike moving underneath me. I also don't suffer from that little man, neanderthal mentality that bigger is better, or that I have to prove myself by riding the latest, greatest, biggest, baddest machine to come off the showroom floor. I have way more fun flogging smaller bikes than dragging big bikes out of precarious situations.
Since then, I've gained a little more experience and a lot more confidence riding that little XT250. I flogged that little bike to where I felt I could step up to something a little more road worthy, yet still single track dirt capable. Again, I don't possess the "go big, or go home" attitude and immediately dismissed the KTM 690 Enduro, or any KTM for that matter, the Honda XL650, and Suzuki's DR650. I test rode the Suzuki DRZ400S during a Suzuki Demo day and fell in love. The DRZ400S was nearly as light as the XT250, slightly taller, and would be much more capable on the highway loaded down with camping gear. Perfect!
My first day on the DRZ400S, Black Dog Rally 2017
I still love the XT250 and highly recommend for learning to ride gravel roads, exploring trails or plodding around the woods. I would still have it if Trobairitz didn't have the TW200 in the fleet for me to flog at will. So I bought a DRZ400S and sold the XT.
Jeff quit his job, semi retired, and found part time work much closer to home. He'd ride his bicycle to work in the morning, ride home for lunch, then drag out his KLR to ride back to work for his afternoon shift. It wasn't long before he realized the KLR was just too big and heavy for quick jaunts to work, and for running errands after. Again he asked me for advice, finally someone who values my opinion and actually listens! He asked me about the DRZ, so I told him how light and nimble it was, how it had plenty of power, and made for a fantastic dual sport, but this time I added "not as an only bike". I explained that my intention was to put street tires on the Tiger, use that as a commuter, tourer, and for known gravel road jaunts. The DRZ is my explorer of unknown trails, single track OHV riding, bike camping, and Black Dog Rally bike. Exactly the same type of riding that he wanted to do too, and so it was...
Happy boy on his new DRZ400S
Now to get it dirty, which is quite difficult with Jeff, as he likes to keep his things tidy. We named his KLR "Dusty" in jest; we were out on a ride one day and he complained that his bike was dusty, I replied "that's a pretty name" and it stuck.
We set up a play date and I took him out on familiar logging roads around here to get him used to his new DRZ.
Wet and rainy ride, fogged up my camera phone
Jeff's bike on the left
He couldn't believe how much lighter, and more manageable it was over the KLR, not to mention how torquey the 400 was. We had much better weather the following week and set up another play date. I planned another gravel road ride of about a hundred miles to accommodate his schedule and his fuel tank. One short coming of the DRZ is its tiny 2 gallon stock fuel tank which is only good for just over a hundred miles. He bought a rear rack and a Rotopax gas can to overcome this problem, I have a 4 gallon Clarke Tank, but as I mentioned he likes to keep his shit tidy and isn't big into bike mods. Accessory or farkles are fine, modifications take much more convincing than I'm willing to invest.
So happy not to be hefting the KLR around
The rain has returned, which means we spend more time on the computer than our bikes, which can be dangerous. Not physically, but financially; I did say he like his farkles. Our next play date is a garage day to install his Rox Risers, Oxford heated grips, and Cycra Handguards.
I'm glad he's having fun, and I have a Friday riding partner.
Now to find a rabbit hole to lead him down... ooooohhhhh Andy, wanna come out and play?
~ “Good Friends Don't Let You Do Stupid Things.. Alone”
With any job there's the right tool, and many, many wrong tools. Using the wrong tool to accomplish a task can be dangerous, and if you're unlucky, can cause injury.
I recently used the wrong tool for a job, and fell off a ladder. I was using a ratchet and socket to tighten a lag bolt into a post; I have an impact driver which would have worked much better, and it did the second time, after learning my lesson. But more importantly, the other tool I was using which was the ladder was too small. Unfortunately, I was a little slower learning this lesson as I had gone out and purchased the same sized step ladder to replace the one I broke when I fell.
Guess what? Yep, a mere two weeks later I fell off this ladder too.
Ladder = 2
Bradley = 0
I'm okay for the most part. I may or may not have sprained, or fractured my right hand/throttle wrist. It is still sore nearly 4 weeks later. I also bruised my pride.
The right tool for the job was my Gorilla Ladder, which was leaning up against the wall in the garage. It is heavy, cumbersome, and noisy to use, but it is the right tool for the job. I was just too lazy to fetch it.
So speaking of heavy, cumbersome and noisy. My Tiger is designed specifically to do a job, and I have been known to use it beyond that specific job. I've taken it down the primrose path a time or two too many, and dropped at least as many times doing so. Not the job for what it was intended.
The Tiger is a 500+ lb. adventure touring bike, meaning it does street and gravel roads quite well, anything more adventurous than that and you're going to have a bad time.
I have my Suzuki DRZ400S, a much better tool to use when adventure overcomes sensibility.
My intent was to put more street oriented tires on the Tiger and use it primarily for street riding, with an occasional gravel road thrown in to keep me on my toes. Well, that opportunity presented itself much sooner than I had anticipated. Team Oregon invited instructors to practice slow, precision maneuvers, setting up several drills from their police training course. Of course, again, adventure overcame sensibility and without hesitation I signed up. I received an email confirmation with a list of things to do to our bikes in preparation.
Because of the advanced, low-speed nature of this course, we recommend you prepare your bike:
·Fresh oil and filter
·Adjust and lubricate chain
·Remove damage-prone accessories (tools will be available)
·Increase tire pressure 3-5 psi for the riding drills (a compressor will be available)
·Tires worn no more than 50 percent
I went out to the garage to confirm what I suspected, my rear tire was indeed worn.
Time to buy new tires.
Oil change and filter? Meh, that was just done recently.
Remove damage-prone accessories? Gulp! What am I getting myself into?
According to Pat Hahn, "scratches are street cred; the second exercise is taping up your bike".
It's not the bike I'm worried about, I've dropped the Tiger more times than I can recall. I am however getting a little tired of falling down and hurting myself.
I ordered up a set of Metzler Tourance Next tires, claimed to be a dual compound, 90/10 street/gravel tire. The same tires Polar Bear Andy has on his newly acquired Tiger and recommended.
Then I got to set up my new tire changing set up, a Tusk tire stand, a couple of rim savers, and a Baja No Pinch tire mounting tool (highly touted by Richard himself). I don't know why I didn't consider the front and rear axles being different sizes, I only bought the 20mm axle shaft. I needed a 17mm for the front. D'oh! I had to do it the hard way.
Once I mounted the tires and balanced them, it was off to work the next morning to scrub them in. Wow! New tires are the best, but these make turning in so much easier and not nearly as sluggish as the Shinko 705s I'd been using all these years. I wanted to feel how the new tires were in gravel, they are definitely a 90/10 tire. I don't particularly like them in gravel, hard pack is fine, but loose gravel es no bueno. The hefty old girl tends to wallow more than pounce. I'll have to drop the tire pressure and try it again.
Saturday afternoon came and it was go time. The first exercise was learning the proper technique on picking up your bike.
Courtesy of Team-Oregon.org
Then, sure enough and as promised, the second exercise was in fact taping up your bike. We used pieces of firehose, zip ties, and Gorilla Tape to save what we suspected were the touch down points.
The first "riding exercise" was the box, which consisted of two consecutive U-turns, or a figure 8.
Before we started I was called over by both instructors whom recognized my new tires upon arrival. After learning I had less than 100 miles on these tires, they both advised that I take it easy for the first couple of exercises.
Out of the box we went into a tight radius "S" turn, before finishing up with a sharp left turn.
So far so good. We all practiced for 20 minutes or so to limber up.
Next was entering a "T" intersection for a tight turn from a stop. We were to signal, stop, and turn without putting a foot down.
Well, not to disappoint, I was the first... and the second one in the class to drop their bike, on the same exercise. Good, that should make everyone else in class a bit more comfortable.
I failed to load up the rear wheel and stalled the Tiger mid turn, both times. Maybe I'm not such a slow learner after all, because I nailed it every time after that, it's all in the technique.
From there, we went to the "Iron Cross" intersection.
Not our class, courtesy of youtube member - j coppeta
That was fun, one of my favorite exercises as we could go around either to the left or right. We were also able to go back and practice any of the previous exercises on our own, at our leisure.
We moved onto the offset cone weave, which is much more challenging than the one we set up for our students in the Basic or Intermediate class. I would be rounding one cone, leaning the bike in that direction while looking over my shoulder setting myself up for the next cone. Big head turns.
The last exercise was the keyhole, roll in, go either left or right, dip the bike around the corner then pick it up and lean it the opposite direction around the circle to pick it up again for the exit.
The Vancouver Police demonstrating the keyhole
It was a great day honing my skills, and I got to scrub in my new tires... and my bike.
Thanks Team Oregon! I'll post more photos as they come available.
~ “Regardless of where you started, there is always the next level. You need to keep leveling up your skills.”― Mustafa Saifuddin