Archive | January, 2012

Got her. It’s on.

28 Jan

I found a 2009 DR650se with only 744 miles on the odometer, but dings – dented tank (left side), bent levers, cracked rear signals, scratched cases, bent shifter, broken hand guards, etc. –  from the two falls that convinced the owner to sell the bike. There are thousands of nearly new bikes for sale, most without the dings, but all with nearly the same story. The owner kept telling me how fast the bike was, which sold me even more, not for the speed – although that’s a good reason – but the clear sign that he never really got into it, wasn’t a Ricky Racer, and probably babied the thing. Another dalliance with motorcycling that ends with a castaway.

So she has a few scars and not the prettiest teeth. I’m OK with that. I’m gonna get her all dolled up for Baja surf travel. No cosmetic surgery. Just all the right bits for a good time. While this isn’t a great photo of her – just a quick iPhone shot taken outside the welder’s shop – I wanted to get a “before” shot taken prior getting ready to go out.


Surfing and biking from the beginning

15 Jan

I learned to surf and ride motorcycles in the same year, when I was 15 and with my best buddy, Arnold Onaga. (Arnold died two years ago. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about Arn.)

I can’t explain the linkage well, but I’ll try to convey that over the course of this blog. Bruce Brown understood it well. After big and unexpected success with The Endless Summer he made On Any Sunday, and that was it, he was done. Both movies influenced me greatly, setting cornerstones for my life.

Feeling the Shift

14 Jan

I’m feeling the shift from what seems like an interesting idea to taking action.

Today I stopped by LA Cyclesports to price a Suzuki DR650SE. Nine years ago I bought a GSXR750 there, which got me back into motorcycles after a bit of a layoff. It’s fitting that I went there to look at my first off-road bike since I was a kid. After much research I’m pretty sure this is the one, the DR650, the one to take me to the hardest-to-reach surf spots in Baja, and get me down the highway. But first I need to catch you up.

I’ve gone beyond fantasizing to planning and declaring to all my moto-surf trip to Baja and maybe beyond. The idea is simple. Strap a surfboard to a dirt bike and head off. Right.

Which bike? I eliminated the BMW, KTM and other adventure-tourers as too heavy for the really rough stuff and deep sand, and too complicated (having too many parts). My buddies Will and Q have been riding the BMW 1200 Adventure bikes. They ride for fun and train in the woods of New Jersey. I went with them on a Rawhyde weekend training camp for BMW 1200’s, but I rented the 650, which is more of a traditional motocross-style endure bike. A bike that weighs nearly 600 pounds just isn’t my thing. Besides, they’re 6′-plus guys and I’m a scrawny 5’9″. They went on to do another Rawhyde ride, this time in South America where they followed the Dakar race – a grueling ride. I was one part jealous and one part happy not to be dealing with those monstrous bikes. As it turns out, it was a memorable adventure, but the Rawhyde crew mismanaged the thing badly, so they won’t be back. But I’m still jealous and really wish I had gone.

Anyhow, I want a light, simple bike as I’ll be on my own and will need to do everything myself, from picking it up out of a ditch to repairing it after. No water-cooled, multi-cylinder, feature-laden, see-the-world touring rig. No special electronics for everything from heating my butt to adjusting the ride height. Just a plain, simple, big thumper (that’s a single-cylinder bike, typically over 500cc’s), with lots of clearance for the rough stuff.

BA Belton’s “The Alexander Project” trip ( from Canada to Panama showed how to do it on the Kawasaki KLR 650, a well-respected bike for it’s workhorse-like reliability. A good story and background for my trip. Less surf and more highway than I would like, but it narrowed the search to the so-called “dual sports” – or what we used to call enduro bikes. That narrowed it to the KLR (out), the Honda XR650L (well respected in Baja) and the Suzuki DR650SE. The XR has a 37″ seat height and is great for off-road. But it’s not as good on the highway, and the tall seat makes for difficult slow-going, i.e., can’t put my feet down easily – it’s unstable at slow speeds. The DR has a 34.8″ seat height, is faster on the highway, but the suspension is a bit soft, so it’s not as good for fast off-road travel. And the DR runs about a grand or more less. (That thousand dollars will go a long way toward stiffening the suspension.)

I decided on the DR, with a list of modifications I’ll need to get to. But for today, I found the dealer I will buy from if I buy new. And I can get it out the door for the MSRP, meaning no tax, freight or dealer prep. Awesome. That’s the bike pictured. But I think I’ll look for a slightly used one.