Archive | June, 2015

Every Bike Tells a Story

19 Jun

Yesterday I stopped by Whole Foods to get groceries and ended up spending half my time in the parking lot looking at motorcycles. Yes, at Whole Foods.

First, I found a great parking spot that was already occupied by a Suzuki DRZ400SM – that’s the super moto version of the DRZ400, the baby brother to my DR650es which I was riding. Of course I checked it over, starting with tire wear (check the chicken strips to determine rider skill, daring or both), then moving on to accessories, maintenance (dirty chain? worn sprockets? rust?) and damage. This was a nice, clean bike with about 3/4″ chicken strips. The only accessory was the exhaust – Yoshimura. It was nearly new, so it was no surprise that the bike was in nice shape. And the relatively small chicken strips told me that the owner was an experienced motorcyclist, which also makes sense because few noobs would understand what a super moto bike was.

As I was looking over the DRZ a bit of red caught my eye. About five parking spaces away was a white truck with a red Ducati in the back, circa 2007-2013, pre-Panigale. From that distance I already knew it was either a just-purchased bike, a repair, or heading to or from a track. Grocery shopping would have to wait.

As I walked over I could see it was a 1098, so that meant it was the early model. Everything was stock, including the exhaust, and the entire right fairing was scraped substantially – it had been down. The brake pedal, bar ends, clutch cover and other parts were unmarked, so they had all been replaced. It had no sliders. So it was a stock 1098 with severe road rash from a long slide. It wasn’t a tip-over, a high side or anything causing the bike to tumble. Fast enough to slide some distance, but not so fast as to completely destroy the fairings or cause the bike to flip.

But was it in the truck for repairs, and recent purchase, or a track day? The brand new Pirelli tires answered that question: track day. On his way to (not from) a fun day at the track. And was this an experienced rider or a noob? Young or old? Hard to tell. Perhaps and experienced rider picking up a salvage repair bike to ride at the track? An experienced or inexperienced rider picking up his repaired bike that just happened to need tires, too? (Wrecking the track-day scenario.) Difficult to tell without actually seeing the rider or peering into the truck’s cab to see what sort of equipment was there. Did he have his leathers, helmet, boots and other gear? Nothing else was in the back of the truck, not even a toolbox. The track-day scenario was looking less likely.

When I decided it was time to do my shopping I noticed the DRZ owner gearing up, so I went over to say hello and compliment him on his choice of bikes. Youngish guy, probably about 28. Knew his bikes. We talked wheel size and geometries. Always good talking bikes with bikers. Better when they know their stuff.

I did my shopping, returned to the parking lot, and the 1098 was still there. Where is that guy? Probably eating. Well, now I’ll never know for sure, unless I see the guy at the Rock Store, the dealer or at a gas station. I decided to stick with the track-day story as I liked that one best.

And maybe that’s the point. Every time we see a motorcycle sans motorcyclist we imagine the story of both. Examining the bike is the best part as that tells most of the story. The rider can tell the rest, but he can’t get around the chicken strips. Why we write those stories in our heads cannot be explained, but it’s part of the experience.

Clean Frame = Jail Time

12 Jun
Stripped naked for DMV inspection.

Stripped naked for DMV inspection. Notice the beautiful sans-stickers frame.

Don’t clean up your bike’s frame unless you’re ok with 90 days in LA county jail.

I recently bought a beautiful 1198sp. (Ducatisti know.) Hardly ridden. Kept in a garage that’s cleaner than my house. No mods. I’m in CA. The seller in Indiana. “Beautiful” included having the unsightly silver/grey stickers removed from its iconic red trellis frame.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 3.08.41 PM

1198sp with stickers. (And clothes.) Not mine, but nice…except for the stickers. It wasn’t easy finding a photo of one that still had the stickers.

Buying an out-of-state bike is an ordeal, and getting it registered and licensed in one’s home state adds to the journey. But a bike with a cleaned up frame is a whole other thing. And from what I’ve just learned, just owning a bike with sticker-free,  cleaned-up frame is a jail-time offense in California.

“No person shall knowingly buy, sell, offer for sale, receive, or have in his or her possession, any vehicle, or component part thereof, from which any serial or identification number…affixed by the manufacturer…in whatever manner…has been removed…punishable by imprisonment…not less than 90 days…and a fine not less than ($250).”

After two trips to the DMV, being sent to the CHP for a secondary VIN inspection (3-week wait) then back to the DMV (waited over 2 hours; leaving now) I’m close to getting my baby properly registered and plated. And I’m lucky! Because the guy I bought it from managed to remove all of the stickers (without shredding them, as they are designed to break up when attempting removal) and save them with the rest of the paperwork, intact.

Now I need to carry the stickers on the bike with the registration or risk jail.

But you know what? It’s worth it.