California take two.

Having had enough of winter it was time to put the bike on the trailer and head south.  I decided on southern California, as the weather has been the driest in years.  So dry in fact that they are having a drought.

Captain Pin-it (Willy on his oh so slow 2013 zx14r) is coming with.

The FZ is prepped.  Radar, and GPS are wired in and ready to go.  I only managed a few days of riding here, before winter set in.  So I’ll be dropping the oil before we leave Lake Elsinore, as by then the bike should have right around 1000km.  Front fork springs, and the oil has been changed, and upgraded to a 10w oil, and springs for my weight.  Rear spring will most likely be maxed out, and rebound will be increased.

We will take two days to get to Lake Elsinore, unload at Kmac’s place, and go riding.  Most days will see anywhere from 350km up to 650km.  The bulk being canyon and twisty roads.  Cannot wait.  Below are the rough routes that I have laid out for each day.  They might differ a bit, but the general idea is there.

Below are the planned routes weather and road conditions permitting.

Saturday March 1st route: not actually what we rode, but close.

Sunday March 2nd route: Definitely not what we rode, due to the weather.

Monday March 3rd route: More or less what we rode.

Tuesday March 4th route:

Wednesday March 5th route:

Thursday March 6th route: TB updated

Friday March 7th route: TB updated

We set of as planned on Thursday.  The drive down was tiring but decent.  Managed to slog it out to St. George Utah.  Friday, set off early, and after putting up with LA traffic on the I15 we made it to our hotel in Lake Elsinore to a Monsoon.  Man it was coming down.   I have not seen wind and rain like this in a while.  What a way to start the holiday.

Drove the 6 minutes to Kmac’s place to get acquainted, and shoot the poop for a while.  We said our hello’s and laid out a plan of action for the weekend.  The weather was looking none too good.  With nothing better to do, I made like I was old and went for a nap.  Nap over and done with the weather cleared a bit, and the rain was gone.  Still overcast and shitty, I decided to unload the fuzzy9 and take it for a spin.  Got call too.  Managed a slow but satisfying 20 km on the bike.

Saturday.  Rested, and feeling better, Willy decided to take the day off riding and visit a friend in Orange County.  I meanwhile geared up and rode over to Kelly’s to have a coffee, and do some fiddling on the bike.

It’s interesting how people meet.  Back in the day (think 90’s, 2000’s) this would be tough to pull off.  But now in days, you PM someone on the forum, and throw an idea out there.  A parking spot turns into a new riding buddy.  The world is a strange and small place, but it’s full of great and welcoming people.  Needless to say, we got on like a house on fire.

Kelly and I shared a laugh at his wife’s uncertainty of a couple of strangers driving half way across a country or two, to park up, have a coffee, wrench on their bikes, and go riding.  Total strangers.  Luckily we all share the same sickness: motorcycles.  And that I think makes us all decent people.  Funny enough, my wife asked me the same question, and I gave her the same answer.

10 am rolled around, the clouds went away, and the sun came out.  One thing left to do.  Go riding.  Kelly informed his wife of his intentions, promised he would be back for supper, and we were off.  It’s like being 9 all over again.

Kelly set the pace, and the course.  Having never ridden with him, within the first 5 miles, I knew that I would like riding with him.  the TC must have been off on his Tenere, because the front wheel kept coming up  🙂


Kelly enjoying the day




Rain in the desert. Rare sight


The Iron Door. Neat


A lot of dollar bills

IMG_9664-2 IMG_9665-2 IMG_9667-2   IMG_9671-2 IMG_9673-2

He got some gas, and we headed south east into the desert.  Weather was ok for the most part, the pace was slow at first with all the crap and branches on the road.  Stopped for a great lunch, and headed out to the desert.  The scenery was out of this world, and the riding none too shabby.

Here’s where things got interesting.  We’re going down the road, and for some reason, Kelly starts throwing the white elephant around back and forth…..gas, or the lack there of.  Sure enough, he runs out.  No problems, I still have lots, and there’s a gas station 2 miles away that will do the trick.  Not sure if everyone is familiar with the fuzzy9, but my wife called it a girl’s bike when she first saw it in the garage.  Nothing feminine about it, just the fact that it’s a bit small, and short.  So, how do two grown men look on a small motorcycle?  Pretty damn funny.  Gay pride jokes aside, we set off.  Easy shifting, slip the clutch.  2 miles further down the road….disaster, The pump was out of order.  So we continued on.  For another 20 or so miles.  We pulled into town, greeted by a downpour.  No matter.  Kelly procured a 1 gallon jug of water, which he proceeded to further flood the gas station flower pots, filled it up, and we finished up our detour.

That done with, we had a laugh, took some pictures, and headed back.  All in all a kick ass day, with a bit of a laugh thrown in.  Photo evidence below 🙂

20140301_172541 20140301_172559

Sunday.  Willy got his ninja out of the back of the truck, and we set off for Big Bear, or something or other..  Ended up riding through town, on the free way, and up a twisty road, #18 out of San Bernardino.  It was damn twisty, busy and fast.  By the top, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t even see the set of lights at the top of the hill.  We promptly chickened out and turned around.  We regrouped in town, and while having some GPS issues, we decided to go buy a paper map.  Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but now in days no one sells paper maps any more.  Trust me Willy tried, in 7 different shops.  We decided to head across town to the ocean, in hope of getting away from the rain.  This was not to be.  Long story short, we ended the day at 3pm with Mexican food and beer in Lake Elsinore.

Monday.  We packed up our ghetto luggage, and got the hell out of dodge.  Incidentally, Willy’s dodge was safely parked up at Kelly’s place.  We tried our best to convince him to ride up with us to Ojai, but the man would not budge.  No matter, we squeezed in a ride to the local Kwak dealer, and hardware store.  Took the freeway there, but more importantly, took some wicked twisty roads back to Kelly’s place.  Here we swapped bikes.  I climbed on the white elephant, and Kelly took charge of the fuzzy9.  Now, to all tenere owners, take no offence here.  I’m not only a member of the forum, I’m also a big fan and owner of a blue tenere (fastest color you know).

Coming from the FZ9, and clambering on to the Tenere, is an eye opener.  The two are so different, it’s not even funny.  The Ten felt familiar fairly quickly.  I explained the different power settings to Kelly, and left him in the B setting (slowest and softest).  He promptly started enjoying the bike, and I followed suit on his bike.

We made it back. Kelly was kind enough to help us with our oil changes on both the scooters.  We left Kelly to his chores, and set off towards Ortega hwy.  What a treat.  I’ve ridden this highway before…to be exact the night before, in its entirety there and back.  In the day it’s a hoot.  What followed was even better.  Lane splitting is awesome!  You Cali guys and gals have it good.  You can make rapid progress in heavy traffic through town.  We mostly stuck to the 1 through town, but decided to hop on the freeway to join speed things up.  I hate the free way, and the FZ does not make it any easier, with a shitty luggage set up (see pics), and no windscreen.  I swear, I have arms like a orangutang, and a neck like popey.  Made it to Ojai in the evening to meet up with Tim aka Tomato city on his minty blue ST.

Ortega hwy at night


Ghetto luggage…check.


Another shot of Ortega


Willy on hwy 18

 IMG_9677-2 IMG_9675-2

Tuesday’s Route:

We headed out of Ojai NW towards the coast.  150 was the first road, and a treat.  The rest of it up to Lompoc was pretty decent.  I’m missing a road that we did between that and Lompoc.  Did stop into Solvang which was a cool little town.  Very Danish.

IMG_9712-2 Onto Lompoc, and the coast.  Now nothing mind blowing up to this point, but it got better.  Much better.  Old Creek Road out of Caycoos was an absolute blast.  Smooth technical.  Once we reached the intersection, Willie decided to turn around on the next bit of road as it was bumpy and a bit crappy.  Tim and I continued on.  Interesting Road, but it’s where old asphalt goes to die.  No matter still enjoyable.

Back on 1, we turned left on 46, decent, and back down Old creek Road.  From there we were on the 41 which was pretty decent.  Again, things got great on 229.  It was a narrow twisty, perfect condition race track.  It looked custom made.  We made a small detour to feed the small FZ tank, and did the whole lenght of 58.  Wow, is all I can say.  The west end of 58 is tight, technical, and a demanding.  After which it opens up to all sorts of fun.  Long 3 and 4th gear sweepers, straights, and hills so sudden it feels you’re on you’re own personal roller coaster.

Since we could not take hwy 33 back, we needed to take I5 back to Ojai.  What a PITA.  More on how the bike handles the highway later.  Made it to Ojai, after a very long 750 km plus day.

Wednesday, the day of the grease ball sandwich.  Route: Tim sat the day out.  Willie and I hopped on the bikes and took the bikes to Malibu for some canyon riding.  But first things first.  Willie had some fun on tuesday, and killed his front tire (OEM tire that came with the kwak, at 12km it was ready for replacement).  Kelly was kind enough to find us a dealer that would help us out.  Thousand Oaks in ermmm….Thousand Oaks, hooked him up with a michelin front, for a resonable $130, plus $54 for install.  Talked to some local guys, had a laugh, attempted to straighten my triple trees that I never set straight after my fork swap-no dice.  We got on with it, and went to Malibu.

Roads were out of this world.  Scenery wise, amazing.  Road wise, brilliant.  It’s all a blur now, but we stuck to the less travelled ones: Stunt road 🙂 Latigo Canyon Road, Mulhollands famous turn, and look out, and many others.  Much fun was had.   More on the bike later.

Half way through the day it was time for lunch.  We decided to eat healthy, and found a Vons (Safeway) by the sea.  Over to the deli counter I went and ordered a seemingly healthy roast chicken bacon avocado sandwich on ciabatta.  TOP TIP!.  When your sandwich is being made, stay close so you can instruct the fellow behind the counter what you would and would not like on your sandwich.  As you can already tell, I failed to give the man some guidance.  So there he goes, cuts the ciabatta bun in half, while the chicken is being baked in the oven. So far so good.  Next while I was a distance away paying for said sandwich he proceeds to take out the 1 litre mayo squeze tube, with no less than FOUR nozzles on it.  He then squeezes the lights out of it, and puts a very generous helping of mayo on the bread.  I was out of reach and was unable to stop the spreading of goo.  He then took the mayo saturated bread, and stuck it in the oven…..why? what for? so the mayo turns to fat, and grease.  Perfect.  It gets better.  The bread was then taken out, married to the chicken breast, lettuce, bacon and tomato, and more mayo was applied…seriously?.  I know I should have sent it back, said something, refused, but by this point I was waiting for 10 minutes, in full gear, helmet, and a very heavy tank bag, and quite frankly I was hungry.  I decided to eat the mayo wonder.  What a mistake.  Not only did it taste like crap, it made me feel even worse.  so next mayo for me.

The rest of the day, save for a possible road side redecoration, and a massive headache was good, very good.

Thursday’s Route:  Angeles Crest has been closed for years from the east end.  The bulk of the good riding is from the west end.  All good stuff except the dreaded freeway. Again more on that later.  TOP TIP.  Just because a port-a-crapper is clean, does not mean that it has a supply of avialable toilet paper.  Thank god for Starbucks napkins.

Friday’s Route.  Through Malibu again, picked up a few canyon roads, and onto the 1.  Some great lane splitting was done, and we managed to stay off the freeway entirely.  Ortega to Lake Elsinore.  We loaded up, and headed out of town…slowly.  I hate LA traffic in a car/truck/bus/semi.  Give me a bike any day.

Bike and Gear review

The bike.  After a very happy 3300km in about a week, here are my thoughts on my FZ9.

First off.  For the price that I paid for it, this is the bargain of the century.  That motor at sea level, and for that matter at any elevation is incredible.  It pulls everywhere in the rpm range.  B mode is the smoothest, but still jerky, especially with on/off throttle inputs.  A and STD mode are very snappy, and make the bike quicker still.  This thing bounds like an eager puppy, on crack.  The performance was a bit blunted up at 7000 feet, but still pulled like a mother.  I’ll see how the rest of the season treats me, but it’s very likely the ECU will get sent off to Nick at stoltec for a reflash.  Suspension: for everyone bitching and moaning (possible owners/existing owners) you can realistically get only so much for $8700 CDN! Yes Yamaha could have spent an extra $700 and passed the cost on to us, in turn saving us the hassle of doing it ourselves, but truth be told, only 5% of all FZ9 owners will be able to push the bike to 90% of it’s potential, the rest of us will enjoy the bike as is with a few personal tweaks to suit our riding needs. Besides, working and fiddling with a bike is all part of the experience.

That said, the competition (stree triple R rang in at $11500 USD over at  thousand oaks dealer, which translates to about $13500 CDN!  That’s five grand difference.  I would factor maybe about $1500 for suspension work front/rear, stainless steel lines $100 and you still have about $4000 in your pocket, and a whole lot more torque in the motor).  That still leaves a lot of room for improvement, and it can be done over time.  The only plus on the street triple is the ABS.  The motor is nowhere near as good as the FZ, and I think the Yami would be more reliable vs the brit bike.

I digress…  the suspension is just OK.  I improved the front end with springs set for my weight, 10w oil, and the preload/rebound set half way (total cost $100).  For what I need it for, and to my abilites (OK rider) the front was good.  The rear shock left a few things to be desired.  It wallowed too often, even with the rear preload at the second highest setting.  Rebound was wound right up.  Again, I will finish off this season on the bike, save up my centavos and spring for a better rear shock ($850-$1200 depending on model needed).

Tires.  My bike came with the Dunlop D216’s I belive.  I aired down to 32/28 psi cold (front/rear) and the tire did very well indeed.  It gripped everywhere, and there was not much chicken strips left.  At 3300km, I am down to the wear bars, but should manage another easy 2000km out of the rear.  Front is fine for probably 10km.

Ergonomics (seats, handle bar etc.. etc..)  Well after this trip, the seat is broken, no scratch that, my ass is broken.  The seat was ok.  towards the beginning of the trip, I replaced the stock front rubber bumpers with a higher set.  This helped a bit, but the slope of the seat is too steep.  I will execute a foam upgrade with this one, using the grout sponge trick posted by one of the Forum members.  I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse.  Wind protection.  SUCKS! What did I expect, it’s a naked bike.  At the end of Tuesday, the last bit of freeway was killer.  I talked to myself, sang, did all sorts of silly shit to keep myself hanging on to that bastard at  120 km/h.  Incidentally my MRA sport touring screen arrived at Kelly’s place on thursday, the day before we were leaving.  Timing is everything.  Controls and display.  I was skeptical about the speedo.  It’s quite dinky, but after a week of use, it worked ok for me.  Not ideal, but it will work.  Stock bars worked well for me as well as all associated controls.  Brakes. I upgraded the stock front lines to SS ones.  At first they felt odd.  The initial bit was not really there, quickly followed by a quick stop.  I’ll make sure that there’s no air in the lines this weekend.  Fronts were very good, and the rear was adjusted for my riding (lowered) and felt very good.  No issues with lock up unless you were really trying.  Exhaust/Intake noise.  Stock exhaust is quite under acceleration, but the intake has a very nice noise to it.  On decel the exhaust sounds pretty decent.  I hacked off the tip from the stocker today, and removed the restrictor (past the second weld).  New tip is going on this weekend.

TPX Radar/Garmin Zumo.  Both worked very well, and I would recommend both.  The Zumo made my life easy, as I preloaded all my maps, and guided me in the right direction 95% of the time.  My only gripe with the Zumo 350 is that you can download a google point, but not a whole laid out map.  Why the hell ony one point?  If you’re going to go to that much trouble, let us download the entire map the we made on google, a program that’s actually works, and the interface is easy.  No one wants to use base camp.  What an absolute piece of software garbage.  Designed by Satan, and co written by Hitler and Stalin.  TPX worked, and it’s handy to have.

Oxford Heated Grips.  No you don’t need them for california, but…I rode with my summer gloves only for the entire trip, and I simply moved the temp up/down as needed to stay comfy.  Good stuff.

SW Motech GS Tank bag (25L) and new lock ring.  Great piece of kit.  Holds everything except your pet monkey.  Buy it you will love it.  Easy on and off (trust me, you will do this a lot)

To sum up/re-iterate:  Great bike for the money.  Best motor I have ever ridden.  This includes the greats (cbr900rr, gear driven non v-tec vfr, TL-S, various ducati’s) stu-pendous.  Yes there are faults, corner cutting visible, but nothing that can be fixed with a small-ish budget.  The tank is a bit of a dud.  200 km of hard riding and you’re looking for gas.  As the bike was breaking in, the total trip average rose to about 5.5L/100 km (43 MPG) for a theoretical tank range of 254 KM.

Upcoming mods are the seat, sw-motech rear rack, and that’s it.  Ride the bike.  You could sport tour with a decent rear bag, and the new screen should work a treat (report to follow).  Day to day around town, this will be the go to bike.

I’ll post up more pics tonight, meantime between time flickr link:



One thought on “California take two.

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