Monday, April 8, 2013

Easing Into Spring

Spring has come in.  Yay.  Blessedly beautiful weather and temperatures for a couple days does wonders for my personal outlook on life.

Last week showed us winter was still trying to hang on with evenings near freezing.  However, the temperatures warmed up and the rain cleared out to produce the iconic spring weekend.

Oilburner has been traveling for three weeks, and was happy to be away from work.  He actually hatched a little plan to take the travel trailer out and go camping.  I would hear nothing of it, since I wanted to go riding.

We had thought an overnight someplace might be the ticket.  But talked ourselves out of it late Friday night.  Instead, we decided to take a day ride on Saturday with a friend that we hadn't ridden with in a very long time.  That just left us with the necessary evil of deciding where we wanted to ride to.

Cherohala Skyway between Robbinsville, NC and Tellico Plains, TN is always a big hit.  However, there was a landslide on the parkway over the winter that had taken out a good portion of roadway.  Repairs had been underway enough that one lane was open.  But Cherohala Skyway in a day is an ambitious plan, and not necessary in my mind for a leisurely opening season ride.  So I talked the guys into a scenic mountain ride to stretch the proverbial legs.

Oilburner and I have taken a few rides in the lowlands of Georgia, but it has been a very long time since we have done much in the twisties.  It was a startling realization of how little we actually have ridden the last 6 months.  The GS had its 6K service just prior to the trip to Maine last year.  That put 4K miles onto the clock, and I haven't yet finished up the 2K to the next service.  The R1200R bike has only seen a couple thousand miles as well, since it hasn't gone in for a service either.  That really pointed out how little riding we have done.

Country road curves are one thing.  Getting back into the serious twisties is quite another, when you have been away awhile.  So I urge you all to do a little warm up and practice before just wiping the dust off the bikes and hopping into the thick of things.

I found I had one major hang up that is going to require some time and practice to get back over.  I've never really enjoyed tight left-hand twisties.  In the South that generally means beautiful views off into some valley...with only trees and rocks to obstruct any forward and downward movement.  I can envision all too well my bike and I sliding off the road and tumbling down the hillside.  (Right curves are much easier in my mind as I still have another "lane" on the other side of that yellow line in case the bike slips out.)  I know, stupid thought process.  But it is what it is.

I had been able to overcome that in the past and taken many a spirited ride through the mountains with various and sundry people trying to keep up.  Not so today.  Today I had reverted back to my "learning" days and had totally psyched myself out.  There were even a couple curves that I just stood the bike up and "walked" my way around. (I.E. no leaning.)

We stopped to discuss my issues and thought about some back aches that I have.  (I carry my work stress in my upper back and neck, and my left shoulder had been paining me.)  We wondered if I was being "tender" on my shoulder and not really performing the necessary moves to lean to the left.  I also figured that I was following our friend and his style was messing with my head.  It's normally just me and Chris, and we take turns leading.  That maybe our friends rhythm was messing me up since I wasn't looking through the curves at my exit/vanishing point.  I found myself fixating on his rear tire, or just behind it.

After lunch, we hit tighter twisties that didn't thrill me.  I had already warned them I was taking it easy and just riding within my comfort zone.  I would catch up at the next turn.  Oilburner worries though.  So when someone caught me up from behind I agonized over letting the Jeep pass, knowing Oilburner would be beside himself if a vehicle were the next thing to come upon him, rather than me.  Luckily I didn't have to worry too much as I was able to keep enough ahead of the Jeep that I didn't feel pressured.  And Oilburner had stopped a couple curves down the road.  He thought I was much further behind than I was, and he was worried.  (AAAWWWW!)

Having the guys out of my sight did wonders for me.  I wasn't having to watch Oilburner nail the corners (which I did yell at him for, knowing we both needed a little warm up before going whole hog into twisty mode), and I didn't have to watch our friend and his strange ways.  (He rides a Harley VROD, what can I saw about that huge rear tire...)  I was able to concentrate on technique and go my own speeds.

So all you out there that are dusting the bike off from its winter slumber, I urge you to take a little notice of fit and feel when climbing back on board.  Think that a little parking lot practice might be in order, with a few road drills coming in handy prior to hitting the roads as if you have never been away.  Muscle memory will account for a lot.  But a little warm up is always necessary.  :)

Happy Spring.  Safe Travels.  Hope to see you on the roads this year.


  1. Last summer, I found that I tend to stay closer to the center line than I probably should on sweeping left handers. Especially if there is a bottomless dropoff or a jagged rock cliff on the right (there always was). It's probably a bad habit I've picked up from living in AK as there just isn't much traffic and even fewer twisty roads.

    1. We have the same curves apparently! :) It doesn't seem to matter where I am in the lane, I attract people that love crossing over the line onto my side of the road. I just have been happy that we haven't wanted to take up the same spot yet. I'll try to keep it that way, if you try too!

  2. Lori:

    don't push it, if you aren't ready. Slow and steady gets you there safely. I also worry about shear drop offs with the Canyon on your right and no guard rails I would tend to hug the center line too.

    There are different riding dynamics when you are riding alone on unfamiliar roads with no one to follow, and you are miles away from home. Often I would travel below the posted speeds just to be safe, as I did in Oregon last year.

    Awww, Oilburner is so thoughtful to be watching out for you . . .

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Different dynamics. Exactly! That is why I was thinking I would need a solo ride to get me into the groove again. My own agenda, my own pace, my own thoughts. Wow. That sounds selfish! hehe

      No one ever wants to think about those dropoffs. So you be careful too.

  3. Good advice....Oilburner is so understanding...I would of just said 'Last one to the pub buys the beer"...

    1. That could be. Or I could just "happen" to show up at a different pub... (evil grin)

    2. That's the way to do it!

    3. You really are evil, I would have never thought of that....

    4. LOL!! Richard, that would only be a problem for you if there is more than one bar in town. ;) But given the area, you probably have a couple, huh?

    5. No, not too many but more than one. If you get outside of populated towns, then maybe one...

  4. Haha Ive learned to expect the unexpected and yes she would do it... She truly makes life an adventure :-)

  5. Ahhh coming out of hibernation is good for the soul. Always prudent to do some light riding with easy corners to get into the swing of things.

    I always let Brad know my cornering isn't as swift or as smooth right out of the gate, but by the end of the ride there is always an improvement - much as there is a difference between Spring and fall riding.

    I don't have a preference with left or right hand corners, but hairpin turns give me a brain fart. I always feel I can't take them as fast as I know I can then end up too slow around them. Something to work on this year.

    1. So true!! Do you do better on the inside or outside of hairpins? So many of them out here have horrible cantering in the middle that really throws things off.

      Do you have to deal with moss out there? The idea of that just scares me.

  6. I don't know, I've ridden behind you and find it difficult to believe you have trouble doing anything. My guess is that a nice day deserves a slow appreciation approach. That's the way to do it. A question though: Are right-hand turns more difficult than left?

    Whichever way it goes, keep practicing. July is almost here and we need you two up here to keep Bob scoot attached to the ground.
    Ciao, Mike.

  7. Dear Steel Cupcake:

    It's funny, I do not fancy tight left-hand turns either. I generally take the twisties easy as I find no sport in running out of roadway in a curve. And having ridden a bit in North Carolina and Tennessee, the roads are all curves. I was on one that only turned left for 600 miles. I felt like I was on a spiral staircase.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads