Saturday, 14 September 2013

Transitioning to Season Two

It's getting into autumn and my first season of biking is coming to a close.  I've enjoyed the Ninja and I've done a lot of work on it.  I've overcome my anxiety around opening it up and working on it and I've put a lot of miles on it in all kinds of weather.  I'm far from the beginner I was in April and my garage is more a shop than it's ever been before.

Not only has riding become a new interest but it has also reawakened my love of mechanics which has in turn influenced my work in general.  So far the whole experience has been a positive one full of firsts and valuable learning opportunities.

I'm thinking about season 2 and where I want to go.  When I started off riding I was aiming at a KLR650 or other big dual purpose bike but went with the Ninja because it was local, available, low mileage and made a lovely sound.  The Ninja offers me an opportunity to explore the limits of a modern road bike, but that can be a tricky proposition, and an expensive one.  Were I to stay with the Ninja I think I'd find some track days and feel out some of the more extreme limits.  Knowing how a vehicle handles on the track offers you a unique insight into how to manage it on the road, especially in emergency situations.  I've driven cars and shifter-carts on track and know how to work towards the edge without stepping over it (too far).

I've been very careful with the Ninja, but I'd like to push my understanding and that involves taking risks with the machine.  I can't understand the dynamics of riding if I'm never riding over seven tenths.  If I'm going after a deeper, more nuanced understanding then I've got two options: the dirt track or the race track.  One is obviously cheaper than the other.

The KLR is still under consideration
I'd initially shied away from doing off road for fear of wear, but I'm over the maintenance panic now.  I'd still like to develop my road riding skills, but exploring limits seems like a less dangerous option in off road and multi-surface riding.  To that end, I think I'll look to a multi-purpose/enduro bike for my second season and begin exploring roads without worrying about where the tarmac ends.  The ultimate goal is still the long distance/adventure touring bike.  I love the swiss army knife abilities of those bikes.

The KLR still offers an affordable, basic, multi-purpose bike and I'd consider it seriously.  It's also not crazy expensive.

Triumph Tiger 800xc, my first
British bike?
Given a bigger budget I'd aim for a Triumph Tiger 800xc.  It is a capable off-road bike that doesn't tip the scales too madly, while still offering an effective road mile covering bike.  A bike that can pack in the miles is what I'm looking for.

Either the bargain basement KLR or the Tiger would get chucked to the curb if I sat on them and they didn't feel right.  Now that I've done some miles I'm getting a much better idea of what I want my bike to feel like.

KTM's outrageous 990 Supermoto
Fortunately there is no shortage of multi-purpose bikes out there.  From Yamaha Teneres to KTM 990 Supermotos to BMW's famous adventure bikes, there are many options and many of them have that naked, standard bike look that I prefer.

I'm planning on finishing up my work on the Ninja and putting it out for sale this fall while looking for my second season bike, this time spending a lot more time considering how I fit and what I want to do with it.