click here to access Diaryland click here to send me an email click here for bio and links click here to access the archive list click here for the latest entry


Iíve now put a few hundred miles on the ZZR600. Hereís an early update.

There is a slight buzz at sustained highway speeds, but ONLY in the footpegs, and it isnít something to complain about, just something I am aware of.

In still air, at the speed limit on the freeway, the wind protection is quite nice (the wind BLAST Ė the noise Ė is something else entirely). The air streaming off the fairing hits me below the helmet, which helps hold me up without buffeting my helmet too much (in gusty winds, my head gets bashed around fiercely). Tucking in does reveal a pocket of clean air, but the screen is too low and the clip-ons too high to do that for very long.

Iíve actually just received the first mod to my bike, a Zero Gravity Double Bubble light smoke windscreen. I havenít installed it yet. Iím curious to see what the wind protection is like after installation.

I did the first oil change at about 120 miles. It was a messy job. I learned a lot. I wonít attempt another change without my swingarm stand, which Iíve ordered (along with the correct spools). Iím wondering how the swingarm stand will work, though, trying to hoist the bike off the sidestand at the same time and all. I lost a fairing bolt in the process of doing the oil change (taking the fairing off plain sucked). I had to do it outside at my fatherís house, and the wind was atrocious. But the old, dirty-metal-shavings oil got emptied out and new conventional 10W-40 motorcycle oil got put in. Another change at 750, one at 1800, and then synthetic at 4000 miles (which Iím sure will be before the end of the summer).

I wanted to make my first suspension adjustment, by increasing the preload on the rear, but that is the one adjustment the ownerís manual doesnít describe. They want me to take it to my Kawasaki shop for a preload adjustment!?! Even the frigginí Rebel lets you make preload adjustment on the rear. Iíll come back to this when I actually have a chance to work on the bike at length and my leisure. Luckily, Iím pretty light, so the stock settings arenít too bad.

Iíve gone on a couple of night rides around the outskirts of town. Some twisty roads. I wish the weather would hurry up and heat up. But itís been fun anyway. Very fun, in fact. The lighting on the ZZR is excellent. The high beam lights up the road for many hundreds of feet.

I remember the other night after completing a series of three banked zig zag curves and accelerating out of the last corner, it felt so capable, so smooth, so meant for this that I was laughing in my helmet. Truly I need to get to the real twisties or the track.

The bike feels so effortlessly light when on the brakes lightly entering a turn and using an easy push/pull rowing countersteering motion and moving to the inside of the corner. It pulls a smile right onto your face even at about a 4/10ths pace. And the engine is so great, perfectly matched to the chassis and to my weight. Very addictive. ďI want some more.Ē

Body position in turns and corners is something (among several things) I never really worked on when I owned or rode other bikes. Itís amazing what a difference it can make, and how natural, fluid, and ďrightĒ it feels to do it correctly.

The brakes continue to blow me away. I hope itís clear what I mean when I write that theyíre MUCH better at slowing down than at stopping. They feel so nice pulling the speed down progressively from 30 or 40 or 60 mph. Finally the brakes I always wanted other motorcycles to have. However, Iím still trying to master the skill of downshifting through all the gears while keeping the brake lever at a consistent level and blipping the throttle on each gear, with armored gloves on.

After each ride, I head to the local high school parking lot for work on some basic/low-speed skills. Iíve discovered the low-rev carburetion on this bike could be quite a bit better. Itís choppy, indecisive, and weak. That is to be expected on a stock, carbureted engine in 2005 displacing only 599ccs. This is maybe the only area (besides mirrors) where my last bike, the VF Interceptor, was appreciably better. In fact, about every bike Iíve ridden except for the Rebel and GS500 has had better carburetion. I blame the tree-kissing greenies and the EPA.

I had a touch of buyerís remorse after reading over the Motorcycle Consumer News review of the Kaw Z750S. That bike does several things better than the ZZR Ė itís got crisp fuel injection, more torque, a centerstand and no lower fairing (both making oil changes about 300% easier), a digital fuel gauge, better wind protection, and more upright bars (better in some ways, worse in others). Itís $100 less expensive. In fact, those areas address about my only complaints about the ZZR Ė lousy low rev carburetion, painful oil changes, and a poorly positioned fuel tap with no fuel gauge.

But Iím just going to enjoy what Iíve finally got for a couple of years. My next bike will be naked and fuel injected and will have more low end torque, for sure, but I havenít even begun to scratch the surface of how great this ZZR is. When itís not running out of fuel, or needing new oil, or displaying fluffy low end power, itís a blast and a classy, smooth machine. Still, these thoughts have made me reconsider some of the more extensive modifications I was planning for down the road.

The dark blue is even (inevitably?) growing on me. Itís a great stealth color, isnít it?

Iím quite happy with the Shoei, the Dainese boots, and my Joe Rocket gloves (which are a staggering improvement over the first Joe Rockets I had). My jacket is fine for what Iím doing now. I like the Icon Recon pants, but the protection isnít there. I may invest in more gear very soon, to supplement what I have so far. That Shoei is a great place for my head to spend an hour or two. And Iím becoming more sold on wearing earplugs everywhere on every ride. I ordered another 100 pair.

Iím waiting until this Wednesday for the landlord guy to get back to me with news from the ďregional managerĒ on whether a remote control for the gate can be provided to me. If he doesnít tell me something by Thursday morning, Iím going to put my money down on the new apartment, which DOES use a remote. Prospects for getting a garage are bleak at either place right now, but having to RUN back to my bike to climb on and ride through before the gate shuts again is embarrassing and annoying as Hell.

The goal is to have May through August to ride every night and many times during the days. A remote gate is an essential part of that equation, but Iíd just as soon stay where I am. If I have to move, though, I will, just for the ability to leave on my bike the way I want to when I want to. Iíd like to get a garage as soon as possible, for oil changes, cleaning, chain lubing and adjustment, modifications, suspension adjustments, and secure storage.

-----------------------------------------

Next day. Went riding with Robert today. Itís been a week of firsts. I had my first drop, for instance. Only a very slight scratch in one place that I can see. Put the kickstand down but it didnít take, and there the bike went. No biggie. One of the missing bolt fasteners (from the oil change) fell loose, so it wasnít all bad. Did my first really really stupid thing. Took both hands off the bike at very slow speed (in neutral) at the high school parking lot, and it started to wobble, so I grabbed the bars again, but in so doing, I inadvertently jammed the throttle (again, in NEUTRAL) and popped her up to the upper reaches of the rev range (with NO LOAD) for half a second. Idiot. The kickstand thing is a learning experience, but almost losing the bike for no reason shows a bit of a lack of judgment. I also almost clipped a curb in the parking lot during my low-speed practice.

Rode my first fuel injected bike Ė I tried Robertís í03 6R (636) out for about a mile and a half of twisty road, which was enough. WOW! Heís got an FMF pipe, a Power Commander III (along with suspension mods, a steering damper, and a lot of clean appearance mods), and of course itís fully broken in and on synthetic and weighs 25 pounds less and has 6% more displacement. The bars feel much narrower, although the lowness wasnít readily apparent. The wind protection is much less, Iím sure. The pegs are nice and HIGH Ė very reassuring, and somehow more direct feeling without the rubber tops mine has. The bike is significantly narrower feeling. On the downside, the mirrors seemed way less useful than mine. Iím sure the digital tach would drive me crazy, although I loved the digital speedo (and digital fuel gauge). I canít judge the seat comfort.

The motor is the thing. With the full pipe and the perfectly tuned and synced fuel injection and ignition, the engine sounds and feels deep, throaty, BIG, and nasty. But the biggest difference, and actually something that has me a bit worried, is its willingness to rev. Throttle blips actually work on this bike. The throttle is instantly responsive, but after the blip the revs settle right back down immediately to a precise idle. The revs on my bike come slower and then itís somewhat unwilling to come back down to idle immediately (and the idle is a little uneven). HmmmÖ

Anyway, the 636 felt about 30% bigger and more torquey (and heís still got stock gearing!). Robertís got Pilot Power tires on it, and their profile makes my stock tires look like high-mileage sport-touring tires. The bike just takes off and then turns incredibly easily (despite narrower bars) and feels SO good in the turn. VERY confidence-inspiring. The suspension and chassis are razor sharp. Great suspension.

I thought my bike shifted smoothly, but the 636 shifts with an amazing lack of clunk. The feedback from the suspension and tires is amazing. I donít get that level from mine. The brakes felt a bit bigger and more authoritative, but they didnít wow me as much as the rest, mostly because I didnít use them much and mine are already pretty good (he also hasnít upgraded the pads or lines yet, although they do use radially-mounted calipers).

Basically, it felt much more serious but was also about 50% more fun just on our short trek. It just wanted to run, right away, and felt so good doing it. Everything on it is full of feedback and eager to GO. Rolling on the throttle on that burly engine note with its instant response is fantastic. We stopped at the fuel station for my bike, and I didnít want to give the 636 back. The engine was also loud and throaty enough that I could have worn earplugs (more on this later) and still have heard the engine.

Anyway, we hit FM 407 for a while, some nice little twists, but soon realized that the traffic was about five times what it usually is because of the NASCAR race. Then we got separated. There were cops everywhere, and cone barricades, and tons of traffic. Robert was gone. I rode for another hour, trying to get past the endless NASCAR drones at first, and then riding for fun, and finally heading home.

I had left my earplugs out in the beginning, and paid for it by feeling like Iíd come out of a rock concert. VERY BAD. So I put earplugs in, but then I couldnít hear the engine the rest of the day. Also not good. I can order a pipe, but the carbs would need rejetting and dyno tuning (even for just a slip-on, according to the folks at CycleForums whoíve owned í00-í02 6Rs) and I really canít have that done for another 1000 miles or so. Itís a dilemma.

I put the new windscreen on tonight and will try it out soon. It was relatively easy to make the switch. I like the looks of the new screen and it fit perfectly.

-----------------------------------------

Tried out the windscreen on a night ride. Itís hard to tell what difference it makes so far, as the wind was awful last night, with strong gusts. Wind noise in one direction was bad, in the other direction was very quiet. I very seriously need to do something about the wind noise/engine sound, as Iím unable to hear what my engine is doing when Iím properly protected from the 115 dB wind blast.

Also nearly had a collision with a possum on a corner. Damned thing tried its best to get squashed, and we missed each other by only a few inches.

-----------------------------------------

One more update. Iíve discovered my ďlocal twisties.Ē J.T. Ottinger, Randol Mill, Dove, Gilead, and a couple others. I havenít even hit them during daylight yet, just at night. Tonight I did my most purposeful exploration of them yet, and found I could make a solid (and continuous!) loop around and through all of them. These are sharp turns (not the high speed sweepers of FM 407), not the greatest surfaces, with about 70% of the corners having little visibility due to vegetation. Still, itís a gas. The ZZRís amazing high beam lights up the tree-shrouded road ahead (and the ďsnaking roads aheadĒ signs) like my own personal corridor of motorcycle fun and practice. At 2am, there are no cops (there) and no other cars (although there are suicidal cats and rats).

Thereís a great section where the road opens up a bit and there are no trees in the way and you can see the twists ahead well before you get there, even at night. The bike feels so good there. I am just in awe. I canít believe Iím still young and have some money and a brand new bike and twenty weeks of good night weather ahead of me and my bike and skills are only going to get better, and I work evenings so my late nights are freeÖ Now if only the few people I know (in person) who ride were on the same scheduleÖ

I had another first tonight. I was stopped by a cop, but not in the high school parking lot, and not in the twisty country roads. He got me on well-lit, arrow-straight residential artery Johnson Road, going the speed limit. He just wanted to ask me why I was riding a motorcycle around at 2:30am. I told him it was because nobody else is out at 2:30am. He stopped short of telling me I wasnít to go out riding this late again, but I could tell he wanted to. Just like when I used to get stopped on my bicycle. I find the late night cops are often just lonely, so I tried to make a bit of conversation, but since I had my earplugs in (and didnít want to take off the helmet and earplugs, being since, INCREDIBLY and IDIOTICALLY, wearing earplugs on a motorcycle is ILLEGAL!), it was an awkward dialogue. He let me go.

By the way, donít think Iíve stopped riding my Specialized bicycle. I ride it every night, in fact. Itís awesome exercise. My legs get a real workout on the ZZR (theyíre squeezing the tank, holding me up and helping with steering), and it helps to be in shape. The bicycle is also a hell of a lot of fun, the way I ride. I love making the run from one gate to the other (a ďCĒ shape) around my apartment complex a few times. At 20 mph, the bicycle feels much faster on turns than the ZZR does at 40 mph. Iím balls out on the bicycle, something Iíll never be on the street on the ZZR (wait until that first track day).

Speaking of track days, my first may not come this year. I might look for something like an F2 or FZR or even a GS500 or EX500 for track duty, something that doesnít necessarily have lights or mirrors or unblemished bodywork. Iíll also need a trailer and the necessary safety modifications.

Iím still thinking about how excellent Robertís 636 was. Thereís almost a bigger difference between the 636 and my ZZR than between my ZZR and my last bike, the VF700. It felt big (in the engine area) and small (everywhere else) at the same time. It didnít have effortless torque like the Bandit or FJ, but it had instant revs on demand (imagine this thing with three or four extra teeth on the rear sprocket!). What it really makes me want to do is sample other modern bikes. If two [essentially] 600cc bikes can feel so different, what does an í01 GSX-R750 feel like? Or a Multistrada? Or a first-gen Mille? Or the XB-12S? Or the new K1200 naked Beemer? Or an appropriately modded-out ZRX? Or the Rocket III?

Iím collecting tips from old issues of Motorcycle Consumer News and Sport Rider, as well as studying Sport Riding Techniques. Of course, there is some conflicting information, but I think Iím climbing the learning curve at a decent rate. Iím approaching riding much differently than I have in the past. Iím taking control and taking responsibility.