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The ZZR has 750 miles on it now. Iím becoming more comfortable with many aspects of the bike. Iíve done different kinds of riding in the past week. I did a 200+ mile day. I rode some long freeway miles. I did some more aggressive riding on FM 407 and 1171. Another first was riding in a rainstorm. I got above 9,000 RPMs for the first time. I rode ďtucked inĒ for about ten minutes successfully. And Iíve ordered a number of items.

SUPPLIES

My Pit-Bull swingarm stand has arrived at my fatherís house. This will enable me to do easier chain maintenance (cleaning, lubing, adjusting) and oil changes, although without my own garage itís not all that useful (because I have to travel to Fort Worth to use it). Pit-Bull is the best swingarm stand out there. I also have the spools for my swingarm Ė silver-colored aluminum.

I bought the parts to do some more maintenance Ė cotter pins for chain adjustments and Loctite for sealing the spools and other bolts.

GEAR

Iíve thought about ordering more pants, such as the Dragginí Cargo Pants, but the price is just too high (they have to be shipped from Australia, too). I still need good leather armored pants, but Iíve ordered the iCON under-jeans leg armor for commuting and ďnormalĒ riding. Iíll report back on how these work, although theyíre on back-order for a couple of weeks.

I ordered a pair of Oxtar boots as well. These are similar to my Dainese boots, but a little lower and less bulky. Iíve heard good things about them. Yes, Iíll eventually get some track-quality articulated boots.

Next, I ordered both the chin curtain and the breath guard for the Shoei RF1000 helmet. I found a nice balaclava for cold weather Iíll probably buy later on.

From the store Cycle Gear I bought my second jacket (of four that Iíll eventually have). I bought a red First Gear summer jacket. It fits more snugly in the arms than my Belstaff jacket. It has a zip-out liner, and with it out, it appears reasonably airy, but the protection and construction seems much better than the first Joe Rocket Phoenix, for instance. Definitely not for aggressive riding, though. Iíll be getting two more jackets Ė an insulated cold-weather jacket, and a good fully-armored leather jacket.

I also bought two new pairs of gloves, bringing my total to five Ė need one more pair for the cold days and Iíll be set for a little while. One pair is just for tooling around in, a pair of Olympia Gel synthetics only a little tougher than my bicycle gloves. The other pair is by a company called Frank Thomas and is a longer glove that can fit under or over the jacket and has a good mix of mesh and leather. One of these days I'll get image hosting and take pics of my various gear (as well as my bike mods) for posterity.

From RoadGear I ordered a map holder Ė this is like a magnetic tank bag with a clear map pocket, except thereís no bag part Ė it sits flat on the tank. I just got it, and itís very nice. It will come in handy. The backpack does fine for carrying things for now, although later on Iíll get a real tank bag and sport saddlebags for trips (probably from RoadGear as well).

Itís not really gear, but I ordered two new books, Total Control, which is supposed to be a phenomenol guide to smooth and fast riding, and 101 Sportbike Projects, which explains how to do a number of different mods to modern sportbikes. Iíll report my findings on these next time.

MODIFICATIONS

I ordered two sets of clear signal lights (with amber bulbs), a clear taillight (with red bulbs), silver-colored aluminum footpegs, a decent fender eliminator kit, and a carbon-look gel tank guard. I havenít installed anything yet besides the new windshield. The fender eliminator (for getting rid of the stupid mud flap) requires cutting with a dremel or hacksaw. The tank guard still hasnít come and I donít think itís going to, since TrickTape says they already sent it with the clear signals. Oh well.

I donít like the lack of visibility of flushmount front signals and those minimal rear signals, so Iím staying with the stock housings and just installing clear lenses. The clear taillight will complete the look. The footpegs will give a little better feel (and a bit more clearance, but whoís measuring?).

I found a place in Dallas called Southwest Superbikes which can install a jet kit and dyno tune the bike. I havenít ordered a slip-on exhaust yet. Iíve done some window-shopping on the Web for various brands. I donít think Iím going to go for a full system/stage 3/ignition advancer, just a slip-on/stage 1/air filter. At first, I was thinking of spicing up the bikeís looks with a dark red slip-on, but now Iím just thinking something black or matte metal. But again, the bike needs to be tuned for the slip-on, or it will run worse than it does now. Southwest Superbikes may also do the sprocket, tire change, carb sync, set up the suspension, and maybe help me remove the lower lip from the bikeís face. If I pay them.

I found a ďmidnight blueĒ (the í05 ZZRís color) rear seat cowl from Targa, but itís extremely expensive. I might just stick with the rear seat, even though Iím going to remove the left passenger peg and bracket and the right peg. Iím going to order 12 quarts of Amsoil synthetic, which I probably wonít use all of for a while.

MAINTENANCE and ADJUSTMENTS

I finally was able to pick up the license plate for my bike. I was going to bring the bike in for its ď600 mile service,Ē but they told me it would be A WEEK before they could get to it, so I decided to do everything myself. Iíll be doing the second oil change, plus the first chain adjustment, among other small jobs, tomorrow. My bike did not include the correct spanner to do rear preload adjustments Ė the ownerís manual even tells you to bring the bike in for adjustment. Everyone tells me I can just use a hammer and flat-head screwdriver to loosen the top collar piece, and then turn the bottom where I want it and tighten the top again with the hammer/screwdriverÖ but it doesnít make sense to me that you could go down on the bottom collar without a spanner Ė doesnít the spring want to force it up, causing way too much resistance to turn by hand? Weíll seeÖ The first step in setting up suspension involves rear preload. From all reports, getting even the stock suspension right on a sportbike will make it feel like a completely different machine.

I adjusted the clutch and brake levers. I rotated the clutch lever down and the brake lever up. I also pulled the brake lever in closer to the bike so I might have more leverage, and used the adjuster to bring it closer to the grip. I still need to adjust the rear brake pedal. I fiddled with the idle speed a bit and got the revs to ďblipĒ and come back down a little more easily from closed throttle.

I had a spot of good news, or at least it might be. The apartment manager told me last weekend that they had ordered a REMOTE CONTROL for the gates for me! It could take a while to get it. And of course, he could be flat lying, or completely mistaken. But this is a significant development if it happens. Iíve called off my move to the other apartment until I consider enough time having passed that the remote should be here.

Currently, my bike is ďstoredĒ out in the parking lot under my full cover (remarkably, it hasnít been vandalized yet to my knowledge). Itís a nice cover, but it takes time to take it off and put it on. The elements still get to the bike. I canít do any maintenance or big mods or cleaning with the bike out in the open. Iím on the wait list for the garageÖ STILL. It could be quite some time though. It could be months or even a YEAR or more before a garage becomes available here. Not having a garage is a barrier to my full enjoyment of the motorcycle, as is the gate situation.

RIDES

First, a word about the weather. First, we had rain. Then it became ridiculously cold Ė 41 degrees at night in Texas right at the end of April just isnít right. Last night it finally warmed upÖ and we had winds gusting to 40 mph! I havenít ridden in a few days (nights) now. This was written April 26-28, 2005. Tonight Iíll probably be able to ride.

I got to sample the bikeís [relative] long distance capabilities last week. I put on about 228 miles in one day. Unfortunately, a lot of this was freeway riding. And anyway, it doesnít compare to a story I saw recently where a girl on the same bike as me is doing a 2390 mile trip in 50 hours (her tires and chain will be destroyed by the end).

I did do some experimenting with tucked positions. I found a position that is very comfy and controllable, except for the fact that my neck bones take a beating from effectively staring straight UP (through the windscreen) the whole time.

On another day, Robert and I took another swipe at FM 407. This time there was no NASCAR traffic. Robert is fast. He rode the twisty parts all in second gear and got his knee down a couple inches from the road. I believe I was held back mentally by a number of factors: unwillingness to cane my young engine, realization that my riding gear isnít the greatest, fear of local law enforcement, and the knowledge that my tires were only considered middle of the road way back in 1997. I donít know the bike or the roads well enough to get my braking points down correctly. Perhaps Iím fighting the bike in turns?

I can ride it at a spirited pace, but Robert was just GONE on the esses. I had to make up for it on the straights by stretching the throttle cable out all the way! So while Robertís speed was above the speed limit the whole time, and his average speed was only a little higher than mine, he rode at a more consistent speed, while I had to slow much harder to turn and then blow WAY past the speed limit on the straight parts just to keep him in sight. And donít even think for a minute that things would have been different had we traded bikes again. I wrote about how awesome Robertís bike is last time, but this was all rider.

Later on, before our late lunch, we rode back to town, up to somewhere in Grapevine or Lewisville or Coppell. Robert knows of this amazing highway ramp loop. Itís not exactly a ďcloverleaf,Ē but it has about four generous tight curves. You can ride it in a continuous loop, although there is one red light in the middle. Robert rode it moderately one time, and then he took it at a race pace four or five times. I believe he could have lapped me without the red light intervening. One of the curves is just brutal, and really highlights one of my deficiencies. Itís a decreasing-radius curve that seemingly goes ALL the way around before opening out into a tight left curve. I just donít have down how to get through that thing accelerating the whole way without running wide, but itís obvious it can be done, because Robert rode it like a bat out of hell, with the 636 snarling up to 15,000 before the left.

It rained on our way to Robertís place and then all the way home for me. The bike did fine, except for turning on those idiotic slippery intersection bricks around Coppell. I experienced slides going straight over them AND on turns, which I can assure you I was taking at a gentle pace.

After the rain I wiped the whole bike off. It still needs a wash. Cleaning and lubing the chain sure is fun without a swingarm stand or centerstand. Just like changing the oil is fun with a fairingÖ

Because of the weather and the impending oil change, I havenít ridden much since the rain.

OBSERVATIONS

This is an expensive hobby, at least the way I'm doing it. I spent $23 on gas in four days. The oil and filter cost $24 and will go even higher when I switch to synthetic. Iíve spent $900 on riding gear in the past month, and I already had several pieces, and have several more to go. The Pit-Bull, spools, and shipping was $170. The garage, if I ever get it, will cost $85 a month. Tires every 2000 miles will cost $250 plus I have to find a way to do it myself or pay labor (will it take them a week?). My minor dyno tuning (stage 1, slip-on, single air filter Ė basically the bare minimum) will cost $750 or so. Oh, and I wrote a $7028 check for the motorcycle.

After the ride last Sunday to FM 407, as I reflected on the dayís events and what I learned, I had a couple of profound thoughts.

I felt tired, capable, and happy. Tired from the mental and physical exertion. Capable, because the work week seemed trivial compared to what weíd just done. Happy because the world seemed lighter and brighter and more pleasant afterward (even in the night rainstorm on the way home).

Like many ďhobbies,Ē dabbling in sportbike riding and then hanging out with a hardcore practitioner reveals how deep the activity really is and how much there is to learn. People on the outside donít understand. Iíve found this in guns, live music playing, mountain biking, sports, weight training, and even Unreal Tournament. The people who do it all the time have deep wells of knowledge, dedication, and intuition regarding their chosen focus that can seem intimidating, frightening, or even fanatical to the uninitiated. And what you discover is that although these people usually have excellent, well-chosen equipment, it really is the person DOING it, not the equipment (it's not the bike, it's the rider; it's not the guitar, it's the guitarist; it's not the computer running UT, it's the guy who perfects his game eight hours a day). Riding with Robert this time was really the first time Iíve ridden with someone whoís REALLY FAST (for the street), and it was somewhat shocking. More on this next time, I think.

Iíve realized something about my bikeís powerband. I wish I had image storage so I could show the map of the stock dyno curve for the 2001 ZX-6R that I annotated. Basically, 3000 to 5500 is the bikeís normal city RPM range. This area lets me pull from most vehicles at stoplights and pass when I need to, sometimes with a downshift. Itís not too noisy, and staying above 3000 at all times avoids the bikeís severe low rev void of power. This range is also fine for the highway, giving an actual 69 mph top speed in 6th gear (an indicated 73.4 mph). At 5500, the bike can make about 36.7 rwHP (rear-wheel Horsepower at full throttle) Ė 16 pounds/HP.

5500 to 9000 RPMs is the range for the twisties. This gives a speed of 75 mph in 3rd gear, while 2nd is good for 37 mph to 60 mph. This is excessively rough, inefficient, powerful, and loud for commuting, errand-running, and freeway droning, but itís a good, lively, exciting range for having fun. At 9000, the bike can make about 66.0 rwHP Ė 8.9 pounds/HP.

9000 to 13,000 RPMs is insane. Yes, the bike redlines at 14,500, but above 13 grand the stock bikeís power trails off greatly. Yes, Robert redlined his bigger, faster engine on the street. Yes, the ZZR is only a 600 and not an R1 or 10R. Peak power actually comes at 12,500 RPMs Ė 95.0 rwHP or 6.2 pounds/HP. I just donít see ever using this range for anything meaningful myself off the track. Itís not just that itís a lot of horsepower, itís that it comes at such a stratospheric rev frequency. Not very ďusableĒ power. A lot different than, say, a Buell XB-12S.

One of my biggest complaints about the ZZR concerns very slow speed turning Ė cramped parking lot turnarounds and left u-turns from a stop. The bike has minimal steering lock and marginal carburetion at tiny throttle openings. It either wants to full down inside, or run wide, or do the ďsurge and stumbleĒ routine. I follow all the rules Ė swivel my head around like an owlís to see where I want to be, drag the rear brake lightly, counterweight the outside peg, slip the clutch, etc., but itís still a pain in the ass. The last bike I had, with terrible, clapped out suspension, crummy bias-ply tires, five more inches of wheelbase, and 110 more pounds, also made tight maneuvers a snap because of flawless carburetion and great steering lock. It was MUCH easier to u-turn on the VF700 than on the ZZR. Anyway, Iím hoping that maybe rejetting will fix some of the problems with low revs/low gear/small throttle openings that also make it hard to come back on the throttle smoothly in the corners. Iím sure its fueling will never be as good as the Interceptor, as that bike was made before the smog Nazis put the strangle-hold on our bikes. This is a reason not to install a slip-on until I can get the bike in for jetting and dyno-tuning, as the slip-on alone would make it run EVEN WORSE.

On the other hand, one of the things I love about this bike are its headlights. Since a lot of my riding is night riding, this bike is the perfect tool for my situation. The lighting is just incredible. I could almost see keeping this bike even when I upgrade just for its nighttime effectiveness, because the next bike almost certainly will have inferior lighting abilities.

I bought a mid-size map of the DFW metroplex and all the surrounding counties. Iíve been marking roads in marker that I need to try out based on reports from the internet and also just eyeballing the jagged, twisty-looking roads. But then I see stuff on CycleForums like the hills of California, which are like one long twenty mile curve (multiplied a thousand times all over the state), and I think Iíll never experience true motorcycle street riding. Out there, you really can spend more of your time on the sides of your tires than on the middle section. You can get your moneyís worth out of sport tires, instead of having to switch them out after 1500 miles due to severe flattening.

NEWS

Nothing to report here this time, but this is where Iíll put race news, new bike news, upcoming events, important bike issues, etc.