Thoughts On The 2013 Z1000

Last week, I brought this lovely little lady home with me. Meet Zoey, my new 2013 Kawasaki Z1000:Image

I thought about writing a post about my new ride as soon as I received it, but I realized that I wouldn’t have much to say with only a single ride home from the dealer under my belt. Well, now that I’ve had this motorcycle for over a week and I’ve already put over 400 miles on it, I think I can talk more about it.

My previous ride was a 2005 Ninja 500, so this jump from a 500 cc engine to a 1000 cc engine (actually 1043 cc, if we’re being picky) is a pretty big one. The Z is quick; really, really quick. It’s quick off the throttle, it’s quick to get up to speed. Everything about it is just that fast. It’s awesome.

I went with the 2013 model over the new 2014 Z1000 for two reasons. First, I wasn’t crazy about the price increase; the 2013 Z’s MSRP was $10,500, while the 2014 is about $2000 more. Since this was last year’s model, I was able to pick it up at a really, really nice price, which was a big bonus. Furthermore, I really don’t like the look of the 2014. I think the gun-metal grey with the green accents just isn’t as striking as the 2013’s full metallic blazed green paint job. Seriously, this thing sparkles in the sunlight. It’s very striking.

My favorite thing about the Z1000 is the upright riding position. I’d already gotten used to sitting upright on a bike since the Ninja 500 has a very upright posture considering its sport bike class. I’ve been on a few other sport bikes with more aggressive, over-the-tank postures and I didn’t care for it. The Z’s seat is really comfortable and it’s nice to sit upright on the thing. It certainly makes tooling around town more comfortable.

The puny windshield means that the wind above about 80 mph gets pretty intense. To be honest, I didn’t realize that the little windshield on the Ninja 500 was doing that much to deflect wind, but the difference is noticeable. I don’t mind the wind, honestly, although it’s a bit of an upper arm workout to hold on at speed, it’s not unbearable. Also, it really adds to the feeling of going Warp Nine when you’re really moving.

Really, I love everything about this bike. Whenever I think about it or someone asks me about my new ride, I get an absolutely ridiculous grin on my face. Riders will often talk about “smiles per mile” as a metric for value when it comes to their rides. In that regard, I think I’m getting my money’s worth, many times over.

To Pass Or Not To Pass: That Was My (Neurotic) Question

I turn the corner and accelerate onto the interstate. This is one of my favorite parts of riding. I like the feeling of getting up to speed. I like the way the engine growls as I push the RPMs. I like the rush of acceleration.

I glance over my shoulder and check that my lane is clear to merge. My lane is, but the lane next to mine isn’t.

There are two riders occupying that lane, riding in a side-by-side formation. Both are on big, black cruisers. I can’t tell the make from here, but they’re loud, even through my helmet and headphones I can hear the roar, and they’re both modded up; ape-hanger handlebars and all. Both riders are bearded and helmetless.

And both are wearing cut-off black leather vests.

I pull into my lane just as they zip past me, which gives me an opportunity to see the backs of those cuts. Classic one-percenters, right down to the patch, the top rocker, and so on. It’s not a club name that I’m familiar with (although later research indicates that my hesitation was justified, as the club in question is classified as an outlaw motorcycle club according to law enforcement).

My initial feeling is to give them a wide berth, until traffic works itself in such a way that I end up riding in their wake. They’re dominating their lane, going an easy 80 mph in the left lane. Speed limit is 75 mph.

Most people do 90+ if they can get away with it.

And now the dilemma. I’m behind them, riding in their wake. They can see me. They can see my bike. I’m riding a sport bike, long the enemy of the cruiser crowd. My blue Kawasaki isn’t going to win me friends here. We’re members of completely different tribes, even though we’re all sharing in the same potentially lethal two-wheeled experience.

I know that a big part of OMC culture is the idea of respect, something that’s shared with most gang or gang-like groups. When I worked in a south-side library in a tough part of town, one of my tasks was asking gang members in the library to put away their colors while in the library. It was frequently a terrifying experience; you try to handle the issue respectfully but you never know how the other guy is going to react. Fortunately, I never had a bad reaction.

What counts as disrespect when you’re sharing the highway with a pair of outlaw bikers? Passing them in the right lane seems disrespectful, because it frequently is exactly that, at least when I do it. “Go fucking faster” is what my bike is saying whenever that happens.

I really, really don’t want to communicate that particular message.

But do I follow along? Maybe that seems like I’m trying to edge into their business. Bikers are varied like that. I’ve found some people absolutely love the impromptu riding groups that sometimes pop up. You get into a group of riders, you follow them for a while because you’re all going the same way, it’s pretty fun.

But a sport rider trying to group up with a pair of one-percenters? Who knows what that looks like?

Since my only options were follow or pass, I decided ultimately the ambiguity of following in their wake was more respectful than a “fuck-you-right-lane-pass.” So I kept a good distance, focused on my commute, and wondered what, if anything, these guys were thinking about the blue rider on their tail in the full face helmet.

“Keep your distance, Chewie, but don’t look like you’re keeping your distance . . . I don’t know. Fly casual.”

If You’ve Ever Wanted To Feel Like Iron Man

Think about how much stuff Tony Stark needs in order to be Iron Man. He needs to have access to the different suits of armor in different places. He needs all the different pieces and the infrastructure to service those pieces. It takes a lot of work to be Iron Man, far moreso than it does to be Superman or Spider-Man, both of whom just have to worry about someone seeing them while they’re doing the laundry.

If you’d like to get an idea of the logistics that Tony Stark would have to go through each day (assuming he wasn’t a fictional character, of course), consider riding a motorcycle as your primary means of transportation.

The logistical consideration that goes into this process is rather intricate. I have to plan out which pieces of gear I’m going to need, where I can store it if I don’t need it at that moment, and how I’m going to carry it all. Here’s what a typical day looks like:

  1. Since I started wearing riding boots and armored pants, I need to bring a pair of jeans and comfortable shoes with me to work. Into the backpack they go, with the shoes wrapped in a plastic bag so they don’t get anything else dirty.
  2. I wear a smoke-tinted visor for the morning ride, but it’s still a little too dark by the time I leave in the evening, so I pack the clear visor and swap them out for the ride home.
  3. Since it’s still chilly out in the mornings (that 85+ mph freeway commute doesn’t help), I wear an extra layer over my riding pants. They’re snowboarding pants, which are great for being wind resistance, warm, and waterproof, but they’re bulky as hell and don’t provide any protection so I can’t wear them in lieu of riding pants.
  4. The wind chill also means wearing something under my riding jacket. Since I bought my jacket used and the guy had lost the warm insert lining, this ends up being a hoodie on chilly days (and on really cold days, a snowboarding jacket).
  5. What about gloves? I actually have three different pairs of gloves and can layer them in different ways, depending on the level of windchill. These are actually the least space-consuming part of my gear, since I can shove the unused gloves in my backpack’s external mesh net.
  6. Here’s where things get tricky: this setup works for the morning ride, when it’s about 40 degrees before factoring in windchill. But on the ride home in the evening, it’s too hot to wear the warm layers. So now the hoodie and the warm pants have to get crammed into my backpack along with the shoes, the jeans, the unused visor . . . and, you know, whatever things I might have needed to take to work with me that day, like my laptop or books or whatever.
  7. As a fun aside, I tried wearing the warm layers home once in the afternoon even though it was 80 degrees. I nearly passed out after an extended pause at a long stoplight.

That’s a brief look at how I’m handling the logistical side of clothing now that I’m living life on two wheels 100% of the time. I’m considering buying an extra pair of shoes just to leave at work so I don’t have to haul my sneakers back and forth every day.

One thing that’s nice is that the amount of gear I need to be able to haul in my pack is very temporary. In cold months, I wear my warm layers both to and from work and in the summer, I don’t need the warm layers at all. It’s only this weird time of year when we have chilly mornings and hot afternoons that I have to work around the space considerations. The longer summer days will also remove the need to swap visors, making that one less piece I need to carry.

So, yes, there’s a lot of gear and logistics that go into motorcycle commuting, especially if all the gear, all the time is your MO. I could make things easier on myself by not bothering with so much gear, but then I run the risk of one day knowing exactly what cheese feels like after meeting a cheese grater should I go down without that stuff. So I’ll keep wearing it and just work through the logistics with a smile, because the alternative is cheese graters except on my legs and feet. Yeah, no.

Hero Motorcyclist Saves Coffee Cup From Certain Death

Motorcyclists are getting a lot of bad press right now due to the road rage altercation that took place in New York a few days ago. Long story short: a reckless group of riders is swarming the streets, one rider “brake-checks” an SUV and gets taken out, group stops around the SUV, driver panics and runs over another rider on his way out of Dodge, chase and eventually violence ensue. Oh, and one of the riders caught the entire thing on his helmet cam and posted it on YouTube. So, there’s that.

As a motorcyclist myself, I don’t fault the SUV driver for doing what he did. I’ve been chased in a road-rage instance and it was a terrifying experience. Fortunately for me, it was just one guy in one truck and he gave up after a few miles. It still wasn’t something I’ll ever forget.

Still, it’s always unfortunate for motorcyclists when some of our tribe’s bad behavior makes international headlines. These guys were being jerks even before the collision that sparked the entire mess; in previous videos, they were running red lights and riding on sidewalks and just being jerks. The fact that one rider decided to brake-check a fucking SUV speaks volumes. You don’t brake-check someone on a motorcycle. You just don’t. It’s not like doing it in your old Ford pickup where you’ll get a dented bumper if the guy clips you.

Instead of focusing on those guys, however, I’d rather draw attention to a very different sort of reckless rider. Behold this video of a motorcyclist going out of his way to rescue a coffee cup from certain death.

Was it a stupid risk? Absolutely. But it’s the kind of stupid risk that makes you smile, because even though it’s pretty dumb to risk your life and your bike for something so trivial, it’s also kind of heartwarming at the same time.