1986 Kawasaki Concours
I'm only the third owner of this fat rat bike. Cruel friend Dan Pritts sold it to me for about $1600, which was basically reasonable. Since reputable mechanics had rated it as "alright," I figured that should mean I shouldn't have to screw with it too much, too soon. And that was accurate, unless 20,000 miles is "too soon." The main things I fixed early on were the fuel tank (new used from a Colorado junkyard) and the mirrors. There's still a few drips and such that should be attended to, plus Dan threw in some variable-rate springs and stainless steel brake lines that I still need to install sometime. I was going to fix the footpegs, but the peg lowering kit I got from Gen-Mar was junk, unfortunately. Lousy tolerances, plus it moves the damn pegs forward more than it moves them down, thus keeping my big-ass left foot from working the gear shift safely, no matter how I adjusted it. I could probably reverse engineer their design and work it to something I might find comfortable and safe... on the other hand, I've gotten used the pegs where they are. Probably bad for my knees.
One thing I learned reasonably early on is that 7.5 gallons of gas is heavy, especially in a normal, high-mounted tank. And even more especially so when the ground slopes away under your right foot, preventing you from gaining the proper leverage before the bike's leaned a little too far. That is why I had to replace the right mirror (although Dan had goofed it up a bit before I finished it off). Lesson learned.
Finally managed three things in 1998: I learned to ride with a passenger, went on a long ride or two with the Connie, and rode through rain. My trial passenger was my friend Chris, who, being dangerously scrawny, was a pretty good practice weight. And I figured it would be better to injure him than my wife, so what the hell. Then on my wife's first ride on pillion, we went to Columbus, Ohio (after a stop at Competition Accessories for a new helmet for her and a cover for the bike). Her comment: "It's more comfortable than I expected." Bonus points for Corbin. On that same trip, we also managed to ride through driving rain for about 10 minutes. Lightning not too far in the distance, all that good stuff. And no chance to stop under shelter for rain pants. This is when I learned that water on the tank blows right into the rider's crotch. I looked like I'd peed myself for quite a few hours.
For July 4th, 1998, Dan and I treated ourselves to a class. The FastTRAX Performance Motorcycle Riding Course, held at Nelson Ledges race track, near Warren, Ohio. Nevermind how little sleep we got after leaving waay too late from Ann Arbor/Detroit, nevermind the insanely bad gas mileage of the Dodge Durango ("Dee-RANGE-oh") I borrowed to tow the bikes (7mpg with 2000lbs of bike and trailer behind it!), nevermind the light rain during the class: It was absolutely worth it (only $150!), and I'd do it again. Actually, I will do it again, it's just a matter of whether that happens this year or next. PLEASE check out FastTRAX at the Nelson Ledges web site. If you ride any bike that could be considered sporting, it's very well worth it. (Read: I think they'll accept any bike, but it would be pretty silly to take a heavy cruiser through the class. It's supposed to be performance riding, afterall.)
The two most significant rides to date were a quick weekend jump to New York City to see the Guggenheim's Art of the Motorcycle exhibit a week before its closing in September '98. Airyn Darling and I met just south of Toledo, where she adjusted her chain tension and I installed a Chatterbox HJC-27A CB radio setup. We eventually left around 8pm, stopping at last in Pennsylvania at 2:30 in the morning. We made it to my friend Cheryl's in Brooklyn by 2pm after a few tolls and feared-missed turns, but really everything worked out well that day. Got to the exhibit around 5pm and got kicked out at 8pm. We spent most of our time drooling upon and scrutinizing the works of the older bikes, then sort of rushed through the 80's and 90's in the last 20 minutes before getting the boot. We returned the next morning on the way out of town to get souvenirs and the exhibit catalog, then pointed to the East River Drive to get us out of town. This is when I noticed 88th St. is much bumpier than should be flown over at 25-30mph. I heard a dull "thunk" behind me, followed by a scratching, sliding, sort of noise. I thought, "That sounds like my left saddlebag just fell off," so I checked my mirror, and there she was, sliding down the now-smooth 88th St. at just a tick under 20mph. Eventually we agreed to stop before the intersection, and I got off and re-mounted the little devil. A bit of field dressing at the gas station up the street and the addition of a bungie cord and I was satisfied the bag would stay on for most of the trip back. Airyn and I gassed up the bikes, then proceeded to get lost in New Jersey. Note that if you try to leave NYC, you have to go through New Jersey. And if you do that, you will get lost, one way or another. I think by 12:30p we were successfully on track for an otherwise uneventful trip back to Michigan.
16 June 00
16 June 00
©2000 Andrew W. Duthie