Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How I'm maintaining sanity, with 3 hours a day on the road

Or at least, how I'm maintaining sanity when it isn't raining...

Not the dog (Zoe is peeking through the fence there), the bike.

Specifically, a 2004 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom.

This particular V-Strom is equipped with the Kappa Suzuki hard luggage system, factory heated grips (installed after delivery), and is powerlet wired for heated vest, and pants; and for dash power.

The original owner also modified the factory throttle bodies (removing the secondaries), put a throttle body remote sync setup in place, installed a K&N air filter, and replaced the factory windscreen with a Windstrom Manta. I also bought it with a nearly new chain, and a nearly new set of Metzler Tourances on it (they should last me at least a year, maybe more).

He also had the motor and clutch completely rebuilt (I have full maintenance records) and had the motor blueprinted at 30,000 miles.

Honest to god, the bike really is just about perfect, and might as well be brand new.

So.... When exactly did I get a motorcycle? Since I haven't mentioned it until recently and all?

Last year, I got a contract that had me living in San Francisco during the week. The contract looked like it would go for at least six months, maybe a year; and I was extremely tired of being stuck using cabs to get around, and having to rent a car to leave the immediate area around the city.

Bringing a car down to the city was impractical... and frankly, would've been more irritating than cabs and rental cars (SF is VERY car unfriendly); so I decided to buy a bike, as a low cost commute, runaround, and general "get out of town" vehicle.

I found this V-Strom, with extras, being sold by its original owner (an MSF riding instructor, who, with his wife, owned six different motorcycles), at well below market price (I only paid $3,500 for it. Blue book was $4500 plus the accessories); in near perfect condition, excepting the pretty high mileage (39,000 miles. this guy RODE his bikes).

Unfortunately, literally the week after I bought the bike, the contract was cancelled; and I never rode it down to San Francisco. In fact, I was only able to put a few hundred miles on the bike last year, having bought the bike shortly before the cold weather hit.

I have to say, as my first "modern" liter bike (I've had other 1000cc bikes before, but not in more than 10 years; and none made after the early 90s) I was completely unprepared for how powerful the bike is, for such comparatively light weight (about 455lbs dry, or about 520lbs wet, with the luggage).

By todays standards that's no lightweight (some of the 600s are under 410lbs wet, and several 1000s are under 450lbs wet), but I grew up with a CB750 (under 70hp at the crank, and about 560lbs wet), and a V65 Magna (116hp, but over 600lbs wet).

From the factory, the bike has just under 100hp at the crank (and most owners who dyno them report about 80-82hp at the rear wheel). With current mods, its probably a tiny bit more (the bike is so well maintained, I don't expect any power loss from wear). With nothing but boltons and a good retune, the bike can be set up to produce 112-118 horsepower at the crank, and nearly 100hp at the rear wheel.

The bike is also tuned for low end torque... or rather, low end for a Japanese bike. 60% of the torque and horsepower are available under 4500 RPM (with a 7850 rpm redline), coming to a torque peak of 77ftlbs at  6500 rpm, and 98hp at 7500rpm.

It's got enough power, and torque; that even as big as I am, Mel and I can two-up the bike quite comfortably (though that is technically over the bikes max gvwr)... and the suspension and brakes can handle us without a problem as well.

For night riding, the headlights on this thing are incredible; at least in comparison to what I'm used to. I've got more, and more useful, light throw than in my car or truck.

Oh, and I really like the luggage. You can fit a surprising amount of "stuff" in them... so much that I could easily see camping or touring the bike (with some comfort mods of course).

That isn't to say the bike is perfect. For one thing, it's DAMN tall. I'm 6'2" with a 34" inseam, and when the suspension is setup to allow my wife and I to two-up, I can barely stand flatfooted with my weight fully on the bike; and am on my toes with my weight off the bike.

There's a good reason for that of course. As an adventure bike, it's intended for rough road riding; with additional ground clearance, and suspension travel... But I don't know how average height riders can manage the bike, never mind shorter riders.

For me, both the stock windscreen, and the manta, are WAY too low, too small, and badly shaped. Combined with the shape of the fairing, there is almost no pocket of calm air, and there is some high speed buffet (and a fair bit of wind noise).

Also, I don't care for either the stock gearing, or the stock AFI tune (which is far too lean in most RPM ranges, and too rich in others... most likely for california emissions standards. California bikes also include a catalyst, but use the same fuelmap).

Apparently I'm not the only one, because the three most popular major functional mods for the VStrom are changing the gearing, retuning the bike, and replacing the windshield.

I'm going to need another windshield, no way around it. An extra extra tall and wide one; probably the CeeBaily extra high touring windshield. The Manta just isn't cutting it for me. I may also need to buy a Madstad adjustable windshield mount bracket for it, to fine tune the windshield angle, height, and undershield venting.

The stock gearing is neither fish nor fowl, nor good red meat. With the stock tune, there is an irritating flatspot/dip in the power curve between 3500 and 4000rpm; which, coincidentally, is the exact RPM range the bike will cruise in at common road speeds in every gear. Also, with the stock gearing, sixth gear (overdrive) is damn near useless; cruising at over 80mph at the top of the flatspot, and running below powerband at almost any highway speed.

The stock sprocket combination is 17/41, with a 525 chain (which I consider too light for a 1000cc bike, particularly one with this much power). I've picked up a 16/43 sprocket set on a 530 chain, and a DID gold 530 xring chain to go with them.

That ought to make my drivetrain bulletproof; at the same time moving the sweetspot in the powerband between power and fuel economy, right to the cruise points in all gears at common road and highway speeds (you can check out the differences at http://gearingcommander.com)

The tuning issue is addressed with a Dynoject Power Commander III USB, which can remap the fuel and igntion maps, and eliminate the flatspots (also add something like 6-8hp in stock configuration if remapped well; and up to 16hp when combined with an air filter, and modified or performance exhaust). I ordered one last year, but haven't installed it yet.

I've also snagged but haven't installed a HealTech GI-Pro gear indicator with ATRE (Suzuki does some stupid timing retard tricks to reduce emisions etc... The ATRE remaps the ignition timing to remove those stupid tricks), as the Vstrom only has a neutral indicator; and I like to have a positive indication of what gear I'm in.

I may, or may not, eventually pickup a performance exhaust. I like how quiet the stock exhaust is; but it is certainly ridiculously restrictive. Not only will a replacement produce more power, but it will actually improve the smoothness and power delivery, and with the right tune can even improve fuel economy.

Oh and for a bike that's intended for "adventure touring" I think it's nearly criminal that the bike doesn't include a centerstand (one is available as a factory accessory, or from the aftermarket, both around $250). I ordered one last year, but got it with the wrong bracket without realizing it. Thankfully, even though it's more than six months later, the seller is making good, and sending me the proper bracket and hardware.

On the "incidental" side of things, I've got phone and GPS mounts waiting to be put on, and hardwired (I'm going to install an accessory power block and some switches), some LED driving lights, and a throttle lock (also all waiting to be put on).

I may also pick up a reshaped, refoamed (stiffer foam), and heated, saddle; a set of wider mirrors (or mirror widener brackets) and a set of drop brackets for the pegs. They'll greatly improve my highway comfort... I'm perfectly fine with a two hour ride single up; but when Mel and I are 2 up, or going longer than two hours... Not so much.

Oh and look at the plate...

I swear to you, I didn't request this plate, it wasn't custom/vanity... The lady at the DMV just pulled it out of the pile, and I laughed out loud.

This being Idaho, she wasn't puzzled, she just said "so, you're a shooter then?"

Yeah... you might say that.