State line to state line, the single best road “these parts”, and a future ride project.
I found this draft post on my phone. It dates from May, 2012, and recounts my first day with the Moto Guzzi Bassa. A lot led up to this decision and this purchase, and a lot of “adventures” have happened since.
I got up at 6 this morning, broke camp and was leaving at 6:45. My intent was to get breakfast somewhere in Carolina Beach, then head up to Hempstead to buy the bike. I got to the front of the state park and the gate was locked. The sign said it is locked from 10pm to 8am. So I had to wait over an hour, and skipped breakfast, making it to Hempstead on time.
The transaction went fine. The bike was in a little bit worse condition than I thought it would be, and honestly I would have probably passed if it were in Atlanta. But I went to these great length because I was “sold” on it, and it was still a Guzzi. I will ascribe the rusted bolts and oxidized aluminum to the sea air, it being coastal. And it is a 12 year old bike after all. It also had a ripped seat. No biggie, it’s a bike with luggage, a windscreen, aftermarket shocks and springs at both ends, floorboards with the pegs included, and a second handlebar and cheap aftermarket cafe windscreen. The bolts and aluminum are something I can fix, and the seat – I figured I would get a Corbin eventually anyway. (It turns out to be comfortable enough.)
Stopped in Whiteville for lunch – only about an hour down the road. A couple of towns later I was stopping at a traffic light when my foot went to the brake and found nothing – right thru the floor and I coasted through the light. Immediately I pulled over, and walked around the bike expecting to see brake fluid gushing from somewhere. I didn’t see a problem, so continued on with the front brake only – which is almost like no brake at all. (This bike has one of the front disks linked with the rear brake, progressively controlled by the rear brake pedal. This is the main stopping power of the bike, and very effective. By itself the remaining front brake is almost useless – or has that classic vintage bike feel.)
A few towns later, outside Marion, SC I decided to pull over again to see if I needed to call AAA or find a shop. This time I spotted the culprit : a bolt had vibrated loose from the left front brake caliper, and it had slipped off the disc and was swinging freely on the fork. I googled a bike shop and found one 10 miles away in Florence. When I arrived, they were closed Mondays. The next closest one was a Harley shop. It was 3:15 and they close at 4. I got there at 3:45. They were able to help me out by reattaching the caliper and switching the bolt to the other hole so that it would stay put. But they did not have a metric bolt that size for a replacement. They directed me to the nearest auto parts store for that.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fresh oil spots on the floor under the Harley I pulled in next to. I did note the scale and proportion of both biked were similar, and well as the patina on the aluminum cylinder heads. The Harleys look so big going down the road, but the Guzzi doesn’t feel as big in person.
I found a Car Quest for a (bright, hex head) bolt, then a Lowes for a couple of wrenches and a tube of lock tite. By the time I was back on the road it was 5 pm. I jumped on I-20 and headed east at 80.
Few exits later the bike started to stumble and sputter. The trip odo read 180. It’s a 5 gallon tank but I have no idea if or how the reserve works. Supposedly there is a light on the dash, which did not come on, but I have no idea if there is a petcock. I coasted in to the next gas station and filled it up with premium. It took 4.2 gallons, which means I was running on fumes. I also checked the manual, and it said to use 97 octane. The premium here is 93, but the Europeans use a different method. After gassing up it seemed to run fine.
So another few exits later, as I’m going through Columbia during Monday evening rush hour, it again starts to stumble and miss. I pull over and am able to coax I back to life by revving. I ride for a short while, then pull off. I add a gallon ( I’ve come 63 miles since the last fillup) and add half a bottle of STP octane booster. By now it is 7 pm and I am at least 3 hours from home with only 90 minutes of light left. Deciding to throw in the towel rather than ride home in the dark with the bike acting up, I google for a state park. The one I found nearby took a 15 mile roundabout ride to get to, but at least it was scenic. Now I am here, swinging in a hammock on an island in the middle of a lake, surrounded by old people in pop-up campers with tiny dogs. The last thing – only thing – I had to eat was the steak and cheese omelet for lunch.
A few thoughts in the engine problems. It did stumble and miss a few times on the last leg. Especially at low idle or when lugging at lower revs. Perhaps I fucked something up by letting fuel injectors run on fumes. That was the first time it happened. I thought I remembered someting about not doing that. Or was that diesel?
Or somehow I fowled the spark plugs? Are the guzziz prone to this? Big block v twins in general? The other Guzzi I looked at had several spare spark plugs on board, as if replacing them on the go was fairly commonplace. nd the guy that sold me this one tossed in a few spares as well. I’ve never had to do that in either of the Suzukis, only at shop service intervals. But of all the options I hope it’s that – it’s the easiest fix.
Another possibility is some faulty electronics. A bad ECU perhaps. I also noticed the turn signals flashing erratically since the engine missing started.
I just remembered that this bike supposedly has a power commander. It was mentioned in the for sale copy, but the guy did not mention it when I was buying the bike.
More later – I need to post the questions to the forums.
Last weekend I took an 800 mile ride with camping. The trip was from Atlanta up to the Kentucky Guzzi Owners rally in Frankfort KY, and to drop in on my folks who live very close by as it was my dad’s birthday. Leaving Friday afternoon, my destination for the night was Thunder Rock Campground in Tennessee, by the Ocoee Olympic Whitewater site. My GPS royally screwed me over, trying to get from Athens GA to the southeast corner of Tennessee. It kept trying to route me through north Atlanta rush-hour traffic to get to the west side of the metro area, rather than heading north, then west across the mountains. Mired in traffic around Mall of Georgia, I finally wised up and routed myself through Cleveland, Blairsville, and on to Thunder Rock. I arrived just before sunset.
Early Saturday morning just after dawn I went down (…crashed. Fell off.) on Highway 64 in a light rain. This section is very curvy, following the river, and happens to have brand new black asphalt. Not a good combination with the rain. It had been raining most of the night so I figured it was well washed, but still I was taking it easy. It was a low side slide, lost the front end in a decreasing radius turn. I barely felt it, physically, but it was pretty surreal. What I was wearing seemed to work (but then the ground was hardly abrasive – part of the problem). The first guy that stopped was a local resident, carrying dirtbikes in his truck – he was very helpful and seemed more giddy than I was, having watched me go down. Amazingly not much damage to the bike. The crash guard did its job, took most of the damage. Right foot peg is bent, and the brake pedal is slightly bent up but still functional. Some rash on the luggage and muffler. No signs that any part of the front wheel, forks, handlebars even touched down.
Leaving athens after the rain, the GPS redeemed itself completely. Highway 68 all the way to Crossville is like riding through a picture postcard flipbook.
The next epic section was – Jamestown TN to Jamestown KY. Up to the TN state line it was tightly rolling curves through pictureasque farms. The area on either side of Wolf Creek Dam (Lake Cumberland) was near perfect and pristine.
After the town of Liberty, Hwy 127 settles in to a wide, divided highway all the way to Frankfort. It was around Danville that I realized I would not make it to the rally, so I reset for Eminence and a nice family visit.
The “up” ride was impressive enough that I decided to take the same way back, rather than explore and experiment with routes on the way back. Also, I was cramming the full 400 miles into one day, and needed to make time. Traffic was heavier on Sunday – most of the “fun” sections were spent behind cars, but after Saturday’s mishap I was in no mood to explore the edge of the envelope. Once I crossed in to GA at Copper Hill/ McCaysville, I checked the weather and realized there is no way I would avoid rain before getting home. Sure enough, around Jasper – about 90 muntes from home – the rain hit. About 30 minutes from home, it got dark as well.
Note to self: NEVER do that again. While riding in the rain alone, or in the dark alone, may seem a fraction less safe (maybe even a large fraction), Dark and rain together are easily ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less safe. For one, visibility is near zero, due to oncoming headlights diffracting in the rain drops on the screen. Sky and ground are the same color. Road stripes are invisible, and everything is shiny and reflecting lights to add to the confusion. One almost has to simply follow the taillights of the car in front, and hope he doesn’t drive off a cliff.
Mechanical side note: Sometime on Saturday I started noticing a wobble when decelerating down through 35-30 mph. The next day on the return trip it was becoming more pronounced, and the speed at which it started kept creeping higher. Now it starts wobbling around 50, and is most pronounced around 35. This was now affecting the full range of speeds used in mountain carving, where stability is paramount.
I’m no mechanic but:
My first thought/hope was that the wheel balancing weight got knocked off. But it (or one) is still on there
The next thought was that maybe the fork oil seal had ruptured and I was getting uneven rebound damping. But both forks were dry behind the fork boots.
So then I was thinking that somehow the hub bearing god mashed or racked or dented, perhaps from a sideways blow to the front wheel in the crash. No metal showed any signs of scraping, but the edge of the tire has some scrapes.
Update: It was tire pressure. The crash had me predisposed to think it must have something to do with that, so I never thought to look at the basic road-trip maintenance basics. Occam’s Razor.
It appears I have skipped several blog posts – the ones where I bought a Moto Guzzi, the adventure of riding it back from Wilmington NC after buying it essentially sight unseen, the fixing it up, and the selling of the V-Strom. Maybe later.
Sunday was my first real ride in the mountains since I have the bike set up the way I like. More of a shakedown ride. The stock handlebars had too much sweep which put my hands at a weird angle, were chrome, and had a definite cruiser look. I have since replaced them with bars off of a V-Strom – black, lower, (though not as flat as some others I tried), with less rise and sweep angle. I am going for more of a “roadster” look with a sportier riding position. To that end I added a pair of Triumph Scrambler fork gaiters, and replaced the stock floorboards with footpegs. What a fiasco that was – don’t ask what the price of Original Equipment Manufacturer Piaggio-sourced washers cost.
Chrome mirrors on black bars are goofy looking, in my opinion. So I have been obsessing on the mirrors. Currently I have it equipped with some cheap black Emgo standard rectangles, but also am toying with variations of bar-end mirrors. Seems like bar-ends are the populist choice, of late. Part of the obsession has led me to appreciate the detailing of control clusters of Harleys, including their mirrors. Still trying to find mirrors that I like and look good on the bike, but don’t want to commit in case I change the bars again. [Edit: Currently looking at these – very similar to Harleys and current model Triumphs]
Sunday’s ride: Delightful. This bike certainly does what it needs to do, in the mountains. While my last two bikes rode, sounded and felt like tailor-made apps for twisty-carving, this bike looks, feels and sounds like a mechanical beast. The valve clatter and exhaust note perfectly complement each other. The secret twisty-carving proficiency makes it a sleeper (thanks to the race-derived Tonti frame) – not that it’s a contest. I am still a little tentative about how much speed to throw in to the corners, being a much heavier bike than the 650ies, and trying to rely on engine decel as much as possible. The linked brakes on this bike work like magic glue, but I am unsure how to manage them while throwing through corners.
I managed to hit a sweet spot of nearly no traffic, once north of Helen. The stretch from the US-19/GA-60 split to Woody Gap was perfection, as was the often-forgotten GA-348 over Hogpen Gap. All the best roads in GA cross the Appalachian Trail, it seems.
Parked next to “real American iron” in Helen, this bike looks small and odd. I dare say, on one level the Guzzi is “merely” a Euro-standard disguised as a cruiser via a teardrop tank and flared fenders. Built on what was once a race frame, mind you. It does hold a steady line through the twisties. At one stop, a typical (middle aged, trophy-wifed) Viper driver came up to me and said it was an “awesome bike” and he had not seen one (assuming Guzzi) in 20 years. We were at the Road Atlanta exit, so lots of sports cars, car-buffs and bikes around.
Minuses: Still sorting out the handlebar position. A slight stretch for the reach combined with the slightly higher footpegs make it uncomfortable for the long highway haul, okay for the roads, and perfect for the mountains. I have a set of 1″ x 1″ offset handlebar risers I may try out, but would deduct huge style points on a “custom” bike, even if going for a ratty look. Highway speeds (65+) are also tiring against the wind, having grown used to the V-Strom’s windshield. Road speeds are pleasant. This configuration is an experiment, and I reserve the right to convert it back to full cruiser mode 😉
This entry is from my personal diary, September 24, 2010. On-topic, but something I had planned to keep to myself for ever.
Close call last night.
I was riding in the dark, late at night, which I never really do. Somehow I drifted in to a cocoon of white noise and darkness. The other vehicles are ere points of light – no mass to help with the visual interpretation of the physics.. I find myself riding up on the bumper of a slower car. I’m in lane 2 (from the left) and going hard. I’m coming too fast and snap out of my road daze to start to pass him. But there is an SUV in my left blind spot. I notice him, and also realize that I’m lane changing without signaling. I swerve slightly, back in to my own lane, down throttle, and glance back. He has backed off so I figure he’s letting me go. So I gun it, only to see that he’s right back there, gunning it also. I keep it going this time, essentially making a pass on the dividing line, while an SUV is beside and slightly behind me, honking his horn. I get around the obstacle, and make 3 “correct” lane changes to the right for my exit. The SUV continues down the fast lane, apparently one of those hard-pushing wait-for-no-one drivers as well.
The strange thing is, it never really “hit” me. No adrenaline dump as I took in what just happened. It all felt like a dream. Not like it wasn’t happening to me, but abstract and matter of fact. Like when you are dreaming something vivid and dangerous, but you can feel the pillow against your face and the weight of the blanket, so you feel safe and distanced from it at the same time. That’s what it felt like, surrounded by a pillow of darkness and white noise. Black noise? I’m mainly pissed that I let something like that happen. And that for a brief moment I was one of those crazy bikers that’s always doing something crazy and unpredictable, lets just hope he doesn’t kill anybody else when he kills himself.
It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.
More than one close call this week.
Headed east on Dekalb Ave, an industrial artery street that connects downtown’s backdoor with nearby Decatur. It has one of those reversible center lanes, with the “use lane with green arrow” rule. It was noon, and green arrow lane was active for eastbound. I was in this lane. Crossing Krog, there was a pickup truck (the kind with the custom body to carry HVAC equipent) in the far right lane going very slow, with a left turn signal on. It kind of seemed like it was drifting idly, either undecided about the lane change, or struggling with mechanical issues. I slowed down and hung back, waiting for him to make the move. There was some traffic behind me, but not a lot, as this is a weird blind intersection that most know to take slow. Finally it looked like he was not going to make the lane change, and it seemed safe to pass. Just as I pulled next to him, he hangs a hard left – almost an attempt at a U-turn (mere feet past the intersection, strange place for a U-turn…) right in front of me. Thankfully I was going slow enough at this point to make a full stop, with horn. He full-stops as well, turns to look at me over his shoulder, to reveal that he is talking on a cell phone. Dirty looks exchanged, I then veer around him and go on my way.