Sunday, November 19, 2006

Installment #51 Zoom zzooooom!

Yep I'm the new proud father of a brand new yellow CF400 Super Four VTEC3 naked roadbike. Continuing the long family tradition of buying Honda. They only sell these models in japan, as americans don't buy anything except for harley like cruisers or sport racers that look more like rockets. It's too bad because the whole naked class is quite stylish in europe and japan, and if you ask me looks a lot better than the kind of bike that you either have to wear flame resistant jumpsuits or a beard, bandana, and beer belly to ride. Naked bike or street fighters have all the muscle of a crotch rocket, but a more comfortable seat position so you can give your crotch a break on those longrides. Just think about how far forward the sports bikes make a rider lean and you'll know why they say that owners of sports bikes are over compensating for other inadequacies. Put another way, it takes a special kind of physiology to be able to ride one.

The rush of riding

You really learn to love acceleration on a bike. Not just the muted acceleration you get while driving your daddy's BMW or porche. That kind is fun as well, but nothing really beats the rush you get as the wind rushes by your face as you push 0-60km in 3 seconds. Riding is a culture. One that is very misunderstood in many places. In the cold cracked highways of toronto, I would never hazard riding a bike. 1) because the carved out road repairs that happen year round create edge hazards that are bike killers, and 2) because the drivers in Toronto have no respect whatsoever for bikes. This is not entirely the fault of the drivers, I used to be one of them, and we misunderstood bikers. We see them as hooligans who pollute the streets with their god aweful noise and deserve to be hit. But in truth, there just wasn't enough bikers for peoples mindset about them to change, and the ones that do exist often had to resort to installing loud rattlers on their bikes just so that they can feel safe riding at night without worrying that some half drunk driver may not see them and run them over while trying to make a left turn. The road is a scary place when you are on a bike. Its not just other motorists you have to watch for, its the road! potholes, manhole covers, the WHITE PAINT LINES AT INTERSECTIONS, all spell hazard for a bike. Try to pull too deep a turn on one, your wheels will slip and scraaape -- there goes 3 layers of skin. (I know I used to think that bikes didn't deserve respect at the intersection, and I always left turned across their path thinking that they would be able to stop if they wanted to). But that's different in japan. In asia in general. There are alot more bikers, and cyclists who ride on the streets, so cars are generally very tolerant of them as they weave through and between lanes. Since I started riding, I have been careful to return the respect by always acknowledging thanks to a driver that I just slipped (cut) in front of. I think they deserve the thanks, because in canada or USA, the driver would most likely get angry and tail gate me. (which is pretty scary when you are on a bike) I think that Canada and USA should promote more scooter pizza or fed ex delivery men, and as the tolerance for scooters and bikes running around the road increases, it will be safer for bikes and better for the environment too, as they use so much less fuel. In japan, bike lovers get their dream come true. Whatever bike you fancy, they can get it here (and cheap! relatively speaking). And better still, if you are a fan of the domestic Hondas Suzukis Kawasakis or Yamahas, they sell models here that are not exported anywhere else in the world. Naked bikes are a good example. the honda Gorilla (its soo cute) is another one. Honda Gorilla. There are just so many fun bikes to ride here, whether you are a Harley fan, or a Ducati lover. and the highways in japan are immaculately upkept. No potholes or uneven patches (at least on the main artery ways) I suppse the steep tolls fares help to pay for all this maintenance. All in all the bike is the transportation method of choice in Japan.


The problem with automobiles, is that you get a false sense of invincibility with them. Sort of like the kind you get if you were a 15th century french knight at the battle of Agincourt. (For those of you not asute in history, 20,000 French forces better equipped with 1/3 mounted calvary were defeated by only 6000 english, 4/5 of them were longbowmen, with not one mounted knight). I know this because I have suffered this disillusionment myself. Last year, while driving through the snowy icy mountain roads in hokkaido, I thought it would be fun to "GT3" it through the turns (think 'Fast and the Furious') while engaging the handbrake in an attempt to drift through the bends. Well, for a couple of those turns it was pretty fun, but that all ended when at one turn I was met with some oncoming traffic and was forced to take the turn wide left (we drive on the left) too fast, lost traction, causing a glancing bump on the side left snowbank. It has something to do with being in a metal box, sheltered from the environment, looking at the world through a TV-like window that gives one the sense of invincibility. When I pondered what was going through my mind later on, I realized I was driving with the same mindset that I have when I snowboard, that crashes don't hurt, and spills are fun and a learning experience. Well, that particular spill cost me 20,000yen in insurance fees to the rental car company. :) To a lesser extent, people driving cars have the same desensitivity to what is going on outside. They pay attention only to the car ahead of them (if that). Even in conditions where the ground is snowy or icy, and they feel the tires slip, it seems as if the "connection" to the environment is muted, damped, as if through a proxy, or how it is when you are doped up on anasthetics. You just don't feel the road. I think that if everyone was forced to learn to ride a motorcycle before they can drive, everyone would drive safer.

30mm F1.4 at 1/60s?

An analogy I use is with cameras. There are point & shoots, which anyone can use to take pictures, then there are SLRs (and varying degrees of amateur and pro photographers) Those who use SLRs are generally more "aware" of the art of photography, in how to use their tool to properly compose, frame and capture a subject in order to make a piece of art, not just record some event to show their friends who they kissed at a bachelor party. (one would hope, though many new SLR owners these days who never used good old film are just as brain dead as the casual P&S'er) -- No, SLR users are photographers. And like them, motorcyclists are true motorists. They really have to know how to use their machine to navigate each turn, each characteristic bend, each grade, necessary stopping power, proper use of throttling for friction, and factor in weather and other external factors. They are true masters of the art of road handling. Most people who drive cars, they are just like P&Shooters. They just want to get from A to B and not care about the inbetween. Don't get me wrong, there are expert car drivers as well, but most of them practice their art on the race circuit because city streets/traffic just aren't very challenging for a 4 wheeled vehicle. (how many drivers have even heard of the skip-barber method of cornering? Not many I'd bet, QED). -- Conversely, bikers get to practice their art everyday, just commuting to work. Its wonderful.

Hanko Anyone?

Filling out all the registration forms for ownership was quite fun. Thankfully I had Kai-san from Honda Dreams and his broken english to help me through it. Also, many thanks to Miranda who really helped me in choosing the bike initially, and working through all the japanese required for the purchase. Its a weird situation, being in japan, but not being able to read. As such the owners manual is not very useful to me, so I rely on my singaporean breatheren and their website forums to help me out there. for the only other place in asia where japan exports their domestic models AND has english as an official language is singapore. Thank god for singapore. Otherwise I would have to learn chinese, which would have as much traction as my japanese kanji reading skills. (its sad, I can read more japanese than chinese, thanks to japanese using a LOT of english words when it comes to technical terms like "carburator" or "clutch".) So 6 years later, I am still very proud to say that I have some singaporean 'roots'. The last english outpost in this land of (soon to be conquered by) China Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Spills, thrills, and Pedestrian Kills

So first day on the bike, (yesterday) and I already get involved in an accident. yep. I'm okay, I assure you, but it was a rude awakening nevertheless. So, what happened was, after I got to getting used to riding along behind the cars, I got to noticing that all the other motorbikes and scooters always weave in and out of the cars when stopped at the intersection, to get themselves out into the front of the line. Well, if the scooters can do it... then I should too right? The problem is that they have experience, and I, well, it was the first day with a new bike. So at this one light, while waiting behind a car in the second lane from the left shoulder (we drive on the left side here), I decided to follow a scooter to weave on between 2 cars stopped in the left lane. to get to the left shoulder. Problem was, after I got past the cars, I realize too late that the turn was too narrow to straighten myself out, and in a desperate panic, of course, I grab the clutch and the brake, side swiping the front end of the bike into the road railing and managing to bust off a piece of some old scooter's front end which was parked up against the railing on the sidewalk side. The bike didn't topple over , but instead rested against at and angle with the left handlebar on the railing. It took the help of a kind guy and his girlfriend to help me right the bike again, and unhook the handlebar from the railing. thankfully, only some superficial damage to the top front fork in the form of some scuffs, and some chewed up rubber tubing in the left handlebar, to which I patched up with some electrical tape to prevent water from getting into the wires. I carefully placed the broken off piece of the scooter on the seat. I thought about leaving a note, but heck, it was an old thing, the kind that delivery guys use to shuttle pizza around town. the company will probably get him a new scooter, so I actually did him a favour. :) Later on that day, I found out that there was a little more damage than I thought. I noticed it first when I started hearing a slight brushing noise at low speeds. Turns out, I actually hit the font left brake disk into the curb in the crash, and it scored the disk a bit. I sanded it down a bit and the noise went away. I hope the disk isn't warped. I don:t know how I could fix that without getting a new rotor. Now that I have tasted an accident. I know to be safer. Like always, I tend to test the limits of my abilities until breakpoint. In my snowboarding, and in my life, in order to know when I have 'gone too far' and thats when i can settle back down, happy, knowing that I am living life to its fullest. So tomorrow will be the first day when I can finally shake off the shackles of public transportation, and ride to work under my own power. I welcome the wonderful world of parking! DJC out. PS. If you found that your scooter mysteriously had a broken fender this weekend, uh, sorry man.

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