Rode from Seattle to Sunriver (just south of Bend) for a long weekend on the Deshutes River.
In prep for the trip I installed the OEM accessory relay and the (Vulcan) 12v socket.
The other addition to the trip: a new-to-me strap-on Tourmaster tank bag, found on Craigslist for $20. I soon found out why, when trying to clip the thing onto the bike without (a) the seat sitting loose on its mounts because of the mickey-mouse rear strap arrangement and (b) generating enough lift to get the thing disconcertingly airborne at highway speeds.
I solved both problems after tightening down the front clip mount a bit, mucking about with the rear tank/seat mount (looping the rear strap underneath the tank mount), and adding a bungee between the pad and the bag to hold it down to moto firma.
The other other addition was my ancient Camelbak M.U.L.E., which it turns out can’t be used through a Neotec except by lifting up the blast shield and sneaking a sip at traffic lights. Ah, well. Better than nothing.
It was supposed to be hot hot hot in the high desert, so I wore my Joe Rocket jacket of questionable provenance
, Firstgear trousers (vented through the shins), my TCX Hero boots (highly recommended!) and a pair of suede work gloves. Suede gloves not highly recommended for crash protection, but… better than nothing.
I was dumb enough to try fighting through Tacoma during rush hour on a hot Wednesday afternoon, spending more than an hour hanging out on the left edge of the “express lane”—this, to see what was going on up ahead and to (hopefully) keep cagers from merging into me. It got a little chilly as the evening wore on, so I added another layer during a quick stop in Centralia: a thin merino long-sleeve pullover (RIP Ibex!)
, an old cycling wind vest—both raided from my vast cycling gear collection—and a pair of Fox Racing gauntlet gloves. This combo turned out to be perfect, and I was nice and comfortable on I-5 as the temperature dropped into the low 60s, the merino providing just enough extra insulation and the wind vest blocking most of the colder airflow through Stinky Joe.
One thing I learned about the CalSci windshield
on the buzz down to PDX: buffeting goes down the faster you go. There’s a sweet spot around 78-82 or so, when everything settles down and all you can really hear is the slightly angry thrum of the 650 doing its thing.
. Top gear at 5.5-6k is a sweet place to be.
The other thing: it’s a bug murderer.
I wish I’d worn that merino combo the next morning through the Hood Nat’l Forest; I was chilly! But once I made it past a couple of semis and an RV or two, I at least had US-26 all to myself. I didn’t push hard, mostly staying in 5th through the sweepers in around the engine’s sweet spot—about 60-65mph. It was delightful, if a little cold.
It warmed up once I hit the high desert, and the heat came on strong after I dropped down into Warm Springs for a short stop. That’s when Stinky Joe and the gang made the most sense.
When riding through hot high desert, make like a shark and keep going. The venting works at speed, but the heat catches up with you in stop-and-go traffic. So it’s best to just keep going.
My helmet came with a Sena R10, and having turn-by-turn instructions in my head was another beautiful thing. No more stopping every five minutes to stare at an upside-down map, or take my gloves off to finger my phone. That said, I did stop a couple of times south of Bend to make sure I was still going in the right direction.
The 12v plug was a great addition. I was able to charge the phone on the way down, and the Sena on the way up after I’d left the thing on for four days.* Oops.
(The OEM Sena cord is just long enough to thread through the tank-bag handle and plug in to the accessory port without feeling claustrophobic—that is, until the waist straps from your Camelbak wrap themselves around the passenger grab handles and tie you down to the bike. Don’t panic! Don’t panic! You’re not sure who is riding whom at this point but for god’s sake DON’T PANIC!)
The ride back north on Sunday was similar, though of course with more traffic: more motorhomes, more boats on trailers. I managed to start out early enough to avoid the worst of the heat in the high desert, and it was a warm afternoon through the Hood Nat’l Forest.
How’d the bike do? Great! Power is abundantly adequate: not too much to scare you, but good enough to safely pass slowpokes and semis. I can see how a liter bike would be nice on the interstate and in long sweepers (I’m remembering my GS850’s
sweet spot, and the smooth lunge of power it gave you when rolling on in 4th gear.) but the V has the perfect blend of around-town tossability and highway presence—and a nice tall riding position!—and doesn’t get blown around nearly as much as you’d think it would at first crank.
So the power is nice and manageable, and it’s there when you need it. It’s no liter bike, but it holds its own on the motorway. For example, when overtaking semis I can hang back and give them some room to maneuver until I have enough space in front of me to surge forward past them. Then I roll on, squirt forward and get the eff out of their blind spot ASAP. (Added bonus of this technique: it’s fun!) The V has enough extra grunt at highway speeds to do this without shifting down to 5th—not unless you want to.
The bike is pretty well planted and holds its line nicely; no need for constant corrections. You can hang out in whichever side of the lane you want, and just a little twitch of the hips flicks it around an obstacle or to a different lane position. I think I have the stock spring preload dialed in a little stiff by a notch or two, but at least it’s balanced and doesn’t wallow. Not sure how I got here, but I’m not too keen to screw with a good thing.
Some highlights: we spent nearly all our time in a rented “cabin” on the Deshutes River, taking turns floating down and picking each other up at the boat ramp a couple of miles downstream. We spent a morning at the High Desert Museum
—highly recommended. (Conestoga wagons = space capsules.) There’s a big store ("Cost Company?" Something like that) a bit off US-97 in downtown Bend that sells ATVs, trousers, pickles, and enormous bottles of catsup. But that’s about all we saw during four days of lazing about in the woods.
How’d I do? Eh, ok. This was my first real trip on a moto in a long time—maybe the longest I’ve ever done (a little over 700 miles there and back). I really felt it in my knees on the first day (though that went away afterward), and felt it on my arse throughout, especially as the day(s) wore on. Sliding into the tank isn’t the problem—at least not for me—but angry sit-bones are. It’s either my seat, or the seat on the bike. Either way, pain sets in after about 100 miles or so. So many of those rotten things many people say about the stock seat are largely true: it ain’t no magic carpet ride.
I was able to stretch my knees/give my arse a break by sliding up onto the passenger pillion for a few seconds at a time. That's at least provided momentary relief. And I’ve taken a page from my experience doing multi-day bicycle touring: if your butt aches, it’s probably time for a break/water/food/etc. anyway.
I don’t think I’d want to make the seat softer; maybe a layer of yoga-mat foam under the main foam cushion, or maybe a piece of higher-density foam where my sit bones sit. I don’t think I need to raise the nose up; I don’t think that’ll help in my case.
*Irony of ironies: the bike was a champ, but I wasn’t: I left the key in the ignition when I finally got home, and the battery was dead dead dead the next morning. So maybe I have something against battery-powered devices after all.