geekonabike (Addict) View all posts in this topic  
Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:10 pm
SW OK to N IL and back. On a Sportster(!)        

I just got back last night from a Sportster ride to see my folks in N. Illiniois from S.W. Oklahoma. I did 1744 miles over four days of riding, with two days in between to visit and help them with stuff. The ride stretched out a bit time-wise because I tended to ride it around 65 mph when I could, for a mellow ride with less wind blast (no windshield) and more miles per gallon, which is a bit important when you only have a 3.3-gallon tank. Even in 70 or 75 mph zones, if there was light enough traffic or a truck I could hang around behind, I aimed for 65 mph. I think I was born old. Or I just grin too much over fuel efficiency. (Not enough to go buy another Ninja just yet....)

Often when I would ask at a dealer about this or that mod to improve fuel efficiency?stuff like taller gearing or whatever--guys there seem to love to say, "you don't buy a Harley for gas mileage." Actually, who the hell are they to tell me why I should or should not buy a Harley? Strikes me as another "gotcha" moment in their logic about rugged individualism and all that. I long ago read reports you could get 50+ mpg on an 883, and still have some light weight and torque for a little fun, so that's much of why I wanted one and that's pretty much mine now, all stock on the intake, exhaust and gearing to keep it simple and give me good mpg. I found myself riding 65 mph a lot. It's a very smooth and happy motor burbling around there, and quite efficient. I averaged about 52-54 mpg when I rode it 65-ish, and about 46-47 mpg if I rode it 70 mph, and about 43 mpg when I rode it closer to 75 mph as home was nearly in sight.

The first night I only got about 300 miles, stopping at Joplin after I started seeing critters' eyes lighting up in the greenery, and asked at a fast-food where are the cheap hotel/motels. Around 10 p.m. I found one with a very cracked parking lot, and asked how much for a room, and got a King, no smoking room for $50. Not bad for not calling ahead. When I was going to pull the bike up to the room, there were two police cruisers parked in a V to keep people from driving in or out of the area for much of my building and a perpendicular building with more of the motel's rooms. In the other building was an open door of one of the rooms, and two police standing just inside. I was able to pull up to my door on the other building and unpack. Then two more police cruisers showed up, at least one with two police inside getting out for back-up. I figured heck, with so many police the place should be safe, and went inside to shower and hit the sack. I always sleep really well after a long ride.

The next (long) day, I was eventually on I-39N not far from Rockford, IL where my folks still live when I was thinking I had really only had one other bike riding my direction to wave at, though I gave probably hundreds of "biker solutes" to bikes going the other way. Natural enough I suppose, as a problem in probability. Right about then I saw a line of them coming up behind in the northbound lanes where I was riding, so I moved over, slowed down and gave them a little wave to pass. The first few seemed to give a little wave back, and then I saw they were "Hells Angels, South Carolina" (I think....could be NC but I'm pretty sure SC). There were seventeen of them, in their tight formation like they like to ride in, and they passed me rather quickly when the guy at the front gave some signal and they whipped snake-like into my lane. After that they rode pretty close to the speed limit so they didn't get far in front of me. They had a red Mustang on their tail with them. With I-39 ending, some cars peeling off and traffic slowing into town I was almost right behind them again in Rockford, feeling like a tag-along. At one major intersection the light turned yellow when the lead guy was about through so he gave them some signal and they all ran it, including the Mustang. I stopped. The perpendicular streets got an arrow clearly before they got through, and a sheriff car turned from there to be right beside them. He ignored that a bunch of them ran a red, and just drove along like nothing happened. Maybe a camera got their tags. They turned off in a couple miles and I went on my way to my folks' house. It was a bit chilly for me in my coat, so I wonder how they felt going sleeveless.

A couple times on the trip fellows told me my yellow jacket really lit up on the road. The first guy was filling his car next to me, and told me he had just bought one and noted how much mine lit up when he was following me, so he was glad to see that, for his own sake. The next guy was walking to the rest area building next to me, and told me, "they'd have to be blind to not see you!" I grabbed a picture of my reflection in a tinted window there after that, and sure enough, the contrast is striking. A third fellow on a BMW 800cc parallel twin adventure bike (sorry, can't be more specific) had an Olympia in yellow like mine, though more meshy, and wow, 'tis true, it is quite bright but seemed the same as mine when we stood by each other. I was glad to see that. When I wear it I don't notice.

An evaporative vest was a godsend in Oklahoma. In Missouri and Illinois I generally didn't need it, and wished I had on long sleeves under my jacket. In fact I took out my dressy linen shirt my mother asked me to bring for part of the trip back. Part of that was because my morning in Cuba, MO started out around 63 degrees and a downpour was just getting over with around 11. Fortunately I didn't suffer through much more than a little mist stirred up by the vehicles in front of me. I stayed back enough to minimize that, since the idea is kind of groady.

Note to self for the next long ride: Get a good rain suit. (The Frog Togs fell apart in the wind a couple years ago.) Several motorcyclists donned theirs and left before me when it was still raining hard. I know they work; it's time to get a decent one. Also, don't leave without Anti-Monkey Butt Powder again.

The days' mileages were pretty much 310 miles, then 575 miles, a couple days with the folks, then 400 miles and then 485 miles. (That second, cool day hurt the back; the last, sweaty day hurt the butt.)

For luggage I had two medium saddle bags, and one Biker's Friend on the rack. The bags were not wet inside despite the bike sitting through three hours of heavy rain, so I was impressed.

I had a Mustang two-up seat which makes the bike a little cramped for me in standard position but tolerable there for a bit, is better with my feet on passenger pegs or the pegs on the engine guard, and gives me a couple places to put my posterior. I was remarkably more comfy than I usually am on my Suzuki DL650 V-Strom for such trips, in part because I left the pillion free.

I rode with a gel pad for the first day but left it off the rest of the time, because it feels too vague for confident control, with leaning, braking and accelerating and such. The seat being a little lower than my usual seat was at first made up for with the pad, but without the pad I was lower just enough to make the wrists hurt from the different bend to the bars. Fortunately "Don and Sons Cycle" of Springfield, MO lent me a mechanic with the right size hex wrench (not a size I took with) and so once I was at the front of the line I was fixed up in under two minutes (probably ten total), while Don (I think) was still explaining to a customer why the custom lights he ordered could no longer be returned (too late!), why they kept his bike a few weeks to do some custom work but did minor in-and-out work on bikes such as those going to Sturgis..... Personally I figured out a while ago that shops will get things like tire changes in immediately but more cerebral and less urgent work they want to take their time on, but this guy was having none of it. I think Don was holding his own and would continue to after I left, and anyhow they were kind to me and didn't charge me anything so I'll give them a shout-out:

I've said it before: when the ride gets a little dull, the Sportster is still a charmer. I suspected as much, and while I'm glad to be home, I did much grinning.

But I think I am old, even at 45. I know I'm supposed to be thinking, "Born to be Wild" when I go riding, but somehow it keeps coming up, "King of the Road": "Trail-er for sale or rent...."

I hope I didn't get anything going through someone's head, at least not in a way that annoys.

-Mike D. (a.k.a., "King of the Road....")


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