Settling into it.

It has been a year and a half since I bought the bike, and I’ve settled into it pretty well. I always considered it to be a necessity, but now that I’ve been using it for the daily commute, even my wife has come to see just how necessary it has become after being somewhat reticent about me doing the test and buying it in the first place. That gives it a new status in the house, and instead of eyes being rolled when I say that money needs to be spent on it, I’m almost being encouraged to do so in order to keep it in order.

I’ve geared myself up pretty well to make it comfortable. I’ve a heavy winter jacket and a mesh summer jacket with good riding pants and boots, winter gloves and summer gloves, a good helmet and sweat soaking skull caps for under it. The bike has had a few new parts to keep it ship-shape and I’ve just bought a new set of soft panniers which I installed last night. I also bought a neat little digital clock recently, to mount on the handlebars to keep track of time while en route to work.  I’ve learned my roads pretty well too, hitting the same junctions each day and learning the handy little backstreets to avoid the long traffic lights and the snarl ups.

I’m also learning more and more about the bike itself as time goes on. I’ve learned that the engine runs better when it warms up to a certain temperature, something it doesn’t get a lot of chance to do in winter. I’ve heard about a trick the racers do to put parcel tape over the radiator to stop the cold air from cooling the engine too well. I’ll be trying that little trick this winter as the bike has been tuned for the heavy Japanese summer heat.

Yet, despite what many would imagine to be the mundanity of a daily commute, I haven’t lost the love of riding. Even at pretty slow speeds I can find exhilaration in a sharp twist of the throttle, the nipping ahead of a column of cars, or a long, slow, sweeping curve and then the rising out of it into a straight. For this is what riding is, primarily, the control of the machine under us. Of course there’s the ‘commune with nature’ that being enclosed in a car will not give you, but that’s not what’s important to me. It’s the being on the bike itself.

When the engine has had a bit of a run in and it has warmed up nicely, it’s as if someone has filled it with warm cream. The rattle and shudder of the cold engine parts subside, and it starts humming contentedly beneath me. It responds better to the throttle, and the lift I can get out of it as I climb to higher speeds is discernibly more powerful. There’s also the using the weight of the bike to let it control itself, making my job almost no more that turning the handlebars and twisting the throttle. When I first got on the Transalp it was like riding a horse in comparison to the Honda CB400SF I learned on in the school. I was scared of its height and its seeming top-heaviness. Riding it was a terrifying ordeal to start with. It was all straight lines unless the road demanding I turn.  Now, despite having recently dropped it, I have no fear of it. Cavernous gaps in the traffic used to seem like the Eye of a Needle, but now I can thread the bike through them with ease. It’s also so old and battered now that I don’t get annoyed if it picks up any further scratches or cracks in the faring.

Yet I want to get back into the mountains again soon. I’ve been working so hard this semester (yes we uni teachers do have to work for our wages), that going for a pleasure ride has simply not been on the agenda, and since I have been working so hard and earning a little more than last year I’m thinking about getting a navi system this summer, so that I can head off into the wilderness by myself if I can find any close enough to home. I’d love to ride up to Shirokawa in northern Gifu or Nagano to get up to some altitude and some relief from this heavy heat down here.

So, that’s where I’m at. I’ll take a few photos of the new bags and post them up some time soon. They’re Komine (of course). They sit well on the bike despite the exhaust being so high on the right hand side. Anyway, that’s enough for now.

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3 Comments on “Settling into it.”

  1. Klaus Says:

    Damien, good to hear from ya again!

    Navigation system – well I got the cheapest Garmin (Nuevi205?) originally for cars and I am very pleased with it. Bought it for something like 12.000 Yen 3 years ago.

    It was our “guide” when we toured Hokkaido and also Kyushu. Sure, it is not the “MAX”, but like our TransAlp it can do anything. English voice, too. Of course not water-proof, but hey, why do we have ziplocks?!?!

    With the summer vacation coming up very soon there will be time for some touring, working on the bike (cosmetics only) and time to have fun.

    You take care and looking forward to hearing from you again,


  2. Hi Klaus,

    Yes, navis are way cool. I seriously want to head off into the wild blue yonder this summer (at least find some serious altitude) and I’m going to need one for that. I’ll be looking for cheap of course, maybe a Zumo 550, or a 660 if i can get one cheap enough. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

    Good to hear from you,

  3. Klaus Says:

    Damien, how is summer? Were (are) you able to head to the mountains with the assistance of your new navigation (GPS) system? As for us, nothing special, it is just too darned hot. Even going to school by car (at least it’s a SMART with good gas mileage). You take care and looking forward to hearing from you again!!

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