Monday, 31 March 2008

Karma Touring

At last, my first touring trip two-up with Karma (my Kawasaki ER-6F). On Friday 28th my partner & I set off on a 115 mile (185 KM) ride down to Cahir, County Tipperary for a wedding...here are the details:

What I wore:

Nolan N102 Helmet
Olympia Moto Sports Voyager Sport Touring Jacket
Olympia Moto Sports Ranger 2 Pants
Teknic Cyclone Gloves
Alpinestars SMX-04 Boots

My Partner:

Schuberth C3 Helmet
Halvarssons Furia Jacket
Halvarssons Cobra Pants
Dainese Sprog Gloves
Dainese Mig-Touring Ladies Boots

The ride down was basically 3 different sections. The first 20 miles (32 KM) were Irish country roads, followed by 35 miles (56 KM) of motorway riding, then a final 60 mile (96 KM) run of a combination of bypasses, small towns and twisty roads. On the way down it was late evening with us not arriving in Cahir until mid-night, with damp roads after rain all day and a cool 3C (37F) before wind chill. Needless to say, when we pulled in at the half way point for tea and to stretch our legs we were cold. My fingers were worse off, while my partners hands and feet were suffering!

But what about the bike? Karma was great...not a bother. She was fully loaded with Givi V35 Side Cases, Monokey E370 top box and a Baglux Minea tank bag (look at My Flickr for photos). In these were a suit, dress, casual clothes for 2 days, toiletry bags and all they other usual bits and pieces you would need (phone chargers...). All that and still room for my bike cover and a few presents.

How did she handle fully loaded? Slowly when we were moving slow through towns and back roads, but once at speed on open roads there was little noticeable change. As always, when you have any weight on your bike you need to keep watch your lean angles (as your centre of gravity has moved) and your breaking distance (as it is now longer). So going around bends and roundabouts need a bit more thought and preparation. Yet at no stage did we have any incidents (down to my riding skills anyway). The weather was bad all weekend, with plenty of side winds, but at no stage did I feel much from the front which I have to thank the MRA Vario Touring Screen for.

Though you did notice that the acceleration suffered, so quick overtakes were out and thus required much more planning. Generally I found myself running 12 mph (20 kph) slower then I would expect myself to be. Yet even with the extra weight and the slower acceleration she would still get up to normal cruising speeds and sit there with little noticeable difference in the rpm other then at 'higher' speeds, so for average all day riding, no problems or complaints.

Back to her manoeuvrability at high speeds. While on a section of the M8 motorway just after Kildare town a chap in an Opel decided to pull out, not in front of me, but into me. He was stuck in a line of traffic moving at around 62 mph (100 kph) while I was overtaking at 78 mph (120 kph). I was in a relatively good position with room to my right to swerve, apply my brakes and 'indicate' to the driver of the car that I was there! Once he noticed my existence, he moved back to the left, turned on his indicator, then tried to move into the lane again!?! As if he wanted to finish the job. He then thought better, moved back into the left lane and turned off the indicator. My partner told me he did not look up as we went by... All this happened in a matter of seconds and Karma never felt bothered, even while loaded up.

The only real complaint was from my Teknic gloves. I had bought them at the BSB round in Mondello last year and have been my favourite gloves, covering the vast majority of Karma's 5,600 miles (9,012 KM) in them. Only to put them on Sunday afternoon for the ride home only to watch the left hand glove disintegrate! A finger tore away from the glove while the lining came out with my hand! My partner allowed me to wear her Dainese gloves for the ride home while she suffered with what was left of the Teknic. This was the only let down...other then the weather!

The only other gear issues were that my partner was finding it impossible to get a good waterproof seal on her Schuberth C3, except from getting off the bike and both of us having a go getting it to sit right. While for some reason my Voyager jacket kept running up at the front, hence leaving me with a wet patch when I got off the bike. This is the first time this has happened so maybe it was user error more so then the gear.

The ride home on Sunday was wet...rain from start to finish, ranging from light showers to downpours! With the temperature no higher then 7C (44 F) (without wind chill) and wind speeds from 17mph-26mph (30kph-43kph). The joy of touring eh? I know, selfish me just thinking about comfort on the bike, what about the happy couple trying to get decent wedding photos! Well, they could have picked a better month.

While I did learn one thing, I do not believe I could live with a motorcycle with a seat height any higher then Karma's (about 790mm/31 inches) especially when you have a pillion mounting/unmounting the bike and slow traffic manoeuvres. So that should cover everything, there were no other issues that come to mind and I am very impressed with the performance by Karma two-up and fully loaded. Not once did she complain and I am seriously looking forward to the summer, better weather and for a few more weekend adventures.

Keep the rubber side down!