Ride Around a Lake

Michigan, that is.

Now that I am newly retired, I thought I should take a long-overdue long-distance ride. There were some roads in Wisconsin I read about that “rivaled the Tail of the Dragon” out east. I could visit a good friend in Chicago. I’d never been through either piece of Michigan. I saw a TV show once about Copper Harbor on the U.P. that I could scout for a couples retreat weekend. There you go! The bones of a ride were setup. Southeast out of Minneapolis and go counterclockwise around Lake Michigan. Leave on a Monday, bring a tent and sleeping bag as backup, and see how long it takes.

It didn’t go exactly as envisioned, and I learned lot.

Lessons learned:

  • I don’t like long-distance motorcycle riding
  • Whoever compared WI roads to the ones in the Appalachian Mountains, has never actually ridden both
  • Don’t ride a motorcycle around the sidewalks of a music camp while they’re in session
  • I have only a few friends, but they’re really good
  • A worse home-life makes your road-life better — The inverse is also true

Let me explain. [Read more…]

Budget Rider = Budget Racer?

Is it possible to go motorcycle racing and afford it?

Let’s find out.

In a previous post, I wrote about my experience at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) last summer. That experience really got me thinking about a part of motorcycling I haven’t encountered. It was great fun, and I wanted to figure out how a “normal” person could realistically afford to do such a thing consistently. At the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Minneapolis, I wandered around talking with the racing associations and riding schools to get their recommendations.

They suggested that a beginning racer can get into the sport in a small displacement class and learn enough to know what’s involved to progress into larger, faster classes. If closed-circuit racing is a thing you want to pursue you can start on a smaller bike and your racing experience, knowledge of the tracks and even your riding gear will all apply toward advancement. The time and money invested in relationships with organizations and riders also isn’t wasted. Veteran racers recommend (and some even currently race) small bikes. Alternatively, you might realize that it’s not for you, and if you start small you can get out without spending a lot.

The Central Racing Association for Minnesota has an ultralight class for 250s.

The Bike

A Kawasaki Ninja 250 is the bike recommended for this class. Model years 1988 – 2007 EX250 F/G/H are effectively the same bike. It’s about 300 lbs., 30 or so HP, with 16″ wheels. A 2008 – 2012 EX250J has a little more midrange at the expense of peak HP, better forks, is 20 lbs. heavier, but, most importantly, has 17″ wheels, which make it easier to find good tires.

Looking around Cycle Trader and Craigslist I found some candidates for $1,000 to $2,500.

I’ll need to get the bike up to racing spec, which involves taking off a bunch of stuff, safety wiring, and fitment of racing rubber. Based on some cursory conversations, the tires might last a whole season and cost about $500. Figure some sliders, a wheel stand, better brake pads and other miscellaneous doo-dads at an additional $400.

Another advantage of the 250 is that it’s lightweight enough so I can use a hitch mounted carrier as opposed to a trailer, which will save money since I already have a carrier. A carrier is also more renter friendly in a shared-underground-garage. I could just leave the bike on the back of the minivan and back the van into the stall with a cover over it.

Riding Gear

Although I have street gear, the only piece that transfers is my helmet. I’ll need a leather suit and some track boots and gloves. I tried on some suits at the show, and estimate $1,000 to $1,500 for those additional items.

Race Fees

Until I attend the new rider training and figure out specifics about how many races are in a series and if I’m serious enough to commit to a full season, I’ll estimate race fees at $500.


It’s about 300 miles round trip to Brainerd International Raceway, so fuel is about $60 (at $3/gal.) plus fuel for racing – $100 per weekend – 6 weekends = $600. I’m not counting food, because I need to eat regardless of what I’m doing, and I’ll probably just sleep in my van, so there’s no lodging expense.

So, first pass on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the inaugural season of racing is $4,000 to $6,000. If I finish a season without crashing the bike and want to hang it up, I could probably sell the bike for what I paid for it and get maybe $500 for the used racing gear. That means I’ll need to spend $2,500+ and dedicate a Minnesota summer to find out if I’m a racer.


Last Ride of 2018

In one last attempt to squeeze in a ride before the snow came, I made up a destination and a route and set off at the first available weekend.

As I started out about 4:40 AM on Saturday, the temperature hovered at about 40. As I headed West, I rode through thick fog until about 10:00 when the fog turned to rain. The rain paused for a while to be replaced by comically strong wind gusts at the front of the weather system as I got to the open plains.

The rest of the day was spent between trading between cold rain and 40-50 mph winds threatening to push me off the wet road.

I arrived exhausted, but intact. A shower, some time with my daughter and her family, and a good sleep replenished my riding reserves.

The next morning was [Read more…]

In the Meantime – COTA!

While other work projects and personal commitments conspired to interfere with motorcycling, I did manage to squeeze in a Saturday on two wheels with one of the brothers.

[Read more…]

Ain’t Nobody Feelin’ No Pain

Early Sunday ride. Bonnie wouldn’t start because the battery is shot. So, jump on the KLX for a quick jaunt through Hill Country.

Here is a short video showing Luckenback at 8:00AM on a Sunday:


Off to a Wedding NM–>MN–>NM

July brings warm weather and weddings. We welcomed another family member and a new group of in-laws to the mix and life just keeps getting richer.

As the father of the bride, I needed to get my old rear end from New Mexico to Minnesota so I decided a ride is the perfect way to get there. 50+ mpg and a few days of windshield time sounded ideal.

Wedding Trip

In retrospect,

[Read more…]

Non-Epic-But-Really-Fun Hill Country Ride

Ingredients: Three brothers. Three bikes. Butler Texas Hill Country Motorcycle Map. Some BBQ.

Instructions: Mix rapidly for about 200 miles and bake in Texas Hill Country heat for a couple of hours until smiles break out and are set

Yield: About 2 dozen permanent memories

IMG_1941 [Read more…]

Prepping the Bikes – #3 – The TL

We’d planned to take my brother’s Ducati Multistrada but the suspension repair parts for his Italian bike hadn’t arrived from Sweden, yet (Ohlins). The only other bike in my garage was the 2003 Suzuki TL-1000R. It wouldn’t work for the Trans-Labrador trip, but it would rip up the roads around Hill Country. Except for a new battery and and oil change, it was ready to go.

Or, so I thought. [Read more…]

Getting the Bikes Ready – #2 – The Bonneville


The 2002 Triumph Bonneville would need a bunch of work to get ready for the Trans-Labrador highway, but not as much for the backup plan of riding around Texas Hill Country. Still, it was plenty. I had many of the parts from the Bonneville I modified to ride to Inuvik and got a few new ones.

Here is a break down of the project: [Read more…]

Getting the Bikes Ready – #1 – KLX

To get motivated by completing the easiest project first, it seemed getting the KLX 250 ready for long-distance was the logical choice. There’s always the slim chance that things will work out as planned, and this was the one.

The three areas targeted for improvement were comfort, range and power.

KLX 4-4-15

[Read more…]