Scoot Commute

Just a perfect day…Problems all left alone

Posted in Pleasure Ride, Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2010/03/18

Oh my was Wednesday (St Patrick’s Day) absolutely purrrrfect. Bright and sunny, warm and calm. What an absolute stunner of a day.

I rarely take a proper lunch, that break in the middle of day to eat and stop doing stuff related to my employment, but the clear blue sky and stunning sunshine were calling to me through the windows in my office. Adam was IM’ing me about I don’t remember what, and I pinged him “I think I’m going to go for a ride.” He said I should take him with me as he needs a haircut. But I was thinking, a ride, away from 4-way stops and traffic lights out into an uncivilised section of Rhode Island. Plus, he’s huge and I’ve only ever ridden little Beth as a passenger. I’d probably tip over with Adam on the back (he’s like 6’1″ or so and all gangly legs).

I left my office around 12:30 and headed over to the parking lot. One of the Marketing faculty rode by me on her bicycle and I yelled a ‘hello’. She continued cycling up the road, looked back, and hollered, “Are you on a motorbike?” to which I responded by holding up my helmet. “Good for you, enjoy!” was her response. This is a woman who bikes to campus every day, snow, rain, heat, and it’s a loooong commute. She’s from Zimbabwe; she’s no American wuss.

Having Google’d a route before leaving my office, I swung the bike out into the street and headed toward Douglas Avenue. I’ve never ridden this route beyond North Providence and was looking forward to where it would take me. I rode past the Vespa dealer (lots of steel bodies glinting in the sunshine) and eventually made it out to where the street becomes highway, all dual-carriageway-like. I actually got the bike into 5th gear! I know, pathetic, but seriously, I live in Providence where the posted speed is 25 everywhere (except for the blitz-fast 35 mph posted on Allen’s Avenue, but who wants to ride down there with all those half-buried train tracks) and I work like a maniac, and it’s been cold…winter in New England…and I’ve only had the bike a few weeks.

Lemme tell ya, again, the DRZ is a stupid fun bike! Stoooopid fun! Everyone should have a lunch break like this.

My plan was to turn onto Route 102 (one of my favorite Rhody roads) and head back toward Chepachet and onto Route 44 (Putnam Pike) which would bring me back to campus. I’m crusing along Douglas Turnpike and I got to try out the brakes as a light turned red quickly. Modern bikes, who knew? Gears that shift smoothly, brakes that stop you on a dime, a seat that is less comfortable than a 2×4.

At the light for 102, the crossing traffic had the green, and what did I see?! Something I NEVER see in the wild…an actual KTM! I originally reeeeeeeally wanted the KTM SM but overheard a conversation about how much tinkering they need. I don’t tinker. Erik tinkers. I like to ride. So that’s what started me looking at Japanese bikes. Deep down, though, I lust for the orange. Anyways, he gave me a nod as he went through the intersection. I was pleased because I never see bikes on my mind-numbing commute, and I never see dual-sports when pleasure riding.

I turned onto 102 headed south and passed a bunch more bikes. I didn’t realize that 102 becomes a dual carriageway, but up whereever I was, it was two lanes in each direction. For the life of me I cannot imagine why it’s a four-lane highway because I think more deer and raccoons live in that part of Rhode Island than people. Lots of cruisers and a handful of sportbikes. I live in da ‘hood where the sportbike guys wear shorts and sneakers, maaaaybe a t-shirt. It was nice to see that when you leave Darwin’s cesspool, sportbike guys wear actual gear. They do look hot, all armoured up with their Shoeis and Arais and tinted shields. It would look ridiculous on a 1970 Honda CB350.

Veering onto Putnam Pike, I headed back toward Providence. Uneventful, lots of bikes, lots of no helmets (it wasn’t thaaat warm). Whatever, I’ll never understand it. I saw one obvious woman. Gotta love the American flag patches on the back of the jean vest. Now that’s a look. What must they think of me, donning a pink helmet and migraine-inducing hi-viz?!

Traffic through North Providence and into Providence was stupid, like usual. I’m still learning how to ride in very slow stop-and-go on this bike. It just sorta wants to lurch forward when you ease off the clutch, like a thoroughbred out of the gate at Belmont. Thump. Thump. Thump. I guess that’s the thumper going on. Veeeery different than any of the other bikes I/we have. The Hondas are just happy to be out. It’s definitely fun learning this bike, and I’m up to about 300/400 miles on it. I want to get in about a 1000 before I take the ride down to surprise my mom in South Jersey this spring. Oh, and a pillow for the seat.

So again, I cannot say enough about how much fun the DRZ400SM is. I was thinking the MSF course in Rhode Island should make it one of the class bikes and all those folks who want to go out and get a nasty, heavy chromed-out cruiser thing will come to their senses and get a really fun to ride, lightweight bike. And then reality struck as I pictured all those shorties trying to wrangle this thing. I’m glad I’m tall.

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