All posts for the month June, 2014

this bike

I previously wrote about moving over from my factory lowered BMW F650GS to a standard CBR250R, and how it inspired me to re-evaluate my dependence on getting my feet down at stops.

Recently, I rented a stock NC700X for a long weekend in Germany, and it seemed so natural to ride with my feet kind of, sort of down, but not like on the F, which, honestly, I tower over. A good inch or so between me and the seat when standing. Pushing the NC up and over with my left leg and finding the ground with my right foot eventually seemed like what you do. In fact, when I hopped on the F after coming home and my right foot hit the ground while the bike was still on the sidestand, the light bulb really started to glow. When my foot dragged on the ground as I was coming to a stop, there was no longer any question. My bike is too damn low.

What I’m finally figuring out is that it is actually harder to balance a bike at a stop when your knees are bent. The knee bend introduces a degree of variance, some instability, basically extra flexion, into the system. The NC was delightful at stops, partly because the center of gravity is ridiculously low, but also because my legs are straight, and that extra flexion is not there. There is a natural stiffness. I did have to plan some stops, looking to make sure I did not ride up on top of a ridge, rather instead down in the groove so that my full foot would be placed solidly on the the ridge, but even that lost its appeal after a while. I finally came to peace with the idea that taller is actually better for an experienced rider.

I place the experienced rider caveat there, because as a novice, I needed the mental and emotional security of both feet solidly planted on the ground. This is not a bad thing in and of itself – there is no shame in wanting to be comfortable as you grow into riding. The important thing for me is that I have been able to grow out of it as I’ve added experience.

I’ve begun the process of assembling the parts necessary to convert my F from low to normal. I may never make it to Dakar heights, but getting to normal is a big and welcome step. As I master normal, I will open the door to a new world of bike choices. This is cool.

Ah, well, it was good. Actually, it was great. I mentioned the differences between the NC and my F, and one of the biggest ones didn’t hit home until I did. My F is too damn low. More on that in another post!

I took the bike on a planned route in the area of Germany known as Lipper Land. My riding partner from my Alps trip joined me – we enjoy riding together alot. It is not so easy to find other ladies to ride with, so while we are not perfectly matched, we suck it up and ride on! We left from the dealership and headed to her place to group up and load the bikes. Once again, I have to remind: Never take your gear without taking a tank bag. Just take it. Preferably a strap one, as bikes like the NC have no metal up top. I forwent a pair of sneakers, but did manage plenty of socks and underwear.  We rode out to find our little place to stay, the Hotel-Café Waldruh, Rüheweg 8, Holzhausen.


In Lipper Land, we started the day with a gluten-free birthday cake from my GF- how cool is that. The ride started near the Externsteine, a rock formation that is truly impressive. From there, we headed to the Hermanndenkmal and then off to an artillery range. This was truly neat, although we were too nervous to stop for photos there. The varied terrain was outstanding and the signage was quite threatening.





From there, we rode north and up and around several cities about 30km north of Detmold. The winding roads were fun and we enjoyed quite a bit of forest riding. This was more than welcome as temps were over 30°C both days. We came around the eastern side of Lipper Land and found the Köterberger Biker Treffpunkt, one of hundreds of little stops that welcome riders with a hot meal and clean bathrooms, along with plenty of parking and a nice view (and this sweeeeet Guzzi!). Then, it was back to our little hotel.



The route home took us on familiar roads through Westphalen. We stopped for lunch, then some sweets later, then for a break in the shade, then at another Bikertreff, the …..








Getting the NC in motion was so easy and riding was so pleasant that I stopped everywhere to take pictures. It started with the Global Multi-Grab from – a game where riders take photos of their bikes with a list of objects or locations. I started with a list of farm-y stuff, and ended with a holiday list, which I grabbed in short order.

First, a haybale man.


Then, irrigation in progress and a tent.


Some wildflowers…



A windmill.


A community picnic.


On monday afternoon, I rode down to Köln to visit a friend, and then rolled back into my hotel about 15 minutes before all hell broke loose in Düsseldorf. The worst storms in ten years blew in and fortunately left the bike untouched. As I looked out the window, the midwesterner in me said “wow, that looks like tornado weather”. And so it was – the transit system was shut down for almost three days, with very few trains running at all due to the number of trees and wires down. Thank goodness for lane splitting and filtering!

I returned the NC700X to the dealer with a bit less rubber and a lot more smiles. For a weekend rental (or even for longer, seat issues aside), I’d go for it again. The turn-in process consisted of a quick walkaround by the gentleman I did the original paperwork with and a quick “thank you, we are done here”. What about the extra 200kms? “Have a good day. Email me if you want to do this again. I will arrange everything for you.”

What a birthday, hmmm?

Having learned to ride in Germany, home of so many twisty roads and so friendly to bikes, I find nothing beats a weekend over there with a bike. Work travel over a German holiday weekend (that coincided with my birthday) afforded me the opportunity to have a long weekend, so naturally, I needed a bike.

One thing about Europe – bike rentals are easy to come by. Not always cheap, but practically every dealer and even some of the car rental shops (Sixt) will gladly rent you a bike if you can show that you’ve had your license more more than a couple of years. I emailed around prior to arrival looking for a G650GS, but no one rents those, and a lowerred or low-seated F700GS also was not materializing. So I called up my old Honda dealer and asked what they had. I was surprised to be talking to the same guy I bought my CBR from! He was surprised, too, and accidentally gave me a pretty ridiculous price on an NC700X for three days, with 900kms included. Extra kms would cost me 0.25€ each, no major disaster. As Germany is similar to the US in that for every hardcore rider, there are probably at least five bikes that see 500kms per year tops, the limit is not that low.

I went and checked out the bike, mostly to make sure it was not ridiculously tall like the F twins. Or, at least, tall for me. My F single is low from the factory, and that has its pluses and minuses. It’s made me profoundly lazy, for one thing. The CBR was a bit taller, but eventually the shock wore out a bit and my feet were right back down on the ground. Enter the Super Sherpa, which is supposed to cure me of this high anxiety, but it’s still in pieces in the garage. There was that bruising hour with the XT225 in the end that my right calf is still telling me about… So now I want to ride, and my potential rental is not quite a tippy-toe bike, but it is balls-of-the-feet or slide-over-a-bit-to-the-side high. Hmmmm…

I decided to go for it.

I got a Darkness Black NC700X that was clearly a trade-in. It had a chopped off exhaust and carbon fibre vinyl accents. 13076kms on the odometer. Very sticky tyres, stickier than I would normally choose, but hey, it’s a rental. Beggars can’t be choosers. Honda’s Rent-A-Bike program (yes, it’s actually named that) allows dealers to take bikes out of inventory and tag them for use as rentals. The program has a price for everything from a 50cc scooter all the way up to the Goldwing and includes all of the street-legal bikes and a few dirt bikes. You need only find a dealer with the bike you want available for rental.

The NC700X is, in my opinion, Honda’s take on the old BMW Scarver. A weird form factor with the tank under the seat and a ‘frunk’ – a locking storage bin where the tank would normally be. Like the Scarver, the battery is up top, but the weight is all down low. Honda laid the engine almost completely on its side, bringing the center of gravity of the bike to unheard-of lows. Why is that important? It makes the bike effortless to balance, which frankly makes calling it a taller bike a complete and total farce. It balances like a 300 pounder. You feel the real weight of the bike when you need to push it around, but otherwise, you’d never know it was there.

The frunk is far larger than I expected and packs quite a lot of junk. Had I had the brains to bring my tank bag with, I could have easily gone out for three or four days between the two containers. Two and a half was pushing it with minimal packing. However, for everyday grocery getting and whatnot, it’s probably not that bad. I easily fit two tall 1l water bottles in along with my GF bread and clothes. Actually, if I didn’t have so much auxiliary crap, I probably could have made a few more days worth of clothes fit.

It took me a good 350kms on the bike to get my posture to a stable and comfortable place. The seat sucks. Coming from my Farklelounger BMW, a Honda is a rude awaking for one’s butt. And thighs. I don’t know if it possible to have less butt-friendly seats than the stock Honda ones. I did eventually figure out how to perch on it to minimise pain and maximise whole-body comfort. The NC is billed as a tourer, a style of bike I have no experience with. I found that rather than the usual dual-sport sitting up I do, a more standard position gave me the ergos to ride pain-free and well.

Riding was interesting. I felt the weight of the bike as I pushed it through tighter curves. Through sweepers, it was effortless. Slow speed manoeuvers were tentative, but I attribute that more to being aware of my unsure footing and really not wanting to drop it.

I’ll have more on this experience in a few days, after I return the bike and decompress. Ride report and pics, too, as I was able to hook up with with my riding partner from the Alps trip to ride all over LipperLand. We hit some of our favorite roads and biker stops on the way home, too.