Thursday, February 14, 2013

Manawan Reserve ride: part 3 The Manawan road

See part 2

Riding the Manawan road turned out to be a life-sized mechanical lab that revived recent painful experiences – and with some thought, older ones too…

If you ever ride a motorcycle on the Parent road, you will feel quite at home on the Manawan road.  Both roads have the same vocation: fast fire roads that have been tortured by loaded logging trucks.  Both roads send the same painful sensations to the rider: intense vibrations in the handle bars… strong enough that one cannot keep his hands tight on the grips – imagine yourself trying to stop a Harley Davidson engine from vibrating with your hands.

It was quite stressful to ride the Manawan road under those conditions with a pickup following closely at 45 mph (75 km/h).  I could not go any faster because of the intensity of the vibrations transmitted by the washboard-like road and I was under the impression that the guy behind me was losing his patience.  I let him pass as soon as I had a chance and I made a first stop.

If I had not brought along a ratchet with the appropriate socket that fits my suspension adjusting nub, I would have turned around without a second thought.  But fortunately, it could be fixed.

Time to experiment.  For this first stop, I reduced the preload on both sides of the fork by turning the adjustment nubs counter clockwise by about 2 turns (making sure to turn each of them equally.)

A few minutes and that was it!  So easy when you have the right tool.  I still don’t understand why there is no tool that fits the front adjustment nubs with the Versys basic toolset.  It would have saved me a lot of frustration.

Alright!  Back on the road.  Wow!  It was amazing how much smoother the ride felt!  But still, there was room for improvement.  So a second stop was required – 2 other turns off on each side and off we go.  Unbelievable!  The road that was almost impracticable a moment ago was now transformed – almost no vibrations at the handle bars!  Terrific!

Third stop.  Why not continue the experimentation.  I removed all I could: 2 or 3 more turns off.  Voila.  That was it.  All the vibrations transmitted by the road were filtered by the suspension.  Then the 4th stop…

I had to stop a last time.  The rear suspension was still pretty stiff and there were a lot of vibrations coming from the back wheel.  Fortunately Kawasaki had provided the required tool (a hook wrench) for the rear suspension adjustment nub, but it was not as efficient as I would have liked. 

Adjusting the rear suspension is quite a challenge as it is required to balance the bike on the kick stand to take off the the weight from the rear wheel, then use the dedicated tool on the rear nub – this tool, the hook wrench, grabs one of the teeth of the nub (I included a picture of a similar wrench on the left) and it is necessary to pull upward to reduce the preload.  It would have been easier if the kick stand had not sunk into the sand due to a very small contact area with the ground (a flat foot kick stand would have been appreciated!  See the picture on the right) and if the darn wrench did not snap off every 2 seconds – sincerely…Kawasaki could have chosen a better wrench to include in the toolset.  Anyway, with a bit of patience I got the job done.

The result: a pretty well adapted suspension for this type of road – no more vibrations no matter how deep the washboard peaks were or how fast I was riding.  Who would have thought the Versys had all the required qualities to ride in such conditions?  Pretty well hidden qualities, but the name fits the bike for sure.  After all those adjustments, I was able to follow any pickups or SUVs on the road but this time I was pushing on their back.

This experimentation revived the pain I went through at the engineering school understanding the theory on filters (mechanical filters as well as electrical ones).  All this theory I had gobbled 20 years ago, without realising its real life application is now much clearer in my mind – engineering schools should probably send their students to ride bikes on similar roads Clignement d'œil Braaap!

Next part: a maze of trails.