Z as sport-tourer: ride impressions

Steph’s and my weekend trip to Solvang managed to hit almost all of the categories of sport-touring, making me now feel qualified to play Rate The Z.

“I’m sure that cloud will blow over really soon now.”
Saturday gave us 250+ miles of pouring rain and wind. Ignoring the accessories that made it tolerable, the Z’s fairing did a pretty good job of keeping Poof and Weather separate.

There isn’t a ton of hand protection, which could be a problem if you have non-waterproof gloves, but I wouldn’t say there’s less protection than any other bike I’ve ridden. Also, the few wind gusts we hit didn’t throw the Z into oncoming traffic as would happen with the SVS from time to time.

Speaking of weather, it was around 40 degrees F yesterday morning, and the Z started right up on the first try, without using the “fast idle” lever. Two thumbs up.

We took Hwy 101 all the way down to Solvang; all-day freeway. Snore. This is where the Z needs the most aftermarket improvements — I last about 60 or 70 miles top in the stock seat. Fortunately (?), we were stopping that often anyway, because of the weather, but that seat will definitely have to go before I do any long-distance summer riding.

The other aftermarket opportunity might be the mirrors. We’ll have to see, once I can take the bike above 6k RPM, whether the mirrors continue to be utterly useless. That’s a pretty buzzy RPM for the bike (not surprising, for an inline four), so higher RPMs might smooth things out. On the way down, however, I’d look in my mirror and see two Stephs, riding side by side, with a glowing oval of light connecting the multiple Legends’ headlights. It was like riding through a bad drug experience.

Land of Many Tourists.
Stop and go traffic through Solvang proper was no problem. The clutch remains smooove as buttah, and braking is excellent. Even the minivan who decided to pull out of a driveway without slowing down to check for cross-traffic didn’t warrant a real full-on emergency stop.

Slow-speed maneuvers through crowded gas stations are equally easy. The Z’s posture is very poof-friendly and makes it almost trivial to do those tight right-handed U-turns around the pump islands.

The one downside is that I’m on my tiptoes, making stopping at the tops of ramped or cambered driveways a bit of a circus. Because of this, I’m going to be getting the Z lowered soon. Future entries on that topic to follow.

Fucko, the man who knows no turnout.
Puttering in 2nd gear along the Pacific Coast Highway is emotionally devestating, but not physically so. The upright posture is MUCH better on the Z than on the SVS — even 20 miles behind a Toyota Highlander couldn’t phase my wrists. My shoulder was still a little sore by the end of the day, but tolerable (i.e. ibuprofen-strength pain, not Vicodin 😉 ).

The miracle of the dotted yellow.
When I finally got the opportunity to pass Fucko, the Z really responded with the love. Tossing it into the (empty) oncoming traffic lane and wicking the throttle open resulted in a smooth and tantalizingly fast acceleration. There was no engine hesitation, no feeling of coaxing horsepower into playing along — BAM, the Z was passing the Highlander. Purrrrrrrr.

Alone on the road.
Miraculously, there were empty patches of Hwy 1, in between Fuckos. I’m still getting used to which gear the Z wants to be in for which turns (made more difficult by the stupid break-in RPM limits), but what I was able to do left me wanting more. The tightest of the twisties were a little challenging — also, I think because keeping it under 6k in that situation borders on criminal — but the 35+ mph sweepers were just glorious.

The Z falls into turns well and holds a line — maybe I’m just more confident on the Z than I was on the SVS (or having more fun because it’s a brand new bike) — but it seems to hold the line a lot better than the SVS did. I’ll have to keep researching that. 😉

So that’s my first weekend trip impression of the Z.

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