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Isn't that dangerous?

Riding a motorcycle is always dangerous and riding in unfamiliar territory increases the risk. However, I am a very careful rider and my mandate is to capture the video, deliver the workshops, present the electronic music events and bring the whole show back in one piece.

The major hazard is dropping my bike over. I am a small person and there is no way I can pick up this motorcycle. I will have to be super careful, especially when the tank is full, even that change in balance can create a problem. Every time I have dropped the bike it has been stopped with a full tank. Due to the need to keep the center of gravity low, I will not have a case on top of the bike and I will be looking for ways to reduce the weight of everything I carry.

Mechanical failure is always a possibility, but the internet will assist me in case of breakdown. Simon has agreed to act as diagnostic and repair consultant, so even if I can get the bike towed to an auto shop, I can stream live video footage of the problem to Simon. If he can see and hear the bike, he can direct the auto mechanic to repair the problem.

I have been riding in all types of conditions for over 30 years, so I have some level of competence when encountering hazardous conditions. The scariest road condition I have driven through on this bike is grooved pavement. On my way to and from Seattle, just north of Everett, the road was under repair and the old pavement had been deeply grooved. The grooved pavement makes the bike handle very badly as the tire treads follow the grooves. The front tire follows different patterns than the back tire and both respond more to groove direction than usual steering input. I was very worried about having an accident, but I kept the bike going as straight as possible and pulled over to the far right lane so I could reduce my speed. I couldn’t go too slow, or the handling deteriorated even more. Luckily, I made it through that section before it started to rain and it did pour down, all the way from south of Bellingham to my door.

Sometimes too much heat can be as bad as rain. On the same trip, I had to wait in a long border line up with the bike turned off, as I drive the last of the air-cooled giants. This means if the bike is stopped, there is no cooling from the air rushing past and the motor can overheat very quickly and seize. I could look over in the other line-up at a young man idling his sport bike as he waited. He had a newer, water cooled bike so there was no risk of damage to his bike from sitting still in the heat. I turned my bike off while I was waiting in the hot sun on the way down to Seattle. I couldn’t start it every time the cars moved one single space in front of me because the battery would go dead before I got to the border. The line up was long and I would have to start it, then stop many times. Motorcycles do not have kick starts anymore and I probably couldn’t use it to start this big bike anyway. I used to start my single cylinder Yamaha DT 400 by jumping up in the air on to the kickstart, that single cylinder had more displacement than a single cylinder of 4 cylinder 1200 (1200/4=300cc each). I had to know exactly how to balance the enduro while using the handlebars for leverage to launch my body up, so I could put more than my weight on to that kickstarter. I would never try that on the FJ1200, even if it did have a kick start.

The only solution was to push it most of the way, but this only worked because there is a slight downhill slope leading to the border. I still had to start it to get over speed bumps and on one short upward slope, but I was able to save my battery and keep my bike cool by using human power.

I will have to be careful to avoid traffic jams where my bike could overheat, and grooved pavement to reduce stress on the pilot. The internet will be able to help me here as I intend to research traffic and highway cams all along my route, partly to assist in avoiding these situations and partly to integrate them into my project. I intend to monitor all of the cameras that are capturing my image and capture them watching me. I won’t be able to get video of me on the bike unless other people take it and the highway cameras have been installed by other people.

Riding across Canada (and back) is a daunting prospect, I will be alone, far from anyone I know. I will be linked in to the internet, so still part of the human brain of earth. I depend on that connection to provide me with some kind of safety net. A lot of my life and my connections with other humans depend on that hi-speed link in my usual day-to-day, but when I am travelling, I hope people will be watching.

I do consider the internet to be the human brain of this planet. As we become more aware of our connection to each other and the planet, perhaps we will try to make more of an effort to maintain our limited planetary resources so that we can share with the generations to come.

Categories: 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200
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