Mike B.: Speed Junkie


I like to go fast. I live in the fear that too fast, someday, won't be fast enough. And I like to go pretty far: travelling by car or by motorcycle is probably my favorite way to spend time. I like seeing the ground between the airports, I like meeting the people that fill up the country and get things done.

New Bikes

Right now, I only have one motorcycle: a 1997 Honda CBR-1100XX. Right now, it's the fastest sport bike you can buy: it'll top out at more than 170 miles per hour, and will get you from zero to sixty in less than three seconds. The bike is very aerodynamic, and features a pronounced beak-like front end. And it's all black: even the aluminum frame is annodized black. Some folks call it a Blackbird.

In March of 1998, I went out to have a few beers with one of my friends. We pulled into a parking lot and parked my RX-7 next to an Acrua NSX. Once in the bar, I loudly boasted that my Seven would smoke the NSX; and, wouldn't you know it, the guy who owned it sat right next to me. He said that he worked as a lot boy in one of the local dealerships, and explained the NSX by saying he'd worked at the same dealership for fourteen years.

He was drunker than me (it seems like almost everyone always is), so I talked to him about bikes. I asked him what he'd want for a Blackbird, and he wrote down a figure on a matchbook cover.

So, after a couple of weeks, I went to the dealership. The guy I talked to was in a huge glass office on the sales floor, so he was evidentely the sales manager and not a lot boy. (There were no hoses, buckets, or sponges visible in the office.) So, I talked with a salesman for a while and decided to take a test ride.

Once the paperwork was done, I sped around town for a little while. The bike was very comfortable and controllable. That's not at all what I expected, and I was very smitten. I thought about it long nad hard; even after I got back to the shop, riding half an hour near the dealership, I was completely comfortable and didn't startle myself with the bike.

But such a purchase needs to be planned. I slept on it for a couple of nights, and decided that I wanted it: I went in to ink the deal. On the phone, I mentioned my low barroom price to the salesman and he just laughed. At the shop, though, I brought it up again and he showed it to the sales manager. It was the typical conversation:

"Mr. Blaszczak, what do you want to pay for that bike?"
"This."
"Ho! You've got to be kidding. Let me go ask the sales manager."
"Okay."

The salesman came back shaking his head, so I gave him the matchbook cover. They both came back, this time, laughing. The sales manager said "Okay, it's a deal: but I'm never going drinking with you again. It's too expensive!"

I've already ridden the bike all over the place. I really love it; less than two months later, I've got twelve-hundred miles on the thing. Motorcycles are great.

Since the bike is so new, you won't see many pictures of it or much talk about it in my trip report pages. I'm planning on riding to Las Vegas this summer for my high school reunion. Then, I'll probably ride to Maine and then back to Seattle.

Old Bikes

Before I bought the CBR, I was riding a 1995 Honda VFR-750F. I also have a badly beat-up 1988 Yamaha FZ-700.

The FZ-700 is a full-blown sport bike, even though it is more than eight years old, now. It has an inline four cylinder engine, and very squirrely steering. The bike is comfortable for long periods (to me, anyway) but its range is limited by its narrow seat. It hurts my butt more than any other part of my body.

Yamaha got most things right on this bike, at the time. Unfortunately, I got a couple of things wrong one day — I crashed the bike and ended up breaking my collar bone. (You can read the whole trip report, if you want.)

After thinking about riding and making some hard decisions, I saved up some money and got back in the saddle: I bought the VFR. I picked the machine up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in June of 1995 and rode it cross-country. You can read that trip report if you want, too.

My VFR is a far more balanced, forgiving, bike. It's probably a bit more powerful than the FZ, and is certainly easier (for me) to ride long distances every day over and over. This bike is just great: it is everything that a well-engineered machine should be.

The VFR was completely stock, except for the tyres, the saddle, and the exhuast pipe. I had a Metzeler MEZ1 in the front and an MEZ2 in the back, and I had mounted a Staintune stainless-steel slip on. And I had a Corbin saddle, too. I'll probably put get a Corbin saddle on the CBR, but I really like the stock tyres on the Blackbird so I doubt I'll change brands when they're due.

I still have the FZ. I might sell it, but maybe I'll hang onto it until I finally buy a house. Then, I can take it apart and rebuild it and actually feel like I have a clue about motorcycles.

I always wear my helmet and my leather jacket; I usually wear my full leathers, but I'm never on my bike in anything less substantial than jeans and hiking boots. I'm also an AMA member, and I try to generously contribute to the organization so it can keep trails, parks, and highways accessable to motorcyclists in The United States. Unfortunately, there are lots of bunny-huggers who want to close all parks to motorcycles, and there are lots of insurance companies who'd rather you not ride ever anywhere.

Four Wheels

For the few times when two wheels aren't enough, I drive a couple of different cars. At the end of the summer of 1997, I ended up buying a BMW M3 Coupe. It's a beautiful and refined car. The RX-7 really has some looks: it's styled like a little bubble with wheels. The BMW has the classic BMW lines, and is just the most pleasing car I've every driven. It's fast, and it handles really, really well. It's very forgiving and predictable, and balances the RX-7 wonderfully. The RX-7 is faster, but the M3 is easier to drive at speed. The Mazda is just too powerful for being so light; I need some tyres and that will help, but you can make it sideways in second gear without a problem, and in third gear if it's wet.

Never did I think I'd be a real "car guy", but now, I guess, I am. Back in September of 1996, I bought a slighty-used 1994 Mazda RX-7. It was a real thrill to drive, and quite unique. The thing had a Wankel engine, which meant it doesn't have pistons. The car developed over 230 horsepower, completely stock, in a engine with an effective displacement of 1.3 liters! Selling the car pained me some, but I know it was for the best.

Before that, I used to tool around in a 1988 Honda CRX. I ended up selling the car for $175, just because I'm a slave to my laziness. Adopting to the RX-7 after leaving the little CRX was quite a challenge!

Porsches

After renting a few exotic cars, I rekindled the dream I've always had of owning a Porsche. In Vancouver, I found a shop that rents all sorts of exotics. On one of my hockey junkets, I rented a 1996 C4S Coupe and drove it from Vancouver to Whistler, and back. The day was perfect for such an extended test-drive; it was pissing rain, and the temperature was about 55 degrees (Fehrenheit).

But the car stuck to the ground. I couldn't slide it or twist it, and it didn't take long to feel incredibly confident. Puddles didn't cause the car to hydroplane, and the rear-mounted engine was a noisy novelty. The Spartan interior, though, left me cold. I couldn't imagine paying so much money for a car with so little creature comforts inside. Certainly, less is more when you want to race the car—but what good is that going to do you aside from the two or three times a month you can make it down to the track?

The folks at the rental shop were quite surprised by my behaviour, I think. I'm not sure they rent to folks who drive the cars so far, especially since the rental is pretty expensive.

There was a Porsche dealership just next to the rental place. And so, after returning the car, I sat in one of the newer models. The 996 cars have a much more interesting interior, and while they also feature a significantly modified body and suspension, they still have the phenomenal handling characteristics of the older car I test drove. I was hooked: after the trip in November, I ordered a new C4 Coupe for myself in December. The car was delivered in April of 1999, and I can't wait to take it on my vacation this summer.

I still want to rent more exotics; I'll probably go back to that same shop and rent their Ferraris and maybe one of their Louts Esprits. I want to drive everything in the world: Citroen Minis, dump trucks, garbage haulers, police cars. Some joyrides will be harder to arrange than others, but I think I can make it through.

Bicycles

I got started riding motorcycles, by the way, after being hit by a drunk driver while riding my (pedal) bicycle. I raced bicycles from 1984 to 1989 or so. After the accident, I was just too scared to ever ride on the street seriously again. That made training a real ordeal, and if you don't train you can't race. Ironically, I feel more comfortable on a motorcycle because I'm not continuously being passed by cars and am actually a real part of moving traffic.

At the time I was hit, I was riding a Cannondale SR-900 frame which I had built up with a Campagnolo Super Record gruppo — except for the brakes, which were these trick DiaCompe aerodynamic things that I bent my own springs for. A week before I was hit, I finished a century (a 100-mile ride in one day, all at once) in just over four hours and thirty minutes. Earlier in that spring, I earned my Category III USCF racing license. Now, I'm just a has-been.

Most people who drive cars act like idiots, no matter what I'm riding.


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Last modified on 18 May, 1999.