wait’ll they get a load of me

So today’s Tuesday, and I’m now where, and doing what, I was expecting to be doing on the Monday, but we’re gonna let that slide since I had a good time filling in the space between the two. Had another interview on Monday, which seemed to go pretty well, though I didn’t get a lot of feedback. I should know what the score is by the end of the week. Applying for jobs is starting to get *real* old already…

On the bright side of things though, I found out there was a Kawasaki dealership just over the road from where my interview was, so after I’d finished I wandered over and pawed at some of the bikes. I got talking to one of the guys working there for a little bit and he was only too happy to hand over to me the keys to one of these for a test ride. One Kawasaki ZX-6R in a very sexy blue, with a 636cc engine making 125hp wedged into a bike weighing 161kg dry, and it moves like a sonofabitch. Of course this is relatively speaking. I could go jumping on a new litre sportsbike, but I find it’s more fun to try and get the most out of what power you have rather than just go straight to the fastest thing on wheels. Anyway, this was my first encounter riding a proper balls-out sportsbike, so I was having fun before I even got on it. So after filling out some forms so that they know where to start the manhunt when I lead the police on a mad high-speed chase through the city endangering hundreds of civilian lives, I was itching to get moving. First thing I noticed was how different the riding position was, I mean my current bike is a sports-tourer and the other bikes I’d riden have all been commuter-style bikes, which means you sit in a position where your back is relatively upright and the handlebars are around your waist height. I got on the ZX-6R and noticed straight away that my ass was higher up, my legs were tucked right in, and I felt like I was just about grabbing my ankles to get a grip on the handlebars. Of course it sounds uncomfortable as hell, but once you’re sitting there more in the bike than on the bike, it’s actually quite comfy. So, I wriggled around to get snug, checked for traffic, let the clutch out… and stalled.

*ahem*

I know these inline fours don’t make much power off idle, but I thought I’d be able to get away with dawdling off. Apparently not. Start the bike again and this time dial in a few more revs, and off I roll into traffic. After about two blinks I got used to the digital speedo idea, and while I wasn’t able to just quickly glance down and see the digital rev meter (I found I had to intentionally make a point of looking at it), I didn’t have any trouble reading it once I was looking. A quick zing down to a roundabout, a couple of sets of traffic lights, and I was ready to see what I’d been missing.

There were three main things that I noticed myself thinking (and/or yelling to myself inside my helmet) regularly throughout my hour or so ride, and it’s probably fitting to recount them to you now.

1. God-DAMN! – This seemed to pop into the front of my mind every time I grabbed a good handful of the throttle. After I’d zipped about a bit and taken it onto the freeway to see what kind of pull it had, and was grinning ear to ear like a loon, I took a few breaths, composed myself a little, only to realise that I hadn’t yet taken it over 8000rpm… It redlines at 15,500 and doesn’t make peak power until 13,000. Obviously something had to be done. The following task involved finding a nice slow freeway onramp, looking for a nice clear opening, and nailing the throttle it for all it was worth. This indulgence promptly assisted my body in relocating several internal organs and thoroughly tightening ones sphincter. It was an eye-opening experience, and leads me to regular thought number two…

2. No Dwight, No! The law, THE LAW! – I thought I had it bad before. My little ZZ-R may not be taking me to MotoGP victory, but it’s no dead slouch. Over the past fourteen months that I’ve had my licence, I’ve been tempted to slip in between cars here and there, overtake at a rate of knots and so on, on what is a pretty much constant basis. I have also never in my almost five years of driving and riding, had a speeding ticket. But with this kind of power and engineering prowess between your legs, things take a dramatic turn for the tempting. While there are many faster bikes on the market with larger displacement, a 600-class sportsbike is by no means slow. A current model from any of the big four Japanese manufacturers will find you covering a standing quarter mile in within a bees dick of eleven seconds flat, if not faster. They have a power to weight ratio that would equate to driving a 1200hp Commodore or an S15 200SX with over nine hundred and fifty peak horsepower. While their design means that bikes are limited in that they can’t generally tow a boat or a caravan, I’m sure you’re following what I’m getting at here. When a little throttle means zero to a hundred k’s an hour in 3.7 seconds, you get awfully tempted to do things that you shouldn’t, or at least, things that are particularly illegal. This found me grabbing the brakes quite often to keep myself in the law-abiding sector, brakes I might add that were something else entirely, the stopping power was immense. But before I get back to the bike’s personality, thought number three.

3. Awwww…. me nads… – While the sales guy explained to me that this years model had been softened up a bit on the suspension side of things after a lot of criticism about its harsh factory settings, the front felt like it was held up by crowbars, a notion brought swiftly to my attention every time I hit a substantial bump in the road by a firm and unforgiving blow to the groin by my friend Mr Fuel Tank. I got around being beaten into impotence by trying to avoid bumps in the road and sitting a bit further back in the seat, but I couldn’t totally eliminate the issue. If I bought one, first stop would be softening up the front in a substantial fashion, as well as doing something to the rear, which for some reason felt kinda vague, though that could’ve been due to any number of things (me being green at this was also potentially one of these).

So aside from me being giddy like a schoolboy with a whoopee cushion, I tried to make mental notes about the bike so I could try and compare it to any others I take for a spin before I sign away my soul in order to purchase one. The big thing I noticed; this thing is a precision machine. Now it could be that I’ve always just riden slightly sloppy bikes and that all sportsbikes are like this, but everything was precise, simple and exact (aside from the rider). The bike had incredible balance and just fell into corners feeling entirely planted without a jitter from the front. The brakes only required a gentle squeeze to pull the bike up and the throttle was sensitive to the slightest notion, which saw me surging forth more than a few times (which is most likely due to a jittery hand or me being in the habit of using the throttle like a 250 rider, i.e. ham-fistedly.). The one exception was the clutch, which was a lot heavier than I’m used to. Thankfully though, to make things easier on my left hand, clutchless upshifts were both a breeze and smooth as silk.

To sum it up, I loved it, and I was expecting to. I knew from the get-go that I was looking at a Japanese 600 for a suitable replacement, and these days it’s pretty damn hard to buy a sportsbike that isn’t pretty damn good to begin with, They’re bursting at the seams with bleeding-edge technology and incredible engineering and the competition between brands means there’s no room for design mistakes. The deciding factor on which bike I end up getting will probably be more down to personal preference in comfort, looks (and colour =P) and what deals I can swing than any noticable performance difference between them. 95% of riders (myself included) have nowhere near the riding talent you’d need to run out of bike before you run out of skill. That’s one 600 down, three to go.

So in the meantime, I’ll be hanging around waiting to hear back from this interview mob. A new job is just about the kind of lifestlye change I’m really aching for at the moment.

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