September 19, 2011 at 12:27 PM
"The mountains never looked so grand and impressive, the colors never so rich"
By Liz Simon
Trips & Quips
Liz Simon is a photographer, writer and cyclist who likes to combine the three in her quest to discover the nooks and crannies of New Mexico. Sometimes, means of transportation other than bicycle are employed---including the Rail Runner and motorcycle.
Yesterday (September 16), I rode my Honda Rebel down to Albuquerque with an eye for trading it in on a new Honda model---that is if we could agree upon the price. The original plan was to rent a trailer and transport the Rebel the sensible way. But when I went to pick up the trailer in the morning, I found to my utter dismay that the rental company had reserved a utility van for me instead. No trailer was available anywhere in town. With some trepidation, I decided that I would ride The Rebel to Albuquerque, knowing that if I purchased the new bike, I would have to ride THAT cross town, through miles of horrid Albuquerque traffic, and then connect up with the backroad route into Santa Fe, Route 14.
In order to protect my reputation, on the way down of course I had to stop with The Rebel at an interesting cafe in Cedar Crest called The Greenside Cafe. It had been a chilly ride and I knew I had some difficult Albuquerque traffic ahead of me. So...here are some shots from that lovely cafe. Everything was tasty and graciously served. The staff were friendly and helpful. So if you’re ever down Cedar Crest way, do stop in and give them a try...
I had made the decision to upgrade the Rebel after many months of mulling it over, researching and testing other bikes. As much as I loved the Rebel, there were situations, especially at Santa Fe's altitude, where it simply lacked power in tight situations. As all you techno--mechanical geeks out there know, this is often the problem with carbureted engines. They run out of air at high altitudes and have no mechanism for compensating. The result is, you sloooow down.
I looked at several makes of motorcycles other than Honda. But I think that once you've had a Honda, you're spoiled for life. At least that's the case with me. (I can see all the Harley owners out there rolling their eyes.) So, after all the reading, watching YouTube clips and deliberating, I had finally settled on the quite new Honda CBR 250R as being the right bike for me. Like the Rebel, it's one of the lightest bikes out there. Also like the Rebel, it is designed to accommodate smaller riders and beginners. That's a nice way of saying that this bike will be forgiving of operator errors. I didn't want to be overwhelmed by whichever bike I chose, yet I was, and am, up for a challenge. I'm ready to become a better, more competent rider and am enrolled in an Advanced Rider Skills class. The CBR fit the bill, although initially I was unsure about its genre of bike.
In the world of on-road motorcycles, there are basically two choices for type of bike: cruiser, or sport. The Rebel definitely fit into the "cruiser" category---a more upright riding position, foot pegs positioned forward, very low seat height and wide handlebars. I'd become accustomed to that and when I first started my search, I would not even look at or consider a sport bike. I thought that was for the pros, which I most definitely AM NOT. Then, at the prodding of one of the salesman, I sat on one of the smaller, less aggressive sport bike models--not a Honda, however. To my great surprise, I liked the position it put me in. I liked the way my knees hugged the tank. I felt as if I had been inserted into the bike, instead of being merely on top of it. It was like being connected to a great pair of skis or a great road bike. (OK, I admit it. I have a large geeky streak in me. But it's genetic. I can trace the the geekyness-factor back by at least two generations.)
Unfortunately there is no Honda Motorcycle dealership here in Santa Fe. I liked the Kawasaki counterpart to the CBR, the Ninja 250, but I wanted ABS brakes and the lightest bike I could get. Bingo for the Honda. I also did not want a carbureted bike. Again, bingo for the CBR. The Honda will automatically adjust itself to changes in altitude and it does this continually. So, if I decide to take it up into the mountains, it won't be gasping for air at 10,000 feet. I might be, but it won't.
After the usual haggling, I purchased the midnight black, slightly iridescent Honda CBR250 and bade a found farewell to the trusty Rebel. I was terrified at the prospect of having to ride the new bike home (yikes)---dealing with the mountain passes, and worst of all, Friday rush hour traffic in Albuquerque. All of the CBR's controls seemed to be in the wrong place compared to the Rebel's, and it took a lot of adjusting on my part. But, I had underestimated myself. After a few missed shifts and one highly embarrassing stall at a light that seemed to last for an eternity, I connected with this bike and slowly, the choreography was working.
Riding back to Santa Fe through that gorgeous scenery on Route 14 was like being in a dream world. The sun was getting low, the shadows long and my level of awareness was so heightened. The mountains never looked so grand and impressive, the colors never so rich. And the sound of the air rushing over the windscreen only added to this experience of being so very vulnerable and exposed, yet so powerful and tuned in.
This is just one of the reasons why people like this sport, and this is where the words have to stop.
You had to be there.
Happy Trails to You
From Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment