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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

From Consumerism to Practical Minimalism

I'm free!!!  Well, sort of...  
The exterior of the townhouse in Denver

So, the house is officially sold.  This brings me one step closer to taking this pipe dream of a journey.  I'll definitely miss the townhouse though.  I/we lived here for almost 5 1/2 years.  It was our first home purchase and we bought it new in April of 2008.  It was home, it met all of our wants and needs, and was tucked in a fantastic location near City Park in downtown Denver, CO.  There were tons of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, parks, and gyms all in walking distance.  

I used my buddy Christopher Fett as realtor to sell the property and he did a fantastic job.  I would highly recommend him if you are looking to buy or sell.  I haven't run it by him that I'll be plugging him on this site, so if you want his information hit me up and I'll send it over.  

What was my living room for the past 5 1/2 years
Although a bit sad, selling the house was a HUGE sense of relief.  Not only does it bring me/us one step closer to divorce closure, but it really gives me a sense of freedom.  I feel like I'm starting to escape the shackles of the typical American view of success and happiness (i.e. seemingly happy marriage, nice house, new car, obedient dog, 2.3 children, expensive blender, brand name yoga mat, fancy shoes, massive TV, shiny iPad, even shinier iPad case, etc, etc, etc....).  Don't get me wrong, there are great things that come along with home ownership, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't make money from the sale, but that's not always the case for everyone, so the decision to buy can't be taken lightly.  In addition, on the flip side and to play devil's advocate, I guess the grass is always greener and I'm sure at some point I will yearn to have a stable home of sorts to rest my head.  For now though, I feel quite free.  

I'll definitely miss this kitchen and dining area
What the hell does 'free' mean anyway?  It could mean a number of things.  In this case, the name of this blog post 'From Consumerism to Practical Minimalism' was taken from an interesting blog that I recently discovered called Rethinking the Dream.  Here is a brief overview of their project, which sums it up nicely I feel...  "We are a family that has decided the American Dream of Home Ownership isn't living up to the hype. The normal American Dream is a set path towards home ownership and filled with buying stuff. We're sick and tired of that and we want to rethink that dream. We want to spend less on stuff and more on activities and events that can enrich our lives and our life experience. Please join us on our journey."  While these guys are certainly creative and unique, they aren't alone.  There is a current movement to shun the traditional American consumerist lifestyle for a more minimalistic one filled with experiences rather than 'stuff', and I'm jumping on board!

The never-ending vacuum to obtain more 'stuff'
I also feel that consumerism has an adverse effect on happiness in society.  Happiness by definition is 'the state of being happy'.  Well that's simple right?  Just be happy and you'll find true happiness.  Therein lies the dilemma, what provides or factors into happiness?  Well, it isn't 'stuff' as referenced above.  In fact, studies show that beyond a minimum threshold of poverty, money doesn't buy happiness.  Possessions may seem like a solution to your problems, but often they simply replace the ones they solve.  As paychecks increase, lifestyles usually match those increases.  This results in the same financial concerns, just with more stuff.  To read more on this, there is a fantastic article here, with great comments.  

My life has drastically changed over the past couple of months.  I've sold and given away a ton of 'stuff'.  I've moved the remainder of my 'life' into a 10x10 storage unit.  I've acquired a P.O. Box, which will serve as my primary mailing address during my travels.  In addition, this past weekend I moved in with my father and stepmother temporarily until I leave on my
A man and his truck...  A truck I'll miss!!!  
journey in about a month (I know, what's hotter than a recently single guy living with his parents!?!?).  The only two things remaining on my Denver to-do list are to sell my truck (2007 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road) and leave my job.  Both of which are also MAJOR changes of course.  

As covered in the 'Why' section of this site, this moto-journey is much more than just a simple trip for me.  It is a chance for me to clear my head with all that has happened over the past several years along with all that is currently happening.  I'm hoping that through the cultures that I interact with, the places that I'll visit, and the experiences that I'll have, I'll be able to gain a modicum of insight into what might provide true happiness for me.  Will it be a geographic move?  Will it be a drastic career shift?  Will it include meeting the true love of my life?  Will it be all of these things?  None of them?  Hell if I know, but I'm traveling to see if I can track it down as I certainly haven't been able to discover it here thus far.   

Now here is a sad thought...  What if this trip is just another 'thing' that I'm using to fill the hole in the self?  What if I am done and am no happier than when I started.  Arghhhhhhhh!!!  Well, that's a chance I'm willing to take. :)  

~ D

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

STM Suspension - Service & Upgrade

***Note - This post gets a bit technical, so read before bedtime for a good night's sleep.  In addition, all product recommendations are my opinion only, and you should do research for yourself to see what works for you.***

So, as stated before one of the weak points on the F800GS (IMO) is the buttery soft suspension.  I think the problem is, BMW is trying to make a shock and spring setup that is a one size fits all solution.  The good news in that is, it will work OK for everyone.  The bad news in that is, it will only work OK for everyone.  

First step, remove shock (easier said than done)
I decided to work with Dave Rose at STM Suspension.  The shop is located at 216 Commerce Drive Fort Collins, CO 80524.  You can reach Dave by calling the shop at 970-682-2071 or e-mailing him here.  I've been working with Dave for the last two years to get the suspension dialed on my race bikes.  He truly is a genius when it comes to setting up and tuning race suspension, so I figured I would work with him on this project as well.  In fact, I was able to shave two seconds off my fastest lap time during a track day at High Plains Raceway the first time I spent time with him, after that I was hooked!  Dave has become my go-to 'suspension guy' and STM is a nice place to be able to take my bikes when parts, service, repairs, and/or support is needed.  

I called Dave a couple of weeks back and told him about the issues I was experiencing with
Boing!!!  Removing old spring
my bike.  During my recent shakedown trips, the bike felt incredibly 'soft' when off paved surfaces.  The front was incredibly quick to dive and would stay essentially bottomed out when riding hard.  When skipping over whoop-like dirt/rock sections, the bike would cave in both front and back.  Long story short, it was far too spongy, which limited 'feel' and didn't inspire confidence or aggressive riding of any sort. 

My first thought, maybe I'll just add some preload and adjust compression and rebound on the front end.  Uhhhhhh, that was impossible as there are no adjustments available.  My second thought was, maybe I'll just add heavier fork oil to see if I can stiffen it up.  Well, I tried that and it didn't help much.  Along the way, I played around with preload and rebound on the rear (compression not adjustable), but couldn't seem to make enough of a difference in a positive direction.  So, I scrapped all of those ideas and started researching suspension upgrades and what others have done out there in ADV land.  Turns out, there are several options.  Touratech has several options for the rear, but as with everything they make, it was a bit pricey in my opinion (I know, I know, you get what you pay for).  Hyperpro makes progressive front/rear springs at a decent price point, but I don't have a shock/spring compressor.  

Pretty new red (stiffer) Eibach spring installed
Long story short, I called my suspension guy (Dave), and he said, "let me do a little research and I'll call you back".  In a couple of days he had ordered both front and rear springs from Race Tech (Eibach springs).  In the rear we decided to increase the spring rate from 900 lbs/inch up to 1000 lbs/inch.  Dave decided against the Hyperpro setup as he didn't want a progressive spring for this application.  He doesn't like the "initial movement" allowed by progressive springs because it "allows for the wheel to come back too soon".  This is especially problematic when there are no compression settings on the forks, as is the case on the F800GS.  

Next up, remove wheel and forks
In the front, we decided to increase the spring rate from stock, which was somewhere around 5.5.  We put 7.5 in one, and 9.5 in the other, which leaves us with a stiffer 8.5 overall average.  In addition, Dave concocted a magic fork oil blend.  He was throwing around terms like centistokes (unit of measure for viscosity) alongside other mad scientist calculations, and finally came up with an Ecto-Cooler looking liquid that was around 35'ish in weight (all Silkolene product).  Our fork oil blend was heavier than the recommended stock Sizzurp (aka Purple Drank) fork oil that is around 10-20'ish.   

All-in-all, the install took us around three hours start to finish.  Overall cost came in literally a fraction of what it would have been at the dealer.  Seriously, probably half the cost!!!  In addition, the dealer recommends the Hyperpro kit over anything else.  

I took the 'long way round' on the way home and rode approximately 100 miles on highway, side roads, and packed dirt.  WOW!  It feels like an entirely new motorcycle.  The rear doesn't squat as much when hard on the gas, making the throttle feel much more peppy.  The front end doesn't dive as much and inspires MUCH more confidence on dirt.  I haven't ridden hard trails yet, but can't wait to do so and am sure it will be a much needed improvement (will update this post after I do so).  I also hopped up and over a ton of parking blocks in a parking lot and the bike seemed to leap with ease and didn't sink to the ground or bottom-out coming down the other side.  I'm loving the changes...

So, if you want incredible ROI, go see Dave at STM Suspension, or mail him your shock and forks.  For the money, I feel it has been the best upgrade that I've done to the bike thus far.  

~ D