Coolest beat at LAT

CarpenterSusan Carpenter debuted today as the Los Angeles Times' first motorcycle columnist. Throttle Jockey will run bi-weekly in the Wednesday Highway 1 section. The flackage promises "comprehensive motorcycle reviews, ranging from an $800 Chinese motorcycle and $90,000 Ducati Desmosedici Limited Edition to everything in between...an inside look at the men and women who make up Los Angeles' diverse motorcycle culture..." and first person reports from Carpenter. Today she reviews the $11,499 Kawasaki ZX-14, which she describes as "Slurpee red:"

Riding the world's fastest production sport bike, I did what anyone else in my position would do: I taught the guy who's boss and twisted the grip, and so long, sucker!...With 200 horsepower and 80 mph more at my disposal, I could have easily blown the guy into another dimension. But part of riding a bike as powerful as the new Ninja ZX-14 is restraint. It isn't about using all the juice you hold in your hand, it's about knowing that it's there and knowing that everyone else knows it's there, too.

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On the one hand, I love to go fast. There's no better feeling than rolling on the throttle and blasting down the street on a perfectly engineered machine. But on the other, while I had no intention of testing Kawasaki's quarter-mile claims, I knew it would tempt me. I wanted to ride the new ZX within my limits and as fast as I felt comfortable, but I feared I might lose control with so much power at my disposal.

Firing it up and throwing a leg over, I clicked into first, took a deep breath and twisted the grip. It being downtown and lunch hour, riding conditions were not ideal for a bike that could drag race a fighter jet, but that was just as well, considering my trepidation. The traffic was molasses, forcing the bike to do something it's not known for but nevertheless does well go slowly.

Carpenter is a staff writer in features and the author of 40 Watts from Nowhere: A Journey into Pirate Radio, an account of her three years' broadcasting a low-power FM station out of her Los Angeles apartment. In the book she calls herself "a motorcycle-riding blonde with a bunch of leather in her closet."

Photo of Carpenter in 2001: Ironbuttrally.com


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