Archive for September, 2013

Demo Riding the KTM 1190 Adventure

Monday, September 30th, 2013
KTM 1190 Adventure

What a great motorcycle this KTM 1190 Adventure is.

As underwhelmed as I was with the latest line-up of Victory motorcycles, I was equally overwhelmed with one KTM, the 1190 Adventure. I rode a Victory Boardwalk and the KTM essentially back to back a week ago and the difference could not have been more pronounced.

The Boardwalk has a very low seat height, which is nice, but the high position of the KTM is not much different from that of my Suzuki V-Strom. Once you get over the need to feel both feet flat on the ground you become perfectly comfortable with taller bikes. I got used to it years ago with my Kawasaki Concours.

What the Adventure has that the Boardwalk totally lacks is pep. The bike is light but the engine is nearly 1200cc and that means fast. A really quick acceleration, light handling, very agile. And boy does it have the brakes to match. This is one of those bikes where if you squeeze the brake lever too hard, too quickly you could end up going over the front bars. That wouldn’t be a good thing, but operated smoothly, the KTM stops right NOW, right HERE!

As with any dual-sport bike–which is what the Adventure is–the seating position is completely upright and the pegs are down quite a bit lower beneath you, which makes for considerable comfort. I’ve been noticing this same thing on my V-Strom, and how when I switch back to the Connie or my Honda CB750 Custom it feels like my knees are almost in my chest.

In fact, I keep mentioning the V-Strom because it and the KTM Adventure are amazingly alike. The look, the feel, and the whole dual-sport design make them very similar. The one big difference, as pointed out by one of the KTM guys, is that the V-Strom doesn’t have 150 horsepower.

Bottom line was that I loved this bike. But I wouldn’t buy it because I do already have the V-Strom and the price for the KTM is about twice that of the Suzuki. The KTM is a wonderful machine, and if those two factors don’t come into play for you I would give this my heartiest recommendation. I loved this bike.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
OFMC heads home, more dirt en route

Biker Quote for Today

Ride off into the new year, and resolve to be free. Ride more.

Demo Riding the Victory Boardwalk

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Victory Boardwalk

This Victory Boardwalk was the most appealing of the bikes I saw.

There really wasn’t all that much that struck me as appealing when I went to demo ride Victory motorcycles last weekend but the one bike that did appeal was the Boardwalk. That’s it in the photo above. So I rode it.

The very first thing I noticed was that as soon as I threw my leg over the seat my calf came to rest against the hot pipes. That’s a good thing to learn quickly, and you don’t forget.

The very first thing I noticed when we started riding was that the windshield was too tall for me. The top hit right in my line of sight. That’s not a deal-breaker though, you can cut it down or get one not as tall.

The handle bars were wide, which I like, but the reach forward was too much for my comfort. I would swap them for the kind that come back toward me more so I wouldn’t have to lean forward so much. That’s another thing that can be fixed.

The Boardwalk does handle nicely. The seat is quite low, which makes for good stability, and the seat is comfortable. Still, I would want a back rest because with the forward position for your feet I know that my back would be hurting if I rode this bike for long.

The brakes are good, though not the kind that will throw you over the front end if you squeeze too hard. Acceleration is not rocket-like in any gear, although it’s best in middle gears. From a stop it takes time to get up to speed, just as stopping takes some time. I think this is a bike built for people who aren’t terribly concerned with going fast; they want an easy, mellow ride.

As with so many bikes today, the mirrors are too small. That may be good for how it looks overall but it’s not good for actually riding.

As for the particulars, the Boardwalk comes with chromed spoke wheels, floorboards, a windscreen, bags, and a backrest for your passenger. The tank holds 4.7 gallons. The tranny is a six-speed overdrive.

All in all, I liked the Boardwalk. In fact, having ridden quite a few Victorys over the years, I think I like it best of them all. But it’s just not the kind of bike I would buy. If it’s the type you like, however, it could be a very good option.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #28

Biker Quote for Today

Farkling is a disease though…

A Motorcycle-focused Weekend

Monday, September 23rd, 2013
Riders set to try out some Victory motorcycles

Riders set to try out some Victory motorcycles.

There was one major theme to my weekend and that was motorcycles. I started off Saturday morning running over to Grand Prix Motorsports to test ride some Victory bikes and from there headed over to Fay Myers Motorcycle World for the Civilian Top Gun competition. When I got there I discovered that they also had the trucks in from KTM and there were KTM bikes to be test ridden. So I did. I’ll have reports on test rides later.

Then on Sunday I went to my ABATE meeting and there were some interesting bits of news coming out of that as well.

On both days I rode my Concours and I have to tell you, it’s weird how I now find myself having to refamiliarize myself with my different bikes when I have been riding one of the others lately. The Concours has been my standard for years but now the pegs seem so high and the bike seems so heavy, it’s just bizarre. After awhile I do adjust, however.

So I got down to Grand Prix just as one ride was going out so I had about half an hour to hang around and get signed up and decide what bike I wanted to ride. I ended up choosing the Victory Boardwalk. The group came back and I claimed the Boardwalk and off we went. When we got back I sat on the bike a few moments while I made notes about my impressions and when I looked around all the bikes had already been claimed for the next ride. I had a lot to do that day so I was not inclined to stick around so I left having just ridden the one.

I got over to Fay Myers just in time to find that the competition was halted for lunch. I ran into Dom Chang, who writes for Examiner.com as the Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner, and he was there covering the Top Gun event. Here’s the link if you want to see his video and article.

So I strolled around a little and saw these semis with KTM on the side. Sure enough, they were doing demo rides. Now, I had never ridden a KTM before so I jumped at this opportunity. They only had two models on hand, the Adventure and the more off-road oriented version of the Adventure, with taller suspension and other modes. I only opted to ride the basic Adventure because the other is the kind of bike you’d ride through the Sahara and I’m really not interested in that kind of thing.

After the ride I watched the Top Gun competition for awhile and chatted with Dom and then took off.

Then there were two interesting things that came up at ABATE. First off, someone made the point that if you’re going to run a poker run you legally have to have a gaming license. ABATE does, but how many of these other organizations that hold one run a year–and they are proliferating in number–who do have a gaming license? I guess the state just turns a blind eye.

The other thing is the MOST program. This is the riding training program funded by the $2 we each pay each year when we renew our motorcycle plates. It was the subject of much controversy last year but the legislature voted to extend the program with revisions. Well, now the changes have been made and even the people who formerly supported it are saying that if this is the way it’s going to be run let’s just get rid of it. Terry Howard, the ABATE State Coordinator, reported that at Saturday’s state board meeting the vote was in favor of repealing the $2 fee and then if the state can’t come up the money to keep it going, let it die. There’s more to it than that but that’s it in a nutshell. A pretty amazing turnaround.

Biker Quote for Today

If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.

No Riding in the Big Thompson Canyon Any Time Soon

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

If you live in Colorado this is not news, but if you live elsewhere and have plans to come ride in Colorado it’s important news. No one is going to be doing much riding in the Big Thompson Canyon any time soon.

Big Thompson Canyon

An elevated portion of the road down the Big Thompson Canyon before the recent flooding.

Probably everyone across the country knows we’ve have major flooding here in Colorado recently but what has happened in the Big Thompson may have escaped your attention. I knew it got hit pretty hard but it wasn’t until I watched this TV news video that I realized just how bad it was.

Let’s get some history. Back in 1976 there was a huge flood in the Big Thompson that killed more than 150 people. When they rebuilt the highway they built it to prevent that sort of devastation again. Or so they thought.

In places in the narrow parts of the canyon where the road used to run right alongside the river, the new construction raised the roadway 20 feet or more above the previous level. Watching that video you can see that a large part of that raised construction got washed away. It’s an aerial view so it’s hard to see for sure, but the walls of the elevated portion seem to have come through reasonably well. Nevertheless, the decking, i.e., the road surface, is totally washed away in some places and substantially missing in others. Not quite sure how that happened but it did. So much for the best laid plans of highway engineers.

So of course you have to wonder what they’ll do this time to rebuild the road and make it last. The one thing you don’t have to wonder about at all is whether there will be any riding in that canyon in the next six months or more. If they just put things back the way they were it would probably take that long. If they try something new it will first take time to come up with ideas and develop those ideas and then put them into place.

The Big Thompson is a beautiful canyon and it’s a great place to ride. Just don’t plan on doing that till next year some time.

Biker Quote for Today

Half the adventure is trying to figure out when and where to stop for a photo.

Two Motorcycle Events You May Want to Attend

Monday, September 16th, 2013
Civilian Top Gun competition

The Civilian Top Gun competition a couple years ago.

There are a couple things coming up very soon that I want to direct your attention to.

First is the 5th annual Civilian Top Gun Rider Competition. The non-civilian Top Gun competition is for motorcycle cops. That’s an annual exhibition that is really good, with those guys putting their big cruiser bikes through tight turns that most people can’t even do on a small bike.

So this other event is for the rest of us, but don’t think for a minute that that means the riding you’ll see is second-rate. You don’t have to be a cop to know how to ride really, really well.

This thing will be taking place this coming weekend, Sept. 20-21, at Fay Myers Motorcycle World, 9700 E. Arapahoe. And it’s free–no admission charge. Apparently it will be going on both days so cruise on down, and prepare to feel like you really aren’t that good a rider after all, no matter what your ego would like you to believe.

The other event is a week later, Saturday, Sept. 28. This is the Small Bike Ride.

Todd Wallis is the organizer of this event, which is in its fourth year. Todd is a guy who likes to restore old bikes, and he particularly likes the smaller ones. So he put together this event–it’s just a ride; go have fun–for old bikes with engines 250cc or smaller. Or, if you ride a pre-WWII bike of any size you’re welcome, too.

Riders will be starting out from a spot in Deer Creek Canyon, 9880 West Deer Creek Canyon Road, to be exact. The ride starts at 9 a.m. and will be cruising–rather slowly–through the hills, for about 100 miles.

So go have fun.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #28

Biker Quote for Today

Think of your thumper as a big pump, happily sucking and blowing down the road.

Guest Post: Riding the Idaho Wilderness

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Morgan Sansotta, a die-hard Springsteen fan, blogs on behalf of Jafrum.com. People never believe she wants to leave the Bay Area for her native Idaho.

Motorcycle riding in Idaho

Any motorcycle rider in Colorado owes it to themselves to go do some riding in Idaho.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the Potato State — it’s the Gem State. And what a gem it is, particularly on a motorcycle. Idaho is, arguably, the most wild of all lower-48 states and, undisputedly, home to some of the country’s most majestic scenes and varied landscapes. In a single day you can zip from the sun-baked desert to a lush lake shadowed by towering peaks, past volcanic lava beds, through sprawling farmland and end up at a National Park. Unless you’re looking for the ocean or a shopping mall, there is something there for everyone.

As a young adult, I spent many years in the Idaho wilderness and plenty of those years cruising up and down hidden highways. Excellent roads, far-beaten paths and scenic detours are literally everywhere. It’s not hard to find your own slice of remote paradise, every few miles in some areas. The state is the one of the largest, and least populated, in the Union. With so many routes to choose from, I’ll just touch on a couple of my favorites.

Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Straight out of the capital city and on up to Lowman, Stanley and the Sawtooth Mountains, this is an extremely popular ride for motorcycle enthusiasts, hotspringers and all manner of outdoor recreators. Highway 21 is on a loop, making this literally, a round trip. While you will have to keep an eye out for rock slides and loose debris, keep both eyes peeled for the long list of wildlife calling this area home. Deer, elk, coyotes, foxes and birds of prey loom at every corner. Campsites are scattered everywhere on this jaunt, but don’t expect to see many roadside pubs or restaurants. If you have some spare time and a penchant for nostalgia, try your hand at panning for gold in the Idaho City area.

The Devil’s Tail

Hell’s Canyon is the deepest gorge in the country, a solid 2000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. No matter which direction you come from (Cambridge, ID off US 95 or the Oregon route through Oxbow) prepare for some gorgeous scenery. Be careful when studying maps, trying to craft your own trail – this is an extremely primitive area with loose dirt roads everywhere. Take a time out and let someone else do the driving – take a jet boat up the Snake River or a commercial raft down it. Or both (I’ve done it once and it was awwwesome). This can be a dangerous trail, all cliffs and blind curves, but the view of the Seven Devil’s mountains makes this a check-box on any biker’s list.

The Lolo Pass

Cut across the middle of Idaho on Highway 12 all the way over to Montana (another state chockfull of beautiful byways). They say that Lewis and Clark took this path, more or less, straight through the Clearwater and Lolo National Forests. This road is notorious for its rural curves. Some bikers have even complained that the 60+ miles of switchbacks gets monotonous. Be warned, there’s a 75-mile stretch in the middle with virtually nothing but Evergreen trees and gushing water. No gas, no food, no kidding. Also, be wary of the western half of the journey (towards Lewiston) – truckers and wide loads aren’t looking for you, but that’s nothing new. Idaho law doesn’t require riders to wear helmets. But please do. Other than that, make sure to bring your camera so you can take a picture of your mug next to the famous “Winding Road Next 99 Miles” sign.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom #28

Biker Quote for Today

We are born without a road map and a choice of many trails.

A Top Box for My V-Strom

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Top box on V-Strom

My new top box is even blue to match the bike. That was part of what sold me on that particular one.

The first thing just about anyone who buys a motorcycle does is customize the bike to fit their own specific needs and/or wants. I generally haven’t ever gone very far down that road but I always travel it to some extent. I’m extremely pleased to say that I now have a top box on my new V-Strom.

It’s a good thing to have photos–specifically that one above–because these things don’t seem to go by any clear-cut name. I call it a top box, other people call it a variety of other things. Whatever you call it, from what I’ve seen they get the most use as a place to quickly and easily stash your helmet or your jacket–both if it’s big enough–when you get off the bike. Also a good place to carry odds and ends you might want during the day so you don’t have to go digging for them in the bigger side bags. (Presuming, of course, that you have side bags.)

It’s also a good place to put the stuff you’re carrying to work if you’re riding to work, which I do. I can wear my riding boots to work, take them off and stick them in the top box while putting on shoes that you can actually walk in, and switch back at the end of the day.

Sure the V-Strom came with side bags and they’re huge, but that’s part of why I wanted the top box. The side bags are so huge that they make parking the bike in the space I have for it a difficult thing to do. I ended up taking the bags off each time I came home before I parked, then putting them on when I was going somewhere. Now the side bags can just sit in the garage except when I’m traveling. Traveling is the only time I need anywhere near that much space.

Of course, getting the top box mounted was no easy feat. Theoretically it might have been but reality dictated otherwise. Fortunately I had the assistance (read: he did almost all the work) of Ron Coleman, the guy who runs Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventure. Ron has been a great help in getting this bike fixed up and because he runs a fleet of V-Stroms he knows far better than I what needs to be done. And he has the tools.

V-Strom rear-end disassembled

This gives you a bit of an idea what we ended up doing.

So what theoretically might have taken an hour, hour and a half, ended up taking four hours. The actual mounting was not that bad, it just took drilling out some of the sheet metal in the mount so the bolts could go where they had to go. But the trunk (that’s what some people call these things) has LED lights on it to give you greater visibility, and hooking those up was the real bear.

After putting it all together it didn’t work. So we tried one thing after another, and in the process disassembled almost the entire rear end of the bike. You can see that in the other photo. We did get it done, though, and hot diggety! I’m really pleased. Thank you Ron. Now just a few more mods and I’ll have this bike just the way I want it. Stay tuned.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom #28

Biker Quote for Today

There’s roads and there’s roads and they call, can’t you hear it? Roads of the earth and roads of the spirit. The best roads of all are the ones that aren’t certain. One of those is where you’ll find me till they drop the big curtain. — Bruce Cockburn

Checklist for Scooter Friendliness: How Does Your City Stack Up?

Thursday, September 5th, 2013
Scooters at a traffic light

What makes a town scooter-friendly?

This is a guest post provided by Amy Moczynski.

With two-wheeled transportation becoming more popular because of gas prices, more people are making scooters and motorcycles their primary form of transportation. Bicycles or walking might be the preferred way of transportation in cities that allow for it, but the majority of people will need some form of motorized vehicle to get them from point A to point B. With most scooters offering nearly 70 miles per gallon, scooters not only help you save on gas but also help lower your carbon footprint.

If you’re considering switching to a scooter as your primary mode of transportation, there are some things to consider before making the switch. Aside from making sure you have the proper license and training to ride said scooter, you should consider how scooter friendly your city is before making the switch full time.

For anyone unsure of how to determine how scooter friendly a city is, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Scooter Repair and Retail

Just like any automobile, you’ll need to take your scooter in for periodic tune ups. You’ll also need to make sure you purchase any gear before hitting the road (a helmet is a must, and you might want to trick out your scooter with some sweet swag). Consider how close you are to repair shops and retailers so you know where to turn if you need something last minute. For example, the website for Bintelli scooters has a store locator so you can see if your scooter’s retailer has a nearby location.

Parking and Storage

Parking might seem like a breeze if you own a scooter (it’s small, so it can fit anywhere, right?), but in certain cities, there isn’t dedicated parking for scooters. Instead, scooters have to use regular size parking spaces, and that often means they need to purchase parking decals also meant for full-size automobiles, so there’s no cost savings involved.

Something to consider is the number of (or presence of) parking devoted just to scooters or motorcycles. San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati are several cities that have created special parking areas just for scooters, and the mayor of Boston has designated free parking for scooters and motorcycles, offering scooter owners in this city an added benefit of scooting as opposed to driving.
You’ll also want to consider where you will store your scooter, both overnight and during the seasons you won’t be driving it. Is the area you live safe enough to leave your scooter outside overnight? Do you need to park it in a garage like a car? If you need to park it in a garage, that’s an extra expense to consider.

Weather

If you live in an area with consistent rain throughout the year, you might be less inclined to purchase a scooter. The same goes for areas that have several months of snow and ice in the winter, or places with pretty steep inclines and rough terrain. While that’s not to say you can’t enjoy your scooter in the warmer seasons like spring and summer, consider how much use you’ll get from it throughout the year before deciding to purchase. Clear, sunny days are made for scooting, so make sure your city offers plenty of ways you can take advantage of the climate.

Also make sure you know how to ride your scooter in not so favorable conditions. If you live in a location that is prone to sudden downpours, you might not have the option of only traveling when it’s clear and sunny. Make sure you feel confident enough driving through these conditions when needed.

Incentives

Are there incentives for owning a scooter in your city? For example, Austin Energy offers $50 to $300 incentives for people who use two-wheeled electric vehicles. See if your town offers any sort of credit or rebates when you switch to a greener form of transportation.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Another day going separate ways from the OFMC

Biker Quote for Today

Speed bumps never seem to make me go any faster.

The Simplest Throttle Lock Around

Monday, September 2nd, 2013
Go Cruise Throttle Control on Suzuki V-Strom 650

My new throttle lock on my V-Strom.

Cruise control is nice, but pricey. I’ve always had a throttle lock on my bikes and now I have one on the V-Strom and it could not be a simpler device. That’s it at the left end of the grip in the picture above. And that’s all there is to it. You open the jaws enough to slip it onto the grip and then it rotates easily in what from this position would be forward, but does not slip in the other direction.

What that means is that when you twist the grip to speed up, the device rotates with the grip in a counter-clockwise direction. You then get up to cruising speed and, with your thumb, push the device in a clockwise direction until it is pressed against the brake lever. You can then let go of the grip and the device–pressed against the brake lever and therefore immobile–stops the throttle from rolling clockwise, backing off on the speed. When you do want to slow down you just roll off on the throttle manually and the device easily slips back to where it no longer comes into play. Rinse and repeat.

So how well does it work? Pretty darn well. First off, you need to twist the throttle a little beyond where you actually want it to sit because it does back off a little once you release it. So if you want to cruise at 70 you might get up to 73 or so, move the throttle lock into position against the brake lever, and let go. As for manually rolling off, you don’t even feel that the thing is there.

As with any throttle lock, if you don’t touch it you will slow down on uphills and speed up on downhills. What’s nice about this one is that if you have it set at a pretty good place you can just twist the throttle to speed up going uphill and it doesn’t affect the positioning, so as soon as you let go it goes right back where it was. If you don’t mind going a bit fast downhill you just don’t have to touch the thing once you’ve got it set.

This kind of thing is so much preferable to the other option I was looking for on this bike. Oh, and before I go any further, let me mention that this device is called the Go Cruise Throttle Control and it cost about $20. So anyway, on my Honda I have a throttle control that loops around the bar and has a flange that catches on a bit of hardware to hold it stationary. Then to engage it I flip the thumb tab down and it grips the throttle and holds it steady. I have the same thing on my Concours but there was no place for the flange to butt against anything to hold it in place so I had to experiment with various glues until I found one that would hold. That has worked on that bike for about 14 years now.

Neither of those options was going to work on the V-Strom. The only other workable unit I found would have required loosening things like the mirror to move it over to make room, then attaching a clamp around the bar over there, with a spanner that connects with a clamp on the grip. Again, you push the thumb clamp closed and it holds the throttle in place. But what a pain to do all that.

By contrast, this Go Cruise thing took about 15 seconds to install, and about 10 seconds was spent just getting a good enough grip to spread the jaws far enough to slip it on. I wasn’t quite sure at first that I would be able to get it on, it was that snug. But it has to be snug to work in the way I’ve described, and it did go on.

So now I’m set, and I like it. I know some guys ride without any kind of throttle control device and while you may be able to do that around town, if you’re out on the highway going hundreds of miles, that gets painful for your wrist. Me, I want a throttle lock. And now I have one on the Suzuki.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
OFMC dips into New Mexico

Biker Quote for Today

I am taking the advice of all those people who told me, “Hey kid, why don’t you go play in traffic!”