Category Archives for "Bikes"

Nov 14

Stopped by Bikeexif Today

By kevin | Bikes

For some reason I had not stopped by Bikeexif for the longest time.  It is without question one of the most stunning motorcycle sites on the web.  Shoot, it’s one of the prettiest sites of any description on the web.  Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and go while away the time looking at the amazing photos of the most mouthwatering bikes

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Aug 07

Retro Motorbikes Gone Wild

By kevin | Bikes


The Wall Street Journal has published a fun piece on retro motorbikes called “Riding Retro Style.”  Here’s the lead

From Chrysler’s PT Cruiser to Chevrolet’s new 1969-style Camaro, retro styling has been used by carmakers to generate buzz and spur sales.

Now motorcycle companies are following the auto industry’s lead, sprinkling the market with midsize, beginner-friendly models that evoke the 1970s.

Harley-Davidson, Triumph and Moto Guzzi are among the makers pushing retro bikes. Moto Guzzi’s V7 Classic has clean, delicate styling typical of bikes from 35 years ago. Matte-black paint and an aggressive rumble give Harley’s Iron 883 an old-school outlaw feel. Triumph’s Scrambler has the wheel spokes and off-road styling of a ‘70s trail bike.

The bikes all have two-cylinder engines between 700 and 900 cubic centimeters in size–midsize by modern standards. Indeed, some riders would consider them small. But each looks and sounds faster than it is and has enough style and attitude to mask the fact that they are mildly powered machines meant for green riders.

They all cost less than $9,000. Yes, it is a lot of money for two wheels, and yes, you could buy at least three nice used motorcycles for the same amount. But in today’s market, bikes under $10,000 get stamped with the “affordable” label.

Here’s the slide show.

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Apr 12

1200 Miles In on my K1200GT

By kevin | Bikes


This is almost embarrassing to write.  I’ve owned my 2007 K1200GT since Thanksgiving, so that’s nearly five months, and I’ve managed to log a grand total of about 1200 miles on the mighty mile muncher from Munich (ouch).  I’ll plead crappy weather and leave it at that.  It is a pitiful, desultory performance.  The good news is that I have a longish ride coming up in a couple of weeks with riding pal Ron which should add 3000 or so miles to the clocks.

Not that it really matters, but I’ve come by those miles . . .

  • Toddling around town.
  • Running up along the Hood canal
  • Two different rides along what I call the Skagit loop (Seattle to Arlington, Up Hwy 9 to Sedro Woolley, and from there along the Skagit and Sauk and back to Arlington via Darrington). It’s DH-56 for Destination Highway fans.
  • Wandering around the countryside, mostly west of Olympia, WA.
[amtap book:isbn=0968432816]

The most recent (January) Skagit run was instructive as the best part of it, the part where there is nearly no traffic and good twisties, runs between trees and a mountains and is in the shade nearly the entire day.  For the record, riding a $20,000 600 lb bike on black ice is less than fun.

While it’s still too soon to have definitive impressions, here’s what I think so far.  Keep in mind that my most recent relevant point of reference is my old and loved FJR.

Power:  There are measurable differences in power and performance between the K, the FJR, and the Concours.  None of this matters.  They are all capable of hyper speeds and can out accelerate anything you need to.  The power delivery is different bike to bike, but again, who cares?  You get used to what you have under your throttle and ride accordingly.  And yes, the K delivers in buckets.

Handling:  Moto-scribes famously winge about the so-called lack of feeling in the BMW front end.  I guess I don’t have the first clue what the problem is.  If the issue is that they’re used to front fork dive, then yes, it’s not there (and I agree front fork dive can be put to good use by riders who know how to work with changing rake and trail on the fly).  I would describe myself as a better than average street rider, and I don’t find myself leaned over wondering if the front end has decided to step out for coffee or chat with a close friend.  Quite the contrary, I find the bike hugely stable and composed at all angles.  And importantly for the average rider, it won’t stand up if you decide to grab for some brakes in mid turn.  In that same way, trailing the brakes to the apex is a breeze.

Controls:  Another favorite peeve of the scribbling-set.  Whatever.  You get used to anything and I quite like the two-handed turn-toggles.  And I wouldn’t necessarily miss them if they weren’t there. 

Saddle:  I’m still undecided on this one.  It’s a different shape than the FJR, and much different than the custom job I had.  Ask me again in 3000 miles.

The Little Things: None of these things matter in the great arc or “real men kick start their bikes” sort of thing, but the K-bike majors in details.  I still reach for the throttle lock that isn’t there (was on my FJR), but the cruise control that is, is aces.  Having a fully sorted place to put the GPS is nice indeed.  Heated grips are well integrated and well done.  Heated seat is silly, but whatever.  Love the Xenon light.  The fit and finish all around is stunning.

ESA:  A great idea, but hopeless in execution.  I can’t discern a useful difference in any of the damping settings.  Comfort is too harsh.  The balance between front and rear rebound damping was worked out by an iquana.  I had Hyperpro on my FJR and it was leagues better.  I will get Ohlins at some point.

So yes, a great ride.  I’m telling myself I won’t buy another bike for a hundred years.  Or course that’s not true, but right now, it seems a really flash ride.

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Mar 15

Motorbikes of the Apocalypse

By kevin | Bikes

I’ve just finished reading Neil Strauss’ book called Emergency.  Not completely sure what to think about it, but the general arc is his journey into all things oriented to survival in a world where the stuff has hit the fan.

[amtap book:isbn=0060898771]

I know, I know.  But it’s an entertaining read in a paranoid sort of way, and ends up in a place you might not expect.

Along the way, he lists what those in the know regard as the three best rides for bugging out.

The Rokon Trail-Breaker . . .

Trail-Breaker. The name synonymous with off road transportation for 50 years has proven its worth as an American classic. Years and years of unforgettable trips to the out back have given Rokon riders a lifetime of memories. Trail-Breakers have climbed up high peaks including the Chilean Andes, gone through mud bogs where 4-wheelers never leave, traversed slippery snow fields and even provided safe passage for explorers through the treacherous Darien Gap. Users include the US Special Forces in Desert Storm, the US Forest Service, some 25 states Fish and Game officers, countless big game hunters, and even treasure seekers. They count on Trail-Breakers because they go anywhere and do it with unparalleled ROKON reliability.

Why? Each Trail-Breaker has patented dual wheel drive, a high ground clearance (15 in.) lightweight (208 lbs.) and wide tractor type tires (5.9×15).

Versatile? You bet. Mount pumps, generators, sidecars, gun boots and 50 other accessories. You can turn your Trail-Breaker into a plow horse or mountain goat. And they even float by virtue of hollow 15-inch aluminum drum wheels. Drum like in you can store up to 4.5 gallons of fuel or water in each wheel. Narrow enough to fit down a row crop or tight tree stands. Tough enough to climb over rocks, fallen trees or other obstacles.

How? Operate for up to 9 hours on one fill up of the almost 3 gallon tank and run its classic work horse four stroke Kohler engine where ever you need to Trail-Breaker is automatic and is operated by hands only. No shifting necessary with your feet. It’s balanced enough to climb steep slopes at speeds of only 0.5 mph. It will also carry two people aboard.

Reliable? Most Trail-Breakers ever built are still running. And the ones built today are even better because they have solid state ignition, sealed gear cases, improved frame design, better comfort and get this, they are now even quiet. The Trail-Breaker uses the Kohler 6 hp Command Engine assembled by Yamaha.  ROKON has learned from a rich history of riding and listening to owners. This lead us to incorporate changes that will make Trail-Breakers last even longer. Easy to repair and maintain. A simple thing like the same bearing appears 18 times on the machine. Standard American nuts, bolts and chain make repairs a cinch and easy for you to do the work. Parts are widely available and manuals easy to follow. After all, if you start simple and rugged, it should be easy to maintain.

Trail-Breaker is a trusted and long serving name in off road transportation. We remain dedicated to quality so you can count on a successful trip wherever you go. And now with the latest  Kohler engine, ROKONS have incredible power and performance to go with quiet running operations.

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Feb 05

Mission One on a Mission (I had to write that)

By kevin | Bikes

All I can see is feast your eyes . . . and yes, it’s an electric. Here’s the story about Mission One . . .

Forrest North first dreamed of building an electric motorcycle when leading the Stanford University Solar Car Team in 1998. Seven years later, he joined Tesla Motors working with many of his old Solar Car teammates. Tesla had a simple vision: build an electric sports car without compromised performance. By using lithium-ion batteries that were lighter and cheaper, the Tesla Roadster changed the meaning of electric cars. Tesla’s vision for electric cars paralleled Forrest’s dream of making an electric motorcycle that rivaled the best gasoline bikes in the world.

Forrest enlisted the help of friends Edward West and Mason Cabot. Edward was a friend from the Yale College Solar Racing team, and was finishing his MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio School of Management. Mason was an electronics guru with 10 years of experience at Intel, and had recently taken up motorcycling on Forrest’s recommendation. Together, the three founders began building the vision for a new type of motorcycle company.


For more about Mission One [clicky]

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Dec 14

Welcome Home K1200GT

By kevin | Bikes

At least it wasn’t actually snowing.  That came later.  But it was damn near that cold and raining too.  Not the ideal day to take delivery of a new motorcycle, but then, who buys new motorcycles in December anyway!


I never really mean to buy these things, which is to say that I’ve thought about it forever and drive on over to the dealership just to take a look.  Purchase isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion, but it’s lurking nearby.

I had been off bikes for a couple of months due to a combination of business, rotten weather, vertigo, and arthritis.  Did I say getting old is a bitch?  By the end of the summer, I had come to the conclusion that my days ridding my Aprilia RSV 1000 Factory were over.  I loved how it sounded.  I loved how it looked.  I love how it went down the road.  I didn’t love what it did to my body.  It was punishing.  At the point you dread the idea of getting on your motorcycle, it’s well past time to say good bye.

A few weeks ago I found myself stranded in a hotel room with nothing to do or read so I decided to get on the Internet and read every road test and every thing else I could find on a bunch of bikes that have always caught my imagination, or at least had recently.

  • KTM 990 Adventure
  • Suzuki Hayabusa
  • Kawasaki ZX 14
  • BMW K1200S/GT
  • BMW 800GS
  • Buell Ulysses
  • KTM RC8

And probably a bunch more.  I blame my friend Ron for all this for drawing my attention to the new 2009 BMW K1300S. I had nicely resolved myself to the idea of riding my FJR, a true do-nearly-everything bike, for at least another year and selling the ‘priller in the spring. But now I was lusting again.

I actually stopped by a Kawi dealer along the way to sit on the big Ninja and liked it enough to think about test driving it, but the fever soon left.  Something about the beast’s penchant for eating tires, over heating, iffy quality control, and oh yes, it is way, way too fast, put me off.

The fact that BMW was offering $3500 off their end of year K bikes put salt on the tail.  That made them almost kind of affordable, sort of.  So with the sun mostly out I wandered over to Ride West BMW to have a look.  No S bike.  In fact, the only thing they had was the GT, and they didn’t even have that.  I would have to order one.  But I rode the test mule and actually loved it. So I bought it.  Traded the FJR and Priller for it plus a couple of nickels.  God bless my wife for only rolling her eyes once.

And then I left town for three weeks. Which brings me back to the other day.  The bike had been sitting at the dealer since a couple of days after Thanksgiving and now I could finally get it.  Now it’s home in the garage with a grand total of about 14 miles on it.

So here’s what I like so far . . .

  • The attention to detail and overall sense of quality is steps beyond anything else I’ve ridden or seen up close.
  • I’ll admit  it, I don’t mind the goofy turn signals.

  • Heated grips and seats.
  • Cruise control.  I do that kind of riding.
  • Massive power, though it comes on later than it does with the FJR (not a slow bike either).
  • I know there’s more ground clearance than the FJR, though I haven’t gotten there yet.  I do that kind of riding too.
  • Factory mount for GPS. Hurray.

  • Lots more room for farkling under the fairing.  FJR was useless.
  • All that technology.  These are the cleanest running bikes on the road.
  • Feels rock solid leaned over.  I know people complain about the lack of feel.  I’ll get back to you on that.
  • Paint is stunning.

It’s not the list I expect to write after I have some miles on the beast, but it will do for now.  Now if the weather will just give me a break.

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