Remember Your Keys

When I got back to the office from lunch today, I left the keys in the Sporty. I saw the lights were still on about an hour later. after work, I hopped on, hit the starter…and it wouldn’t start.

I ended up having to push my bike out of the parking lot to an access road that went down a hill, then getting it going down the hill and releasing the clutch.

Vroom! She started right up. I guess she charged fine during the 45-minute ride home. But I’ll try to remember to have the keys in my hand when I get off the bike.

No Need to Rename the Blog

I just got back from the Harley dealership, after ordering a set of LeatherPros bags and trunk, a tachometer, auxiliary running light kit, Stage I Air Cleaner, Screamin’ Eagle performance slip-ons, and an EFI remap.

I’m keeping he bike, obviously. Financially, it makes better sense just to keep the bike, and pay her off at the low monthly payment I have now. And if I’m gonna keep her, then I’m gonna fix her up the way I want her.

I also got to thinking that, back when I was a kid, a 1200cc bike was a monster. A bigger touring bike would be more comfortable for 2-up riding, but, really, I’m not gonna do a whole lot of that. If I do, it’ll be weekend trips, not long cross-country deals. So why burden myself with an extra payment that I simply don’t need?

I’ve already got a great bike, and there’s no reason at all not to be satisfied with her for a few years. So, I’m gonna pay the Harley Tax and do just that.

Call Me Mr. Indecisive

Well, you know, I’m so conflicted on this it’s not even funny. A week ago I was dead set to buy the Rocket. Today, I’m thinking that I could just get saddlebags, Stage 1, and maybe a 55-tooth rear sprocket for lower RPM highway cruising, and just keep the Sporty for another year or two. I could do all the stuff on my Harley Wish List, and keep my payment down below $250 month (although I pay $300, just to stay ahead a bit), give me better highway performance and gas mileage–although the sprocket would cut the low-end performance a bit–and it’d probably be a great all-round bike. Toss on the big tour bag on the luggage rack, and the Sporty would probably be just fine for two up touring, if a bit cramped.

‘Cause I’m also looking at the maintenance costs, too. That big ‘ol 240 Metzler rear tire on the Rocket costs about $250, and it has to be replaced every 6000-8000 miles. I’d go through at least two sets a year, plus one of the 170 Metzler’s on the front, which aren’t any cheaper. And, on top of that, carrying over the negative equity on the Sporty, would make the payment just shy of $350 a month. Looked at that way, the ongoing costs are steeper than keeping the Sporty.

Financially, keeping the Sporty is probably the wisest choice, by a long shot.

Hmmm. Now that I’ve talked it out all day at the HD Forums, I’m moving back into the Sportster camp.

*sigh*

Why can’t I just have every bike want?

Sporty Bagger

What will I do if I can’t pick up that Rocket next month? Well, Obviously, I’ll just keep the Sportster. While I’d obviously like a bigger bike, what can’t be done, can’t be done.

But, on the other hand, what can be done…will be. I mean, at the end of the day, if this was 1973, a 1200cc bike would be about the biggest I could even buy, right? The 1200 only seems small in relation to today’s massive cruisers.

So, If I keep the Sportster, then, instead of spending that free cash on a new bike, I’m gonna spend it on the Sporty. I’m gonna ride over to the Harley dealer and order these, these, and this. Yes, I’m talking about the color matched hard bags, bag liners, and tour pak. Heck, I might even get the Fleetliner fairing for the thing, too.

I will then call my bike The Mini-Glide.

Unhappy Reader

Well, it seems my posts about the Rocket aren’t making some people happy. I got the following email from a reader.

HD knows their target market and guys like you and I are the bullseye.

Its not about riding a perfectly built bike, it never has been.

Its about riding something special that few people ever get to own. Riding a legend.

A Triumph has no cachet, no status. And for an extra 1400.00, I’d get the Harley.

Hmmm. Well, if we’re talking about bikes that few people get to own, I’d think the Triumph fits the bill a lot better than the Harley. I see a lot of Harley’s driving around. Triumphs…not so much. Indeed, I think there are less than 20 people in all of San Diego who own a Rocket.

But putting that aside, I’m not someone who’s really all that into riding something for the status. I don’t like the Japanese bikes because I think I’d look less cool riding one, I just don’t like the styling. Don’t like the sporty look of the BMW either, although they make great bikes. And I think the Victory bikes are…too much…over the top. Especially the Vision. it looks like an escape pod from the Starship Enterprise.

I want the bike to be reliable, which from all indications, the Triumph are, now. And I want to like the way the bike looks, which makes thr art-deco styling of the Rocket attractive to me. Whether anyone else approves of my choice is a matter of complete indifference to me.

Apparently, that answer didn’t satisfy the reader, though, who responded:

If you are not concerned about anyone’s opinion, why do you have a blog about your bike ? Why do you solicit other people’s thoughts and opinions?

I have a blog about my bike because I like to write, and past experience indicates that people enjoy my writing. I don’t actually solicit opinions, although I certainly allow their expression. But even if I did solicit opinions, I’m not sure what your point would be. The fact that I may be interested in other opinions doesn’t imply that I seek the approval of the commenters.

When you own a HD big twin, you are just perceived differently, that’s all. I was teased like crazy when I had my sporty, and I hated it. And I grew to dislike the bike. I made the same mistake you did, and bought too small a bike to start.

There’s nothing like a Harley. Anything else just isn’t one. You won’t be happy with a Triumph bud.

Hmmm. Two things.

First, this assumes I care how I’m perceived by others. Look, I’m 44 years old. It’s a little late to be concerned about peer pressure. If you’re my age, and you’re still concerned about how all the other kids in the playground respond to your choices, or you are one of the other kids in the playground making fun of somebody else’s ride choice, then you just need to grow up.

I’m not thinking about replacing the Sporty because I dislike it, or because the other kids think it’s stupid. I’m doing it because it just isn’t as well suited to the things I do with it regularly as other bikes would be. If I could keep it, and get another bike, I would. But, I can’t afford two bikes, so I gotta go with a bike that does more, if I can get it.

Second, If I’d bought a Road King to begin with, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I’d be pickled tink with it. But that’s not what I did, and now that I’m thinking about a switch, the RK just isn’t my first choice anymore, now that I know about other options.

I’m really drawn to the Rocket. It has the power to ride two-up effortlessly, it has much more power than any Harley–or any other cruiser, for that matter–and it’s signifigantly cheaper than the RK, especially the particular Rocket I’m looking at.

I think I’ll be very happy with it. But, if I’m wrong, you can tell me “I told you so,” to your heart’s content.

Will I become a RAT?

That’s the question. I’ve pretty much decided to buy that new 2006 Rocket Classic. But, I can’t buy it until next month, when I can put some cash into the deal.

Chris is talking about taking a two-up trip out to Yuma, and some other places over the winter, when it’s cool enough to ride in the desert during the day. If so, that’s a lot of highway driving, and I’d rather do it on a big cruiser, rather than the Sporty. It’d be both a lot more comfortable, and provide us with a lot more luggage space. Comparatively, that is.

As I figure it, the dealer is willing to clip $1,500 of the price of the Rocket, and toss out all the dealer prep charges. Then they’ll give me $7,000 for the Sporty. I’m willing to toss in $3,000 in cash. That would eat up $4,500 of the $7,000 in negative equity I have on the Sportster. So, I’d have to roll over the extra $2,500 hundred in negative equity onto the Rocket, which would give me a monthly payment of about $350, which is $50 per month more than I’m currently paying on the Sportster.

That’s what I’d like to do, at least. The thing is, I won’t have that $3,000 until the middle of October, so I can’t do the deal until then. The guys at the dealership told me that they’ll keep the paperwork ready if I come back next month.

It’s getting cooler, so the riding season for this year is coming to a close. So, will that 2006 still be there next month? After all it’s a 2006, and it’s been there for two years. On the other hand, the salespeople are trying to push it out the door. So, it’s an open question as to whether someone will buy the bike in the next three weeks.

I’m not gonna go back and look at it any more. But, next month, when I go in, ready to make the deal, if it’s there, I’m gonna do the deal. If it’s not…well, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

All I can do is keep my fingers crossed.

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Every morning when I get up, I check weather.com to see the day’s forecast. If there’s no rain, I’m riding the Sporty to work. I’ve come to depend on them to give me the straight scoop about the weather, but, today, they let me down. The original forecast for today was partly to mostly cloudy, with a high of 71. Looked good to me, so I got on my bike and went off to work.

So, I’m about 15 minutes from work, when it began pouring rain.

Fortunately, it was cool, so I was dressed out, wearing chaps, an MA-1 flight jacket, my orange Icon Mil-Spec vest, and my full-face helmet. So, at least I stayed mostly dry. except for my crotch, of course, where the chaps don’t cover. When I got to work, it looked like I had peed my pants.

Traction for the bike was mostly good, except for one scary moment when I was turning on base. They have these concrete chicanes set up, on the road that leads to my office–an anti-terrorism measure I guess. So, when you turn on the road, you have to cross over to the other side of the road to go around the first chicane. When the rear tire hit the paint strip, it slipped. Gave me a scary second, there.

what wasn’t so good was the brakes. man, as soon as the rotors on the Sportster get wet, they lose about 50% of their grabbiness. I came up to a stop light,hit the front and rear brakes and…nothing happened. So I squeezed and stomped a bit more…and more…and more…and finally the bike slowed. Just in time, too, since I was getting concerned about the tailgate of the truck I was approaching.

Fortunately, the rain cleared off in the late morning, so everything was dry on the way home.

The thing is, as soon as I got to my office, I pulled up weather.com, to see the forecast again. Now, it told me there would be rain until about 10:00AM.

Would’ve been nice to have an accurate forecast 45 minutes earlier.

Wanna Buy a Sportster?

Actually, you probably don’t. In fact, I doubt anyone will.

But I put a sales ad on Craig’s List and Backpage.com, with an asking price of $12,500. With all the extras on the bike, you never know, someone might bite.

The thing is, the more I know about the Rocket, the more I want one. And that 2006 R3 Classic is just sitting in the showroom, with an unbelievable price on it. Actually, they still have the old full-price sticker on it, but in going back and going over the deal again yesterday, I now know what they’re actually willing to take for it.

The rocket I’m looking at looks exactly like the one in the picture. Same year, same model, same color scheme. Oh, I’d dress it up a bit. Get Rivco engine guards, some bags, and maybe a windshield. But this is how it looks in the showroom. Already has floorboards, heel & toe shifters, and the big brake pedal, with a really relaxed riding position.

Unfortunately, with what I owe on a new Sporty, I am too upside down on my loan to take the trade-in loss, and pick this baby up.

I could still do it. My credit is really good, so I am already approved for the loan, but I would really be buying two bikes instead of one if I did that. Which is only worth the money, of course, if you are actually buying two bikes.

So, I’m putting the Sporty up for sale, but, like I said, it’s difficult to see how anyone will bite at 12.5k. Although, I can do a financing deal through the local Harley dealership, which might attract someone who doesn’t have the cash to buy it outright.

But, if I can get out from under the Sportster, I can go ahead and get the Rocket for a really good price.

I don’t know what I’ll call this blog if I do that, though.

Decisions have Consequences

In this case, it’s the consequence of financing a motorcycle, with the terrible first-year depreciation that motorcycles have. The NADA Book gives my Sporty a trade-in value of $6,000. I owe 14k. No matter how you cut it, thats bad math for any hope of a trade-in.

There’s a glut of second-hand Sportsters on the market right now. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care about that, but I went to the local triumph dealer for a look-see at a brand new 2006 Rocket III Classic they have on the floor. because it’s a 2006, they are really motivated to move it.

So, I rode the sporty over and told them that if they could get me a payment at $300 per month or below, and take my Sporty in trade, I’d buy it. Well, they tried. Their first pass, though, came out with a payment $485 per month. That was a no-go, so they went back, slashed another thousand dollars off the Rocket, and offered me $7,000 for my Sportster ($1000 over blue book) and the payment still came out to $404. So, naturally, I declined.

They are willing to go pretty far to get that 2006 Rocket out of their showroom, though.

Still, I’m about $7000 upside down on the loan for my Sporty, so it’s pretty much a no-go on any sort of trade-in. However…

Next month, I’ll have about $3,000 in cash I could put into the deal. If that 2006 R3 Custom is still there at the end of October, I may try to run those numbers again, and, when they get to th lowest payment they can, I’ll ask what the numbers will be if I drop another three grand in cash on the deal. That might ed up being a nice monthly number.

If that 2006 is still there, of course.

Jumping to the Dark Side

A lot of people are Harley enthusiasts. They wouldn’t cross the street to spit on a Japanese bike. Whatever else you may think of the MoCo, they certainly inspire customer loyalty. I like ’em myself, which is why I bought one.

I’ve been thinking about getting a Road King, maybe next year, when I’ve paid down the sporty enough so that I won’t take a bath on the trade in. I was all set for it, expecting to ride my Sportster daily for the next 6 months, then trade her in for a Road King. I was looking forward to it. Even had a big pic of a Road King on my computer desktop.

Until I sat on one of these.

This is the Triumph Rocket III Classic Tourer. It weighs 40 pounds less than a Road King. It has 140 horsepower compared to the Road King’s 65. And I love the art deco styling way better.

It certainly looks like a beast, and, guess, if you punch it, it really is, with an 11-second quarter mile at 118 MPH, and a 0-60 speed of about 2 seconds.

Now, in the general scheme of things, I’m not all that interested in using that rocket-like performance. I’m just not a speed demon. But it certainly has all the horses you’d ever want, which would come in handy in passing situations, and riding two up won’t affect the performance at all.

The thing is, it’s really well balanced. I could pick it up off the kickstand in the showroom without even using my hands, and simply nudging it with my left leg. It’s heavy, but very well balanced. And I can still flat-foot it when it comes up. Oh, and it costs about $1400 less than a Road King.

And, there’s a few things that are starting to irritate me about the MoCo. If Triumph can produce a touring/monster bike like this for hundreds of dollars less, why can’t the MoCo? well, actually that answer’s easy. The MoCo doesn’t want to.

I was reading an article earlier this week about how Harley is taking a hit because sales are slumping. when asked why Harley wouldn’t consider some price cuts or incentives to help stimulate demand, the exec replied that the company wanted to be really careful about “protecting the brand”. That’s the kind of attitude–though I understand it–that can protect the brand right into Chapter 11.

Friday, I decided to get a bandanna or two to wear under my half helmet, and soak up the sweat, so my helmet doesn’t get all funky. Bandannas at the local dealer’s boutique: $15.99. Bandannas at Big 5 Sporting goods: $2.49. I bought four of them at Big 5.

There is, of course, an argument–a fantastically good one, in fact–for selling products at whatever price the market will bear. At least, until people stop paying all that extra money just to display the Bar and Shield.

And, frankly, I am bothered by the number of mechanical problems that Harley’s seem to have. For instance, my bike sprang an oil leak at 2400 miles. When I pay more than ten grand for a product, I’d at least like to go a few months before dropping it off for repairs. And when I look through the Harley forums, I sure do see a lot of people asking about problems on their relatively new bikes.

It seems to me that if you want to charge a premium price for the brand, it should be accompanied by premium quality.

So, next year, instead of a HOG, I might just end up being a Rat.

My "Girl’s Bike"

I don’t think the Sportster is a “beginner’s bike”. In fact, I don’t think any Harley is a beginner’s bike. They’re all too heavy, for one thing. Even the Sportster weighing in the neighborhood of 580 pounds is a pretty hefty bike. A beginner will certainly drop it in situations where they could hold up a Rebel.

The Sportster has the additional level of difficulty in being top-heavy. My chick can pick up a Glide off the kickstand, but she can’t budge an 883. She even finds balancing it a bit scary, because it becomes too heavy to hold up at a much narrower angle.

I think the reason behind the bigger bike/chick’s bike deal is purely because the sporty has the smallest engine in the Harley line. I think people just assume that the smaller engine means its easier to ride. I don’t think that’s true, because I think the weight distribution actually makes the big twins easier to ride and handle, especially at slow speeds, despite being significantly lighter. I don’t have any peer-reviewed evidence to support it, but I also assume that the bigger, heavier tires of the big twins also impart gyroscopic stability at a lower speed than the Sporty’s does.

I just think there are a lot of people who equate size with “manliness”–whatever that is–and see 96 cubic inches, and don’t think any further.