I think the Cal-Sci windshield is gonna be a wintertime shield only.
Today it was about 90 degrees. Hot. I rode to Office Depot this afternoon for some compressed air bottles for the job I posted about below. And, as I mentioned previously, the Cal Sci shield cocooned me in a quiet, perfect cocoon of still air. Not even the hint of a breeze reached me through my armored mesh jacket.
Perfectly still, breezeless, 100-degree air. It’s great. If you’re baked frickin’ potato.
So, the stocker went back on, and the Cal-Sci went back into its pretty purple sock, and its shipping box. I’ll see it again in October, I think. For now, that extra air-flow is necessary in the desert summer that’s coming.
So, everyone says that removing the stock throttle tube from the FJR and replacing it with the G2 tube and cam is a 30-minute job.
They are wrong. it’s a 3-hour job. At least, it is for me. I start the job off at about 6:15 this evening. But what I don’t know, is that the things I do know, are wrong.
First misconception: The heated grips on the AE model are heating elements that are wrapped around the throttle tube. Wrong. They are integral parts of the grip itself. I did not know this. I learned this the hard way.
Second misconception: The throttle grip is a discrete piece that does not go into the throttle assembly housing. Wrong. The electrical cable for the heater connects to the grip via a rubber bushing that is an integral part of the grip, is about 1/2 inch in height, and is housed in the throttle assembly housing.
Third misconception: The grip can simply be pulled right off the tube without disassembling the throttle assembly housing. Wrong. See first and second misconceptions.
These misconceptions arose from the fact that I couldn’t find any detailed instructions for removing the grips of the AE model.
So, after various attempts to pull the grip off, and getting some advice from FJR Forum members, I purchased a couple of bottles of compressed air, and jetted some air under the grip while pulling. No joy.
So, I begin to wish for a long, thin Philips screwdriver to stick under the grip, to roll it around and try to loosen it. I go inside the house and tell this to Chris. She suggests I get a wire hanger, cut a piece off, and use it, instead.
Aha! I grab a wire hanger, get my fence wire cutters, and snip off a 12-inch section. Then I get a file, and file one end smooth and round, and bend an “L” into the other end. It slips right in. Now, I can slide the plastic tube from the compressed air way up under the grip.
I give it a good spritz of air, and pull hard. The grip started to come off. It moved off about 3/4 of an inch…then stopped.
It stopped because the rubber bushing inside the throttle housing was now jammed into the edge of the housing. And, I couldn’t push it back in either.
After much futzing around, I pull off the throttle housing, at which time my problem becomes apparent. Also apparent is that I’ve torn the insulating cover on the heater wires. I suspect that I no longer have grip heaters on the right grip, due to excessive wire stretching.
So, I cant get the grip off, and I can’t reseat it on the stock tube, so I pull the throttle cables off and try to remove the whole tube. But, of course, since I’ve moved the grip about 3/4 of an ch off the tube, there isn’t enough slack in the heater cable to pull the whole throttle tube off.
At this point, I call “Neil in Vista”, who is a regular commenter here. His only suggestion, now that I’ve totally fracked it up, is to shoot some WD-40 under the grip, and try to move it. Too bad, I tell him, that I have no WD-40.
Well, I’m two hours into the “30-minute job” at this point, so I decide to hang it up for the night, since it’s 8:30.
At this point Chris comes in, and I commence to whining about the whole deal, and musing about how much it sucks that we don’t have any WD-40. She points to a shelf 10 feet in front of me in the garage, and says, “We have a brand new can right there. In plain view.”
Once again, I stick the hanger into the grip, Chris sticks the WD-40 tube in and squirts it a couple of times, and the grip slides right off!
Holy smokes, maybe I can do this!
And I can. It’s all downhill from there. The grip slides right on to the new throttle tube. I slap it on the bar, hook up the clutch cables, and begin the tedious job of sticking the throttle housing back on.
Neil calls again and asks if the bike isn’t rideable, if I need him to come over to the house and bring his air compressor. Thankfully, I don’t have to inconvenience him with my massive incompetence.
After a while, I get the two throttle cables seated in their respective halves of the throttle housing slap the hex screws in, and, voila! I’m done!
It’s 9:30 pm.
I have to say, though, it appears that the change was really worth it. I took off on 20-minute test ride, and the throttle response is now perfectly smooth, linear, and predictable. No more throttle surging. It vastly improves the ability to handle the bike at low speeds, and makes throttle usage in cornering 1000% more predictable.
Oh, and I still have two heated grips.
It’s really a very effective mod, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an ’06 or ’07 FJR. Just be sure you know what you’re doing before you install it.
To sum up, this eveing I learned, once again, that being a mechanic just isn’t my calling. I think it may be Chris’, though.
They aren’t much, as far as mods are concerned. A passenger backrest, my Cal-Sci windshield, the black reflective racing stripes, and the G2 Ergo Throttle Cam.
They don’t change the looks of the bike much–although I really like the racing stripes–and I think I’m pretty much finished with farkling.
Chris helped me with the stripes, and I think they came out nice. Th really nice thing, as far as she’s concerned, is the passenger backrest. when i first got the bike, she got on the back, and the lack of a backrest really bothered her. she didn’t feel comfortable at all, even though we were just sitting in the driveway. But, once I got the backrest on, and she got on the bike, she felt a lot better. She likes the seat, and, since the backrest comes up just to the bottom of her shoulder blades, she says it’s very comfy.
She wants to take a ride on Sunday. I’m ready to roll.
Well, the first farkle (second, if you don’t count sliders) arrived this afternoon from California Scientific. I got the +3.5 inch windshield.
First, good on Cal-Sci for sending along real, live, stainless steel machine screws to mount it. Good thing, too, because one of the OEM plastic screwheads just snapped off
The screen itself works first-rate. At the lowest setting, I get a smooth flow of air on the helmet and shoulders. At the highest setting, I am sitting is a cocoon of almost perfectly still, noiseless air. It really is a first-rate screen for being buffet-free, even at speeds approaching–but not crossing, because that would be wrong–100 MPH.
There’s no back pressure at all, and the weather protection is really excellent. I’m very impressed, especially coming from the windshield on my Sporty, which was a buffeting monster. The stock FJR screen is better than the Sporty’s but the Cal-Sci windshield seems just about perfect.
I’m very happy with it.
I ordered the black racing stripes for the Fairing and bags. The picture here is from the PCA web site, not mine, which is a bit surprising, since they are a business web site. You’d think they’d use better pictures.
In any event, they are the reflective black 3M product that looks black in daylight, but works as a reflector when car lights shine on them at night. So it isn’t the looks that are important. I mean, who needs cool-looking racing stripes on heir FJR?
But this is a safety issue, which is, like, totally different.
I also ordered the reflective black panels that cover the rear of the saddlebags, too.
I’m all about the safety.
Oh, by the way, I got her up to 115 from a dead stop at a light, in about 11 seconds or so, this morning.
I decided to put my frame sliders on today. The FJR is pretty simple in this respect, because the two frame bolts are right out in the open, so no cutting or anything is required.
The thing is, I didn’t have a torque wrench, a 1omm hex driver, or a 17mm long bolt driver.
So, I whipped on over to Home Depot to pick up a torque wrench. Unfortunately, all they had were three foot long torque wrenches that put 1200 ft/lbs of torque on a bolt. That was a bit too much, and, since i was on the bike, I couldn’t see how I’d get the wrench home. The nice home Depot guy sent me across the parking lot to Auto Zone.
I went into Auto Zone, found $20 torque wrench, and a 10mm allen head driver, and, mistakenly picked out a 12mm instead of a 17mm driver for the slider bolt. I didn’t realize that quite yet, though.
Thinking I had everything I needed, I went out to the parking lot, pulled the left side engine bolt off, then tried to install the slider. Of course, the driver was the wrong size, so I had to go back inside, and exchange it for a 17mm.
So, it was back out to the bike, where I grabbed the new 17mm driver, and tried to attach it to the wrench. This didn’t work, because the wrench had a 3/8″ drive, and the socket was for a 1/2″ drive.
Back into the store I went, to get a 3/8 C 1/2 adapter for the torque wrench.
I then went out to the bike, got the torque wrench all put together, then picked up the slider for the left side. Naturally, the socket, while it fit the bolt perfectly, was too large to fit inside the bolt hole for the slider.
Now it’s back inside, to see if they have a smaller socket. As it happens, they do. It’s a 3/8″ drive socket, so now I get to exchange the adapter and big 17mm socket for the new one. Finally, I have the tools I need.
So, it’s back out to the bike. Once agin, I assemble the torque wrench and socket. Now I have to set the torque to manufacturer’s specs, with is 35 ft/lbs for the bolt. Naturally, the wrench itself is calibrated in inch/pounds.
So, now I have to try and do the math in my head to multiply 35 x 12 to figure out the number of in/lbs.
At last, after 25 minutes of buying, returning, and exchanging tools, I could install the sliders, which is literally 80 seconds of wrench turning.
And people wonder why I go to the dealership to have work done.
Give me a couple of pieces of wood, and I’ll build you something real nice. I’ve got my table saw, and my miter saw, my planer, my sander. No problem.
But cars and motorcycles? Forget it.
For the most part, the FJR1300 is pretty darn good right out of the box. But, like any motorcycle, it isn’t perfect. I need to add some farkles, to make it “just right”. I don’t want to change the look of the bike, and there’s no need at all for performance modifications. So, this is probably going to be the one big farkling that my FJR gets. But, today, I ordered those things I think I need to get it set up right for me.
Sliders: The FJR is a fully-faired bike, of course, so it needs some tip-over protection. There’s a company here that makes frame sliders. It’s located in Vista. I gave them a call today, and they said if I wanted to come pick them up, they’d give them to me for 50 bucks. So, I dropped by after work to pick up the set.
Windscreen: The stock screen is OK, but California Scientific makes a highly-rated windscreen for the FJR that’s about 4″ taller, and has a more aerodynamic shape. Everyone that has one says that it really cuts the wind noise, and provides excellent weather protection at the highest setting.
Passenger Backrest: This is not really something I want, but Chris let me know that she’s uncomfortable riding without one. Must be a psychological thing, but if I want her ride, I have to buy it. So, I got the stand-alone backrest from Premier Cycle Accessories.
G2 Throttle Cam: This is not a visible mod at all, but it is kind of an important one. It’s a grip tube and throttle cam to reverse the throttle cam that Yamaha put on the ’06 and ’07 models to provide more sport-like throttle response. The stock cam comes on strong at first, then gets more linear with a further twist. That strong come-on isn’t very helpful on the AE model though, so G2 Ergo makes a throttle cam and tube called the FJR1300 Fix. This reverses the stock cam, and returns the throttle to a linear response.
By way of an update, the throttle boss I put on yesterday really did fix the throttle stiffness and hand pain problem. I’m very happy with it, and rode for about 80 miles total today in perfect comfort.
And…that’s it. I can’t think of anything else I want to do to the bike. It’s really great in stock form, and I intend to keep it that way.
I’ve solved about 90% of my complaints and discomfort with the throttle on the FJR. I stopped off at North County Yamaha and spent ten bucks on a throttle rocker. So long, throttle-handle death grip!
Seriously, it solved a lot of problems.
Why, yes, I do plan to stretch the pilot analogy for all it’s worth. Why do you ask?
Last night’s brief run on my new FJR1300AE was interesting, but not really long enough, or varied enough, to get a very good idea of what riding the FJR is like. And it was after dark, so I was very conservative. But, because of an extra-long commute today, I have better grounding in the feel of the new bike.
Last night, I forgot to pull the DoD sticker off the Sporty, which meant I had to go back today. So my round trip commute was about 70 miles. The morning bit was 1/3 city-1/3 interstate-1/3 twisties as usual. The afternoon commute, on the other hand, was 3/4 heavily trafficked surface streets, and 1/4 jammed freeway. So, I got to open her up a little bit, as well as deal with about an hour of stop & go traffic. this gives me enough initial experience to provide a first ride review.
My observations, in no particular order:
The stock grips and throttle are a pain. First, they are a bit too small for my hands. The diameter of the grip tubes is pretty tiny, so holding he throttle is harder than the Sporty was, especially with the thick Kuryakin ISO grips I had. Even worse, the throttle is stiff. It takes a signifigant amount of grip strength to turn and hold the throttle. So, after a while, your right hand aches and numbs a bit. it’s not a problem in city traffic, but on the open highway, it’s a bit unpleasant after about 10 minutes of steady gripping. I had a throttle boss and throttle lock on the Sporty, and I really miss them. So, those are gonna be a mandatory add-on for the FJR. That’s the only bad thing I can find to say about the FJR so far, though, and it’s easily fixed.
The surging of the throttle is noticeable, but pretty controllable with a little practice. Since you can’t be ham-handed on the throttle and expect your clutch work to save you from surging, using the throttle on the AE model requires a more deft touch. It’s a learned behavior, but it’s a mandatory lesson. My understanding is that on the ’06 and ’07 models of the FJR, Yamaha installed a throttle cam to give it more sporty, and less linear, throttle response. This was discontinued for the ’08 models due to complaints about surging. there is, however, and aftermarket product, the G2 Throttle cam, which is essentially a reverse of the Yamaha throttle cam, and which installs in the throtle housing on the handlebars. This cancels out the Yamaha cam, and makes the throttle response properly linear for the AE model. I suspect the manually-clutched A model would be just fine without it, but for the AE, it seems like a good idea.
I feel more visible on the FJR than I did on the Sporty. You’re just up much higher. With the Sporty, you are very low slung, and in heavy traffic, the cars all seem to be above you. With the FJR you stick up a little higher with is a good thing for visibility, especially with nearly everyone else driving an SUV. It’s only about 6 inches higher, but it seems significant.
It also makes you feel like you are riding “on” the bike, instead of “in” it. You sort of feel perched on top of the bike, which is not a bad feeling, but it is different. The FJR is very similar to the feel of the Road King in that way.
All the sport-bike guys wave at me now.
The feel of the FJRs engine is…electric. And I mean that in both ways. It’s performance is electrifying, although in a an amusingly sedate way. You really have to look down at the Speedomoter to assure yourself that, yes, you did just start moving, and yes, you are going 80MPH in a 50MPH zone. It is really a deceptively fast bike.
Until you hit about 6,000 RPM. Then all the deception fades away. The engine comes on with a high-pitched shriek…and you frickin’ move. It gets not just fast, but scary fast. Below 5,000 RPM, it’s still very fast, but it’s so quiet and well-mannered, you just don’t realize you’re pushing triple digits. It’s a pleasant, friendly fast. Above 6,000 RPM, and the demon that lives in the engine wakes up, looks into your soul, and says, “Oh. You think you wanna go fast Nancy-Boy? Let’s see…”
Oh, and keep in mind that 4,000 RPM in fifth gear is 80MPH indicated. If the bike has a 9,000 RPM redline, what is the theoretical speed at redline in 5th gear? You do the math.
The FJR’s speedometer goes to 180 MPH. I’m just saying. No one that you know can hld the bike at that speed, I bet. Even if the bike could, in fact push enough air out of the way to reach it’s theoretical top speed, which I doubt. You’d be lucky even to get it to 150 MPH I bet.
It’s also electric in that the engine responds with the kind of precision and immediacy an electric engine does. Twist the throttle to a degree that is supposed to provoke 4000RPM from the powerplant, and you are immediately getting 4000 RPM. It doesn’t hesitate or delay, and it provides the asked-for level of power instantly. The Sportster, with it’s two cylinders and long stroke, really lags behind the throttle response you ask for. It feels mechanical, which, of course, it is supposed to feel.
The engine is also electric in it’s sound. The thumping and roaring of the harley is replaced by what seems to the rider like a whisper quiet, yet snarling, whine. I can hear things now that I couldn’t before, including the headphones of my XM unit at highway speed.
I can see things, too, such as a clear picture in the rear-view mirrors. They are perfectly clear at all speeds. Vibration, compared to the Sportster, is simply a non-issue.
A lot of the quietness of the FJR comes from the management of airflow. The Sporty, especially at highway speeds, buffeted my head around quite a bit. I’ve sensed no buffeting on the FJR with the stock screen. At it’s lowest position, I get clean air right below shoulder level, which puffs out the vents in my Tourmaster jacket, and provides a significant amount of cooling. At the highest position, the top of my helmet gets a clean, but a bit noisy, stream of air. This is perfectly adequate for summertime, but before next winter, I’m going to need to get the 4″ taller screen from California Scientific. That should get me an undisturbed pocket of air at the highest position, which will be great in winter.
So will the heated grips. Indeed, when you heat ‘em, they get hot. This morning the temp was down around 45, and I had to turn the grip heaters down to medium, or else they were too hot for comfort. I certainly could have used them on my Sporty for the last few months.
The handling on the FJR is nothing short of confidence-inspiring. Unlike the Sporty, the FJR simply will not fight your handlebar inputs. If you want to lean, it’s perfectly happy to lean. Indeed, even relatively minor handlebar inputs provoke a response. It really does want to do what you want it to. I always got the sense that the Sportster was fighting me when I wanted it it to lean. There’s none of that sense at all with the FJR. It wants to respond to your inputs, and does, with alacrity.
The YCC-S auto-clutch system, despite requiring you to learn a few new tricks at low speed trundling about in parking lots, really is an excellent solution for riding in city traffic. Going from light to light, constantly upshifting and downshifting is just so much less of a hassle with the AE. It really does save you a lot of left-hand fatigue. I’ve gone from being initially iffy about the YCC-S system, to wondering why every street bike doesn’t have it. whatever the costs are in relearning how to handle the bike at very slow speeds, the payoff in congested riding conditions is phenomenal.
I’ve actually worked out sort of a hybrid system of using it. I upshift with the finger paddle, and downshift with the foot pedal. No more wearing out the top of my boot toe before the rest of the boot. Downshifitng with the finger switch isn’t a problem, it’s just that, since it’s designed to use the forefinger for upshifting and the thumb for downshifting, what occasionally happens is that, instead of downshifting, your thumb punches the horn button. Then everyone around you looks at you like you’re an ass. Which, of course, you are.
Finally, the FJR makes you think. It makes you think about what you want to do, how you’re going to pass, and what moves you’re going to make. It makes you think ahead, because, when you twist that throttle, you’d better have a f*cking plan. Because whatever is gonna happen, is gonna happen extremely quickly.
Like every bike, the FJR has some shortcomings, although they are mainly centered in the operation of the throttle. For everything else, though this bike is more fun a barrel of monkeys.
I traded in the Sportster for one tonight. And here it is, a 2007 FJR1300AE. This was a Yamaha corporate motorcycle that was a factory rep bike.
And, surprisingly, I said “screw it” and picked the AE model for $11.1k. I was worried about the automatic clutch deal on the AE model, but oddly, what decided it for me was a very little thing. I had to drive through a lot of heavy stop-and-go traffic on surface streets, and my hand was aching a little.
I was a bit worried about low-speed maneuvering without a clutch to moderate engine inputs to the wheels, but I did about 20 minutes in the parking lot doing U-turns and figure-8s and decreasing radius circles. It wasn’t that bad. Although, I think I need ,something called a “G2 throttle tube” because the throttle is stiff and…surgey (is that a word?). This G2 throttle tube is apparently an aftermarket add-on to reduce the strength needed to twist the throttle, and reduce the attendant throttle surge.
It’s a different riding experience on the street, but I think my achey clutch hand is actually gonna enjoy the rest.
I was only able to put 18 miles on it, mixed freeway/street, and I never got it above 80. But it got to 80 fast!
I don’t think this a bike I’ll ever outgrow. It’s comfy, and I love the electric shield, although I’m probably gonna need a Cal-Sci shield with a few extra inches in height. I can flat-foor it comfortably, and it’s just amazingly well balanced compared to the Sporty.
Oh, I think I’m gonna have fun…
Well, the dealer called back today, and told me no deal on the FJR. They did offer the same deal, with a $149/month payment, on an AE model that had been used as a demo.
Considering what that means I would be getting the bike for, that’s a great deal, actually. But, I’m not sure about all that newfangled machinery for the automatic clutch, so I turned that down.
The nice thing about already having a motorcycle, is that I don’t feel any pressure to replace it with anything other than exactly what I want.
They’re serious about getting me into a bike, though. That’s “nice” (i.e. desperately greedy) of them.
The only local dealer with an FJR1300 is North County House of Motorcycles in Vista. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen one, so after work, I went over to take a look at it.
Black is beautiful.
The seat height on the 2008 A-Model is perfect for me. My legs were splayed a bit wide, but I could flat-foot it firmly. Unlike the C14, or ST1300, the rider pegs don’t get in the way of my legs. I could pick it up off the kickstand just by nudging it with my thigh. It’s really well-balanced, at a stop, and you can lean it pretty far without it trying to fall over.
The sales guy was begging me to run the numbers, of course. I told him that it was pointless, since I couldn’t reach my preferred payment target with the negative equity on the sporty.
When he ran the numbers, I was shocked. Due to my credit, and some of the current Yamaha promotions, he came in with a number well below my target payment. In addition, we haggled over the OTD price, to the point where they cut $2,000 off that, too. For the remaining negative equity, it would be financed at an interest rate 5% less than Harley charges, i.e., what I’m currently paying.
Well, that deal seemed too good to be true, so…I took it.
The salesguy pulled the sleek, black bike out front. Washed it all up. Then we took the walk-around, and completed the familiarization checklist. The salesman gave me the keys to the FJR, and took my Harley keys and security fob. I called Chris at home, told her where I was, and that I’d be coming home on a new FJR. I even took a picture of it on my cell phone.
I was all ready to unload the bags on the sporty, and transfer everything over to the FJR, when the finance girl pointed out that the deal was, in fact, too good to be true. The incentive programs from Yamaha had an upper limit on the financed amount, and the deal we worked out exceeded it, even with my good credit. So, we didn’t actually have a deal.
But, the finance girl did offer one idea. Despite the “official” limits to the incentive programs, she said that, since my credit was solid, and since Yamaha loves to get people to switch over from Harley, she would call Yamaha finance first thing tomorrow, and see if they could do a one-time extension of the incentives to me.
With that, it was time for me to climb on the Sporty and go home.
So, tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.
After a lot of thought, and a lot of research–overcoming my innate tendency to love something about every motorcycle currently made–I think I’ve settled on the bike I am looking to move up to.
This reflects my current reasoning, and assumes that current bikes will still be current when I sell the Sporty. If I still have it when the 2009′s come out, well, then, all bets are off. Who knows what wonderfulness the 2009 models will bring?
Absent that, however, here’s my thinking.
There is much about the Honda ST1300 to love. Great reliability, comfort, fuel range, manufacturer’s warranty, weather protection, and built-in tip-over bars.
The three things against it are the higher price, the size and weight, and, this troubling “high-speed weave” problem. That last one is the most critical.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days looking into that high-speed weave problem. It’s elusive. For everyone that claims to have run into it, ten other people claim they’ve had their ST up to 140 MPH with no problem at all. There are conjectures about the aerodynamic affect of having a top box and no passenger, or improper tire pressure, or bad preload/rebound settings on the suspension. But no one has a definitive answer that I’ve found. Although, one notes, curiously, that Honda doesn’t sell the top box in the US.
In fact, the ST’s weave issue is a lot like the BMW final driveline failure issue. It’s apparently there. It affects a minority of bikes. There are “fixes” or workarounds, but no firm answer on whether there’s a fundamental design or manufacturing problem. At the end of the day, it probably won’t be something you ever encounter, unless you’re unlucky.
The difference between the BMW and Honda problems, though, are that final driveline failure is annoying and expensive. High speed weave can–and has–killed some people. Well, I’m not too big on joining groups in general, and I’m really not keen on joining the “killed by high-speed weave” group.
So, despite the fact that there’s much to love about the Honda, at the end of the day…it scares me not knowing if I will get a good bike or one of the bad ones. If there is any such thing. Which we don’t know. But what I do know, is that I don’t want to have a tank-slapper at 100 MPH to find out.
So, regretfully, the Honda ST1300 has to be crossed off the list.
The Kawasaki Concourse™14 has an engine you just have to love. Unfortunately, everything else about the Connie is–I hate to say it–second rate. Kawi has never been my favorite brand, though, so that may color my perceptions here. The number one strike against the C14 is the seat height. It’s just a bit too much for me, especially in a bike that weighs in at about 675 pounds wet. I don’t want to be tippy-toeing that through a parking lot.
It also strikes me as a relatively rough-looking bike, with lots of stuff haphazardly thrown on it, including a godawful ugly exhaust can. The riding position is too sporty, too, now that I’ve gone back and sat on one again. Too much of a stretch to the handlebars. It also, by all accounts, handles like a pig at slow speed maneuvering.
Finally, it’s a first-year production model. Problems always pop up in the first year or two of a new model. There are things we already know are wrong with it, such as heat management. But more worrisome are the things we don’t know are wrong with it yet, because it hasn’t been in service long enough to know them.
So, the Concours™14 gets a pass, too.
I have a soft spot for the Buell Ulysses, especially the new touring version, the XB12XT. There’s a lot going on at Buell, in terms of frame design, maneuverability, and light weight. I wish everyone was signing on to the Buell “trilogy of tech”: mass centralization, low unsprung weight, and frame rigidity with the same dedication.
Ultimately, though, the XT is too much of a naked bike. I want a bit more weather protection than the Buell can give. And, I already have a bike with an Evo engine. You can cam it up, race-tweak it, and suck 103HP out of it, but ultimately, it’s the same shaky V-Twin technology that I already have. And the 4.4 gallon fuel tank isn’t really all that hot, either. I already fill up every 130 miles. Been there. Done that. I want to stay on the road a bit longer than that.
I’m sure it’s a fun bike, but I don’t really want it at my primary ride.
Either of the two BMWs are very nice bikes. Heated grips and seat, electronic suspension control, automatic stability control. You can get a BMW with everything on the side.
If you’re willing to pay for it. Which I’m not. While they’re nice bikes, a $7,000 premium to own one is unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned. I can spend that seven grand way better than BMW Motorrad can.
That, plus the troubling history of final driveline failures, makes the BMW a no-go.
The Buell will carve corners way better. The BMW has every farkle you could want already built onto the bike. The ST1300 is more comfortable. The Concours™14 has a more powerful engine. In fact, there’s no category in which the FJR comes in first place.
But the FJR comes in as a close second in all of those categories.
It’s not the lightest bike, with a curb weight of about 615 pounds, but considering I already have a 589-pound bike, I doubt I’ll notice much difference in weight.
I expect I will, however, notice the difference between my current 75HP and 70 ft-lb of torque and the FJR’s 145HP and 99FT-lb of torque. I expect my SO will notice the difference in seating size and comfort as well.
At less than $14k, the FJR seems like the best compromise between what I think would be ideal, and what is actually available in the real world.
Yesterday, my opinion was that, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to choose, it would be the ST13000. Today, I choose the FJR, no gun required. And I think that’s my final answer.
However, I hear rumors–just rumors, mind you–that Honda may be updating the ST for 2009 with an all-new, 200HP plus V4 powerplant.
I’m just saying…
I’ve put the Sportster up for sale. It’s on a number of online classified ad sites, including Craigslist. I suspect no one will be interested in it, at least at the price I’ve got on it. But, I’ll fiddle around with that as time goes by, and eventually, I’m sure I’ll find a price at which it’ll move.
The real question now is…what do I replace it with. The top contenders, in no particular order, are:
- Low maintenance costs
- Huge dealer network
- Excellent weather protection
- Excellent comfort for rider and passenger
- Extremely long service life
- Tip-over protection for the fairing that works.
- Good handling
- Huge, 8-gallon fuel capacity
- Hard to find, since Honda only imports about 2500 per year to the US
- At almost 700 pounds, it’s a heavy bike–not the direction I wanted to go
- Dearth of accessories. What’s available has to be purchased from Europe, where the exchange rate inflates dollar prices outrageously.
- At $15,000, it’s a bit pricey
- Troubling reports of a high-speed weave, although at over 100 MPH, so that’s probably not an issue, since 100 MPH in California is an automatic trip to jail. Also, good suspension settings and tire pressure seems to solve it.
- Fast and powerful, more so than the ST.
- Excellent handling
- Easy to find accessories
- Large dealer network
- Sporty, but less comfortable riding position
- So-so ownership costs
- Everybody has one.
- So-so weather protection
- Screamin’ hot ZX14 engine is a horsepower monster
- Lowest purchase cost
- Excellent shaft drive technology eliminates drive lash
- Excellent riding position, slightly less sporty than the FJR, but more than the ST
- Kawasaki reliability is…meh. Bad Iron Butt finish ratio.
- Heat management issues (yes, they all have them, but this one is a standout).
- Looks are an…acquired taste.
- So-so weather protection
- Tall. Can’t flat-foot it.
- Extremely comfortable
- Every bell and whistle you can imagine
- Very maneuverable
- Although it’s a boxer twin with less Horsepower, it has great torque, and the lightweight gives it an impressive horsepower to weight ratio.
- Stratospheric price, and ongoing maintenance costs
- BMWs troubling history of final driveline failures
- It owns the twisties, thanks to 23 degrees of rake. That’s aggressive.
- The 1200cc Thunderstorm powerplant is a torque monster that can pull roll-on wheelies in the first four gears.
- Comes with full hard luggage and heated grips standard.
- American made
- 2 built-in 12-volt sockets
- Very comfortable for rider and passenger
- Minimal weather protection
- Harley dealerships not very familiar with them, for the most part
- The 1200cc Thunderstorm powerplant is a vibration monster. All the Evolution-based engines are.
- No farkles. Really poor selection of accessories.
- Tiny 4-gallon tank. That’s a lot of stops for gas on a trip.
- Wicked fast
- Comfortable, with adjustable handlebars
- Very lightweight for a 4-cylinder bike
- All of the cons of the RT, plus so-so weather protection.
- Higher price than the RT
So, these are the bikes I’m looking at. If I had a gun held to my head, by someone demanding I buy a motorcycle right now, my pick would be the Honda ST1300.
As an all-round bike, it’s got acceptable power at 126 HP, although the extra weight limits the performance a bit. It does everything well, though it does nothing great. Wonderful comfort and weather protection. Clockwork reliability. For $400 extra, you can get a 6-year, unlimited mileage factory warranty, which is the best in the business. It has a massive electrical output, enough to power any accessory you can name.
The extra weight really isn’t the direction I wanted to go in. It doesn’t come with stereo hookups in the US–unlike the European version. Still, some of the cops around here ride them and they can ride the hell out of ‘em. I’m talking 17-foot figure-eights at 5 MPH. Honda seem to be able to make that extra weight melt away once the bike is moving.
Now, I’m open to arguments in favor of other bikes. I don’t have to make a decision right now. But, If I had to make a choice at this point, I’d pull the trigger on the Honda.