What is Erik Buell Thinking?

I‘ve spent some time going over the new 2010 Buell Motorcycles web site that was unveiled today. I can’t say as I like it much.  And I don’t think much of the marketing effort they put into one of the main features on the new site, the co-called “Book of Buell“.

Something about the tone of the thing just puts me off.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The Buell is a fine motorcycle, and Erik Buell really is a fine engineer and racer, who has contributed some fascinating ideas to motorcycle design.  Many of Buell’s design concepts seem spot on.  But the tone of the thing gets right up my nose.

SITTING IS NOT A SPORT

There is no World Champion of sitting.  No governing body to ensure that when two people try to out sit each other, they do it by the rules. Because sitting is not a sport.  Unfortunately, most people who buy sportbikes do just that.  They hit the starter button, raise the kickstand, and sit their asses off…

Actually, most people raise the kickstand, and then hit the starter button, because they have modern bikes with a safety interlock that won’t let you start the bike with the kickstand down.  If the bike isn’t in Neutral, at any rate.

…There’s nothing wrong with these people.  They just bought the wrong bike. A sport bike is not designed to be sat on.  it’s designed to be hung off.  Moved around on.  Constantly manipulated beneath the rider. A self-propelled platform upon which a sport takes place.  Before you buy a Buell, take a moment to think about what you really want to do on it.  If the answer involves sitting, you may want to consider something different.  A porch swing, maybe, or one of those floating pool chairs.

Well.  Aren’t we just a little too cool for the room?  But hey, while we’re on the subject of whether or not we should consider a sportbike, maybe we should also take a moment to consider if the sportbike we want has an air-cooled V-twin engine that was pulled off of a Harley Sportster, and puts out 103 horsepower like the XB12R, or has a water-cooled, I-4 Engine that spits out 178 horses, and is smooth as silk, like a GSX-R1000.  Even the 1125R is only putting out 145 horses.

So, let’s be honest.  If you’re looking at a Buell, your prime consideration is probably something other than the raw power of the motorcycle, and the ability to push it past 135 MPH.

The BoB continues:

ERIK BUELL DIDN’T BECOME AN ENGINEER SO HE COULD MEET OTHER ENGINEERS

The truth is, he’s made a career our of alienating them.  But this has never been his aim.  It’s just what happens when someone discards accepted principles in search of a better way.  Put gas in the frame, turn the swingarm into an oil tank, sling the exhaust under the engine, and develop a perimeter-mounted front brake…

…use an engine that was originally designed for a cruiser…

…and all of a sudden your invitation to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers annual golf tournament gets lost in the mail and that one guy from Poltech stops sending a Christmas card.

Because Erik is so extreme, maaaaaan! The Establishment shuns him!

Yes. Erik Buell’s ideas were so disfavored, and he was made such a figure of ridicule that all the other engineers felt  awkward in his presence because of his shunning.  And in his hideous shame, the country’s largest motorcycle manufacturer acquired his company, provided him with capital, manufacturing capability, and parts in order to build his crazy machines.

The next section is entitled, “A Buell Won’t Make You Any Friends”.

Many people buy sportbikes as a way to connect with other people who ride sportbikes.  Equipped with their new sportbike, they gain instant admission to a fun, freewheeling group of like-minded riders…This will not happen to you if you purchase a Buell. No one will understand why you’ve done what you’ve done.  In fact, they may even be disturbed by it…

And often, this includes the sales and service departments of  the local Harley Davidson dealer where you purchase it.

Because we don’t engineer motorcycles for acceptance.  We engineer them for performance. And we engineer them without mercy.

And frankly, because they have to engineer them without mercy, considering that they–the 1125 excepted–use an antiquated motor design that every other manufacturer discarded years ago in order to replace them with engines that deliver 60-70% more power.

Let’s be frank, here.  The Buell Thunderstorm-powered bikes are excellent motorcycles, considering what they are.  But all of the engineering in the world will never deliver the horsepower or anything like the top speed out of an air-cooled V-Twin based on the Harley Evolution motor that a modern I-4 engine of similar displacement will.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad motor, or that the Buell is a bad bike.  It isn’t.

But let’s not pretend it’s a CBR100RR with a top-gear roll-on from 60-80MPH that’s half a second faster than the XB12R, with a similar gap in quarter mile times, with the Honda moving 15MPH+ faster at the marker.

Anyway, it goes on that way for a bit more.  Then we get to the real kick in the teeth for some Buell customers:  The elimination of the Buell Blast.  You have to see the way they handle that to believe it.

They show a picture of a Blast crushed into a cube, and the text goes:

The Buell Blast was a cute little motorcycle.  It just never made much of a sportbike…Hey, there’s no denying the Blast’s aforementioned cuteness.  But there’s nothing cute about racing or riding a sportbike the way it was meant to be ridden.  And while racing and sportbikes have always been important at Buell, they are now officially the only thing that matters.  So the Blast will not be moving forward.

In other words, we never cared about this bike.  We thought it was dumb, and we are happy to dump it.  And if you are one of the stupid, poser suckers we sold one of these suck-machines to, then you got screwed.  Enjoy your cute little thumper, loser.  Because we’re all about being extreme now. And racing. And flipping off The Man.  The Blast didn’t give off that moody loner vibe we’re cultivating.  We not only don’t care what our competitors think, we don’t even care about what our former Blast customers think.

OK.  It’s a given that they don’t care what I think, then.  But I think, “Nice PR, Ass,” anyway.

Yes, Buell’s have been racing since the very beginning of the company.  They’ve been very successful in Thunderbike.  But when Buell really wanted to compete at the superbike level, they had to design a new bike from scratch, using an outsourced Rotax water-cooled motor.

The Firebolt is great in it’s available range, and in initial acceleration, and it will keep up with most sportbikes stoplight to stoplight.  But at the end of the day, it can’t put out the top speed of almost anyone else’s liter sportbike.  And we won’t even try to compare it to the ‘Busa or ZX-14.

Still, it’s a very good motorcycle, and personally, I like Buells a lot. Overall, I think Erik Buell outs out a very good product, with competitive street performance at anything less than “Go ahead and take my license and impound my bike, officer” speeds.  And I really think Buell’s whole design philosphy has a lot going for it. And Buell does, in fact, put out an XB-RR race bike with 150 ponies.  I bet if Harley gave him the green light to produce a bike with a modern I-4 powerplant, it’d be an absolute monster.

But the arrogant, too-cool-for-the-room, “I’m a rebel, man!” marketing really turns me off.  And the way they wrote off the Blast like it was some worthless POS just has a total lack of class.

Harley Davidson 2010 Model Line-Up

The MoCo has released their 2010 model year line-up, and an expansive lineup it it is. For 2010, Harley-Davidson will carry 34 motorcycle models, including 9 new  bikes. Below is a little taste of Milwaukee Goodness.

Laura Vecchio at Harley-Davidson wrote to me, to provide some of the MoCo’s talking points for the new models:

The Electra Glide® Ultra Limited model delivers the performance upgrade of a Twin Cam 103™ engine, and features standard equipment items previously offered only as accessories on regular-production Harley-Davidson Touring models.

The new Road Glide® Custom model looks lean and mean, with a slammed suspension, 18-inch front wheel and a new 2-into-1 exhaust system.

The Wide Glide® returns as an all-new Dyna® model done in old-school chopper style, with black laced wheels, a chopped rear fender, black “wire” sissy bar, 2-1-2 Tommy Gun exhaust and an optional flame paint scheme.

The new Street Glide® Trike brings stripped-down, hot-rod styling to the three-wheel category, and joins the Tri Glide™ Ultra Classic® in an all new Trike family for 2010.

The new Fat Boy® Lo presents a darker and lower interpretation of the motorcycle that still defines the fat-custom segment.

Updates to the 2010 Street Glide® model include a larger front wheel, slimmed-down exhaust, and a new tail light assembly.

Harley-Davidson Custom Vehicle Operations™ (CVO™) will offer four new limited-production models for 2010: the CVO Softail® Convertible, CVO Street Glide, CVO Ultra Classic® Electra Glide® and CVO Fat Bob®.

I like what Harley is doing for some of their paint schemes by breaking away from solid colors, and going with factory flame paint jobs.  Very nice.  I’m also really liking what HD has done with the Road Glide, giving it a lowered, meaner look.

Hopefully, Ms. Vecchio will be sending me some more pics of the new models, and I’ll post them here as I get them.  In the meantime, HD’s 2010 model lineup page is here.

Unfortunately, no one at HD is talking about it, and no one at Buell has contacted me, but the new Buell line-up for 2010 is out, too.  They are all up at the Buell web site.  At first glance, I’m not seeing a lot of changes.

Other than the demise of the Buell Blast, of course.

Honda’s new V4 Web Site

Honda Europe has set up a new web site to set up the rollout of the new V-Tec bike I wrote about last week.  There’s not much to it but a tantalizing video that shows a few close-ups of pieces of the bike.  But it’s clear they’re getting set up.

If you’re interested, here’s the video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T8BFaXddCQ

Based on the images in the video, MCN’s artist conceptions were a bit off.

2010 Suzuki GSX-R1000RR

Suzuki’s Gixxer is arguably the top sportbike line available today.  And, as of today, it got just a little bit better.

Yoshimura Race Shop USA and Suzuki announced that a new limited-edition racer version of the Gixxer literbike will be available to the public.  And unlike the Buell 1125RR, this one will be available to the general public, and be totally street legal.

Dubbed the GSX-R1000RR, the new bike will have al sorts of Yoshimura racing goodies on it, including Type R Cams, Quick Shifter, and suspension.  And Galfer stainless steel brake lines and brake pads.

Suzuki GSX-R1000RR
Suzuki GSX-R1000RR

Suzuki didn’t however, mention what the price might be, or when you might be able to pick one up.   I can’t give you any help with the delivery date, but as far as the price goes, I can tell you that it will be…um…slightly north of a stock Gixxer.

Note to “Green” Motorcycle Designers

Trying to design and build “green”, zero-emissions motorcycles is becoming sort of a big deal.  There’s even an eGrandPrix going on at Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio this year.  I don’t particularly have anything against the idea of zero-emissions, environmentally friendly motorcycles.  Sooner or later, that’ll be the only type of vehicle–of any type–you can buy.

Luca Bar Electric Concept Racer
Luca Bar Electric Concept Racer

But, if you’re a motorcycle designer, do us all a favor.  when you hit the drawing board, try and come up with a design that at least looks like a real motorcycle, and not some odd concept creation that not only looks ugly, but as this Luca bar design shows, is actively dangerous.

Granted, this design is for a racing bike, so maybe having the rider drawn up into a fetal position isn’t a show-stopper.  But, I’m pretty sure that even professional motorcycle racers don’t want to have a foot ripped off by the rear wheel if they make a little mistake in their foot placement.

Oh, and, granted, nice Buell front wheel, but are mismatched wheel sizes really the direction you want to go in in terms of precise handling?  Or should we just ride directly into the hay bales now, and save everyone a lot of time?

Yes, you designers are no doubt a talented lot, and are just chock full of neat ideas for how cool stuff can look.  But it’d be nice if the final product was one that wouldn’t actively try to, you know, kill you.

Let’s concentrate on getting a few simple things right first, especially for motorcycles that people micht actually want to ride somewhere other than a race circuit.  A 250 mile range might be nice. Some sort of wind protection would be appreciated, too. Oh, and let’s just ditch the idea of rechargeable electrics as a valid platform for…well…anything.  If I have to go see my family in Albuquerque, it’d be nice not to have to stop and recharge for eight hours every 200 miles.

The eight day round trip would be kind of inconvenient.

2010 Victory Motorcycles (Updated)

“It’s the mo-o-o-0st wonderful ti-i-i-i-ime of the year!”  It’s not Christmas, though.  It’s the 90 days between now and October, when all of the bike manufacturers begin showing off the new year’s models.  Old friends get a little facelift, and we get introduced to new models that make us drool…or think, “Seriously, what were they thinking?!”

Honda jumped the gun last week with a few bikes that I didn’t really care enough to post about, but today, Victory comes to the table with their whole lineup. As part of that lineup, Victory introduced two new bikes to its touring line, both of which are aimed directly at Harley Davidson customers.

2010 Victory Cross Country
2010 Victory Cross Country

The 2010 Victory Cross Country is the Street Glide analog, with full bags and a fairing with a funky modernistic design that sets it apart from the plain-vanilla bat-wing.  The Cross Roads is a Road King analog, with full bags but no windshield on the stock model.

Both bikes sport the air-cooled Freedom 106 cubic-inch (1731cc) V-Twin engine, and both have the maintenance-free belt drive, and sport a 6-speed transmission.  In addition, both of them use the CORE concept components I wrote about here a little while back.  Also, both the $17,999 Cross Country and $15,999 Cross Roads have 18″ long floorboards, so your feet will be comfy.

The remainder of Victory’s 2010 lineup seems pretty close to what we’ve seen for the last two years, although they’ve switched the….uh…aggressively styled Vision product line around a bit.

2010 Victory Cross Roads
2010 Victory Cross Roads

The two new models, though, seem to aimed at riders who want a big, American V-Twin (even bigger than the MoCo’s), and the same styling features of two of Harley’s most popular bikes, but with a modern twist.  It’s as if Harley Davidson got Arlen Ness to design their new bike lineup.

Now, when it comes to styling, the signature Ness style of flowing lines and tapering points certainly has it’s detractors as well as its fans.  But it seems to be working for Victory.

Even if their engine cylinders do look like kitchen blenders.

UPDATE: Another nice pic of the Cross Roads.

OK, <em>now</em> it looks like a Road King
OK, now it looks like a Road King

And that fairing on the Cross Country isn’t just for show:

On the driver-facing side of the fairing is MFD (multi-function display) instrumentation and the bike’s audio system. The MFD includes an analog speedometer and tachometer, fuel gauge and a battery charge meter. The wealth of data in a digital display panel includes: gear indicator, clock, ride time, odometer, two trip meters and fuel economy information such as current range for the available fuel and current MPG data. A driver scrolls through the data using a trigger switch mounted by the left hand grip. This switch also resets functions such as the trip meters, ride time and clock.

An AM/FM radio is standard on the Cross Country, and the bike can be equipped with an iPod or satellite radio that plays through the bike’s audio system. The audio display screen presents detailed information about the radio station currently playing, or the iPod track name, artist, satellite station and more.

The fairing also accommodates installation of switches controlling accessories such as heated handgrips. These are available from Pure Victory Gear, as are accessories needed to store an iPod in the right saddlebag and play it through the bike’s audio system.

An accessory GPS unit can be mounted on the left handlebar using an accessory ball joint mount, and audio information from the GPS can be fed through the bike’s audio system.

Very nice.

This Can’t Be Good…

The National Highway Transportation Safety Board has just released a survey on drunk/drugged driving in the US.  Overall, the numbers look pretty good.  The number of people driving under the influence continues to decline.

A new roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms a continuing decline in the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers

In 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. In the latest survey, that figure had fallen to 2.2 percent. A BAC of .08 or higher is now above the legal limit in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

But, as it often is, the devil is in the details.  Motorcyclists are the most likely set of drivers to be operating their vehicles while under the influence.

Motorcycle riders were more than twice as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to be drunk (5.6 percent compared with 2.3 percent). Pickup truck drivers were the next most likely to have illegal BACs (3.3 percent).

I can’t even imagine the level of stupidity it takes to get on a motorcycle ofter knocking back a few. And the idea that more than 1 in 20 cyclists is tooling around with a buzz on is astounding.

Switch-Hitting at the Nurburgring

Today, two of BMW’s top racers traded vehicles at the Nurburgring, to see how the other half lives.  BMW’s Formula 1 race car driver Nick Heidfeld and Superbike rider Troy Corser switched vehicles for a day at the famous German track.

After riding the Superbike, Heifeld commented:

“I already had lots of fun practising on the street bike in the morning, and managed to score the first scrapes into the knee area of my racing suit. That was inevitable. Of course I wanted to touch the ground while cornering on the racing machine as well, and I came up trumps there too.

“I had expected the Superbike to be a huge leap over the production version, a bit like series cars and racers, but I was surprised in the end. The difference is huge. On the one hand the Superbike is more aggressive, builds up more grip and has the superior brakes, but on the other hand it is easier to ride because you can control it so well. The handling is very precise.

Corser had his own thoughts on the F1 racer:

“It was just awesome! The car feels so balanced and the brakes are fantastic, the tyres have unbelievable grip and the steering is very direct but still has a lot of feeling.

“I can’t believe how hard and late you can brake. I know I was braking too early and I really would like to have a day or two with the car to really see what I can do with it.

It sounds like everybody had lots of fun.

It’s interesting though to get Heidfeld’s take on the S1000RR.  I’m sure it’s a fantastic street bike.  But the real racing bike must be super-sweet to ride in comparison.

Kawasaki Goes High-Tech

Kawasaki is reported to be working on some high-tech additions to the Concours14/GTR-1400 for the upcoming model year.

Kawasaki HUD System
Kawasaki HUD System

They won’t be officially unveiled until later this year.  I don’t know when.  It was supposed to be at the Paris Motorcycle show in October, but that event has been canceled.

Anyway, the new additions include an infrared night vision system, and a heads-up display for riders.

The heart of the system is a pair of infrared cameras mounted on the front of the bike. They allow the rider to “see” about 300 meters ahead of the bike, which is well beyond the viewing distance provided by the headlights. Not only will the system be able to find a heat signature before the rider is able to see it, but it will also provide an audible alarm to the rider. This will keep focus on the road rather than the gauge cluster.

Aside from the night vision the Kawasaki Engineering team is also working to design a helmet mounted heads up display. If they are successful, it could be mean riders will rarely have to look away from the road to check their speed or whatever they are monitoring at the time. The current design is mounted on the exterior of the helmet, rather than being part of it, meaning it could quickly become a popular aftermarket accessory.

It’s also supposed to have a bluetooth hookup to the helmet HUD, so there won’t be any annoying wires or whatnot.

Maybe I should reconsider an earlier post.  If you’re gonna have the heads-up display, and the infrared night vision, you might as well spring for the Batman suit after all.

The Exploding RT, and Boxer Rumors

A reader from South Africa–isn’t the web just amazing!–has sent in an interesting story about his horrific run of bad luck with the R1200RT, and he also asks me an interesting question.  I thought I would address him in a new post instead of the comments.

Hi Dale,

I am a 54 year old bike rider now and in October/November 2006 I purchased my first R1200RT, strickly ran in the bike as recommended, at about 5000 somthing km while running flat out (230km/hr)up a long hill, at sea level, the engine blew up, right hand cylinder it later turned out. BMW Motorrad led me to belive that it was my fault to an extent, they offered me their demmo RT with 355km on the clock at nost cost although this was a 07 model. I completed the running in procedure to 1000km and proceded to enjoy the bike. Planning on doing a long trip with the ODO at just less than 10,000km I had it serviced for its 10K. 3 days after this service and still not on 10K, running the same hill also flat taps as previous the engine blew, again the RH cylinder with identical damage as the first. After a big fight and quite a lot of money I got a new 09 RT full house, ran it in as previous, blew this motor at less than 3000km, only difference I was on a different hill. Yes, the same cylinder with identical damage as the previous 2 bikes. Completely dishartened as I truely love this machine, I had it repaired kept it for a month after which I traded it in on 1200GS. The GS is a different beast, also good but nothing like the RT. Anyway in this time I found out that BMW are bringing out a new RT,to be released in Germany Nov/Dec this year, it’s apparently top secret, I’ve tried searching the web for any bit of info without any success, I’m waiting in anticipation for it as I know I will have it. Perhaps you know what BMW are doing and could advise me!

Also please advise if you know about other RT owners blowing their motors, especially the R/H cylinders.

Regards
Deryck Siddons
South Africa

Your story is horrific, Deryck.  Actually, it sounds outlandish, because I’ve never heard of the RT, or any other of the boxers, having a problem with the cylinders blowing.  Now, if you’d told me that your final final drive started spewing lubricant and bursting into flame, I’d have nodded my head and said, “Yeah, that seems to be going around.”  There’s been a lot of controversy over BMW’s final drive in the 2005 and 2006 models, and whether there was a fundamental design flaw that BMW refused to acknowledge, but quietly fixed.  But I’ve never heard of any sort of problem with the boxer engine, which is, after all, going on its ninth decade as BMW’s banner power plant.

Indeed, here in the states, we have something called the Iron Butt Association (IBA), where motorcycle riders take their bikes on a ridiculously long trips in a ridiculously short time.  The three big IBA events are the SaddleSore 1000 (1,000 miles/1,600 km in 24 hours), BunBurner 1500 (1500 miles/2400 km in 24 or 36 hours), and the 50cc Quest (coast-to-coast in 50 hours).  In the last Iron Butt Rally (11,000 miles/17,600 km in 11 days) in 2007, 5 of the 72 participants who completed the Rally were riding R1200RTs.

So, you seem particularly unlucky.  I suggest that you not take up piloting helicopters.  Or skydiving.

I’m just saying.

The New BMW R1300RT?
The New BMW R1300RT?

As for rumors of a new R-Bike from BMW…well, I wasn’t going to actually write anything about this, but I actually have heard something about a new R1300RT.  As far as I know, the only place where this has been reported is at a French motorcycle news web site called MotoStation.  Back in February, they reported that BMW was working on a new R1300RT for release in June 2010.

They even have a photoshop of the new bike…and you can believe as much of that picture as you please.

Interestingly, they also say that the R1300RT will switch over to the same type of boxer motor as that which powers the current HP2 Sport, with its two camshafts, instead of the current single camshaft.  That should up the horsepower to around 130HP, with…oh, let’s call it 95-100 lb-ft (13.1-13.8Kgm) of torque.  More or less.

Whether all this is real or not, I really can’t say.  You know how some of the motorcycle web sites are.  In the UK, MCN has been predicting a new model of the Honda Interceptor (VFR) every year for five years.  They’ve become a joke because of it, at least on that issue.

So, yes, there’s rumored to be a new 1300cc boxer for the RT in the works at BMW for next year, which is to say the 2011 model year.  Whether those rumors are true, I really can’t say.  MotoStation is the only place that’s reporting this, and they haven’t made mention of it again since February.  If it’s true, then they’re doing a good job of keeping this hush-hush in Bayern.

I am, however, deliriously proud of myself for converting the English measurements to the heathen  metric system for you.

Harley Davidson XR1200 Ride Review

I should have posted this earlier, but Chris Chornbe took a ride on the Harley XR1200 Sportster, and he gives a comprehensive report on the newest Sporty experience.  He concludes:

This bike is best suited for those who want a Harley-Davidson branded motorcycle, yet also want a bike that is fast, handles well and is a real competitor for sport-oriented riders. It isn’t the best available in its class, but yeah… it’s serious and it’s well worth a look.

Given the non-adjustable suspension that is good enough but needs work for enthusiasts, the ride comfort, features and aftermarket support – if I had to buy a twin-powered naked, I would opt for the Buell (for similar money), or the smaller Ducati (for less money) and forego this bike, simply on price and its lack of better suspension. But hey… it’s a Harley! And that is not an insignificant point of fact. It ooozes Harley sexiness while still being something of a new breed. It’s a good bike. Period.

Read the whole thing.

Another R1200RT Test Ride

I took a trip down to San Diego BMW Motorrad today to see what kind of deal they’d give me on a R1200RT, so I could compare and contrast it to North County BMW.  Turns out that they want to do a deal a little more than North County does.  Not only did they offer me a black RT with a couple of more options than the one at NC BMW, they offered me more for the FJR, and came up with a deal that cost $900 less.  So, if I buy one of these things, I think San Diego BMW is the place to go.

Anyway, while I was there, they offered to let me take another RT test ride, which, of course, I did.

This time, since we were in the urban setting of San Diego, I did some different things with the bike, and tried out some of the options a bit more, so I could get a better feel for the details, instead of the overall impression, like I did last week.

Handling in the city was still fantastic, of course.  For a 571 lb bike, it really is flickable.  On the FJR, I feel like I need to lean down a bit over the tank to lower my center of gravity a bit to get the bike into a more maneuverable attitude.  That just isn’t necessary with the RT.

I went down the long open stretch of Kearny Villa Road.  There’s no cross traffic, it has a 65MPH speed limit, and it’s a bit of a bumpy road for some reason.  It was the perfect place to try out the ESA option.  On the sport setting, the suspension transmitted every bump in the road right to the seat of your pants.  But push the ESA button to set it to “Comfort”, wait about 10 seconds for the suspension to adjust, and all the little bumps in the pavement just disappear.  It had a really nice, smooth ride, even on a relatively bumpy stretch of road.  So, the ESA really does work as advertised.

I also found an empty parking lot to try out some slow-speed maneuvering in.  The handling of the RT shines just as well at slow-speed, tight maneuvers as it does on the twisties.  Give it some gas, find the friction point on the clutch, apply some trail-braking, and you can do lock-to-lock figures 8 with no problem at all.

This is in sharp counterpoint to my FJR AE.  Since the AE has an auto-clutch, you have to keep the RPMs above 2500, and apply lots of trail braking.  This really requires very fine throttle control, because if you let the RPMs drop too low, the clutch kicks in, and your trail-braking is instantly transformed to “stop now” braking, right in the middle of your lean.  This is not a good thing.   At very slow speeds, the RT is supremely controllable in comparison.

I really can see why cops love the RT as a police bike.  It’s very confidence-inspiring, and makes you look like a better rider than you are.  It rewards you for doing the fundamentals right, and doesn’t require you to learn quirky little compensatory riding habits to make up for the bike’s shortcomings.

Airflow management is quite a lot better than the FJR.  Even with my Scorpion EXO-1000, which is a sort of noisy helmet, the RT is noticeably quieter with the windshield at the lowest position.  At highway speeds, you can bring the windscreen up to the point where the wind noise almost goes completely away.

I really like the boxer engine.  The I-4 powerplant certainly has it’s charms, but the boxer has a lot going for it, too.  It has a really low center of gravity, which makes the bike easier to pick up, hold up, and maneuver.  The noticeable torque and low-speed vibration gives the bike a much more visceral feel, but wind it up, and the balancers kick in, the vibration goes away, and it feels much more like an I-4 powerplant than a twin.  It seems like a better motorcycle powerplant than the V-Twin does, because the weight distribution is more friendly for a motorcycle, because it’s down so low.

I fiddled with the rear-view mirrors with a little more rigor this time, and got them aimed properly.  I’m still not overjoyed about seeing the handlebars in the top of the mirror, and the top of the saddlebags at the bottom, but once they are adjusted properly, they give you an acceptable field of view at whats going on behind you.  At speed, they are rock-steady.  And their placement is part of the RT’s terrific wind management, so they perform an additional useful purpose, keeping your hands out of the airstream, unlike the FJR.

Street performance on the RT seems similar to the FJR AE, with a couple of exceptions.  From a standing start, the FJR responds much quicker off the line–although that could be just my unfamiliarity with the clutch on the RT, which would improve pretty quickly.  They both seem to hit 50MPH in about the same time, according to the “One Missisippi, Two Mississipi…” Timing method.

The FJR has taller gears, however, and doesn’t need to shift into second gear until about 60+ MPH or so.  The RT hits the rev limiter in 1st at just slightly above 50 MPH in first.  The RT’s 60-80MPH roll-on in 4th gear takes about 3.5 seconds.    The FJR AE does it in about the same time in 5th gear.

Interestingly, the better air management on the RT doesn’t give you the same feel of acceleration as the FJR does.  The RT is doing pretty much the same thing, stoplight-to-stoplight, as the FJR AE, but it feels less dramatic doing it.

“Dramatic” is a good word to describe the difference between the bikes.  I think that comes as a result of different design philosophies.  BMW puts a premium on rider comfort, while Yamaha puts a higher priority to giving you a more sporty feel.  So, when you do X on the Yamaha, the bike seems to be saying “Woo Hoo!  Isnt this fun?!”  When you do it on the BMW, the bike says, “Well, we are proceeding at quite a clip, aren’t we?  You comfy enough?  That nasty wind isn’t bothering you, is it?”  The FJR has drama.  The BMW doesn’t.

They’re equally fun, but the fun comes in different ways.  The RT really is about the handling.  It acts like it wants to lean into the turn for you.  It’s as if the RT senses what you want to do, and then does it instantly.  The FJR, on the other hand, wants to be told what to do.  It wants you to dominate it, and it rewards you with the gratification of accomplishment in making it do your will.  In short, the RT is a sub, the FJR is a dom.

And there’s lots of fun in exploring both of those personalities.