Speaking of tires…

The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin
The rear tire on my FJR1300, well scrubbed, but with an adequate safety margin

…I’ve noticed something odd when I go to the shop with my FJR.  That’s my rear tire over there.  Now, that’s not an extreme-to-the-edge wear pattern, although it does reflect some peg scraping.  But I have a 650-pound touring bike, and, while I’m nowhere near the poster-boy for conservative riding, I’m not willing to sacrifice my life to Mr. Inertia.

But every time I go to the shop, I see a number of literbikes and super sports that are worn all the way down to the cords in the center of the tire, and with three untouched inches of tire on either side of the center.

So, I guess I’m just curious.

What, exactly, is it that you sportbike guys are doing when you ride?

Are you just doing burnouts in the parking lot, wasting 100+ bucks per tire in a few days? Or do you just never turn, and ride in endlessly straight lines?  How on earth does someone burn through a tire, while leaving the outer two or three inches untouched on either side? And, by the way, you do realize that if you can see steel cords on the surface of your tire, then riding it–even to the shop–is a gamble, right?

I just have this image in my mind of someone who hauls his ZX600 from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds at every stoplight, and then slows to 5 MPH every time he approaches a corner.

Seriously, I’m not trying to be an ass. I really do wonder how you can actually ride a sportbike for any distance at all, and have pristine, untouched, 3-inch chicken strips.  You simply have to be doing something stunty, and not using the bike as a daily ride.

And while we’re on the subject of weird riding habits, what’s with the shorts and tennis shoes?  I realize that we live in a desert here in far southern California.  It’s hot.  I get it.  But I constantly see guys tooling around in shorts and tennis shoes.  And I’m not talking about squids on super sports.  It’s almost universal.  I see guys on Gold Wings, Harleys, sportbikes, and BMW GSs wearing shorts and Reeboks, tooling around town, and on the highway. And I’m not talking about dumb young kids.  I’m talking about guys my age (mid-40s) riding 800 lb tourers.

I mean, granted, I’m a paranoid old woman who wears a full Olympia Motosports suit and full-face helmet to ride 2 blocks to the 7-11, but seriously, why on earth would you hit I-15 on a bike, wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and a ratty old pair of Air Jordans?  Even if you’re a super-skilled rider, the roads are full of cager morons who’ll run you over without even seeing you.

You are aware that we are involved in a rather dangerous sport, aren’t you?

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Review

Since I bought my FJR1300 two  years ago, I’ve been religious about keeping her maintained at the proper service intervals, using OEM parts.  You can skimp on auto maintenance a bit–though you really shouldn’t–and it might cost you some money.  Skimp on motorcycle maintenance, and you could find yourself rapidly transported to that Great Laguna Seca in the Sky.  part of my regular maintenance has always been replacing the OEM Bhe last ridgestone BT 021 tires regularly.

Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram
Michelin Pilot Road 2 Tire Diagram

Until the last service at 24,000 miles.  I’d been talking with Randy at North County House of Motorcycles–where I always get my maintenance done; great crew!–about switching away from the Bridgestones to the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  At my 24k service, both tires were ready to go, so I made the switch.

I’ve now done 5,000 miles on the PR2’s and I think I’m ready to give my review.  The short version: They have transformed the handling of the bike.

The Bridgestones aren’t bad tires.  They were certainly grippy, and allowed you to attack the twisties with confidence. But after 5k miles on the PR2s, I’ve learned that the BT021s really make the steering on the FJR far harder than it has to be. They’re certainly stable tires.  Too stable.  They required significant steering input to put the bike into the right line, and were resistant to changes in body position as a way to lean/steer the bike.  All of the inputs had to come through the handlebars.

The PR2s on the other hand, are an extremely responsive tire.  Shifting your upper body, or sliding your butt over on the seat is enough to initiate a lean, with no input on the bars at all. Prior to my experience with the PR2s, I assumed that the FJR was just too heavy to accept anything but extreme body movement as a steering input.  With the PR2s, I’ve learned that the bike is actually quite responsive to the rider’s movement…with the right tires.

The Michelins have really made riding the FJR a more…uh…sportbikey experience, responsing to shifts in rider position by falling right into the desired line on a curve.  Obviously, the handling on a 650 lb. sport-tourer will never match an R6, or a GSX-R1000 for that matter, but the improvement was immediately noticeable.  And by that, I mean within a single city block, I could tell that the handling was vastly improved.

While responsive, the PR2s are not twitchy. The bike still does exactly what you tell it to do. It’s just easier to tell it what to do. After 5,000 miles, I’ve never gotten a sense of instability from the Michelins. Nor have I ever gotten a sense that the traction of the PR2s are any less reliable than the BT021s.  Indeed, I’ve surprised myself by dragging peg feelers on a couple of occasions without any drama at all, and my chicken strips on the rear tire are down to about 1/4 inch.

What has really surprised me has been the lack of wear on either the front or rear tire.  After 5,000 miles, the rear tire is hardly noticeably flattened at all. I was getting about 6k off the BT021 rear, but it’s looking like the PR2 rear is going to be good for somewhere between 8k-10k, if not more.  I have no idea how long the front will last, as it still looks new.  I’m nowhere near the wear marks on either tire. Usually, a tire compound that resists wear, also resists grip, but I simply haven’t found that to be the case for the Michelins.

Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with the Michelin Pilot Road 2 tires.  They offer vastly improved handling and wear over the Bridgestone BT021, without sacrificing stability or grip.  I think it’s fair to say that my FJR1300 won’t be riding on the OEM Bridgestones in the future.

The Michelins may cost more, but with better performance and longer life, they’re well worth the extra cost.

This is odd

Here’s a picture of an Erik Buell Racing 1190RR. As we all know, the 1190 is a pure race bike, designed solely for the track, and destined to never, ever be ridden on the street.

image
Erik Buell Racing 1190RR, inexplicably fitted out with turn signals and license plate holder.

That’s why this image is so odd. How does Buell ever expect to win races on a sport bike that’s dragging around the extra weight of turn signals and radiator fans. That’s just insane. Why, the next thing you know, they’ll be sticking rear-view mirrors on it, in defiance of all logic!

What possible reason could there be for putting turn signals and radiator fans on a race bike? We may never know the solution to this impenetrable mystery.

UPDATE: Hey! Those aren’t just turn signals. That looks like a license plate holder. But that simply can’t be, as the 1190 can’t be registered as a street bike. Clearly this is part of some new scheme for displaying the name or logo of a racing sponsor. Or something.

Man! This just gets wierder and more inexplicable, doesn’t it?

Finally! Harley-Davidson audio for non-baggers

Harley-Davidson Boom Audio System
Harley-Davidson Boom Audio System, available for late-model Sportys, Softies, RKs, and the Wide Glide

I sure wish this had been available when I owned a Sportster.  Harley-Davidson announced today that a new Boom! audio system is now available for the 2004-later XL Sportster, 2010-later Dyna Wide Glide, 2000-later Softail, and 1999-later Road King models.

From the H-D press release:

The new Boom! Audio Cruiser Amp and Speaker Kit (P/N 76262-08 Chrome, 76320-08 Black; $399.95) from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories provides amplified music through two 3.5-inch speakers. The individual speaker pods clamp to either a 1-inch or 1.25-inch handlebar and can be adjusted to direct the sound toward the rider. The waterproof speaker elements are protected behind black-and-chrome grilles that are finished with a center-mounted Bar & Shield medallion. The compact two-channel stereo amplifier mounts on the frame downtubes. A stereo auxiliary input connects to most portable audio players, some of which can be easily housed in a convenient BOOM! Audio Tank Pouch (sold separately). The integrated hand control features volume up/down buttons and a backlit on/off button, and is designed for easy operation with the rider’s right thumb, even while wearing gloves.

It’s now available from Harley-Davidson dealers.

Ride Reports: 2011 Harley Davidsons

Motorcycle.Com kicks it off with their ride on the new Sportster 883 SuperLow.  H-D has redesigned the suspension of this bike to give it a smoother ride and more suspension travel, all while keeping the seat height only two feet from the ground. Sadly, those improvements, while increasing the ride quality, haven’t–and can’t, really–solve the problem of cornering clearance with a lowered bike. There’s a host of improvements on the bike, however, meaning that the “SuperLow checks in with new suspension calibrations front and rear, new wheel and tires sizes, new fork and gas tank, even a new and better-padded solo seat.”

meanwhile, Motocycle USA went straight to the high-end bikes, checking out the new CVO custom editions of the Road Glide, Street Glide, Electra Glide, and Soft Tail. These are Harley’s top-of-the-line bikes, and are all Powered by the 110ci V-Twin, rather than the standard 96ci plant.  This gives them a nice bit of extra oomph that the standard models don’t have.

Harley-Davidson introduces the 2011 lineup (Updated)

Harley-Davidson unveiled their new model year bikes today, expanding the product line to 32 motorcycles. OK, so its really more like 32 versions of the same 4 motorcycles. Whatever.

Still missing from the Harley lineup for 2011: a beginner bike of any kind, and more specifically, one that can be used in the company’s proprietary Rider’s Edge program for training beginning riders. H-D indicates such a bike will be available within three years. I doubt that’s very comforting to dealers who need the bikes for the program now, however. And I’m not sure that Harley is going to like the image of riders on Honda Rebels taking their proprietary training.

Anyway, the full press release can be found here.

The three new models are shown below.

2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Harley Davidson XR1200X
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster XR1200X
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster Super Low
2011 Harley Davidson Sportster Super Low

Of the three new bikes, only one is relatively new, the XR1200X–which has been out for almost a year–one is an “Ultra” trim model of the the existing Road Glide, and one is a lowered Sportster 883.

The Super Low is the bike Harley-Davidson now says is suited for beginning riders. Personally, I think anything over 650cc is a bit too much for a beginning rider.  If you positively have to start riding a V-Twin, I’d recommend the V-Star Classic or the Suzuki S50, both of which are substantially lighter, and substantially less expensive–$1500 in the case of the V-Star–than the Super Low.

If you really want a good beginner bike, skip cruisers and sport bikes altogether, and get a Kawasaki Versys. It’s 100 pounds lighter, it sits the rider up high enough that you can see over traffic–and traffic can see you–far more maneuverable and confidence inspiring, and still costs $500 less than the Harley.

In my opinion, you need some miles under your belt before buying a Harley–or a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, or a Honda VTX 1300, for that matter. Later on, if you want a big cruiser, then save your pennies for a Road Glide. As far as I’m concerned, the Road Glide is the nee plus ultra of big V-Twin  cruisers.

A Big Upgrade for Victory

2011 Arlen Ness Signature Victory Vision
2011 Arlen Ness Signature Victory Vision

Victory Motorcycles–the other American motorcycle company–has announced their 2011 model line, and the big news is that they’ve dropped the smaller V-Twin, and now provide every bike in their line-up with the big 106ci V-Twin, as well as a new 6-speed transmission.

Riders also have a choice of bikes sporting Stage 1 or Stage 2 factory tunes as well.  Stage 1 engines put out 92HP and 109 ft-lbs of torque, while the Stage 2 tune provides 97HP and 113ft-lbs of torque. In  general, the bigger, touring models will have the Stage 1 engine, while the smaller (relatively) bikes will have the Stage 2 cams, making their street cruisers pretty…uh…rockety.

All of the bikes will also sport the upgraded cockpit instrumentation found on last year’s Cross Roads, and the service interval has been increased to 5,000 miles.

Check out Victory’s web site for the details.

iBike?

BMW iPhone App
BMW iPhone App

BMW always touts their 200,ooo-mile reliability (final drive issues notwithstanding).  But sometimes, even the most reliable bike has a problem.  And if you’re in a small town in the middle of nowhere–especially on a bike where dealers who can service it are few and far between–getting stranded can be a problem.

But, BMW has just released an iPhone app to help out. And it apparently it’s just chock full of cool stuff:

Compatibility with any registered BMW Motorrad model in the United States (models from 1981 onward).

Expedited handling of BMW Motorrad USA Roadside Assistance requests.

Automatic sharing of GPS location and motorcycle details (color, model, etc.) between the BMW Motorrad USA Roadside Assistance call center and the Motorcycle rider.

Direct telephone access to BMW contact information, including authorized BMW Motorrad Dealers, BMW Motorrad Customer Relations, and of course BMW Motorrad USA Roadside Assistance

You can add up to four different motorcycles to the app–each with it’s own picture–storing the colors, VIN, etc, in the app.  So, if you need help, you can just go to your iPhone, and get roadside assistance whenever you need it.

As long as you can get a signal, of course.

Now, they just need to get cracking on an app for Android.

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Honda VFR1200F: Shamu?

Man, the guys at Hell for Leather really don’t like the VFR1200F. They took it out to the track, supposing that, since Honda says the bike has tons of sporting pretensions, it’d be kind of fun.  Turns out, they thought it was terrifying.

Their four main complaints:

  1. Suspension is too soft
  2. Ground clearance for cornering sucks
  3. Controls are unpredictable and fueling is monumentally bad
  4. The ergos are poor.

Wes Siler sums up:

It’s nowhere near fast enough to be a Hayabusa or ZX-14 rival and doesn’t handle nearly as well as either of those bikes either. The riding position is more forward-leaning and uncomfortable than a Kawasaki Concours 14 and the Honda doesn’t come with luggage as standard. It kind of looks like a rival for the BMW K1300S, but that bike would run circles around Shamu in a corner and feels notably quicker.

What we’re left with is a bike that’s got a sporty riding position, but corners like it’s made out of jelly. A bike that’s got a big engine, but isn’t terribly fast. A bike that’s as heavy as a tourer,  but looks like a sportsbike. A bike that’s supposed to be friendly, but is difficult to ride.

That’s more or less what I’ve been saying.  An interesting bike that fills some incomprehensible niche. An all-round sports-touring bike that does neither well. I just don’t get it.

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Good news from–and FOR–the MoCo

Harley-Davidson announced its 2nd quarter earnings today, showing continuing improvement in key areas, blah, blah, blah. Forget the financial stuff.  What leaps out at you is this statement:

Harley-Davidson is the U.S. market share leader of on-road motorcycles among young adults.

Now that’s very interesting, indeed, considering that the average rider age of Harleys has been increasing steadily. Without attracting younger riders, H-D is in for a long, slow decline as their current riders die off. But the phrase “market share leader of on-road motorcycles among young adults” can mean a lot of things.  What is it really telling us?

The Kneeslider’s Paul Crowe did some calling around and learned:

[T]he relevant statistics are from R.L. Polk and were covered on the earnings call yesterday.

· . . . in the U.S., no one is reaching new customers better than Harley-Davidson.

· Based on recently provided Polk data, we have been the heavyweight motorcycle category market leader in new motorcycle sales to young adult men and women ages 18 to 34 since at least 2006.

· We have also been the heavyweight market leader since at least 2006 in new motorcycle sales to women riders, Hispanic riders and African American riders ages 35 and older. Of course, we are also the market leader among Caucasian men ages 35 and older.

· And when it comes to new motorcycle sales to young adults in ALL sizes of on-road motorcycles, Harley-Davidson has been the U.S. market share leader since 2008.

While talking to Bob Klein, I also found that a lot of this is directly attributable to sales of the Iron 883 and the Forty Eight.

That’s very, very positive for the Motor Company.

More Ducati Spy Shots

I recently mentioned the new Ducati that’s going to be unveiled later this year.  There was one lame spy shot, and a concept drawing of the Ducati Project 0803 motorcycle.  Well, today, we got another spy shot, this time courtesy of Italian motorcycling site Moto Sprint.

Ducati Project 0803 Spy Shot 2
Ducati Project 0803 Spy Shot 2

This is much better, despite the camouflage paint splotches and masses of black electrical tape.  Nice looking exhaust. Interesting side-mounted radiators. Single-sided swingarm.

The American press has been calling this a new model of the Monster, but I think that’s just notional.  Over in Italy, they’re just referring to it as a maxi-cruiser.

Maybe it’ll be called the “D-Max”.

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2010 Yamaha Super Ténéré First Ride

Janie Omorogbe got to ride a new Yamaha Super Ténéré from Portugal to Morocco, and wrote up her impressions for Motorcycle USA.

The Super Ténéré has been a long-awaited entry into the adventure bike category–long-dominated by the BMW R1200GS.  Available only in Europe at present, a lot of people on this side of the pond have been eagerly awaiting news of it.  Well, how we have some.

Most of her impressions of the bike seem positive:

[T]he Super Tenere is pretty capable and it’s extremely comfortable…The torque curve is as steady as a surgeon’s hand and the power delivery is predictable and measured…[A]ttacking twisties is actually really good fun, not only because of the superb braking system which allows you to grab a fistful at the last moment, (within reason of course) but the bike also has effortless handling…At a faster pace, the Super T feels planted and secure…It’s fun, comfortable and easy to ride.

So far, so good.  Alas, all is not roses with the Super Ténéré , however:

But ask for more aggression, and the ST just won’t play ball…[I]n the mountains, the ST almost throws in the towel, wheezing through the thinning air indecisively. At “normal” altitudes, the bike behaves far more predictably…although it definitely has less punch than BMW’s latest GS…The onboard technology is as limited as the optional extras list…The screen is adjustable, but doing so is not exactly a two-minute job. Where the GS just needs you to twist a couple of knobs, the ST requires an allen key, screw driver and the removal of a side panel.

So, the engine is a bit sluggish, and there aren’t a lot of farkles.  But that’s livable for many riders I suppose.  What may not be livable is surprising, especially when compared to BMW:

But in the UK the biggest stumbling block isn’t its performance but its price. Compared to BMW’s R1200GS, it isn’t any better, it has fewer options and it is more expensive.

Well.  That’s not good.  The big knock on BMW is that they’re generally priced as if they were crafted from purest unobtainium. Now that may be unfair, considering how many technical and comfort doohickeys BMW puts on their bikes. After all, you pay for what you get, and with BMW, you generally get a lot.

But if Yamaha is producing a less capable and less farkled-up bike, and still charging you more for it…well, then I afraid that’s just not on, as our British cousins like to say.

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