My Dream Sports-Tourer?

This last weekend’s crushing disappointment over having my offer for that 2005 ZZR1200 rejected and my jotting down of some motorcycle perspectives came at about the same time. Because, in considering the ZZR, I’ve been thinking about the bike I really want to have.

If I could have a dream sports-tourer, it would have the following characteristics:

  • Wet weight: under 600 lbs.
  • Great handling
  • Hard bags
  • 90lb-ft of torque and 140+HP at the rear wheel, enough to give me a 1/4 in the mid 10s.
  • Good wind protection, including an adjustable windscreen.
  • Handlebars that allow easy mounting of electronics.
  • Heated grips
  • 2 aux. 12-volt electric outlets
  • ABS

Give me that, and I’ll happily live with a chain drive to save weight.

But what I think I’ve actually just done is designed a K1600GT with a chain drive. Let’s see, wet weight, 703 lbs…

Yeah. That’s what I did.


Maybe that extra 100 lbs isn’t a deal-breaker.

Oh, speaking of the new BMW K1600 bikes, BMW released the prices today.  $21,000 for the GT, $23,000 for the GTL. Compared to the inflated price of a Gold Wing, that $23k for the GTL is a steal.

The Diavel’s Big Rear Tire

A few days ago I noted that the big 240-section rear tire on the new Ducati Diavel seemed like it would make handling a bit less fun.  But lots of reviews from European writers say it’s fine. New Diavel ride reviews are in from Motorcycle USA and, and both of them bring the subject up in somewhat different terms.

Motorcycle USA’s Bart Madson writes:

[T]he Diavel is probably the best-handling fat rear we’ve ever sampled.

But that’s somewhat damning praise, as there are inherent issues with the rear. Some in our journalistic riding troupe vocalized zero flaws, but we noted a hinky sensation on low-speed maneuvers. Sharp hairpins exhibited a flopping sensation when pitching over. Quick transitions, more noticeable at lower speeds as well, also delivered an awkward feel. The 240mm rear didn’t have us bitching and moaning as a deal breaker by any means. It just left us wondering what that Diavel could been had it been delivered with a more conventional tire choice.

Motorcycle.Com’s Pete Brissette echoes the sentiment, somewhat more technically:

The big rear tire works for me as part of the Diavel’s styling; however, the rear tire’s low-speed handling performance doesn’t work quite so well for my tastes.

Initial turn-in response is neutral; transitioning from upright to three-fourths lean is a fairly smooth, linear-feeling process. But it’s the last little bit of lean you might initiate to complete the turn that results in a “falling in” sensation, as though the tire’s profile is more triangulated than it appears.

As I rolled into the throttle to power out of the apex of a turn, the bike would sometimes exhibit a front-end “push” – like the rear of the bike was chasing the front – depending on the radius of a turn and camber of the road.

This is not to say the Diavel’s handling isn’t light-years better than just about any cruiser you can name, but it’s not as good as any other Ducati you can name either.

Ultimately a 62.2″ wheelbase, and 240 rear tire are what they are, and the effect on handling is ultimately insurmountable. Geometry and physics are pretty unforgiving taskmasters. On the other hand, though, handling that isn’t quite up to snuff in Ducati terms probably equals vastly superior handling in, say, V-Max terms.

Actually, remove the word “probably” from the previous sentence.

I can still hear it. Taunting me. (Updated)

2005 Kawasaki ZZR1200
2005 Kawasaki ZZR1200

I popped into a dealership today, for reasons entirely unrelated to motorcycle buying, and I saw this 2005 Kawasaki ZZR1200, just sitting there.

It is practically spotless. It has 378 miles on the odometer. They’re asking for $6k.

I can’t get her out of my mind.

Quite apart from anything else, I’ll never see another deal like this for years, if ever. How often do you run across one of the most powerful streetbikes ever made, that’s 6 years old, in perfect condition, with less than four hundred miles on the clock.

It’s like the guy has been saving it just for me. I mean, seriously, who buys a bike like this, keeps it for six years, and only rides it for 378 miles? I can’t even comprehend that mental process.

Now, I don’t need a second bike. And it’s got all the things I’ve been staying away from, i.e., chain drive, no ABS, no accessory slots for electric stuff. But there were so few of them ever sent to the US, and they’re so distinctive, it’s just calling to me.  Cripes, you can’t even put bags on the thing, except for an aftermarket set of soft bags maybe.

But it’s such a sweet deal. I’ve got the money to buy it outright.

On the other hand, there’s a tiny, almost unnoticeable little dent on the gas tank. Maybe if I just keep concentrating that, and magnifying it in my mind, this insane desire will go away…


The insane desire did not, in fact, go away. I went in at 10:00am this morning and offered $5,000 out the door.

They told me to go F myself.

It turns out that they paid $4900 for it (Kelly Blue Book wholesale is only $3500), plus another $500 for reconditioning.  So their lowest price is $6k + Tax, title, and license.  That would bring the total price to about 6,600.

As much as I am dying to have this ZZR, I can’t pull the extra $1500 cash right now. So some undeserving bastard is gonna ride away with it.

Perspective changes

It’s funny how your perspectives change over time. I’ve noticed those changes taking place in the motorcycles I regard as desirable. That’s not an inconsequential thing for me, since I ride a motorcycle as my primary means of transportation.  Whatever I get is not something that I’m going to take out on an occasional Saturday, then put in the garage for the rest of the week.  I have to live with it constantly.

Sometimes my perspective changes fast. For instance, 4 months after I got a Harley-Davidson, I just wanted to get something different.  The cruiser side just didn’t appeal to me like I thought it would. I wanted something more than I could get from a Harley, or, for that matter a V-Star or VTX.  I toyed with the idea of a Triumph Rocket III for a bit, but ultimately I moved towards a sport-touring bike, and got a fantastic deal on my ’07 FJR1300AE.

For a long while, the FJR seemed like the best bike for me, and I still have no complaints about it at all–except that it’s in the shop right now.  If I were to have a complaint, it would be the electronic clutch. It’s certainly convenient, so it has its pluses, but there are drawbacks to it as well, especially in terms of low-speed handling. Other than that, the sport-tourers seemed to offer the best combination of performance, comfort, and luggage space. I also liked the maintenance-free shaft drive a lot.

2011 BMW K1600GT
2011 BMW K1600GT

Three years into owning it, however, my mind has started to turn towards what my next bike would be.

One of the big candidates has been the BMW R1200RT, a fantastic bike in many respects, except for the lack of top-end speed.  Everything else about it is really top-notch, and it has fantastic handling compared to the FJR.

I tried the K1200GT, and I felt it was kind of “Meh” in the excitement department, and it had a surprisingly uncomfortable seat. So I kind of crossed any of the K-bikes off my shortlist…until the K1600GT was announced last year.

That bike has really interested me.  Enormous torque, and that 6-banger engine will no doubt have a top end that I’ll never reach. Like the R-bike, it will have all the creature comforts you can imagine, too.  I fully intend to test it out as soon as the GTs make over to this side of the pond.

Still, in looking over the specs, I see that it weighs even more than my FJR, tipping the scales at 703lbs soaking wet. And, of course, as always with BMW, there the little issue of price…actually, not little at all.

So, I wonder…

Ducati Multistrada 1200 S
2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S

What happened, you see, is that I took a test ride on that bike you see to the left: the Ducati Multistrada 1200S. What a fantastic motorcycle that is!

It wasn’t just the sweet engine, or the stable yet responsive handling.  It was sophisticated technologically, seemed to do everything well, and had an unbelievable hooligan factor along with the great comfort.  It also weighs 487 lbs. wet, and seemed light as a feather compared to my FJR.

Sadly, like the BMW, price is problematic on the Ducati, too.  And, the chain drive didn’t excite me.  What is this, the 1970s?  Chain drive? Pshaw, I say!  Pshaw!

Oh, and the MTS is, not to put too fine a point on it…ugly.

But the thing is, the much lighter weight of the MTS, started me thinking.  The bike was so much easier to handle, and performed so much better than my FJR.

Leave aside all the impressive electronics on the BMW, the MTS, or even the Kawasaki Concours14, I find I don’t miss their absence on the FJR. What I use on the FJR is the heated handgrips, and the electrical socket that I use to power my little XM unit and Magellan GPS. The thing I really liked about the Ducati was the performance and the light weight–which are, of course, not entirely unrelated.

When I got the FJR, the plan was that my chick would have a nice pillion seat to take rides with me.  But she is…uncomfortable on the back of a motorcycle. Street riding as a passenger just terrifies her, especially with the madness that goes on on California streets on a minute-by-minute basis. She used to be a rider, and has been looking at scoots herself occasionally, but passenger riding is right out.

I also had these visions of actually doing some real touring, which also never came to fruition.  When we go somewhere, it turns out that we take along an 18′ Nomad travel trailer, so there’s no long-distance motorcycling involved on our trips.

So, I’ve been thinking, what is it that I want to live with with as a commuter and pleasure bike? The more I think about it, the more I think that what I don’t want is a 700lb behemoth with a 61-inch+ wheelbase, even if it has every electronic bell and whistle you can imagine. What I really want is a bike with sporty performance, decent luggage capacity for short trips and errands, a decent amount of wind protection, and comfy ergonomics.

That’s not to say I’d thumb my nose at a really good deal on a Connie or K-bike, but they aren’t at the top of my shortlist any more.

But, looking at the sporting side of things is depressing.  The bikes with decent ergos for my 46 year-old body–your Bandits and V-Stroms–seem slow and boring, or are unfaired and, hence, windy.  The exciting bikes stretch you over the tank, with your knees tucked into your armpits. Neither appeals.

2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000
2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

But now there may be an alternative that’s starting to attract me. Kawasaki has the new Ninja 1000 available now, and everyone that’s ridden it says it’s a great bike, with many of the features I’m looking for.

It’s got a 58″ wheelbase, weighs 503 lbs at the curb, has heated grips and OEM hard bags (made by Givi, actually), and puts a stompin’ 74 ft-lbs of torque and 123HP on the rear wheel. And it produces them at far lower RPMs than the ZX-10 or R1. My FJR, by comparison, weighs 687 lbs wet, has a 61″ wheelbase, and puts out 127HP and 89 ft-lbs of torque. The tale of the tape in comparing the 2 shows up in 1/4-mile times, with the Ninja coming in at 10.55 secs @ 130.71MPH, and the FJR1300AE at 11.86 secs @ 118.8MPH. Apparently 184 lbs of extra weight slows the FJR down a bit.

I’ve gone into the dealership and looked at the new Ninja, and sat on it.  The ergos are right.  Not sure how comfy the seat would be–reviewers say it’s average, but better than a pure sportbike’s–but there’s aftermarket solutions available from all the usual suspects.

But what about that chain drive? Well, the thing is, that shaft adds about 100 lbs to the weight of the bike. So that’s really a difficult decision for me.  I guess I could get a chain oiler installed…no, let me rephrase that: I would definitely have a chain oiler installed. I’d just have to spend the regular $300 to replace the chain and sprocket set.

There are other issues, too.  I’d have to have the wiring installed for my Magellan and XM unit, and spring for new Ram mounts, too, since they’d have to be mounted differently. I don’t know if that’s even possible.  Oh, and that strangely shaped windshield–manually, not electrically adjustable, sadly–would have to be replaced by a Cal-Sci shield first thing, too.  Also, it doesn’t have a gear indicator on the dash. I kind of like that. Finally, those mufflers would be gone before I took it home from the shop, too.  I like the look of the CS One Urban Brawler Dual Slip-ons from Vance & Hines.

Another big sticking point is that the American version of the Ninja 1000, unlike the European-spec model, doesn’t come with ABS brakes.  I like ABS systems a lot, and not having one on the Ninja is disappointing.

But, even with all those negatives, with a base price of under $11k, some farkling would overcome most of them, and the bike would still be more affordable that a Connie or even a Triumph Sprint GT.

So, the Ninja 1000 is worming its way onto my shortlist of possible FJR replacements. No doubt a test ride would help me make a more informed decision, but that’s not gonna happen.

Unless someone at Kawasaki USA is interested in offering me a test opportunity, in return for a test report.

Hello? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?


Yesterday, when I was picking up a prescription at the drive-through window at my pharmacy, my FJR died. The engine quit, and everything went dead except for the instrument panel, where every light came on, and the fuel level LCD started flashing. Turning the motor off and taking the key out did nothing.  Everything stayed lit up.  Then a few minutes later, everything turned off, and I was able to re-insert the key, and start her right up.  No further problems yesterday or for the first part of today.  Then, this afternoon, as I was driving home, it happened again at a stoplight. So, I crossed my fingers and headed directly for the motorcycle shop.

Once I got there, they played around with it, and were able to reproduce it several times.

So, the bike is in the shop, and I they won’t even be able to look at it until Monday.  They will be taking $100 just to diagnose the problem, so I’m bikeless until sometime next week.

ATK hires an ex-Harley exec

ATK motorcycles has, as I’ve mentioned previously, been working on getting small-displacement V-Twins sold through some selected Harley-Davidson dealerships. In what seems to be keeping with direction, the company announced that they’ve brought Jon Syverson, a former Harley-Davidson Sales Manager, on board as Executive Vice President.

ATK’s stated goal is to offer entry-level bikes to customers at Harley-Davidson dealers in order to help catch a younger generation of riders, and have them convert to the bigger Harleys in the fullness of time.

The full press release is below the fold.

Continue reading “ATK hires an ex-Harley exec”

Good grooming, but…

This seems like one of those time-saving ideas that might not look too good in retrospect.  If a crash occurs, we may discover that having naked razor blades in the helmet poses some sort of safety risk. *shrug* But, I could be wrong.


First Ride: 2011 Ducati Diavel

The first ride reports are trickling in from the Ducati’s press launch for the Diavel in Marbella, Spain.  Visordown’s ride review tells me exactly what I wanted to know about the Diavel.  My main concern in looking at the specs of the Diavel was the handling.  It’s a bike with a long wheelbase, and a big, honkin’ 240-section rear tire.  That just screams “slow turn-in!” to me.  But, according to Visordown, Ducati has somehow done something special that those specs don’t capture.

The real ace up the Diavel’s sleeve is its handling. A massive 240-section rear tyre and a long wheelbase are not the ideal ingredients if you want a bike to handle, but – and I’m not sure how – the Diavel doesn’t suffer one bit…What really stood out to me was that throughout the whole day, I didn’t think about the bike’s handling once. It went exactly where I wanted it to, not once did I feel like I was running wide, or that I could do with more ground clearance. There are no footboards gouging the tarmac here, no concerns about getting home with half of your exhaust chamfered off. It doesn’t just handle well for a cruiser, it handles well for a sportsbike…When the rear Pirelli can’t cope, Ducati’s Traction Control steps in and gently corrects your over enthusiastic demands, keeping the rear wheel in line and most bikes struggling to keep up.

That…interests me.

Sadly, there are no Diavel’s available yet on this side of the pond, but my crystal ball tells me that sometime in the near future, I’ll be begging Balz Ringli at Moto Forza for a Diavel test ride.

Shootout: Honda CBR250R vs Kawasaki Ninja 250R

Kawasaki Ninja 250 vs Honda CBR250R
Kawasaki Ninja 250 vs Honda CBR250R

One of the things the Europeans do as a matter of course, and we in the US do very rarely, is to ensure that beginning riders are restricted to smaller-displacement motorcycles to get some experience before stepping up to the big boy bikes. All too often, this results in a new rider purchasing a Gixxer 1000 as a starter bike.

This is an extraordinarily bad idea.  I do a lot of work with the US military, and  the number of kids who come back from the sandbox without a scratch, and then promptly smear themselves and their new Fireblade across the pavement is truly troubling.

And it’s not just kids.  Because I do a lot of work on a military installation, and ride a motorcycle as my primary transportation, I had to take an MSF course in order to ride my bike on base, as per DoD rules. One of the guys in my MSF course was a 40-something Navy retiree, who had decided to buy a motorcycle, after having never ridden before.  His choice for a first motorcycle: A Buell Ulysses.  He said he trucked the bike home, unloaded it, and decided to try it out on his residential street.  He started it, gave it some gas, then released the clutch…at which point he grabbed a handful of throttle and went on a very short but terrifying “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, that ended a few seconds later in a crash.  He decided that maybe he should take the MSF course before getting back on.

The Ulysses is a great bike. Not a beginner bike.  And it’s tame compared to a literbike.

Beginners who are interested in sportbikes really do need to start off on the lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable bikes.  But, for years, the only really decent beginner sportbike was the Kawasaki Ninja 250.  Now, however, new riders have a choice, with the introduction of Honda’s new CBR250R.

Visually, the new CBR250R is a much more attractive bike.  Unlike the rather dated look for the Ninja 250, the CBR250  looks modern. Indeed, it looks like a miniature of the VFR1200F.  The Honda also has a linked ABS option, too.

So, how do the two bikes stand up to each other head-to-head? Well, Motorcycle USA tested them to find out, and the comparison makes for interesting reading.

Liquid-Cooled Boxer for BMW?

Asphalt & Rubber has an image of what appears to be a new BMW RXX00GS in the wild.  Sure it looks like a R1200GS, but the thing is…the shaft drive is on the wrong side.

BMW liquid-cooled boxer?
BMW liquid-cooled boxer?

BMW’s boxer engines are air/oil-cooled, but the end of the road is surely in sight for air-cooled engines, due to both emissions compliance issues and the consumer demand for a bit more power. So, the best guess here is that this is a GS testing a new liquid-cooled boxer engine.  we don’t know the displacement, or anything else.  We don’t even know if this engine is liquid-cooled, based on the picture.

Still, the rumor is the BMW is water-cooling the boxer, and if this GS with what is obviously a different motor is already testing on the road, the chances are pretty good that it is the water-cooled boxer, and if its in this advanced stage of testing, i.e., running around on a bike in the wild, then we can look forward to a brand new RXX00GS for 2012.

We might know more, but this picture appears to have been taken by a 1930s Kodak box camera, using film that’s over its expiration date.