Getting used to her

Now that I’ve had a chance to get more acquainted with the VFR, I’m really starting to like it a lot. I’m not too happy with the OEM Dunlops. I’ve gotten really sold on the Michelin Pilot Road, so the current set of Dunlops will be the last.  The PR is just a far more responsive tire.

But, even with that said, I’m settling into how to ride the VFR, and sort of internalizing the new riding style it requires. As I do so, the bike seems lighter and more responsive. It certainly beats the FJR hands down in the handling department. As I get used to her, my confidence in what she can do continues to climb.

Yesterday, I took a huge gamble with the weather…and lost. It was 45° and just pouring rain. Storm cloud

But the VFR handled it with aplomb. It just motored right on through it with no drama at all.

Coming from the electronic clutch on the FJR to the VFR’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) automatic transmission, I can say I don’t have a single complaint. In Drive mode, it just puts along, as gentle as a lamb. In Sport mode, hitting the twisties, you can really just ignore it, and power on through the corners. When it does shift gears, you hardly even notice that it’s done so. The transmission goes "click-clack", the engine tone changes slightly, the chassis does nothing, and you keep riding.

In manual mode, when you downshift aggressively…nothing much happens, either. RPMs go up a lot, more engine braking is felt, and you just…keep riding. The amazing thing about the DCT is that once you turn on the automatic mode, it’s completely ignorable. All you have to do is concentrate on diving into the corner, holding a line, and powering out. It’s a pretty amazing piece of technology.

It has a couple of less than perfect things, though they’re pretty minor. The black paint on the spine of the fuel tank scratches really easily. A tank protector is a must. The bike has a notable tendency to stand up straight under braking, so some discipline in corner entry speed is required. Finally, it seems Honda has been "helpful", and tamed the initial throttle response in first gear, so it doesn’t pull really hard right off the line. Then at about 4,000rpm—Boom!—instant power. I’d like a little less help in that area. I’d like to launch without the "helpful" nannying.

Those are pretty minor deals, though. In the main, this thing is as fun as a barrel of monkeys. I’ve just got 450 more miles of break-in before I can let her hair down more aggressively.

I can’t wait!

Finally, I’ve applied the very first customization on the VFR.

mlbsticker

VFR Update

So, I’ve tooled around town on the new bike. Some initial impressions below. But first, a walkaround video and some pics.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTCr83dsjkA

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I’m keeping it very sedate while I’m breaking it in, so I haven’t pushed the engine more than a little bit. But even a little bit of pushing and this thing takes off. For instance, i

n automatic, there’s a standard Drive mode that short-shifts and is very strongly biased to fuel economy…to the extent that you’re in 6th gear by 40mph. Not very exciting at all.  Like a moderately sporty scooter. Then there’s the Sport mode. It’s…the opposite. It shifts at redline. And, while I can’t really use the sport mode much during the break-in period, it is…exciting. Let’s just say you can leave rubber from the rear wheel…in 3rd gear, though with brand-new tires.

You don’t need to know how I know that. Or how badly my pants were soiled.

The hardest thing to get used to is not shifting. Over the last three years, I’ve built up all these habits on the FJR. I upshifted with my foot, but downshifted by tapping the handlebar paddle. But there’s no need to shift at all on the VFR with the auto tranny. So, I have to keep stopping myself from tapping the shift lever on the handlebar, and pulling out of auto into manual mode.

Also, the FJR didn’t do anything at all until the RPMs hit 2,500. But as soon as you touch the throttle on the VFR, it goes. So, I’ve gotten a little sloppy on the throttle, because twisting it slightly on the FJR didn’t do anything. That is not the case with the VFR, so I’m re-learning how to discipline my throttle hand.

I haven’t yet figured out the optimum process for making sharp turns, or low-speed maneuvering in general. Like the FJR, the VFR takes a combination of throttle input and rear brake, but I just haven’t found that optimum amount of each that makes turning smooth. Without a clutch to keep at the friction point, low-speed stuff is a little tricky. I had it mastered on the FJR, but now I’m having to relearn it. It’s trickier on the VFR because it responds instantly to the throttle.

Interestingly enough, the VFR doesn’t pull hard from a dead stop, like the FJR did. The VFR stomps at >3,000 RPM, but the initial takeoff is fairly smooth and easy. Having said that, I also haven’t twisted the grip hard yet.  We’ll have to revisit this impression after break-in.

I really like it so far. It seems much lighter than the FJR, though it isn’t, really, at just 50 lbs lighter. I’ve also only been able to ride in town, so I have no experience with the twisties, and even when I ride to work the next few weeks, I won’t be able to push it.

This break-in period is really hampering my usual riding style, which is…not conservative. Mainly, I’m riding it in the standard auto mode, which is so biased towards low RPM that it shifts to 6th gear at 40 MPH. So, I’m gonna have to wait for another 550 miles before I can get into the performance aspect of the machine.

So far, it’s exactly what I expected, and exactly what I wanted in a fancy gentleman’s sporting bike.

I guess I’m a VFR guy now

Yeah, I haven’t posted for 6 months. Mainly it’s because I’ve been really busy with other things. That seems to be my standard MO with this site. Post a lot for 6 months, then sort of move on to other things. Then, eventually, come back.

Well, I have a reason to come back, now.

Yesterday, on my ride home from work, I decided to go by North County House of motorcycles. While there, I saw a brand new 2010 VFR1200F with the DCT automatic transmission on sale. They’d marked it down from $17,499 to $11,999. So, I traded my FJR1300AE for it on the spot.

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This is the only picture I have of it, a crappy cell phone pic the sales guy took just before I geared up and rode off on it. I didn’t get bags with it, but I put my tailbag on it as soon as I got home.

I had a lots of work to do today, so I only got a chance to ride it to the store and back. So I’ve only got 20 miles on it. I can already tell that there’s a bit of a learning curve for it.  I’ll keep updating my experiences with it as I break it in and get used to it.

The main difference is that, unlike the FJR AE model, you don’t have to hit 2,500RPM on the tach before it starts to move. Touck the throttle and it goes. And I mean goes. The performance simply outclasses the FJR in every way…if you want it to.

It’s got lots less wind protection and general cushy comfort than the FJR had, though I knew that going into it. I miss the heated grips, too.

But it’s a stonkin’ great engine. Which is what I was looking for in this case.

My cunning plan is to have both a fancy man’s sporty bike like a VFR or K1300S, and a fancy man’s touring bike, either the R1200RT or K1600GT. So, I guess I’m halfway there.

The comparo I’ve been waiting for

Back in 2007, Kawasaki took the sport-touring world by storm with the introduction of the Concours 14. Ever since, it’s been the darling of the motorcycling press, and generally regarded as the king-hell sport-tourer. This year, though, BMW strikes back with the new bikes based on the 1600cc I-6 engine, and they’ve received rave reviews.

The thing is, when you ride a bike by itself, it often seems more impressive than it would by riding it side by side with something else with which to compare it. So, what would happen, and who would win, if some testers rode the Concours 14 and the K1600GT side by side? Well, thanks to Motorcycle.Com, we now know. They spent a couple of days riding the two machines side by side, and have written up their impressions, as well as providing some video.

We’ll get to the video down below. In the meantime, the key takeaway from this comparo is probably this:

Compared to the Kawasaki Concours 14, the K16 simply blows the doors off its Japanese counterpart from the word “go.” It’s astounding to say that the ZX-14 engine is weak by any means, but when stacked against this competition, the Kawasaki simply feels, well, slow.

The K1600GT is the motorcycle that made the Concours 14 seem slow. That says a lot right there. But there’s more. Apparently the K1600GT blew away the Kawi in several other areas, too.

Once above 5 mph, the GT changes direction with absolute fluidity and grace, though the K16 won’t be mistaken for an S1000RR in the weight department. That said, its linear steering and sporty chassis were a hit among both our testers, especially compared to the heavy-steering Kawasaki…

BMW claims the K16 (in both GT and GTL form) makes 70% of its available torque at just 1500 rpm. That’s quite a lot of power with the engine barely spinning. What that means in the real world is that no matter if you’re just leaving a stop or cruising on the highway in sixth gear at 80 mph, when the throttle is twisted, the Beemer moves…

Yes, only 123.4 horsepower. Dyno chart junkies might scoff at that number (especially compared to the Kawasaki’s 131.8 peak horsepower), but from the saddle the abundant amount of torque makes it easy to forget any horsepower disadvantage. What we didn’t expect, and what may be even more surprising, is just how smooth and well balanced the K16 engine really is. Propped up on the center stand and with the engine running, full-throttle blips produced no visual movement from the bike whatsoever. None….

ABS intervention from the BMW felt much less intrusive than the Kawi, to the point where you almost forget it’s working. It’s truly a step above where ABS technology was just a few years ago…Simply put, BMW has nailed the ABS on the K16…

We’ll just say it right now: we’re in love with the K1600GT as it does everything a sport-touring motorcycle should do, and it does it incredibly well.

Looks like BMW has a winner with their K1600-series bikes.

And now, video!

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpTPihOYMn4

BMW F800GS vs. Triumph Tiger 800XC

Comparo dyno charts

Motorcycle.Com has a head-to-head comparo between the two hottest mid-sized adventure bikes in the world right now. It looks like it was tough choice between these two, too. Just take a look at the dyno graphs.

It’s a fascinating comparo, because the two bikes are just so close together in features. Triumph even replicated the layout of controls and accessory power ports on the BMW. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess.

At the end of the day, it seems the only difference between these two machines is their relative street/trail performance. Which one is best really depends on how you’re going to use it, but, as a practical matter, both are great.

There’s still something about that Triumph triple powerplant, though…

2012 Harley-Davidsons unveiled

It’s a big week for Harley Davidson.  Not only did they report that earnings more than doubled and sales rose in the second quarter, they’ve also unveiled their 2012 line of motorcycles.

2012 Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback

The first high point of the new models is a brand new Dyna model, called the Switchback. It not only comes standard with the removable windshield and hard bags–that both pop off without tools–it’s also powered by the new 103ci V-Twin mill.  In addition to the more powerful engine, it’s also got new front end geometry, upgraded suspension and a low profile front tire.

A new, 10th Anniversary model of the V-rod is also part of this year’s line-up, with lots of new components, including a special exhaust and wheels.

Next, the more powerful 103ci power plant is now standard on the Softail, Touring, and most Dyna models, almost completely replacing the previous 96ci standard engine in all but a few Dyna models.

A new option generally available on the 2012 bikes is a Security Package, containing ABS brakes and a Smart Security System with a hands-free security fob. The package is a factory option for all Dyna, Softail, V-Rod, and Touring models.  It comes standard for all CVO models, the Road Glide Ultra, the Electra Glide Ultra Limited, and the Road King Classic.

And, speaking of the CVO models, Harley has rolled them out for the motorcycle press to play with, and the reports are in from Motorcycle USA, Motorcycle.com, and Cycle World. This year’s CVO models are the The CVO Softail Convertible, the CVO Street Glide, the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide, a new version of the CVO Road Glide Custom that is oriented more for the street, than the touring version from last year.  The CVO models all come with Harley-Davidson’s 110ci power plant. The CVO Street Glide also comes packed with a 400-watt sound system, to help you better hear your hard rock & roll music over the roar of your loud, life-saving pipes.

2011 Ural Gear Up

2011 Ural Gear Up

The Ural line of motorcycles has a fascinating history. And, as far as modern bikes go, it’s about as close as you can get to a real old-school motorcycle, without actually rummaging around in a junkyard.

I admit, I have a fascination for them. In my mind’s eye, I picture myself setting off across the trackless wastes of the Mojave, or riding down mountain deer trails. In real life, of course, I would actually do none of those things, ever, but if I had a Ural I could. No doubt when the aliens attack, or the astroid hits, I’ll really wish I had one.

In any event, Motorcycle.Com has a 2011 Ural Gear-Up Review showcasing the highlights of the Gear Up, Ural’s two-wheel drive, go anywhere, do anything model.

It’s also pretty affordable for what you get: a sidecar with loads of space and a 400lb cargo allotment, 2-wheel drive for the sticky bits of wilderness, and, apparently, a fair amount of chick-magnetism. I suspect a lot more ladies feel more comfy at the prospect of riding in a sidecar, than on the back of a two-wheeler. And I syspect the actual ride would be more comfy, too.

Also, a note to prospective owners in California: California law does not require a motorcycle license to operate a sidecar motorcycle, or any other vehicle with more than two wheels.

Bagger Cruiser Comparo

Motorcycle-USA did a comparo between the 2011 Star Stratoliner Deluxe, Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero, and Harley-Davidson Street Glide. It was close, but the Street Glide won.

Now, maybe it was a little unfair, because the Street Glide was not the standard model, but the one equipped with the “Power Pack” options package of the 103ci mill, and ABS. On the other hand, it was still the slowest bike in the comparo. So why did it narrowly win?

Comfort on long rides is second to none in every aspect. The seating position is upright and relaxed, and the saddle has the perfect profile, putting less pressure on your posterior than the other two machines in this test. Long days in the saddle are pain and ache free, which can’t be said for the Vaquero or Stratoliner Deluxe.  There is no better seat on a bagger than the Street Glide’s…

“Without a doubt the Harley is the most fleet-footed bagger in this test. It is lighter and it feels lighter. It has the shortest wheelbase and as a result is the most agile in the turns. The suspension is very good as well. On the highway it feels firm and doesn’t exactly float like you would expect. But then in the hills it feels taught and gives the best feedback of these three bikes.”

I would’ve liked to see how a Victory Cross Country would compare in a test like that.

Triump Street Triple vs. Yamaha FZ8

Motorcycle Daily has done a head-to-head comparo between the Street Triple and the new FZ8. Both are naked bikes, but that’s about the only thing they have in common, according to the MD testers.  Both of them felt the FZ8 was boring, unless the poor suspension was frightening the bejeezus out of you. But that really isn’t the excitement you’re looking for in a motorcycle, is it?

Most of the FZ8’s reviews have been generally positive, so this overall thumbs down for it is a bit of a surprise.

Sad, really, because there does need to be something between the 600cc and 1000cc displacement sportbikes, with an extra dash of rider comfort. Like a GSXR-750 that doesn’t have tortuous ergos. Or a lighter VFR800 Interceptor.

The new Ninja 1000 is close, but it’d be nice to get something down in the sub-500lb range.

2012 Husqvarna Nuda 900R

The long awaited big bike from Husqvarna has been unveiled. It’s a 900cc Parallel-twin–based on the BMW F800 motor–dual sport known as the Nuda 900R.  Husqvarna claims the powerplant peak output is greater than 100HP, with 73lb-ft of torque coming in a 386lb (dry) package. Suspension and forks are top-notch Sachs and Öhlins components.

Styling owes more to Austria’s KTM than Bavaria’s BMW, although the term “styling” is used pretty loosely for duel-sports. If, indeed, it is a dual sport.  True off-roading with the Nuda will require a significant investment in skid plates to protect the exhaust and radiator, it looks like.

Motorcycle USA has more.

The Griso comes to America

Moto Guzzi Griso 8V SE

Moto Guzzi isn’t the easiest brand to find over here, and dealerships are few and far between. Yet, Moto Guzzi still has a dedicated fan base, who’ll probably be a little happier knowing the Griso 8V SE is coming to America. The Griso itself isn’t new over here, of course, but the SE model, with its distinctive styling, has only been available in Europe.

Some might say the engine looks a bit too…agricultural, and, well, I guess I’d be among them. The Griso’s air/oil-cooled 1151cc slant twin does put out a respectable 95hp and 73lb-ft of torque, which combined with the responsive steering and chassis will have you surprising supersports in the twisties–assuming you put on some stickier tires than the EOM Pirelli Scorpions. And that’s even counting the fact that, at 555 lbs–mainly thanks to a big, honkin’ shaft drive–it’s a bit on the portly side.

On the other hand, a day of canyon carving won’t leave you with a notched back and stiff knees.

Performance Cruiser Smackdown

Motorcycle USA took the power cruisers out for a spin and then chose the one they liked best. In the running were the Victory Hammer, Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special, Triumph Thunderbird, Star Raider S, Suzuki Boulevard M109R, and Ducati Diavel. One of these bikes isn’t even a power cruiser–and was the slowest of the five–and still won.

The Diavel, by the way, got the highest score, 170/200, and the reviewers still didn’t pick it.