No Deal

Well, the dealer called back today, and told me no deal on the FJR. They did offer the same deal, with a $149/month payment, on an AE model that had been used as a demo.

Considering what that means I would be getting the bike for, that’s a great deal, actually. But, I’m not sure about all that newfangled machinery for the automatic clutch, so I turned that down.

The nice thing about already having a motorcycle, is that I don’t feel any pressure to replace it with anything other than exactly what I want.

They’re serious about getting me into a bike, though. That’s “nice” (i.e. desperately greedy) of them.

Almost Pulled the Trigger…and May Still Do It

The only local dealer with an FJR1300 is North County House of Motorcycles in Vista. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen one, so after work, I went over to take a look at it.

Black is beautiful.

The seat height on the 2008 A-Model is perfect for me. My legs were splayed a bit wide, but I could flat-foot it firmly. Unlike the C14, or ST1300, the rider pegs don’t get in the way of my legs. I could pick it up off the kickstand just by nudging it with my thigh. It’s really well-balanced, at a stop, and you can lean it pretty far without it trying to fall over.

The sales guy was begging me to run the numbers, of course. I told him that it was pointless, since I couldn’t reach my preferred payment target with the negative equity on the sporty.

When he ran the numbers, I was shocked. Due to my credit, and some of the current Yamaha promotions, he came in with a number well below my target payment. In addition, we haggled over the OTD price, to the point where they cut $2,000 off that, too. For the remaining negative equity, it would be financed at an interest rate 5% less than Harley charges, i.e., what I’m currently paying.

Well, that deal seemed too good to be true, so…I took it.

The salesguy pulled the sleek, black bike out front. Washed it all up. Then we took the walk-around, and completed the familiarization checklist. The salesman gave me the keys to the FJR, and took my Harley keys and security fob. I called Chris at home, told her where I was, and that I’d be coming home on a new FJR. I even took a picture of it on my cell phone.

I was all ready to unload the bags on the sporty, and transfer everything over to the FJR, when the finance girl pointed out that the deal was, in fact, too good to be true. The incentive programs from Yamaha had an upper limit on the financed amount, and the deal we worked out exceeded it, even with my good credit. So, we didn’t actually have a deal.

But, the finance girl did offer one idea. Despite the “official” limits to the incentive programs, she said that, since my credit was solid, and since Yamaha loves to get people to switch over from Harley, she would call Yamaha finance first thing tomorrow, and see if they could do a one-time extension of the incentives to me.

With that, it was time for me to climb on the Sporty and go home.

So, tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.

An the Winner Is….

After a lot of thought, and a lot of research–overcoming my innate tendency to love something about every motorcycle currently made–I think I’ve settled on the bike I am looking to move up to.

This reflects my current reasoning, and assumes that current bikes will still be current when I sell the Sporty. If I still have it when the 2009’s come out, well, then, all bets are off. Who knows what wonderfulness the 2009 models will bring?

Absent that, however, here’s my thinking.

There is much about the Honda ST1300 to love. Great reliability, comfort, fuel range, manufacturer’s warranty, weather protection, and built-in tip-over bars.

The three things against it are the higher price, the size and weight, and, this troubling “high-speed weave” problem. That last one is the most critical.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days looking into that high-speed weave problem. It’s elusive. For everyone that claims to have run into it, ten other people claim they’ve had their ST up to 140 MPH with no problem at all. There are conjectures about the aerodynamic affect of having a top box and no passenger, or improper tire pressure, or bad preload/rebound settings on the suspension. But no one has a definitive answer that I’ve found. Although, one notes, curiously, that Honda doesn’t sell the top box in the US.

In fact, the ST’s weave issue is a lot like the BMW final driveline failure issue. It’s apparently there. It affects a minority of bikes. There are “fixes” or workarounds, but no firm answer on whether there’s a fundamental design or manufacturing problem. At the end of the day, it probably won’t be something you ever encounter, unless you’re unlucky.

The difference between the BMW and Honda problems, though, are that final driveline failure is annoying and expensive. High speed weave can–and has–killed some people. Well, I’m not too big on joining groups in general, and I’m really not keen on joining the “killed by high-speed weave” group.

So, despite the fact that there’s much to love about the Honda, at the end of the day…it scares me not knowing if I will get a good bike or one of the bad ones. If there is any such thing. Which we don’t know. But what I do know, is that I don’t want to have a tank-slapper at 100 MPH to find out.

So, regretfully, the Honda ST1300 has to be crossed off the list.

The Kawasaki Concourse™14 has an engine you just have to love. Unfortunately, everything else about the Connie is–I hate to say it–second rate. Kawi has never been my favorite brand, though, so that may color my perceptions here. The number one strike against the C14 is the seat height. It’s just a bit too much for me, especially in a bike that weighs in at about 675 pounds wet. I don’t want to be tippy-toeing that through a parking lot.

It also strikes me as a relatively rough-looking bike, with lots of stuff haphazardly thrown on it, including a godawful ugly exhaust can. The riding position is too sporty, too, now that I’ve gone back and sat on one again. Too much of a stretch to the handlebars. It also, by all accounts, handles like a pig at slow speed maneuvering.

Finally, it’s a first-year production model. Problems always pop up in the first year or two of a new model. There are things we already know are wrong with it, such as heat management. But more worrisome are the things we don’t know are wrong with it yet, because it hasn’t been in service long enough to know them.

So, the Concours™14 gets a pass, too.

I have a soft spot for the Buell Ulysses, especially the new touring version, the XB12XT. There’s a lot going on at Buell, in terms of frame design, maneuverability, and light weight. I wish everyone was signing on to the Buell “trilogy of tech”: mass centralization, low unsprung weight, and frame rigidity with the same dedication.

Ultimately, though, the XT is too much of a naked bike. I want a bit more weather protection than the Buell can give. And, I already have a bike with an Evo engine. You can cam it up, race-tweak it, and suck 103HP out of it, but ultimately, it’s the same shaky V-Twin technology that I already have. And the 4.4 gallon fuel tank isn’t really all that hot, either. I already fill up every 130 miles. Been there. Done that. I want to stay on the road a bit longer than that.

I’m sure it’s a fun bike, but I don’t really want it at my primary ride.

Either of the two BMWs are very nice bikes. Heated grips and seat, electronic suspension control, automatic stability control. You can get a BMW with everything on the side.

If you’re willing to pay for it. Which I’m not. While they’re nice bikes, a $7,000 premium to own one is unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned. I can spend that seven grand way better than BMW Motorrad can.

That, plus the troubling history of final driveline failures, makes the BMW a no-go.

And that brings us to…
The Yamaha FJR1300.

The Buell will carve corners way better. The BMW has every farkle you could want already built onto the bike. The ST1300 is more comfortable. The Concours™14 has a more powerful engine. In fact, there’s no category in which the FJR comes in first place.

But the FJR comes in as a close second in all of those categories.

It’s not the lightest bike, with a curb weight of about 615 pounds, but considering I already have a 589-pound bike, I doubt I’ll notice much difference in weight.

I expect I will, however, notice the difference between my current 75HP and 70 ft-lb of torque and the FJR’s 145HP and 99FT-lb of torque. I expect my SO will notice the difference in seating size and comfort as well.

At less than $14k, the FJR seems like the best compromise between what I think would be ideal, and what is actually available in the real world.

Yesterday, my opinion was that, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to choose, it would be the ST13000. Today, I choose the FJR, no gun required. And I think that’s my final answer.

However, I hear rumors–just rumors, mind you–that Honda may be updating the ST for 2009 with an all-new, 200HP plus V4 powerplant.

I’m just saying…

Renaming the Blog?

I’ve put the Sportster up for sale. It’s on a number of online classified ad sites, including Craigslist. I suspect no one will be interested in it, at least at the price I’ve got on it. But, I’ll fiddle around with that as time goes by, and eventually, I’m sure I’ll find a price at which it’ll move.

The real question now is…what do I replace it with. The top contenders, in no particular order, are:


HONDA ST1300

Pros:

  • Low maintenance costs
  • Huge dealer network
  • Excellent weather protection
  • Excellent comfort for rider and passenger
  • Extremely long service life
  • Tip-over protection for the fairing that works.
  • Good handling
  • Huge, 8-gallon fuel capacity

Cons:

  • Hard to find, since Honda only imports about 2500 per year to the US
  • At almost 700 pounds, it’s a heavy bike–not the direction I wanted to go
  • Dearth of accessories. What’s available has to be purchased from Europe, where the exchange rate inflates dollar prices outrageously.
  • At $15,000, it’s a bit pricey
  • Troubling reports of a high-speed weave, although at over 100 MPH, so that’s probably not an issue, since 100 MPH in California is an automatic trip to jail. Also, good suspension settings and tire pressure seems to solve it.


Yamaha FJR1300

Pros:
  • Fast and powerful, more so than the ST.
  • Excellent handling
  • Easy to find accessories
  • Large dealer network

Cons:

  • Sporty, but less comfortable riding position
  • So-so ownership costs
  • Everybody has one.
  • So-so weather protection

Kawasaki Concours™14

Pros:

  • Screamin’ hot ZX14 engine is a horsepower monster
  • Lowest purchase cost
  • Excellent shaft drive technology eliminates drive lash
  • Excellent riding position, slightly less sporty than the FJR, but more than the ST

Cons:

  • Kawasaki reliability is…meh. Bad Iron Butt finish ratio.
  • Heat management issues (yes, they all have them, but this one is a standout).
  • Looks are an…acquired taste.
  • So-so weather protection
  • Tall. Can’t flat-foot it.

BMW R1200RT

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Every bell and whistle you can imagine
  • Very maneuverable
  • Although it’s a boxer twin with less Horsepower, it has great torque, and the lightweight gives it an impressive horsepower to weight ratio.

Cons:

  • Stratospheric price, and ongoing maintenance costs
  • BMWs troubling history of final driveline failures
Buell Xb12XT Ulysses

Pros:

  • It owns the twisties, thanks to 23 degrees of rake. That’s aggressive.
  • The 1200cc Thunderstorm powerplant is a torque monster that can pull roll-on wheelies in the first four gears.
  • Comes with full hard luggage and heated grips standard.
  • American made
  • 2 built-in 12-volt sockets
  • Very comfortable for rider and passenger

Cons:

  • Minimal weather protection
  • Harley dealerships not very familiar with them, for the most part
  • The 1200cc Thunderstorm powerplant is a vibration monster. All the Evolution-based engines are.
  • No farkles. Really poor selection of accessories.
  • Tiny 4-gallon tank. That’s a lot of stops for gas on a trip.

BMW K1200GT

Pros:

  • Wicked fast
  • Comfortable, with adjustable handlebars
  • Very lightweight for a 4-cylinder bike

Cons:

  • All of the cons of the RT, plus so-so weather protection.
  • Higher price than the RT

So, these are the bikes I’m looking at. If I had a gun held to my head, by someone demanding I buy a motorcycle right now, my pick would be the Honda ST1300.

As an all-round bike, it’s got acceptable power at 126 HP, although the extra weight limits the performance a bit. It does everything well, though it does nothing great. Wonderful comfort and weather protection. Clockwork reliability. For $400 extra, you can get a 6-year, unlimited mileage factory warranty, which is the best in the business. It has a massive electrical output, enough to power any accessory you can name.

The extra weight really isn’t the direction I wanted to go in. It doesn’t come with stereo hookups in the US–unlike the European version. Still, some of the cops around here ride them and they can ride the hell out of ’em. I’m talking 17-foot figure-eights at 5 MPH. Honda seem to be able to make that extra weight melt away once the bike is moving.

Now, I’m open to arguments in favor of other bikes. I don’t have to make a decision right now. But, If I had to make a choice at this point, I’d pull the trigger on the Honda.

THIS Is the Bike I Want!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you..the Buell 1125ST!

Now here’s a bike that has everything I want. A fully-faired, touring-ready version of the Buell 1125R. What’s not not like about this bike. It has everything I want! A full fairing with electrically-adjustable windshield. The 146HP, water-cooled Rotax engine. Two 12-volt electrical outlets to power aftermarket stuff. A stereo system in the fairing. The Ulysses 2-up seat. Full luggage.

This bike has everything! Massive power on tap, unparalleled corner-carving ability. Great weather protection. Comfort for two people.

This bike has it all.

In fact, the only possible drawback there is to this motorcycle is…it doesn’t exist.

I know I’d buy it if it did, though.

Taking Advice

Commenter “Road Captain” writes:

Dale, I read alot. I subscribe to Motorcycle Consumer News and Road Runner among other magazines. I am obviously on the Internet quite a bit. My reading confirms Steve’s reccomendation on the Honda ST1300. You already dumped a heap into your sporty which you are not going to get back. Try not to make another mistake. How about your previous infatuation with the Triumph Rocket III. Now they have a touring model!

Well, Captain (Are you more the equivalent of an army captain, or a naval captain? Just curious.), I’m a bit more philosophical about the money. I expect a bike’s value to evaporate as soon as I take it off the lot. And as far as the aftermarket money, well, I’m gonna do that no matter what I buy. I KNOW that buying aftermarket stuff is just throwing money down a hole. Bikes aren’t really cost effective, unless you’re gonna buy them outright, and keep them for several years.

I am actually quite interested in the ST1300. At the end of the day, though, the weight is a consideration, because it’s a pretty hefty bike. I think it sure is pretty though. and it certainly has the range to take long trips, with that big ol’ 8-gallon gas tank. As it happens, I’ve been doing a lot of research, too, going to MCN, Cycle World, MD, etc. It’s funny that nearly everyone’s objection to the St1300 is that is too smooth and polished. No character…whatever that is.

When I go back to my original decision to get back into motorcycling last year, there was never any doubt I would buy a Sportster. I really didn’t even look at any other bike. I guess you’d have to say I didn’t really think into the decision about the bike itself very much. The Sporty was the smallest, nimblest Harley, I was just gonna use it as a commuter bike, and I thought a cruiser would be just the ticket for me.

And let’s be honest, getting a higher-performance bike at the time probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. I’d probably have killed myself pulling an unintentional wheelie at a stoplight. A cruiser like the Sporty was probably the best choice for me. So I don’t consider the Sporty a mistake. At the time, it was a good choice.

If I had it to do over again, I’d probably have bought a Dyna model, rather than a Sportster, but I didn’t really know enough about the differences at the time to make an informed choice. Most other things would have been equal, but the Dyna would have been a better highway bike. But, other than that, the choice was a wash.

The Rocket was an infatuation. I liked it, but, you’ll notice, that even though they tried everything possible to get me to buy it, I didn’t pull the trigger on that bike, either.

As I’ve ridden throughout the last year, I think I’ve refined what I’m looking for in a motorcycle. First, I now now where and how I ride, so I have a much better idea of the motorcycle that would be suited to what I do. I’ve ridden other motorcycles, so I’ve gotten a feel for some of the differences.

Now, as far as the touring thing goes, in the real world, 2-up riding will be a small minority of the riding I do. I need the capability, but only for relatively short rides and occasional day trips. So, it’s not the most important factor.

The bike that’s really best suited for me, in terms of all the things I want, is really the BMW R1200RT. It’s got much better performance than the Sporty, especially over 5,000RPM, where it just screams. It’s lightweight. The Boxer motor is quite smooth for a twin. And it has all the gadgets I could possibly want. it’s supposed to comfy for the passenger. I honestly don’t think it’s a bike I would outgrow. But, the big trouble with the RT is:

MSRP: $16,800
Destination Fee: $495
Safety package: $595
Comfort Package: $525
Equipment Package: $1890
Radio Prep Kit: $405
Radio/CD: $1,490

That brings us up to $22,200. Plus 7.75% sales tax of $1720.50, and registration fees of $230. that gives us an out-the-door price of $24,150,50.

That’s just too steep. It’s not affordable for me.

And BMW’s maintenance costs for the RT are outrageous as well.

I’d love it. Can’t do it.

So, I’m looking for a compromise bike. It’s not a purchase I expect to make immediately, and probably not even this year. But I’m much more informed about what I’m looking for.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even find it.

Ready to Move On

I don’t know when, but sooner or later, the Sporty’s gone. I don’t hate it, of course. I still ride it every day. And I’m gonna keep on riding it. But, she’s on her way out. Whenever I can, i.e., as soon as it makes financial sense to do so I’m getting rid of her.

Because lately, when I crack the throttle open all the way, I’ve started thinking, “Really? That’s it?” When I hit the curves, I think, “If I could lean just a little more, I could attack this curve even faster…”

I find myself walking into other motorcycle dealers, and looking at the Honda ST1300, the Yamaha FJR1300, the Kawasaki Concours14, and the BMW K1200GT. I’m not even looking at cruisers. And yet, when I walked into the Honda dealership to look at the ST1300–which they really wanted to sell me–I just couldn’t pull the trigger.

I’m the first guy to defend anyone’s right to buy a UJM bike, if that’s what they want. But I really don’t want to ride one myself.

The trouble is, no one makes the bike I want. If I was designing the perfect bike for me, it would have the following items:

1. Good performance, By which I mean loads of torque, great acceleration, good ground clearance and lean angle for cornering, effective–and adjustable suspension, excellent braking.

2. Comfort for a passenger. Chris hates the Sportster, because it just doesn’t give her enough room and the seat isn’t comfortable. I need a bike she can ride for a while in comfort.

3. Full bags, preferably hard ones. because I use the bike for everything, including trips to the grocery store, I have to have capacious luggage capacity.

4. Light weight. Yes, a big bike is more stable on the freeway, but in all other conditions, I really have no interest in lugging around 800 pounds of Road Glide.

5. Weather protection is important, because I ride all year ’round. Cold doesn’t really bother me that much. I have a full suit, so I can ride comfortably in the 30s–as long s I have good enough weather and wind protection to give me a cocoon of calm air in the cockpit. Also, fighting the wind on the freeway is a bit tiring.

6. A frickin’ stereo. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, if I want to spend less than $18,000 for a motorcycle.

By my counting, I can get more or less 4 out of six of my requirements on most bikes. I can get all 6, but only if I want to pay $22,000 for a BMW R1200RT. I really don’t want to do that, however. Cost of ownership on a BMW is simply outrageous, as is the cost of simply acquiring one.

I’ve noticed, however, that Buell has released a new, shorter, street-centric touring version of the Ulysses, the XB12XT.

It comes close to meeting what I’m looking for. Signifigantly better performance than the Sporty. Very comfortable and spacious seating for both rider and pillion. Full bags and heated handgrips are standard. The weight is more than 100 pounds less than the Sportster. That leaves us with two shortcomings. Poor weather protection, and no sound system.

For less than $200, Parabellum, Cal Sci, and Cee Bailey make full-sized windshields for the Ulysses. That would give me weather protection equal to or better than what I have now, when you consider that the Uly also has handguards and heated grips.

The Uly also comes standard with two standard auto 12-volt outlets, one of which is right in the dash, and the other of which is under the seat. With that, and the capacious storage under the seat, I can put together a decent stereo system, install the speakers on the handlebar cross-brace, and plug the amp into the under seat 12-volt outlet. And I can run all the wiring under the faux-tank “airbox” cover.

And, of course, it’s an American bike. I’d prefer that.

I’d really like to test ride one, though, to see if it’s something I really want.

But, as much as I have enjoyed her, I’m thinking that I want to move one from the Sporty. And not to something bigger, heavier, and slower, either.

But it’s extremely hard to find what I want.

Well, that didn’t last long…

I took the bike into Biggs today, so they could install the rear brake pads they were supposed to install last week. I also had them look at the stereo system, to see if they could install it. They looked at it, and hemmed and hawed, and basically came to the conclusion that they didn’t want to mess with it.

However, I talked to one of the techs, and pointed out the battery tender connection under the tank. He though that I could probably connect to that to power the stereo, although it isn’t switched, so I’d have to unplug it every time I turned the bike off.

Well, I though, That was worth a try. I could velcro the amp inside one of the saddle bags, and run thew wires under the seat. So, I went to Radio Shack and bought some wire connectors, then to AutoZone for a connecter that would mate to the battery tender connector.

As soo as I got home, I spliced the wire connectors, then trotted out to the driveway to connect the amp to the battery tender cable. I plugged it in, just to see if the little LED on the amp would come on. It did, for about one second. Then something inside the amp went POP!, and smoke started curling out of it.

So much for one 200-watt amp. I opened the 5Ah fuse in the amp power cable, and it was fried, the way it was supposed to be, but it obviously didn’t fry before destroying the amplifier. So, now I have two expensive, and completely non-functional speakers.

Great.

My New Stereo

Well, finally, the stereo set I ordered arrived.

But, there’s a problem.

I can’t figure out where to put the amplifier. There is absolutely no room under the seat. No way. no how. and the power lines to the amp are only about 14 inches long, so it can’t be mounted too far away from the fuse box.

So, I’m stuck. I think I’m gonna need professional help with this one.

Still Waiting

So, despite the fact that I ordered the stereo amp and speakers Friday night, they didn’t actually ship it until today. The Motorcycle Tunes folks in Amarillo are apparently not too terribly infected with the “Get’r Done!” mentality.

UPS picked up the box today, so, It’ll probably not gt here until Monday or Tuesday. Then we’ll see whether this is an installation I can do, or if I have to take it to the dealer for the electrical work.

Dropped Off the Bike Today

Well, the 10K maintenance bill is finally due. I’m having the 10K maintenance–about $400–and a new rear tire and brake pads installed–about $300.

Considering that I also had an unexpected trip to the dentist this week for a crown to be installed, this is turning into an expensive week.

About the rear brake pads. I didn’t really have to replace them. They’re still good. I’m just not sure I can get away with the current pads for another 10k miles. But, I have a buddy at work who tried to make it through a whole set of rear pads, and eventually, the pads wore down to metal, and he ended up having to get a new rotor, too.

So, better to toss a half-used set of pads, than risk a mistake like that.

By the way, nice try on the service writer’s part in trying to get me to replace the front tire too. “It’s getting kind of low, too,” he says. Uh-huh. Quarter inch of tread left all round. I think I can wait till the next rear tire replacement.

Anyway, it’s in their hands now. Which means i have to drive th truck to work tomorrow.

*sigh*