Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011 Motorcycle Show - New and Improved

I spent some time yesterday wandering around the 2011 motorcycle show and thought I'd post up some comments here.

First of all, I have to give Harley-Davidson some kudos for their cool and engaging booth. I'm not a Harley/cruiser kind of guy but their setup was nicely done and staged so as to make the visitor part of the booth. From the bike that the curious could actually hop on, fire up and rev to the "how to pick up your bike" clinic, it was all very well done.

A booth I make sure to visit at each bike show is the Touratech booth. They provide top quality farkling and gear, have terrific guest speakers and events at their Seattle facility and are fantastic at working with customers. Here's a fully farkled F800 GS at their booth.

For me, the highlight of this year's show was to be having Triumph there again. I believe they make some of the best bikes in the world, with top flight build quality, excellent design and a fun mischievous side missing in "serious as a heart attack"sport bikes. Their booth was consistently packed while I was there. I even saw a visiting fan with a Triumph tattoo. (Note, there will be a cautionary post to Triumph following this one)

After last year's coup at launching the Tiger 800 like an arrow at BMW's GS heart, Triumph stepped up the competition with the new 1200 Expedition. A bit heavy for my taste but a gorgeous bike. BMW had better guard their lunch.

My long time favorite, the 1050cc Speed Triple, released in a higher spec R version this year. This one goes to fricking 12.

The very popular Street Triple looked a little embarrassed at appearing in "I have a sensitive side" purple.

A modern classic Bonnie and a Thruxville custom put together by I-90 Motorsports.

Triumph's America cruiser, hopefully not named that way because they see ALL Americans as overweight and slow, with poor ground clearance.

There may have been some Japanese bike manufacturers at the show as well.

As always, there were some great custom bikes for eye candy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hold That Tiger!

About 5 months ago, the first Triumph Tiger 800s reached the Seattle area. Today, I got to test ride one. It was awful, ran poorly, had abysmal build quality and I want nothing more to do with the bike.

Not really...this is a fantastic motorcycle and I think soon I will be counting the days until I can own one. It's likely to be 1-2 years but oh gives earlier adopters the chance to debug issues for me. :)

The picture above is from Tiger's debut at Lynnwood Cycle Barn and that's where I went today to test ride the Tiger. Cycle Barn and I go way back: that's where I bought a Speed Triple, a bit over 4 years ago. Today, I rode my current Speed Triple into their lot and set about securing a test ride. The sales guy, Luke, set me up and soon I was riding around Lynnwood on the Tiger 800 XC (like the one in the picture but more offroad-oriented).

What is the Tiger 800 like? Bloody brilliant. I test rode the comparable BMW 800 GS a couple years back and remember feeling like it was a little gutless. Not so the Tiger 800: it doesn't have the Speed Triple's raw power but I knew as soon as had been on it for a few minutes that it had plenty of power. It accelerated briskly and with the Triumph triple soundtrack that I have known and loved for some time now.

I presently have two bikes, the Speed triple and a DRZ400 supermoto and one question in the back of my mind is whether I should try to have three, adding the Tiger or else stay at two Triumphs by trading in or selling the DRZ. After today's test ride I'm thinking I'll just trade in the DRZ: it's a nice bike but a little underpowered for getting to the places where I'd like to ride it. Part of the appeal to the idea of keeping the DRZ is how surefooted and nimble it is. Could the Tiger do what the DRZ did a couple months back, easily dispatch The Box figure 8 test in an experienced rider class?

One of the first things that I did in today's test ride is get a feel for what the Tiger's steering radius is like, on a quiet street nearby. The answer is: fantastic. The Tiger feels almost as nimble as the DRZ and is clearly a capable replacement for it. Tight U turns were a piece of cake.

As to the build quality, Triumph has clearly taken to heart the lessons from their 1980s near-death experience and are taking great pains to build high quality machines and taking customer problems seriously. This is an area that BMW should give some attention to because their promising 800 GS (as well as their other current bikes) have been bedeviled by a series of quality issues, greatly exacerbated by the company's reluctance to take these problems seriously. Triumph, on the other hand, has already had recalls to deal with some not unexpected first year bugs in the Tiger.

There's also the question of dealer attitude and again, this provides a reason to pick Triumph over BMW. While Seattle BMW dealers have either demonstrated a clear lack of interest in whether I bought a bike from them or a belligerently aggressive insistence that I opt for anti-lock brakes, local Triumph dealers have been enthusiastic about selling me bikes. And they ask ME what features I want on MY bikes. I vastly prefer that approach.

I think that Triumph has another winner on their hands with this bike and eagerly await the day when my garage has a Tiger in it. Thanks to the kind people at Lynnwood Cycle Barn for helping in making this decision. I think you just sold another bike!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dreaming of 6 Continents

Just for fun, I'm going to make a list of places around the world where I'd like to visit by motorcycle, hopefully touching each of the bike-accessible continents. With some of them, I've had definite ideas about places I'd like to see for a while. Africa was harder, though, and Australia and new Zealand still have me stumped.

Got any ideas for places to visit in Anzac?

Here are my current goals.

1) North America - I'm all over the Pacific Northwest already but riding from Alaska down to San Francisco or out Route 66 would be a kick!

2) South America: Santiago, Chile down to Tierra del Fuego (including Ushuaia) and back up to Buenos Aires.

3) Europe: riding the United Kingdom North-South and/or riding from Paris or Barcelona, through Switzerland, Eastern Europe and into Turkey (bonus points for a second continent in Istanbul!)

4) Asia: India and Russia both intrigue. perhaps I can wrangle a visit to my company's Hyderabad office, then ride over to Goa and on down the coast to the southern end? Was going to include Moscow to St. Petersburg but Google Earth wouldn't map that trip.

5) Africa: I've always been interested in Kenya and Tanzania and ending up down at the southern end again seems logical.

6) Australia - east coast. Need alternative/better suggestions and ideas for New Zealand.

Remember, I need suggestions for Australia and New Zealand!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Please read Jack Lewis's "Coming and Going On Bikes"

Of all the things we can do during our time here on Earth, the worst thing you can do is try too hard to be safe. It’s only when we accept some risk and strive for the sane (or fun) management thereof, many of us would maintain, that you become fully alive. Motorcycling is an excellent way to shred delusions of immortality, its reward being the most fun you can have without an enamored Scarlett Johansson and a hot tub.

However, one down side to motorcycling is that there are significant periods of time where we can’t engage in this holy madness. Work, which provides the vital source of monetary fuel for our two-wheeled love affair, simultaneously encumbers a significant amount of saddle time. The weather can also interfere, though here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with a climate where you can at least get out for a spin around town almost all year round.

What gets us through those dark days when our mounts stand idle? Motorcycle writers do, by helping us remember dreams that we’ve already lived and plan for our dreams of the future. The best writers can even make us feel like we do while riding, articulating the wordless howls of joy that sound deafeningly in our helmets when a ride is JUST right. That’s why those of us who love books as well as motorcycles are constantly on the prowl for the next Peter Egan, Austin Vince or Ted Simon. Recently, I was fortunate enough to discover the writing of Jack Lewis and these words are meant to get you as excited about finding more of his work as I am.

I’ve probably read a number of articles by Jack in Motorcyclist magazine, since returning to riding. I first realized his talent while browsing bookshelves. I then discovered, to my consternation, that he is also a member of a local motorcycling email list, where a mad job market has consigned me to being a lurker for several years. Later, I found one of his books, “Coming and Going on Bikes” in eBook form and purchased it for my Nook reader. I’m here to recommend that you purchase this astoundingly inexpensive eBook and enjoy it as soon as possible because it is really a very enjoyable reading experience.

In the first section, “Riding Home : Coming Back to the World”, Jack writes about his return from Operation Iraqi Freedom III and his travels aboard a classic BMW motorcycle as he takes the long way home. When he buries the SKS bullet that could have killed him in the deep waters of a reservoir, you’ll want to cheer, as you will again when he reaches his home. And it will make you long for the day when our other brave men and women find their way home.

“What kills Us : Calling in the nine-Line” speaks to motorcyclists who are combat veterans and who are, disturbingly, dying in motorcycle accidents at rates approaching 50% over civilian riders. As Jack illustrates, motorcycles are like weapons in that learning to use them WELL will provide years of riding enjoyment. This is much more appealing than the image of these fine riders dying through lack of the skills that motorcycle riding demands. Seriously people, we want you to come home safe so that we can spend years attending rallies with you!

“Stalin's Revenge” presents interesting information about the BMW-derived Russian-made Ural motorcycle with a sidecar. “Hacked on” follows, with a description of a sidecar class that makes the idea of trying three wheels on a lark sound like a real blast.

“The Bike That Changed My Life” looks at a bike that provided the author important learning opportunities, a Yamaha dual-sport (a versatile type of motorcycle that’s very popular these days). “Stoned to the Bone” follows, with an account of a publicity test ride the author made of the F800GS, one of BMW’s most popular models in recent years and one that I contemplate possibly bringing home in a couple years (unless an analogous Triumph model gets to me first).

Finally, “Dancing with the Devil” looks at the act of motorcycling as a way of choosing real living over the nearly obsessive quest for sanity that seems to obsess our culture. Motorcyclists know that the avocation they love may someday result in serious injury or death, accept and strive to manage this risk at a level that makes sense to them, accepting the moments of pure joy and adventure and judging that enjoyment as better than a life where fear sets the boundaries of our lives instead of us. It is a thoughtful look at what makes motorcyclists tick.

Now please go and buy this book immediately. I think you'll really enjoy it!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Long Way Clown

July 2003 Charley McGregor and Ewan Boorman swagger into the Cat and Fiddle Inn and order some food and a couple pints.

CM: “This is great, these roads are MADE for Gold Wings!”

EB: “Did you see the corner where I almost scraped a peg? Fantastic…”

CM: “Hey, should we take Gold Wings on our trip around the world next year?”

EB: “No, BMW is offering to sponsor us.“

From a nearby table: “You’re taking a big GS around the world? Did you hear about Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa? These ordinary guys rode DR350s ALL around the world….”

EB: “No! I never heard of either of those names.”

CM: “But Ewan, we watch Mondo Enduro over and over….”

EB: “NO!”

Another voice nearby: “If you haven’t seen it, you really should check it out! These guys are awesome, they ride these little bikes everywhere, deal with all kinds of stuff, have great experiences with the locals…”

EB: “How do they carry their Snap On tool chests on DR350s, er, little bike that I’ve never heard of?”

Neighbor: “They don’t, mate. They just take a few tools and improvise…very adaptable people, they are.”

CM: “What kind of support vehicles do they have following them? At least two jeeps, I assume?”

Neighbor: “None. It’s just them and what they carry on their bikes…”

EB: “But how do they transport their doctor and coffee service? How do they watch their Star Wars DVDs?”

Neighbor: “Er, I don’t think they are taking many electronics on the road, maybe some cameras.”

CM: “HA! We’ve got them beat, er, those people whose shows we don’t watch over and over…”

EB: “Tell me, what sort of hard core cardiovascular conditioning and combat training do they do?”

Neighbor: “Er, none. Not a single pelvic tilt.”

CM: “So what sort of director and producer did they hire? Did they get some good scripting for their faux dramatic arguments? I bet the doctor they had accompany them was a REAL drama queen, like the Russian we hired…”

Neighbor: “They didn’t take a doctor. A couple of them get injured and have to pack it in, at least for a while.”

EB: “Any bug bites that swell up and look disfiguring?”

Neighbor: “A couple.”

CM: “Doh!”

EB: “Any socially conscious and relevant discussion of historical sites and how people are alike all around the world?”

Neighbor: “Lots.”

CM: “Damn…”

Neighbor: “You really should watch Mondo Enduro…”


CM: “Any dramatic eating of animal testicles?”

Neighbor: “Not a one…”

EB: “HA!”

Neighbor: “But they did make it across the Zilov Gap in Terra Circa, a couple years back!”

EB: “AHHHH!” (Reaches for light saber that isn’t there, stalks out angrily. Followed by CM)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Triumph Models in Seattle, FINALLY!

Triumph didn't attend 2010's Seattle motorcycle show (nor did BMW or KTM) and I was unable to go to the Vancouver show in January, due to a work crunch. So I was pleasantly surprised to receive hints that Cycle Barn wold be unveiling new Triumph motorcycles today.

And the Triumphs revealed were EXACTLY the bikes I was most interested in seeing: the new Tiger 800 and the new Speed Triple.

First, here's the new Tiger, in all its glory. It's an 800 cc, 3 cylinder bike that takes dead aim at the BMW F800 GS:

This is the 2011 Special Edition Speed Triple:

The white Speed Triple below sports the new 2011 styling, heavy on chassis changes to take advantage of its might motor. The black bike alongside it is identical to my 2009 model. When I sat on this new 2011, it felt lower and more compact than my 2009...its handling is supposed to be fantastic.

After the long wait, it was exciting to finally see these new models first hand. I eagerly look forward to taking them for test rides!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Austin Vince speaking at Touratech USA in just under 2 weeks!

Most adventure/touring motorcyclists have heard of Austin Vince in the context of Mondo Enduro or Terra Circa. Anyway, Austin is visiting the US and will be speaking at Touratech USA in Seattle on Wednesday, March 23:

If you don’t know any of these names, I encourage a look at this page:

Basically, in 1995-1996, these Brits rode DR350s (earlier/smaller versions of the DRZ400) around the world: think Long Way Round and Long Way Down tacked together on small dual-sports. They were unable to make it across the Zilov Gap in Siberia and so went back later and did cross the Gap in the Terra Circa trip.

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