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How I Got Here...


Draig

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How did I get here?

 

I found myself in one of the most blessed places to ride motorcycles: California. Say what you want about the “Left Coast”, especially the northern part, but with roads snaking into the Sierras and her foothills and the extended riding season, I was soon considering a return to motorcycling after a ten-year hiatus.

 

I was in the casual first stages of hunting a good, late-model Kawasaki Concours when I happened upon `91 VFR750 with over 60,000 miles on the clock. Somewhat cosmetically challenged, the bike nonetheless proved an excellent re-entry vehicle for me. And the price was right.

 

I'd still be riding it today but for two things. The riding position put too much pressure on my hands. After 45 minutes of grinding out one slow-speed turn after another in the hilly places near my home, I'd begin to loose feeling in my right hand. This is not good when you're negotiating a blind turn requiring precise throttle modulation, and it's just darned uncomfortable. The other reason was that my wife, game as she was, was unhappy with the lack of security she felt atop the VFR's passenger accommodations. It's a lovely bike, but generally speaking it's a solo mount.

 

I made a list possible replacements. BMW R1200RT, Harley-Davidson Road Glide, Honda ST1300, Kawasaki Concours (14) and Yamaha's FJR1300. Those of us who grew up taking standardized tests might key-in on that list. The odd-duck is the Harley.

 

Harley-Davidson's Road Glide had several things going for it in my book. Simplicity in design is a motorcycle's friend. The fewer parts thrashing about, the fewer the chances something will get out of hand. Harley does simplicity really well. Air cooling means no water pump, radiator, hoses or attendant seals to fail. Hydraulic valves never need adjustment. And the belt final drive is efficient, light weight and virtually maintenance free until it needs replacement. They are easy to maintain. No plastic to persuade out of the way for servicing, just straight forward and easily accessible. Parts are cheap and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a Harley dealer in the face. They seem easy to own and Harley has cultivated a huge and loyal following, a great community of riders.

 

But they don't offer ABS on any of their civilian models. Now, I can understand the demands of aesthetics and where in the world can you hide such a contraption on say, a Dyna or Softail? But their touring rigs can easily hide the necessary equipment without unduly modifying the lines of the bike. Also, their tanks only hold five gallons of gas, restricting them to maybe 200 miles before they need to fill up again. There was talk in one Harley forum about re-routing a trip through some of the lonelier parts of Nevada for the bike’s lack of range. The determined individual can pack extra gas in storage bottles to make it to the next gas station. Another surprise was the low carrying capacity. For all their displacement, size and mass I would have though the Road Glide capable of carrying much more than it evidently can. Finally, the Road Glide starts at over $18,000. Add a tour pack and you're well on your way past twenty-grand.

 

Yamaha's FJR1300 is another pretty bike, but it seemed more sport-oriented that what I was after.

Also, the Yamaha dealers in my area would not let me sit on an FJR1300 without buying it first. See ya.

 

After twenty years Kawasaki figured it had fully amortized the tooling for the first Concours, and it was time for a re-design. Much about the old Connie appealed to my sense of economy. At $8,600 new, the 2005 Councours was less than half the price of a new BMW RT. Some may argue about whether the lower price is worth the dearth of amenities. But come on, the bike is stone reliable. Alas the update, the much-anticipated Concours 14 disappointed me in that it was less about touring than winning a hairy-chested horsepower contest with the FJR. Kawasaki has a reputation for building scary-fast bikes with unpolished handling, and the new Concours, with it's delays to the dealer floor, smallish gas tank and honkin' 1400 cc motor didn't strike me as worth waiting for.

 

Honda's ST1300 was easily the strongest competition to the RT in my opinion. I could probably get a really good deal on what by all accounts is a wonderfully smooth, refined and well-balanced sport touring bike. Some have complained in the forums about the prodigious heat the V-4 puts out, or about the occasional problems with rear wheel bearing failures. Many of those who bought one, love it. It has a positively huge gas tank giving it a long reach.

 

In spite of claims to the contrary on Honda's web site, not one of the dealers in my area was giving test rides. Some cited liability issues, others simply didn't or wouldn't have one on hand. Honda has been somewhat tone-deaf when it comes to it's customers. The regulator-rectifier issues that simmered for years among the VFR crowd comes to mind. But I did manage to sit on a used example in Pennsylvania. It felt familiar, which is to say that there was considerable weight on my hands. I thought the seat was rock-hard. No cruise control to rest my right hand, familiar (bad) ergonomics and a harsh seat meant that to make this thing all it can be for me, some serious farkling was needed. And I just don't have the time for that.

 

So it was that after a test ride last year, the shortcomings of its competitors and the generally more pleasant attitude of the BMW dealerships I visited, I purchased the new 2007 R1200RT.

 

Everyone, say hello to my little friend.

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Welcome to the Board and congratulations on your new RT. Did you say "swinging a dead cat"? Tony K on the board is not going to like that (see his avatar). Sounds like you did your homework and found the best product for you. No better way to do it. Where are you located in Ca.? Maybe we will see you on the road. Have fun with your new friend.

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Welcome to the Board and congratulations on your new RT. Did you say "swinging a dead cat"? Tony K on the board is not going to like that (see his avatar). Sounds like you did your homework and found the best product for you. No better way to do it. Where are you located in Ca.? Maybe we will see you on the road. Have fun with your new friend.

 

Sorry about the dead cat reference. In spite of my allergies to that particular protein in their saliva, I like cats.

 

I propose a new measurement standard: the dc, which is about 2 feet plus the length of a man's arm. This is about the distance from where ever you're standing to the nearest Harley dealership, less the length of your arm.

 

Tomorrow the bike goes in for it's 600 mile service.

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Everyone, say hello to my little friend.

First things, first - "Hello, little friend."

 

...the Yamaha dealers in my area would not let me sit on an FJR1300 without buying it first. See ya.

Yep, yep and yep. I can't stand dealers who put signs on the bike - "DO NOT TOUCH. DO NOT SIT."

 

I asked one dealer (FJR1300, if I recall) if it was "okay to try one on for size?"

"Only if you're serious about buying it."

"Not any more," I said as I walked out.

 

Meanwhile, at my friendly BMW haunt, they've practically picked me up, sat me on a bike and pointed me to the door. thumbsup.gif

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