Apr 25, 2012

A Quick One

Last December, Google notified me that my blog had 100,000 hits for the year. That was up almost 90,000 from the previous year. So far, this year it's on track to double that 2011 number. I'm a little overwhelmed. Thank you all.

Translating from English

I mentioned a new on-line British motorcycle magazine a few posts back, The Riders Digest. The April issue is one of the more interesting motorcycling reads I've experienced in years. To give you a taste, the editor wrote a politically incorrect intro about going slightly hooligan on his Suzuki scooter and warned his readers to suck it up if that bothered their gentle sensibilities. An incredibly windy dude, who rightly hides behind the stage name "Anarchy 2012," wrote one of the least informative bike reviews ever penned on the Honda NC700X. My own product reviews have been altered forever after beating my way through the deep brush of his opinions and life history to a seriously unsatisfying conclusion.

A white-haired near-geezer, Paul Browne, wrote one of the most concise and interesting diaries about giving up his job in Ireland and running off to tour the Americas with a hot young thing he'd met as a motorcycle salesman. If I were more jealous, I'd have to hunt him down and lecture him about his total lack of personal responsibility and how he is making the rest of us old farts look sedentary and boring. I do not understand a single sentence of his description of where the money came from for this trip. I could read a whole article explaining how "the Irish government had just paid out on a savings scheme that put a little over twenty grand into each of our pockets" and how quitting his job as a bike salesman earned him "a golden handshake that was enough to buy me a new bike." In the States, the only people who get golden handshakes are execs who know where the company keeps the bodies buried. Seriously, I want to understand where this money came from. I fucking want to retire so badly my feet hurt and I can't see anyway it will happen in my lifetime.

The rest of this issue of The Riders' Digest is as unpredictable and varied as all of motorcycle journalism combined. The magazine swings from one end of us to the opposite without a hitch or apology. Michael Moore's Sicko had a couple of scenes that made me despair that, after all our hoolyballo about being the "home of democracy," England was more democratic than the US. TRD has the same effect on me, motorcycle-wise. I seriously hope this magazine catches on and does some serious damage to the current state of motorcycle journalism. The closest thing to TRD that I've seen in the US was the old Dirt Bike Magazine from the Super Hunky-editing days and the best issues of our own rag, MMM. Getting rid of the paper publishing costs takes some of the risk out of possibly alienating sensitive advertisers, but TRD's website and the PDF magazines are terrific and that can't come for free. Here's hoping this new version of an old magazine sets some new standards.

Guilty Pleasure

I'm not wearing my AD1 pants in this picture because this
was my 3rd attempt at a self-portrait and I was tired of putting
on gear just for a damn picture. I ride AGAT everywhere.
Last April, I loaded up my V-Strom with all three hard cases and rode up to Duluth to check out the Aerostich-Riderwearhouse garage sale. I don't need much motivation to go to Duluth, since I love the city, Aerostich is one of the few examples of incorporation that I believe justifies any societal consideration, and the chance to spend even a few moments with Andy Goldfine is worth four hours on the motorcycle. An Aerostich Garage Sale was just icing on an already over-sweetened cake.

The brilliant folks at Aerostich go through a gauntlet of procedures before something finds its way into the Aerostich Catalog. Lots of cool stuff never makes it to the printer because Andy or someone at Aerostich decides the product isn't right for the Aerostich community. And "community" we are. Those of us who own Aerostich gear are committed to sticking with this stuff that works so well and with the company that has us in mind when they develop new gear or find something they think we "need." That means a lot of almost-good-enough stuff ended up on the garage sale shelves. I came home with all three cases stuffed with stuff that I either bought or had worn to the sale and would be toting back because I would be wearing my new stuff on the ride home.

The buy of the day was a prototype Darien HiVz AD1 jacket (I'm wearing it in this picture.) This incredible jacket, which has still not seen the light-of-production-day, has absolutely replaced my 5 year-old Darien for no reason other than comfort, the HiViz bit, and all-around coolness. The extra-tight nylon outer shell works so well that the Goretex has yet to be tested, even though I've ridden in awesome downpours and a couple of spring snow storms. Water just beads on the surface of this stuff and wind blows it away before the nylon gets damp enough to allow the Goretex to go to work. My old Darien is totally broken in and plenty flexible, after 80,000 miles of use, but something about this jacket is just more comfortable. If I could manage to lose another 20 pounds, it would be even more comfortable.
Andy gearing up for a ride to the Cities in 2009. Definitely,
my favorite picture of one of my favorite people.
Andy tests all of the company's prototype designs, so they are his more svelte size than my more rotund shape. In fact, the chances are good that anytime you see Andy he's testing something for Aerostich. Still, I'd lost about 20 pounds before the garage sale and that was enough to make this a practical jacket for me.

I do feel a little guilty, though, when other riders say they'd love to own some Aerostich gear but can't afford it. This incredible jacket cost me less than I ended up paying for the armor I added to it (new hardshell pads and a back protector). I shouldn't brag about this great buy and this isn't really about that. But just yesterday I was out playing on a favorite dirt road (that's giving this path way more credit than it deserves) north of the cities and went down pretty hard pretending to be a real motorcyclist in a tight sweeper with a bit of a berm. This was my third pass at the corner, so I thought I had it down. The first two times, I got sideways before the apex, so I didn't need the berm to get through the corner. It's been a while since I busted a berm, though, and I wanted to push the corner hard enough to need more than just speedway tactics to get around it.

The berm turned out to be less bermish than I hoped and it caved on me right at the apex, sending me, the WR, and a lot of dirt and gravel into a ditch. Once again, I busted the right side rear turn signal and gouged up the plastic exhaust pipe cover a little more. The signal is easy to fix. The exhaust cover was cheap. I hit my new Aerostich hip pads first, got on to my back in time to slide into the ditch feet first. My beater HJC took a little whack and scooped up enough goo to soak the collar of the Darien. It was a bit chilly and I had the Darien's collar pulled tight, which kept my neck and back dry. Overall, I ended up with my boots wet (about 4" of muck in the bottom of the ditch), pissed off, and slightly less aggressive for the rest of the ride home. My gear protected me from everything but a little soreness this morning. Could have been a whole lot worse. Thanks, once again, to the folks at Aerostich.

PS: Don't tell my wife about this. She's already convinced I'm retarded after dropping the bike yesterday morning when the cold engine stalled on me in the driveway.

Apr 24, 2012

Silly Season

It is officially silly season in Minnesota. There is something about springtime in the frozen north that elevates the price of used motorcycles into the Romney Zone (millionaires only, no others need apply). A list of Craig's list prices is enough to make me want to list both of my bikes. If these characters can get these prices, I should be able to retire on my WR250X and V-Strom: 
  • 1981 Honda cx 500 - $1800 (Dassel)
  • 1980 Honda CX 500 Custom - $1350 (Saint Paul)
  • 1993 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 - $2200 (Waconia, MN)
  • 1972 honda 500/4 low miles - $1500 (st louis park)
  • 1982 Honda SilverWing 500 touring bike with 27k - $1600 (AppleValley)
  • 1982 Ascot 500 - $2000 (south-range Wis.)
  • 1983 Yamaha Virago 500 - $1500 (Columbia Heights)
  • 1979 honda hawk 400 tiwn excellent cond - $1300 (any)
  • 1981 yamaha 400 Special II CLEAN N LOW MILES - $1800 (CRYSTAL)
  • Nice honda XL350 enduro classic dirt bike XL 350 - $1000 (bloomington)
  • 1978 Honda XL 350 - $1200 (Saint Paul)
  • "72 Honda Scrambler CL 350 - beautiful vintage bike! PRICE REDUCED!!** - $2200 (Uptown)
  • 2001 Honda rebel 250 *LOW MILES* - $1700 (Elk River)
  • 1995 Honda CB250 Nighthawk 250 - $1500 (Bloomington, Minnesota)   
  • 1991 HONDA NSR 250 SE - $6600 (BROOKLYN PARK) 
  • 1983 Honda Custom 250 - $1495 (LeSueur) 
  • 1975 Kawasaki 350 Big Horn - $2200 (west metro)
 Oddly, there are some good deals on 650-and-up bikes, but the little stuff has gone nuts. A month ago, there were guys just asking someone to come take the crap out of their garages. Now, every POS beater-bike is a collector's item, a classic, some kind of vintage (so am I), and has historical significance. This is nothing new for me, but it's still funny.

The last one, the 350 Big Horn is personally hilarious. I paid $400 for a like-new 1971 Big Horn in 1971. New price was under $800. This is a genuine POS motorcycle. Rotary-valved 2-stroke with a suspension that makes a kid's little red wagon seem sophisticated. I rode my Big Horn on the Canadian River Cross Country in 1972 and, by the end, I had one working gear (2nd), fork fluid sprayed all over my body, and the damn thing never had brakes but what little it came with were totally gone. $2200 for this POS should include a mobile home, at least. 

Apr 22, 2012

Motorcycle Hostile?

The interior of the Nissan Juke, a trophy supposedly taken from the remains of a
motorcycle "prey" the Juke's driver killed in the commercial. I sort of see
the general outline of something motorcycle-ish, but the gaywad cupholders
do some damage to the credibility of this tough-guy SUV.

There is motorcycle hostile and . . . there is Nissan. According to an ad Nissan ran for a bit in Canada, not only does the really cool Nissan Juke go fast, but it is the ideal tool for killing motorcyclists! Gotta have that. According to the ad, the console was a trophy salvaged from one of the Juke's motorcycle victims. It is one flashy coffee cup holder, gotta give it that. And it does look out of place in the otherwise bland Nissan-ish interior.

At least one other blogger suspects that this ad might have some negative ramifications for motorcycle safety.  Thanks for the heads-up, Paul.

Postscript: After months of being available on-line, Nissan pulled this last piece of evidence that they'd ever advertised motorcyclists were "prey." What a bunch of wimps. 

Apr 21, 2012

So Many Morons, So Little Time

Why do so many retards think this crap is a good idea? A clue might lie in how few of them bother to protect their empty skulls.

Apr 20, 2012

Swappin' Rides

The DL650 sat for a while, at least a month, without a glance. Yesterday, I was due to make about 4 short trips--from 8 miles to 30 miles each--in an afternoon, along with hauling some gear. I decided to park the WR and go with my cruiser. I totally overestimated my toughness or underestimated the weather. Man, it was brisk Thursday! And wet. At about 4PM, I really could have used my electric gear on the way back from the southwest burbs. The bigger shield, the fairing, and even the crash bars kept me slightly warmer than I might have been and the extra hp get me back to civilization (in doors and with a beer in my hand) a bit faster. If I were commuting a lot further, I'd probably ride the DL a lot more often. As it is, it's hard to think about getting rid of a motorcycle that is so versatile and practical.

Apr 15, 2012

The Purdiest Gurl in the Bar

You've heard Hardly riders brag that they "always leave with the purdiest gurl in the bar." Here's the real story:

Simple Maintenance

New sprockets, chain, and rear tire and a thorough cleaning
makes the WR250X look almost cared for. Don't let appearances
fool ya.
There is a rumor that Sev and I are going dirt biking in North Dakota soon. The last time he and I went out, I discovered my Avon Gripsters are mostly worthless in the mud. They aren't totally worn down and I'm cheap, so I almost decided to keep going on the remaining tread until I found a deal on a set of Kenda 705's; almost the same tire but slightly more aggressive. I order the tire on Wednesday and it arrived Friday. (Gotta love Motorcycle Superstore). Saturday, I borrowed Paul Streeter's big-boy tire installing rig (and Paul) and we knocked the tire change out pretty easily.

Unfortunately, as part of scrubbing down the bike and wheel for the tire job, I discovered that the sprockets were worn out and the chain was a little worse for the wear, too. O-ring chains aren't the hot setup for off-road work and this bike has seen some dirt in the last 7600 miles. So, off I went to Dennis Kirk for sprockets and a chain. Two hours later, I'm back home and the chain and sprockets are installed, but I discovered the plastic chain guard "seal" is worn out right at the swingarm, so I ordered one of those (it will be here Wednesday) from my local dealer's website. So, once the parts ordering was finished, I followed the new-improved-and-correct Yamaha procedure (not the one in the owner's manual) for setting the chain slack and had it almost ready to put it all back together. I can get by with the original part until the chain guard/seal shows up.

All dressed up with an infinite number of places to go.
Like an idiot, I decided to change the oil and filter (not quite 3,000 miles on the last change, but "it's only  1 1/2 quarts and $5 for a filter"). Then, I decided to flush the brakes and replace the Yamaha squirrel oil with synthetic fluid. Once I did that, I can't find a good reason not to flush the forks and replace the official Japanese fish oil with more synthetic.

What's left? I found a few things to clean and lube, including the Yamalink bearings and all of the bike's switches and the clutch cable. I gave the little bike one more bolt-checking once-over and decided "enough is enough." The day was slipping away and it was a perfect day to be on the road. It rained while I was doing the maintenance and my favorite dirt roads north of the city would be tacky and a great place to break in a new back tire.

My wife asked, "Why clean it up if you're just going to get it all muddy again?"

"Like Mt. Everest, because it's there." She either did not get the reference or considers me completely crazed. Two hours later, the bike and I are covered in clay and I have put 80 miles on my new oil change and the tire is very broken-in. That's what Sundays are for.

Simply Depressing

Date: 2012-04-13, 8:15PM CDT
Reply to: jr78q-2952917998@sale.craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]

2006 ktm smr 450 street legal supermoto very nice shape, fmf or stock pipe, no turn signals,kickstart only, very fun bike! Just wanna move to a cruiser, $4900 or trade for sportster or other harley..no junk! Can come up with more $ for the right bike...320 469 2155

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Apr 11, 2012

Motorcycle Review: Yamaha WR250X Supermoto

How the poor WR looked when I brought it home in January.
Clipped front and rear fenders, stock seat and graphics,
racerboy decals, and stuffed into the back of a frozen garage.
[A Post-Apocalypse Review, now that Yamaha has dropped the WR250X from their product line for 2012. MMM has no use for reviews about non-existent motorcycles.]
All Rights Reserved © 2011 Thomas W. Day

The Yamaha WR250X is one the very few motorcycles produced in last decade that I would classify as one of my dream bikes. I have loved the WR250X since I first saw it at the 2008 Cycle World International Motorcycle Show. I could barely get on and off of the show sample (the lowest seat height is 35.2"), but I loved the fuel-injected, water-cooled, super-compact multiple purpose bike. Someone called the WR "one-fourth of an R1" and that's a pretty good description. This is one tech'ed-out little bike.
I can't say I loved the $6600 price tag, but the Minnesota winter used market is always an answer to that problem. In the three years since the WR250X arrived, not much has changed (except the usual color parade from '08 blue to '09 black to '10-11 white) to change either my opinion of the supermoto or its performance. It's still a great bike, weighs 300 pounds wet, claims 71 EPA miles-per-gallon (55-60mpg real world), and rocks the twistiest roads. Our tanking economy promised to deliver a fair deal on a WR in the winter of 2010 and it did. Nothing loses value in a depression like recreational vehicles. Taking close to half off of the original price with 18 months of warranty left and only a grand on the odometer, one of the usual suspects came through for me that January.
Racerboy modifications that hit the trash during the
winter rebuild of the WR.
Unfortunately, I broke my rule of avoiding motorcycles previously owned by Kids. Stupidly (on my part), that  Kid managed to hide much of the damage he'd done to the motorcycle in his 8 months and 1200 miles of ownership. It always amazes me how foolishly some people will hack away at superior engineering in search of lower power, more noise, reduced comfort, and degraded handling. Except for a butchered pipe, mangled tail light, hacked up fenders, some critical lost hardware, my WR survived the mishandling in reasonably good condition and I took the rest of the winter to return it to stock condition, plus some touring farkles. The sporty looking shortened fender spit sand and mud in my face, so I decided that all the way back to stock was the best starting point. Between January and April, I pulled messed up parts and replaced them with stock Yamaha bits.
After sorting out the obvious problems on my user-recycled bike, I took it for its first outing in mid-March. I used a simple troubleshooting service call as an excuse to ride my urban assault vehicle through the most messed up dirt roads I could find between here and Forest Lake and I have not had that much fun on a motorcycle since the 70's. While there is no comparison in technology, horsepower, or suspension, I was reminded of my 1973 Rickman ISDT 125 that took me to work on weekdays, to the motocross track and cross-country racing on Sunday, and to the backroads of Nebraska every free day for three years. Like the Rickman, The WR250X can do anything. Unlike the Rickman, the WR does everything I want to do way better than I can do it.
The three section cast-aluminum semi-double-cradle frame (based on the famous WR250F) is the heart of this motorcycle's abilities. The frame is so solid that the bike feels much larger than any 250 I've ridden. I think Yamaha's 450 power plant could drop into this frame with minimal changes and you'd just have a faster motorcycle. At speed, in tight corners, and off pavement, the WR does everything you ask of it and goes anywhere you aim it. The 250cc, four-valve (oversized titanium intake valves), liquid-cooled 4-stroke DOHC, pent-roof combustion chamber, high (11.8:1) compression, electronically-controlled Mikuni 38mm fuel-injected power plant makes a mockery of the "small bike" status. Top speed, GPS verified, in stock form is not much over 80mph. Cruising at 60 is effortless, but keeping up with 75mph freeway traffic feels like moderate abuse. The clutch is surprisingly stiff and has the feel of a toggle switch. The friction zone is tiny, which means this might not be the right bike for a beginner. The front and rear disk brakes are wonderful for the intended purpose. I've heard complaints of fading on the race track, but under the conditions I've used the WR I think they are more than satisfactory. 
Since my first weeks with my WRX were all about maintenance, I got a good look at what taking care of this little bike will entail. Getting to the most frequently maintained parts (air filter, oil filter, valves, fuel pump, radiator, electronics, lights, etc.) is dirt-bike-easy. Yamaha only used a few sizes of Allens, Phillips, and hex bolts and a minimum of tools will get maximum work done. Specialty tools required for clutch, engine, suspension, and transmission work, but for the usual field-repairable problems the tiny tool kit is sufficient.
After living with me for 7 months, this is the
WR in touring form (big gun, optional).
The big deficiency, in my mind, of the WR bikes is the two gallon fuel capacity. At 55-60mpg the bike manages about 90 miles before the reserve mileage reserve warning trips, but running out of gas is sometimes the death of electric fuel pumps. I haven't had the guts to test the max distance of my WRX, but I once made it to 130 miles before I wimped out. The WR's miles-past-reserve odometer that gives you some indication of how far you've travelled since that fuel pressure point was past. Ideally, I'd like to get a couple hundred miles before desperately needing civilization. So, I added the IMS 3.1 gallon accessory tank and the Acerbis locking cap, which pushed the bike's range to around 150 conservative miles. There are at least two aftermarket greater-than-4.0 gallon tanks available, but I decided to limit myself to what I'm really likely to need between fuel stops. I can always carry accessory fuel bottles.
To the additional fuel capacity I added the ML2 YamLink rear suspension lowering link, Wheeling Cycle's step seat, the stock Yamaha luggage rack, Acerbis Rally Handguards, a Giant Loop Diablo tank bag, a small MotoFizz tail bag (for commuting), a Giant Loop Coyote saddlebag (for touring), a bike alarm, a RAM GPS mount, and a Flatland bashplate. A taller-than-me rider would need to do a lot less work on the WR to make it right. The stock Bridgestone Battleaxe BT090 rear tire had been completely chicken-stripped by the previous owner, so I went for Avon Gripster replacements to increase the bike's off-pavement capability and add some tire longevity for touring.
Near the end of my farkling, it appears that I have a tiny touring bike and the hippest commuter machine I've ever touched. Based on the wild variations of modifications I've seen from other WR owners, it's obvious that the WR250R/X is a farkle magnet. You could fill a good sized catalog with all of the exhaust systems, suspension parts, fuel tanks, custom seats, accessories and modification parts, and cosmetic crap being sold for this one motorcycle.
A 2008 WR250X in full commuter form. Ready for work.
On technical roads, the WRX is nothing but fun. The first "short" ride I took was out to a friend's studio in Forest Lake; 20 miles out and 20 back. Somehow, the 20 back turned into 140 miles on a 38oF March afternoon. From then on, every time I took the WR out for a short ride, it turned into double the distance or more. I put on more unnecessary miles on this motorcycle than I have since I rode my V-Strom to Alaska a few years back. I brought the WR to one of the MSF instructor's events and played around on the police training course at Dakota County. The Gripsters stuck nicely to clean pavement and the bike/tire combination slides controllably when the road surface gives way. Top speed wasn't anywhere near the average on that course, but I found myself waiting for the bigger bikes to get out of the way on the straights so I could have room to play in the corners.
The WR is most everything I hoped it would be, except for the fuel efficiency issue. I took the little dude around Lake Superior last summer and the WR did fine, although the bike was overkill for those straight, oversized, boring roads. I may need to move to the mountains or to Wisconsin's letter roads. The bad news is Yamaha dropped the WR250X from the line in 2012. One dealer at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show told me, "Yamaha dropped the only 250 I can sell." That may mean that used prices on the WRX could take a jump when the general riding public realizes it is a rare bike.
  • Displacement: 250.00 ccm (15.26 cubic inches)
  • Engine type: Single cylinder, four-stroke
  • Compression: 11.8:1
  • Bore x stroke: 77.0 x 53.6 mm (3.0 x 2.1 inches)
  • Fuel system: Injection Fuel control: DOHC
  • Ignition: Direct ignition coil
  • Cooling system: Liquid
  • Gearbox: Constant-mesh 6-speed; multiplate wet clutch
  • Final drive: Chain
  • Front suspension: Fully adjustable, inverted fork, 10.6 inch suspension travel
  • Rear suspension: Fully adjustable, single shock, 10.4 inch suspension travel
  • Front tire dimensions: 110/70-17
  • Rear tire dimensions: 140/70-17
  • Front brakes: 11.7 inch single disc
  • Rear brakes: 9 inch single disc
  • Weight: 298 pounds wet
  • Seat height: 35.2 inches at the  lowest setting.
  • Ground clearance: 10.2 inches
  • Wheelbase: 56.1 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 2.00 gallons

Apr 7, 2012

Call Me "Doubting Thomas"

My MMM editor, Sev, is convinced that I hold grudges for too long. I hadn't thought about this much, but after our conversation and a recent event I realized that he's right about the first half. Regarding the second part of that assumption, I think I hold my grudges for exactly the right amount of time. The conversation began when I doubted the validity of the surface-skimming review we recently published on the Hyosung GT250. The two page love-fest-without-a-fault puff piece seemed to be more of a marketing blurb than an MMM review. Even the loud exhaust system was given a PR polishing ("I had to repeatedly look behind me to see what big bike was coming up on me. The exhaust sounding so powerful, I was sure I was going to get lapped."). The oversized picture of the vintage-looking GT showed too much detail because the marginal quality welds were obvious even in black-and-white. The positive side of the review was that it appeared to be, mostly, promoting a good local dealer; Mill City Motors. The negative side was that it appeared to be more of an apology to Hyosung than an actual critical review.

My history with Hyosung has to get in my way, though. That's where this discussion began. The fact is, I am a firm believer in "Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me." I don't forgive and forget easily. In my studio service business, I have an unbending policy that says if you don't pay me 60 day after I invoice you, the next time you need me I'll ask for a retainer before I leave home. If I don't get it, I don't do the work. If you manage to find a way to stiff me for any amount of money, I'll block your telephone number from my business and any email will go directly to the Junk folder and be automatically trashed. I'm old. I have more work than I want. I don't need new customers and people who don't pay their bills don't even qualify as "customers." They're just freeloaders.

I was reminded of my habit, again, this past week. I did some audio work for MPR and the school where I work with students from one of my classes. We've done this project a half-dozen times with some pretty substantial local bands in the past. The most recent event was with a very local band with a minimal following and who drew a couple dozen people to the show we recorded. Afterwards, the band went prima donna on us and inserted themselves into an "approval" process of the show that will probably result in the the show's cancellation. Honestly, that works for me. And from here out, if I'm asked to do anything with that group or the group's members, I'll find somewhere else to be. Burn me once . . . you know the story.

I've applied the same logic to my vendors for decades. In the motorcycle world, I've been burned twice on motorcycles: once on a brand new 1974 Suzuki RL250 and once on a barely used 1986 Kawasaki KLR600. Both bikes were unreliable crap and the Suzuki actually cost me a bit of money when I had next-to-none. It was the second new motorcycle (and the last) I've owned. I bought it in 1974 for $1,100 and a year later Suzuki dropped the price on the RL to $700 to unload their 1974 inventory and bail out of trials forever. Obviously, I took a beating; value-wise. I didn't consider owning another Suzuki until the SV650 had been well shaken out and I bought a nearly new 1999 in 2000 for about 1/2 of Blue Book. I bought my 2nd Suzuki in 2006, when I bought my barely used DL-650 for 2/3 of Blue Book. The Kawasaki was a POS from the day I bought it and the longer I owned it, the more disappointing it was. Even selling that bike was a problem. I didn't own another Kawasaki until I bought my 2000 KL250, used and cheap, in 2005. That bike was also a disappointment and I don't expect to own that brand again. Compare those experiences with my Honda, Yamaha, and, even, Rickman/Zundapp bikes and I'm uninspired to experiment again.

There is a restaurant rule that says something like, "It takes $5,000 in advertising to get a customer to try a new restaurant and 5 seconds of poor service to push that customer back out the door. It will take 5 years of marketing to get that customer to try it again." Choose your numbers, but the fact is in a world with lots of options, you don't get a lot of chances to satisfy your customers. There are no do-overs in life or business. I may be a "moto-journalist," but that doesn't make me a sucker or a shill. I'm too old and too cranky to kiss up to a half-assed Korean manufacturer of questionable quality or character. I'll give them a decade and we'll see if they are still around to review after they've settled in a bit.

There are a collection of manufacturers that I won't buy from, based on past experience and an overwhelming number of acceptable alternatives: Tascam, Sony, Presonus, Adobe, MOTU, Toshiba (Toughbooks aren't), and ProCo are among the list. The list of companies I look for when buying is probably a lot longer. I'd bet you have your biases, too. I bet even Sev has a few. Why should I pretend to be different than I am? Why would I want to?

A Cool New Little Guy

Honda CBR250R

All Rights Reserved © 2011 Thomas W. Day
[Note: This review ran in the April Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Issue. I've included it here because I thought the article and pictures might be interesting to my readers.]
The beautiful and highly ergonomic Honda CBR250R
parked in front of an ancient Minnesota concrete
religious totem.

What do you do when you get a chance to ride a motorcycle you've been drooling over, but you can only have it for 100 miles? It's tough finding twisty, technical roads within 50 miles of Lakeville's Motoprimo, but finding the kind of roads and traffic a rider will encounter as a daily commuter bike was an easy task. I decided to ride to Red Wing for lunch.

The CBR250R is a 369 pound, single-cylinder, small sportbike with a lot of technology under the tank. The 23-hp CBR idles at 1500 rpm and, hauling my 200+ pounds from a dead stop stop required spinning the motor up to 3,000 rpm with some clutch work for smooth and quick transitions. If you like motorcycles with lots of low end torque, this won't be your can of oil. At a radar-verified 60mph the engine is turning 6,200 rpm. The motor is still pulling in 6th gear above 70mph, so I think the little 250 is a capable commuter. Redline and the rev-limiter coexist at 10.5k.

Unlike a couple of motorcycles I've test ridden for MMM,
the CBR250R has almost nothing in common with this Ford
Tractor. I just thought they looked cool together. I have a
personal history with Ford tractors from this period and with
people who ride motorcycles that sound like badly-tuned
Honda claims there are 27 patents behind the power plant's motor, so this is an unusual little engine. The fuel injection makes itself known from when you turn the key as the bike goes through it's self-inspection routine while the fuel pump powers up. The engine fires up on the first bump of the starter and pulls evenly at all engine speeds and with all but the most unrealistic loads (like hauling my butt up Red Wing's Prairie Island Blvd in 6th gear).  The first break-in tank burned fuel at a 55mpg rate and I would expect that to improve slightly with age.

The six-speed transmission is smooth, positive, and flawless. The clutch is light with a large, predictable friction zone that should be extremely new-rider-friendly. Shifting the CBR was as effortless and intuitive as any motorcycle I've ever ridden. The power train is incredibly smooth. I had a hard time "feeling" the engine speed and found myself checking the tach regularly to verify my gear selection.

Unlike a lot of fully-faired modern bikes, it's
not hard to imagine the CBR250R naked.
The front and rear disk brakes are strong, but have an extremely progressive feel. If you make an effort you can haul the bike down from 60 to 0 quickly, but Honda has designed the CBR to be new-rider-friendly and that means the brakes are more "friendly" than "aggressive." They do the job well, but they won't surprise you if you are a little heavy handed.

The firm, seat, narrow frame, and modified sportbike riding position produces an adult-comfortable sport-riding stance that allows the rider some freedom of movement. I was comfortable on the firm seat and could have done at least another 150 miles for the day. The riding position is a little hard on old knees, but less so than a full-out sportbike. The CBR does lean you into the wind, so if your abs and back muscles aren't providing support, your arms will and you'll fatigue quickly as a result.

The passenger seat is small, but acceptable and the passenger riding position is sporty and tolerable. Two-up capacity is limited, with a 365 pound max load.

The CBR's console is functional and basic.
The suspension is more like the sort found on standard bikes, rather than the firm and short-travel suspenders sport bikers suffer. The suspension sucked up railroad tracks and County Road 46's cobbly surface without delivering much of the impact to the rider. Under all that plastic is a pretty cool looking trellis-frame with the engine as a stressed member of the structure. I expect a lot of hip looking naked bikes will evolve from used CBR250's in a few years. The CBR's structure is exceptionally stiff, which results in a small, lightweight bike that feels a lot larger than I expected. The bike is stable at highway speeds, while remaining nimble and quick for the usual urban traffic situations. The suspension, frame, and motor all serve to keep vibration and shock to the rider minimized.

The CBR's console is full of useful information, without being cluttered. At the center of attention is the large tachometer, which might be Honda's hint that this motor needs to spin to work. The console has a large speedometer in the middle of the digital information, surrounded by a clock, fuel gauge, switchable odometer and trip odometers and a reserve fuel odometer, and temp gauge. Moving away from the center, you find the turn signals and the usual array of idiot lights. The fairing works surprisingly well, with the smallish windshield pushing air up to my shoulders without noticeable turbulence at the helmet. The long-stem, fairing mounted mirrors are incredibly adjustable, but you may not be able to find a setting that lets you see closely following vehicles.

The "tool kit" is a sad commentary on
modern motorcyclists.
Under the passenger seat, the CBR's tool kit is sparse: consisting of a helmet cable and a 4mm Allen wrench. There is a good sized locked compartment under the passenger seat for more tools and a thoughtful accommodation for a large "U-lock." Two Allen screws and the seat is off, which exposes the battery, air filter, and fuses. The fairing panels are removed with 3 Allen screws, one on the side and two on the inside of the front of the panel, and three snap tabs. Once the right side fairing is removed, the radiator is accessible. You have to pull the lower fairing to get to the oil filter, but the oil drain plug is exposed without plastic removal and it takes about 1 1/2 quarts of oil for a change. Honda recommends 8,000 mile oil changes, 12,000 mile air filter replacement, and 16,000 valve adjustments. Service appears to be an infrequent consideration for this little "dependable cross-town or cross-country" motorcycle. Parts are priced fairly, too. All of the major plastic bits run from about $14 to $60, including the windscreen, resulting in cheap repairs compared to similar motorcycle plastic.

If you know Honda's past 250cc sport bikes, the CBR will be a surprise. It is very different from the VTR250 Honda imported in the late 80's. The CBR feels larger, more suited to an adult, and the motor isn't as peaky as the VTR. You can't connect the dots between the 250 Nighthawk and the CBR, either. The Nighthawk was an air-cooled standard parallel twin and it was infamous for running hot and being carburetion-ally temperamental. The CBR is less standard and the fuel injection takes a hard swipe at starting and jetting tantrums. The new CBR is lighter, more rider-friendly, smoother, more versatile, and higher-tech than its predecessors.

Honda has aggressively price-positioned the CBR. The sticker price is exactly the same as tag pasted to Kawasaki's 250 Ninja. ABS adds another $500 and is a real improvement in rider safety.  That is a lot of technology for the buck. Kawasaki may have to step up the Ninja's game to stay in the race. Honda can add a seat cowling for the passenger seat, a carbon fiber tank pad and fuel lid cover, a tail pack, and several aftermarket companies offer exhaust systems and slip-ons, mirrors, cosmetics kits, and tune-up components.

I'm a 250-kind-of-guy and my regular commuter is my WR250X. The CBR250R is dramatically different than my WR. The CBR is smoother, more comfortable at freeway speeds, presents a more forgiving motor and clutch, and has a lower seat height. When I returned the Honda to Motoprimo, Dean Cross asked, "Did you like it?" My first response was "What's not to like?" This is a really fun motorcycle with a lot of potential. So, thanks for asking and for giving MMM the opportunity to test ride this very cool motorcycle. 



  • Engine Type: 249.4cc, 23.7hp, DOHC; four valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke
  • Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
  • Fuel Injection: PGM-Fi, 38mm throttle body
  • Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
  • Transmission: six-speed
  • Front Suspension: 37mm fork
  • Rear Suspension: Pro-Link single shock with five positions of spring preload adjustability
  • Front Brake: Single 296mm disc
  • Rear Brake: Single 220mm disc
  • Front Tire: IRC Road Winner 110/70-17 radial
  • Rear Tire: IRC Road Winner 140/70-17 radial
  • Rake & Trail : 25.0 degrees & 95mm
  • Wheelbase: 53.9 inches
  • Seat Height: 30.5 inches
  • Curb Weight: 359 pounds. includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel-ready to ride.
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
  • Estimated MPG: 77 MPG EPA
  • Available Colors: Me
  • tallic Black, Red/Silver
  • Price: $3999 MSRP

Apr 4, 2012

The Clued and the Clueless

Milagro, a Spanish photographer's blogpage, has an incredible series of pictures of Sir Valentino Rossi sliding through a high speed corner. Paul Young turned me on to a Knee Slider's page where a bunch of folks discussed the apparent optical illusion or physical impossibility of this entry line called, "How the Gods Ride."

Most of the commentators were awestruck and moderately to extremely insightful, but one was, to my eyes, incredibly silly and more than a little arrogant, "He’s squaring the corners like they do in motocross. They are able to do this with all the electronics they have, in the old days it would bite and fling you, today it’s the best electronics package that wins…." Some people have an amazing image of themselves that is only reflected in their drug-induced hallucinations. From the outside, they just appear to be squids without a clue. Clearly this character never saw Rossi ride before the ride-by-wire packages.

6 Things Nobody Tells You aout Owning a Motorcycle

This Cracked.com article is a pretty funny look at being a motorcyclist. I stumbled on it while I was trying to Google-search one of my own articles. Apparently, the only way to find me on Google is to know who I am, what the title of my article was, and be very, very lucky.

Apr 1, 2012

2012 Bikes I'd like to Review

My MMM editor asked what bikes I'd like to review for 2012. Here's my short list (any suggestions?):

  • 2012 Ninja 250 
  • Beta 350RS 
  • Bimoto DB10B Motard 
  • Any of the Honda NC700 models 
  • Honda CBR125R 
  • Any Ural model 
  • Piaggo X10 350 
  • Any Kimco from 200cc up 
  • Any street-legal Husky, especially the new supermotos 
  • V-Strom 650/1000 with ABS 
  • DRZ400SM 
  • Suzuki Inazuma 250 (probably not coming here this year) 
  • KTM 200 
  • Duke Triumph Tiger 800XC 
  • Anything from Zero or the Brammo Engage Supermoto


Absolutely no motorcycle content here, but I love this song and the video is pretty amazing, too. If this song had been around when I was racing, it would have been one of my "gate songs." I had the opportunity to record Motion City Soundtrack at a college event a few months ago. These guys still rock.

And You Want to Know Why People Hate Motorcyclists?

Everything about this douche explains why everyone from nurses to kindergarten teachers hate motorcyclists. I want to beat myself with a chain just for being linked to this guy by two wheels. I do love his little do-rag getup, though. I wonder if he makes pancakes with more skill than he rides a bike? Can you say "flaming?" [If you can't stand listening to this fruitcake, jump to the end for the best part of the video.]

Too bad he didn't test the do-rag in that brainless get-off. We might have seen how much unused space he has inside that goofy skull. Now I'm even more in favor of helmets laws. Not for the safety factor, but for the beautification of our roads and streets. The less time we have to spend looking at characters like this, the better off the world is.

Change of Life

After 50 years of despising all things "vintage," I have become a convert. It was love at first sight. I loved the chrome, I loved the twin Amal carburetors. I loved the steering lock and the absolutely necessary for any sense of stability steering damper. Nothing could have inspired more confidence than the long fuel tank and extreme rear-set footpegs, requiring me to lean into the wind as if I was launching myself into a tornado.

Sure, there is a little oil on the floor under the motor. It wouldn't be British without a leak or two. The near total absence of suspension travel was inspiring when I leaned the bike into a corner. After my test ride, I learned that the Girling shocks had drained themselves and the previous owner decided the bike worked best with the suspension lightened of unnecessary lubricants. I can see that and the ride is proof to the theory.

The electrics are superb. Lucas from headlight to taillight and the finest English electrical components throughout. The bike starts as easily as the space shuttle and with no more energy required than that super high tech device requires. Place your right foot on the kicker and give it a boot and, once again for good measure, and, another time to be sure you really mean it, and . . . the German-made aftermarket $2,200 electric start option was well worth the investment.

We, my wife and I, decided that this would be our retirement plan and our vacation budget for the rest of our lives. I took all of my life savings and poured it into this project as if I was a Republican Representative and was writing a tax credit for every robber baron, every oil company, and every little Paris Hilton and G.W. Bush who would ever be born. So far, we're at $117,544.77 and the project is almost finished. I'm sure it is a solid investment because this is the British equivalent of a Harley Davidson. What could go wrong?

April Fools