Nov 30, 2013

Thanks Guys

New Picture (3)

Once again, motorcyclists are assholes. I’m glad to see this lady beat the crap out of this douchebag. I’m disgusted that people like this are riding motorcycles and living to tell about it.

MOTORCYCLE REVIEW: 2009 Kawasaki Versys KLE650

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

Gus handed over the Versys at about 8PM on a rare temperate early April evening. Our test bike was decked in Kawasaki's Candy Lime Green, which was a nice thought after this particularly nasty winter. The weather was perfect, mid-70s, but the sun was going down fast. I had been fighting off a cold or flu all day long, but I thought I’d take a chance on getting in some early evening and night miles before calling it a day.

The Versys is truly a “naked bike” and the tiny shield provides minimal wind protection. Still, I immediately liked the Versys during the downtown freeway-cager-dual. The skinny profile, high seat (33.1"), standard knee-bend, well-positioned mirrors, and quick throttle response puts the rider in a good position to survive urban traffic pitfalls. I headed north of the cities and tooled around a couple of familiar small lake roads.

I compare everything to my V-Strom’s lights and the KLE650 compared well. I’m not a fan of night riding, but if I absolutely had to cover some miles at night the Versys’ lights would make it safe and reasonably comfortable. I kept an eye out for hoofed rats and put in about 60 miles before calling it a night.  The nicely tucked-in signal lights do their job, too.

versys1 When I pulled into my garage, I took some time to scope out the Versys’ details. The console is ergonomically neat and useful.  The front suspension gives 5.9" of travel and the rear is good for 5.7", pretty similar to adventure touring numbers. The shock has adjustments for the spring preload and rebound damping, as do the forks. The underseat territory exposes easy access to a small tool bag, owners' documents, the battery, fuse holder, and a pair of helmet hooks. There is room under the seat for a decent tool kit. Both levers are adjustable to fit your reach and style of shifting and braking. The rear brake is also conveniently adjustable. After a few moments of fooling with the controls, I had the bike feeling as familiar as my regular ride. The air filter is hidden deep under the tank and plastic, which makes cleaning of that oiled screen device slightly cumbersome. The stainless exhaust/catalyzer is brilliantly contained under the engine, with the output aimed at the ground adding an additional bit of noise suppression that will irritate the loud pipe punks into feats of engineering foolishness. From the side, it looks like the convoluted under-engine exhaust is protected by a bashplate, but it’s just a cosmetic plastic panel hiding the pipe. The exhaust shape does, however, eliminate most of the aftermarket centerstand options. versys-6

It's hard not to compare the Versys to my V-Strom, so I'll just give in to that fault and make the best of it. The Kawasaki is 28 pounds lighter and has a 5 1/2" shorter wheelbase and a seat height that is 1" taller than the Suzuki. That results in a bike that feels smaller and more nimble. In the garage, standing next to my V-Strom, the Versys looks unnaturally svelte, or the V-Strom looks like something that would invite a verse or two of Sir Mix Alot's "I Like Big Butts." The Versys' narrow profile is perfect for urban commuting, especially if you are lucky enough to live somewhere enlightened enough to allow filtering and lane-splitting.

According to Kawasaki's marketing literature, the Versys (marketing-cutesy-speak for "Versatile System") is a sportbike. The suspension, upright riding position, tall seat height, and styling hint at something else. The KLE650 may be competition for the V-Strom, but the Versys is a different animal. Gus compared it to the early 90's Yamaha 850 TDM, although it might be even closer to the intent of the 900 TDM that Yamaha has kept selling right up to 2009 in Europe and other civilized parts of the world. Kawasaki is not aiming the Versys at the KLR adventurer touring crowd the way Suzuki pointed the V-Strom. This is more of an adventure commuting bike. The roughest road Kawasaki probably intended for the Versys would be cobblestones or practically any St. Paul residential street. The Rest of the World has enjoyed the Versys' ancestor—the KLE500 parallel twin adventure touring bike—since 1991 and, in 2007, Kawasaki replaced and upgraded that versatile vehicle with the 650 which made it to the US in the 2008 lineup.

Kawasaki says, “The Versys was created for pavement riding on back-roads and city roads. As a result, the fuel injection system was . . . fully mapped so the mid-range from 3000-6000 revs would receive a nice and strong response from the throttle.”  I expected a little more bottom end performance, but once I got used to having to rev the motor above my usual shift points I found plenty of performance in the 650 twin. On the highway, 6th gear at 4000rpm = 55mph and 5000 = 70mph. At the end of the shifting cycle, the bike always felt like it could use another gear, but that was partially because I was trying to take it easy during the break-in miles. The mid-sized twin rolls smoothly away from stops at anything over 2000rpm and the power was usable near 1500rpm. If you downshift late, you'll still have plenty of power to pull smoothly through the tightest corners. During my ride, the Versys got 45.5mpg over a wide range of plugging-along-in-town and hauling-ass country road miles.

versys-3 For my test ride, I headed north out of St. Paul into the countryside. The view from the seat is unobstructed by the tiny shield and "clean air" is all that hits your helmet, since the shield is too low to provide coverage or turbulence above mid-section. Taking my favorite two-lanes toward Taylor's Falls, I kept a light hand on the new engine while getting a feel for the bike's handling. Winding my way to Red Wing, I had nothing but fun trying to find the Versys' limits on Wisconsin's county Letter Roads.  Like the late-80's Honda 650 Hawk, the Versys chassis is up for anything the motor can deliver. That adds up to a confidence-inspiring ride providing challenge for experienced riders and fun for newbies. On the way up the viewpoint in Red Wing, I almost touched a toe in the switchbacks. Maybe later in the season, I'll be able to push the bike hard enough to make it work a little, but in April I'm lucky to have moments of mild competence. On the way back from Red Wing, I slipped up and found myself on a fairly hostile gravel road and the Versys handled it at least as well as my V-Strom. I think there is an adventure touring bike barely under the surface of the KLE650's sportbike veneer.

 versys-9 No perfect day goes uncontaminated. By late afternoon, I'd managed to evolve my earlier symptoms into a full blown flu. On a sunny 50oF day, I was shivering from chills, my joints ached, I'd filled the helmet with snot, and I'd coughed and sneezed so often that my face shield was opaque. Even with all of those complaints, the Versys was comfortable. In fact, I think the KLE650's is fitted with the first Japanese factory seat that I think could be described as "competent." I'd put in about 300 miles and 8 hours on the bike with my loaded 'stich courier bag slung across my back for my first "long" ride of the season and my knees still worked, my back was no worse for the wear, and I'd had fun. 

In the August issue, Motorcyclist Magazine called the 2008 Versys the "Motorcycle of the Year," which created a blast of late season arguments. When a Versys found its way to the middle of the campground at last year's Boring Rally, it drew a crowd of admirers. Before the recession hit, Kawasaki was bombarded by an email campaign asking the company to bring the Versys to the US. If the economy doesn't do in this effort from Kawasaki, the Versys ought to be a hit. With an MSRP of $7,099, the Versys is priced $400 below Suzuki's popular V-Strom.

Accessory/farkle manufacturers have been busy creating add-ons for the KLE650. Kawasaki/MRA are providing larger windshields and an adjustable top spoiler. GIVI has created tall windshields, luggage, and rear racks. Several companies make aftermarket seats. Zeta offers the XC Deflector handguards with an "optional LED flasher strip." You can buy suspension lowering kits. The usual suspects make hooligan-style exhaust and slip-on systems. For the adventurer touring crowd, Mototoys of Australia makes a stylish bashplate and at least one US farkle supplier is working on a centerstand.


Maximum Torque 44.9 lb/ft @6,800 rpm
Cooling Liquid
Fuel Injection Digital fuel injection with two 38mm Keihin throttle bodies
Ignition Digital CDI
Transmission 6-Speed
Final Drive O-Ring Chain
Frame Semi-double cradle, high-tensile steel
Rake/Trail 25°/4.3 in.
Front Tire Size 120/70-17
Rear Tire Size 160/60-17
Wheelbase 55.7
Front Suspension / wheel travel 41mm hydraulic telescopic fork with adjustable rebound and preload / 5.9 in.
Rear Suspension / wheel travel Single offset laydown shock with adjustable rebound and spring preload / 5.7 in.
Front Brake Type Dual 300mm petal discs with two-piston caliper
Rear Brake Type Single 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliper
Fuel Tank Capacity 5.0 gal.
Seat Height 33.1
Curb Weight 454.1 lbs.
Overall length 83.7 in.
Overall width 33.1 in.
Overall height 51.8 in.
Color Candy Plasma Blue, Candy Lime Green
Warranty 12 months
Good Times™ Protection Plan 12, 24, 36 or 48 month

Nov 29, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW: MotoFizz Camping Seat Bags

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day


Partially loaded, fully compressed (minimum size) large MotoFizz camping seat bag.

I snagged this bag late in 2006, moments after the riding season ended. On a trip to Duluth and a visit to Aerostich RiderWearhouse. I had some assistance in picking out a seat bag that I should have listened to more closely. Andy Goldfine, the wizard behind all things Aerostich, showed me a collection of seat bags and suggested, several times, that I might want to consider a bag that was more waterproof than the MotoFizz bags. I, however, kept bringing him back to the strongest selling point of the MotoFizz bag; "this one has a coffee thermos holder." After trying to convince me that I didn't need the large bag, but would find the small or medium MotoFizz bags held more than enough gear, Andy gave up and acknowledged the incredible value (to me) of a cup holder on a motorcycle and let me use my own lame judgment to choose my seat bag.

After this introduction, I'm sure you can guess what the major fault in the MotoFizz bag turned out to be; it isn't waterproof. I also found that after cinching the bag down tight, I could have easily made do with the medium bag or, probably, the small bag. Even worse, I couldn't find a way to mount the bag where the coffee thermos holder didn't co-function either as a really scary butt-plug (see the fully loaded photo) or a thermos ejection device. I left the thermos home for the trip. The small or medium bag would have carried the thermos holder in a less exciting position, since it's mounted on the side of those bags.


Partially loaded, partially compressed large MotoFizz camping seat bag with the coffee butt-plug in service.

The major fault in this product is the lack of waterproof-ness and the bag's rain cover. The rain cover doesn’t work at all. It’s an over-simplified design that is destined to let your gear get drenched from top to bottom. The rain cover is “secured” with a lightweight shock cord, instead of a more rational and traditional drawstring. A little wind, a few miles, and the shock cord stretches, comes apart, the bag flies away like an aimless parachute, and the MotoFizz is converted to a seat-mounted nylon swimming pool. After seven days of experiencing wet clothes, wet camping gear, and wet everything else, I relegated this bag to the simple task of holding waterproof gear. I made it about 3,000 miles into Canada before I tired of rescuing what was left of the rain cover and decided to try re-engineering it. The shock cord had popped like cotton string; first near the cord clamp and, later, where the cover was held in place by security straps. At a motel, I repaired the cover with a piece of 1/8" nylon cord which worked pretty well, but not well enough to trust the bag to things I wanted kept dry. RiderWearhouse stocks the rain cover, separately, because they are so easily lost.

The lack of waterproofing was disappointing because, as I might have mentioned, the MotoFizz has a coffee thermos holder. The MotoFizz bag is a well-designed, spacious bag that can be secured to practically any platform. Cinched down, the MotoFizz is incredibly stable wherever you position it on your bike. It is built to outlast you and your motorcycle, comes in three sizes (small, medium, and humongous), and is flexible and expandable to meet a variety of load conditions. My "large" bag is capable of storing most of a deer's carcass and the tools to butcher the deer, although it would leak blood all over my bike.


Totally loaded, fully compressed (minimum size) large MotoFizz camping seat bag.

The bag is edged by heavy duty zippers and made of heavy duty (water-resistant, but not waterproof) Cordura nylon. The bag's compression system is clever and practical. Once you get your gear into the bag, you can start tightening the straps down until you’ve reduced the size and stabilized your load. The small accessory storage bags (only on the large bag) are useful, but they aren’t water resistant.. They are anchored to the main bag with the side cinches, so they don't flap in the wind or work loose from their buckles. There are at least five different anchor points for tying down external gear (tents, sleeping pad, etc) and MotoFizz has included a lightweight elastic net for securing a towel or wet clothing. Every piece of hardware on the MotoFizz bag is well designed, if not over-designed, for intense touring. There are lots of good things to say about this bag, if only it kept out the rain. I recommend you consider the small or medium sized bags over the large bag.

MotoFizz Camping Seat Bags Revisited

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day


Partially loaded, fully compressed (minimum size) small MotoFizz camping seat bag.

I reviewed the MotoFizz large bag in 2007. Mostly, I liked it. However, I had complaints about the waterproof-ness (lack of) of the bag and the kinky position of the all-important coffee thermos holder. When I got back from Alaska that year, I gave up on making the large MotoFizz bag work and replaced it with a hard tailcase. A friend now has my large bag permanently mounted on his 1992 Yamaha 850 TDM and loves it. Every time I see it, I suspect I made a mistake. It looks much neater on his bike than it did on mine. Of course, he isn't stuffing a month's worth of camping gear, clothing, and food into the bag.

Last summer, when I needed to find a camping tailbag for my 250 Super Sherpa, there was no contest. I bought a small Motofizz bag and found that everything I liked about the large bag was there in the small size, plus the rain cover worked much better on the smaller bag and it has two all-important thermos holders which are mounted on the side of the bag where they do not do double-duty as a butt plug.


Partially loaded, partially compressed small MotoFizz camping seat bag.

Note to Mr. Subjective: When a less-than-brilliant customer is overcome by the thought of having readily available access to coffee, suggest the two smaller bags because they will hold twice as much caffeine. You probably did that and I ignored your sage advice, right?

I had the new bag on my Super Sherpa for exactly two weeks when it was stolen. Like Monty Python's King of the Swamp Castle ("When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up."), I bought a second MotoFizz for the Sherpa. So far, I still possess this one. If I lose it, I will buy another one.

The small Motofizz bag, like the medium and large, is constructed to withstand a hurricane and sticks to the bike as if it were designed for it. The multitude of zippered storage pouches, plus the plethora of tie-down loops, makes the bag perfect for securing enough gear for a several day outing. Motofizz, apparently, listens to complaints because they replaced the silly elastic shock cord on the raincover with a much more secure nylon cord and are now using a much heavier material.

The small Motofizz, plus moderate-sized saddlebags, is a terrific minimalist touring rig. I'm going to put it to a real test this summer when I tour North Dakota on the 250. [Since I’ve used this bag on a daily commuter basis for four years, I think it’s passed the “real test.” For camping, touring, or just as a large daybag, the small MotoFizz is hard to beat. It would be nice if it was waterproof, but it’s not.]

As usual, Motofizz gear is available from RiderWearhouse.

Nov 27, 2013

Motorcycle Review: – 2012 Yamaha Super Ténéré

Go Everywhere, Do Anything

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

yamaha_super_tenere (13)[After riding the big BMW GS, I realized how much I really liked the Ténéré. In a head-to-head shootout, the BMW would be clobbered by all of the Ténéré’s features, function, and performance. For my own money, however, I wouldn’t consider either bike “useful.” They both return a crappy 40-something-mpg and that’s disgraceful in a $4/gallon world. My fuckin’ motor home gets 22mpg, for crap’s sake and it has a kitchen, bathroom, double bed, and pulls a motorcycle on a trailer.]

Way back at the end of my trophy-less, always in the middle-of-the-pack 125cc motocross "career," a local Yamaha dealer tried to convince me that I'd have more fun on an open class bike; a YZ400. To seal the deal, they cut me loose on the YZ in a big field behind the shop for the afternoon. From that day on, my make-a-wish dream has been to be given an open class motocrosser and a couple of hours on a golf course. Man, I shredded that field. You can dig a trench on a YZ400 way faster than with anything Caterpillar makes. Not that much later, BMW introduced the "adventure touring" genre and I have always wondered what could you do with a 1200cc dirt bike?

My first impression of the Yamaha XTZ1200Z Super Ténéré (the "Ténéré" is a desert or wilderness in the south central Sahara) came last fall when Yamaha was shipping one copy of the 'Super Ten' (from here out, referred to as "ST" with my apologies to Honda) around its Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa dealers to show off and attract customer pre-orders. Back then, Yamaha dealers were requiring a $500 non-refundable deposit on all ST orders. Our ST review bike came from Moon Motorsports in Monticello where this model's 2012 MSRP is $14,831 and Moon's asking price is $13,499. The 2012 models come in "Impact Blue or Raven." I think "raven" must be black, since our test bike was black.

2012-06-18 013 There is a lot that feels familiar in the ST. The 270° 1199cc, dry-sump parallel twin is a distant relative of the (beloved by me) 1992-93 Yamaha 850 TDM's motor. The ultra-dependable fuel injection and large fuel capacity connects to my Suzuki V-Strom's best touring traits; all-weather starting and altitude independence. There is a lot of unfamiliar stuff, too. The ST's ABS and smart Unified Braking system (application of the front brake provides some rear braking unless the rear brake is also used), the MotoGP-heritage two-position YCC-TTM (Yamaha Chip Controlled) fly-by-wire throttle and traction control, and the modern hypoid-gear shaft drive are strange territory for me. Above all, the 1200cc torque and power is about as odd an experience, for an ex-125cc racer and 250cc commuter, as space travel: what to do with these new super powers?

The first obstacle to overcome was the 575 pounds and 34.25" seat height. I'm 5'9" and I'm old. However, swinging a leg over the ST's tiered seat was surprisingly easy and . . . where did Yamaha hide the weight? I imagine if I were forced to push the ST out of a muddy ditch, I'd discover where the weight went. However, the bike absolutely does not feel 125 pounds heavier than my 650 V-Strom. To get used to riding a "large" motorcycle, I'd spent a couple of weeks riding the V-Strom everywhere I usually ride my 250. It was a waste of time. In the saddle, the ST feels light. Flipping the bike up on the centerstand was effortless. Touching the ground from the seat means I'm was on my toes, but keeping the bike upright at stop lights or putting a foot down in tight turns was no problem. The bike feels light in motion, too. In all of the important ways, the ST feels more like my WR250X than my 650; weight, handling, and response. The steering is tight and the bike's balance is excellent. On the MSF range, I could U-turn the ST inside the 20' box and all of the MSF range exercises are easier to perform on the ST than my 650. The bike is nimble.

When I searched out other reviews' impressions of the ST, I was surprised to see several complaints about the power. As usual, I'm no expert on the kind of power-to-the-road delivery the BMW or KTM big bikes provide, but the ST does more than I need, power-wise. Passing acceleration in the "Touring" mode is absolutely beyond anything legal. Whipping past a half-dozen hippobikes strung out in a slow-moving line on MN95 south of Taylor's Falls was quick and effortless and nearly sold me the bike on the spot. To my experience, the bike is quick. It will pull hard at anything over 2k rpm and the faster you spin it, the faster it wants to go. Being a new bike, I did not take it to the 8k redline, but I did let it roll up to 6-7k for a few short moments and it takes some effort to hang on when you let all 108 of those ponies have their head. Yamaha's promotional video for the ST has a lot high speed desert racing and weird lifestyle marketing. The desert is something hard to come by in Minnesota, but the video does establish the ST's off-road credentials (if you are that good). I found the ST to be stable and comfortable on the freeway (in a pouring rain with scuba visibility), more fun than a pool full of supermodels on tight, twisty back roads, and happy as a Duc on the track on slick and wet clay and gravel roads. In fact, I was more confident in the rough and unstable surfaces on the ST than on my little WR250X.

Which brings up the ST's performance options. I tried riding the ST without the traction control and in the "Sport" fuel injection mapping mode. The bike is almost scary without the electronic babysitting. Throttle response is instant, if a little irregular. The power gets to the back wheel fast enough that I had some concern about pulling the front wheel off of the ground at speeds above 60mph. That might be the reason for buying a 1200cc "adventure bike," but I'd just as soon not have to worry about unintended front wheel levitation. After a few miles, I went back to the "touring" mode and put the traction control in "normal" status. Yamaha seems to believe riding without the traction control is not recommended. When you shut off the key, the traction control returns to "normal" mode. Under some conditions, the traction control will automatically disable itself and warning lights will inform the rider of this status change. Personally, I'd sacrifice the "mode" options for a touring cruise control. This bike is made for knocking down big miles and I don't need performance when 1200cc's is barely contained with the traction control in the mildest setting.

As for the ABS braking system, I thought it was flawless. However, off-pavement I didn't have much problem accidentally "defeating" the ABS system. On a moderate whoop on a fire road north of Sandstone, the bike came down with the ABS fault light blinking. I caught a little air and left the throttle on for stability, but I was feathering the front brake anticipating a quick turn ahead. I shut the bike off, worrying that I'd broken something, but after inspection I fired it back up and the ABS light stayed off. Later, I was playing motocrosser on a slick clay road, using the front brake while hanging on to my throttle position to slide the back tire around the corner, and the ABS light came back on. This time, I kept riding and discovered how easy it is to slide the back tire without ABS assistance. Kind of fun, but not something an old fart needs to mess with on an expensive borrowed motorcycle. 

The transmission is typically Yamaha; smooth, predictable, and precise. The gear ratio seems a little close and more sportbike-oriented than dual-purpose. 75mph in 6th gear results in an engine spin of about 3,800 rpm. The same rotation rate means that 1st gear tops out at around 25mph. That's a bit quick for tight woods work, slow-going through stream beds, or sandy OHV trails. Maybe that's not the purpose Yamaha intended the bike for, but it's the kind of adventure ride they're advertising. The hydraulic clutch is predictable with a reasonably light feel.

right_side_cowlingThe battery, ABS motor fuse, and toolkit are hidden behind the right side cowling, which is removed by four 1/4-turn Allen screws. The toolkit is the typical throw-away stuff, but the compartment Yamaha designed for the kit is large enough for real adventure touring tools. Four more screws and the upper right cowling is off, exposing the the bike's other 12 fuses. The left side cowling is removed with six Allen screws and two plastic push pins. That cover hides the ultra-thin radiator and fan. The left side access brought back my least favorite memories of the TDM; too many parts that get lost in field repairs. It's hard to imagine that continuing the self-retaining fasteners from the right side to the left would have much effect on the cost of a $14,000 motorcycle. Yamaha calls the tail lights "R1 signal" indicators, but I'd call them the WR250R/X lights. Enough of the ST's parts are multi-tasked that the repair part prices are pretty reasonable.

bottom_case_hazardsOne British video review of the ST experienced an instant loss of engine fluids. From a view of the underside of the bike, I think the two oil drain bolts (oil tank and crankcase) are the likely culprits. Their location is handy for servicing, but they protrude beyond the bottom of the engine cases and are one of the first things the engine will contact. The shiny "oil element" cover is in the same predicament and if that piece breaks the oil pump is exposed. Yamaha has an accessory $205 welded 3mm aluminum skid plate and I would not leave home without it. The stock plastic piece is purely cosmetic.

The video above is the best off-road comparison I've seen on the bikes in this category, but it's the one where the ST dumps its engine oil about 4 minutes into the video. So, we don't learn much about how the ST stacks up against the competition.

Other Yamaha accessories include a taller windscreen and side deflectors, an engine case guard, side cases, a top case, a tank bag, a low (33.26" as opposed to the stocker's 34.25") seat, and mounting plates for your cell phone, GPS, radar detector, and the rest of the junk you play with when you should be watching the road and traffic. The aftermarket suppliers have cranked up production for this farkle magnet, too. Touratech practically has a whole catalog devoted to the ST that will allow you to add at least 120 pounds to the bike and double your investment. Other companies are cranking out crashbars, skidplates, and polished aluminum/titanium/unobtainium covers for all of the perfectly serviceable plastic, plated, and painted bits Yamaha installed on the ST.

The exhaust note is oddly loud and raspy. Not powerfully loud or Ducati-raspy, but still louder than I expected. The large (a lot of that size is a heat shield) down-pointing pipe has a catalytic converter and two-stage oxygen sensors to keep the FI system tweaked for EPA requirements, altitude, and fuel economy. The 45-component exhaust system is probably not light and the aftermarket industry has cranked up all manner of louder, lighter, more hooligan-appealing products to irritate your neighbors and knock the snot out of the bike's already-questionable fuel efficiency.

The fork spring preload setting is 8-position adjustable, along with adjustable compression and rebound damping. The rear shock preload and rebound damping are also adjustable. When I first saddled up the ST, I thought the suspension was set excessively stiff. Once I took the bike away from the freeway, I realized that, like a dirt bike, this motorcycle is designed to go straight at obstacles. The harder you ride it, the smoother it feels.

My first fill up (at 202 miles) demonstrated that the ST's mileage calculator is surprisingly accurate. The bike said it was getting 43.4mpg and I found it really got 43.9mpg. If the tank capacity is 6 gallons, the reserve warning comes on with about a 1.5 gallons of fuel left in the tank (the manual says 1.3 gallons); or with a reserve range of at least 60 miles. I am clinging to the delusion that 44mpg is not good enough for my next bike because I desperately do not want to buy a $14,000 motorcycle at this point in my geezerhood.

seat_heightThe seat height can be lowered about an inch by removing a plastic bracket under the seat (see illustration). This is an incredibly clever, simple adjustment that couldn't be much easier to perform. Yamaha also sells a lower-than-stock seat that provides another inch of height advantage. The seat itself is well designed, comfortable, and allows lots of movement while providing good grip. The seat, bars, and peg position make standing for the rough stuff comfortable and practical. The top of the seat cover is made from a textured material that allows movement while preventing accidental sliding. After removing the seat with the key, pulling two screws from the front of the passenger seat and removing that seat reveals a larger carrier adding the bike's luggage capacity (the racks are rated at 11 pounds each). The underside of the rider's seat holds an Allen wrench for removing the cowling covers.


2012-06-18 004There is enough content in the bike's console to keep most of us entertained for miles. The information available from that easy-to-read 4"x8" electronics package includes a large digital speedo, an analog tach, turn indicator, fuel status, traction control status, drive mode, a clock, the over-all odometer plus two trip odometers and a fuel reserve odometer, instantaneous and average fuel consumption data, intake air and coolant temperature, and self-diagnostics. The LCD and tach backlighting is adjustable. Two switches at the bottom edge of the console allow access to all of this information and set the time and miles/kilometers readout. A button on the left side of the console selects the traction control selection. The handlebar switches are standard, with the addition of a "drive mode" switch on the right side. There is a power connector (lighter jack) on the cowling for accessory electronic devices. The fairing is all business. Headlights, gauges, wiring, the radiator, electronics packages, fuses, brake components, cabling, are all easily accessible for maintenance and repairs. The headlights broadcast a rectangular beam that covers the road ahead and the edges of the road well enough than an old blind guy has some confidence in night riding. The mirrors are the best I've ev3r experienced. I can see what's behind me and vibration-generated blurriness is an absolute minimum.

The Yamaha owners' manual is reasonably complete, with simple procedures documented, some disassembly data, and the usual riding warnings, engine start-up and controls' operation descriptions, and "see your dealer" instructions for anything more complicated than remedial repairs and maintenance.

The brand/model options in this category come from the usual suspects: BMW's R1200GS ($14,990 for the basic bike, $16,935 with ABS, heated grips, bag mounts, hand guards, and GPS), Ducati's Multistrada 1200 ($16,999 for the standard bike, the $19,995 Sport-version, and the $21,995 Pike's Peak Special Edition), KTM's 990 Adventurer ($14,898), Moto Guzzi's Stelvio 1200 NTX ($15,990 with side-cases, ABS, etc.), and Triumph's Tiger 1200 Explorer ($15,699 with fly-by-wire and ABS). All of these motorcycles are well-suited for the intended adventure touring function.  The Yamaha's pricing puts the bike in good position, relative to its competition.

Before riding the ST, I had no idea that my V-Strom's front suspension was so mediocre. Getting back on the road, on my own bike, I was almost overcome by the desire to turn back and write a check for the Super Ten. My tightwad self prevailed and after a few dozen miles, the new riding standard began to fade into the background and by the time I made it home the V-Strom seemed just fine. Really. I'm not kidding. Damn it. I'm good.

Without the exceptional generosity and efforts of Moon Motorsports, Kyle Erickson, and Matt Kobow, my portion of this review would have been impossible. I'd like to personally thank them for their kindness and assistance.

Type 1199cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke 2-cylinder DOHC
Bore x Stroke 98.0 x 79.5mm
Compression Ratio 11.0:1
Fuel Delivery Fuel Injection with YCC-T
Ignition TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission Constant mesh, 6-speed
Final Drive Shaft
Suspension / Front 7.48-in travel telescopic fork, adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping,
Suspension / Rear 7.48-in travel, Monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound damping
Brakes / Front Dual 310mm hydraulic disc, ABS/Unified Brake System
Brakes / Rear 282mm single disc
Tires / Front 110/80R 19M/C
Tires / Rear 150/70R 17M/C
Length 88.6 in
Width 38.6 in
Height 55.5 in
Seat Height 33.26 or 34.25 in
Wheelbase 60.6 in
Rake (Caster Angle) 28.0°
Fuel Capacity 6.0 gal
Fuel Economy** 40 mpg
Wet Weight*** 575 lb
Warranty 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)

Nov 25, 2013

#31 Professional Bikers
All Rights Reserved © 2003 Thomas W. Day

A few months back, a friend ― with whom I agree on practically nothing, motorcycle-wise ― and I had a confusing argument about "professional bikers." Before we talked, I had a pretty firm grip on what I considered to be a professional biker.

Now, I'm feeling clueless.

Here's what I used to think described a pro biker: someone who rides motorcycles and gets paid for it. I'd include anyone who does motorcycle stunts for television or movies, although I'd probably leave out the guys who pose for the stunts in Tom Cruise movies. I’d include Army guys who run messages on dirt bikes. I’d even include motorcycle cops. I’d include a lot of bike tuners, especially the ones who ride the bikes they tune to check their work. I’d even stretch my class to include people who make, ride, and sell custom bikes. But that wasn’t enough for my friend.

My buddy has added a whole collection of folks who seem so outside my definition that I'm reviewing my personal perspective on European politics and global warming. For example, guys who make leather gear and sell it at Sturgis are professional bikers. Tattoo artists who specialize in Harley and biker club art, and who show up at Sturgis. You guessed it; professional bikers. Chrome polishers, bike club patch knitters, chrome and leather accessories manufacturers of stuff that may, or may not, bolt on to big-iron bikes, the girls who sew those funny looking protective headbands, unhappy looking models who pose for Harley ads; all professional bikers.

He says it's a "cultural thing"; the biker culture. Everyone associated with it, everyone making money from the biker culture is a professional biker. I've tried, but I can't get my mind around this definition. I can't do anything with the concept that the leather and chrome crowd is a free-standing subculture that crosses geographical and political boundaries.

To me, that's like saying that a used car salesman who wears a Stetson, lizard skin boots, and drawls in a fake Texas accent is a "professional cowboy." You might as well tell me that a kid who wears a Viking's jerseys is a professional football player. Or a corporate exec with a gold guitar tie-tack is a professional musician.

You get the picture?

The most I can do with the concept is to group those rebels-without-a-cause-or-a-clue with the alternative lifestyle gangs. While some aspects of this definition of bikers has stuck with American pop culture for a while, almost 50 years, in some form or another, I don't see the principle characteristics of a culture in it. Look it up, if you don't believe me. I don’t find those characteristics in the Shriners, either.

All the cultural crap aside, I'm still stuck with my limited definition of a professional biker. A professional biker is someone who makes money from by riding a motorcycle. Not someone who wears biker clothes, models them, or makes them. Not even someone who makes bikes or customizes them. A pro biker rides bikes and is good enough at riding to get paid to do it. My list of professional bikers starts with guys like Roger DeCoster, J.N. and Kenny Roberts, Dick Miller, Jeff and Malcolm Smith, Bob Hannah, Geoff Aaron, Martin and Dougie Lampkin, Jeremy McGrath, and the list goes on for miles and miles. But my list stops where the riding for money stops.

Yeah, I know, Malcolm Smith makes gear and accessories and probably made a lot more money doing that than riding. Did you ever see On Any Sunday? I'm sticking with Malcolm, you do what you want.

MMM September 2003

Nov 24, 2013

Cavin’ with the Days

Not really. No cavin’ for us yet. We’re camped at the Whites City Campground, just outside of the Carlsbad Cavern National Park. There is a surprising number of other campers here, considering that the park has been closed since Friday afternoon due to slick road conditions. Of course, we’re still in fracking territory and there are more than a few Halliburton and other similar characters who “live” in the campground while they wipe out the state’s water resources for a few barrels of oil and natural gas (most of which they burn off as “waste”). If coal advocates every wanted to really understand why coal prices are dirt, this is the place to come. All of those Cheney secret energy policy decisions that made fracking “profitable” and drove energy prices so low that mining coal is impractical are all visible in Texas and western New Mexico. Coming soon to those places, “"undrinkable water that can be used for fuel or engine cleaning.”

Photobucket is getting stranger by the day, so I can’t figure out how to do a slideshow with my pictures from today. You can get to them here, though.

We're not really travelling, but we're on the road for the holidays. At least, in a campground in sunny New Mexico. Hope you have a great holiday season and lots of safe, fast miles on two-wheeled vehicles. Remember, stay away from anything Volkswagen-powered and ride safe.

Nov 23, 2013

Iced in in Carlsbad

2013-11-23 CarlsbadToday, Saturday, was more of an adventure than I need to experience at any time in my past or future. We spent last night in a semi-grubby RV campground (using that term grossly and loosely) on the edge of Carlsbad, New Mexico. New Mexico is Halliburton territory. So much so that the Carlsbad Cavern restaurant we ate dinner at tonight was closed down early so a Halliburton crew could eat in privacy. Dick Cheney’s legacy lives on and other terrible catastrophes, too. The campground was mostly an oil worker haunt and the general theme was “chick shabby.” There was a swimming pool, but it smelled so strongly of chlorine that I chickened out. The showers were pretty smelly, too.

Robbye was unimpressed and insisted that we check out the Whites City campground. We did and I was unimpressed, although she thought it looked pretty good. I checked us in and as I was finishing up the paperwork, the guy at the counter mentioned the park probably wouldn’t be open tomorrow or, even, Monday. “Say what?” The park had been closed for the last two days due to ice on the trails and stairs. So, we undid the paperwork and I decided to make a run for Guadalupe Mountain National Park.

The first 20 miles were on New Mexico highway and weren’t too bad. About the time we passed into Texas, the rain turned to sleet and the road got a lot slicker. When we arrived at the park, I was informed that they had RV spaces, but no services. It will be a good bit under freezing tonight and I’d have to run the generator all night to keep the RV warm enough to keep from freezing the water supply; let alone us. I asked about the next park south, a Texas state park, and the ranger said it was RV-friendly, but the roads were much worse to the south and there was some talk of closing it for the rest of the day. So, back to Carlsbad we turned.

That drive was a class-A bitch. The storm had caught us and the miserably designed Texas highways all pool in the wheel tracks and hydroplaning is a constant problem. Freeze those pools and the roads are flat out nasty. A few more miles and the sleet turned to inch thick ice and our pace slowed from 60mph to less than 40mph. Semis were passing us at the speed limit, sliding across the road like fat cells on glass. I expected to see them in the ditches later and some didn’t disappoint me. Once we were back in New Mexico the roads improved dramatically and the sleet slowly turned back to rain. We made it back to Whites City in time to check in, settle down, rig up the RV at the site, grab some dinner, and get back to our rolling house before the storm hit the park. We’re going to be here for a few days, waiting out the storm, and hoping to get to visit Carlsbad Caverns.

Payback Is A Bitch

2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (1)After a fairly long haul, on Wednesday, from Lake Texoma to a few miles south of Brownwood, Texas (the home of Duane and Millie Schwab, Duane is the US resident expert-of-all-things-Winnebago Rialta), I pulled into Duane’s drive after dark and I’m notorious for being a near-blind night driver (Don’t ask why my wife insists that I drive at night.). After getting us situated for the night, Duane and I talked Rialta stuff until late and called it a night.

2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (3)2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (2)Yesterday, Thursday, was an incredibly nice day. We spent the day fooling with my RV and Robbye played with horses, chickens, dogs, and goats all afternoon. It was a shorts and shirtsleeves day and we pretty much wallowed in a low-80s Texas winter afternoon. Thursday night, Millie fixed us an incredible meal and we went to bed stuffed and feeling pretty good about the day. The wind was picking up as the evening went on and by the time we buttoned up the RV it was cool (mid-40s) and blustery. The RV rocked like a ship through the night and I slept like a dead man. Robbye was, apparently, anxious.

Duane helped me troubleshoot some more wiring issues (all Winnebooboo screw-ups) including the electric door wiring and the cab lights. It’s going to take some time to figure out all of the dumb things Winnebooboo did, but I figure I’ll have it all working by the time I sell this damn thing. Nobody should ever buy anything designed, built, or even conceived of in Iowa. What a bunch of maroons.

2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (9)It was drizzling a little when we got up and we hooked up the trailer and got on the road before 8AM. Duane came out to see us off, but he was ready to go back inside and enjoy his heating system after a minute or two. A few miles down the road, I wished I’d have followed him. The road turned icy after about 20 miles northwest of Brownwood and got worse the further we went. I’m not sure there was a good direction to travel because it was 20F in El Paso.

2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (10)We high-tailed it to Carlsbad, New Mexico, hoping for better weather. No such luck. It’s going to be 25F here tonight. I bought an auxiliary ceramic heater from the local Wal-Mart and it lasted less than a minute before it fried itself. Typical shit from Wal-Mart. I have to hope the water system survives the night, but who knows? It’s not designed for several sub-freezing days.

Tucson, Arizona, one of our destination targets is 53F right now, as I am writing this huddled in the RV hoping the propane holds out for the night. This is not what we signed up for. In fact, this is fucked. We have friends we’d hoped to see in New Mexico, but I’m not that thrilled with hanging around for two more 25F nights. It’s supposed to warm up to the mid-60’s, but we might not be interested in waiting that long.

2013-11-22 Wednesday-Thursday (15)West Texas and southeastern New Mexico is fracking hell. The place reeks of oil and sulfur. It is very much like a cold hell. I recorded a little of this scene and I might post it on YouTube when we get to a semi-quick Wi-Fi connection. I can not imagine making enough money to stand living near this flaming smoke stack. This is the process of burning off, as waste, natural gas that is on top of the oil. If there is anything more wasteful in human activity, I don’t need to know about it.

Nov 21, 2013

One Man (Cat) Down

2013-11-15 Friday (25)We’re about to leave Lake Texoma and one of us is not going to be on the rest of the trip. Our seven year-old cat, Spike, decided he’d had enough of travel and ran off this morning (Tuesday). He’d slipped out yesterday, but came back when I called him. Today, he must have kept moving until he was out of ear-shot.

I want to go on record here as being someone who is totally cat-neutral. In my 46 years of marriage, we’ve probably had two dozen cats and I’ve liked exactly two of them.  Spike was one of those two. He and I had a bond, unlike any other animal I’ve ever known. Ever since he was a kitten, when I’d pick him up he’d give me a head bump. Almost a kiss. Every time, no matter what the situation.

IMG_5361We spent most of the day with my daughter’s family. End of the day, we all piled into the RV for conversation and popcorn. You can see Spike right over Robbye’s head on the shelf; two glowing eyes and an near-invisible grey body. Robbye always claimed he was a “Russian Blue,” whatever that is. He was Spike, my cat. There never was a cat like him and there never will be again. I hope he’s safe, but I suspect he discovered coyotes are less than friendly.

2013-11-19 Tuesday (1)I spent a good part of Tuesday troubleshooting our hot water system. Turned the characters at Winnabooboo screwed up the wiring at the factory. I took a picture of the wiring rat’s nest before I rewired it. If you look at this picture closely, you’ll see that the white solid wire is not contacting the white stranded wire. It never did and the heater had never worked from the factory. It does now.

Nov 20, 2013

PRODUCT REVIEW: ICON ARC Lightweight Street Gloves

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

icon_a1I don't have normal hands. My wife calls my foreleg appendages "evolved paws." I prefer "mitts," but at least my fingers aren't webbed. The problem is that my fingers are short, my palms are large, and the whole mess is freaking thick. That means I have a terrible time finding riding gloves that fit and are comfortable. For years I just bought Justin goatskin work gloves, since they are tough, fairly comfortable, and cheap. My habit has been to wet the Justins in warm water, spend a day working in the yard and drying the gloves, followed by seriously working neatsfoot oil into the leather like a good baseball glove, all without removing the gloves for several hours. I've been doing this since sometime in the 1970s and the gloves and the procedure have served me well, including protecting my mitts in off-road crash situations.

When I'm in my favorite local bike shop, I occasionally take try on the latest riding gloves, fully expecting to be disappointed. I haven't had my expectations disrupted for decades. Repeating that habit while a friend shopped for riding gear, I stumbled on the ICON ARC gloves. To my surprise, they fit perfectly (almost "like a glove") and were comfortable from the moment I pulled them on. At first, I was sure this wouldn't be the case, because the wrist is a tight fit, requiring some effort to pull the gloves over the meat of my hand. Once I was past that hurdle, I found the gloves to be flexible, form-fitting, and insanely comfortable. They will definitely stay on my hands in a crash.

Like my Justin work gloves, the "chassis" of the ARC gloves is made from tough and flexible goatskin. ICON has added gel pads in the palm, which completely eliminated the blood-loss tingling I often experience after a long ride. The gel pads add some stickiness to the palm of the gloves, improving grip in the palm. The knuckle panel is expandable, allowing unimpeded bend to your grip on the bars and providing protection where I sometimes matters. The gussets between the fingers breathe and that helps keep the temperature down inside the gloves. Cosmetically, the ARC gloves come in a variety of colors: black, blue, red, white, and natural tan. I went for natural tan and I'm sure Using my native fashion sense, I'm hipper looking now than when I was wearing the natural leather Justin goatskins.

After a few hundred on-and-off cycles and a couple thousand miles wearing the ARC's, I'm still impressed. I figured that the cloth I tug on to get the gloves over my paws would separate and disfigure my expensive finger protection. It hasn't. I expected the leather to sag out and become less form-fitting. It hasn't. I applied Nikwax waterproofing treatment, which made the ARC's nearly watertight. Oddly, they still look pretty good. I'm cheap, so $60 for a pair of gloves seems expensive. Since they were a rare fit I bought them, anyway. I've suffered no buyer's remorse.

Epilog: The failure I anticipated ("the cloth I tug on to get the gloves over my paws would separate and disfigure my expensive finger protection") finally happened after 3 years of use. It's hard to blame the design or materials of the gloves, though. It happened when I used the Icon's for a BRC class on a hot, muggy day in June of 2011 (a record breaking year for both heat and humidity). One of the ARC glove design features is the precise fit. On that day, the gloves were hard to get off and on because my hands were so sticky and the gloves were retaining sweat. After a few dozen on-off struggles, the elastic cloth ripped right at the leather seam. I was able to patch and stitch the gloves back together and they are still in use in early 2013. And I still like them a lot.