Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

EFI vs Carbs

Posted: June 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

I was just about to head to the garage and clean up my Honda, and I thought I would write a quick note about fuel injection vs carb’d bikes.

The thing you’ll notice first when going from carbs to EFI is that when you arm the ignition switch, you hear a computer kick on and buzz for about three seconds before you can actually start the bike. With carbs, you hit the switch and go. But, EFI almost always develops more horsepower while maintaining efficiency because of the way it delivers the fuel/air mix. Also, fuel injectors will never come out of synch, and you can tune your bike up with a powercommander ECU flash. However, if you get a bike with EFI, you’ll want a battery tender. EFI doesn’t work if the battery is throwing less than 10 volts. A carb’d bike can be push-started even with a totally dead battery.

There are ups and downs for both, and there are far more than I listed here, but going in-depth on this makes my eyes glaze over. My best advice is to get the bike you want and learn to live with the fuel delivery system you have.

Insta-Killl Is Always ON

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

So I heard on the radio that there were two motorcycle fatalities in Iowa over the Memorial Day weekend. One was caused by a blowout on the highway, and another was as a result of a rider who “lost control” of his bike and was thrown down a ravine into a river. Without wishing to disrespect the departed, we can perhaps use their unfortunate demises to reinforce good habits for those of us who ride on.

First, the blowout. Sometimes, you just get a blowout and there isn’t much you can do about it. Preventative measures include visual inspection of tires, and checking your tire pressure often. But right now there are a lot of farm machines on Iowa’s backroads, and sharp pieces fall off of them with regularity. Avoid debris in the road like the plague. In the event of a blowout, gently close the throttle and brake on your good tire. Of course, that’s really only good advice as long as it’s your rear tire that gives out. A front-wheel blowout is tough to recover from under the best of circumstances with the best of riders. Wear your PPE to protect you if you can’t keep the bike upright.

Then the “loss of control”. Probably better termed “operator negligence”. The brief description was that the bike hit a railing and threw the rider a good distance down a ravine and into a river. I’m not saying this was indeed the case, but it sounds to me like a mis-judged corner entry speed. A lot of motorcycle deaths start out with the words “Hey, watch this!”. Of course, to be perfectly fair, most bikers are killed by negligent automobile operators who are too busy doing their makeup, sipping a latte’, and talking on the phone to actually pilot their vehicle.

The coolest thing about riding is the visceral experience of nothing between you and the road, the awesomeness of perfectly judging corner entry, and enjoying the quick reflexes of a bike. However, the most dangerous thing about riding is that whole “nothing between you and the road” thing. If you want to live to be an old, greybeard rider, you need to do your maintenance, train, ride responsibly, and wear PPE. Riding on a bike is like playing Call of Duty with Insta-Kill always on. Ride hard, but ride safe!

The Coolest Place in Iowa

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

The “coolest place in Iowa” might not sound like much of an endorsement, but I must insist that I had a great time at Baxter Cycle yesterday. Not only did I get to test ride two awesome brand-new bikes, but I also got to take a walk through their skunkworks and the vintage bike┬ásection. You’ll never guess what I saw back there.

Yes, that is a crappy cellphone pic of a Vincent Black Shadow. The fastest production bike from 1949 to 1973. There’s also a fleet of Norton Commandos, a bunch of 60s Bonnevilles, and a 1938 Speed Twin. There’s a ton of cool stuff back there. If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s worth stopping in just to see some of the classic Brit bikes. The new stuff is pretty impressive too.

You Have My Attention…

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

My under-employment has given me a couple of days to ponder my next bike really carefully. And probably with a bit of unhealthy obsession.

I’ve narrowed my search down to the Triumph Bonneville and Yamaha FZ6 for the non-cruiser category. I’ve looked up written and video reviews of each, and what I find striking is the FZ6’s raw power. No, it isn’t as fast as a supersport like the R1 or Hayabusa, but it is still extremely fast. I like to think of it as a “light power-tourer”. I’ve made arrangements to go look at a 2007 FZ6 at a local dealer over the weekend and see how comfortable it really is. Google uncovered story after story of guys who simply put on hard bags and a touring seat and go for a couple of days straight. The FZ6’s relatively large fuel capacity, combined with about 50mpg highway makes for a bike with around a 200 mile range. It has a cool half-fairing, underseat exhausts to prevent leg burns, and can go 0-60 in under 4 seconds and on to a top speed very near 140mph.

However, the FZ6 isn’t without complaints. Some say the clutch doesn’t do anything until the last 1/3 of movement, some think the driveline has excessive lash, and it still suffers from low-rev dogginess because of its four cylinder mill–though not as much as most sportbikes do. I will find out this weekend, I hope. As long as the FZ6 I’ve found is still on the dealer lot for me to at least sit on and obsess over.

You’re about 35 times more likely to be killed in a motorcycle accident than a car accident. If you’re one of the 13 people who read this blog, you’ll know that I’m a believer in helmets and appropriate riding clothing. Even then, it’s pretty dangerous. So why ride at all?

Well, I’ve had plenty of honest-to-goodness brushes with death, including a day that ended with a danger-close F-16 strike with a 500lb GBU38. I’ve had rather enough of danger, though I’m not about to wrap my new house in bubblewrap and never leave my bedroom. I’ve heard other, regular people say they get a kick out of riding, and to be sure, I’ve had a few heart-pounding moments. Mainly misjudged corner entry speeds and elderly folks who don’t like to stop at STOP signs. But that isn’t why I sold all of my tacticool guns and bought a bike.

I’ve always enjoyed driving. So much so that I used a big chunk of my deployment money to buy a 2011 Subaru WRX. My wife and I drove it to Colorado and drove it on some awesome mountain roads. But riding is a more visceral experience. Bad roads beat on your spine. The wind tries to rip you off your ride. Bugs and birds try to murder you at speeds over 35mph. Weather is a bear. There is nothing between you and the experience of the road. And it’s awesome. It is totally different than anything you will experience in a car. And that’s what makes riding worth it.

Mad Max

Posted: April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

One bike that keeps getting my attention is Yamaha’s insane VMax. The astute among you will point out that I JUST wrote a horrible screed against Harley Davidson for making ridiculously priced bikes, and a brand new VMax is currently priced at $19,900. Yes, a new one is nearly twenty grand. But exercise your Craigslist muscles and you can probably find a VMax just a couple of years old for $6000-$8000 in very good condition (stay far, far away from modded bikes online unless you’re a mechanic).

For the sum of six to eight grand, you get over 100 horsepower, and around 85ft/lbs of torque. If you shell out twenty grand for a new one, you get about 165 horsepower. At the rear wheel. Yikes. The older, carbed VMax models run four Mikuni carbs and the new beast is EFI. I would be okay with only 100 horsepower. Especially after my little 44 horsepower Honda.

Oh, the Mad Max has some issues though. It gets horrible gas mileage and has a tiny little tank to boot, so range is a little limited. The suspension has always been an issue on the VMax, and still is. Riding fast over broken Iowa roads will probably result in an unplanned dismount. Handling is reportedly very heavy (back to that suspension problem). But I don’t care. That engine is incredible, and it looks like it fell out of a 1980s sci-fi movie.

Here I have included a decent review of the VMax and my other bike crush–the Triumph Rocket III. Enjoy.

No matter what metric bike you ride, you’ll always find someone to tell you it’s not as nice as a Harley. Sometimes that’s true, and I’ll be the first to admit that Harley makes a big, powerful air-cooled v-twin. The problem lies with “big” and “air-cooled”. Modern Harleys are not the maintenance nightmares that their 1970s-80s ancestors were. Most of them are very nearly as reliable as a well-built metric. But liquid-cooled motors will always be more reliable than air-cooled ones. Keeping a constant operating temperature helps all the bits and pieces last longer. It also helps when you’re stuck in city traffic or otherwise putting around town. Big, air-cooled motors need air moving over their cooling fins to keep everything at a comfortable operating temperature.

But mechanics aside, there is one huge problem with Harleys that I will never be able to get over: the price tag. Even used, a Harley is easily two or three times as much as any metric, except maybe the Triumph Rocket III and the new “factory choppers” from Yamaha and Honda. Let me offer this used bike page from a major Iowa dealer. My favorite Harley, the Dyna Wide Glide, goes for about $15,000 for one in similar condition to my Honda. Granted, the Harley has a MUCH bigger engine and is much more powerful. But my Honda was $3000. Say I do pipes, a Mustang seat, and get a stage-1 jet kit for my Spirit 750. I’m at, lets say $4700–and that’s a high estimate. I could buy 2004-2008 VTX 1300s all day for $6000. The same goes for 1100 and 1300 V-Stars. I just don’t see what the extra $10,000 gets you with a Harley, except you get to tell people you have a Harley.

I would rather tell people I ride a Honda and can still afford to retire in my 60s. Then I might buy a Harley.