As I previously posted, I’m starting to look outside the realm of cruisers and see if there’s another bike out there that might suit me better. My biggest complaint about my bike, and most small cruisers, is a total lack of roll-on power. I don’t want to race or do anything stupid. I do, however, want to pass cars as quickly as possible. And that requires power–something my 44hp Honda lacks.

I also don’t want a crotch rocket. I had one for a couple of months when I was in high school. I took my lunch money and bought a 1986 Fz600R with about 35,000 miles on it, and it was UGLY. But it was fast. Mind-bendingly, frighteningly fast. My mom made me sell it, and a friend of mine wrecked it on his test-ride, making it only a couple hundred feet before the high revving 4 cylinder engine shot him into a tree. He was fine and paid for the bike. I didn’t ride again until the fall of 2011.

But there is a third way. Suzuki very stupidly killed its fantastic SV650 and SV1000, but you can occasionally find one used under $4000 in good condition. The motors from both bikes have gone on to the V-strom, so you can still get them serviced. Just don’t drop the bike because body parts are in short supply. I actually VERY nearly bought an SV650 before I found my Honda. The SV has a riding position between the full lay-down style of the crotch rocket and the upright cruiser. It was pretty comfortable, but I imagine your wrists would hurt after a couple of hours.  That said, the SV’s v-twin motor produced enough low-end grunt to never feel doggy, and could run fast enough to get your blood pumping. I really like this bike and kind of wish I had just gone for it instead of obsessively seeking out online reviews.

Next, there’s the Yamaha FZ6. It has a fully upright ride position while retaining the racing looks of the R6, and in fact having a re-tuned motor from the R6. The FZ’s mill is tuned to give more power in the middle of the rev range, and by most accounts, it hasn’t worked, leaving the bike feeling lost from 5k-7k, then it turns into Mr Hyde. I really want to ride one and see how distracting this power delivery is. My old Yamaha FZ60oR felt very doggy in town, but when the revs built up, it was scary-fast. The FZ6 looks awesome, and seems to have potential. As a bonus, you can find them used for around $4000, sometimes less.

I really just want a solution to the roll-on power problem, and it’s hard to solve in the cruiser class. The only option is really to go bigger, and eventually you end up with a bike that is excellent on the highway and kind of a pig in town. I would like to preserve the in-town ability of my bike and just give it some more power to make passing quicker. I guess the lesson to be learned here is to think about what your bike will be used for before you buy. And don’t get hung up on a single class of bike just because all of your friends have one.

Obsession

Posted: May 16, 2012 in things I want
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As much as I love my little Honda, I have decided that it probably will not be with me forever. And all the mega-cruisers and pumped-up middleweights I’ve talked about here are not exactly what I want. Lately, I’ve started to look outside the realm of cruisers and I think I have found a new contender.

That’s right. The Triumph Bonneville. Steve McQueen had one. So did the Fonz. So might I. And here’s why.

In short, the numbers talk. Four hundred and ninety-five pounds of wet weight combined with 67 HP and 50 ft/lbs of torque. Yes, it is limited to 110mph, so it won’t be burning up a drag strip any time soon, but it is quite nippy from 0-60 and still reportedly has some roll-on power, which is what I’m interested in. Combine that with an upright riding position and generous saddle, and you come up with a very good all-arounder. And even though it is metric, the Triumph name will still earn you some points with Harley guys. At least Harley guys who aren’t in 1% clubs.

The new Bonnie has well-sorted EFI, an air-cooled parallel twin motor that is reliable as an anvil, and a very old school chain drive. New Triumphs are reasonably priced and known for reliability, though earlier new-production bonnies were prone to leaky forks.

The wide seat will provide plenty of room for myself and my wife to cruise around town, or for me to tie down an overnight bag and visit my heterosexual lifepartner who lives on the opposite side of the state.

The downside of the Triumph is of course, the price tag. The MSRP on a new one is just shy of $8000 for the basic Bonneville, and just under $9000 for the Bonneville SE (which adds two-tone paint and threaded wheels). Used…well, they aren’t much less than a new one thanks to their relative scarcity and legendary name.

I’m still pondering other bikes as well, but the Triumph has to be near the top of the heap for its combination of power, reliability, comfort, and handling. It’s an excellent all-arounder, and that’s perhaps the best thing a bike can be.

I got the Honda plug wrench in the mail today and with the aid of a cheap set of metric ratcheting wrenches, I quickly swapped out my two remaining old plugs. The Honda wrench looks cheap and cheesy, but boy does it work. And for under $10, you should probably just buy one of those rather than learning the $18 lesson that I did. While the MotionPro socket is nice, it doesn’t work on all the plugs, so save yourself some heartache and just buy the Honda OEM wrench (that should have been included in your bike’s tool kit).

That’s all I have to say about that.

I’ve been taking a harder look at my beloved little Honda lately. Part of me wants to upgrade next year, and part of me says put short-shots and a stage-1 jet kit on and hope for the best. I’m afraid that if I spend around a thousand dollars on pipes, jetting, and a new seat, I’m still going to be left with an anemic but fun little ride.

The gunfighter seat isn’t suited for two-up, and a Mustang touring seat is about $500, and I have serious doubts about performance with two people and a light load of luggage. Even if I gain 3-5hp with pipes and a jet kit, I will still have power-to-weight issues, as well as underwhelming roll-on power. A brand new Shadow Phantom 750 put down a meager 36hp at the rear wheel in a recent article I linked. I wonder how many horses are in my five-year-old Shadow?

My Little Honda

But part of me is still having an emotional affair with the pretty blue Honda. It handles perfectly in town, and on the big sweepers just outside of town, I can hurl the bike in at well over the posted speed limit. It feels like it should have power to match maneuverability. But it doesn’t. Nor does it have impressive brakes, which also gives me pause when I think about adding a passenger and bags to the mix. And that was a big reason why I wanted a cruiser instead of a rocket (I was positively drooling over a Suzuki SV1000 back in January) was that I could take my wife places on little day trips over the weekend.

There are two ways to go from here: go big, like a Vulcan 1500 or Honda VTX1800, or get a newer middleweight like a Suzuki M50 or Vulcan 900 Custom. I’m leaning toward another middleweight, namely the Vulcan 900 because of the power-to-weight ratio. The Vulcan 900 Custom put down 50hp at the rear wheel, and while far from fast, it has enough guts to haul two plus luggage and still have some roll-on power. The middleweights are more handy around town, but can still complete a highway haul in comfort. The two bigger buses have tons of power, and are made to haul two in relative comfort, but can be pigs in town. It’s a really tough question though because 2000-2008ish bikes of all four types mentioned can be bought for the $5000-$7000 range, which is exactly my budget.

VTX1800

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.

I’m getting ready to own my first home, and it has a badass garage, complete with wrap-around workbench and pegboard wall. The following is a list of shit I plan to put in there over the next year or so. The list is by no means comprehensive, but rather a starting point for a beginning motorcyclist who wants to do some basic maintenance on their own.

First, you’ll want a a set of metric wrenches. I have a set of regular old wrenches, and a set of fancy-schmancy ratcheting box-end wrenches. If you’ve got a metric bike, better have some metric tools, eh? If you don’t buy anything else, a set of regular wrenches should be enough to change your oil. I specify wrenches here because you can’t get to the oil drain plug with a socket on my VT750C2 You can use sockets on a Vulcan, and maybe a V-Star. I don’t know about Suzuki, so ask Google.

Second, at some point you’ll want a lift so you can work on the bike easier. I don’t have one yet, but Sears sells a few models that are under $200 and seem to be well built. Get the ones with better reviews. Duh. The other thing you can do with a lift is check your forks and wheels for damage and straightness.

You may also want an air compressor. It isn’t totally necessary but damn is it nice to have an air compressor with a bunch of attachments. Decent ones are around $100-$150. Again, Sears has some reasonably priced models.Then you’ll need some tunes. A good ghetto-blaster is the cornerstone of any garage. The one pictured below is for sale at Amazon, among other places, and even has a subwoofer. Not that SoundGarden or Genesis requires a lot of bass. Or talk radio for that matter. In any case, you need a stereo in your garage.

If you have some budget left over, nothing is as cool as old metal signs. Particularly old metal motorcycle signs. Again, Amazon can hook you up. I want some Triumph signs, and maybe some gas signs.


I ordered spark plugs, a gap tool, and 12-point 18mm socket. It came in just now and I went out to swap out my old, roached plugs for shiny new ones. Well, while the MotionPro socket I ordered is really well made, it isn’t made to fit in the left-front or right-rear plug recess. So I pulled to two plugs I could reach, gapped two new ones, and made the swap. Weirdly, the throttle does feel a little sharper, but it could all be in my head.

The two plugs I pulled were clearly old, given the faded appearance of the middle part of the plug. They were blackened, indicating a slightly rich fuel mix or maybe some failure of the insulator, but not so sooty as to indicate oil burn. I probably could have gotten away with brushing them off and checking their gap, but since they appear to be the originals, I feel better about new plugs. It’s cheap insurance. I will attach pics as soon as I find my USB cable. In the mean time, enjoy this link on how to “read” your spark plugs.

Note: I have ordered a Honda OEM plug wrench that is supposed to be in your tool kit, but was absent from mine. I will include a link to it.

The part number of the MotionPro socket that does not fit is: 57-8175

Updated: Wear was normal, and they still were close to spec when measured with my gap tool. New plug on right for comparison.