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Topics - Dan

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Michigan State Police are testing Yamaha's new FJR's as police bikes.  Get some lights and stickers on yours and join the fun.

"The Michigan State Police tested the FJR1300P back in October, where it achieved a top-speed of 143 miles-per-hour, a 0-60mph time of under four-seconds, and a 0-100mph time of 9.2-seconds. The big two-wheeler also had a 60-0mph braking distance of 142.9 feet. Among other bikes being tested were models from Harley, BMW, and, interestingly enough, Zero Motorcycles. The FJR actually beat all other police-spec bikes tested in the speed and acceleration runs, though didn’t do quite as hot in the braking distance department."


I just bought my Versys last year but I am completely drawn by the updated FJ-09, now called by it's Euro name, Tracer 900.  And in particular the Tracer 900 GT.

It has all the right updates and cosmetic tweaks to really get my attention.  Taller windscreen, better seat, narrower bars, a few updates to the plastics and a sexy TFT display.

Has a factory centerstand as standard and a nifty DC outlet and gear position indicator, same as last year.  Plus it has a whole lot more horses coming from a triple motor... nifty!

Negatives, it's sure to be pricey, $12k at least.  The luggage is still smaller than the Versys meaning it won't store a full face helmet.  Probably fuel range isn't as good as the Versys either.  The Versys is paid for and modified to suit me currently.  I'm sure thinking of how I can trade or sell my Ninja 650 and Versys for this refreshed Yamaha.

And because my eye tends to stray I'm also looking at the BMW R1200 R and new Kawasaki 900 RS... they would each need luggage and a windscreen for me.  The BMW has it factory luggage, the Kawi probably needs aftermarket cases or soft bags.

Stupid Yamaha.

Your Ride Reports / Hogback Mountain
« on: October 20, 2017, 04:38:58 PM »

I took a break from work yesterday and looked for Fall colors and some interesting roads.  Got a little bit of each.  My ride went across Massachusetts along HWY 2 with a nice ride along the Quabbin Reservoir and a few brief stops.  I then rode farther west through the Pioneer Valley to the town of Erving for a nice lunch at an antique shop named the Freight Station that also had a lunch counter.  Pushed further west after lunch until HWY 112 and rode that north to Vermont and connected to HWY 9 and looped back east with another stop at the grand lookout of Hogback Mountain.  Quite a few people enjoying the view.  Speaking of views, here are a few photos from the trip.

Thought I had the rest stop to myself and then some dude in red pick-up truck rolls into the parking lot and ruins my photo.

I got a new iPhone and have been playing around with the panorama feature.  This is looking east over the Quabbin Reservoir.  I know you can't see the water in this photo, it would be off to the right or south from this vantage point.

Lunch at the Freight Station antique shop.  This tuna salad sandwich has more calories than their burger.  It was good.

The antique shop was huge and in one corner they had a bunch of guitars.

The view from Hogback Mountain overlooking the forest to the southeast.

The guardrail along the overlook is cluttered with stickers and graffiti.

Days are getting shorter and the sun was getting a bit low in the sky so I hustled myself home along HWY 2.  About a two and a half hour ride from Hogback mountain back to home.

Hope I get some more days to ride this year... it's always hit and miss with the weather and available time.

Stablemates / The 650's Get a Peculiar Friend
« on: September 12, 2017, 07:08:24 AM »
So I've been trying to sell my 2012 Ninja all summer long and had a few tire kickers and one serious offer but that was it.  I thought I may have to sell it for next to nothing to make room for my car in the garage this winter.  Turns out I no longer need to worry about space in the garage.  Say hello to my little friend...

A 2017 all electric drive Smart Car

Everything now fits in the garage!

About the same size as the Ninja, lengthwise anyway.

I know it's not a bike but it allows me to keep two bikes in the garage... maybe three if I plan the space a little better.  It's kinda strange driving an electric car and getting used to it's peculiarities but it's been fun so far.  Far roomier on the interior than it looks, matter of fact if you were sitting in the car you would have no idea that it is so small unless you looked behind you and saw the rear window.

We still have a gas powered car for long trips so this is a nice addition for us and it works great fitting into tiny parking spaces in the congested greater Boston area.

Your Ride Reports / Hurricane Mountain Road or an Ode to Design Flaw
« on: August 27, 2017, 07:44:21 AM »

Last year a few Design Flaw, Naske and a few others came out to New England for a very small rally.  We had great weather except on the last day so we never got to ride Hurricane Mountain Road... Tim had specifically mentioned this route to me and it stuck in my head.  So this year I took a Saturday and rode up through the White Mountains in New Hampshire and visited some old haunts on my new bike and at the end of the day found Hurricane Mountain Road and got to see what all the fuss was about.

I've have gone past this shop countless times and today decided to stop.  It's full of odd and old items, I suppose some may be considered antiques but others are just flat out strange like an old-timey slot machine with The Force Awakens graphics on the header and wheels.  If you're in the area (it's on the east end of the Kancamagus Highway) stop in just for the weirdness.

Close up of the Swift River.  The water has finally come down a bit, it was very fast and deep this spring and early summer.

At the top of the Kancamagus Highway.  As mountain highways go it isn't very high, just under 3,000 feet of elevation.  Still some amazing views.

A good number of riders out today.  I saw a large Harley rally and there were decent sized groups of them prowling around.

I've been up in this area a lot and have some favorite places to stop and eat.  Tried something new this time, Nachos Cafe in Lincoln.  The salsa was awful, tasted like stewed tomatoes.  Saw a few folks adding hot sauce to the salsa  My tacos on the other hand were excellent, they were so good I ate them before I thought to take a photo.

Once again I stopped by the Basin.  It's a natural shaped bowl formation made by rushing water.  It's a neat area along the Fraconia Notch Parkway with easy parking and a brief pleasant walk through the forest.

The Cog Railway.  These old trains are set up alongside the road as advertising for the still functioning train that travels up to the top of Mount Washington.

Here we are at the beginning of the descent at Crawford Notch.  Some some sharp twists and turns before it turns into sweepers as you make your way down the slope.


The scenic view overlooking Crawford Notch.

The Versys alongside a Saco Lake.

Here it is, the beginning of Hurricane Mountain Road.  Just north of North Conway you can find the entrance.  If you look at a map you won't be too impressed or intimidated.  A few twists and turns is all it looks like.  The experience is quite different, large vehicles and trucks are warned not to use the road and it is barred for passage in winter.  The road itself is quite narrow, maybe a standard lane and a little more wide.  It's twistier than the map suggests and it's steep in places with a lot of undulating whoop-de-doos as you ascend from the west.  The quality of the road itself is good to fair.  Not really any potholes but lots of ripples and cracks and off camber in places.  The ripples can really mess up your tracking through a turn so you have to stay alert.

I traveled the east to west route.  As I stated the road is very narrow and there is no shoulder for the most part.  At the very peak there is a gravel driveway and parking lot for hikers.  At one neat spot you pass through a very small clearing and can see the state of Maine stretching out as far as the eye can see, it's an amazing view.  Sadly there was no place to pull over to get that photo, not that it would turn out too well with my camera.

A good example of the road.

The Versys parked along one of the few flat spots along Hurricane Mountain Road

It was a great day in the saddle and my first time riding the Versys all day.  Glad I got to give Hurricane Mountain Road a try, it's a neat stretch of road but kinda short.  Hope you enjoyed the ride!

General Motorcycle Discussion / Mods for My Versys (photos fixed)
« on: June 25, 2017, 08:10:28 AM »

For the Versys I've got a list as long as my arm of things I wish to add.  Yesterday I started with two simple additions.  The first was replacing the "meep" of the OEM horn with a Denali Mini Soundbomb.  This is so easy to swap out, it's about one step harder than changing a light bulb.  This particular horn is meant as simple swap, there are no relays or any addition wiring, plug and play.

da Bomb!

OEM horn.  It's heavier than it looks.

The back of the horn is connected by one bolt and two wires.

Just slide the rubber boots off the connectors and slip off the clips.

Replace with the Soundbomb.  Seriously simple.  I used the OEM bracket and bolt because they are black.  The Denali bracket and bolt were silver and would have been an eyesore.

It's not a super loud horn but it is much deeper and more robust than stock, substantially so.  I think it's kind of large visually which I don't care for but it does the job quite well.  Cheap and easy upgrade, plus it says made in Italy right in the front, my dreams of a Multistrada are teased a little.

Next I added my gps mount with a new over the clocks version from SW Motech.  This wasn't cheap, nothing from SW Motech is cheap but it's really nice quality and matches up to the bike like it was OEM.  It's a fiddly thing to put together and I worked on it off an on all day.  Most of my issues stemmed from not having another pair of hands, also I thought they shipped me a box with a piece missing.  Turns out the pieces were attached at the factory but they are listed separate on the parts list.  I spent about a half hour searching my house for the "missing" piece as I opened the box the night before and thought I had misplaced it.

The main brackets attach to the windscreen frame.  Would have been easier to attach had I removed the windscreen.

The crossbar holds the GPS.  That small piece of plastic on top of the crossbar is the part I was searching for.  It slides into the gps mount and locks it into place to the crossbar.

The gps all mounted up.  You can just see the side of the pivoting mount that let's you adjust the angle of the gps.  Everything was really fussy to assemble.

Overall I like the new mount but because of the size of my gps cradle it sits a bit low over the tach.  I can see most of the tach but the very top is obscured.  Also at low revs or rough road the gps bounces quite a bit, not an issue at any steady speed but around town acceleration makes the viewing quite distorted.

I had a dream last night that my gps fell off and I didn't realize it until the next day.

Next up are heated grips and a DC plug.


The BMW F800GT is a bike I've been wanting to ride ever since it's ST origin around 2006.  I've had brief desires to simply buy one but the purchase cost and cost of ownership and admittedly fear of reliability kept me away.  It's fair to say that this isn't a proper review of the bike simply my impression of it compared to other machines I've enjoyed over the years.  In a nutshell, it's a wonderful motorcycle and if I had the chance to ride one before I purchased my Versys I would have been seriously tempted to own it.

Superficially I really like the look of the bike with the exception of the hideously large and high exhaust can.  The factory bags are a bit wide visually although I had a tough time fitting my large Icon Airmada helmet.  I had to turn the helmet on it's side and cram into place while closing the luggage door.  This may be due to the thick plastic that is used it's much beefier compared to my Versys luggage.  And while we are on the topic of luggage, I'm not a fan of clamshell designs but understand that a larger opening is more useful, what I liked about the BMW luggage is that the bottom has a shelf that catches everything and helps prevent loose stuff from falling out.  The overall look of the bike is really swoopy with the offset headlights that are common on BMW's.  Gas cap is next to the saddle as the tank is under the seat.  The instruments are all easy to read and very perfunctory in design.  The bike I rented had many features, ABS, traction control, electronic suspension, heated grips, tire pressure monitor, gear position and a very funny to me fuel gauge.  The fuel gauge deserves a special mention because it only reads the lower half of the tank.  When the tank is full you see a stacked array of about 5 bars with an up arrow on the top.  The bars do not start to change until the tank is under half, apparently the long shape underseat shape of the tank made it so the gauge could not properly register above half a tank so the very practical and precise German engineers simply changed the way the gauge would read, only showing the bottom half.

To the heart of the matter, the motor.  I've had the chance to get information from a few people who had first hand experience with the bike as well as professional reviews and nearly all of them state that the engine is blah as in not engaging/entertaining.  I was always surprised to hear this as the motor puts out 98hp which should be enough to have some serious fun.  By comparison my Ninja 650 and Versys 650 both put out around 68hp and they are both a hoot to ride.  From my point of view the BMW is a great deal of fun, you can wind it out to around 9000rpm and it has some serious zip.  I guess it doesn't have a strong mid-range pull a lot of parallel twin bikes have but it is quick to speed.  Maybe it's a flatter torque curve, I don't know but if you can't have fun on this bike I think you may be kind of jaded.

For comfort and ergonomics the F800GT is a real good fit for me but I could see it being problematic for others.  It almost has the opposite layout of my Ninja 650, that is the bars feel farther away but the foot position seems relaxed while the Ninja's bars are very upright and the pegs are further back and higher.  I rode all day on the bike and the only soreness were my shoulders and wrists, so much so that towards the end I was doing the sport bike thing where you ride with one hand on the throttle and the other on your thigh or tank just to stretch out a bit.  The windscreen isn't adjustable though it is pretty wide and a good height, but this is a problem, you would think a touring bike would have an adjustable screen and the BMW's is fixed.  While the size and shaped worked for me I've read reviews that a lot of riders get wind blast and noise from the screen.  It really should be adjustable on a touring bike.  Finally the first day I had a buzzy feeling in my hands from vibration, my reading on the bike is that the F800GT should be free of buzz because of the unconventional firing order and counterweighted balance, it wasn't bad but my Ninja and Versys are better.

The bike handles well as you would expect although I didn't immediately get comfortable with it as I would have expected.  It took me some time to trust my Ninja 650 too, I think it's just my nature though I would say that the Versys is amazing in this regard and is by far the most confidence inspiring bike I've had any lengthy seat time riding.  I did get a chance on some very few and very remote straightaways to test the speed of the bike, I was up to 180kmh which I think is 110mph.  A surprise for me was how much power there was on top of speeds over 120kmh with plenty of pull until around 160kmh where it evened out a bit.  I've never had my Ninja at this rate of speed and I have to say the BMW was very comfortable and stable and willing to go faster.

So yeah, I really liked the bike.  It has so many elements that appeal to me such as a beautiful single-sided swingarm, belt drive, centerstand and a gear position indicator.  The overall design is quite appealing to me and BMW does offer the bike in colors like orange and blue though my rental was basic black.  Other than the lack of long distance comfort on my shoulders there was one little thing that really irked me and it's something that you constantly use.  The turn signal button, it has almost zero tactile feedback.  I could never get the sense without looking if I had actually engaged the signal and it bugged me the entire trip.

Nice bike!

Your Ride Reports / The Amazing Duffey Lake Loop
« on: June 13, 2017, 08:54:37 PM »

I just came back from one of the most (if not the most) picturesque and amazing roads I've ever had the chance to ride.  On a trip out west to Vancouver, BC I took two days and rode what the locals were calling, the Lake Duffey Loop.  I started out of Vancouver on my rental bike and went slightly west and mostly north for the first day on my way to Lillooet, passing through the showy Whistler Olympic Village.  The first day's ride was only 156 miles, which I can do standing on my head, but these roads are 100% entertaining and there is lots to see along the way so I took my time and enjoyed the trip, sometimes doubling back to check something I thought I missed or just to try a stretch of road a second time.  The roads are constantly changing elevation and twisting and turning, paying attention is paramount as the road can get away from you.  I was lucky on two counts.  First the weather, Canadian friends told me to bring rain gear but it wasn't needed either day as it was clear and 80F+ each day (rained day after ride).  Second, traffic was light and in some areas non-existent mostly due to the fact that I rode on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A special shout-out to Cycle BC,, bikes are in great shape, staff is courteous and professional and the bike choices are varied and interesting.  I had a sweet little BMW F800GT.

I don't have a lot to say about each photo but will chime in if there is something to note.

This photo is actually on the north side of Whistler but thought it was a great image to start the show.

My first stop was Shannon Falls.  This is a great place to stop, the falls is about 200 yards from the parking lot, you can actually see it from the road and it's impressive.  Not a lot of parking but thankfully a bike can squeeze into some small if illegal/questionable places.

These beautiful snowy mountain ranges can be seen on almost the entire trip.  Spectacular.

Great roads draw bikers, lots of them on the roads this weekend.  Was able to catch this KTM rider going by.

My next stop was Bridal Veil Falls.  Not as quickly accessible as Shannon Falls but it is a short walk from the much more generous parking lot.

I stopped at Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  It's a very expensive tourist trap right now offering $32 pizzas.  The main village is essentially a big mall and other than the Olympic Rings and the large Inukshuk greeting you at the main entrance there is very little here that celebrates the Winter Olympics at least not that I could see.  And to be fair I only did a cursory exploration.

I bypassed the $32 pizza in favor of the fish taco appetizer for $12.  Tasty!

Stunning view along the route.

I arrived at Pemberton and decided to take a detour through the valley floor.  It was strange to ride a flat road after a few hours of mountains but still twisty as I followed the Ryan River.

Best example I have of the continually twisting roads.  They go on like this.  For miles, or kilometers as the locals say.


Lake Duffey.  I had to wait ten minutes for a gentleman to repeatedly back-up and move forward his rather small RV as he needed to turn it around to get out of the turn-out.

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.  Not happy about construction but was happy that the crew had all motorcycles move to the front of the pack.  I was second behind a very pleasant lady riding a slightly dinged up CBR.  Once we cleared the construction zone I tried to keep up with her, lasted a few corners but I wasn't close to her skill level.

Since I couldn't keep up with the CBR I decided to go back to my original mission and enjoy the scenery.

I've arrived, Lillooet!  Almost everyone I spoke with didn't have a lot to say about recommend about Lillooet.  The bike rental agency recommended I stay in Pemberton and the CBR rider who I spoke with at the construction site said there wasn't anywhere good to eat in town and she lived there.  The sign sure looks spiffy though.

My view of the sun just starting to set from my hotel balcony overlooking upper Lillooet.

My chicken caesar wrap and beer for dinner.  Just a local pub, wasn't as bad as I was led to believe.  Lillooet is a sleepy little town but the hotel I stay at, the Retasket Lodge was extremely clean and owners were friendly and gracious.  If you're looking for night time entertainment or touristy shops Lillooet is not the place to stop.  If you want a nice place to stay with a clean hotel room at a cheap price for the night it's perfect.

The next day I went out heading down HWY 12 along a much drier almost arid mountainscape along the Fraser River.  The road was rougher than others and one pass high up along the bluff was one lane with a cliff wall on one side and sheer drop on the other.

Rather than had towards Vancouver at the end of HWY 12 I decided to turn north again along the Trans Canada HWY 1 towards Spence Bridge.  A historic bridge I'm told.  A sign outside of town tells me the bridge is not in service currently.  As I make my way off the highway I find out why, it's just three pillars in the river.  Still there is a neat park that tells the story of the bridge which was very important in it's day.

A beautiful day to stop and take in the surroundings.

Now I'm on the road alongside the Fraser Canyon and decided to take in the view with another rider who was sitting precariously over the lookout wall.  Very nice guy named Duff just chillin' drinking what looked like a Budweiser.  He was a local and we talked bikes a bit and he told me that there are even better roads further in British Columbia.  That's hard to believe after what I've experienced but I'm sure its true.

I'm at Hell's Gate.  A tram ride to the bottom of the canyon.  I stayed a while and watched the trams ascend and descend, most were empty of passengers.  Just a bit further down the road I saw a bear just walking along the shoulder.  Once he saw me he turned and ran into the forest.  That was my only encounter with wildlife besides one small deer that jumped out and away from the road as I was passing.

Last meal of the ride at the Big Foot Cafe just outside of Harris Mill, BC.  Turns out it's a Harley rider hangout, though I did see one Victory.  I had a great joy and a little trepidation pulling up on my BMW, not nearly as entertaining as showing up on a Japanese bike but always fun to get that fish out of water vibe.  I'm in full riding gear and they are in leather vests and half-helmets.  Nobody said boo to me the whole meal but I did get a few stares and some smiles.  One of the riders did chat with me as we were both leaving at the same time.

Great place to ride and worth the effort to visit, definitely a bucket ride list item.

Hope you enjoyed the trip!

General Motorcycle Discussion / Bike Demographics
« on: May 12, 2017, 05:37:18 AM »

When I ride my Ninja young men typically give me the thumbs up or tell me how much they like it.

Since I've been riding my Versys it's seems the retiree crowd will give me kudos on owning a fine machine.

Your Ride Reports / 2017 Ride and Eat
« on: May 10, 2017, 07:39:57 PM »

My annual Spring ride is now complete with a ride up to Gloucester to visit Joe Hot Dog.  For newcomers, Joe Hot Dog is run by a man I dubbed Surly Joe because, well, he's surly.  One word answers and an oft repeated joke is what you get.  The food isn't gourmet truck spectacular, this is a man with a truck pulling a trailer with boiled hot dogs, mustard and some other fixins'.

Here are some photos of the trip.

Joe has scaled back a bit this year.  His awning is rolled up and the bar stools aren't out in front of the cart.  He also was only serving hot dogs today.  No Italians or beef.  Sorry for the dodgy photo, I took it quickly with the zoom lens from afar and didn't give the camera time to focus.

The meal.  A hot dog with mustard, relish and onions, bag of chips and a water.  And yes, when I asked for water Joe pointed out to the harbor and says, "you can have all you want", I told him I wanted something less salty, he told me, "you'll get used to it".

Do you see the structure in the middle of the frame.  On the fourth of July they grease the pole and put a flag at the end.  Then swimmers go out to the structure and one by one try to reach the flag by crawling or hanging from the greased pole.  That's total no-money fun on a summer day.

I really like this statue, dedicated to the fisherman who were lost at sea.  It sits right before the memorial.

Here is part of the memorial.  It lists the year and names of the fisherman who never came back.

I spliced the starting stone with the last, 1716 - 2011.  The dates up to the early 1900's make up most of the plaques.

Afterwards I took a ride down the coast on HWY 127.

I took a short hike through Rafe's Chasm Park.  Apparently the story is it was named after a former slave who lived in the area after the Civil War.  A sign stated that many of the stonewalls in the area were his works.

The park leads to the ocean where I happened upon an artist.  This is fairly common site in New England, seeing artists out in the wild.

Looking south.

I made my way home after that, still putting the break-in miles on the new Versys.  Only have about 150 so far.  I'm going to add to this thread in the future, there are so many neat little spots to eat in this area.  I will add the address or in Joe Hot Dog situation the general area in case anyone inclined and nearby wants to visit

Joe Hot Dog
Western Avenue
Gloucester, MA
near the Fisherman's Memorial

Please feel free to add photos and names of places you've found on your ride to this thread.  The more the merrier.

General Motorcycle Discussion / Motorcycle Sale Dilemma
« on: May 09, 2017, 06:16:46 AM »
I have a young man that is interested in my Ninja 650.  He has never owned a motorcycle before and his only experience is mountain biking and he just passed his MSF course.  Now I know the Ninja isn't a powerhouse but it is very torquey with a snatchy throttle.  In our first email I gently suggested he might want to consider a smaller displacement bike to start but his counter-argument is that he wants a bike that he can grow into.  So what's the consensus, would you sell a Ninja 650 to a beginner?

Stablemates / 650's
« on: May 02, 2017, 05:32:27 PM »

It took just over a week to get the bike home from the dealer.  Lot's of logistical stuff that I didn't expect but she's finally home.

So here we are, just me and the Kawasaki twins.

Initial ride was strange.  I babied the motor at first, I mean real gentle and it felt like a tractor, wasn't pleased.  I started giving it more gas and then the motor reminded me more and more of my Ninja.  The tires are new and it had just rained so I wasn't pushing in through any corners.  The stock windscreen at the lowest setting is junk for me, noisy.  I'm not fond of the turn signals, aesthetically I like the integrated look of the Ninja better.  Had zero problem with seat height so far but I can see some circumstances where it might be problematic.

On the plus side very comfortable, love the integrated luggage and the windscreen at the highest setting was a-okay.  Can't wait to get the tires properly scrubbed in to get a better feel for the handling.


Just came back from the dealership and picked up a 2016 Kawasaki Versys 650 LT.  Technically I haven't picked it up yet, I am waiting on a few accessories that they will install before it's official but all the paperwork is signed.

Pic of new bike with smarmy looking owner.

Your Ride Reports / Riding the Arizona Desert
« on: March 14, 2017, 03:08:54 PM »

About a week ago I returned from a three day trip in Tucson Arizona for a ride around the high desert.  Visited Nogales, Saguaro National Park and Mt Lemmon and some interesting points in-between.  My friend John had just moved there last fall and as luck would have it he has two bikes, his Honda Interceptor and a nice Yamaha FZ6R.  For the most part I rode the Yamaha and it was a good fit as it is very similar to my Ninja 650, harder seat but rider triangle a bit more comfy.  Power and handling fairly similar but I think his Yamaha needs new tires as I felt the back wheel break free on more than one occasion.

From lumber to limber.

Our first stop was the sleepy little town of Patagonia, AZ.  Mostly art studios and touristy knick-knack stores and a few restaurants surrounded by dirt and cacti.  You can see in the photo above that the old lumber store is now a pilates class.  We rode off along the very twisty road on our way to Nogales on the border.

Notice the tallish square tupperware, it gets passed from table to table and is filled with the most delicious and HOT homemade sauce.

We rode up and down the streets of Nogales and at a fill up John asked me what I wanted to eat.  I thought a good Mexican restaurant would be just the ticket.  He looked up for the best one according to Trip Advisor and they sent us to Concina La Ley.  Hard to find as it sit just out of town in an industrial park and off the main road.  The interior is lit with unflattering fluorescent lights and the tables and chairs are old but serviceable.  The menu only has five different tacos, ceviche, soup and broth.  After ordering John asked for nachos without looking at the menu, "we don't have nachos" was the kindly reply, he then asks for chips, "we don't have chips either".  The server recommended broth and according to John it was fantastic.  The service was exemplary.  Note in the photo our tacos look a bit sad, after my first bite one of the workers pointed me to a bar at the far side of the restaurant with different fixings like onions, lettuce, cilantro and such.

Here is the border wall separating Nogales, AZ from Nogales, Mexico.

We make one more stop along the twisty highway before our trek back home.  The weather is hot when you're not moving and a bit cool to downright cold when you're on the throttle.  Overall it was a good first day.  I tried a few stints on the Interceptor a bike I've had a long time infatuation with but I just couldn't get along with the very sporty clip-ons.

Big sky views along a rest stop on HWY 83.

The next day we travel to Saguaro National Park and Kitt Peak.  Saguaro is really neat and my experience in the AZ mountains only it's heavy with traffic and we can't really enjoy the bikes in a sporty way.  It's also colder and windier today, very windy at times.  Between Saguaro National Park and Kitt Peak you have to travel around thirty minutes across the high desert and the wind starting hitting us something fierce.  Fortunately we received some relief once we were in the shadow of the mountains.

Me and my cactus friend.

If you look to the upper right of the photo you can make out one of the observatories, over 6,000 ft in elevation.

We had some great views on the ascent.  I believe it's about twelve miles of nothing but curvy roads all the way to the top.  It got quite a bit colder too but not unbearable.  The worst part was the wind, it was very gusty when we were about four miles from the top.  One time it was so bad it nearly knocked the bike out from under me.  I literally stopped in the middle of the road thinking I couldn't control it anymore.  I soldiered on and the wind abated once we rounded the corner and got some cover.  There is a neat visitors center at the top of the mountain as well as a number of observatories.  The visitors centers does tours and has a nice little museum as well as a gift shop.  I don't have many photos from this part of the ride because the cold air was sucking the life out of my phone's battery, which I was using as my camera on this trip as well.

The road leading off the highway to Kitt Peak is long, straight and about three miles long.  It's also largely unpopulated with great sight-lines which gave me an idea.  I had meant to ask John if he wanted to drag race the two bikes but the thought slipped my mind as we were making our descent.  So I surveyed the situation and thought, I will race him anyway even if he is unaware.  As the road straightened out I was traveling about 45 mph and was following John, I dropped two gears and ripped the throttle on the Yamaha.  I got the speedo up to around 110, fastest I've ever traveled on two wheels.  I was surprised how stable the FZ6R was at those speeds opposed to the Interceptor which gave me some shaking around 87 mph.  Oh yea, John suggested I give the Interceptor a speed run too.  It's possible that the shaking may have been induced by the top case on the Honda.

Thinking I had four more miles to go I stopped here to put on another layer and switch to my thicker gloves.  Little did I know the parking lot was right around the corner.

View from the top.

A nice meal of calamari and meatballs ended the day.

On the final day of the ride we made the trip up to Mt. Lemmon through Coronado National Park.  This is an amazing route and should be on the list of every rider.  If I remember right it's around 25 miles and just under 9,000 ft in elevation, John's fitbit assumed he was walking and he got some amazing stats that day.  We went on a Monday and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, very little traffic and generally agreeable temps even at the very top.  There are some amazing views on this road but sadly either my iPhone couldn't really capture them well or worse yet, once again the battery died on me during the ascent.  I'm working with an old iPhone 4 here and it's just barely hanging on as is.  Anyway, the road twists and turns all the way to the very top, the speed limit is 35mph but we were doing 50-ish most of the time.  Traffic generally pulls over for you if you catch up with the car in front of you, though on one occasion this did not happen and we had to pass, one of us legally the other not so much.

One of the amazing views on the ascent of Mt Lemmon.

My trusted steed named, Dos Pacos, a very easy to get along with Yamaha FZ6R.

We had snow the last two miles of the ride to the top.

So that is about it.  John did a speed run at the base of Mt. Lemmon, I tried to keep up but thought better of it as it was a bit more congested there than at Kitt Peak.  This is a neat area to ride though admittedly the scenery is rather brown.  We did have an incident with the border patrol returning from Kitt Peak.  I went through easy-peasy but John being a Canadian had to go through some vetting, it wasn't too extreme.  The guards were actually quite nice and one was a rider giving us all sorts of info for the rest of our trip.  Looking forward to riding weather here in New England, soon very soon.


Your Ride Reports / Miserable Weather, Fun Ride
« on: October 20, 2016, 06:05:46 AM »

On Tuesday my friend Paul and I took a ride up to the White Mountain region of New Hampshire to catch the just past peak colors of our lovely New England Autumn.  We planned the trip a few days earlier and the forecast predicted high 70's and partial sun, a little cooler in the mountains.  Definitely a little cooler.

Riding in the soup.  The entire trip was low lying fog and 100% humidity.  It never rained but condensation was persistent.

Our first official stop was lunch followed by a pull-out on highway 3 called the Basin.  It's a large bowl shape carved out of stone by rushing water.

Some neat rivers and falls abound in this area of the White Mountains.

Back on the highway and into the mist.

We got around to the northern side of the mountain range and the fog had dispersed only to be replaced with strong wind gusts.  I had nearly been blown into the opposite lane of traffic.  It was nice to see the blue sky though.

Made our way through Crawford Notch and we were running short on time.  Decided we needed to leave now to get home before dark.

The weather got so bad by the time we rode through Bear Notch Road we decided to skip the Kancamagus Highway and head south and cross New Hampshire along HWY 25.  The weather was crap that way too.  Eventually we connected with I93 and made our way home.  One brief stop to warm up and Dunkin' Donuts and that was it.  The sun had gone down as we passed Concord NH which left me with an hour of riding at nighttime in the dense fog.  Paul had an even longer ride to get home.  For my part the fog and condensation seem to magically lift right at the Massachusetts border.  It was still dark but at least I could see.  Seems like all of New Hampshire was shrouded in a foggy curse.

The weather was miserable but it was good fun to ride with Paul and catch up on this summer's events.

Your Ride Reports / Pacific Coast, Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood
« on: September 27, 2016, 07:50:14 AM »

Had the good luck to rent a bike for two days while out in Portland.  Had a mostly dry with temps that were cold in places but mostly comfortable which is a good bit of luck considering the time of year.  All that aside the scenery is nothing short of stunning.  Vistas so amazing that in a few places you lose attention to the twisty road in front of you.  The roads were in mostly good condition with the exception of severely grooved pavement along a short section of the Columbia River on the Washington side.  It was also mostly sweepers in the curves with only a few technically challenging areas.  I was able to take a few photos, hope you enjoy them.

Day 1, a ride out west on HWY 26, along the 101 on the coast and back to Portland on HWY 6 through Tillamook State Forest.

My "waterproof" luggage from the resourceful folks at Eagle Rider.  Worked like a charm.

Many tunnels through the rocky coastline.

Haystack Rock just south of Canon Beach.  Can be seen in a few movies, Goonies and 1941 to name a few.

Grand views from a pullout along HWY 101

Love the way the highway cuts the rock in two.  Coastline is very rugged.

Roads, rails and the sea.

Coming back home to Portland through the Tillamook State Forest along HWY 6.  Hit some rain on my ascent into the mountains and cold temps but it cleared before I reached the top.

Day 2, Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood

A view of the Columbia River.  This is from the Washington side as the Columbia creates a natural border with Oregon.  Weather was overcast to start the morning.

Cape Horn.  Observant viewers will see the graffiti on the sign, Cape Horny.

Beacon Rock.

Columbia River Gorge Dam built by the Army Corp of Engineers.  Tours are open to the public.

The salmon ladders built into the dam.

Underwater viewing of the fish as they jump up the ladders.

My Bonneville in North Bonneville.

Making my ascent along HWY 35 towards Mt. Hood.  Crossed a very long metal grated bridge to reenter Oregon.  Motorcycles pay a .75 cent toll.

Beautiful mountain scenery.

More sweepers.  This was my last decent photo of the ride even though there was much more to see.  As I made my way around and up the east and south side of the mountain the weather turned quite cold, foggy and damp.  Great roads and some amazing sites but between the foul weather and plentiful road construction didn't allow for many other opportunities.  A shame as there were some spectacular views of the Mt. Hood summit from this side.

I made my way back to Portland, Milwaukie specifically to return the bike.  I missed my turn and rode across a bridge spanning the river and hit rush hour traffic. Unable to turn around I found myself lost and spent another hour finding an alternate route across the river and then another hour finding the bike rental shop as I was riding in severe traffic.  Put a damper on an amazing experience but I would deal with it all again.  Eagle Rider, Portland is a very well run shop that offers great service and a very honest atmosphere.

Hope to get back soon!

Your Ride Reports / Rally at Mt. Washington
« on: August 17, 2016, 08:46:59 PM »

The Nighthawk gang traveled to New Hampshire this year to climb Mount Washington and ride around the amazing roads.  While there were no Nighthawk bikes at the get together everyone owned at least one at one time in their riding career.

Our first day we went to Searles Castle near Salem, NH.  The ride leader shared the same last name as the castle and while it's not a typical destination it was quite neat.  Surprisingly the manager of the grounds allowed us unfettered access to almost everything.  He didn't know us, we didn't pay anything, all we had is a person in our group who shared the same name as the castle.

Food is fuel.  Someone had a major sweet tooth and chowed down this sugary breakfast.

Our starting point at the entry to the park to ride up Mount Washington.  After you pay your $17 fee you get some weather info and a little sticker that reads, "This Bike Climbed Mount Washington".  A bit premature to offer that credential before the ascent as we learned later as other riders decided to not go all the way.

View from a pull-out along the mountain road.

It's about a nine mile ride to the top.  The road is gravel around the seven mile mark and then reverts back to pavement after a mile or so.  The road is narrow in parts and some of the drops are pretty steep.  The last mile on the way up was completely shrouded with fog.  Made for an eerie last climb.

We actually parked illegally at the top of the mountain.  We couldn't read any of the signs due to the fog and we stopped at a service area for the park workers.  We weren't busted until we were suiting up to leave.

The Cog rail car that takes visitors to the top of the mountain.  It's one of the three ways to get to the top, hike, drive/ride or take the train.

The summit.  My photo is from afar as I didn't have the patience to stand in line for the shot.  Not that it would make any difference, it was so foggy that you really didn't have a view so I thought this would do.

I just like this photo.  One of the riders in our group brought his Sportster to the ride.  His bike has the peanut tank and only has a range of about 110 miles.  It worked out alright except that most of our stops were gas stations with little time opportunities for photos of other sites.

Power Rangers... ATTACK!!!  Yours truly at the edge of a drop-off.

A little hairy at this pull-out.  Nothing is flat as you ride up the mountain and I was very nervous about the lean angle of the bike on it's kickstand right at the edge of the mountain slope.

Tim looking for photo opportunities.

A great view looking down one of the mountain slopes.

Service with a smile.  A nice meal after the climb at a local restaurant.  The burger was served with the smiley face.

Loved this sign at the restaurant.

It rained on our last day of the rally.  My poor bike didn't have a cover and suffered all the fury nature could throw at her that day.

I rode back home with Kitch who lives nearby-ish to me.  The weather turned quite nice as the day went on and we stopped by this mountain lake to take a photo or two and adjust our gear.

It turned into a beautiful day.  Had the rest of the gang waited a half-hour longer we could have had another nice day of riding.


Had planned to ride up to Laconia for bike week but got waylaid just outside of Louden at the Speedway.  That's where all the demos were happening.  Getting on a bike was pretty easy with hardly any waiting at all.  Here are a few I tried and my initial impressions.  A few were repeats from earlier rides but it's interesting how opinion about the bike can change from repeated rides.  I'll try to keep this short as I tried six bikes.

The first ride was the Ducati XDiavel.  According to the rep this is not a cruiser.  If you want the Ducati cruiser get the Diavel, the "X" makes it different.

It's different alright, I've been finding hard to wrap my head around this bike from almost immediately after sitting on it.  It's got snot-loads of power and torque.  We were told to keep the revs around 5k rpm that's when the bike is the smoothest.  It has six gears and to keep the bike in the sweet spot I was in third and fourth most of the time ranging from 35-60 mph.  The bike turns well but you gotta push it, those fat tires aren't the most nimble.  All the XDiavels are feet forward but you can adjust them within a three inch span.

It's not really a comfortable bike and the suspension is very stiff.  I almost got ejected from the seat after hitting a heave in the asphalt.  I just don't know who would buy one, cruiser riders are not going to like it, it rides nothing like a cruiser with the exception of the seating position.  Sport bike riders won't like the seating position.  Doesn't have range or comfort to do a long tour.  The only bike I can equate it to is a VMax but with forward controls and very wide bars.  I don't dislike the bike, it was a lot of fun to ride... as a demo.  Can't imagine owning one.

I really like these TFT displays, very easy on the eyes.  Doesn't come across as well in the above photo.  By the way, this was by far the most aggressive demo ride I have ever taken.  The ride leader basically told us afterwards, what happens on the trail stays on the trail, I'll honor his request.  I wouldn't be surprised at some time if there weren't crashes or injuries.

Seriously Yamaha, when are you going to get rid of those globby orange turn signals.  They put them on every bike and they look so cheesy and cheap..  They must have a warehouse full of them.

The next booth over Yamaha was there with all it's bikes.  It was amazingly easy to get a test ride even though it was close to midday.  Had this been Daytona or even Americade most the slots would have been filled.  I gave the XSR another go.  I really like this bike.  Smooth, controllable power, good handling and surprisingly strong brakes.  Surprisingly because at almost every stop sign I pitched the bike forward from grabbing too much lever.  The rear brake is equally strong.

If you gently twist the throttle you will get a nice, responsive and quick acceleration to cruising speed and if you twist the throttle hard you will get one of the biggest rushes of acceleration but it never feels out of hand.  Things I didn't remember from my first test of the bike.  The seat is hard, like a plank.  And it pitches forward too much.  The seat was higher than I remember, could not put my feet flat on the ground but was close.  Mentioned the brakes.

I have never seen such a small display share so much information.  Unlike the Bolt gauge the XSR gauge is easy to see when riding (don't go by my photo).  As I said, I really like this bike, it just fits and give the rider instant confidence.  At least for me it did.

I rode the FJ09 again.  Every time I ride it I like it a little bit more.  Still think the design is a mess.  I only took a photo of the instrument panel which is the same one they use on the Super Ten.  Bugs me that the two screen backgrounds are two different shades of grey/green.  Quick synopsis, tall seat, willing motor, wide bars, nice handling.

I wandered to the Victory tent next.  Wanted to take out an Empulse TT, their electric bike.  They were out on the road and needed to be charged when they returned.  The rep said, "come back in an hour".  Okay.  Let's go check out the Harley tent.

Boy did I stick out there wearing my white mesh jacket, racing boots, textile gloves and full face helmets.  My riding jeans looked the part though.  The HD reps are so good at what they do, even the one that didn't like me too much was a professional the whole time.

I picked the Sportster Roadster.  Apparently it was popular and I had to wait, seemed like forty minutes.

I don't think it's great looking by Harley standards but I like everything else.  What makes this Sporster special is the higher seat, longer suspension and flat bars.  Sitting on it didn't feel as aggressive as I thought and maybe I could ride this bike all day and not be too sore or stiff afterwards.  So I start it up and it shakes, This is the third HD I've ever tested and I'm starting to enjoy the character.  The motor smooths out after rolling along.

This isn't a super fast bike but it has some poke.  It may be the only Harley I've tried where I didn't accidentally bury the rpm needle.  It turns into corners a bit heavy but once over it holds the line great, dare I say confidence inspiring.  As I went on I was leaning the bike over more and more.  I should clarify here that you don't go out in a group on an HD demo.  You follow the course and ride on your own.  Because of that I was really able to push the Roadster to my hearts content.  I even caught up to the next group of HD's when we hit the twisty section.  This bike has none of the absolute power of bikes like the XDiavel or XSR but it's so much fun to ride hard because of it's limits.

A simple instrument clock.  Easy to read, nothing to distract.  This bike was so much fun.  I would buy this bike.  Probably used.

I came back from my Roadster demo and there was a Fat Bob just sitting there waiting for someone, anyone.  I was that anyone.  I saw this bike on the showroom floor a few weeks ago when I tried the Dyna Glide.  I just love how it looks.  Riding it, meh, it's okay.  It's kind of pokey, handling is slow and my right leg kept rubbing up against the air cleaner cover.

I do like the name, Fat Bob, it's fun to say and I do like the looks with the fat tires and sliced tail.  Seat was comfy and the bike was very predictable in it's handling and power delivery.  The brakes were average at best.

I don't have much to say about this one.  It was the least memorable.

On my way to the Victory tent I did a stop at Indian.  Look what a local shop did with one of the Scout's.  Cafe racer!  Higher seat, rear pegs and a BMX bar.  They were asking $16k for this modified little beauty.

Look how happy I am on it.  Where's my checkbook?

Fully charged and ready for duty.  Well that's not true.  My bike only had a 29% charge when I took it out.  That's right folks, I got to try an electric motorcycle.  This one is an odd duck for so many reasons.  It has a clutch and six speeds, neutral is between second and third.  They prefer that the demo riders keep the bike in third as they feel first and second are too aggressive.  Not my bike, I followed their rules.  That's right, no need to really shift though I did give it a go a few times, I went from third to fourth, hard to say if it made a difference.  When you turn it on it is dead quiet except for a quiet hum, if you put your hand on the "tank" you can feel a subtle vibration.

The bike feels like a regular motorcycle once underway.  There is a bit of a lag as the bike engages after you twist the throttle.  The bike feels real solid, meaty but not heavy.  When you take it into a turn it's very precise.  Brakes have good feel.  No surprises.  While the bike is quiet it makes a neat electric whine as you accelerate, I liked the sound.  On the other hand it also makes an annoying chaffing sound as you ease up the throttle and the power disengages at the back wheel.  And one of the biggest issues with electric bikes.  Range.  As I wrote, my bike had a 29% charge when I started out.  Our route lasts about thirty minutes.  Before I even left the grounds the battery had discharged down to 27%.  Hard acceleration and traveling around 55-60mph for the first few miles before we reached the backroads, 21%.  The battery usage got better once we were on the slower roads.  By the time I got back I believe the battery was at 14%.  I can't imagine getting more than 50 miles if you are riding hard.  It's a fun bike to try and would be a good commuter but it's priced at $20k.  I can't imagine anyone buying one except maybe someone like Jay Leno.

General Motorcycle Discussion / Festa Italiana
« on: June 12, 2016, 05:30:44 PM »

One of my favorite dealers was having a demo event for their Piaggio line.  They didn't have every bike and I didn't have enough time to try all that they offered but I was able to squeeze in four rides before I had to leave.  The brands they were showcasing were Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Vespa.  After a bit of thought I picked the Aprilia Tuono, Moto Guzzi V7 Stone and the Vespa 300 GTS.  I also was able to take a bonus ride on an Aprilia Shiver.  The rides lasted about 30 minutes each and traveled through backroads of New Hampshire.  Never got to interstate speeds but were allowed a few places to open up the throttle to get the feel for the bikes power.  On the plus side a lot of twisty roads to test out handling so that was fun.  Here you go, in the order of my rides.

I started the day on the Aprilia Tuono.  The Tuono was the most popular bike scheduled so they wanted me to take it first so it would be available for the next round.  According to the ride leader the Tuono is one of the few naked bikes available on the market that is essentially the same as it's superbike brother with little to no changes other than seating position and bars instead of clip-ons.  The first thing you notice is that this isn't a standard, the seating position is still quite aggressive with a high seat pitched forward, high pegs and a fairly low bar.  I could not get my feet flat on the ground when we were at stops but it was close.  When we took off I was surprised how well mannered the bike is, clutch engagement is easy, shifting effortless and throttle response is predictable.  I was also pleasantly surprised how nice the mirrors were, the position was good and I had excellent visibility and they were never shaking from vibration.

The bike is littered with all kinds of tech.  Ride modes, ABS, traction control with 9 settings, slipper clutch and completely adjustable suspension.  I only fiddled with the traction control during the ride.  I didn't really have time to examine all the other features or info on the instrument cluster.  There is a fuel gauge, gear indicator, speedometer, mode and traction control position.

It's a fun bike to ride.  It's very fast and the V4 sounds beautiful.  According to the web the bike makes 175 horsepower and 88.5 pound-feet of torque.  The few chances on the ride I got to rip the throttle were thrilling, all the images in the periphery of my vision blurred and I could only focus on the very center.  You can feel the power in your core as the bike launches forward with seemingly no end to the acceleration.  I really liked the handling too, reminded me a lot of the instant connection I made with the Honda Interceptor, the twists and turns almost felt too easy.

I'm not enamored with the styling.  Lots of angles and edges which I equate more to Japanese bikes.  Also the bike is not comfortable for very long rides.  A few odd things that I found odd and cheap, the turn signal switch is very floppy and doesn't have good feedback.  Also for such an advanced bike I was surprised that the turn signal indicator on the dash was a single flashing light with both directions indicated, usually something you find on very basic bikes.  Those are very minor niggles considering how exciting the rest of the bike feels.  Lots of fun to ride, I can understand now why owners rave about them so much.

Up next is the Moto Guzzi V7 Stone, an air-cooled 90° V-twin engines with a longitudinal crankshaft orientation where the engines' transverse cylinder heads project prominently on either side of the motorcycle.  Moto Guzzi's remind a great deal of Harley Davidson bikes, unrepentantly clinging to the past.  Bikes with a lot of character that make up for lack of performance and technology.  I don't mean to say that the bikes aren't refined and improved over time but they don't change the essential core of the machine.  When the ride leader went over the features of the bike he essentially said, "this is the speedometer and this is the odometer" a bit of a pause, "and that's about all there is to it".  The seating position is very comfortable, bar height feels natural and foot peg placement is right below the seat.

Much like the Dyna Glide I rode a week ago I really enjoyed my time on the V7 Stone.  As one of the other riders told me, "these bikes speak to you", in truth it's fun because it isn't super smooth, doesn't handle tightly in corners and the motor reminds you it's there from time to time.  As an example, when leaning the bike over in a turn you can feel the pistons pumping and the bike shaking to the right.  It is surprising at first but the bike will corner well enough and you do get used to it rather quickly.   The V7 does have good torque and can take off from a stop with a bit of steam, it runs out quickly and on more than one occasion I hit the top of the revs in second gear.  It has a shaft drive that is designed to absorb shaft-jacking from take off so your ride is smoother.

All in all it's a fun bike and for me it falls into that category as a second bike.  While comfortable enough between the modest 48 horsepower and busy motor I wouldn't want it for a primary ride.  I also found the clutch a little hard to pull and the shifter was too low for me to get my toe under efficiently.  Apparently the shifter can be adjusted I was told.

I've been on a lot of scoots over the years but never had the chance to try a Vespa.  The ride leader had asked if I wanted to do the full 40 minute circuit while on the Vespa.  I told him yes, I love riding scooters.  He then said, it will go around 78-80mph so I won't have any problems keeping up.  Again, I knew this already but he just wanted to reassure me.  He went over the features of the Vespa, showing me the USB port inside the front compartment, underseat storage which isn't huge for a maxi-scoot but big enough.  Tells me the bike has ABS and traction control, more features than the V7 Stone!

Like I said, it's been a long time since I've been on a scoot and I had forgotten what a CVT transmission feels like.  I twisted the throttle and the bike just sat there.  I let go thinking I may have done something wrong.  I twist the throttle again and let go again.  Something isn't right.  One more time and I hold the throttle open... there's the wind up and the pitch.  I take off, forgetting that there is a bit of a lag as the CVT engages.  Once underway the Vespa sprints off joyously.  I had forgotten just how much fun it is to ride a scooter and I feel a bit like a hipster cruising on the Vespa, it's so darn iconic.

Had some fun keeping up with the bigger bikes in the group.  I had about 20 or so horsepower to work with and the other bikes in this run were various 1200cc Moto Guzzi's.  I did alright considering the difference, steeper hills would drop me back and when they went wide open throttle it took me just a few seconds to regroup but that's to be expected.  It was a hoot when then corners got tight, so easy to turn from side to side but it never felt squirrelly.  The suspension was quite nice erring on the side of comfort, the entire ergonomics were very comfortable, effortless.  Matter of fact it was so comfortable that I actually got bored during the route.  I wasn't bored riding the Vespa, I was bored following the group.  I wanted to go off on my own as there wasn't anything else to test on the bike, I learned everything I needed in the first few miles and I liked it.  Only quibble I have with the bike is that a sidestand is extra, meaning in stock form you have to hold the scoot up while you get off and engage the centerstand which can be a bit awkward.

As I was getting ready to leave the ride leader offered me one more test ride on the Aprilia Shiver.  He knew I was short on time so he said I could go out on my own.  He gave me an abbreviated route, lasted about twelve minutes or so.  This was a fun bike and I felt right at home.  It's sorta like my Kawasaki Ninja only with 20ish more horsepower.  It has a mean growl from the underseat exhaust, torquey motor from the 750cc v-twin and good handling manners.  It's considered an entry bike for Aprilia and doesn't have any "features" or tech, not even ABS.  I didn't care for the peg position, high and back, if I were going on an all day ride.  My Ninja is like that and it just isn't good for me when going over 300 miles.

Apparently the Shiver has some factory touring gear, some rigid soft luggage and touring screens.  I could see myself getting this bike if it weren't for the peg position as everything else from handling to power, throttle response and clutch/shifter were just natural for me.

So there it is. A few good hours with a bunch of Italian bikes.  None of them can replace the Ninja as each has a fatal flaw but each and everyone of them was a treat to ride.

General Motorcycle Discussion / My HD Experience
« on: June 02, 2016, 11:54:25 AM »

Went for a ride out to Lebanon, NH, about two hours by interstate from my house.  Took the long way home.  I happened to stop by a Harley Dealer so I thought I would stop in and look around.  And while this isn't a "ride report" here are some extras from the trip.

A view of the Connecticut River which runs the border of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Some good street food in the town Square of Lebanon.

My lobster roll, fries and water for around $12.  That's a steal, usually a first class lobster roll costs between $18-25 and this one was first class.  The fries on the other hand while looking good were so-so at best.

The bike I got to demo, a 2015 Harley Davidson FXDL 103 or Dyna Low Rider.

I haven't been to a Harley dealer in ages, maybe ten years, probably longer.  They are smoooooth on the sales floor.  My salesmen Rich told me, "I'm not here to sell, just here to talk about bikes".  After a bit of chatting while he shows me the different new and used bikes he offers me to take the bike for a test ride.  I picked out this Dyna Low Rider mostly because it was one of the few bikes on the floor that wasn't black or some dark color.  Rich goes over the specifics of the bike and then lets me have at it.

My experience on the bike was very pleasant and enjoyable.  It's heavy, nearly 670 pounds but it moves hand handles quite nicely for a bike of it's heft.  Not once did it feel like it was getting away from me due to the weight and the only time I could tell it was heavy is when I took it off the kickstand or when I swayed the bike side to side.  What I liked about the bike, mind you, this is based on a rather short test ride:

The good
Easy clutch pull
Smooth transmission
Nice sound (factory pipes)
Relaxing ride

The bad
Below average brakes
Barge like handling... sorta
Heavy motor vibration at idle and low revs.
Low rev limit, around 4-5k rpm

When I got back and spoke with Rich and told him what I liked and didn't like he became an apologist for the bike's shortcomings.  Telling me that the brakes are good they just haven't "seated" yet because it's so new.  He also tells me that it's one of the better handling HD's and rationalizes it with reminding me how easily he took it around a sharp corner when bringing it out to me.  I explained that I liked the bike and my frame of reference is my Ninja which is over 200lbs lighter so of course the steering won't be as sharp and the brakes won't be as responsive, trying to give him an out yet he continued to tell me that it's as good as my Ninja.  I also asked him what that smoke was rolling off the pipe just below the motor, he never did give me a direct reply.  At this point I want to say that Rich was never rude in our discussions at all and my experience there quite enjoyable.  HD really has well trained staff.  Of course even though Rich claims not to be a salesman while I was testing the bike he spoke with his manager about offering me a deal because it was a 2015.  I waited out of courtesy while they came up with a price of $16,664.  The manager also told me that this wasn't a car dealership and they don't haggle but since this was a 15' model year that he could be motivated to sell.  I just smiled and said thank-you and explained there were many other bikes I want to test and I'm in no way ready to make a purchase.

I did like the bike.  The funniest experience I had was when I wanted to test the motor and revved it up to see how fast it was, I accidentally slammed the needle into the top of the rev range and the engine gassed out.  I lost all momentum, have to be a quick shifter on a Harley I suppose.

Your Ride Reports / New Season, Same Joe
« on: May 20, 2016, 09:15:36 PM »

My inaugural ride to kick off bike season was completed today.  Per my last three years I made my way to Gloucester and dined seaside at Joe Hot Dog Stand.  Joe was there with a few updates to his operation yet the same old joke.  Again, I asked for water with my meal and he points to the bay and says... drumroll please, "there is the ocean".  That Joe, what a charmer.  He did mumble a few things to me but I could only discern that he is hoping for bad weather so he can take a few days off.  With that, the picture show!

Rock star parking right next to the hot dog stand.  Check out that banner, meatball subs, Joe is diversifying.

Holy crap!  An awning and two barstools, this is one swanky hot dog cart.  Joe is going high class this year.  Now you can eat and enjoy Joe's acidic comments all at the same time.

I may tease about Joe and the hot dog stand but it's some fine street food.  Seriously, if you are in Gloucester stop on by, he is along the harbor just south of town from 10 - 3.  Can't miss him.

Decided to take the scenic ride around the peninsula towards Rockport.  A lovely view of the Atlantic encouraged me to park my bike on the sidewalk illegally for a quick snapshot.

Then I spied a Dairy Maid and got the hankerin' for something sweet.  The name, Dairy Maid threw me.  I guess it's a spin on milk maid which I don't really equate to ice cream but they serve a mean frappe.  By the way, when I lived in Wisconsin we called frappes, shakes or malts or sometimes malted (never understood the past tense version).  You usually get a blank stare if you ask for a malt in New England but frappe and shake are common.

Me and all my riding buddies enjoying a cold, refreshing treat... awwww, just a bunch of empty chairs.  Eh, I've got a frappe, motorcycle, winding roads and warm temps.

See you next year Joe.  Can't wait to see how you spruce the joint up in 2017.

General Motorcycle Discussion / Yamaha Came to Town
« on: April 30, 2016, 12:12:32 PM »

Yesterday the Yamaha demo truck came to a town near me.  So what's an eager enthusiast to do, ride on up and check out the offerings.  According to the rules you are only allowed two demos per day, that being said it was a bit of a chilly day and the turnout was quite low so I got to try four bikes.  Of the four bikes three of them were a new experience and one repeat.  Rather than write a lengthy review I'm going to keep this poetically short.  If anyone wants a further discussion on any of the bikes I will be more than happy to indulge.  Also uncharacteristically I only took one photo and it's on my phone so I don't have that to share either.  I will scour the internets to provide a visual of each bike for references sake.

FJR 1300 -
Responsive bullet train

Super Tenere -
Cushy tractor

Neo-retro perfection

FJ-09 -
Caffeine-addled easy-chair

General Motorcycle Discussion / Getting the Itch for a New Bike
« on: February 13, 2016, 06:14:19 AM »

Went to the bike shop today to pick up a pair of riding boots, that was the cover story anyway, instead I spent most of my time looking at new bikes.  Love my Ninja 650 but it has 20,000 miles on it and if I'm true to form that is usually when I decide to trade up.  The bikes I looked at today were, from priciest to bargain were:

BMW XR1000s, on sale for $19k... yeah, won't be getting that one.

BMW R1200RS, a bargain at $18k... probably not in the budget either.

BMW F800 GT, practically giving it away at $13k, for a BMW anyway... bags are extra, a lot extra.

Kawasaki Versys 1000 LT, surprised by how much I liked this bike.  $11.5k with bags.

Honda Interceptor, really like this one but the ergos will kill me.  Also $13k but bags are extra like the little Beemer.

Kawasaki Ninja 1000, this one was a used 2014 with luggage for $10k.

Two other bikes I wanted to see but weren't in the showroom were the:

Kawasaki Versys 650 LT at only $8.7k with luggage it's the best deal in town.  Only drawback is that it is essentially my Ninja in slightly different form.  Nothing wrong with that just don't know if that's worth a new bike price.

Yamaha FJ-09 right around $10k without luggage.  I really didn't like this bike when I took a demo ride last year but I think I need to give it a second chance.

By the way, never did get the new riding boots.

Your Ride Reports / Little Roads
« on: October 16, 2015, 09:25:44 AM »

Due to a slow moving truck in front of me I detoured down a little road that took me to some of the prettiest spots I've seen nearby the north shore area.  I snapped a few photos to share.

My first stop for many photos was this little stone bridge.  The sunlight was just breaking through the trees.

Another from a different angle.  The weather was perfect, neither too warm or too cold, sunny and fairly calm.

A quick stop at Russell Orchards Farm for a still warm apple cider donut.

Swampy river.

Lunch break was at Farnham's Famous Clams.  I usually get the cod bites but wanted something that wasn't deep fried so opted for the blackened fish tacos... didn't realize till my order arrived that the "shell" were deep-fried little bowls.  It was good if not too healthy.

I think I've shared this view a few times in the past.  Farnham's Famous Clams is located right at the edge of a salt marsh, quite a nice view for dining outside.

Another spot down an unknown little road that I've passed more times than I can remember.  Glad I made the turn today.

I wish this shot turned out better, also along a windy seldom traveled road this sailboat is being refurbished but the whole thing looks so homemade from the structure, to the armature holding the boat and the boat itself.  I wanted a better angle but didn't feel right trespassing on their property so this was the best I could do.

One last shot of the mighty Ninja.

Great day for riding though the wind did pick up in the afternoon and was quite blustery on the interstate ride back home.  So glad I'm still finding neat areas to explore so close to home.

Your Ride Reports / Old Bird's Last Flight
« on: July 24, 2015, 12:35:58 PM »

So the Nighthawk is sold and in truth I didn't really ride it that much.  I bought it in early Spring to have as a second bike for a visiting friend.  I totaled right around 500 miles with the bike and only around 250 of those miles were mine.  I took one last ride earlier this week to get some shots for the CL ad I was about to post.  It was a little adventure as I decided to ride up the coast through Ipswich, Salisbury Beach and a few points beyond.

Stopped off at the is place called Bob Lobster to find this artist doing a painting of the local scenery.  I'm stealthily sneaking up on her as the electric-like inline four of the Nighthawk purrs in rhythmic silence.

I made my presence known and chatted her up a bit.  Never know how conversations with artists are going to go, some are very introverted and wish to be left alone and others are extreme extroverts and love the company of others.  Valerie was of the extrovert variety and we spoke at length about a few topics.  My favorite story of hers was when a local fresh seafood shack commissioned her to do a painting and half of the job was awarded in Lobster Rolls.  If you wish to see her work follow this link,  I thought she was quite good and she tells me her site will be updated in the near future.

My next stop is Salisbury Beach for a few slices from my favorite Tripoli Pizza.  I met another rider who was there before and he kindly shared his spot with me.  I plugged a few coins in the meter as he planned on sticking around much longer than I.

He tells me that his bike is a 2004 and to date it has cost him $18k.  He pointed out that curly pipe off the back cylinder, that alone is $800.  That comes out to around $1600/year not including maintenance.  Currently my Ninja is at $2300/year so not bad if you think about it.  He made the comment that my Nighthawk was sooooo quiet when I fired it up to leave.  A Where's Waldo moment, find my Nighthawk in the chrome of the Harley.

Can't leave without a shot of the pizza.  I know it doesn't look like much but that sauce and crust are the best.

I make my way up the coast to take a few beauty shots along the ocean of the Nighthawk for the CL ad.  Many, many other bikers are cruising by.  Yep, he's not wearing a helmet, this is New Hampshire baby, "Live Free or Die".  Interestingly enough there are roadside signs that ask bikers to be respectful and quiet.  Lots of pricey oceanside mansions here with discerning owners.

The beautiful and cold Atlantic Ocean and my Nighthawk.

One last artsy shot of the Nighthawk.

After that I made my way for home down I95.  The Nighthawk is so pleasant on the interstate, stable, comfortable, it was a good but brief ownership deserving at least one ride report.

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