Brakes on such fast, heavy bikes are critical to well being, but we have relatively few complaints. All are backed by competent ABS and each bike has some form of linking, ranging from transparent (especially on the Triumph and Yamaha) to slightly funky (on the BMW, mainly because the controls lack feedback) to pretty annoying, in the case of the Kawasaki. While the Connie's binders are plenty powerful, the linking strategy, even in the Low Combined mode, can offer unpredictable results. Each of us had praise for ABS at least once during the trip, and the same can be said for traction control, though the Kawasaki's, which cuts power too bluntly and for too long, is half a generation behind.
As we made our way up Highway 152 out of Silver City in what would be a futile attempt to cross the Emory Pass before clear pavement and daylight ran out, the road became tighter, rougher, and more technical. As before, the BMW impressed us with its rare combination of stability and compliance, with the Triumph not far behind as long as you reduced rear preload a bit; though the rougher roads could conspire with its light steering to demand a bit more concentration than is ideal.
Nothing special here, but the bags are commendably narrow without sacrificing capacity. Th
Subtle but effective, the FJR’s dash is new this year and much improved. Windshield and gr
With the ’13 re-do, Yamaha gave the FJR a turbulence-reducing portal above the new headlig
By now we'd started to give the Yamaha some margin owing to the soft suspension. The FJR manages rougher roads well, but you have to work to preserve lean angle. The Connie was a little frustrating. We couldn't find suspension settings that gave us acceptable bump compliance without inducing somewhat unruly ride motions. "Kawasaki definitely intended for this bike to be ridden hard, and it's sprung accordingly with what seem like pretty stiff spring rates," opined the ever-enthusiastic Mr. Frank. "Unfortunately, damping is a bit light, especially rebound, which occasionally made the Connie feel a little hyperactive over rough pavement. I've ridden a modified Connie with a cartridge kit in the fork and Penske rear shock and it's pretty remarkable when this bike is working right."
We had to abandon our shortcut along Highway 152 out to Interstate 25 and an early dinner in Albuquerque because of snow and darkness, backtracking enough that we ran our chase bike out of gas. Which illustrates an interesting point of true long-distance bikes: range. The Kawasaki averaged a sorry 36 mpg over the 2200-mile ride--despite our occasionally engaging the fuel-sipping Eco ride mode--suggesting a theoretical maximum range of less than 210 miles. The three others, by dint of either better mileage or bigger tanks--the BMW's is 7 gal. even, the Triumph's 6.9--math out at or above 260 miles. Doesn't sound like much, but 50 miles is everything when gas stations are 60 miles apart.
After an uneventful night in Albuquerque--aside, of course, from the freak snowstorm that blew in just 10 minutes after wed parked--we reassembled in near-freezing conditions to head westward, picking up US60 out of Socorro, NM. Skirting the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array--"We're broadcasting important information into space, like how much water we have...how dumb is that?" asked staff paranoiac Kinzer--we found roads to let the STs stretch their legs. Subjective impressions put the K1600 a league ahead of the others. The silken six peaks at 106.4 lb.-ft. of torque, but holds more than 100 from 4500 to nearly 6500 rpm. None of the others gets close.
Get fuel early and often. There's nothing worse than sweating the distance to the next fuel stop. Except for running out of gas, naturally.