BMW K1200S, MV Agusta F4 1000 S And Suzuki DR-Z400S - Staffers' Rides - Doin' Time

BMW K1200S

Photography by Tim Carrithers

Ringleader: Carrithers
MSRP: $16,995
Miles: 1880-4711
Average Fuel Mileage: 38 mpg

Accessories and modifications: BMW Sport Panniers and Tank Bag, Evoluzione Cyclesports Billet Footpeg Relocator and Superwhite Bulb Kits, Dunlop Qualifier tires.

Getting down to das serious business here, job one was to find out why I was still suffering much of the same spastic fuel delivery we experienced at the K1200S's Munich debutante ball lo these many moons ago. Colin Sebern, parts manager and resident K-bike fiend at BMW Motorcycles of Ventura County (www.bmwventura.com) and his official BMW Group Tester One computer pounced on the trouble immediately. Das Beast was soldiering on with the same BMS-K programming it was given at birth; at least three generations behind the latest version. After a 30-minute digital transfusion it's a new motorcycle. Goodbye vague, convulsive throttle response, and good riddance. You might wonder why BMW's press-pool handlers didn't handle it before the bike was delivered. So do I.

More legroom was next on my shopping list. A Billet Footpeg Relocator Kit ($89.99) from Evoluzione Cyclesports adds about an inch; just enough to keep my knees from seizing up after 500 miles without dragging excessively through the twisty bits. Installation is tragically easy. The same goes for Evoluzione's Superwhite headlight bulb kit ($39.99). The standard trio of 55-watt H7 bulbs cut a large, functional swath after dark, and these aren't really brighter. The blue/white quality of the light, however, reveals more detail on the road, and makes the bike a bit more conspicuous in nighttime traffic.

Since putting as many miles as possible between my taillight and L.A. is the right job for this tool, tough, unobtrusive, easy-to-use luggage is indispensable. BMW's Sport Panniers ($793) deliver on all counts. They take a half-hour to mount if you take your time. After that they go on or off (literally) in 30 seconds, using the bike's ignition key. Capacity is, um, modest, but compression-style liners maximize what's there, and a bellows-type lid lets them expand to swallow about 50 percent more gear. Factor in BMW's standard purpose-built K1200s tank bag-relatively simple but completely waterproof-and you have room for a week's worth of gear, assuming regular trips to the Laundromat.

And since the standard Metzlers were looking pretty squared off from too many miles in a straight line, I levered on a set of Dunlop's genuinely impressive new Qualifier radials (about $98 for the 120/70ZR-17 front and $143 for a 190/50ZR-17 rear). Phenomenally sticky enough at the track, even with big horsepower and an aggressive rider, they warm quickly on the street as well, deliver good grip in the wet and seem to be wearing well for such grippy skins. They're a major improvement over the old D208ZR. What's next? Getting out there to put some more miles on 'em. Stay tuned.

Staffers' Rides
MV Agusta F4 1000 S
* Ringleader: Cat
* MSRP: $21,495
* Miles: 3453-4198

"How was it out there?" asked Bill Landers while prepping his custom Matrix Edition 999 at a recent Southern California Ducati track day.
"Great until some kid on a 600 passed me dragging his elbow," I replied.

Thanks to the help of Shawn Ooi and his crew at Moomba Cyclesports (www.moombacyclesports.com), I finally managed to replace the MV's shagged Michelin Pilot Power Race radials with a fresh set, but the bike didn't work quite as well at California Speedway as it had at Barber. Nobody but nobody got a sniff of its quad exhaust on the banking, where the digital speedo routinely registered 160ish mph. But it was another story entirely in the infield, where the Italian stallion succumbed to repeated attacks by the young lions of WERA West-Michael Beck, Jason Perez and Justin Filice to name three.

It needs new brake pads now, and another set of tires. And I've got to find a guard to stop the rear tire from rubbing a hole in my right boot. Fortunately, new heel cups for my Sidi Vertigo Corsas cost just $25 per pair...

Suzuki DR-Z400S
* Ringleader: Ford
* MSRP: $5599
* Miles: 2104-2821

The DR-Z's dual personalities are starting to kick in. At times, I swear I can hear it arguing with itself late at night.

This stint started in full-goose off-road adventure mode, with a trip through the Mojave desert to investigate another of my odd fascinations, airplane graveyards. Riding pal Peter Goodwin and I covered miles and miles of whoops, snuck under lots of fences, and snooped in, over and around hundreds of mothballed airplanes. Great fun.

The Driz then went into surgery, emerging as a supermoto bike. On went East Coast Wheels' (www.eastcoastwheels.com) 17-inch wires, protected by the street Dunlops that come on the DR-Z's sister ship, the SM. A stock-size EBC disc (www.ebcbrakes.com), a 41-tooth sprocket from Sprocket Specialists (www.sprocketspecialists.com) and a new D.I.D. (www.didchain.com) ERV3 racing X-ring gold chain were grafted onto the rear.

An Acerbis supermoto fender and a huge, 320mm EBC disc and caliper bracket went on the front. This was tough; the disc comes so close to the rim that it was impossible to wedge the caliper/bracket assembly back in there. I finally had to pull the whole assembly apart, screw it all together, piece by piece, around the disc, and then snake the pads into the caliper. This is, apparently, why Suzuki uses a 310mm disc on the SM-so you can actually get the wheel off without dismantling the entire brake system.

It all came to a happy ending, though, and with the compression damping dialed up front and rear, the Driz is now just as delerious a lightweight streetbike as it is a dirtbike.

Do it all, with one bike? As Curly Joe would say, "Soytenly!"

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