TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE R
Wrist: Ari Henning
MSRP (2013): $15,999
Mods: SW-Motech mirror extenders
In my last update, I left more than 1,000 miles unaccounted for after my ride to Monterey with Marc and Zack for the Laguna Seca MotoGP. I added another 300 miles on race day alone—moments after the checkered flag dropped for young Marc Marquez, I sprinted to the parking lot at turn five, hopped on the Speed, and sped toward Highway 101 ahead of the post-race rush.
After 5,000 miles, the Michelin Pilot Power 3s are wearing down. The rear has a flat spot,
What was my hurry? It was already 2:30 in the afternoon, and I still had a long way to go before day's end. But I wasn't headed south to Los Angeles. Rather, I was riding north to Anderson at the northern end of California's Central Valley for another couple days of gallivanting. It's hard to get out of the office, so when I'm away, I try to make it last!
Previously, I'd mentioned a desire to wander among the redwoods of Northern California. I finally got the chance to do it, but it wasn't on my Triumph. When I arrived in Anderson, just south of Redding, I met up with Kevin Nixon of Twisted Throttle. Kev was headed home after attending the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America rally in Salem, Oregon, and had a trailer full of ultra-farkled showbikes to play with. We rolled a Triumph Street Triple R and a new BMW R1200GS out of the trailer and headed for the coast. But that's another story, one you can read about in the Megaphone column.
SW-Motech’s mirror wideners are the cure for a crummy rear view. They’re available for a v
After an awesome two-day loop ride with Kevin, it was time to get back to the office. But before I left, we swapped the SW-Motech mirror wideners (twistedthrottle.com; $70.99) from Twisted's Street Triple to my Speed Triple. I complimented the parts enough during our ride that Kevin offered them to me for the Speed. The little machined-aluminum brackets move the mirrors out about an inch and a half, making them significantly more effective, and they haven't affected my ability to split lanes in LA traffic. They're a great mod for riders tired of staring at their elbows.
With midday temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees, I opted to leave Anderson before dawn in an attempt to knock out part of the 650-mile freeway slog south before it got too hot. Kevin had another item to help on the ride home: a dry cooling vest from Macna that Twisted Throttle had just introduced to the public at the MOA rally. The water-filled vest uses evaporative cooling to keep your body temperature in check, and it made a noticeable difference in the midday heat. It's a passive system so the effect isn't dramatic, but it definitely elevated my tolerable temperature threshold. It's an expensive item at $166—especially when you can soak a T-shirt for free—but the Macna vest's vapor-permeable membrane means your skin doesn't get wet and the garment remained effective all day.
I met a Japanese man at a gas station who was taking his KLR from Alaska to Mexico, but other than that the ride back to LA was entirely uneventful. The Speed is happy to lope along at 80 mph and will cover 150 miles between fill-ups, but I couldn't last that long. The unabated windblast put constant pressure on my neck and shoulders, while my knees longed for more legroom and the stiff suspension jostled my stiff muscles. The fork is harsher than my previous bike, despite what should have been identical settings, so I'm wondering if the fork legs are misaligned and binding. I'll check when I put fresh tires on.
In total I rode about 1,800 miles over the long weekend—more than 1,300 miles on my Speed Triple and another 500 miles on the Twisted Throttle bikes.
Considering all the touring I've done on the Triumph, maybe I should have asked for a Tiger instead. This freeway time isn't in line with how I like to travel, though, and the Speed is perfect for the city streets and twisty back roads on which I do most of my riding. Even after such a long highway stint, I have no regrets.
WRIST: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2013): $19,520 (as tested)
MODS: Wunderlich crashbars,
It's inevitable that BMW will release an off-road-specific "Adventure" version of its new R1200GS as a 2014 model, but who has time to wait for that? I'm itching to take the water-cooled GS off road right now! Time to roll my own GS-A. My GS is already fitted with optional spoke wheels ($500) and the Dynamic ESA package that includes an Enduro ride mode with traction control and ABS schemes tailored for off-road riding. That left me to source protective crashbars—a mandatory mod given my 31-inch inseam and the GS's 33.5-inch seat height—and dirt-ready rubber.
I selected Wunderlich crashbars, designed in partnership with long-time BMW accessory partner Hepco & Becker, so I could count on OEM-quality fit and finish. Engine protection bars (wunderlichamerica.com; $339) guard the Boxer-twin's opposed cylinders, while tank protection bars ($329) shield the side-mounted radiators. Consisting of welded-steel tubing powdercoated silver to perfectly match the frame, the Wunderlich bars look like they could have come from the factory.
Installation was straightforward, aided by illustrated instructions, with the lower bars requiring just the slightest persuasion to bolt into place. A precise shape provides complete crash coverage without compromising ground clearance, cornering clearance, or maintenance access, and the seven-point mount uniformly absorbs and distributes impact forces to prevent secondary damage to the engine or frame.
Surprisingly, a decent 50/50 dual-sport tire proved harder to find. Calling the usual suspects at Metzeler, Pirelli, and Continental, everything to fit the GS was sold out. Rubber shortage? Midsummer sales run? On the trusted advice of a hard-core dual-sport buddy, I substituted a set of K60 Scout tires from little-known German tire manufacturer Heidenau (heidenautires.com; $172.60 front, $224.90 rear). I can't wait to see how these tires do on the street—and in the dirt.
That just leaves fuel capacity, one area where there isn't an easy aftermarket solution. The current GS Adventure (based on the previous-generation Oilhead) carries 8.7 gallons of fuel to my bike's comparatively measly 5.3 gallons. Still, averaging 42 mpg, I've got a usable range of 220 miles—plenty for civilized adventuring. Beyond that, I could always strap a jerrican on the back.
WRIST: Joe Neric
MSRP (2012): $17,579
Twelve months ago, I took the 2012 Harley-Davidson FLD Switchback for a long-term test, and what a year it has been. I accepted the Switchback assignment because even though I'm a sportbike guy at heart, I was curious about cruiser life. As I said before, there are so many cruisers (Harleys and others) on the road that there must be something to it. And there is, but I was surprised to learn that it was more about the culture than the machines. A short trip to Los Olivos, California, last summer proved to be a fantastic experience. This weekend journey, made simple by strapping a bag on the luggage rack and inviting the wife onto the back, has earned a spot on my top-five list of fun road trips. It was then I realized why I see so many couples on these machines. Usually riding bikes is a solitary thing. Taking the wife along made the trip so much more enjoyable. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have been as happy on the back of a sportbike.
During that trip, I met a few Harley people, which brought a different perspective on the brand. We were invited to two rallies just because we were riding a Harley. I've never seen that camaraderie among sportbike guys. That, I must say, is the coolest part of riding a Harley.
Over the last year, I've had to change my riding style to suit the Switchback's lack of cornering clearance and weak brakes. Even after improving the brakes with EBC pads (see last month's long-term installment), the FLD is still no sportbike. I didn't expect the Switchback to have sporty performance, but I also didn't expect it to be this far away.
I frequently wished for more fuel capacity. Stock is 4.7 gallons, a capacity dictated by styling. That should give you 170 miles of total range based on my 36-mpg average. However, the low-fuel warning came on consistently at 110 miles. I asked Harley's tech guys to look into the issue, but they said the bike was fine. I understand being cautious, but I also don't much like running on reserve when the penalty for misestimating what you have left is pushing a 700-pound machine.
Harleys have been called unreliable in the past. If the Switchback is any indication, that's no longer true. The FLD left our fleet with more than 16,000 miles total—it arrived with almost 8,000—nothing having broken or fallen off. Besides the saddlebag I left unlatched. I prepared myself a year ago for something to go wrong but nothing did. That, along with the friendship of fellow Harley riders, probably surprised me the most over the past year.
DUCATI MULTISTRADA 1200S
Wrist: Zack Courts
MSRP (2013): $19,995
Miles: 2,022 (new bike)
Mods: CalSci windscreen, Rizoma license plate mount and turn signals
My last update might have seemed like it glossed over a pretty significant event in my time with the Multi, but I promise I gave all of the pertinent details. I knew I could count on a number of you loyal readers telling me what an unsafe, inept idiot I am. With any luck, some day I'll be old and wise too, and I can shake my finger at young bucks making mistakes and pretend I never did. Cook says it's a lot of fun. In the meantime, I'll nurse my pride (and my smashed testicles) and try to feel better. And luckily I have reason to. By the good grace of Ducati almighty, I have been granted a second chance, in the form of a replacement Multistrada. And this time I'm wasting no time getting down to business. I promised to test this thing—thoroughly!
The cockpit is definitely cooler and more open with CalSci’s short windshield. Notice the
So in the interest of "sporting" the Multi up a bit for an upcoming trackday, I decided to experiment with the windshield by reducing it. CalSci was kind enough to send me one of its Tinted Shorty examples (calsci.com; $125), which popped on to our bike—four easy hex bolts—in less time than it takes to say "California Scientific."
Foremost, I think the short, dark smoke screen makes the bike look almost streetfighter tough. I do wish it had a little bit more dynamic shape to match the Multi's swoopy curves, but I guess that's where the "Sci" comes in. Out on the road, the Tinted Shorty works well, taking most of the wind off my torso and shoulders in the raised position with minimal buffeting. Leaving it low around town is nice here in Southern California, as even fall temperatures are often near triple digits. I'm interested to see how it reacts at high speeds when I hit the track. More on that next month.
Next up was solving the flappy-blinker issue. I took the coward's way out (I didn't know there was another way, I swear) and ordered up a License Plate Support from Rizoma (rizoma.com; $245) and a set of the Graffio Marker Light blinkers (rizoma.com; $120). I say the coward's way because I received a slew of letters from readers with DIY fixes that they claim solved the problem. I'm feeling guilty about pulling the trigger so quickly on the catalog, but I have to say I think the Rizoma kit looks really sharp. And because it's made mostly from anodized aluminum instead of flexible plastic like the stock stuff, the flapping is gone. If I have time before the Multi goes back, I'd like to try the readers' suggestions for carefully placed washers. Thanks for that, guys.
Issues that still need resolving are storage (still hoping to try a standard Ducati top trunk) and the annoying centerstand tab that competes for space with my left heel. Some of the same helpful readers relayed tales of triumph regarding the Tab of Annoyance, so my confidence is up. The centerstand has to come off for the aforementioned trackday, so we'll size it up and see if we can't fix that.