My first bike(s), a learning process
A little about myself. I'm a firefighter from Texas, and I've been interested in riding motorcycles ever since my dad bought his first one when I was growing up, but it never seemed the right time. I'm a bit of an overachiever, so as my 36th birthday was fast approaching I decided that if I was going to have an early mid-life crisis that I needed to be a rider before my 36th birthday. I signed up for the BRC from the MSF, and was irrevocably hooked by the end of the first day on that little 250cc bike. I told myself that there was no rush getting a bike, and had one within three days, a used Honda VLX 600.
Fast forward a little over a month and about 600 miles. I was still having a blast riding, but was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with that little Honda I had initially purchased. It wasn't that it was a bad bike, it's actually a great little bike, but it wasn't right for what I wanted to do, which was day trips around the area. Of course it took a month of riding experience to realize that, so I think of it not so much of a false start but part of the learning experience.
Cruisers look great and sound great, but I found myself with a growing list of desired changes. A more standard footpeg arrangement for surmounting obstacles, higher gearing more suitable for highway use, a windscreen, lockable on-bike storage, and a more comfortable seat. In short, a touring bike. Before taking a perfectly good street cruiser and opening the wallet to start changing it, I decided to look at what kind of naked or tourer was available first, with an eye for another beginner friendly bike that had touring chops. If I could do so without losing a bunch of money on the Honda, then all the better. I thought about selling the Honda private party, but if I traded it in then the value of it would subtract from the taxable value of the new bike, a savings that I would not be able to duplicate selling to a person.
First thing I did was take my Honda back to the dealer I purchased it from, to see what kind of trade in value he would give me. He would offer me 2/3rds of the purchase price to buy it back, or slightly higher if I traded it in on another bike he had. He had a Yamaha FZ6 that I took for a test ride and how different from a cruiser can you get? The Yamaha FZ6 also has a 600cc engine like the VLX, but the Inline-4 it sports is a totally different beast from the V-twin I was currently riding. Frankly, it was too much bike for me right now, and the leaning forward sportbike ergos had me feeling like I was constantly about to fall into the tank. I imagine it would have been more comfortable at highway speeds with air pressure pushing you back up, but a twist of the throttle got me up to 40 in 2nd gear without even thinking about it. It would not be a forgiving bike if I made an error, not a good learning bike. That said, it was quite peppy and fun, I imagine that it's going to be in consideration for a subsequent bike. Add in the fact that it was going to cost me about $2500 over trade-in, and it wasn't the right bike.
I then went to a local Suzuki dealer to sit on a V-strom 650. I liked the ergos, it was a taller bike which I liked, and had touring accessories like hard bags available for it. I wasn't sure how much off-roading capability I would need though since I have no experience with it, and I suspected that a heavy 650 would not be ideal to learn how to off-road with. Also the reports of buffeting and uncomfortable seat led me to suspect that I would have to put some money into the bike after purchase to make it suit me better. On top of all that was the price. I was going to have to shell out a couple of thousand in addition to my trade-in to get one from a dealer. So I decided to pass on the V-Strom. Once again, I liked the bike so it may be in future consideration for a future bike.
My next trip was to the local BWM dealer to look at some used bikes they had listed. Or particular interest was a used K75RT. It had all the tourer features I was looking for, and I don't think I have to tell any of you how much fans of the "flying bricks" love theirs. :) All it took was one test ride and I was lost. Talk about a smooth running bike. I did a little horse trading, the dealership called around and was able to offer me enough on my trade-in that I purchased the K75 for $250 out of pocket. That sealed the deal for me.
I picked up the K75 on a Saturday, and took it for a 160 mile meander through the hill country west of Austin. The ride included some pretty nice twisties and some segments of slab. The K75 took it all like a champ. I had one moment where I dragged my left boot on a twisty and backed off a little bit, but it was quite capable in the turns. The aftermarket saddle went a long way towards eliminating numb butt syndrome, and the fairing and windshield and higher gearing made running at highway speeds much more enjoyable, where as before it was simply something to endure. The hard bags give me some much needed on-bike storage. I'm going to see if there are some other options, the locks are pretty cheesy and will only keep honest people honest, but since it has to stay outside my apartment they are appreciated and a starting place.
The Inline-3 cylinder has plenty of torque for me, I can beat most cars off the light, and can cruise all day at 75-80. I got it up to 95 yesterday in a straight segment, I imagine it will do more if I open the throttle all the way, but why would I need to? Will this be my last bike? No. But it's a good and forgiving learner that I can take on day trips, which is what I want in a bike right now. I was actually surprised at how well it handled the small backroads. I had a couple of low water crossings, some gravel segments, and a couple of cattleguards to cross. The K75 handled them all with grace and made it look easy.
The only "problem" I have with it, is it gets pretty warm around the upper legs when running at highway speeds. The previous owner installed a Corbin seat, and found that they couldn't put the side panels back on. I suspect that part of the heat problem is from these missing panels. I'm going to look for some used ones and see if I can adapt them to work with the seat.
Great to meet you.. welcome.
Traveling the southern latitudes
Last October (2006) spent a month touring New Zealands North Island on a rental 650GS. Being a lad of little faith I next shipped my 650GS from Hawaii to New Zealand and toured both the South and North Island of New Zealand for another 3 months (Feb-April 2007).
Back to Hawaii leaving the beamer in Auckland. Back down in June and shipped the bike to Sydney. From June to the end of September (2007) going counter-clockwise I managed to put on over 30k or 19,000 US miles. The bike sits in a small town just north of Melbourne. I return to Australia January for another 2 months touring Tasmania, Victoria mountains and finally back to Sydney. Shipping the bike back to the west coast for a try at the artic circle in 2008.
If anyone has done the artic circle and has an itinerary of your trip I will gladly give you a CD copy of my travels through OZ.:dance