Tag Archives: Bike Tests

Triumph Tiger 800XC Bike Test

One of the perils of this job is falling in love with a motorcycle which, luckily, doesn’t happen all that often (at least to me). “They” say that love conquers everything but, since my love for the 2013 Triumph Tiger 800XC doesn’t seem to be able to conquer the lack of funds in my checking account, I am forced to conclude that “they” are lying through their teeth.

After about a week of riding the Tiger 800XC my friends started commenting on the permagrin etched on my face whenever I rode the bike. After two weeks they grumbled about the exuberant way I’d talk about the bike every chance I got. I can’t tell you how they felt after week three because, by that point, they had stopped talking or hanging around me. I didn’t care though because I had my little Tiger 800XC, my best mate, my (to steal a line from Ted) “Thunder Buddy” and I didn’t need anyone else.

So what about the Tiger 800XC made Cupid want to smite me with his arrow of love? To be quite honest I’m not entirely sure. I’m not an off-road kind of guy as my last off-road adventure ended with me having a concussion, nerve damage and a broken engine case on a borrowed Husqvarna. I’ll go off-road onto some gravel or hard packed dirt roads but I don’t live for those excursions and I’m never truly comfortable when I’m on them. I’m much more of a on-road hooligan kinda guy which it the polar opposite of what this bike is made for.

So why did I fall for the Tiger 800XC?

When I first picked-up the Tiger 800XC I was let down by the seeming lack of power. To be fair I had, literally, just stepped off the Triumph Trophy which, even though it weighs as much as a Freightliner, has the grunty 1215cc triple giving it some mojo when you twist the throttle. The 800cc triple in the Tiger 800XC seemed anemic and woefully underpowered by comparison; even though Triumph claims 94bhp and 59 lb.ft. of torque. Of course I soon realized it was my expectations and the way I was riding the bike that was the issue and not any real lack of power.

Riding the Tiger 800XC like one of Triumph’s liter class triples and you’ll be disappointed. You’ll also be disappointed if you ride it like its smaller cousins, the 675cc triples. The bigger triples produce plenty of torque at low rpm; the smaller triples produce lots of hooligan-inspiring hp at the top of the rpm range; but the 799cc triple in the Tiger XC likes to be right in the middle – it’s the perfect Goldilocks motor. Once I started riding the bike with that powerband in mind I immediately started to enjoy myself.

Whether you are on a back road or the interstate (80mph in 6th gear = 6000 rpm)keeping the bike right in the mid-range will reward you with plenty of power for just about any situation you may find yourself in. That lack of top or bottom end, combined with the Tiger 800XC’s gearing, meant that I, being somewhat wheelie-challenged, was unable to loft the front wheel. My inner child threw a temper tantrum every time I tried and failed.

Connecting the motor to the rubbery round things is a 6 speed transmission that is, quite honestly, the best transmission I’ve ever used. People always talk about “snicking” into gear but until I rode the 800XC I’d never truly experienced a “snickable” transmission. Up and down shifts are accomplished with so little effort that they almost seem to happen before you physically move your foot to make them happen. Every other manufacturer needs to buy a Tiger 800XC just to take the transmission apart and copy the magic.

The last participant in the “putting the power to the wheel” menage-a-trois is the clutch. The Tiger 800XC clutch is light but with good feedback and progressive take-up and a friction zone that is easily modulated.

Sometimes a bike whose suspension is made to tackle the humps and bumps of off-road travel wallows through paved corners like a fat hippo in a puddle of mud. Somehow the Triumph engineers have figured out how to create a suspension that is both forgiving off-road and confidence inspiring on road. Yes the tall 21” rim means that handling is a bit deliberate and slower than you’d ideally like if you were tackling a road like Deal’s Gap. And yes if you decide that you are going to muscle the bike through some tight left-right (or vice versa) transitions you will slide the skinny 90/90 series front tire. But slow your brain down a bit, relax your grip on the bars, act like the bike is just an extension of your body, ride smoothly and you will be amazed at the fun you’ll have.

Not being an off-road kinda guy I decided to test the bump absorption abilities of the Showa 45mm upside down forks and rear Showa mono-shock the best way I knew how; speed humps. I figured that with 220mm of travel in the front and 215mm in the rear, taking those annoying speed humps at speed should be no problem for the Tiger 800XC. So I went over at 25mph, then 35mph, then 45mph, then 55mph. At that point I figured that I should probably wait until a later hour to try higher speeds since I was in a residential area with a speed limit of 25mph.

Once darkness set in I took the Tiger out on the prowl for some speed humps to ingest. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say that the Tiger 800XC can handle speed humps at speeds at least up to 80mph; which is where my welcome ran out and I had to vacate the area. One downside I found is that the bike exhibits the same ultra-light throttle spring that I’ve found on other Triumph’s I’ve tested this year. That light spring makes it difficult to maintain a steady throttle over bumps and results in some jerkiness when bumps are encountered.

I was quite impressed that the bike would handle hitting those big speed humps (not the little bumps but those “tables” they like to use in residential areas) at speeds around 80mph and not exhibit any form of shake or wobble or nastiness. I was really impressed that it could do this and be smooth and controllable in the corners without any sort of adjustability to the front suspension.

As with any motorcycle, the first thing that catches your attention is the looks. You can create the best bike in the world but if you style it like Grandma’s bedroom few people will want to buy it; unless your target market is motorcycle riding Grandmothers. Some liked the styling of the Tiger 800XC, with it’s angular bodywork, black rims with silver spokes, and strong “Roman nose”; others disliked it because of it’s angular bodywork and woodpecker beak (some called it “Woody”…which is ironic as that what the bike gave……oh forget it). I personally like the styling a lot and wouldn’t change a thing.

Another nice feature of an adventure bike is comfort. While the seat on the Tiger 800XC could be better, the seat to pegs to bar relationship is perfect. Triumph helps make those dimensions fit you perfectly by making both the rider’s portion of the seat and the bars adjustable. I left the bars alone in the position they were in when I got the bike and raised the seat to it’s higher position and was perfectly happy with the bike. Slap a slightly bigger/better shaped windshield on there as well as a better seat and you could ride this bike on the interstate across the USA with no problems.

Of course you’ll have to buy a throttle lock since Triumph doesn’t put cruise control on the Tiger 800XC. I know that sounds like a minor complaint but after riding the Trophy, Tiger Explorer, and Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour within a few months of the Tiger 800XC I’ve become accustomed to cruise control; go ahead, call me spoiled. Of course with a 5 gallon fuel tank and the fact that I was averaging 39mpg from the bike, you’d be stopping every couple of hours to get gas so maybe cruise control isn’t that important. And since Triumph puts these little nubs in the fuel filler neck to keep you from sticking the end of the fuel pump nozzle into the gas tank, your fuel stops will take longer and your right wrist will have time to recuperate.

Triumph does equip the Tiger 800XC with switchable ABS but, just like on Tiger Explorer, it’s a real bear to turn on and off. Please take note Triumph; going through a half-dozen steps to switch off (or on) the ABS system is both ridiculous and silly. One button is all that is needed. Paved road suddenly turn unpaved? Hold the button down for 3 seconds (or so) and the ABS is off. Back on a paved surface? Press the button one time quickly and the ABS is back on. And no need for a bright yellow light on the dash to light up when the ABS is off as having ABS OFF light up in red on the speedo or tach would suffice; and not be so bright as to distract you at night.

As you can see, the Tiger 800XC is a fine motorcycle but hardly the fastest, or best handling, or most comfortable, or best looking bike out there. So why did it tug at my heart strings so strongly? I honestly don’t know but I can tell you that the Triumph Tiger 800XC is one of those rare bikes that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Don’t believe me? Go to a dealer demo day and take one for a spin; just don’t blame me afterwards when your wallet becomes a little bit lighter.

 

 

Specifications

Engine and Transmission
Type Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder
Capacity 799cc
Bore/Stroke 74.0 x 61.9mm
Fuel System Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Stainless steel 3 into 1, high level stainless steel silencer
Final Drive O ring chain
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox 6-speed
Oil Capacity 3.7 liters (1.0 US gals)
Chassis, Running Gear and Displays
Frame Tubular steel trellis frame
Swingarm Twin-sided, cast aluminum alloy
Wheel Front 36-spoke 21 x 2.5in, aluminum rim
Rear 32-spoke 17 x 4.25in, aluminum rim
Tire Front 90/90 ZR 21
Rear 150/70 ZR 17
Suspension Front Showa 45mm upside down forks, 220mm travel
Rear Showa monoshock with remote oil reservoir, hydraulically adjustable preload, rebound damping adjustment, 215mm rear wheel travel
Brakes Front Twin 308mm floating discs, Nissin 2-piston sliding calipers, Switchable ABS
Rear Single 255mm disc, Nissin single piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS
Instrument Display/Functions LCD multi-functional instrument pack with digital speedometer, trip computer, analogue tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, service indicator, switchable ABS and clock
Dimensions and Capacities
Length 2215mm (87.1in)
Width (handlebars) 865mm (34.0in)
Height without mirrors 1390mm (54.7in)
Seat Height 845mm (33.2in) – 865mm (34.0in)
Wheelbase 1545mm (60.8in)
Rake/Trail 24.3°/95.3mm
Fuel Tank Capacity / Efficiency 19.0 litres (5.0 US gals)
Wet Weight (ready to ride) 215 kg (473 lbs)
Performance (measured at crankshaft to 95/1/EC)
Maximum Power 95PS / 94bhp / 70 kW @ 9300rpm
Maximum Torque 79Nm / 58 ft.lbs @ 7850rpm
Fuel Efficiency 41 MPG City / 63 MPG Highway *Estimated from fuel economy tests on a sample motorcycle conducted under ideal laboratory conditions. Actual mileage may vary based upon personal riding habits, weather, vehicle condition, and other factors.
Price
MSRP $11,999 (with ABS) *Price is MSRP, and excludes tax, title, license, options, handling, pre-delivery, and destination charges. Specifications and MSRP are subject to change without notice. Actual price determined by dealer.

 

Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour

Words and static pictures by Kenn Stamp
Action pictures by Mark Frankenfield

Before we get started with the meat of the review I want to give you a bit of a warning (and spoiler alert). Some of what you are going to read may sound like I didn’t like the bike and that’s true in one respect – I didn’t find the “Cory Ness” part of the Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour to be particularly appealing. I did, however, find the “Cross Country Tour” part of the Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour to be immensely appealing…with a few quibbles here and there.

The first thing that grabs your attention isn’t the design of the bike it’s the color. Yellow. Yellow to the left, to the right, front, back…..yellow as far as the eye can see. OK that may be a bit of an overstatement but looking at the 2013 Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour, one cannot help but think “man, that is a lot of yellow”. I usually don’t mind yellow but in this case I didn’t find it appealing. I quickly learned to avoid school bus stops after I had 4 sleepy 7th graders try to climb on the bike one early morning thinking it was their school bus.

Victory calls the yellow color applied to the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour “Gold Digger Pearl” which sounds great and all until you see it in person. In the direct sun there was some subdued metallic sparkle to the paint but the moment you were in the shade or any indirect lighting the paint went flat. On one overcast day I had use the flashlight app on my phone just to convince a couple of passersby that it was indeed metallic paint. “Custom” paint should “pop” and let you know that some extra care was taken when it was applied. And a manufacturer can’t use the “mass produced” excuse because Harley Davidson seems to be able to create “custom” paint on their CVO line that actually looks custom.

A motorcycle as big as the Cross Country Tour, dressed all in yellow just screams “ pay attention to me!!!”. In other words this is a bike that is custom made for the “15 minutes of fame”, reality TV crowd. With all the stares I was getting it felt like I was riding around on Kim Kardasian the entire time. Wait, that didn’t sound right. While the Cory Ness treatment wasn’t my cup of tea apparently quite a few people actually found it to be quite appealing. Obviously Cory Ness is onto something but what that something is may be open for debate. Love it or hate it you can’t deny that the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour is an attention grabbing bike.

My plan with the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour was to do a 2-up ride down to Homestead and parts of the Florida Keys during a long weekend. I also wanted to do a 2-up day trip over to Clearwater, FL to see their Sunset Festival. I figured a full dress touring bike would make both those trips much more enjoyable.

The first fly in my trip-planning ointment was the stock windshield on the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour. As I quickly found out on my inaugural interstate ride home it was the perfect height to cause someone, who is 6ft tall, unbearable turbulence at interstate speeds; I had new found empathy for bobble-head dolls after about 5 minutes of riding. Obviously this wasn’t going to work and a solution would have to be found, pronto! After a quick search on the internet I found a local Florida business called Madstad Engineering (www.mastad.com) that makes windshields and brackets for numerous bikes. A quick email to them and I had one of his 11 inch windshields and adjustable brackets on the way. I’ll be doing a full review on them shortly but I will say that the man is a genius and if you are in the market for a new shield and/or adjustable brackets then check out his site (he makes brackets and shields for numerous bikes).

A few days later I found myself on a beautiful evening sitting 26.1 inches (seat height) above the asphalt aboard all 108.1 inches (overall length) of the “Great Banana” as it battled its way down the Florida Turnpike against a moderately strong headwind; which I felt not at all thanks to that freakin’ awesome Madstad windshield and adjustable brackets. Of course the windshield did nothing to increase the fuel mileage which ended-up averaging 33mpg for both trips. You can thank having a heavy bike, headwinds, big motor and my heavy right wrist for that pretty crappy number. For those of you who pay attention to such things, the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour is almost 10 inches longer than a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic. Ten inches. Maybe that’s why all those women seemed to like the bike.

There are many reasons why people buy full dress touring bikes but comfort has got to be at, or near, the top. Even on a semi-custom touring bike like the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour, comfort needs to be a priority. To meet that goal Victory put this really cool, deeply dished seat on the bike. Why is it so cool? Because it’s covered in suede. Yes, suede. Which is cool right up until the moment it rains. Then it takes about 15 years to dry. But I guess there are concessions to be made in the name coolness. Oh and the seats are heated too. And you can’t deny that heated, suede seats are cool….unless they are wet.

My favorite thing about Victory touring-series bikes are their ergonomics, especially in the leg department, due to long floorboards. Knowing this was a “custom” bike (it’s numbered and everything!) I was afraid that Cory Ness would put some silly little floorboards that were more in line with being “cool”. I needn’t have worried as Victory put their usual floorboards on the bike. They work great too as you can slide your feet between a mid-mounted control position to a forward control position. If you really want to stretch out you can straighten out your legs and rest your heels on the front of the floorboards and pretend you have highway pegs. Having the option to move your feet and legs around so much really makes long rides on the Cross Country Tour a real pleasure. The Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour also has the heel shifter removed to give you even more room.

Another draw with full dress touring bikes is sound. Not the sound from the motor but that sound that comes from those things that most lesser bikes don’t have; speakers. The speakers on the Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour are plentiful and provide sweet quadraphonic sound. OK it isn’t really surround sound like like a true quadraphonic system would be but the system is absolutely incredible. Kicker makes the speakers and the system seems determined to be louder than the paint. If the bike’s looks don’t get you noticed the sound system certainly will. One of the secrets to making this system sound great is that the rear speakers port into the trunk so the bass response is much greater than one would expect out of 4” speakers. Plug your iPhone in to the plug that resides in the left lower fairing pocket, and jam to your favorite music. And yes this was the part that I missed most about the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour when I had to turn it back in. As an aside, the photographer taking the action pics said that he had an easier time judging when I would be coming into view around the corner on the Victory (than he did on the Tiger 1050 Adventure we were also shooting) due to Victory’s “Mobile Concert Series” stereo system.

It is an unwritten rule that when you travel you must take stuff with you. If you are riding a Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour then you can take lots of stuff with you. Victory claims their bags lead the industry in interior size and I have no doubt this is true (41.1 gallons according the Victory). I have a 17” laptop that I carry in a backpack and I had a plethora of options of where I wanted to put it. I could fit in the left bag, right bag or trunk and have room to spare in all of them. Victory also provides two large, but not laptop large, pockets in the lower fairings that are closed with plastic doors. The only downsides to these fairing storage pockets are that they don’t lock and therefore leave their contents susceptible to thievery (locks are optional). Actually the trunk lock isn’t very secure either as it allows the lid to open enough that a screw-driver could fit in the gap and be used to pry the lid open. Then again it is a motorcycle so the whole thing isn’t exactly secure so this is a slightly moot point.

If you’ve read any of my other Victory reviews you’ll already know that I like their motors, a lot. That doesn’t change with the motor in the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour. The only downside is that there isn’t a lot of oomph since the bike itself weighs as much as Liechtenstein does and that’s a lot of weight to ask a motor to move around; even a 106 cubic inch motor. There is enough power to move the bike at a decent clip even fully loaded 2-up but not as much power as I would like. Of course I come from the Jeremy Clarkson school of “More Power!” so I may have a slightly skewed outlook.

A downside to a big motor is heat. Most companies combat this by water-cooling their motors but Harley and Victory are currently sticking with air cooling to maintain that certain look. Unfortunately, that means that on a full dress touring bike the heat from the rear cylinder has only one place to go; the place where you are currently sitting. I made the mistake of going to South Beach on the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour and, by the time I got there, there was so much heat coming off the bike and the speeds were so slow that I was soaked with sweat and the bike was making all kinds of interesting sounds as the oil was broken down. Even with the little flaps open in the fairings the heat was unbearable and not something I would try again. The bottom your right leg gets so hot that you expect to see blisters there when you get done riding. I did actually burn my leg on the right exhaust at a stop even through my jeans and the heat “shield” over the pipe itself. I have a feeling that the fuel mixture is set VERY lean to meet emissions requirements which increases the heat from the motor. If you don’t sit in traffic and you always ride faster than 35mph you’ll be fine.

The Cory Ness Cross Country Tour, like all Victory’s, comes with a 6 speed transmission that, like every transmission hooked-up to an air-cooled big twin, is a bit clunky going into 1st gear from neutral when stopped. Once you get moving that clunkiness goes away and the transmission offers firm, yet smooth, engagements between gears. Victory also installed a neutral “helper” system on the bike. Go less than 5mph and lift up on the shift lever from 1st gear and you’ll find neutral every single time. As is the norm with cruisers and big twin touring bikes, the Cross Country Tour has a final drive belt for ease of maintenance and longevity.

You battle physics to get the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour moving and then you must battle it once more to get the bike to stop. Victory installed dual 300mm floating rotors with 4 piston calipers on the front and a 300mm floating rotor with a 2 piston caliper on the rear to help you in your battle. They system works well and is easy to modulate but the front brakes require a strong right hand to access their full potential. Victory also installed an ABS system that works well in case things go all pear-shaped, as they often do, out there on the wild streets.

You may be surprised to find out how well the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour handles when those wild streets start to zig and zag around. For such a big, heavy (845 pounds dry!), tour-oriented bike, the Cory Ness handles the curves very well. Push the bike hard, nope harder than that, and you’ll find the floorboards touching down first. But it takes much more lean to get them to scrape than you would expect, or maybe even feel comfortable with. This is a character trait of all the big Victory touring bikes I’ve ridden and it is one of the biggest selling points for me. This handling prowess is due not only to chassis design but also to the suspension that Victory puts on the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour; 43mm inverted forks up front and the mono-shock with constant rate linkage in the back that is air adjustable.

As usually happens my plans didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned as my trip down south turned out to be a solo trip instead of two up. Sometimes bikes with trunks but no passenger exhibit a bit of wiggle at highway speeds from the wind hitting the trunk and moving the rear of the bike around. I never noticed this with the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour either with the stock windshield or the MadStad windshield. I did however feel like the bike was forcing its way through the air at highway speeds; like it was fighting for every inch of interstate it was passing over. Putting a passenger on the back for the ride to Clearwater eliminated this feeling almost completely.

I guess the thing I disliked most about the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour was that it seemed like a lot of money for very little to no gain. In fact, in some instances it actually felt like you were paying more for less. To be fair, once I checked Victory’s website and tried building out a Cross Country Tour to include things that I would want I came up to almost the same price as the Cory Ness version….it just wouldn’t be yellow.

If you are looking for a big touring bike that handles better than it should, looks different than the other big touring bikes on the market and offers high levels of comfort, then the Victory Cross Country Tour is the bike for you. If you have roughly $28k burning a hole in your pocket and you want a semi-custom touring bike, hate the thought of actually having to put some thought and effort into picking out your own accessories then maybe the Cory Ness Cross Country Tour is the bike for you. Just don’t leave it out in the rain uncovered…or ride near school bus stops. If you like riding in the rain and your routes take you near school bus stops then I would heavily recommend checking out the standard Victory Cross Country Tour as that would be my personal choice.

 

Specs:

  • Engine

    Battery 12 volts / 18 amp hours
    Bore x Stroke 101 x 108 mm
    Charging System 48 amps max output
    Clutch Wet, multi-plate
    Compression Ratio 9.4 : 1
    Cooling System Air / oil
    Displacement 106 ci / 1731 cc
    Engine Type 4-stroke 50° V-Twin
    Exhaust Split dual exhaust with crossover
    Final Drive Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt
    Fuel Capacity 5.8 gal / 22 ltr
    Fuel System Electronic Fuel Injection with dual 45mm throttle body
    Oil Capacity 5.0 qts / 4.73 ltr
    Primary Drive Gear drive with torque compensator
    Transmission 6-speed overdrive constant mesh
    Valve Train Single overhead camshafts with 4 valves per cylinder, self-adjusting cam chains, hydraulic lifters

    Suspension

    Front Suspension Inverted cartridge telescopic fork, 43 mm diameter, 5.1 in / 130 mm travel
    Rear Suspension Single, mono-tube gas, cast aluminum with constant-rate linkage, 4.7 in / 120 mm travel, air adjustable
  • Chassis

    Dry Weight 845 lbs / 384 kg
    Ground Clearance 5.8 in / 148 mm
    GVWR 1360 lbs / 618 kg
    Length 108.1 in / 2747 mm
    Rake/trail 29.0° / 5.6 in / 142 mm
    Seat Height 26.3 in / 667 mm
    Wheelbase 65.7 in / 1670 mm

    Brakes

    Brake System Type Conventional w/ ABS
    Front braking system Dual 300mm floating rotor with 4-piston calipers
    Rear braking system 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper

    Wheels & Tires

    Front Tire 130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3
    Front Wheel 18 x 3.5 in
    Rear Tire 180/60R16 Dunlop Elite 3
    Rear Wheel 16 x 5.0 in

    Colors

    Colors Gold Digger Pearl w/ Ness Graphics

– See more at: http://www.victorymotorcycles.com/en-us/2013/touring/cory-ness-cross-country-tour/specifications#sthash.rZgVsub5.dpuf

2013 Triumph Trophy SE Review

Words and static photos by Kenn Stamp
Action shots by Mark Frankenfield

2013 Triumph Trophy SE

Special thanks to Schuberth North America for the C3 World helmet

Here is a question for you: Is the 2013 Triumph Trophy SE a sport-touring bike or a full on touring bike? If you live in England then your answer will most likely be “it’s a touring bike”, but if you live here in the USA then you’ll probably say “sport-touring”. This is mostly due to our attitudes and the kinds of riding we do. Brits can get from one end of their country to the other in a matter of hours whereas us “colonists” would ride for days to accomplish the same task.

Since the Trophy SE doesn’t come with a trunk it fits squarely into my definition of a sport-touring bike rather than the “touring” bike moniker that both Triumph and the Brits put on it. There is another reason I feel the Trophy SE is more of a sport-touring bike rather than a touring bike – the handling……but we’ll get back to that a bit later.

Triumph started designing the Trophy back in 2008 and chose to go directly after the top dog of the near-touring, sport-touring pack, Herr R1200RT from BMW. Unfortunately, at least in my eyes, in trying to beat the Germans they left all the “British-ness” out of their design. Many other riders thought the bike was a BMW until either I told them it was a Triumph or they took a closer look. British designers were always about the curves in the shapes they designed and I can’t help but feel that the Trophy should have been more Spitfire and less Me109.

While the design may mimic the sharp right angles of its main competitor, the heart of the Trophy SE is completely British; a 1215cc triple that develops 132bhp (at 8,900rpm) and 89ft.lbs of torque (at 6,450rpm). When I first started riding the Trophy I was surprised at how much grunt the bike had right off the line. You can get up to speed and be perfectly happy without ever going above 5k rpm or half throttle. After a few days I figured out that while the Trophy SE is satisfied with puttering around town like it was some electric wheelchair, it didn’t truly become happy until you pinned the throttle open and spool the tach needle into the northern reaches of the dial.

Judging by the furious sound that comes from under the fuel tank at WOT, the triple in the Trophy SE is angry about being stuffed between the frame rails of a luxury sport-touring bike. I liked the way the engine felt around town but, other than being very torquey, the performance didn’t “wow” me…..until I decided to use the throttle like it was a serving wench and I was the Lord of the manor (hmm…where did that analogy come from?) The happy sounds, those whirring, screeching, fabricky-rippy noises that only triples make, coming from underneath all that angular bodywork told me that the heart of the Trophy SE likes to misbehave and be a bit naughty. I would never have guessed there was a hooligan lurking underneath all that plastic.

Another great thing about the 3-cylinder engines that Triumph is producing is the lack of vibration due to a counter-rotating balance shaft. Not to get too technical but, a big 3-cylinder engine only needs one balance shaft, running at the same frequency as the crankshaft, to smooth out unwanted vibes whereas a big 4-cylinder needs two balance shafts, running at twice the frequency of the crank to smooth out unwanted vibes. Less parts = greater simplicity = Win! for the triples. This lack of vibration really shows itself when you are cruising at 75-80mph and all you feel is a very light tingle coming through the bars. I’d venture to say that outside of an electric bike you’d be hard pressed to find a smoother engine.

The first time I threw a leg over the Trophy SE and stood it up off the side stand I thought, “Bloody hell! This bike is bleedin’ top heavy! It’s going to be a real gyp in the fanny to maneuver at dozy speeds! It’ll probably be no fun to bung around the corners at higher speeds either!” (editor’s note: My inner voice apparently thinks he’s British. I chalk it up to watching too much Python as a young, impressionable child. Unfortunately my inner voice has a crappy grasp of British slang so I apologize for any offense he may have caused). At some point on any road trip you’ll encounter twists, turns and curves in the road and, contrary to my initial impressions, THIS is where the Trophy shines.

Triumph cannot possibly be paying the person who was in charge of the chassis and handling department during the Trophy’s development enough money; whatever it is they should at least double it. At rest the Trophy SE feels bulky and top heavy, but the moment the wheels start to roll all that bulk and top heaviness disappears. It took me a week or so to really start pushing the Trophy in corners, and even then I always felt like I was leaving a lot of the bike’s ability on the table. I’d start to push hard, then harder, then a bit harder and then suddenly my brain would wake up, see what I was up to and run off to strangle my courage. I just could never mentally get over how a bike that was so wide and so heavy could possibly be so planted and stable while bombing around curves at speed. The Triumph Trophy SE is pure brilliance when the road throws some curves at you. Not just brilliant for a bike that weighs over 650 pounds wet (the claimed weight is 662 pounds to be exact) but brilliant for a sport-touring bike in general.

To help achieve this level of handling Triumph turned to suspension experts WP for the front and rear suspension on the Trophy. The SE version, the only version those of us in the USA will be able to buy, has electronically adjustable suspension at both ends. Up front the 43mm upside-down forks adjust with the push (actually a couple of pushes) of a button for rebound dampening while the rear electronically adjust for hydraulic preload and rebound dampening.

Adjusting the suspension is simple; you can adjust rebound dampening in three modes (Sport/Normal/Comfort), and the preload also has three settings (Solo, Solo w/Luggage, Two-Up). You can feel the bike change height when you adjust the preload (only when stopped of course) and changing the rebound settings actually resulted in a noticeable change in the Trophy SE’s ride and handling. “Sport” was a bit too harsh on the flat and level but really tightened things up in the corners, while “Comfort” was plush on the straights but allowed the bike to wallow a bit when leaned over. My default setting was “Solo w/Luggage” and “Normal” as I found that to give the best all-around ride without getting squirrely in the twisties.

A bike’s transmission,brakes and fuel injection/engine management system play a supporting role to the three main components of a motorcycle; the engine, the suspension and the chassis. My one main beef with Triumph’s in the past has been their ratchety transmissions; especially those found attached to the liter class motors. Apparently Triumph figured out what they were doing wrong and fixed it as the 6-speed transmission in the Trophy is wonderful; precise with a light, yet satisfying, feel. I never missed a shift or felt like I was forcing the transmission to shift when it would rather be off lying on a beach somewhere. As an aside, you can run first gear all the way up to 80mph before hitting the rev limiter. For some reason I found that to be both an odd and a strangely enjoyable thing to be able to do.

The brakes are a different story. They work fine and will stop the Trophy in a quick manner but they had two issues; lack of feedback and a non-linear feel.

The feedback issue never really bothered me too much as the Trophy SE is fitted with a very good ABS system as a safety net. The non-linear feel of the brakes however kept catching me out. I’d approach a corner, mentally set-up my line, start squeezing the front brake lever and pressing the rear brake pedal and……..suddenly I’d find myself having to readjust my line because I was going slower than I wanted to. I finally realized that the issue was the linked brakes. The front brakes are partially activated by the rear brake pedal; the harder you press on the rear brake pedal the more pressure it sends to one of the front brake pistons. This pressure sensitive set-up means that you don’t lose any slow speed capabilities, since the front brake won’t be applied in low-speed/low-pressure situations, but it also means that you’ll have to rethink your braking technique entering corners. Once I figured out the issue I was able to modify my technique – but I still wasn’t a big fan of the set-up. To me, linked brakes are the answer to a question no one asked.

In all the reviews I’ve done on Triumph’s I’ve never had to mention much about the fuel injection/engine management system because, well, there really isn’t anything to talk about. Triumph has pretty much perfected their game in this area and the system in the Trophy SE is no different; twist the throttle and get instant response – every time. I will mention that I was getting, with my frequent trips to the north of the tach’s range, right around 43mpg out of the bike. Not bad for me and my heavy-handed, “what’s a speed limit?” style of riding.

Earlier I mentioned how well the Trophy SE handled as soon as the wheels started turning and I want to expound on that just a bit. There are many factors that impact a bike’s low-speed handling abilities and Triumph seems to have gotten every one of them right on the Trophy. One area that contributes to a bike’s slow-speed capabilities yet is often overlooked is the clutch. A good clutch allows the rider to play with the power delivery to rear wheel in a smooth and linear fashion. I’m not going to say a lot about the Trophy’s clutch as it would all come out sounding like a paid advertisement for Triumph. Let’s just say that within the first day of riding I was able to turn the Trophy inside a 20′ circle with ease; something that, even after 8 years, 50k miles and a clutchetomy I still struggle to do on my personal FJR1300.

Sport-touring bikes are all about the idea of being able to link a lot of curves together in one trip; especially if those curves are separated by miles and miles of straight roads. I’ll admit that I was “amused” by all the “gadgets” when I first started riding the Trophy SE; and since the bike I rode had the “launch pack” accessories on it there were even more gadgets than usual. I quickly grew to love the heated grips but the heated seats left me a bit cold; literally. It was nice having my butt all toasty but that only served to illustrate that my legs were not as toasty as my butt was. This was because Triumph has done a great job in controlling the heat the 1215cc motor puts out. It’ll be great in the summer but a little engine heat venting onto your legs in colder weather is nice.

The press bike I rode also had the larger windshield installed. When in the full down position the larger windshield put the wind directly at the top one inch of my helmet (I’m 6ft tall). This not only caused a lot of buffeting but also caused the wind to zip across the helmet’s top vents in such a fashion as to be deafening – even while wearing foam earplugs. Putting the windshield in a position where I was looking about 1-2 inches over the top of it eliminated the turbulence and noise but also eliminated any air from reaching me. I actually had to ride with my visor open because I felt like I was suffocating with it down due to a lack of any discernible airflow through the helmet vents. I did find out you can stay completely dry while riding in the rain if you put the windshield in the full up position and then go at least 40mph.

The Trophy SE taught me a few things about myself as well. Things like – I never realized that I really like electronic cruise control on motorcycles and now I want it on anything I ride. I also never knew how much I would like having an actual stereo on a motorcycle instead of listening to music through Bluetooth communicator speakers in my helmet. The stereo on the Trophy had Sirius/XM radio and could stream music from your phone using magical Bluetooth technology. It was also powerful enough (combined with the sometimes-too-excellent wind protection) to allow you to hear the music at speeds somewhat above the legal limit…..- even with foam earplugs inserted in your ears.

The downside to all this gadgetry is you need a lot of switches to control it all and, unless the manufacturer wants to spend lots of money on parts (which Triumph obviously didn’t), those switches end up being the usual hard plastic, non-lit kind. At night on a dark back road you’ll constantly be changing radio stations instead of radio volume, raising or lowering the windshield instead of turning the heated grips on or off and numerous other button faux pas while trying to keep the Trophy between the lines on the road.

The analog tachometer is easy to read while the anolog speedometer, with it’s smallish numbers, may pose a bit of a problem to the older Trophy SE riders who’s eyes have lost some acuity. The central part of the dash is where the multifunction display is located. This is where you’ll see all the information that isn’t, in most cases, utterly important to the business of riding. The only exception to that would be the fault messages when the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is reading low air pressure in one of the tires….or when it thinks it is like it kept doing on the test bike; repeatedly. I was reminded of a 1986 Chrysler New Yorker my mom drove as a company car – every so often the computer system would hiccup and constantly remind you that “Your door is ajar”…..even when it clearly wasn’t “ajar”. After the 5th time of stopping to check the tire pressure I just gave-up and ignored the warning.

I think the only two things I really didn’t like about the Trophy SE were the throttle spring and the mirrors. The Trophy has a throttle-by-wire system that works well but comes from the factory with a return spring that is too light. If Triumph doubled the effort it took to twist the throttle it would perfectly mimic most cable operated throttles.

The mirrors are….. just lousy. If you adjust them to see what’s directly behind you (which actually shows the side of the trunk, if installed, and the bottom of your arm, and just a little of what’s actually behind you) then you can’t see anything that may be lurking in your rear ¾ view. If you adjust the mirrors to see your rear ¾ view then you lose the ability to see what’s behind you unless you bend your head down and to the side. Mirrors that are too small, poorly located and don’t work are par for the course with sport bikes but sport-touring bikes should have mirrors that actually do their job properly.

Triumph set their sights squarely on the BMW R1200RT and then set about building a bike that would beat the Beemer at its own game. The Trophy certainly matches the R1200RT in any subjective category I can think of except maybe in the refinement of the electronics, and soundly trounces it in all objective categories; power, handling, engine smoothness, etc.. Were I in the market for a new sport-touring bike the Triumph would certainly be on the short list – and probably at the top. The only thing that stops me from contemplating what items I’d need to sell to buy one right this minute is that the Trophy didn’t “speak” to me. Maybe it’s too good, too polished, too….polite, but not once did it stir my soul and make me want it. The Trophy does everything you ask it to do without batting an eye but it also never nudges you and goads you to do more either. Never once did I look at the Trophy and hear that little voice saying “you, me, the road – lets go see what kind of trouble we can get into”. Of course most other sport-touring bikes don’t do that either so this isn’t a failing of the Trophy per se, just a characteristic of the sport-touring breed.

If you are in the market for a sport-touring bike and like the idea of a radio, more upright seating position, and a smooth engine to go long with your superb handling and near sportbike power then the Trophy SE deserves a good, hard look.

The Good

  • Smooth, 3-cylinder engine
  • Excellent handling
  • Plenty of luggage carrying capabilities
  • Comfortable, upright ergonomics

The Bad

  • The mirrors
  • The buttons to control everything are not lit at night
  • Linked brakes take some time to get used to and don’t offer any benefits
  • Throttle spring is too light.

For more information on the 2013 Triumph Trophy SE:
 http://www.triumphmotorcycles.com/

For more information about the Schuberth C3 helmet and a full review: http://www.2wf.com/schuberth-c3-product-review/

For more information directly from Schuberth:  http://www.schuberthnorthamerica.com/categories/motorcycle/c3/

To buy your own Schuberth C3 and help support 2WF.com:
http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com/14/67/905/35889/ITEM/Schuberth-C3-Helmet.aspx?SiteID=IA_2wf _Homepage&WT.mc_ID=54011 

Kawasaki Z1000 Review

Prose and descriptive terms by Mike Pham
Eye candy provided by Larry Rivera

Z1000 1Not being able to ride can really put a dark cloud over one’s outlook on life. I don’t mean having a bike in your garage and being too busy to ride, I’m talking about being injured seriously enough that your doctor won’t allow you to ride. However, my spirits were lifted when the doctor mandated motorcycle abstinence period was over and I was finally cleared to start riding again. Especially when my partner-in-crime for the next few weeks was going to be the 2012 Kawasaki Z1000.

Do you know how some bikes are instantly recognizable? I’ve felt this way about the Kawasaki “Z” machines for many years. The Z1000’s have always had very aggressive styling with sharp angular lines that create the look of a fast machine even when it’s parked. The 2013 Z1000 continues that styling trend but takes it to an even higher level of sharpness and design.

Starting with the front forks, which are shrouded in plastic, the bike appears to be taken straight from some futuristic sci-fi movie. Someone in Hollywood must feel the same way because the Z1000 will be used in the upcoming RoboCop film; although only the fork shrouds will be recognizable. I’m pretty excited to see what they do, style-wise and action-wise, with the Z1000 in the film.

As I’m rolling the bike out my garage the paint begins to shimmer in the sun and I can’t help but stop moving the bike, take a step back from it and allow my eyes to take in all the details. I get chills down my back looking at the Z1000 knowing that this orange bike is going to bring me my “high”. I wasn’t too fond of the orange color when I first saw it but after spending some quality time riding around and looking at it I grew to like it. The color changes from burnt orange in the shade to loud, bright orange in the sunlight. The orange color looks great coupled with the aggressive styling and it makes me wonder why they didn’t offer it again in 2013.

The five spoke wheels look fantastically stylish and similar in design to OZ’s Piega rims. Sure they weigh a little more than the OZ’s, but if the cost of saving that weight isn’t in your budget you won’t be disappointed by the stock wheels; every time I glance at the Z1000 the wheels grab my attention – they’re that good looking.

The shortened exhaust stacks on either side of the Z1000 blend well with the styling and are made possible by a pre-chamber underneath the bike. Those exhaust stacks are different than the “quad” exhaust cans on the first “Z” but still serve as a reminder that style is always first and foremost with the Z1000’s. This latest “Z”, like its ancestors, relies on its aggressive styling, and not stickers and badges, to be its calling card.

Once you are sitting on the bike you’ll notice it’s quite narrow and, with the low slung 32.1 seat height, shorter riders (like myself) will have no problem feeling secure when at a stop. Many manufacturers have been raising the seat heights on their sportbikes for better ground clearance at the track but the Z1000, with its more relaxed ergonomics, is a willing steed for everyday use. No matter if you are short or tall, fat or thin, the Z1000 inspires confidence as soon as you throw a leg over the seat.

Looking down while sitting on the bike you’ll see the bulge of the metal tank (a metal tank means no issue with ethanol swelling) and not much else – it’s as if your legs have disappeared. The lower part of the tank is slim enough to allowed my knees to clench firmly and securely to it for those spirited rides through the twisties. Other than the wide upper part of the tank the rest of the Z1000 looks and feels slim.

The chassis of the Z1000 displays quite a bit of Kawasaki’s technological advancements. Taking design and engineering cues from the near-winning WSBK ZX-10R, the aluminum chassis cradles the engine from above and uses it as a stressed member of the frame. This design keeps the area beneath the tank narrow and contributes to a secure feeling while riding. Seeing advancements like this on a street bike makes me want to pay more attention to WSBK; you never know what’s going to trickle down to us mere mortals next!

kawasaki Z1000 DashI really have to give kudos to Kawasaki for the LED display and the gauge cluster in general. Even in the middle of a bright Southern California day, I had no problem seeing all of the information on display. The orange-tinted LED display gives you all the information you need at a glance and once you get used to the layout you are set. One nice thing to see on the Z1000 display is a fuel gauge – which by now should be standard on all motorcycles. Kawasaki designed the Z1000 gauge cluster to be neat with everything nicely tucked away; you won’t see any wires sticking up here and there – its all very tidy. It’s little touches like this that make the gauge cluster, and the all of the Z1000, such a pleasure to look at.

The reach to the bars, for most riders,will be natural feeling and not aggressive at all. What makes a naked bike like the Z1000 so enjoyable is that there is the possibility of real comfort to go with the serious power; you can play in the twisties all day and not feel completely wrung out.

Starting up the Z1000 fills the air with a faint burble as the bike is very quiet at idle. My personal bike is an Italian V-twin and I kept thinking about how quiet the Z1000 was at stop lights in neutral – something I’m not used to obviously.

Another area where I couldn’t help but compare the Z1000 against my bike was power delivery. Even though I’m used to a V-twin I was impressed by the low-end and mid-range pull from the 1043cc engine in the “Z”. The throttle response was a bit abrupt, most noticeable when shifting gears, but the power delivery was almost instantaneous. The Z1000 is certainly no slouch and pulls hard, making good power, throughout the rpm range.

Z1000 ride 1I had to constantly check the digital speedometer because I’d find that I was going much faster than the sound, or lack of sound, from the engine would imply. The smooth engine is another contributor to the “it’s faster than it feels” deception. What this engine may lack in character though it makes up for with function. You can sedately commute and cruise all day long on the Z1000 or grab some throttle and let the engine scream; it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde in modern day motorcycle form.

The Z1000 is a joy to ride around town not only due to the ergonomics but also because the transmission shifts so smoothly. I never had a problem with a missed shift or finding neutral when going from 1st to 2nd.

Take the Z1000 out on the freeway however and it exhibits the same shortcoming that all naked bikes have – a lack of wind protection. This was the only area of riding that I felt any fatigue throughout my time with the bike. For some of you the lack of wind protection is something that you are already, or will quickly become, used to – the rest of us would probably be looking at aftermarket windscreens.

To be honest, once I got cleared from my doctor, I felt that being back on any bike was a small victory in itself. After riding the Z1000 though I starting thinking that “victory” may not be the correct word. The bike started waking my inner hooligan and the last thing I wanted was another quick ride back to “Recoveryville”. Luckily the brakes fitted to the Z1000 were always up to the task of slowing me down and keeping me out of the doctors office. Equipped with 300mm front rotors and 4 piston radial mounted calipers, the brakes on the Z1000 deliver the goods. A few times I noticed the front brakes weren’t as progressive as I would have liked, but a lever adjustment or more time on the bike may solve that.

Kawasaki Z1000 ride 2When I picked-up the Z1000 the suspension was set-up to be very stiff; I felt everything from the road and experienced some harshness. Since the stock suspension has a fully adjustable 41mm front fork and a rebound/preload adjustable rear shock, I’m sure I could have tinkered with it and found a nicer plush commuter setting had I wanted to.

Compared to some other naked bikes in the segment, the Kawasaki Z1000 is a bargain at $10,599. You get near superbike levels of power but with practical, everyday comfort and aggressive styling; a combination that never failed to put a smile on my face. Daily commuter, track day weapon or canyon carver – the Z1000 gives you all three in one package and is a good choice in today’s motorcycle market.

I’m pretty sure my doctor wouldn’t have prescribed spending the time I did on the Z1000 but, honestly…….screw him!

For more information please visit: www.kawasaki.com

Specifications:

Engine Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valves per cylinder, inline-four
Displacement 1043 cc
Bore x Stroke 77.0 x 56.0mm
Compression Ratio 11.8:1
Fuel System DFI® with four 38mm Keihin throttle bodies, oval sub-throttles
Ignition TCBI Digital Advance
Transmission 6-Speed
Final Drive X-Ring Chain
Frame Type Aluminum Backbone
Rake/Trail 24.5 deg. / 4.1 in.
Front Suspension / Wheel Travel 41 mm inverted cartridge fork with stepless compression and rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 4.7 in.
Rear Suspension/Wheel Travel Horizontal monoshock with stepless rebound damping, adjustable spring preload / 5.4 in.
Front Tire Size 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire Size 190/50 ZR17
Wheelbase 56.7 in.
Front Brakes Dual 300mm petal-type rotors with radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear Brakes Single 250mm petal-type rotor with single-piston caliper
Fuel Capacity 4.0 gal.
Seat Height 32.1 in.
Curb Weight 481 lbs.
Overall Length 82.5 in.
Overall Width 31.7 in.
Overall Height 42.7 in.
Color Choices Candy Burnt Orange / Metallic Spark Black
Warranty 12 months
Good Times™ Protection Plan 12, 24, 36 or 48 months

Harley Davidson Blackline

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_02_small.jpgRunnin’ with the Devil – Testing the 2011 Harley Davidson Blackline on the El Diablo Run

Photos and Story by Bill Bryan – www.chopcult.com

The El Diablo Run cuts through the mountains of Southern California and from both coasts of Baja, California, Mexico over 700 miles of the most varied terrain imaginable. Most El Diablo Runners come on older custom motorcycles, but the occasional newer stock bike has been known to roam these Mexican highways. The roads are rough and the crowd sometimes rougher. Quite simply, Baja and the EDR are the perfect place to do a real-world road test of Harley’s new Dark Customs Softail, the Blackline.

Only recently available, the Blackline caught the attention of many riders during my five-day ride this spring. Even haters of most modern machines reluctantly admitted that the Blackline looked good for a stocker. Still others gushed praise for the mostly blacked-out http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_06_small.jpgmachine.

Softails mimic the lines of an older rigid Harley and evoke a classic style that no import can quite capture, even after years of trying. The proportions of the Blackline seem just right, and the colorizing and details appear well thought out. No scary skulls or fake bad boy stuff to be embarrassed about, and just enough chrome to make sure it doesn’t look like you are trying too hard.

There are several black finishes on the Blackline, including the flat black frame and swingarm, the deep gloss painted tins, and a semi-gloss black on the round-profile aluminum rims. A sculpted body panel down the center visually breaks up the gas tank’s width nicely and is an attractively modern touch. No fake gas cap or gas gauge on the left side of the tank, http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_18_small.jpgand only a speedometer nestled between the two-piece, no-riser handlebars adds up to a clean, no-frills control center. Hard chrome oil lines from the horseshoe oil tank have a vintage feel and add to the overall “factory custom” look. My favorite aesthetic feature is the engine colorizing. Such a simple thing, but very noticeable: the barrels are black and the heads are raw aluminum with chrome and black rocker boxes. This color combo takes its cue from older Harleys and is good looking without being corny or retro. In all, the subtle tweaks and classic geometry add up to one of the most attractive stock bikes in Harley’s Big Twin lineup.

At 5′ 9″ with a 31″ inseam I’m a bit vertically challenged, so the Blackline’s super-low 24″ seat height contributed to the bike’s maneuverable feel. It was no problem to push the bike around, and its low center of gravity inspires confidence by giving even the shortest rider the ability to plant both feet flat on the ground. For comparison, the H-D Wideglide has a http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_11_small.jpg1.5″ taller seat height. Those with longer legs might appreciate the forward controls, but I’m not a big fan. I’d much rather be able to have my feet in a mid-control position, though I can appreciate that many riders would be cramped with such a set-up. The good news is that without a passenger, the rear pegs are quite comfortable for cruising and worked well when I needed to stand up and stretch.(Of course we at 2WF would never condone doing this – even though we all do it ourselves. Do as we say not as we do – Ed)

The primary cover is wide and flat and makes a good perch on the left, but no such area lends itself for bent knee riding on the right. The handlebars are neat and clean, but index into only one position so there is zero adjustability, a small price to pay for that clean control center. The best thing about the bars is how narrow they are—just 24″. This allowed for better lane splitting than any other stock cruiser I’ve ridden. The fact that I only bashed one mirror while threading the needle through miles of the famous Tijuana border crossing proves their practicality.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_23_small.jpgAll hand controls are standard Harley fare, everything right where muscle memory wants them to be. The drawback of the forward controls and attack-oriented riding position is some rider fatigue when in the saddle for hours at a time.

Old complaints of Softails being squishy in corners may have been true once upon a time but this bike tracked true through corners and never once became unpredictable or unsettled, even over rough pavement or hard cornering. I’m no sport bike rider but I did manage to grind down about half of the peg feeler on the left and completely tore the right one off. (Oh I sooo did not need to hear that – Ed) Ground clearance was otherwise acceptable for a machine that sits so low. The forward position of the kickstand keeps that apparatus off the pavement and the only time I scraped the frame rails was over some particularly steep and tall speed bumps in San Felipe.

http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_08_small.jpgWhere the rear suspension failed was any time I encountered a sharp-edged pothole, and the resulting jolts flowed directly into my spine. The suspension sucked up the numerous dirt washboards I encountered on my journey, and the front forks never bottomed or felt under-sprung. Even after 600+ hard miles, the Blackline went straight for miles with the throttle locked and hands off the bars.(Oh look, our safety officer just passed out – Ed) The fastest I got it going was just under 100mph and it showed no signs of wandering or sketchiness.(And now our EIC passed out as well – Managing Ed)

The counter-balanced 96″ Twin Cam engine brings up debate amongst riders who have ridden a wide variety of Harley-Davidsons over the years. This technology found in the Blackline’s rigidly mounted engine does indeed reduce vibration, but it also saps a bit of power. Some riders will see this as a step toward greater civility and engine behavior, but I found it detracted from the seat-of-the-pants acceleration I expect from an engine of this size. To be honest, I didn’t know http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_09_small.jpgabout the counter-balancing technology until I complained to another rider that the engine felt almost anemic compared to some Dyna’s I’ve ridden. Don’t get me wrong, the bike will go fast and is clearly no dog, but where a Dyna will gobble up miles easily at speeds over 80, the Blackline felt more “settled in” at lower speeds. Given speed limits and concerns for safety this might be a good thing, but for me the slight loss of power and mellow low-end pull sucked some of the soul out of the riding experience. The low-end grunt of an H-D is what makes riding one fun and unique, and for my taste the Blackline felt too civilized. If you are considering one, take a test ride and then ride a Dyna and see if it makes a difference to you.

The Blackline had some practical features worth considering when spending upwards of 15 grand. The ignition switch is conveniently mounted on the coil and is capable of being left unlocked so you can operate it without the key. I found this easier to live with than a Dyna’s neck-mounted system (Only found on some Dyna http://www2.2wf.com/http://www.2wf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2011_Harley_Davidson_Blackline_14_small.jpgmodels – Ed), and it’s better looking, too. The fuel injection performed flawlessly in rough conditions and through a wide variety of elevation and temperature changes. It started cold or warm with no need for a tickle or choke. The lack of a fuel gauge wasn’t a big deal with the five-gallon tank, and a “miles to empty” indicator will illuminate when it does get low. The clutch had a light touch anyone can appreciate, and the anti-vibe ride won’t unsettle a beginner. The anti-lock brakes work just like a car, with a pulsating pedal when you expect to lay a sweet skid – weird at first, but easy to get used to. Ground clearance should be enough for most riders and if you need more a dual sport or crotch rocket would probably suit you better anyway.

In the end, the 2011 Blackline proved to be exactly what the factory promised to deliver: a stylish Harley that is capable of just about anything, especially suited to a rider who enjoys cruising but isn’t exactly looking for a long-haul mile-eater or a light to light racer.

Pros:

  • Classic Lines
  • Subtle custom touches and colorizing
  • Low seat height
  • Just the essentials
  • Practical ignition switch operation
  • Narrow handlebars
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Durability and build quality
  • Vibe-free drive train

Cons

  • Weak rear suspension on rough roads
  • Non-adjustability of bars
  • Cheap-looking forward controls
  • Vibe-free drive train

DIMENSIONS U.S. UNITS

  • Length: 93 in.
  • Seat Height Laden 24 in. Unladen 26.1 in.
  • Ground Clearance: 5.25 in.
  • Rake Steering Head: 30 °
  • Trail: 4.84 in.
  • Wheelbase: 66.5 in.
  • Fuel Capacity: 5 gal.
  • Oil Capacity: 3 qt.
  • Dry Weight: 638.5 lbs.
  • Running Order: 682.5 lbs.


POWERTRAIN

  • Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96B™
  • Displacement: 96 cu. in.
  • Bore x Stroke: 3.75 in. / 4.38 in.
  • Engine Torque: 89 ft. lbs. @ 3250 rpm
  • Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
  • Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
  • Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
  • Fuel Economy City: 35 mpg
  • Fuel Economy Hwy: 54 mpg
  • Gear Ratio (Overall) 1st 9.03 2nd 6.259 3rd 4.649 4th 3.764 5th 3.207 6th 2.706


WHEELS / TIRES

  • Wheels Front: Black Anodized, Profile Laced Aluminum
  • Rear: Black Anodized, Profile Laced Aluminum
  • Tire Size Front: MH90-21 54H Rear: MU85B16 77H


ELECTRICAL

Instruments

Triple clamp-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, engine diagnostics readout, low fuel warning light and mileage countdown feature, low oil pressure indicator, 6-speed indicator, ABS indicator (optional), LED indicator lights

Indicator Lamps

8 High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings

CHASSIS

 

  • Brakes: 4-piston front and rear
  • Lean Angle: 24.4 / 25.9 °
  • Exhaust System: Chrome, over/under shotgun exhaust with slash-cut mufflers


COLOR OPTIONS

Color Options

 

  • Vivid Black Cool Blue Pearl
  • Vivid Black Sedona Orange
  • Vivid Black

2010 Aprilia Mana 850 GT

 

Photos: Rick and “Burn”
URL: http://http//www.webbikeworld.com

.Summary

The Aprilia Mana 850 GT has an easy-to-live-with CVT transmission, excellent handling and braking and good fuel economy.  So is it a city bike?  An upgraded scooter?  Or a basic all-around street bike?

Background

Who would refuse the loan of a brand-spanking-new motorcycle for a month?  Not me. 

So when Kenn Stamp, the Editor of 2WF.com recruited me for another, the answer was “Yes” before the sentence left his mouth.  I’m on call 24/7, ready any time to review a new motorcycle…all in the interest of our webBikeWorld visitors, of course.

This time, it was the Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS.  Kind of a mouthful and isn’t “mana” the stuff that came down from heaven to feed the Israelites when they were hanging out in the desert?  There were no Golden Arches back then, you know.  Ummm, wait — actually, that was “manna”, now that I think about it.

Mana is supposed to be a word to describe the power, or “juice” that resides in supernatural, spiritual or powerful people.  I’m not sure if that’s what the Aprilians had in mind for this bike; if so, it’s a good example of hyperbole.  But…there have been stranger names for motorcycles.

Besides the name, this bike is different, that’s for sure.  After I agreed to run up to Allentown, Pennsylvania to pick it up, I figured I’d better take a peek at the specs and do a quick read of HBC’s Mana 850 review (the base model) from 2009.  That’s when I remembered about the CVT.

Aprilia seems a bit reticent at calling the transmission a CVT.  They sometimes refer to it as a “sportgear transmission” and sometimes as a “sequential/automatic transmission”.  But peel away the layers of marketing propaganda and eventually they call it a CVT. 

I never rode a bike with a CVT before and I wondered if I’d be reaching for a clutch lever and coming up with air every time.  I thought for sure I’d be flubbing takeoffs left and right — after all, the left side of my body has been programmed for umpty-ump years to clutch ‘n’ shift.  It’s difficult to imagine what life would be like without it.

What a surprise!  Not once — not one single time did I reach for the clutch or shifter.  But an even bigger surprise was this: not once did I miss them, either.  One ride on the Mana 850 GT and you’ll wonder why all motorcycles aren’t like this.  At least I did…

OK, so the CVT is the showcase feature of the Mana 850 GT — but what about the bike that surrounds it?  Well, let’s take a look…

Mana For the Masses

.I get the sense that Aprilia’s marketing strategy for the Mana 850 is a bit schizophrenic.  Actually, so is the bike.  I wonder if Aprilia knows what they have in the GT version of the Mana 850 — like what is the target market for this bike and what would motivate someone to buy it.

Aprilia uses vague marketing-speak phrases when referring to the GT, using phrases referring to it as “a completely new motorcycling concept” and “the new frontier, the missing link in an evolution that makes the world of motorcycling and its emotions accessible to all types of users”.

Huh?  That one’s definitely a non-starter with the beer and peanuts crowd.

This is a problem.  The Mana 850 GT does have a few unique benefits, but like everything else in today’s hyperkinetic marketplace, the ability to sell one requires a laser-focused strategy targeted to a very specific market segment and a crystal-clear explanation of the features and benefits.  All in about 10 seconds or less.  Less.

So here’s my tip to Aprilia: Forget about trying to sell this bike as a motorcycle replacement for scooter owners or as an urbanite fad bike.  Forget the “all things to all people” strategy too.  And definitely can those “emotions” that are “accessible to all types of users”.

After living with the Mana 850 GT for a month, I see something different.  The CVT is a gem and the bike is, oh, about 85 percent of the way to being a very interesting and unique sport-tourer.  If I were in charge, that’s where the focus would be.

Give it an adjustable windscreen (and a couple of windscreen options), a nice set of bags with hard mounting points and a top box and maybe even replace the chain with a belt drive.  Do all that and I think you’d end up with one of the sweetest sport-tourers on the road.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  So let me take you through a recap of my thoughts after living with this very cool and very unusual bike for a month or so…

Mana 850 GT Styling and Design

.The build quality of this thing literally felt like it was carved from a steel billet — and all of the other Aprilias I have handled feel just as good.

It’s too bad the retail network — at least in the U.S.A. — is so thin.  If more people had an Aprilia dealer nearby (and if I didn’t have to drive all the way up to Allentown PA to find a dealer), I bet Piaggio would sell a lot more bikes, especially when the potential customer could compare one handlebar-to-handlebar in a showroom with other makes.

Aprilia build quality reminds me of early Hinckley Triumph — overbuild it to completely bury any preconceived notions of British (or Italian) quality.  For example, little items like braided stainless steel fuel lines, machined rather than stamped brackets hidden in places you’d never find them and high-quality hardware make a big difference and add to the solid presence of this motorcycle.

The styling of the Mana GT variant doesn’t help a potential owner understand the bike either, unfortunately.  It’s a combination of 21st Century modern with a touch of 1980’s mullet in the fairing, which looks out of place with the character of the bike.  The round headlight is the problem; it doesn’t jive with the sharp lines that dominate everything aft of the triple clamp.  Style me up a pair of cool-looking razor-sharp headlights up front and you’d have it.

And speaking of the fairing, that windscreen has to go.  Aprilia told me there are no optional windscreens, which is too bad, because the stock screen dumps turbulent air where it’s least wanted — right smack dab on the chin.  This causes a huge amount of wind noise, starting at a low 20 MPH and getting worse from there.  At 60+ MPH, it’s nearly unbearable when wearing any type of helmet.

The stock screen is adjustable, more or less (less).  Two bolts on either side are loosened to move the windscreen up or down about 25 mm total, but it’s not enough to smooth the air flow by any means.

This would be an easy problem to solve for an owner, however.  If the bike were mine, the first order of business would be to break out the Dremel, cut the windscreen in half and sand and polish the top edge.  Done and booming gone.  I didn’t think Aprilia would care much for testing that theory on a brand-new loaner bike though, so the Dremel stayed in the drawer.
The CVT and Me

Since the transmission is the raison d’être for the Mana 850 series, I will address it first.  I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d be able to adapt to it — or if I’d be able to adapt at all.  But on the very first ride, I quickly realized it would not be a problem.

In fact, about 1 kilometer into it, I had a head-smacking moment.  Shifting is overrated!  Who needs it?!

I never imagined I’d feel this way; in fact, I’d guess that many motorcyclists would have the same amount of skepticism for an “automatic” bike.  Perhaps things would be different if the implementation of the technology wasn’t as good.  After all, Aprilia has years of experience with this type of transmission in building their extensive line of “twist and go” scooters.

 

There are a couple of minor differences to note before heading out on the Mana 850 GT.  It starts just like any other modern motorcycle — turn on the ignition, wait for the sweep of the speedometer indicator and for all of the lights to blink on and off as the computer boots up.  Then press the start button to engage.

The nicely-mapped fuel injection gets the GT started and idling smoothly with no problems.  But here’s where the differences begin.  With the side stand down, blip the throttle and…the engine dies.  It’s designed to to that, because there is no “neutral” or its equivalent.

With the sidestand up, remember that the bike is a twist-and-go — if you twist, you’re going.  There’s no standing next to the bike in the garage to blip the throttle; in fact, you can’t blip the throttle at all, whether you’re riding or not.  Imagine a bike that’s always in gear and you’ll get the picture.

If you think about it, that’s no different than a car with an automatic transmission.  There is one difference, however.  With the Aprilia’s engine at idle and no brake applied, the computer makes sure that the bike doesn’t creep forward like it might in a car.

The CVT Stress Reduction Plan?

.When you’re ready to go, simply twist the throttle and the bike starts moving.  The first time is a very unique and liberating feeling and gets even easier after that.

Aprilia has done a great job in mapping the fuel injection to match the characteristics of the CVT.  There is a slight difference from a normal takeoff in that it takes a larger handful of throttle than one might expect to get the CVT engaged, but that’s actually a good thing.  The fuel delivery has been made especially soft for startup and the first few miles-per-hour to avoid any jerkiness in the driveline.

I quickly realized that not having to deal with shifting and clutch work reduces the subconscious stress levels and work load, if you can call it that, on the rider.  This is where the concept of a CVT transmission on a motorcycle really comes into its own.  No worrying about which gear is correct and no decisions about downshifting or upshifting.  Simply enjoy the ride and focus on throttle control and braking.

I immediately found myself a much smoother rider and I also had a lot of fun, which is another reason why this system would make an excellent sport tourer, especially when riding with a passenger.  No more helmet-knocking in the stop-and-go’s because the smooth application of power and the CVT makes for a completely fluid and seamless ride.

It’s also an excellent system for slow speeds, like winding your way through a national park at a 10 MPH speed limit while gawking at the flora and fauna.  No jerking back and forth, no throttle on/off whiplash and no worries about having to shift up and down to keep in the correct RPM zone.

Missing Bits

.Speaking of RPMs, one of the very big nits I have to pick with this bike is the lack of a tachometer.  I think this was a big oversight by Aprilia.  I actually called the Aprilia technical person to confirm this and the answer was “Yes, we have no tachometer”. 

It’s not like there’s no extra room on the dashboard; in fact, the instrument binnacle looks a bit lonesome behind the big fairing, with only the speedo and computer display.  And the bike actually has a lap timer (a lap timer?) but no tach.

Making a sport-tourer out of the Mana 850 GT could mean plugging in some optional dials, like water temperature (rather than the simple thermometer graphic that shows up on the monochromatic computer screen), a Voltmeter, outside temperature gauge or more.  But I’m dreaming again…

The absence of a tach means I can’t tell you how the bike performed at different RPMs, because I have no idea how many R’s, P’s or M’s we were turning in the various CVT settings.

Riding the Mana 850 GT

.The bike starts up in the CVT “Touring” mode, which is equivalent to a smooth automatic, with a good compromise of acceleration, torque and speed.  There’s also a “Sport” mode; a “Rain” mode and a “Sport Gear” mode.

The “Gear Mode” button on the right handgrip (see photos above) cycles the transmission through each mode and it can be pressed any time the engine is running, whether the bike is in motion or not. 

From Touring mode, press and hold the Gear Mode button for about 1 second to change to “Sport”.  This mode is the equivalent of dropping down about 2 gears in the CVT, but I rarely used it because it made the bike feel too frenetic and it brought to the fore one of the problems with the 839 cc, 90-degree V-twin engine: it’s a real vibrator.

Using Sport mode means putting the engine in the worst of the vibe range, effectively cancelling any fun one might have by the lower gearing, so in this case, Sport does not equal fun. 

Ditto for the “Sport Gear” mode, which is accessed at any time by pressing and holding the Gear Mode button for 2 seconds or so.  Sport Gear puts the CVT into a faux gear mode and allows the rider to choose one of 7 different gears, just like a “normal” bike.

The gears are selected by pushing the up/down paddles on the left handgrip or by using the vestigial shift lever at the left foot.  The foot lever is an anachronism on this bike and after trying it once to see what it did, I never used it again.

Besides the vibes, Sport Gear mode seemed kind of silly; after all, it’s more fun not to shift, so why do I want to start concentrating on that again?  And the absence of a tach doesn’t add to the fun either.

There’s one more mode in the cycle: “Rain”.  I’m not really sure what this one does; apparently, it’s supposed to temper the fueling and transmission for riding on wet roads, but to me it felt more like it placed the CVT half-way between Sport mode and Touring.  After trying it once or twice, I didn’t use the Rain mode at all, even during a long homeward stint in am actual rain storm.

Another feature hidden in the system is a semi-manual “gear” selection.  The Touring and Sport modes have an override and the bike can be downshifted by pressing the front button on the left grip (or the foot shift lever).  But the override doesn’t allow the transmission to shift up, only down, which seems strange to me.  Why not allow it to override up or down, and maybe allow a quick tap of the Gear Mode button to cancel and return to automatic?

.One quirk about the location of the shift paddles is that they can occasionally be activated by accident if the rider’s left hand is choked up on the inner side of the hand grip.  On quick blasts of acceleration, tightening my grip would sometimes trigger a downshift.

The turn signal lever on the left hand grip is a bit of a reach also; the button sticks out too far for my thumb, so I had to take my hand off the grip to reach for the turn signal button every time I wanted to use it.  Same on the right-hand side with the Gear Mode button.  These are minor irritants, but there nonetheless.

Handling, Brakes and Suspension

.I’d have to say that the Aprilia Mana 850 GT is the sweetest handling motorcycle I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride.  It has absolutely no bad habits and it feels perfectly neutral.  The word “neutral” is used quite frequently to describe motorcycle handling, but very few bikes really have it.

Tell the GT where to go and it does it precisely without fuss and without even the tiniest hint of oversteer or understeer, neither feeling ponderous or flighty.  This makes a huge difference in comfort levels and in the feeling of security.  The combination of the superb build quality and the perfectly neutral handling makes the bike feel rock-solid under any condition.

The front suspension has no settings, so what you see is what you get.  That was fine by me, although the front on this Aprilia could probably use a touch less compression stiffness for those short jolts.  I once spent days messing about with a fully adjustable Suzuki GSXR and never really noticed a difference and I’ll pretty much guarantee the vast majority of street riders feel the same.  So not having an adjustable front end is a benefit, as far as I’m concerned.

The rear suspension is easily adjustable via the control seen in the photos.  It was set pretty stiff when I got the bike (with 200 miles on the odometer) and I loosened it up a bit.  Again, not much of a difference other than a touch more plushness over those same short jolting bumps.

The big 180/55 mm Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier rear tire looks good and works even better.  It feels very secure and planted the road with noticeably excellent grip.  I haven’t been on Dunlops for some time and these tires are terrific, so they will definitely be on my shopping list next time I need tires.

The brakes are another outstanding feature of the Mana 850 GT.  The big 320 mm floating discs up front have radial-mounted calipers that look like they might have come right from Max Biaggi’s RSV4.  They are very powerful but very easy to use and also very progressive.  The rear brake gets the same kudos, with a 260 mm and braided stainless steel brake lines front and rear.

The Mana 850 GT also has ABS, with a dual-channel Continental system.  It works seamlessly and it hauls this bike down in a hurry with no muss or fuss.  I tried it on a variety of surfaces, including loose gravel and sand on some of the back farm roads you can see in the photos and it made me a true believer in ABS for street bikes.

Picks and Pans

The other very useful scooter-like feature of the Mana 850 GT is the fuel tank that isn’t.  What looks like a fuel tank is really a decent-sized storage compartment, big enough to hold a lot of gear but not a full-sized helmet.  I’m not sure who’d want to carry a full sized helmet in there anyway, but as you can see in the slide show photos, an XL-sized Arai Quantum doesn’t fit.

But the storage area is very handy and it even has a little night light that turns on when the lid is popped.  That’s the pick; here’s the pan: the storage compartment opens by pushing a lever on the back of the left-hand grip assembly.  But the ignition has to be on for it to work. 

So every time I wanted to open the compartment, which is every time I got on the bike, I had to turn the ignition on, press the button to pop the storage compartment lid, then turn the key off.  This is a real pain; I think Aprilia should revise the design so the button opens the compartment at any time but it can be locked if desired or make it functional whenever the key is in the ignition.

There is one other way to open the storage compartment.  There’s a key hole in the tail of the bike, just above the stop light, to open the pillion seat.  The fuel tank lives under there.  Take the key out of the ignition, open the seat and a manual lever can be operated to pop the compartment.  But that’s even more of a pain.

Fuel, Mileage and Computing

Fueling the bike means pulling the key from the ignition, putting it in the tail and popping the back seat.  It isn’t that big of a problem for refueling, and having the fuel tank opening at lower-than-waist level makes it easy to use and to see what’s going on.

Speaking of fuel, I got a consistent 42 to 44 MPG with the Mana, no matter what type of road, fast or slow, highway or byway.  I guess that’s decent mileage for a bike that’s a touch on the heavy side (Aprilia doesn’t list a weight, but it feels heavy pushing around the garage) with a CVT.

Besides the absence of a tachometer, the LCD computer screen would be a heck of a lot nicer if it were in color.  I guess that’s asking too much, but the stock screen can get washed out, surprisingly not when the sun is shining on it, but when I’m riding into the sun.  The sun reflects off my jacket and puts a lot of glare on the semi-gloss screen.

The computer can be cycled through a few settings, showing the real-time MPG, average MPG, speed (not needed because it’s also displayed on the analog speedometer), average speed and the time.

When Sport Gear is chosen, the current “gear” shows on the display.  It’s not really a gear, but the CVT is programmed to mimic a gear.  The count goes up to 7 and switching from one gear to the next happens nearly instantaneously.

.Some customization can be done by selecting the menu with the “Mode” button.  Lap times, strangely enough, can be recorded.  But no tachometer can be displayed.

More good stuff includes the seating position, which is a bit cramped for anyone 6 ft. tall and over but perfect for shorter folks.  The handlebars are also perfectly placed for a bike of this type, making for a controlled and relaxed ride.

Conclusion

I had a lot of fun during my month with the Aprilia Mana 850 GT.  I took to the CVT transmission like a duck to water; the build quality is superb; the handling is rock-solid and the brakes should be an example for every other motorcycle.

I didn’t care for the windscreen and the round headlight seems at odds with the otherwise angular styling.  The bike also desperately needs a tach and I’m not sure what type of luggage options are available and I do think a belt would suit the bike better than a chain.

I do think that Aprilia could and should focus the Mana 850 GT on sport touring or light touring.  It would be an easy step to take; it would help put a focus on the target market; and I think it would put the bike on the wish list of a much larger audience.

One thing’s for sure: you owe it to yourself to take that trip to your nearest Aprilia dealer to check out their 2010 lineup.  I sat on the Dorsoduro, the RSV 4 and the Tuono 1000 R at the dealership and was very impressed. 

► 2010 Aprilia Mana 850 GT – Specifications ◄
 
Engine  
  Engine: 90° V-twin, 4 stroke, liquid cooled, single overhead cam with chain drive, four valves per cylinder. 
  Displacement: 839.3 cc 
  Bore/Stroke: 88 x 69 mm 
  Engine Torque: 73 Nm at 5,000 RPM
  Horsepower:  56 kW at 8,000 RPM
  Fueling: Integrated electronic engine management system. Weber Marelli electronic injection with 38-mm throttle body. 
  Ignition: Digital electronic, two spark plugs per cylinder, integrated with fuel injection system. 
  Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
  Exhaust: 2 into 1; 100% stainless steel with three-way catalytic converter and lambda probe. 
  Lubrication: Dry sump system with separate oil tank. 
  Alternator: 450W a 6000 RPM
Transmission  
  Gear box: Sequential with manual or automatic mode selectable by the user. 7 ratios in manual mode. 3 mappings (Touring – Sport – Rain) in Autodrive mode. Gear change by pedal or handlebar control. The user can switch from automatic to sequential mode and vice versa at any time. 
  Clutch: Automatic
  Primary drive: Belt
  Final drive: Chain
Wheels, Tires, Chassis 
  Frame: High-strength steel trellis.
  Front suspension: Upside-down fork with 43 mm stanchions. Wheel travel 120 mm. 
  Rear suspension: Single- piece aluminum alloy swingarm.  Shock absorber with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping.  Wheel travel 125 mm. 
  Wheels: Cast Aluminum
  Tires: Radials, tubeless.  Front: 120/70 ZR 17.  Rear: 180/55 ZR 17.
  Wheels: Aluminum alloy Front: 3.50 X 17″ Rear: 6.00 x 17″ 
Brakes 
  ABS:  2-channel Continental ABS system. 
  Front Brakes: Dual 320 mm diameter stainless steel floating discs.  Radial calipers with four pistons.
  Rear Brake: 260 mm stainless steel disc. Single piston caliper. 
Dimensions, Weights and Capacities 
  Maximum Length: 2,080 mm
  Maximum Width: 800 mm (at handlebars)
  Maximum Height: 1,270 mm (1,320 mm at rear-view mirrors)
  Saddle Height: 800 mm
  Wheelbase: 1,463 mm 
  Trail: 101 mm
  Steering Angle: 24° 
  Fuel tank capacity: 16 liters 
Colors 
  Black, White
Price 
  List Price: $10,599.00

2010 Honda VFR1200F

 

2010 Honda VFR1200F

Being the youngest of five siblings I was often on the receiving end of hand-me-downs; sometimes clothes, sometimes sporting equipment and thankfully, motorcycles. I have a brother who is seven years my elder and luckily for me he had an interest in motorcycles. Growing up I was always riding a dirt bike one size too big and often getting myself in a little over my head. When my brother’s interest turned from dirt to street the timing could not have been better. Just as I was coming up on my 16th birthday my brother decided it was time to go shopping for a sportbike. To my surprise I was actually somewhat included in the narrowing down process of what bike to purchase.

The two bikes up for contention were a rare 1987 Yamaha FZR750 and a beautiful Italian red 1990 Honda VFR. My brother decided to go with the Yamaha so I never did get my chance to sample the V-4 from Honda, that is . . until now. Twenty years later I finally have that red VFR sitting in my garage.  Well not that exact 1990 Honda VFR of course, but the all new VFR1200F.

Many things have changed since then, both in my life and the life of the VFR. We both have a slightly larger displacement, however the Honda’s has grown much more significantly. In the early VFR’s, 750cc was norm until 1998 when the displacement was upped to 781cc; close enough to label the model VFR800. Not until the current 2010 model did the VFR make the significant jump to 1237cc’s.

Honda has brought to market two versions of the VFR1200F. I would be testing the standard model which features a six-speed transmission while the other model utilizes a new Dual Clutch Transmission which is absent of shift and clutch levers. Oh maybe it’s better for me anyways, I have been told I am kind of old school and would hate to cramp my style with some new DCT technology.

But before you start feeling too sorry for me I should note the VFR I would be riding did come equipped with some special bits. While they would not make me any faster they would surely make my longer journeys much more enjoyable and accommodating. The color-matched saddlebags have a 29-liter storage capacity per saddlebag and the rear trunk has a 33-liter capacity which comes in handy if you are looking to bring along an extra full face helmet. I have trouble putting together an Ikea coffee table by myself so I was pleasantly surprised at the ease in which the luggage can be installed and removed with a quick flick of the ignition key.

Any motorcycle model that starts with the letter “V” is almost always going to be about the motor and with 30 years of V4 technology, this Honda is no different. In this case the star is the 1237cc liquid-cooled 76° V-4. Although it may not be the MotoGP derived V5 powering this VFR, some design
technologies did make their way over to the street V4. The two front  cylinders are spread wider than the rear pair so that the engine can be tapered slimmer at the rear.

Overall it’s more compact than the 781cc engine used in the Interceptor. Honda also looked to their successful CRF motocross machines using Unicam technology to minimize cylinder head size and weight. Crankshaft horsepower is in the 167 HP range at 10,000 RPM and max torque is 95.1 ft-lbs at 8,750 RPM.  90% of that torque is available at just 4000 RPM. Fuel delivery comes via “Throttle By Wire” technology that is matched to four 44mm throttle bodies, each with a single 12-hole injector spraying fuel.

All of these ponies are emitted through the VFR’s compact exhaust system which has been placed towards the front of the bike to aid in mass centralization. The design is fairly funky and unique and in my opinion quite attractive.

 

 

The transmission on this base model VFR was the standard 6-speed unit with back-torque limiting clutch. As I mentioned earlier there is also an automated Dual Clutch Transmission available for the VF1200F which allows push-button “paddle” shifting.

The VFR1200F features a 43mm inverted cartridge fork up front with adjustable spring preload and 4.7 inches of travel. Honda’s beautiful Pro Arm single-sided swingarm handles things out back  via single gas-charged shock with remote spring preload adjuster, rebound damping adjustability and 5.1 inches of travel. Rake measures 25.5-degrees with 101mm of trail.

Hauling the new VFR1200F to a stop is the Combined Braking System (CBS) with ABS. During front brake lever activation, all the right-side caliper pistons are applied, along with four of the pistons on the left side.  When the rear brake is applied, the other two left-side pistons are actuated. Hardware includes dual 320mm discs up front with 6-piston calipers. The rear has a single 276mm disc and a two-piston caliper.

There has been a fair amount of talk about the VFR’s Layered Concept Fairing which fuses the cowl and fairings together. To be honest I didn’t pay much attention to it but I must admit it did appear quite sleek with no visible fasteners. The smooth lines and slippery paint created a clean and aerodynamic finish.

Before leaving on my maiden voyage aboard the VFR1200F I removed the hard luggage to get a better idea of the performance on hand. Even with the luggage removed the Honda still feels hefty, tipping the scales at 591 pounds. Some muscle is required when maneuvering through parking lots and cramped areas, so all of you people who spend your time cruising parking lots, this is not the bike for you. Hopefully most of us make it out of the parking lot where the VFR1200F’s weight is less noticeable. The bike transitioned comfortably through twisty sections and it was easy to find a rhythm on this well balanced machine. I was careful not to get too gung ho on corner entries however as the VFR is a bit of a handful while trying to tighten up a line at speed. The combination of a 60.8-inch wheelbase and some extra pounds is noticeable when trying to bring back the Honda once it gets off line.

Ride quality was excellent at the rear end and freeway expansions were smoothed out nicely, while the front felt like it needed a touch more damping to make things a little plusher when encountering harsh bumps. It’s always going to be a tough task for a motorcycle to perform well at sporting speeds while also being plush enough for touring but the VFR seems to handle it all in stride.

The Honda has a fairly upright position and good wind protection which should make it a nice bike on the long haul, however I found the footpegs to be somewhat tucked back and up which left my legs feeling slightly cramped for a bike where longer rides are certainly part of the norm. Seat height is low while the tank feels high and  bulky, you definitely feel more like you are sitting in the bike than on top of it. Overall the Honda provides a very refined riding experience whether doing some sport riding or just taking it easy on a long cruise.

 

Where the VFR1200F starts to show more of it’s “sportier” side is in the powerplant. Power delivery was quite entertaining with the front end dancing nicely in the air as I grabbed for the next upshift. Yes what an unassuming little motorcycle you are. All wrapped up in your saddlebags and simple understated paint. Deep down you’ve got a little wild child in you that wants to break out, just looking for a tight corner exit followed by some open road where you can let your true, inner self out. Hey if this bike testing thing doesn’t work out, I could always have a go as a motorcycle psychologist. The VFR does not accelerate brutally but it does pack a good punch. I had read much of the VFR’s fantastic sounding motor, but to be honest I did not share this opinion. Seeing as how this was a V4 I was hoping for a more distinctive and noticeable bellow to stir the emotions but to my dismay the VFR sounded somewhat toned-down.

The power is put to the ground via a newly designed shaft drive connected to the VFR’r single-sided swingarm. Honda uses an offset shaft with a vertically expanding pivot and sliding CV joint to minimize any variations in length during the rear wheel’s arc of travel. Driveline lash is non-existant and you rarely notice the shaft drive working out back, which of course, is a good thing. There was no excessive rear end hopping and squatting that you some times get with shaft drive and it actually felt very close to a chain driven motorcycle, minus the driveline lash.

The standard ABS brakes were very non-intrusive, and I was rarely hard enough on the  binders to really feel any pulsating or signs that the ABS was kicking in. The braking hardware provided plenty of stopping power and feel was good at the lever in all situations.

The VFR1200F features a sporty slipper clutch. It was only a few years ago that Honda was not even equipping their purebred CBR series with a slipper clutch so I was a little surprised to see one on this model. Sorry to say I was not riding the VFR quite hard enough to back-er-in and give the slipper a true test but it’s nice to know it’s there if things come to stop in a hurry.  Clutch action felt light at the lever and had overall good feel.

The 6-speed transmission felt good, but not great. There was a definite feel of notchiness between 1st and 2nd gear and I was conscious of being sure-footed to not accidently miss a shift. For a motorcycle otherwise so refined I was slightly disappointed the shifting was not a little more slick.

Cockpit styling is modern, clean and extremely visible in all lighting conditions. The tachometer is positioned dead center and most prominent. Fuel gauge, trip meter, clock, gear indicator, ambient temperature, speedo, it’s all there for your viewing pleasure.

At a starting MSRP of $15,999 the VFR1200F is for the serious enthusiast. Someone who appreciates technology and isn’t afraid to fork out the money for it. I was left a little on the fence regarding my final impressions of the VFR. The Honda’s Curbside appeal does not get my heart pulsating the way the VFR of the early nineties. This is a totally different machine that is much less on the sporting side and much more of an all-arounder.

 

Pros:
Entertaining motor
Typical Honda fit and finish
Good ride in most conditions
Styling (to some people)

Cons:
Footpegs not placed for long-distance touring
Price
No real “edge” to the bike
Styling (to some other people)

Verdict:
There is really very little to fault on the new VFR and Honda’s use of  functional technology has made for a very refined, well performing  motorcycle. It does come at the expense of having to soften the edge however and the Honda is no lightweight. Maybe the new VFR has taught me more about myself than it has the motorcycle. Although I’m not getting any younger I still like a little edge in my motorcycles.

Honda VFR 1200F specifications

Engine Type: 1237cc liquid-cooled 76° V-4

Bore and Stroke: 81mm x 60mm

Compression ratio: 12.0:1

Valves: SOHC; four valves per cylinder

Induction: PGM-FI 44mm throttle bodies

Ignition: Digital electronic

Transmission: 6-speed (VFR1200F) / Six-speed automatic with two modes and
manual mode (VFR1200F with Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission)

Final Drive: Shaft

Suspension

Front: 43mm; 4.7 inches travel

Rear: Pro Arm single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single gas-charged shock; 5.1
inches travel

Brakes

Front: Dual 320mm discs, CBS 6-piston calipers with ABS

Rear: Single 276mm disc, CBS two-piston caliper with ABS

Tires

Front: 120/70 ZR17 radial

Rear: 190/55 ZR17 radial

Wheelbase: 60.8 inches (1545mm)

Rake: 25-deg

Trail: 101.0mm (4.0 inches)

Seat Height: 32.1 inches (815mm)

Fuel Capacity: 4.9 gallons

Color: Candy Red

Curb Weight: 591 lbs (VFR1200F) / 613 lbs (VFR1200F with Dual Clutch Automatic
Transmission)*

*Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel–ready
to ride.

 

2010 BMW S 1000 RR

Action Photos By Dara Altadonna

.2010 BMW S 1000 RR

Whether it’s producing the perfect beer, wonderful concerto’s or cars whose bodies are built totally out of carbon fiber, German manufacturing is a thing of beauty. Often referred to as “Das Land der Dichter und Denker” (the land of poets and thinkers) one could make the correlation between this type of engineering/manufacturing and a luminous poem. Both require precise craftsmanship and if done correctly will become symbols of achievement. If done incorrectly they will fade into history without ever being recognized.

BMW is of course no stranger to manufacturing high quality motorcycles and has indeed achieved prominence in multiple categories (e.g. endurance, touring, etc.) but to have burst onto the sport bike scene in 2009 with their S 1000 RR was truly jaw-dropping to say the least.

A racing inspired anti-locking braking system (ABS), gear shift assistant (GSA) and adjustable dynamic traction control (DTC) are just a sampling of the technological improvements BMW has seen fit to include on their uber-sports bike. But before we go down that rabbit hole let’s start this journey with the obvious: style and design.

A lot has been said (and written) about the appearance of the S 1000 RR. With asymmetrical head lights, wide left side opening and the opposing gill-shaped slits of the fairing it certainly makes a statement. I’ll admit that from the pictures I saw I wasn’t enamored with the exterior (except the rear LED tail light – simply gorgeous) but after seeing it up-close-and-personal it’s quite attractive. Form follows function which only adds to its unique appearance.

That philosophy is well defined in the design of the instrument panel and executed to perfection. Less is more and in this case a large white tachometer and two LCD screens give you all the information you need. A gear indicator is directly below the MPH readout (no more trying to shift into the mysterious 7th gear) and is visible on the left screen with other pertinent information being displayed on the right (coolant temperature, odometer, clock, etc.). Add in an easy to read font, highly visible shift light and the now infamous “idiot” lights that have become standard equipment on most (if not all) motorcycles and you have what could easily be called the ideal dash.

Selecting any one of the 4 possible throttle response modes (rain, sport, race or slick) when riding is as easy as clicking on a right clip-on mounted button labeled “mode”; pull in the clutch, ease off the throttle and you’re now in a new mode. Unlike some other systems where you must be stationary, BMW’s version allows both so whenever you decide to make a change you can. Their proprietary ride by wire E-gas system is also found on the “S” and uses two (opening and closing) Bowden cables leading to the throttle butterfly adjuster and functioned flawlessly.

Speaking of the four modes they break down as follows: in rain mode, you only have 150 horsepower and with an onboard sensor for lean angle the big 1,000 will limit acceleration if said angle is greater than 38 degrees. The next three modes (sport, race and slick) give you the full 193 ponies but vary the degrees of lean angle for each – 45, 48 and 53 respectively.

.Those modes are definitely a benefit when you have a 999 cc water-cooled inline four-cylinder engine underneath you producing 193 HP at 13,000 rpm, 82.5 ft-lbs. of torque at 9,750 rpm and revving up to a redline of 14,200 rpm. Combine a bore/stroke ratio of 80/49.7, compression of 13:1 and 48 mm throttle bodies and you have one potent power plant. This is especially evident when you look at the internals BMW used in constructing this engine. They utilized their extensive experience of creating Formula 1 engines to include such items as a high-speed, extra-sturdy valve drive with individual cam followers and titanium valves.

Channeling all of the spent gases into the atmosphere is a 4-2-1 exhaust system with dual catalytic converters that meets or exceeds the strict emission requirements laid forth by the EPA and the EU. The short and stubby side mounted muffler curbs the heat that traditional under the seat exhaust systems create which is good as you don’t want any additional heat while riding during summertime temperatures. Of course I want to curtail toxic emissions from going into the environment just as much as the next guy but I can’t help but wonder what a harmony of sound a full Akrapovic Evolution system would generate on this beast. Not to mention the increase in HP (can you really ever have enough?), weight savings and good looks but I digress…

Insert and turn the key, press the starter button and you soon realize that all that power is yours to unleash. Obviously producing a copious amount of power means nothing if you can’t use it. This is where a non-adjustable steering damper, Sach’s 46 mm inverted front fork and rear shock come into play. The fully adjustable suspension that is standard on the “S” (i.e. preload, rebound and high and low speed compression) is phenomenal and makes the bike extremely easy to ride.

.I normally like my suspension on the razor’s edge (harder than most) but found that the stock settings for sport (5 clicks out of 10) worked exceptionally well. If however I was going to the track I’d crank up the rebound and compression a few notches and dial it in from there. Once at the track converting this road monster to a race ready assassin is as easy as removing three bolts for the license plate/rear signals, two bolts for each mirror and a single bolt for each front signal. Now passing tech should be a breeze.

Weighing in at only 455 lbs. when fully fueled (450 lbs. without the optional ABS package) the “S” can be flicked side to side effortlessly and will gobble up any winding road you can throw at it. That quick turn in and aggressive nature is due to the fact that rake and trail are set at 23.9° and 95.9 mm accordingly. Though those numbers aren’t radical by any stretch of the imagination when talking about sport bikes but it’s safe to say that this isn’t your father’s BMW.

If you become to overzealous in your quest to imitate Mr. Corser and need to scrub off speed fast, don’t worry as the dual radial mounted Brembo 4 piston calipers grabbing onto 320mm floating rotors in the front and a floating, single-piston Brembo caliper which grabs a 220mm rotor in the rear has you covered. The brake lever is also adjustable so two finger braking is only a setting away.

.If you opt for the dynamic traction control package (which you should) and want to channel your inner Jason Britton then you’ll have to disable it. Hold the ABS/DTC button on the left clip-on for a second to do just that (two seconds to disable ABS) and let the wheelies begin. If you don’t disable it the system senses when the front wheel gets lofted into the air and cuts the power to bring it back down to Earth again. I will say that it does take some getting used to as the first few times while applying WOT and the system was tripped (alerted by the DTC warning light quickly flashing) was a little unnerving. That said the benefits certainly outweigh some hooliganism and I would definitely not have the “S” leave the factory destined to be in my garage without it.

.Another optional feature that I’ve quickly become a devotee of is BMW’s gear shift assistant. Not having to pull in the clutch while grabbing the next up shift pays big dividends as it allows you to stay on the power longer. The system works by cutting the ignition which unloads the transmission and hence allows a shift. Having GSA is like being hooked on crack; so addictive that I was looking for any opening on the road just to “bang through the gears” to get my next fix. Add this to the “must have” list as well.

Seems like now a day’s a slipper clutch is expected on any liter bike that’s produced. The “S” is no exception and having that added protection against rear wheel chatter is a big advantage. By not upsetting the chassis the “S” provides a more predictable ride as well as avoiding the risk of over-revving the engine during downshifts. None of these signs were exhibited while I was riding the “S” and it just goes to show you that when good engineering is employed it’s seamless in its implementation.

Since I’m above average in height (or as our EIC likes to call me: “Godzilla!”) fitting comfortable on a motorcycle for me is sometimes a trade-off. Thankfully the rider triangle on the “S” fit me just fine and with a seat height of 32 in. should fit most others as well. There are provisions to carry a passenger but let’s face it; this isn’t a Goldwing so it’s best to go solo. During that “alone time” my wrists, back and neck weren’t sore even after many days that consisted of long stretches of time in the saddle. This time I saved the Advil for Sunday’s yard work.

.All that riding gave me plenty of time to sample 3 out of the 4 operating modes (“slick” can only be accessed by a special plug-in). I actually found that the “race” mode best suited to my riding habits. Sure, it’s meant for the track but while using the “sport” mode there seemed to be more twitchiness in 2nd gear around the 4,800-5,200 rpm mark. “Rain” worked well when the occasional thunderstorm crept into the forecast and unlike some other motorcycles that have a “rain” mode, BMW doesn’t totally neuter the “S” so you have enough power to get on the highway or make a pass.

Apparently I have a heavy right hand as the 4.5 gal. tank gave me about 110 miles before the low fuel light came which meant I hit reserve and had approximately a gallon of gas left before total burnout. The odometer switches to a mileage countdown so you can gauge how quickly you need to find a gas station to refuel and not wind up on the side of the road waiting for AAA or the MILF in a ’69 Camaro to appear. If the latter happens be sure to email me. As for the piss-poor fuel mileage I’ll take full blame since the power and sound of that inline four revving over 10,000 rpm’s is an intoxicating elixir which I couldn’t get enough of.

Metzeler Racetech K3’s are standard fitment for the cast aluminum rims and come in sizes 120/70 ZR 17 for the front and 190/55 ZR 17 in the rear. Even though I feel most secure running Michelin Pilots the K3’s were confidence inspiring, provided plenty of grip and gave positive feedback.

The 2010 BMW S 1000 RR has an MSRP of $13,800. Add in some of the optional components (ABS and DTC: $1,480, GSA: $450, alarm: $395, motorsports color scheme: $750) and the price quickly jumps to $16,875 fully loaded.

.Available colors are acid green metallic, mineral silver metallic, thunder gray metallic and BMW Motorrad motorsport colors with a black frame standard for all. Swingarm and wheel colors vary however. I’ll take mine in silver with ABS, DTC and GSA please.

Visit BMW’s S 1000 RR micro-site for more information: http://www.s1000rr.com/.

  

 

 

 

 

 

PROS

• More power than you will ever need.
• A WSBK motorcycle for a little over $15k.
• Unique styling.

CONS

• Newbie’s need not apply.
• No adjustable clutch lever or rear-sets.
• Passenger accommodations are cramped.

THE VERDICT

BMW has clearly created a “super” bike. It not only has all the characteristics that one would want from a liter bike but it also has embedded in it all of the technology that this German manufacturer has to offer.  If you want an all out track day warrior or weekend canyon carver look no further then the S 1000 RR.


Engine  

Type: Water-cooled 4-stroke in-line four-cylinder-engine, two camshafts, four valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 80 mm x 49.7 mm
Capacity: 999 cc
Rated output: 193 hp (142 kW) at 13,000 rpm
Max. torque: 83 ft-lb (112 Nm) at 9,750 rpm
Compression ratio: 13.0 : 1
Mixture control / engine management: Electronic intake pipe injection/digital engine management including knock sensor (BMS-K-P)
Emission control: Catalytic- 2 Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-4 ready

Performance / Fuel Consumption  

Maximum speed: Over 125 mph (200 km/h)
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h: Euro Rating: 5.7 l
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h: Euro Rating: 5.9 l
Fuel type: Unleaded premium, octane number 91-93, automatic knock control

Electrical System  

Alternator: three-phase alternator 350 W
Battery: 14 V / 10 Ah, maintenance-free

Power Transmission

Clutch: Multiple-disc clutch in oil bath, anti hopping clutch, cable operated
Gearbox: Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox
Drive: chain

Chassis / Brakes  

Frame: Bridge-type frame, cast aluminum, load-bearing engine
Front wheel location / suspension: 46 mm Upside-down fork, rebound and compression adjustable
Rear wheel location / suspension: Cast aluminum swing arm, Continuously adjustable rear inbound-rebound damping, high and low speed
Suspension travel front / rear: 4.7/5.1 inch (120 mm / 130 mm)
Wheelbase: 56 inches (1,432 mm)
Castor: 3.7 inches (95.9 mm)
Steering head angle: 66,1 °
Wheels: Cast aluminum
Rim, front: 3.50 x 17″
Rim, rear: 6.00 x 17″
Tyres, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tyres, rear: 190/55 ZR 17
Brake, front: Twin disc, floating brake discs,radial-fixed 4-piston calipers, diameter 320 mm, 5 mm thickness
Brake, rear: Single disc brake, one-piston floating caliper, diameter 220 mm, 5 mm thickness
ABS DTC**: DTC 4 mode dynamic traction control adjustment, only avalibale with Race ABS, disengageable
Race-ABS*: 4 mode Race-ABS adjustment, disengageable

Dimensions / Weights 

Length: 80.9 inches (2,056 mm)
Width: (incl. mirrors) 32.5 inches (826 mm)
Height: (excl. mirrors) 44.8 inches (1,138 mm)
Seat height, unladen weight: 32 inches (820 mm)
Inner leg curve, unladen weight: 71.2 inches (1,810 mm)
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled: 1) 450 lbs (204 kg), 455 lbs (206.5 kg) incl. Race-ABS
Dry weight: 2) 403 lbs (183 kg)
Permitted total weight: 859 lbs (390 kg)
Payload: (with standard equipment) 412 lbs (187 kg)
Usable tank: volume 4.5 gln (17.5 l)
Reserve: approx. 1 gln (4.0 l)

1) According to guideline 93/93/EWG with all fluids, fuelled with at least 90% of usable tank volume
2) Unladen weight without fluids

2010 Triumph Street Triple R

Static Photos By Brad Puetz
Action Photos By Temo Garcia

Ok first I should probably admit something. When Kenn Stamp (the big mucky-muck editor) shot me an e-mail asking if I was ready to do a two week bike test I wasn’t sure what to expect. I mean I have tested everything from 3-wheeled scooters to 180 HP cruisers. Even Kenn’s claims of exaggerated jealousy for the motorcycle I was about to get my hands on had no affect on me; I mean Kenn would get excited to ride a 2 wheeled motorized shopping cart! Well who wouldn’t? – Ed

The truth is that even when word came out that I would be riding the Triumph Street Triple R I was still a little unsure what to expect. I had spent some time on the Triumph Daytona 675 on the racetrack but that was a few years back and my feelings were mixed on that steed. The Daytona 675 had a motor with nearly perfect qualities but the suspension definitely left something to be desired. Since much of the Street Triple R was lifted straight from the Daytona 675 I was expecting to see some similarities between the two.

1The Triumph Street Triple R sports some attitude with its blazing orange paint, Italian racing exhaust and engine exposed for all to see. It’s a looker no doubt and received some admiring glances, but looks alone will not have people turning their heads as you roll down the boulevard. The Arrow exhaust coupled with the Triumph’s triple cylinder motor has the Street Triple R sounding like an absolute thoroughbred racing machine. Crank up the revs past 6,000 RPM and the Triumph emits a sound that I can only compare to Italian exotics such as Ferrari. It seems a little odd

2

“This thing sounds like a Ferrari!”

to be comparing a bike to an exotic car, but the motor sounds like no other I have ridden before and the instant I cracked open the throttle, the only thing that came to my mind is “this thing sounds like a Ferrari!” Of course the trade-off to this vociferous motor is that at cruising speeds the Arrow exhaust is quite loud for a street bike. If you are not one to wear ear plugs while commuting, this bike, fitted with this exhaust, might have you changing your mind.

A sweet sounding motorcycle is all well and good, but the beauty of the Triumph is that the noise you are hearing is actually transferring into some seriously fun power at the rear wheel.

 

All this joy and happiness is courtesy of a 675cc Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder producing a claimed 108 horsepower and 51 ft-lb. of torque. The torque curve on the Triumph is truly a thing of beauty and the Street Triple R can be launched as docile or as aggressive as your right wrist commands. The Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection performed flawlessly and throttle response was excellent, adding to the complete package of the Triumph’s power plant.

Triumph knocked it out of the park when they created this motor; it is exactly what an urban street fighter should be.  Extreme torque down low and the power is 100% useable on the street. I felt like I was riding a 450 dirt bike around town, coming out of slow corners, giving the bike a quick blip of the throttle and floating the front wheel in the air. Having ridden motorcycles for more than 25 years you would think a small thing like dancing the front end around wouldn’t be such a big deal anymore but the Triumph Street Triple R does it in such a distinct manner and with such a beautiful pitch that even the most jaded motorcyclist is sure to have an absolute riot. The boring 3morning commute all of a sudden has a completely different flavor and every stop light is now just one more opportunity to thrust away while tapping into the seamless power delivery while soaking in the sweet melody.


4

The Triumph Street Triple R feels compact, light and oh so nimble.

Keeping all of this fun in line is the Street Triple R’s lightweight frame which has been lifted directly from the Daytona 675. The Aluminum beam twin-spar helps keep the Triple R’s weight down to a wet weight of 416 pounds. The Triumph Street Triple R feels compact, light and oh so nimble. Not like a nervous racehorse but composed with a super responsive feel.

Suspension duties are handled by 41mm Kayaba fully adjustable upside down forks (preload, compression and rebound adjustments are available) and a Kayaba monoshock with adjustable preload out back. The suspension on the Street Triple R is definitely up to the task but will never be a standout. There is no doubt the Triumph sports some quality suspension but there were some moments when things felt a bit harsh in the front and soft in the rear; but these are minor grumblings I assure you. The Triumph never felt unbalanced and overall gave a quality ride. Some more time spent tweaking on the knobs would surely have left me even more satisfied. The spring rates and valves have been re-calibrated from the Daytona 675 in a bit of a compromise to keep the sporty nature while still being plush enough for the street.

5

I found hard stabs at the binder just as satisfying as long pulls at the throttle

When speaking of excitement on a motorcycle we normally think of how the motor brings the bike alive or how the handling has us singing through the canyons; but how about the brakes? Could the brakes really lead to a more exciting riding experience? In the case of the Triumph Street Triple R I found hard stabs at the binder just as satisfying as long pulls at the throttle. The power and feedback at the lever are so good and the composure of the Triumph while backing it in was mind boggling. Never before have I been so happy to see a red light. I found myself treating every stop light like I was going for an inside pass as one of the “last of the late brakers”, banging the downshifts high in the rev range and just letting the rear wheel float out there as the Triumph settled perfectly to every stop.

The Street Triple R features 4-piston Nissin calipers on a pair of 308mm rotors with a radial-mounted master cylinder and steel braided lines in the front and a Nissin single-piston caliper with a 220mm rotor out back. Daytona 675, I think the Triumph Street Triple R once again owes you a big thank you.

The Street Triple R’s transmission shifted quite smoothly with only some

6

There is some seriously fun power at the rear wheel

slight notchiness when passing through neutral. The gear ratios were perfectly suited for street riding. The cable clutch pull is light and actuation is smooth, no need for the ever-popular arm pump surgery many racers have made trendy.

While some new motorcycles tend to feel slightly alien at first and take some time to feel comfortable on, other motorcycles seem to fit you like a glove from the first time you sit on them. For my 5’10, 160 pound frame the case with the Triumph Street Triple R is definitely the latter. Good bar and foot peg position allowed for a comfortable, yet sporty ride. The seat encourages all-day rides without looking like a touring saddle and had me extremely comfortable in both commuting and canyon-carving circumstances. While enjoying the Triumph’s good ergonomics I was also pleased to find the mirrors quite useable and giving well placed views of the action behind me.

7

The Triumph’s instrument panel features an analogue tach with a digital speedo

The Triumph’s instrument panel features an analogue tach, digital speedo and clock, lap timer and gear indicator. Overall it’s a good looking unit and I like the added touch of the gear change warning lights that start to light up in progression as you pass 10,000 RPM.

Triumph has a winner on their hands with this motorcycle. It’s simply one of the most fun motorcycles I have ridden on the street. It’s reasonably priced, sweet handling and has a motor that begs to be ridden like a hooligan. I don’t care how mild or responsible of a rider you think you are, climb aboard the Street Triple R and you will step over to the dark side, and some laws will be broken.

 

 

8

AGV GP-Tech Helmet and Dainese Torque Pro Out boots.

GEAR

While riding the Street Triple R I also had the chance to try out some new gear. The AGV GP-Tech helmet is AGV’s top of the line racing helmet. This is the same helmet that Valentino Rossi uses while racing. Fit on the new AGV was excellent but had it not been, there are Adjustable cheek pads and liners to help you find the right combination to fit your size and shape. The shell is made from Carbon and Kevlar and is extremely light. The AGV’s integrated vent system also creates good air flow. Even with all of this air moving through the helmet wind noise was never a problem as the padding around the ears was nice and snug.

The Dainese Torque Pro Out boots are a new design from Dainese. They feature the jointed D-Axial system to help keep the foot from twisting. There is also a shock absorption heel and front and rear shin guards. The boots have a great fit and feel and were a cinch to put on. There is a Velcro calf adjustment to help with a perfect fit for nearly every wearer. I have had many broken ankles and my ankles tend to swell up quite badly when I ride, thankfully I never experienced any pain while pulling these top quality boots off at the end of a long ride.

AGV GP-Tech Helmet and Dainese Torque Pro Out Boots provided by Dainese D-Store Orange County. 1645 Superior Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-3612 (949) 645-9500.

 



9 Specs

Engine

Type

Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder

Capacity

675cc

Bore/Stroke

74 x 52.3 mm

Compression Ratio

12.65:1

Fuel System

Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with SAI

Transmission

Final Drive

O ring chain

Clutch

Wet, multi-plate

Gearbox

6-speed, close ratio

10 Cycle Parts

Frame

Aluminum beam twin spar

Swingarm

Braced, twin-sided, aluminum alloy

Front Wheel

Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke 17 x 3.5in

Rear Wheel

Cast alluminum alloy 5-spoke 17 x 5.5in

Front Tyre

120/70 ZR 17

Rear Tyre

180/55 ZR 17

Front Suspension

Kayaba 41mm upside down forks, with adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping, 130mm travel

Rear Suspension

Kayaba monoshock with piggy back reservoir, adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping, 130mm rear wheel travel

Front Brakes

Twin 308mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston radial calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 220mm disc, Nissin single piston caliper

11 Dimensions

Length

79.9 in

Width (Handlebars)

29.7 in

Height

43.7 in

Seat Height

31.7 in

Wheelbase

54.5 in

Rake/Trail

23.9 degree / 92.4 mm

Wet Weight

416 lbs

Fuel Tank Capacity

4.6 US gals

12 Perfomance (measured at crankshaft to 95/1/EC)

Maximum Power EC

105bhp @ 11700 rpm

Maximum Torque EC

50 ft.lbs @ 9200 rpm

Colours

Matte Graphite, Matte Blazing Orange

Price

$9,599

2010 Harley Davidson Road Glide Custom

Photos:  Rick Korchak and “Burn”

Background

The word “irony” is often misused, but in this case, Webster’s classic definition is right on the money:  “A state of affairs or events that is the reverse of what was or was to be expected.

Search webBikeWorld (and, up till the past couple of years, 2WF.com as well) and print every word related to cruisers and you wouldn’t have enough to fill a thimble. The focus has always been on Japanese (2WF) and European (wBW & 2WF) sport and sport/touring motorcycles, because that’s what I like and that’s what I ride.  And since the buck stops here, I get to call the shots for once in my life.

17 But bikes is bikes; they’re all good in my eyes.  So when Kenn Stamp, Editor-in-Chief at 2WF.com, called and asked if I’d be interested in testing a brand-new 2010 Road Glide Custom for a few weeks to do a review, only one word came to mind.  Yes!

And that’s the irony.  After all the words devoted to BMWs, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis and the rest that have filled these pages, how ironic is it that Harley-Davidson is the one to come knocking on the door?

But there’s more to it than even the Harley-Davidson marketing folks knew.  Until 3 weeks ago, I had never been on a cruiser in my life.  Not a one.

All I knew was what I read and heard in the street knowledge and rumors that pass for wisdom among my sportbike-riding friends; that is, Harleys were big, heavy beasts that couldn’t turn their way out of the driveway, didn’t have enough power to pass a school bus and couldn’t out-brake a Schwinn.

I told Kenn about this and we both decided that my lack of experience would actually make for a compelling article and a fresh take on the whole “HD Experience”.

I was pretty skeptical, but I figured I’d go into this with an open mind and see what it’s all about.  I’m glad I did, because those myths were busted wide open.

Road Glide Style

1 Even with a list price starting at $18,999.00, the Road Glide Custom is not quite at the top of the 2010 Harley-Davidson lineup.  It’s the latest in a long history of “Glide” models however, which apparently started with the Hydra-Glide of 1949.  That was before my time, thank goodness, because the original ‘Glide had a hand shift and foot clutch on the left side — well beyond my ability to coordinate!

Have no fear though, because there’s a very up-to-date motorcycle hiding under the Road Glide Custom classic bodywork.  This modern ‘Glide possesses a sleek style that looks more modern than some of the other retro-focused Harleys.  It is one of the easiest Harley-Davidson motorcycles to recognize, with its “Shark Nose” fairing and dual headlights setting it clearly apart.  That fairing is also mounted to the frame, unlike the “Bat Wing” handlebar-mounted fairing of the more popular Street Glide.

I have always liked the Road Glide’s sense of style; it’s sort of a touring bike hiding behind a custom look.  I don’t know enough about Harley-Davidson history to tell you what the “Custom” moniker adds to the Road Glide; there is no standard version of the Road Glide listed on the Harley-Davidson website, so Custom it is.

I did a little research before I picked up the bike and discovered that the “basic” Road Glide Custom (a paradox in terms, no doubt!) is available in the Vivid Black shown here, a very bright Scarlet Red and something called “Black Denim” which appears to be a matte black version of the bike I picked up.

2 The very beautiful, thick and high-gloss black paint on this bike is a perfect canvas for the deep chrome accents found on just about everything that isn’t painted.  I hadn’t been within 50 feet of a Road Glide before I laid eyes on this one, and when it was rolled out of the garage, the first phrase that came to my mind was “work of art”.

The black and chrome is perfect — and perfectly stunning.  There’s no question that Harley-Davidson has the best paint and chrome in the business, and this one’s a classic example.

Somehow, the bike also seemed a bit smaller than I imagined it would be.  The big fairing dominates the styling and its counterpoint is the low, squat, crouched rear that makes the bike look like a jaguar, about to leap forward.  Very cool!

 

Road Glide Specs

3 The engine’s the thing on any Harley, with the rest of the bike simply being a showcase for those classic big twin cylinders.  Harley still uses the American cubic inch designation, illustrated by the “96 Cubic Inches” printed on the air cleaner.  That converts to just shy of 1,600 cubic centimeters for us Euro-bike riders, a volume bigger than most of the car engines not too long ago.

Eight-hundred cc’s pounding through each cylinder means a big 3.75″ bore and a huge 4.89″ stroke.  That stroke is they key though; it’s responsible for the huge 93 ft. lbs. of torque this engine pumps out at only 3,500 RPM.

Harley-Davidson apparently does not give out horsepower ratings, but with torque like that, who needs horsepower?  An old mechanic once explained horsepower and torque to me this way:  “Imagine leaning out of a second-story window and pulling up a load of bricks.  Torque does all the work; more horsepower will only move the load faster”.  I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but the Harley V-twin is all about torque.  It gets the job done at much lower RPMs than anything else in my experience.

On the street, that power translates to 50 MPH at only 1,900 RPM in sixth gear.  Add about 200 RPM for each 5 MPH and you’ll have it just about right — 55 MPH at 2,100 RPM and you can cruise all day at 60 MPH at a leisurely 2,250 RPM.  It can easily lug down to 40 MPH or so in sixth gear and the engine is literally just off idle.  Give it some gas and it will smoothly pull right back up again to freeway speeds.

4 Yet another surprise was the six-speed transmission, complete with the little “6” light that flicks on inside the speedo when the top gear is selected.  Does a bike with this much torque and only 2,600 RPM at 70 MPH really need six speeds?

I was thinking more like two would do it — one for getting it going and the second for everything else.  Honestly, I could click the transmission up from second gear to sixth at speeds faster than a jog and have instant power in just about any situation.  This makes the bike very flexible and easy to ride, as I’ll describe in a minute.

The massive six-gallon fuel capacity yielded me just shy of 50 MPG during my mostly country road riding, which is outstanding for an over-800 pound bike.  The fairing and the tapered styling may have something to with the excellent fuel mileage I experienced.  I noticed the aerodynamics when trailering the bike; my big V8-powered Explorer got almost 2 MPG more with the bike on the trailer than when the trailer was empty — yet another surprise.

Although the Road Glide Custom has classic Harley looks, underneath it’s all 21st Century technology.  This includes electronic fuel injection, optional ABS brakes (reasonably priced at $895.00) and tubeless tires on very nice cast aluminum wheels.

The Dunlop skins are a reasonably-sized 130/70-18 front and 180/65-16 in the rear.  Reasonable by modern cruiser standards, that is…  And as you’ll learn in my “Myths vs. Reality” section below, the tires provided outstanding grip way beyond what I imagined.

Other modern features on the Road Glide Custom include the quiet and smooth belt drive.  It sure makes you wonder why other manufacturers haven’t adopted the belt as the drive system of choice; it’s light, it’s smooth, it’s quiet, it’s clean and it’s nearly maintenance free.  Sounds perfect, no?

5 This Road Glide also had the very nice factory cruise control system, another reasonably priced option at only $295.00.  It would probably cost more than that to install an accessory cruise control and you certainly wouldn’t end up with the excellent switchgear that controls the Harley item.  Small clicks up and down increment the speed by about 1 MPH or so; perfect for Interstate travel.

The hydraulic lifters and the fuel injection, combined with the near-zero maintenance belt drive mean that there’s not much to do except fuel it up, check the oil and tires and you’re off.  This adds a lot to the ease of use, reduction in maintenance headaches and the all-important fun factor.

The bike was perfectly reliable the entire time that I had it, and it’s my understanding from talking to my friends at the local Harley-Davidson dealership that modern Harleys have excellent reliability.

 

A First-Time Cruiser

6 The Harley-Davidson plant in York, Pennsylvania, is only about 45 minutes from my home, but the Road Glide was located in a shop in northern New Jersey, 250 miles distant.  I debated whether to simply jump on the bike and ride it home or trailer it back — the trailer won out.  I’m glad it did, because I think it would have been too much of a culture shock to throw a leg over an 800+ pound cruiser for the first time in my life and try to find my way back home through three states.

And what a culture shock it was!  I have to say, the next morning I was as nervous as a plucked chicken.  This bike is just so different than anything I’ve ridden in the past — bigger, heavier and…what about those floorboards?  Never had my feet graced a pair of them.

After all, I’m a sportbike guy through and through.  My very first bike was an Bultaco Metralla ex-racer, complete with clip-on handlebars and a “dustbin” fairing.   Up to that point, I hadn’t been on a motorcycle in my life before, but I just had to own it.  The bike was sitting in a shed, covered in two-stroke Castrol grime when I forked over the 250 bucks to the owner, who probably then laughed all the way to the bank.

I actually ended up pushing it along the sidewalk right through downtown Madison, Wisconsin for the mile or so it took to get home, where I cleaned it up, tinkered with it, got it started, figured out how the right-side shifter worked and took off for my first ride.  Those were the days…

Now here I was, sitting on a shiny new twenty-something-thousand -dollar chrome-draped loaner straight from the Harley-Davidson factory and there it was — that exact same feeling in the pit of my stomach, reminding me of the first time I started up the Bultaco those many years ago.

The evening before was spent looking through the clear no-nonsense Road Glide owner’s manual, becoming familiar with the controls and getting a feel for the bike’s weight in the garage.  The low 26″ (claimed) seat height really helps here; this is one of the first bikes I’ve ridden in a long time where I can put both of my feet flat on the ground.  It makes a big difference.

Firing it Up

7 Right where you’d think the key should go on the steering head, there’s a big honkin’ doorknob-like thing instead.  Turn it to the right to let the gnomes down in the engine room know that you’re getting ready to put a fire in the hole.

The bike does not have a key, or at least anything resembling a motorcycle key I’ve ever seen.  It does have what might be called a “key” but is actually a barrel-type arrangement similar to what they use to lock up a soda machine.  It is only needed to lock the steering head or open the bags and not to start the bike.  Don’t forget to bring it along though — it also unlocks the fuel tank cap.  Don’t ask me how I discovered this…

Turn that giant ignition knob to the right and you can hear the gnomes sending power to the fuel pump.  The dashboard lights flash on and off and when everything settles down, it’s ready to fire up with a push of the starter button.

And fire up it does — the big V-twin literally jumps to life like it’s been Tasered out of a coma.  KaPOW!!  It scared the daylights out of me the first time I heard it — I guess it takes a Big Bang to lift those pistons out of their slumber.  The engine shakes at idle (myth not busted in this case) and it took me a few days to get used to that, especially when it settles down to an idle as the bike comes to a stop, where the engine feels like it came loose in the frame.  All part of the Harley charm…

The shaking disappears instantly as soon as you roll on the throttle though.  The vibes are no worse than my old Airhead Beemer and less than the new Ducati GT1000, another myth busted.

8 So I’m ready to go and I slowly and carefully pick my way out of the garage for the very first time and down the hill.  Momentum takes over, I lift my feet up and…WHERE ARE THE PEGS!  Yikes — the floorboards!  I forgot to scope them out in my garage dry run!  A quick glance down to figure out where my feet go and all’s well.  Note to first-time cruiser riders: add floorboard practice to the startup checklist!

Feet now planted on the floorboards, I safely make it down the hill and out on to the street for the first time and I was off.

I have to say, that day was a sweat-inducing shock that was absolutely the equal in every way to my first ride on the Bultaco.  Having never been on a cruiser before, with no experience in the feet-forward riding position, floorboards or the sit-back-on-the-tailbone seating position, I was flummoxed.

 

Myths vs. Reality

9 I rode the heck out of it that first day, learning how to ride a motorcycle all over again, and slowly but surely we started to bond.

A few more days brought a series of surprises that busted just about every myth I’d ever heard or imagined about a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  In fact, the reality was so different from urban legend that I was truly shocked in a number of ways:

Weight:There’s no getting around it, 800+ pounds is a lot of bike.  But I honestly only felt it when pushing the Road Glide around in the garage.  Once the wheels start turning at anything above walking speed, the bike instantly stablizes and the weight simply disappears.  The low seat height helps when stopping, but I had very little trouble with slow-speed maneuvering.

Steering Lock:Also a great help in slow-speed maneuvers, because the handlebars can be swung through a huge amount of radius, which is crucial to maintaining stability at low speeds.  The wide bars help here also.

Clutch Control:The Road Glide Custom is the textbook example of everything they teach in the MSF Basic Rider Course.  The clutch has a big, wide friction zone, allowing the precise control over the amount of power sent through the transmission and out to the rear wheel.  I did find that the slightly notchy clutch feel can be mitigated by wearing a pair of sticky-fingered gloves; I learned this by accident when one rainy day I tried a different pair of gloves with less grip, which makes it more difficult to control the clutch lever.

16 Fueling:The throttle and fuel injection on this bike combine to give the most precise fueling I have ever experienced on any motorcycle by far.  Exact, precise and smooth throttle inputs are duplicated by those mind-reading gnomes down in the fuel/air department.  It was a revelation to feel this kind of throttle control — I’ve been taught that it just isn’t possible with fuel injection.  Wrong.  It is.

Combined with the beautifully flat torque curve, the Road Glide is a joy to pilot.  If this precision is duplicated across the Harley-Davidson lineup, I now know why the bikes are so popular with first-time riders.  The combination of the low seat, wide-as-Montana steering lock and precise fueling, along with that huge friction zone in the clutch give loads of confidence and help to counteract the weight differential.

But the combination of excellent clutch and fueling — and the powerful brakes — are also perfect for experienced riders.  This bike makes it a snap to use the lessons taught in the Total Control Advanced Rider Course; that is, slow release on the front brake as you simultaneously roll on the throttle to keep the bike from moving around on the suspension during on/off throttle transitions.  A racer’s tip for smoothness, but it works like a charm on the Harley and makes cornering even more fun!

Noise:Another myth busted.  Believe it or not, a Harley-Davidson is quiet!  The exhaust on this one gave a nice bark on a fast takeoff, but nothing more than the Ducati.  The low RPM freeway cruising speed and quiet exhaust helps make long distances stress-free.  Why anyone would replace the stock exhaust with some open pipes — that most likely also ruins the precise fueling — is beyond me.

10 Brakes:The brakes on this Road Glide were simply awesome, albeit with that classic “wooden” feel.  So one myth busted and one confirmed.  Harleys are supposed to have terrible brakes, right?  I had no problems with my habitual two-fingered-cover on the front brake lever, and I never need more than those two fingers to easily squeeze the front and pull the bike down from speed in a flash.  It literally feels like somebody threw the bike into reverse.

It didn’t take long to learn how to use and rely on the big rear brake pedal also, which can actually be modulated for precise control.  Quite a surprise to find a set of rear brakes that actually do something for a change.

I never had to use the ABS in anger, but I tried it a couple of times to see what would happen.  It kicks in with a bit of vibration and noise but I didn’t notice any difference in stopping power.  Overall, the Road Glide scrubs off speed as quickly as any bike I’ve ridden, and with less drama because the longer wheelbase keeps it all planted.  Squeeze the brakes and the bike hunkers right down and stops.  Fast.

Handling:This is the biggest and most surprising myth-buster of all.  I had assumed that a big bagger would handle like…well, like a Harley.  I figured it would be as different from my Ducati as an F-250 is to a Miata.

Busted to the max!  This Road Glide handles way, way better than you’d think.  In fact, try as I might on every one of my favorite back roads, it took me the full three weeks to finally scrape a floorboard, which was fortunately captured in the on-bike video (below).  The Road Glide Custom can be leaned way, way over — surely more than the majority of Harley owners will ever experience.

And it feels great in the turns, with an incredibly quick and silky-smooth side-to-side transition capability, probably due to the low center of gravity.  Rolling on that precise throttle out of the corners means more fun in the twisties with this bike than anything I’ve ridden in a long while.

Riding the Beast

11 OK, so not everything was perfectly rosy.  I still question the riding position — I just don’t understand how the laid-back, sit-on-your-tailbone seat makes sense.

I discovered why so many Harley riders wear only jeans for riding, however — loose pants help make the riding position more comfortable.  Anything tighter prevented me from flexing and stretching, and I’d end up with lower back pain.

The two-way shifter is an anachronism that was the most puzzling, however.  First of all, the rear lever forces the left foot into a completely locked-in position, framed in front and back by the shift levers.  I have only a size 10 shoe and I barely had enough room to fit my boot between the two.

Also, it makes no sense to me to have to lift my foot up and use the heel to upshift.  On the very first shift of my very first ride, I discovered as I picked up my foot that the bike shifts better by simply using a toe.  Pull up to shift up and press down to shift down.  I never used the rear lever again and since it’s easily removable, that would absolutely be the first thing to go if I owned the bike.

Removing the rear shift lever would also free up space on the floorboards.  The locked-in-place left foot position means that rigor mortis sets in after about 45 minutes or so, giving me an overwhelming urge to yank my foot out of the trap.

So removing the rear shift lever and extending the floorboards back enough to get my feet planted under my body would yield great benefits for long-distance riding and also help eliminate back strain.  How cruiser riders put up with the typical lounge-chair riding position is something I just don’t get.

I did a quick search for extended floorboards, just to see if somebody made a set with about a 6″ extension out the back.  To my surprise, all I found were floorboards with extensions to the front — the last thing you’d need on this bike, unless you were over 6 feet tall perhaps.

12 The nicely sculpted seat on the Road Glide Custom looks great, but unfortunately the padding feels very thin and there’s just not much cushioning in that sculpting.  Combine this with the tailbone-down riding position and I was squirming around, trying to find some relief.  That’s when I discovered the trick about the loose clothing. About That Fairing…
The Road Glide normally comes with a low wind-blocking screen across the top of the big fairing, but this one was equipped with the optional touring windscreen.  I never did get used to it.

It’s too tall, which forced me to look through it rather than over it — the first bike I’ve ever ridden where I had to look through, rather than over that much screen.  This is both annoying and distracting; it gives a sense of isolation from the road ahead, which I found disconcerting and never quite liked.  Also, as the bike leans in the turns, the edges of the windscreen fall right into the area you’ll need to see when cornering, a dangerous distraction.

Besides, the tall screen is so far in front of the riding position that the rider is left in a large turbulence wake.  Any speed above 50 MPH would cause severe buffeting on the top of my full-face helmet, enough to shake my eyeglasses back and forth on my head.  Perhaps some vents in the bottom of the windscreen might help to reduce the low pressure pocket behind it, but I’d stick with the low ‘screen instead that comes standard on this bike.

I’m not sure if the Road Glide fairing has an option for lower wind deflectors, but if so, I’d give ’em a try also.  At freeway speeds, a lot of air is directed from up under the fairing, directed precisely at the rider.  This gives a nice cooling breeze if you want it, but the extra turbulence isn’t needed.

13 That’s it with the nits though, all of which could easily be resolved by a Road Glide Custom owner.

By the way, the saddlebags are big and sturdy and the design feels a bit old-fashioned, but they work well.  I never felt nervous about loading all my camera equipment inside their cavernous interior.  The tops of the bags are not hinged; the entire top must be pulled off and it hangs via a piece of textile out the side of the bag.

The bags are easily removed, however, by pulling the pair of Dzus-like fasteners inside.  Don’t lose the fasteners though!  I had no problems stuffing the bags full of camera gear, water bottles, gloves, extra clothing and anything else I needed for my adventures.

Conclusion

14 Just about everything I ever thought, heard or assumed about a Harley-Davidson was proven wrong during my time with the Road Glide Custom.  I’ll admit, as a European sport-touring guy, I had some prejudices against the brand and the lifestyle that seems to go with it.

Like all prejudices, it only takes education to bust ’em, and simply refusing to go along with the black-leather-and-fringe cruiser wear is all it takes to keep just as safe while riding this bike as anything else.

I initially went into this thinking it would be interesting and maybe fun but I’d never buy one for myself.  I came out of it knowing it was interesting and a lot of fun and guess what — I wouldn’t mind owning one.  And that, my friends, is a giant revelation for me.


2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom – Specifications

Engine

 

Engine: Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96 Air-cooled

 

Displacement: 96 cu. in. (1584 cc)

 

Bore/Stroke: 3.75 in. / 4.38

 

Engine Torque: 92.6 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm  (125.5 Nm @ 3500 rpm)

 

Fueling: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection

 

Compression Ratio: 9.2:1

Transmission

 

Primary Drive Chain: 34/46 ratio

 

Fuel Economy (Claimed): 35 MPG City.  54 MPG Highway.

 

Gear Ratios: 1st 9.593; 2nd 6.65; 3rd 4.938; 4th 4.0; 5th 3.407; 6th 2.875.

Wheels and Tires

 

Wheels: Cast Aluminum

 

Tires: Front: 130/70B-18 63H; Rear: 180/65B16 81H

Dimensions, Weights and Capacities

 

Fuel Capacity: 6.0 gallons (22.7 liters)

 

Oil Capacity: 4.0 quarts (3.8 liters)

 

Seat Height: Laden 2 26 in. (668 mm); Unladen 29.5 in. (749.3 mm)

 

Ground Clearance: 5.1 in. (129 mm)

 

Rake: Steering Head 26°

 

Trail: 6.69 in. (170 mm)

 

Wheelbase: 63.5 in. (1613 mm)

 

Weight: Dry Weight 769 lbs. (349 kg); Running Order 805 lbs. (365 kg)

Colors

 

Vivid Black, Scarlet Red, Black Denim.

Price

 

Starting at $18,999.  Color $19,479. Security $370. ABS Option $845. Cruise Control $295. California Emissions $200. Freight $380.