Hell for Leather News and Features
Taking someone for a ride is one of the neatest things you can do as a motorcyclist. But, some bikes are a lot better than others at carrying a backseat passenger. As selected by the RideApart staff, here’s 10 of the best.
What To Look For In A Passenger Bike
First, think of yourself, the rider. With the additional weight of an extra human on board, you’re going to need a bike that gives you excellent control, confidence and which makes it easy for you to support a total weight that could now exceed 1,000lbs.
Wide bars, a commanding riding position, comfortable ergonomics, a reasonable seat height and smooth controls help with this.
For the passenger, you want a spacious seat which gives them room to find different riding positions, a humane distance between that seat and the passenger pegs and, ideally, more to hold onto than your love handles.
A seat that’s much higher than the rider’s perches pillions perilously high. But, a seat that’s the same height or lower obscures their view. You’ll find a happy middle ground in rear seats that are just a few inches taller.
Also consider the shape of the seat. For styling purposes, many bikes now come with ridges or angles down the middle. For obvious reasons, these may be terribly uncomfortable for female passengers.
How You Can Make Passengers More Comfortable
The idea here is to make riding with you a fun, compelling thing for a passenger to do. Often, inexperienced passengers will literally be terrified by the mere idea of leaving behind the safety and stability of four wheels, so it’s your job to make them feel as comfortable, safe and confident as possible.
Start by having them wear appropriate clothing. Correctly fitted, good condition tead-to-toe safety gear is best, but at a minimum consider things like jeans so they don’t burn their legs on the exhaust and boots so they don’t twist an ankle climbing on and off. A riding jacket will keep their clothes from blowing around and you absolutely want them in a good helmet which fits properly (for both comfort and safety) and a good pair of gloves.
Brief them on how to be a good passenger and what to expect while riding. Make sure they know to neither hop on or off the bike without first getting verbal confirmation from you that you’re ready. And always have them mount and dismount from and to the left side.
Ride smoothly while they’re on board, short shifting clutchlessly to make gear changes as smooth as possible. Dragging a little back brake at low speed can help with stability and smoothness too. Avoid big inputs to the throttle, brakes or steering and remember, if their helmet taps yours from behind, it’s because you’re not riding smooth enough.
With the extra weight over the rear, braking distances will increase and some weight will be transferred off the front wheel, impacting straight line stability and steering. Basically, ride a little slower and more conservatively.
If your bike has the facility for doing so, adjust the suspension (front and rear) to handle the extra weight. At a minimum, crank up the preload.2013 BMW R1200GS Details
The adventure bike archetype is smooth, confident and all-day comfortable for a rider and passenger. Telelever front suspension eliminates brake dive, helping to avoid upsetting the passenger and the shaft drive keeps things smooth. Commanding control is delivered by the wide bars and tall, comfortable riding position.
Honda Gold Wing
The only two-wheeled bike a passenger can (and will) safely fall asleep on, the Goldwing’s passenger accommodation, complete with arm and back rests, feel like sitting on a Lay-Z-Boy.
Ural Patrol T
Or, they can fall asleep safely ensconced in a sidecar. The Patrol T is the most affordable sidecar in Ural’s range thanks to its one-wheel drive configuration. Performance is…classic, so allow some extra time, but riding one of these either as a passenger or rider is an utterly unique experience.
Does your passenger want to go fast? The ‘Busa is one of the fastest motorcycles ever made, but also includes a huge passenger seat and, for a sport bike, reasonably low pegs. The smooth, torquey motor masks the bike’s outright pace, making smooth progress effortless. Comfortable and controllable for the rider too.
Are you a relatively inexperienced rider? You’ll struggle to find any bike that’s easier to rider than Honda’s jack of all trades. Same’s true with a passenger on board and they’ll find a comfy seat along with big grab handles too.
Suzuki V-Strom 650
Wes once carried a 6’5” Frenchman across LA through rush hour traffic on the back of one of these and swears it’s the most confident motorcycle he’s ever ridden with any passenger aboard. Excellent rider control, smooth performance and wonderful ABS brakes are a huge help.
Moto Guzzi Norge
Want to carry a passenger without sacrificing fun? This humble looking Moto Guzzi remains an absolute blast to ride even with someone on the back. A torque, air-cooled twin adds some welcome classic motorcycle character while some of the most intuitive handling out there helps keek your pace up, even while loaded down. The stock panniers are huge and detach easily, allowing you to bring your luggage straight into your hotel room.
Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Smooth motor, excellent handling and a great view from the tall rider seat combines with a surprisingly spacious, completely flat passenger seat and huge grab handles.
The little Honda that could barely loses a single MPH from its top speed with a passenger aboard. Thank a torque, friendly motor for that. If you’d like to carry someone along on your first bike, this is the best motorcycle to do so with. Passenger accommodation is even spacious and comfy.
Girls love hopping on the back of a classic motorcycle. Make sure you pick the base Bonneville for its raised rear seat, superior suspension and lighter wheels. There probably isn’t a more appealing bike out there to inexperienced passengers.
One piece leather suits, perpetually snotty noses, bugs in your teeth and anti-social miscreants for friends. Welcome to the exciting and glamorous life of being a motorcyclist…
You strongly prefer being the little spoon…
But you still hold on tight when you’re the big one.
It’s fairly routine to receive nude texts from your buddies…
But none of them are weird.
A “good” hair day looks like this…
I got this.
This is your arch nemesis…
And they’re everywhere.
This is your church…
And this looks like heaven.
You don’t get the point of CosPlay…
You get to dress up like a super hero every single day.
Just doesn’t get you.
You have no idea how much a gallon of gas costs this week…
Because it just doesn’t matter.
You know what this is…
And it’s your most sincere wish that you’ll one day need one.
10 miles across town in heavy traffic…
Makes you feel like this.
You wear this to a barbecue…
And no one thinks you’re strange.
Good motorcycles, good company and even better food, all through some of the most remote, scenic landscapes in the US. This is Wilderness Collective 001 in moving pictures.Compare Motorcycles
Equipped with a new carbon fiber compound in the sidewalls, Dunlop claims its new Q3 sport tire features improved sidewall rigidity. And, with a tread pattern based on that of the D211 GP-A race tire, improved wet weather performance over the outgoing Q2 as well. All that without a price increase?
Photos: Kevin Wing
The Q3 is a direct replacement for Dunlop’s popular Q2. A high-end, aftermarket performance improver, it’s targeted at sport riders who’re looking for improved performance both on the street and track. Designed, developed and manufactured completely in the US, the Q3 should be uniquely capable of suiting the needs of fast Americans.
Much deal is made of Dunlop’s new “Carbon Fiber Technology” and, using it in the tire’s construction is a novel technique. Rather than forming part of the belt or body of the tire, the carbon instead appears in the sidewall, immediately outboard of the Q3′s bead. It’s not fiber either, but rather a band of carbon particles that simply provides some extra sidewall stiffness without a meaningful increase in unsprung weight.
That newfound rigidity should help prevent the Q3′s sidewall from squirming around under high g-forces, such as during very fast cornering. Less movement equals more stability. More stability at high lean angles and high speeds means more rider confidence.
Testing the tire around its own 1.3-mile handling course in in Huntsville, Alabama, Dunlop has seen an average of a half-second advantage per lap over the Q2. That’s in the dry. In the wet, the difference is full second.
That’s because the Q3′s new tread pattern is proving extraordinarily capable of clearing water. Where dragging knee in the wet is commonplace on full race wets or even intermediates, it’s largely unheard of in a road tire. But, Dunlop’s test rider reports that it’s not just possible on the Q3′s, but rather than being a feat of extreme riding, feels totally natural.
That tread pattern is based on that of the D211, but with elongated grooves designed to keep some water clearance in the contact patch at all times. Combined with heavy use of silica in the tire’s compound, Dunlop claims this makes it an excellent choice for wet weather.
I had the opportunity to try the Q3s fitted to a 2013 Honda CBR1000RR on a day-long ride through the Santa Monica Mountains. This is a bike I’ve got a ton of miles on and roads I have much experience with. So, without the opportunity to compare the Q3s back-to-back with other tires, on the same bike, in the same conditions, this was still a relatively insightful look at their performance.
The Dunlop’s use a neutral profile that leads to predictable steering and good stability. In the dry, they inspired confidence with excellent grip and communicative steering. Stability and confidence were as good under heavy braking as they were accelerating out of corners.
A rare event for Los Angeles, I was also able to experience the Q3′s on cold, wet, slippery, bumpy roads as clouds poured inland from the Pacific Ocean, creating positively treacherous conditions. With visibility cut to less than 10 yards and bumpy roads like Decker Canyon coated in a layer of water, the blind hairpins and rippled pavement were as good a test of a tire’s wet weather performance as you could hope for. In those conditions, the Q3s proved sure footed and again, confidence inspiring. Speed was limited by vision, but one very bumpy, downhill hairpin snuck up on me. Just as I realized how tight it was and how bad the bumps were, I was convinced I’d entered too fast and would dump the bike, but the tires didn’t so much as squiggle as I trail braked heavily through it. This was on a non-ABS bike.
I’ve ridden on the stock Bridgestone S20s in similar conditions and actually experienced a low-side as a result of those tires’ poor wet weather performance. That the Dunlops provide better performance in both wet and dry than the Bridgestone’s is a strong testament to the Q3′s broad capability.
Equipped with “Multi-Compound Technology” which sees the center portion of the tire wear a firmer compound than the soft edges, the Q3s should return respectable mileage, too.
The Dunlop Q3s would be the perfect tire for the rider who uses his sport bike for commuting as well as enthusiastic riding on twisty roads and even does the occasional track day. In canyons, they’ll grip as well as anything, while maximizing your bike’s own steering and stability. While commuting, they’ll provide excellent wet weather grip and decent longevity. On the track, according to former AMA racer and current instructor Jason Pridmore, they’ll provide enough grip for “90 percent of riders.” Not bad considering the Q3, which is beginning to be available now, carries no price premium over the Q2.
I love my Harley-Davidson. But, thanks to poor customer service and an attitude problem at every dealer I’ve visited, it’ll be my last. Here’s why.
Photo: Anne Watson
I make no secret of the fact that I am a life long fan of the brand and have owned several Harley-Davidson motorcycles, but each time I have bought one I have promised myself that I will never buy another. Only to forget my oath and go through the whole unpleasant experience all over again.
It’s not the fact that the bikes are bad, although they haven’t always been very good, it’s the utterly awful sales experience I have encountered every time I have handed over my hard-earned money for one of Milwaukee’s machines.
Before some of you start to get your knives out and say I am nothing but a whining journalist let me make a few things clear. Every time I purchased a Harley-Davidson it’s been with cash. No special media rate. Just regular dollars from a member of the riding public paying full price as the dealers always refused to negotiate.
And every single time I have been let down by the dealers either not delivering the bike when they said they would, refusing to give me a test ride or making the sales process truly miserable by trying to sell me everything they could along the way from extended warranty plans to accessories I didn’t want or need.
This attitude it seems even extends to the service department. I finally decided to stop buying anything ever again from a Harley-Davidson dealer when I once rang to enquire about the price of a new front tire and was swiftly told it was not something they had in stock.
It was not a rare tire just a round black rubber thing that was listed in the H-D parts catalog and went on the front of my motorcycle. I suppose I could have bought one from an online store, but felt I should do my bit and support the local dealer even though it had already taken a lot of money from me over the years.
When I inquired when it might get one the dealer said it didn’t know.
So taking a chance I asked the service assistant what I should do and was told: “Call another dealer. They may have one.” Click went the telephone. End of conversation.
Now I admit this maybe not representative of the Harley-Davidson dealer network and I was prepared to forgive the somewhat cavalier attitude of my local H-D sales and service guys and take it on the chin.
After all I’m nothing special and don’t expect to be treated in a special way. Maybe I called them on the wrong day when they had far more pressing things to worry about than some guy wanting a new front tire.
However, it seems to me this really is not just a one-off. This attitude is endemic across the entire Harley-Davidson brand, from the Milwaukee head office right down to the guy who moves the showroom motorcycles around. Maybe you have come across it too or perhaps it’s just me.
It runs along the lines of ‘We’re Harley-Davidson. We can decide who to talk to and how we behave. Either accept our customer service and like it or take a hike, as we know for every person that walks away another three will be coming through the doors wanting to buy our motorcycles’.
I have been fortunate in my career. At one time I worked for several years as head of international communications for a famous Italian sports car company. So I know and have witnessed some of the ‘best’ in appallingly arrogant attitudes in customer service.
And whilst it’s totally unacceptable, I sort of understand that when everyone is beating a path to your door you can behave however you damn well choose. It’s wrong and I always made a point of being accessible and communicating with people regardless of the requests they made and explaining why I could or could not help them.
I make no apologies for liking Harley-Davidson as, despite everything it has encountered over 110 years, while others have fallen by the way, it is still here and still manufacturing and selling motorcycle. Whether they are the right bikes in terms of technology and design as the world has moved on, I couldn’t possibly comment.
And I am not going to question the ‘Made in the USA’ claims as the debate has ranged for years over where exactly H-D sources parts. I applaud the fact the bikes are built here in America by an American work force creating jobs and contributing to the U.S. economy.
So as you may imagine I was genuinely interested to see that Harley-Davidson shares have shot up this past week and the financial analysts were excited to say that it looked like the H-D management had delivered on its promises of nearly five years ago and thanks to a sensible business plan the company would make money this year and potentially a lot more in years to come.
The financial media last week reported that Harley-Davidson was nearing the end of its restructuring process and was about to reap the benefits as it had reduced manufacturing costs, raised efficiency and introduced more flexibility in labor requirements.
Thanks to all of this Harley-Davidson is expecting to see $305 million in savings this year – up from $280 million in 2012. And around $15 million of this will benefit the company’s gross profits this year.
Apparently H-D has recognized that around the world it is seen as too exclusive and expensive and to counteract this, specifically in India, it is developing a 500cc motorcycle that will be manufactured just for this market alone for a starting price of less than $7,000. India could be a big market for the H-D as although it only sold 2,000 bikes there last year it’s hoping that by 2016 it could be selling as many as 10,000.
It’s also hanging on in Europe too and although the heavy motorcycle sector has shrunk by 7% to 273,000, HD has managed to increase market share in a tough economic environment.
While here in the U.S., motorcycle sales are up from the market crash of 2009 with the financial experts predicting two more years of sales growth for Harley- Davidson and perhaps beyond.
So it was all good news. Harley-Davidson is making money,. The management has turned the boat around and whilst not out of the woods yet things are looking distinctly rosier in Wisconsin than they have for some time.
I thought this was a great story and wanted to know more. I called the Harley-Davidson media office and immediately got put through to voice mail. I left a message.
In the interests of good journalism I thought maybe I had made a mistake and as this was a business story maybe I should call H-D corporate communications too.
So a little while later I called that number and had to leave a voice message there also. It seems you cannot speak directly to a member of the PR team. They have to screen your call and then decide if and when to call you back.
The following day a pleasant woman from H-D did call me and said she had listened to my message and was interested to know more about the Riding Apart Magazine (sic).
So for 10 minutes I took her through what RideApart.com is and that my intentions were entirely honorable. I was looking to do a business story about the positive news that was coming from Harley Davidson that had been reported in the financial media. And like most journalists I was working to a dead line and would appreciate a call back as I had some questions. But I would take no longer than 10 minutes of someone’s time.
The woman sounded genuinely interested. She explained that somebody from Harley-Davidson would get back to me “very soon”. Very soon turned into a day later and this time it was a man from H-D who said the best thing I could do was call its media office and he gave me a number.
This, if you’re still following, was the number I originally called two days previously when I first set out on my quest.
I asked the man with whom I should speak to and was told “just leave a message.” So I called that first number again and spoke to the voice mail and surprisingly to date my phone has still not rung.
My point is that even if you have the best products in the world unless you have customer service to match – whether it’s the public, customers or even demanding media that you’re dealing with – you simply will not survive in the 21st Century. Consumers are smart, unlike me, and will walk taking their money with them.
I can only assume that the 110th Anniversary Harley-Davidson party plans are well underway. Clearly I need to be patient and wait until someone comes back to the H-D offices. I’m really hoping that whenever that is the story I write will still be good news about the company doing well, but in the meantime I’ll be covering other, more interested brands and, next time I feel like putting cash on the table, it won’t be at a Harley dealer.
The 2013 Suzuki Hayabusa has been updated with new Brembo Monobloc radial brake calipers and Anti-Lock Brakes. Can such a minor change keep it relevant in 2013?
A day of riding the 2013 Suzuki Hayabusa on a well-planned route around Palomar Mountain? Sign me up. The Hayabusa is a very interesting motorcycle, unlike almost anything else on the market and, with the changes made for the 2013 bike, it promised to be an awesome day. We got to ride brief stints on the freeway, long open stretches of highway, beautiful fast sweepers, and tight mountain roades and all with one final ingredient: a police escort to block off sections of road for us so we could set up awesome photo opportunities. A good day indeed.2013 Suzuki Hayabusa Details
We were surprised when we went to the presentation for the “all-new Hayabusa,” or so the invitation email called it, only to find out that the only changes made were to the brakes.
The front brakes have been upgraded to radial mount Brembo Monobloc brake calipers, which give more feedback while being lighter and more rigid than their more conventional predecessors. The piston’s were also enlarged on the 2013, going from 32-30mm to 32-32mm, which also improves both grip and feeling.
In addition to the new front brakes, the 2013 Hayabusa also now comes with ABS.
That’s it. Same 1340cc, 180 horsepower, 100lb-ft engine. Same swooping, bulbous body style. They said the ABS added a pound or two, so we’ll call it the same 575 pounds.
The route for the day was a 200 mile loop from our hotel in El Cajon out to Palomar Mountain and back. The PR team from Suzuki did a brilliant job planning the route and I’ll try and get more information about it so you can follow it yourself (which I highly suggest). I’ve ridden the 78 out to Julian for pie a few times but am not very familiar with the area and didn’t really know where we were for most of the route, which I was fine with as I was completely content to just take in the beautiful roads and scenery and enjoy the bike.
The route began through a few small towns as we made our way out to the nicer sections of road. Press launch rides come in all shapes and sizes and I wasn’t sure if this was going to be one of those rides where we get to ride the bike as we would normally or if we would be stuck in some slow group where no one would admit they sometimes ride at speeds slightly over the legal limit. We made a right onto some highway and the answer was clear instantly as the group simultaneously used all 1,340cc’s to accelerate to a pace I was more than content with.
The first section of the route was full of fast, smooth sweepers and long open straights on two lane roads. The Hayabusa is at home at these conditions unlike any bike I’ve ridden. We rode about 40 miles until the first photo stop and, when we pulled over, you could hear the same conversation being echoed amongst each pair of riders. Each of us shared the same experience of riding at a swift, yet very comfortable pace only to look down and see that we were doing anywhere from 20-40 mph faster than we thought. While liter bikes feel safe and competent at high speeds, none feel as unaffected or planted as the Hayabusa. It literally feels like you are just not going very fast. The suspension absolutely consumes road imperfections, the large windscreen displaces the air perfectly, and the power is endless without feeling frantic.
At one point, I came around a bend to a straightaway that looked endless and without a cross street or driveway in sight and noticed I had fallen fairly far behind. I got on the gas until I saw that I was finally making ground the group when I looked down and saw that I was traveling FAR faster than I expected. It was completely undramatic, the only real adrenaline coming from knowing the fact that I had been traveling that fast, not the actual experience of doing so. When I pulled up to the group at the end, it was immediately obvious I had fallen so far behind because everyone had taken the opportunity to push the Busa’s upper limits on that section of road when the first question was “So what’d ya hit?”
As we rode higher into the mountains, the turns got tighter and the straightaways less frequent. The oaks turned into pines as we climbed until we hit a lookout where a police escort was waiting. One on a motorcycle and the other in a police cruiser, Suzuki had them join us so we could take photos on some of the twisty mountain roads without fear of oncoming traffic. They set up their boundaries on each sides of the sections we wanted, letting groups of cars pass between runs.
With our photo opportunity done, it was finally lunch time and we continued up the mountain to Mother’s Kitchen at the Palomar Summit. Most of the group left before the escort, I was too busy taking photos and putting all my gear back on (black leather was a bad choice) and ended up sandwiched between the police bike and police cruiser for the last few miles to lunch. I wish I could have taken photos of people’s reaction as the three of us passed.
After a quick lunch, we set up for our final photo spot on the south side of Palomar Mounatin. This section was far tighter and required far slower speeds and far heavier breaking than any of the previous sections. The police set up their boundaries and we were off for a few passes to finally put these new brakes to the test. Unfortunately….they didn’t quite stack up as hoped. While the new Monobloc Brembo’s do add some stopping power, the master cylinder is still unchanged and, when paired with the budget rubber brake lines, lead to some very soft and squishy braking. That problem is shared with the 2013 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
I noticed it first when coming to a quick stop after one of the earlier photo passes to make the place we were supposed to turn around, but didn’t think as much of it until trying to navigate this very large, very powerful motorcycle around these very tight turns. We finished our photos and headed down the mountain.
“Sorry if I was holding you guys up but, if I crash this thing, they’re going to make me ride a Harley,” the bike cop said when we got to the bottom. From my angle, the guy was hustling pretty good and we appreciated he was letting himself have a little fun with it. We stopped at the bottom so the police could take a photo with all the bikes and then headed back to the hotel. We had been lucky to have almost zero traffic in the morning, but the afternoon route was both more direct and at a busier time of day and we hit a good deal of traffic. The Hayabusa is not a small motorcycle and does take some extra attention when lane splitting. The squishy brakes were also evident as it seemed the drivers were as ready to get off the road as we were, some of whom got a little aggressive when presented with our group. One guy was abruptly cut off by a suburban and he did the ABS test none of us wanted to, nice to know that works well at least.
Back at the hotel, it was surprising how similar all of our experiences were. We had each hit a bump in the road we didn’t see until it was too late, expecting it to punish our butts or our backs, only to be surprised when we felt barely anything at all. We had each had a moment during the final leg where we were surprised how comfortable the riding position was and how little fatigue was felt after spending the better part of 7 hours on the bike. Many of the dudes grabbed their bags and jumped back on the bikes to ride them home that night, the rest of us would have to pick up our loaners later in the week.
I now understand why people use Hayabusas as a sport touring bike. We have had them in the past, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to do the miles like we did this trip, and it’s absolutely fantastic for it (assuming you find a decent way to strap your gear down). So often, when we think of Hayabusas, we think of drag racing or extended swingarms or that culture of over-the-top customizations and, while the bike definitely has a home in those communities, it’s also great for long trips or long weekend rides like the one we did.
The power is absolutely fantastic. It is both enormous and calm at the same time, not frantic like 600cc or 1000cc super sports. The fueling is spot on, the gears flawless, and the clutch effortless to operate.
The seating position manages to be both sporty and comfortable, a fact I’m only realizing now thinking about how there wasn’t a single time during the day I thought “I wish the seat was more/less _____” like I do on pretty much every other bike. I never wished it were sportier when riding fast or more upright and comfortable after stints around town. The seat iself is incredibly plush, yet still manages to be firm enough to firm enough to offer support.
The cockpit doesn’t lock you in, leaving you plenty of room to adjust your riding position or or move around. The reach to the bars is far enough that you can get fully tucked easily, but doesn’t leave you so stretched out that your weight is shifted into your wrists.
The first, obvious answer is in the looks department. I have a friend who likes big, stable sportbikes but who isn’t trying to be the next king of The Snake or Angeles Crest and this bike would be perfect….but he’d never go for it. It just hasn’t evolved as everything else that’s gotten sharper and and more svelte. I mean, that ass.
I thought it was just me expecting too much, having just taken the Aprilia RSV4 Factory up to Wes, when I first started to feel unimpressed with the brakes; it being the only change to the “all-new” Hayabusa. But as the turns got increasingly tight, I continued to struggle with them and by the end of the day, had lost significant confidence in them. Suzuki really needs to improve the master cylinder and include steel braided brake lines with a bike of this size, weight, and power.
Finally, the display is more of a car dashboard, along the lines of the Goldwing, than you should include on any motorcycle that can reach those speeds that quickly. The center digital display shows your gear and odometer readout and the analog tachometer does its job well, but the analog speedometer was difficult to read, especially when trying to glance down to see what speed you had hit. As with most big sport bikes, the speed should be front, center, and large.Compare Motorcycles
The 2013 Hayabusa retails for $14,399 for the regular white and black, the limited edition yellow will set you back another $200 with a retail price of $14,599. The only real competitor is the Kawasaki ZX-14R, which is priced only slightly higher at $14,999. Personally, I feel these two bikes have very different characteristics and the decision between the two should be based more on the riding style than a $300-$500 difference. We feel that, while 14k is nothing to scoff at, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. Oh, and they’re offering 0% APR for 60 months across most credit levels for the GSX-R and Hayabusa line through the end of August.
The Hayabusa is a wonderful motorcycle. If you know someone with one, ask to ride it. Take it somewhere remote and safe and just experience what a bike that unique feels like, but don’t necessarily feel the need to push it. It’s a wonderful bike for long weekend rides or for trips, or for those of you who like to have the power there but maybe don’t always want to be pushed to use it. We’ll have one around for a little bit and I really look forward to spending more time with it. That said, I don’t know that I’ll try and take it anywhere as tight and twisty as Palomar Mountain again, it’s just a lot of motorcycle. The new Monobloc brakes are an improvement but unfortunately aren’t enough stop this beast sufficiently for me, though the addition of ABS is welcome and is especially useful in light of this.
RideApart Rating: 7/10
Retro style and an extremely affordable price. Can the new Biltwell Gringo really work as a real motorcycle helmet?
You (ok well some of you) asked for it and, in an uncommon move for most companies, Biltwell responded and built it. The all-new Gringo Helmet is Biltwell’s first attempt in the full face market and was designed after they received a ton of feedback from people re-purposing or reupholstering old, similarly styled helmets so they could have a little more protection while stil keeping the aesthetics they had worked so hard to achieve on their cafe racers and bobbers. Is this just another trophy for the shelf, or will people actually be able to wear this thing and find any added performance?
As previously mentioned, the Gringo is the first full face offering from Biltwell; a company who has created a name for itself through their 3/4 DOT and novelty helmets and aggressive participation in motorcycle culture (the head of PR included a note in his last email about being unavailable for a bit because he was leaving for the El Diablo Run where they ride to the bottom of Baja and back on bobbers). This helmet fills a completely empty sector of the helmet market, with its only real competition being thrift store and swap meet finds from the ’70s that you’d have to get re-upholstered and which are…questionably safe.
Now, we are obviously going to have to make some concessions in our review of this helmet and should try and judge it based on the job it set out to do (as we would with any helmet). It’s not fair to judge this against the same standard as we would my Bell RS-1 the same way we wouldn’t judge an entry level full face Scorpion trying to make a decent product at an entry level price against Wes’s Schuberth S2.
The Gringo will never seal up tight like a $900 Arai, nor will it have all the Swiss army knife features of a modular flip-up. When someone asks me where the vents are, I usually say ‘It’s got a real fucking big one right in the front.’ We, and our typical customer ride motorcycles that make no sense. Often hard tails, owner-built and sometimes older than our fathers, these machines have a charm unmatched by modern machines. Note that I didn’t say they were faster, more reliable or efficient than contemporary motorcycles. Most of today’s motorcycle helmets look out of place on these types of bikes, just like our DOT-approved open-face Bonanza would look out of place on an R1. The peripheral vision and wind-in-the-face feeling of a 3/4 helmet can’t be denied, but as anyone who’s ridden in a full face knows, adding a chin bar and some eye protection can improve not only safety, but can also make long rides a bit less taxing. But, so can windshields and stereos, both of which we hate. So, the easy solution is a stylish, de-contented full face that has the right economy of line, no superfluous anything, but built to a high standard. Like a tastefully chopped shovelhead, it does exactly what the owner asks in a timeless way, without joining the swollen ranks of the over-featured, over-teched, modern world. It won’t be the perfect helmet for every rider, but that was never the point. — BILTWELL
As someone who began his motorcycle career on cafe racers and wearing Biltwell’s 3/4 helmets, I understand where they are coming from and really appreciate the effort. As someone who sold his Bonneville after spending so much time on modern bikes (I love brakes) and who now wears high quality gear while working for the worlds best motorcycle site, I understand the temptation to blow off this helmet as another bullshit way to try and avoid just wearing the right gear even if it doesn’t perfectly fit the desired aesthetic. With that said, I’m going to do my best to write this review with you cafe and bobber guys and gals in mind and then just not read the commments.
Fit and Comfort
I’m a fan of Biltwell as a company. I’m a fan of what they do in cafe/bobber culture. I’m a fan of their wide selection of paint and graphic offerings. I’m a really big fan of their novelty helmets (yes, I was THAT guy). I, however, am not a fan of their 3/4 helmets. I think they are very nice looking and I have a couple on a shelf at home, but I think they fit terribly. The interiors are stiff and dont conform to my head at all which creates a bit of a parachute effect when travelling over 40mph or so, with the helmet trying to lift my head off of my body. I have had multiple conversations with people, a few of which they fit really well, and have come to the conclusion that with such a rigid interior, they simply just fit some people and not others. Either way, they’re uncomfortable, hurt pretty much everywhere, and make me look like I have an egghead.
The reason I say all of this is that I was 98% expecting for the Gringo to be the same. I’d wear it once or twice, shoot a few photos in it, use it for a side modeling gig or two, but accept that I’d much prefer it sat displayed nicely on my shelf than wear it on my head. I was very surprised when I opened the box and ran my hand along the inside and felt soft, supple padding and fabrics much nicer in quality than my old 3/4 helmets from them. I appreciated the attempt to improve the comfort, but was still positive it would have the same kind of egghead look as the 3/4, but when I tried the helmet on it actually looked really cool and seemed to fit more like my novelty helmet than 3/4 DOT helmets.
Ok, so the thing definitely passed the “wearing it around the house for a few minutes” test. I was still fairly sure it would be awful to wear, so I avoided wearing it for my 55 mile round trip commute to work for a few days until I had a nice little errand to run, a perfect 10 miles from home, which included a very brief stint on the freeway. That way, I could try the helmet at various speeds and, when it lifted at moderate to high speeds like my 3/4 helmet, I wouldn’t have to put up with it for long. As I’m sure is becoming obvious by my tone, the helmet was actually very nice to wear, even at speeds into the mid 80s. I’m not a fan of bubble shields, so I was wearing the Gringo with the pair of Biltwell Goggles they were kind enough to send, and had no issues with the helmet’s performance at all.
I do need to mention that the feeling of wearing the Gringo is different from any other full face I have worn. They made no attempt to increase the padding at the bottom of the helmet so the bottom is very wide and open which means it lets in a good deal of air. The padding is very supple and is sewn in a cool looking criss cross pattern which feels like tiny pillow fingers pressing against your head instead of the normal, more uniform fit of most full faces. With the strap of the helmet pulled tight and secure, it doesn’t effect the performance or stability of the helmet, it just feels different.
The strap is really the only area that feels cheap on the helmet. I could feel it cutting into my neck a little bit and I don’t feel like it would be comfortable for very long. I have worn mine for up to about an hour or so and been ok, but I definitely thought once or twice about ways I could wrap the neck strap in someting to make it a little bit softer or less abrasive.
The fit is fairly true to size. I’m somewhere between a medium and a large. The large they sent me fits pretty good, but with how much my last Biltwell broke in, they are going to send me a medium when they are available to see if that is better. They currently have Large/Extra Large/Double Extra Large available (it’s all one shell size) and they should have Extra small/Small/Medium available shortly (all one shell size).
Visibility and Noise
The Gringo has a small to average sized eye port. It was big enough to wear goggles with, but I had to shove the goggles in a little bit because the opening was so tight. Wearing just glasses does open up your field of vision a bit, but not a ton, as does using a flat or bubble shield. The visability from this helmet is going to be less than pretty much everything else available right now, but with that said I can attest to the fact that it wasn’t a problem. I feel fine wearing dirt helmets with goggles pretty much anywhere assuming I’m not trying to do anything too athletic and the Gringo provides the same if not slightly better visibility (when you pair it with glasses or a flat shield).
I always wear ear plugs when I ride and found the Gringo to be about the same as an open face helmet in the noise department. I don’t really have an issue with noisy helmets unless they induce weird booms or whistles, which this does neither. I probably wouldn’t be able to hook my Sena SMH-10 up to it and listen to audiobooks like I did with the Bell RS-1 on my way to Seattle, but that’s not really the point of this helmet.
The bottom is completely open, the interior padding is well grooved with the “finger pillows” and “it’s got a real fucking big one [vent] right in the front.”
Weight and Balance
I wouldn’t even know what to compare this helmet with as a baseline. It is heavier than a 3/4 helmet, but lighter than a lot of full face helmets because there is just a lot less to it. It doesnt feel heavy on your head and, in my time wearing it, I didn’t feel any pain or stifness in my neck and back from having to compensate from poor weight balance in the helmet. Think 3/4 helmet….with a chin bar.
Graphics and Finish Quality
This is one area that I think Biltwell has always excelled and they went beyond my expectations with the Gringo. The Gloss White helmet they sent me has a beautiful paint job and the interior really blew me away. I thought their 3/4 helmets were nice, but the Gringo exceeds that in pretty much every way in this department.
Value and Desireability
Priced at just $149.95, I think this helmet is well priced for the job it is trying to accomplish. It is cheap enough that people who just want it for the occasional bike rally or to sit on their shelf can splurge for it, but you also get a lot for the extra money you spend to get it over their 3/4 Bonanza, which is priced at $99.95. As this is the first DOT full face helmet to keep within the cafe or bobber aesthetic, and even just as a really cool vintage design, the fit and finish of the Gringo make it incredibly desireable to anyone who likes the look and wants something a little different or cool looking.
I absolutely love the looks of this thing. The paint on it is fantastic and I love showing people the interior. When I was wearing a 3/4 helmet on a daily basis, I spent a good deal of time looking for a vintage helmet I could reupholster so I could have something with a little more protection while keeping the cafe aesthetic and I think Biltwell nailed it with the Gringo.
It’s not my Bell or my Shoei or even my Icon full face. It doesn’t have a face shield that adapts with the sunlight, it doesn’t have vents I can open or close to customize the temperature, and it isn’t wind tunnel tested for noise and wind performance. Oh, and the neck strap sucks.
Biltwell has come a long way; from a company who I liked, but who’s products (DOT) I hated wearing, to a company who is involved in their community, who listens, and who responds by creating a great product. With zero competition, I can only assume that the people who are drawn to this helmet (assuming they like the look and know what they’re getting into feature wise) will be asking themselves the same question I did originally. Will it suck to wear and will it end up just sitting on my shelf or did they make something I can actually use? It’s to you I say: go place you orders.
• Injection-molded ABS outer shell with hand-painted finish
• Expanded polystyrene inner shell
• Hand-sewn brushed Lycra liner w/ contrasting diamond-stitched quilted open-cell foam padding
• Meets DOT safety standards
• Internal BioFoam chin pad with hand-sewn contrast stitching
• Rugged plated steel D-ring neck strap with adjustment strap end retainer
• Rubber edging on shell and eye port
• Washable, removable interior liner and brushed Lycra ear pads
• Extra Small through Double-XL sizes available
• Hand-finished paint schemes include Gloss Antique White, Gloss Orange, Gloss Black, Flat Black, Matte Titanium
Protecting your ribs, torso, back, hips and coccyx has traditionally required bulky, sweaty, constrictive foam and plastic body armor. The new Dainese Manis back protector and Dainese Norsorex vest and shorts promise more ventilation and greater freedom of movement in drastically slimmer packages.
Check out this picture of me from launch of the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR at Infineon. Muffin top much? The thing is, I’m actually quite slim, hovering around 12 to 14 percent body fat. That junk in my leather’s trunk is all foam. Previously, I was wearing an Alpinestars Track Vest and Alpinestars Comp Pro Shorts under my leathers.
Now, here I am last week on the same bike, in the same leathers. Just wearing that Manis/Norsorex combo underneath. I’m benefiting from both greater protection and a much more svelte package. Looks a little better right? The other great thing is that this gear works as well on a dual sport as it does inside a kangaroo-skin onesie.
Dainese Norsorex Vest ($120)
Designed to provide CE-rated protection across the front half of your torso, the Norsorex vest uses hollow rubber pillars embedded in a foam base to asborb impact forces. As you can see, the area of protection is virtually all-encompassing, protecting my kidneys as well as my ribs. That armor is incredibly slim at around 1/4 of an inch thickness, while the vest is made from a form-fitting, polyester jersey material that also wicks sweat.
Because of the tight fit of the vest and the slimness of the armor, it fits under pretty much any article of riding gear and the wind flows through the suit’s ventilation, through the hollow rubber pillars or the vest’s jersery material, proving as cool-to-wear as riding without the protection. A silicon strip running around the inside bottom lining helps hold it all in place. Perfect.
Dainese Norsorex Shorts ($100)
Same deal as the vest, just with that same rubber-pillar armor across the hips and coccyx. After damaging my tailbone in that accident last fall, I realized what an important area that is to protect. Hips are less fragile, but you really don’t want to break them, so these shorts add some welcome protection to any pants or suit. And also like the vest, they do so in such a slim package that they don’t interfere whatsoever with your movement, all while breathing well enough that you won’t know you’re wearing them.
I actually wear Alpinestars SummerTech long undies under the Norsorex gear for their compression, wicking and anti-chafing function. You could totally wear Norsorex on its own, but I wanted to cover my shoulders and lower legs, just to make riding in leathers or my Dainese Teren suit that much more comfortable.
I’ve worn this Norsorex combo under my Dainese Teren suit on AltRider’s Taste of Dakar, under my Icon one-piece aboard the 1199 R at COTA and on countless rides on the street. February to June and I have yet to wash them (you have to do so by hand, in cold water) and they’re not the least bit stinky or stretched out and show zero signs of wear. These should last a long time and work in virtually any type of riding. Not bad for a total cost of $220.
Dainese Manis Back Protector ($220)
The Norsorex vest lacks any back protection, being designed to work with a separate, strap-on back protector. This is the latest and greatest from Dainese, replacing the popular Wave.
Like Wave, Manis is made to the higher, CE2, safety standard and constructed from a plastic shell over a crushable, impact-absorbing interior. But wear Wave uses a an aluminum honeycomb crumple zone, Manis has a high-density, foam-like material. Very noticeably, gone are Wave’s huge, distinctive ridges in favor of a much more low-profile design. We’ve heard complaints from a number of people that those huge ridges on Wave led to pressure points in crashes, wearing holes in leathers that would otherwise have survived unscathed. They also made pulling tight leathers on over Wave very difficult.
Comfort, flexibility and ease of use are what Dainese targeted in Manis’s design. Where Wave simply flexes forward, the same articulated panels on Manis are connected to each other by rubber bands, allowing it to twist and grow as the rider’s body is contorted into different positions on the bike. Where Wave was simply a comfortable, safe back protector, you always felt you wear wearing it. Manis literally disappears once its under your leathers, giving you the same freedom of movement you’d have if you weren’t wearing a back protector at all. This isn’t something I noticed was constricting my movement until the first time I rode in Manis, where I immediately found it far easer to achieve correct body position.
Thanks to this design, Manis is able to grow in length by eight percent or twist in 25 degrees to the left or right. That doesn’t really tell the whole story because each of the six plates moves independently. Truly allowing it to conform to your body’s twists and contortions.
Helping that comfort are neoprene shoulder and waist straps that lie completely flat, also adapting to your body’s contours. Those waist straps connect to the back protector using a sort of Velcro sandwich. That holds the straps with complete security, but also allows you to tailor their position to get fit and comfort totally dialed in.
Perforations run all the way through Manis’s plastic shell, crumple zone and the comfort foam lining that lays against your back, allowing air to flow through freely.
Together, all this new body armor from Dainese keeps me protected against injury, while allowing much greater freedom of movement, comfort and ventilation than I’ve experienced before. Wearing complete protection has never been easier.
Big Brother could be watching you. Very soon telematics will monitor your motorcycle’s location, speed, mileage, acceleration, braking and even the G-forces experienced during cornering.
At around $100 for installing a telematic device on a bike, plus $5 a month monitoring fee, the system would collect all of this information and e-mail it once a week to the rider. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that all of this information is also going to be passed to a second party that would then determine your insurance rates based upon how you ride your bike.
If you think this sounds all a bit far fetched in actual fact it’s closer to reality than you would think. Admittedly it’s only a pilot program and it’s only being launched in Canada but if it proves successful there is a strong chance that other countries’ government transport authorities could take note and introduce a similar system around the world.
SGI Canada is the trade name of the property and casualty insurance division of the Saskatchewan Auto Fund – the Canadian province’s compulsory auto insurance program, that also operates the driver licensing and vehicle registration system.
This month SGI announced it was looking for vendors to supply telematics technology for motorcycles for a planned pilot program to monitor riders’ driving style.
Donna Harpauer, Minister Responsible for SGI, says: “Usage-based insurance is the ultimate in rating fairness because it essentially lets the rider control their own insurance rate through their driving behavior. Simply put, those who ride responsibly will pay less and those that don’t will pay more. This pilot program is an exciting first step to seeing if this could be an effective approach here in Saskatchewan.”
The next step is for SGI to find 1,000 willing motorcyclists to sign up for the program and have the telematic system fitted to their bikes. Based upon the results of the pilot, SGI is hoping to have permanent system for all motorcyclists in place as early as next year.
“It won’t matter if you have a sport bike, a Harley-Davidson or a touring bike. It will make no difference at all. It will all be based upon your driving behavior and how safely you drive that motorcycle,” said SGI President and CEO Andrew Cartmell.
SGI thinks the program would result in fewer accidents resulting in savings that would offset the price of installing telematics and the on-going monitoring costs.
However there is also a privacy and use of information issue that SGI will have to overcome.
“We would do a full privacy impact assessment so that all of the checks and balances and the protocols with respect to how the data is used, what it’s used for and who has access to it all is covered off,” added Cartmell.
The biggest problem we think SGI is going to face could be actually finding 1,000 Canadian motorcyclists prepared to take part in this pilot program and agreeing to the device being fitted to their bikes. We’ll wait to see what happens next…
Is there any feat of off-road motorcycle riding more impressive than climbing out of the gravel quarry and up the mountain at Austria’s Erzberg Rodeo? Every year, thousands of riders start and only a handful reach the summit. This slow motion video does a good job of explaining why.
Affordable, proven and capable, the Honda XR650L dual-sport has been in production, unaltered, for two decades. Can it still get dirty in 2013?2013 Honda XR650L Details
There is one update for the 2013 model year — a different color sticker on the gas tank. Other than that, the XR650L remains as it was when it first entered production in the early 1990s.
A steel tube frame which contains the oil cradles a 644cc, single-cylinder, dry-sump, air-cooled motor. A low compression ratio of 8.3:1 means it’s unstressed, but that and its age don’t mean it’s a total dinosaur; there’s four-valve head run by a single overhead camshaft.
The XR is also equipped with an electric starter and, surprisingly, no kick start.
At the rear of that frame is a square-section aluminum swingarm connected to a Pro-Link Showa shock with a very serious 11 inches of travel and 20 adjustment positions for both rebound and compression damping. Fork travel is even greater at 11.6 inches. Those 43mm Showa cartridge units are adjustable in 16 positions for compression damping. That’s actually a really nice suspension setup for a basic dual sport, giving the XR nearly as much suspension travel as a dedicated dirt bike.
The XR uses a five-speed gearbox with a very, very short 1st gear, then wider ratios following that.
50-state legal, the Honda even comes equipped with passenger pegs and enough room on the back for a pillion. But, it keeps true dirt-size 21 (front) and 18-inch (rear) wheels, making tire-choice easy.
I rode the XR650L for three days straight through the eastern Sierras on the Wilderness Collective trip. Honda supplied the bike, so it was a brand new 2013 model with break in miles on it only and in completely stock trim, down to the Bridgestone Trailwing tires.
Most of the riding was on dry, firm fire roads. Some sections were very rough, covered in deep ruts and pot holes, there were several rocky water crossings and one miles-long stretch was over sharp, protruding rocks. The last day saw us do about 45 miles on winding, paved roads.
All of that’s a lot less than the XR is capable of handling, so the biggest limiting factor came from the truly awful tires and some bad decisions in the ergonomics department. Sadly, that means that I could neither stand on the bike, nor find much traction.
Given those constraints, the Honda actually proved a fairly willing companion, so long as I dialed back the speed a bit. The motor’s low down torque mind climbs a cinch, even at fairly low speeds and in the higher gears. There were times where I was convinced it was going to stall, but instead, it just willingly chugged its way up any hill I asked it to.
Putting in over 100 miles off-road each day, it was also remarkable how comfortable and easy the XR remained, even when hot and tired. And remember, I was definitely sitting down the entire time.
Easy to ride and capable, the XR does real dirt bike stuff thanks to that long-travel suspension and torquey motor.
And, as you’d expect, that suspension just totally eats bumps, jumps and landings.
The utter lack of traction at least made slides easy. Something the XR’s intuitive feedback and smooth, easy torque made very accessible.
With mostly novice riders along on the trip, crashes were many. At no point did any of the XR’s sustain more damage than a bent lever.
Returning 52mpg, the XR’s motor is efficient in addition to being simple and indestructible. Vibes aren’t even that bad. This would be a great platform on which to find yourself a long way from the nearest mechanic.
Despite their knobs, Bridgestone Trailwings are some of the worst off-road tires on sale today. I experimented with pressures as low as 7psi and never once felt I wouldn’t have been equally well-served by a slick tire. Why, oh why does Honda spec such garbage, utterly removing any true dirt capability from a dirt bike?
The 37-inch seat is a stretch even for my 6’2” frame and 34-inch inseam. But, the pegs are so high that my knees are above the gas tank when I stand. And the bars are so low that I had to bend 90 degrees at the waist to reach them while trying to stand. To actually be able to ride the XR off-road, you need to have at least a 32-inch inseam, but be under 5’10”. I’m going to hazard a guess that excludes most of the population. Again, why would Honda spec such silly ergonomics, again destroying the motorcycle’s capability?
That very low 1st gear would be great for climbs and obstacles, if the tires could supply some traction to counteract its torque. In stock form the XR’s back wheel spins instead of hooking up throughout 1st gear, rendering it pointless. Then, 2nd is too tall to work at low speeds, so you’re just sorta screwed.
The 2.8-gallon tank is only good for around 100 miles of reasonable off-road riding. You’ll want a larger, aftermarket item if you realy head out into the boonies.
Owners report problems with subframes cracking when the XR’s seat is loaded down with gear or a passenger and then subjected to big impacts or landings. Still, welded gussets or bracing should set you back less than $100.
The headlight is just sorta there to satisfy legal requirements. You’ll need something much more powerful if you plan to ride at night.
The stock suspension is plush, if soft. Fitted with more appropriate rubber, you’d quickly overtax it while riding…enthusiastically.Compare Motorcycles
There’s two main competitors for the $6,690 XR650. The $6,499 Kawasaki KLR650, which is much heavier and very street-oriented and the $6,399 Suzuki DR650, which is an even older design that’s less dirt-capable. The smaller, $6,690 Yamaha WR250R is actually almost as fast and doesn’t have such compromised ergonomics in stock form.
As a simple, proven dual-sport, the Honda XR650L would excel in stock form if not for some unfortunate specification choices. Spend a couple hundred bucks on real tires and about the same on lower pegs and higher bars and you’d suddenly find yourself with a bike as capable of carrying you around the world as it is playing on local trails or commuting through rush hour traffic. Still a great bike in 2013, if you’re prepared to make it one.
RideApart Rating: 7/10
Most of us take our hands for granted but when it comes to motorcycle gloves make absolutely certain you buy the right kind for the type of riding you do. And above all make sure they fit properly. Here’s how.
Photos: Anne Watson
Hands are the things that connect you to your motorcycle and they and your fingers need to be comfortable and protected at all times. This may sound like common sense, but gloves are often overlooked and it’s not often recognized how much a good quality, well-fitting pair can improve your riding experience.
Do you ride all year round, do you have heated grips or do you ride a sport bike or cruiser? In each scenario you will find gloves designed specifically for each of these tasks and a host of permutations of materials, colors and styles to choose from.
“Fundamentally motorcycle gloves have to fit you like a second skin,” explained Lee Block, President of Racer Gloves USA. “If you’re on your bike at a race track, you don’t want ever to be thinking about your hands when you’re traveling at more than 100mph. Equally if it’s raining and cold on your daily commute you shouldn’t be uncomfortable and not feel in control of your bike because of badly fitting gloves.”
Racer Gloves USA is the importer and distributor for Austrian company Racer Outdoor GmbH that has been manufacturing and developing motorcycle apparel and gloves for more than 20 years.
Block is a dedicated motorcycle enthusiast who began riding at the age of eight, has raced bikes, too, with some success around the U.S. and he rides on a daily basis. So he’s a man who knows a bit about what you should look for in a pair of riding gloves.
“The importance of good gloves is sometimes overlooked and while it’s often down to personal preference you should always take the time to try on as many pairs as you can from different brands to find the ones that fit you best,” he said.
The heel of your palm will be the first thing to touch down in any impact, thereby requiring heavier protection against abrasion. At the same time, the rest of the palm should be thin and supple for good feel.
There are four areas that you should be concerned with when buying gloves:
1. Fit - Do the gloves fit well? They should be tight but are your hands
comfortable in them or do they feel too restricted?
2. Feel – How do they feel? Is there too much inner liner or too little and does the
liner impede the movement of your fingers?
3. Construction – is there an in seam or outer stitching; what type of material is
used in the construction, is it cow leather, kangaroo or man made?
4. Features – do the gloves have venting, what type of additional protection do
they have, are they long or short (above or below the wrist) and will they work
for the type of riding you are going to do?
Impact protection in the form of hard or soft protectors can help your knuckles and finger joints survive an impact. “Gauntlets” like these provide plenty of overlap with your jacket, sealing out wind and protecting your wrists.
According to Block you should use the same criteria when choosing gloves as you would for a helmet. They should fit snugly but not be uncomfortable and you must also consider the type of bike you own.
On a sport bike you are sitting on your hands for most of your riding, so you maybe should take a look at pre-curved gloves that offer good support, while on a cruiser it’s a more relaxed type of ride but you will still need a pair that has good all round protection from the elements and the road.
“Pre-curved gloves can feel odd the first time you try them on,” explained Block. “They tend to have less material in the palm grip too, but they should feel a bit like when you put leathers on. Leathers can feel strange when you’re not on a bike but once you’re riding it becomes clear why they are shaped like they are. It’s the same with pre-curved gloves. They have been designed for a purpose.”
Take a moment to look at the materials that are used in a glove’s construction. Cowhide is heavy but is able to withstand high levels of abrasion but can be quite rigid. Kangaroo skin is an alternative as it’s lighter and it can withstand quite a lot of abrasion. There is also goatskin, which is soft and supple. A good compromise in a glove sometimes can be a hard shell (the form of a glove) of cowhide with a kangaroo skin palm.
Check the insulation, too. Is it designed for winter use? In which case it may have a heavy weight liner and longer cuffs or, if it’s a summer glove it should have a good hard shell and be really well ventilated.
“I actually have a pair of motorcycle handlebars in my office so when customers want to try different gloves they can get a proper idea of what they truly feel like when they hold some grips,” said Block.
“Most people have an idea of the style they want but I highly recommend that they try on as many different gloves as they can. It’s a bit like shoes. What one manufacturer calls a ‘Large’ maybe a ‘Medium’ in another brand so you really need to look around and try them all before making that final decision.”
Once you’ve found the gloves that fit they should last a long time providing they’re looked after.
Every few months you should clean them to get rid of road grime and sweat from your hands. Gloves should be washed in warm water with a light soap and then rinsed clean with cold water. Don’t wring the gloves out but leave them to dry naturally.
Using any type of heat can damage your gloves’ material. It’s also a good idea to put them back on when they’re still damp to get the correct form that fits your hands and then leave them to fully dry.
If they are made of leather occasionally use a conditioner to get some suppleness back into them. At the same time check for loose stitching on all of the seams and any glue welds that may have come unstuck.
So when it’s time for a new pair of gloves, consider the type of bike you ride, what time of year you are going to be riding and then make sure that the pair you choose fit and that they fit really well.
Can the new, water-cooled 2013 BMW R1200GS match the old, oil-cooled model on off-road ability? Is there anyone more qualified to make that comparison than Touratech-USA’s Paul Guillien and Iain Glynn? Afterall, they specialize in making these big, heavy bikes genuinely ADV-capable.
The first things we notice are the new adjustable levers, which are easy to reposition with gloves on. The clutch pull is much lighter than on the previous model GS. All of the buttons are very similar to the 2013 F800GS, which no longer has the paddle style blinker controls. The grip heater and high-beam controls aren’t rocker toggles anymore, but are now operated with your index fingers. The steering geometry feels a touch lazier on the water-cooled bike, taking a bit more rider input to change direction. This could be due to the tire sizes fitted to the new bike, which are wider than those on the oil-cooled version. The front tire width has increased from 110mm to 120mm and the rear has grown from 150mm to 170mm.
At speed, the bike handles great and is very neutral mid-corner. The bars feel closer to the seat and the bike’s ergonomics are a much better fit than the previous model for a guy Iain’s size, 5 foot 8 inches tall. Additionally, we found the seating position to be much more comfortable than the oil-cooled version. The width of the bike between the knees is dramatically narrower than the old bike and the standing position is much nicer as a result. The windscreen manages airflow much like Touratech’s Desierto windscreen and is very easy to adjust with the knob, which can be operated with one hand even while riding. At high speed there is a bit of a flutter to the windscreen when it’s in the highest position, but that is a small price to pay for very comfortable, and conveniently adjustable, wind protection.2013 BMW R1200GS Details
On pavement, the water-cooled GS displays its superiority with quick throttle response and power that seems bottomless compared to the oil-cooled version. Simply stated by Paul, “If I am going to be riding on tarmac all day, I’m taking the water-cooled GS!” While both bikes are at home on pavement, it was the water-cooled iteration that we both wanted to ride when we got to the asphalt.
The engine in the new R1200GS feels like it has much less rotating mass than the previous model. The engine winds up incredibly fast and triple-digit speeds can be reached rather quickly for an adventure bike. Mid-range and top-end power are considerably stronger on the water-cooled bike. The power and throttle response feel more like a sport bike than a GS. The fly-by-wire throttle has completely changed how BMW’s ASC (traction control) works on the motorcycle. The old bike controls wheel spin by cutting the ignition which results in fairly abrupt power loss and jerky ride. The new system uses the electric throttle motors to reduce the amount of power being applied, resulting in a far smoother ride. The compression has been increased to 12.5:1 and the bike now requires premium fuel to run properly.
BMW’s design team set out to make the new water-cooled R1200GS every bit as capable off-road as its predecessors. They didn’t want the water-cooled model to lose any of the off-pavement handling that has defined the GS over the last 30 years. After riding the new bike, we believe they succeeded in their off-road mission. According to Paul, “the old bike has more usable power down-low and a slower-spooling engine, which is nice off-road, but the new electronic suite – with the ABS and ASC tuned for off-road in Enduro and Enduro Pro modes – help manage the extra power of the water-boxer in the dirt.” The narrower chassis also scored points with us riding the water-cooled machine in the sand, rocks and hard-pack soil of Utah. The new and old bikes get the job done much differently in the dirt, but come out just about equal overall in the off-road comparison.
Clutch & Gearbox
One of our favorite new features is the wet clutch, which bites just like it should. On the new water boxer, the shift into first from neutral makes a palpable and audible clunk because of the drag from the wet clutch. It is really more like the way Japanese bikes feel, which is a bit strange to folks coming straight off the oil-cooled boxers. The gear ratios seem very similar to the old bike, though, with the exception that second gear felt taller and a bit more pavement-oriented. The clutch on the new bike is also equipped with a feature that BMW calls ‘anti-hopping,’ which acts like a slipper clutch to smooth out engine-braking. We feel like most people riding this bike won’t even notice it, but the ‘anti-hopping’ feature does make aggressive or even accidental downshifts more manageable. On the old bike, when a rider was hard on the brakes coming into a corner and downshifted suddenly, the back tire had a tendency to slide and trip the ABS into action. This process produced a squirrely ride and out-of-control feeling. The new water boxer avoids this with the ‘anti-hopping’ feature.
Fly-by-wire throttle, and dynamic ESA (suspension) are systems that have been adapted from BMW’s game-changing sport bike the S1000RR. Despite their popularity with the sport bike crowd, these additions are new to most of us in the GS world. Here is a breakdown of the five different modes of the 2013 water-cooled GSW:
Rain – This mode provides a softer throttle application, generous amounts of computer intervention to prevent wheel-slip, and the standard road-tuned ABS that limits tire lock-up under braking. In rain mode, the Dynamic ESA is set to soft by default but allows the rider to choose between soft, normal or hard dampening options.
Road – This setting offers standard throttle response (similar to oil-cooled models) and traction control tuned for dry pavement, giving the rider full power and intervening only if wheel-slip is detected. Road mode has the standard road-tuned ABS and the dynamic ESA set to normal, but allows the rider to select soft or hard dampening options.
Dynamic – Tuned for aggressive riding, this setting applies power much more abruptly through a quick-turn throttle. The traction control allows more wheel-slip than in Road mode, allowing for more rear- versus front-wheel spin before the computer backs off the power. The ABS setting is the same as Road and Rain mode. Dynamic ESA is in the hard setting, but soft or standard can be selected by the rider.
Enduro – This mode provides the same soft throttle curve as Rain mode – and even less active traction control than in Dynamic mode – allowing for more slide of the rear wheel and moderate front wheel lift. ABS intervention is reduced for improved braking on loose dirt or gravel conditions. Dynamic ESA is set to soft to improve traction over bumps, but can be changed to hard by the rider. (Normal dampening is not offered in Enduro mode.) BMW claims that this mode is tuned for running road oriented tires when off pavement.
Enduro Pro – This setting can only be engaged by inserting an ‘encoding jumper’ plug under the seat. This mode engages the quick-turn throttle from the Dynamic setting and turns on a special off-road ABS mode that disables rear wheel ABS while retaining a small amount of ABS for the front wheel. The traction control feels similar to that of Enduro mode but is much smoother when riding the bike aggressively. The ESA is set to hard in this mode but can be changed to soft by the rider. BMW says this mode is tuned for riding off pavement with knobby dirt tires.
The electronics package on the new bike is a giant leap in the technology available to the GS rider. BMW used many concepts and technologies from the S1000 and K1600 when designing the bike. The electronically-controlled throttle bodies and fly-by-wire throttle have made it possible to integrate the ASC (traction control), ABS, and ESA (electronic suspension) in ways that were really lacking in the oil-cooled bikes. The new bike feels like a much more cohesive system of rider aids is at work behind the scene. We are happy to report that both the ASC and ABS can be quickly toggled on or off any time the bike is stopped which is great for those of us who prefer to ride in “full manual” at times.
Iain uses cruise control all the time in his car. His obsession with cruise control was previously limited to a throttle lock on his 2005 R1200GS, so he was very intrigued to see how ‘real’ cruise control would work on a motorcycle. After our first ride, Iain was really impressed with how BMW put this feature together. The controls and interface are very intuitive. BMW tuned the cruise control so that it comes on slowly and in a predictable fashion, which minimizes impact on the rider when adjusting or resuming speed. And let’s be honest, cruise control is a perfect tool to keep you from speeding on long, boring sections of road.
There are a number of other small electronic enhancements on the bike that won’t grab headlines but make every day riding a bit easier. The bike has the ability to check its own oil level at startup and will notify the rider when additional oil is needed. When used with the BMW Navigator GPS, the date and time settings on the bike will be automatically updated by satellite. When you run the fuel tank down to reserve, the GPS is notified by the bike and will pop up a list of the nearest fuel stations on its screen. The GPS unit itself can be operated directly from the handlebar by the twist and tilt controller adapted directly from the K1600. Altogether, the new electronic offerings have helped to refine the riding experience and make the new bike more sophisticated.Compare Motorcycles
Although the oil and water-cooled bikes have different personalities, they are both easy to like. While the new water-cooled R1200GS has attractive modern styling and is more exciting to ride on pavement, the old oil-cooled model is still tough to beat in the dirt. The traction and low-end torque on the old bike is perfect off-pavement and it has just the right power delivery curve. We agree that the GSW has proven itself worthy of its place in the GS family. With this new model, the bar has been set high for other manufacturers to try to build a better motorcycle. BMW has presented a bike that will be easier for more riders to enjoy, without taking away the characteristics that have made the GS the bike-of-choice for so many great adventures.
31 years ago, Freddie Spencer became the youngest-ever rider to win a 500cc GP race. A record that stood until 20-year old Marc Marquez won the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas this year. Here, the two riders meet for the first time.
You already know the Yamaha FZ-09 weighs a lot less, costs a lot less and makes a little more power than the FZ8 it replaces. Here’s some of the other big advances.
The FZ-09′s new 847cc, three-cylinder motor makes 113bhp at 10,000rpm and 63lb-ft of torque at 8,500rpm. That compares favorably to the old FZ8, which made 105bhp at 10,000rpm and just 60lb-ft at 8,000rpm. Especially when you consider that, at just 414lbs (wet), the FZ-09 weighs 53lbs less.
As you can see, while the two bikes share much of their chassis measurements (remember, the FZ-09 uses an all-new frame and suspension components), the FZ-09 has less trail, shortening the wheelbase. The should lead to faster, more responsive steering. Lighter wheels also reduce unsprung weight, improving everything from acceleration and braking to ride and handling.
But what about comfort? Not only is the FZ-09 considerably slimmer between the legs, but it has a more spacious, more upright riding position. Even though its pegs are lower, the three-cylinder motor makes it narrow enough to achieve 51-degrees of lean angle.Compare Motorcycles
The best part though? Where the FZ8 retailed for $8,890, the FZ-09 will cost just $7,990 when it goes on-sale in the US this fall.
Oh, and it sounds like this:
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