Friday, 27 February 2015

The Desperate American Cruiser

I've been reading Inside Motorcycles, Canada's Source for Motorcycle News.  Their February/March 2015 issue has an article that underlines the desperation of the American cruiser.

In it they describe the Victory Gunner as over-priced, unable to corner and smooth.  They then go on to say, "...the Gunner is a bruiser, built to lurk about town striking fear into all those fancy Euro and Japanese machines."

If 'fancy' is code for motorcycles that can go around corners and out handle this 'bruiser' in every way, then I'll go with fancy.  My tiny Ninja 650r with only 37% of the Gunner's displacement, and not even a full on sport bike will trash this 'bruiser' in any straight line competition, and it corners nicely too.  It costs less on gas, less on insurance and looks fantastic.  I'll bet it'll have less maintenance headaches too.  So far, 'fancy' is looking pretty sensible.  

I'm not sure what the Victory Gunner is bruising (other than its rider's tailbone), but Inside Motorcycles has managed to clearly highlight the desperate, reaching nature of the American Cruiser in one short piece.  This 'bruiser' is a pretty boy who is designed to make its rider feel like a dude, but not ride like one.

I welcome this 'brusier' appearing out of the shadows and attempting to strike fear into my 'fancy' (and significantly cheaper) Japanese bike.  I will be sure to reserve a little pity for the mediocre guy on the 'cool' bike who desperately hopes it's working for him.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Toronto Bike Show 2015

The Toronto Bike Show at the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE was once again a nice day out.  What made it even better was that somehow managed to convince my highly educated, non-biking wife to join us, and she too had a great time.  I'm glad she picked this show as her first.  The TMS is a manufactures' show case, so far fewer pirates and half naked girls and a much more professional presentation.

Here are some pictures from the show... 

The Honda NM4: a bizarre styling exercise that I could get into because it's supposedly based on the bike from Akira... the seating position was so weird and cruisery that I shrugged and walked away.  Would I like to see more anime themed bikes?  You bet, but not if they are ergonomically set up like American cruisers.  

The more bikes I sit on, the more I prefer the good 'ol standard riding position (every tall adventure bike I sat on was awesome) for long distance riding and the sport position for hard riding.  Anything else isn't for riding, it's for preening.

Way to go Toronto Motorcycle Show!  You got my wife out to a motorbike show!  Why would you want her there?  Well, she makes six figures, has two undergrad degrees and a Masters, has a huge social media presence and teaches other teachers how literacy and technology work.  That Indian Motorcycles produced the beautifully modern and yet classical Scout and it caught her attention says good things for the future of the TMS and the Scout!

There are some bikes that just make you go all wobbly.  The Suzuki Hayabusa is one of those for me.  It also happens to be one of the few bikes out there that will get me to one of my bucket list items.  That something this powerful also happens to fit me better than smaller bikes while looking so fantastic makes me think I'd rather be on a Hayabusa rocketing into the future than on the Honda NM4 pretending to.

The Ducati Scrambler.  This bike is supposed to be designed for 'hipsters'.  I'm not sure why preening pretty boys should get dibs on this lovely machine.  The Scrambler is a light, Swiss-army knife of a bike that does what bikes used to do before marketing types decided what you should be doing with them and engineers started designing them only for niches.

The Scrambler feels like a throwback to a time before marketing dictated riding, and I, a forty something bald guy, want to be considered for the ride!

The nearly weightless and astonishingly powerful Ducati Panigale 1299!  It's like putting on fantastic Italian shoes (I guess).

Wow, what a machine!

What goes where on the Panigale 899.  

Ducati Diavel... Ducati's idea of a cruiser also appears to be my idea of a cruiser.  This bike fit like a glove, and was stunning as well!

I was surprised at how impactful Ducati was on me this time around.  The Scrambler was magnetic, the Diavel was stunning and the Panigale was otherworldly!  These jewel like machines deserve more attention from me.

The Triumph Bonneville... and some photo-bomber guy.

The Triumph Speed Triple.  What a beautiful machine!  With Triumph dealers so far away, I'm not feeling able to make the leap to a manufacturer that represents my homeland so well, but I hope to one day!

Like the other big adventure bikes, The BMW GS fits a tall guy nicely.  I'm hard pressed to find other bikes that feel as comfortable and capable as this kind of motorbike.  The Suzuki V-Strom was also a mighty comfortable fit, as was the Kawasaki Versys.

We're two hours in and the little guy is about done... the last bike I sat on, the BMW R9T.  A beautifully put together bike that didn't give me the same charge the Ducati Scrambler did.

I also bumped into Glenn Roberts from Motorcycle Mojo and James Nixon from Cycle Canada.  Glenn has a photographic memory of the hundreds of people he must talk to at these events, remembering the bike I rode from our last chat a year ago!  The talk with James got into how photography isn't the only way to graphically support a story in a magazine.  It was nice to have a few minutes to chat with representatives from my two favourite Canadian motorcycle magazines.

Once again, the Toronto Motorcycle Show was worth the 3 hour round trip down to Toronto.  That it managed to be the focus of a great family day out and also managed to impress my new-to-bike-shows wife puts it in a special category of awesomeness.

We'll be back next year!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Fat Guys On Bikes

Even my leaner summer weight is still
overweight / borderline obese.
I got called in for a checkup at my local MDs last week.  I'm not a little fellow, at 6'3" I usually tip the scales at about 110 kilos (~240lbs).  At that weight I don't carry much extra weight anywhere, though my BMI tells me that I'm on the verge of obesity there, which doesn't make it a very effective tool for encouraging reduction.  According to the BMI I should weigh 175lbs, which is astonishing.  I think I'd look emaciated at that weight on my frame.  Even as a lean teen I was about 200lbs.

The checkup was a followup for blood pressure, which I'm in a healthy range on.  The shock came when I got weighed.  The middle of winter isn't the best time to weigh yourself, especially when we're in the middle of the coldest winter on record.  When going outside hurts you tend to turtle by the fireplace.

At 262lbs, I'm well into obesity now, though I still consider myself active and can get out of a chair without making strange noises.  I've been doing yoga once a week, but dropped hockey because of the driving involved and the general level of jerkiness I experience playing with frustrated middle aged men.

The nurse asked what goals I'd like to set considering the good blood pressure but surprising fat-guy score.  I'd been thinking about exercising more, but when you don't tell anyone about it you're not held to anything.  I told the nurse I wanted to get back to 240lbs, so now I've told someone and I'm on the hook.

I've been hitting the elliptical twice a week for half an hour each time in addition to the yoga.  Between that and not eating everything that comes my way, I'm hoping to get back down under the 75th percentile for my gender and height.

Hopefully I can avoid the specialty
leathers when I finally get kitted out.
I've always tended to approach getting in shape backwards, I wait for the opportunity before preparing for it.  When I was preparing to join the police force, I was working out regularly while aiming for that physical exam.   With no reason to get into shape, why bother?

This time round I've set a reward for getting in shape.  If I can hit the weight goal I'll sign myself up for the weekend racing school.  Those little 125cc Hondas don't need a fat guy sitting on them, and the other riders don't need to see a 260+ lb guy trying to squeeze into race leathers.  Bruce Willis once said he can't be bothered to exercise at all, the only thing that motivates him is vanity.  If he knows he's going to be filmed with his shirt off he hits the gym.  I've got vanity and physics encouraging me.

As the nurse said, it's not a matter of binge exercise or diet, it's about habit changing.  I don't need to get all monk like and have only cabbage and water.  If I can get into a comfortably doable new normal, I won't worry about the numbers and just see where I end up.  Be active at least 3 times a week (with a heart rate above 130), be reasonable with food consumption, and see where that gets me.  Enjoy my exercise (I have been so far, I've been watching Closer to the Edge while I get sweaty), and see how it affects my mood (positively so far, I look forward to it).

One of the tough things about getting older is staying active.  Life is busy, and the whole, 'if you stay fit you'll live longer!' argument doesn't do much for me.  If that means I'm sitting in an old-age home drooling on myself in forty years, I'd just as soon not be.  What is motivating is setting reachable goals, feeling better and rewarding myself for it with a bucket list experience.  With any luck I'll be blogging about that race weekend in June (and looking good in the pictures).

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bike Delivery System: escaping frozemagheddon!

It's supposed to drop into the -40°Cs in the next couple of days.  We're in the bowels of winter here and I'm getting cabin fever.  I've already day dreamed of the kit I'd need to go to track days, but that kit would serve another purpose, to get me clear of the never ending winter with my own bike.

Having a second vehicle that is utilitarian is never a bad idea, but I'm not much of a truck guy.  I am a Guy Martin fan though, and he happens to have a Transit Van!  You can pick up a well maintained, low miles Transit Van on for about twenty grand, or about the price of a new hatchback.  It'll get over 32mpg,  and will happily carry a couple of bikes and kit (or other stuff) as needed.  With a carrying capcity of over 1600lbs, it would be more than up to the job of moving two bikes and riders out of the snow belt.

When it's about to hit -40°C, the Transit could get loaded up for a long weekend and aimed south.  A power drive could get me to The Tail of the Dragon, where the two bikes in back could be unloaded, ridden hard, put away wet and driven back into the inhuman wintry darkness after a couple of days of two wheeled therapy.

Tail of the Dragon, eating its own tail!
The Tail of the Dragon is only 11 hours away, but while it's minus forty here, it's in the low teens in Tennessee.  A banzai ride in the van into ride-able territory would make the vehicle much more than just a track day tool.

Based out of Marysville, Tennesee, I'd do a 210 mile loop one way and then do it backwards the next day...  Friday: leave noon, arrive in Marysville about 11pm.  Saturday: all day clock wise.  Sunday: all day counter clockwise. Monday: leave after breakfast, be home by 8pm.

Stage one would be getting the van.  At that point I'm in for about $20k.  It'll also come in handy for track days and picking up bikes.  I'd be able to throw my Ninja and a buddy's bike in there for the drive down and get to it.

The Triumph Daytona took out bikes twice its
displacement in Performance Bike's Track test.
Stage two would be getting a bike that doesn't have to compromise to get me there.  A sport focused machine that will arrive ready to take on the twisties would do the trick.  My first choice would be the Triumph Daytona 675R.  At only 189kgs (416lbs) ready to ride, it's a light weight machine that punches well above its displacement.

You can pick up a new, last year's Daytona for about twelve thousand bucks.  For the ten grand under the price of the cheapest Volvo SUV, I'd have a a bike delivery system of epic proportions, with an epic bike in the back of it.  When it isn't taking me out of the snow belt it could be picking up used bikes or taking me to track days.

I've almost talked myself into this!