The Honda CB500X Adventure – Part 2: Setting up the shop and parts shopping

How many times I stared at this ad which is found on the last pages of American motorcycle magazines, where this Harbor Freight, made in China, Pittsburgh brand motorcycle lift is available for US$299.99.

Has anyone ever paid the "official" full price on this thing (what ever it is)?

Has anyone ever paid the “official” full price on this thing (what ever it is)?

I never bought it until now because I would likely not use it, I thought, or I wasn’t going to honor the idea of a having a lift in my garage if it was only to be used for oil changes, even if it is an inexpensive Harbor Freight lift.  At the same time the oil changes and air filter maintenance have been done with bikes on center stands too low to the ground.  The idea of building the CB500X into the adventure bike and the other reasons discussed earlier helped with the decision to finally buy this thing.

It is heavy in its box and getting it out of the truck by myself required ingenuity. I’ve seen better methods than dragging it out of the truck, the best so far was a guy who unboxed it on the truck bed itself, making it lighter (several pieces are not attached) for unloading.

Dragged the thing out of the truck

Dragged the thing out of the truck using my motorcycle ramps, a car jack, and a pulley

I decided to paint the table of the lift, so now it looks like an upscale version of itself, version 2.0. Well, I do think it looks better in gray.

Harbor freight lift version 2.0

Harbor Freight lift version 2.0

The wheel chock that comes with these lifts needs an upgrade as well.  I used another Harbor Freight / Pittsburgh (what a team) part, and now it works very well.

It struggles a bit to lift the Tiger 800 XC, but it gets it done.

Haror Freight lift version 3.0. It struggles a bit to lift the Tiger 800 XC, but it gets it done.

I like this chock, once you have the bike stable on the lift, if you need to work on the front of the bike, clamp the rear wheel down, you remove the front wheel clamping structure of this chock.

Front wheel clamps moved out of the way without the need of using tools

Front wheel clamps moved out of the way without the need of using tools

Now that I have the lift, I realize it is such a fun tool to have at my disposal.  I will use it to do a much needed oil change on the lawn mower, for example! Can you see the fun of having it on any shop?  It turns the shed into a shop in the first place.  If for anything it adds another work bench to the shop, even if I never use it to work on my bikes again.

On motorcycle forums everyone always find a point of disagreement on anything, from tires, to oil, to ABS, to motorcycle brands and even to things you think everyone would agree on.  Well, there is one exception just to make the rule: everyone agrees Harbor Freight tools are the lowest in terms of quality.  Their prices are ridiculously low as advertised, the reason for the low price, though, is different than what they claim.  It is the quality thing… everyone agrees, that’s a joke.  You have to have a good sense of humor to buy and use these tools. But you know what?  Most of the time they work.

Tools sourced from Harbor Freight, some from Home Depot.

Tools sourced from Harbor Freight, some from Home Depot.

Yes, I have a little cemetery of broken tools somewhere in my shop.  But then, the store is a couple of miles away, I just go back there and buy a replacement one.  On the other hand, some of their product selections will work really well, like this $29.99 chair I bought at Harbor Freight.  It is doing well, staying out on my office’s deck after 10 rainy winters so far.

Horbor Freight chair

Horbor Freight chair

As a bonus, when you walk into a Harbor Freight store they will have plenty of staff answering questions, they seem to know their stuff, and they are likely to have any tool that you need as specific and out of the ordinary as it may be.  Yes, I wish my shop was furnished by Snap On tools. But the Pittsburgh and Husky brands have been good to me.

Back to the lift, another good thing is that once you are done using it, you can move it out of the way, tuck it on the side of the shop on its side, and we can even park the car inside the shop.

Lifted tucked away, on its side, car can be parked in the garage when lift is not being used

Lift tucked away, on its side, car can be parked in the garage when lift is not being used

That was that for setting up the shop: I got the lift, I painted it, I got a better wheel chock, and it was ready for action.

Now for the most important element of the project, shop for parts for the bike.  The main item was the Rally Raid Products, Level 3 kit for the CB500X. It includes inserts for front suspension adding two inches of travel to the front forks, a rear shock, triple tree, spoked 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wheel, extended side stand, front fender, and dog bone.  Bike gets an extra two inch of suspension travel and height.  Please note, I just checked Rally Raid’s site and they are selling this kit as they make them and there is a back log on the wheels. I got mine just in time, I realize…

Rally Raid Products Level 3 Kit for the CB500X available at Giant Loop

Rally Raid Products Level 3 Kit for the CB500X available at Giant Loop

I also ordered a smaller slip-on exhaust (Leo Vince Corsa), luggage side racks (SW Motech), bark busters (Storm), and a tail tidy (R&G). I think that was it.  All suppliers were timely on their delivery of products.

Rally Raid came via FedEx, Giant Loop is just around the corner from me, world map speaking.

Rally Raid came via FedEx, Giant Loop is just around the corner from me, world map speaking.

Rally Raid kit, three boxes, came via Fedex, the rest via UPS. Everything delivered on time and as promised.

IMG_6116

The pile accumulated at the shop, and in between work travel, my evenings and weekends were dedicated to the building process.

Lots of goodies for the CB500X

Lots of goodies for the CB500X

There were a few other parts to complete the CB500X adventure project that were not available at the time I  was building the bike. One of them was a radiator protector (always on back order), so I built a temporary one which is staying for time being, very important item if you will ride this bike off pavement, especially on gravel roads! Another one is a headlight protector, that one I still haven’t ordered now that I know of a potential source – that’s the only item missing to complete the project as of now. I also built a GPS mount using the windscreen structure as a base and built an inner fender for the rear wheel to protect the shock.

On the next post of this series I will document the building (disassembly / assembly ) process.

Thank you for reading.

Posted in Bike Reviews, Product Reviews, The Book | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Honda CB500X Adventure – Part 1: Why this bike?

This last February I spent a good amount of time in my garage, building a CB500X into an adventure motorcycle.  I never minded the winter with its cold and rainy evenings, the build of this bike in my garage was a fun process, a good portion of why I decided to buy a Honda CB500X.  This build process included preparing the shop, sourcing parts, and building some of the accessories myself.  The CB500X is relatively inexpensive and Rally Raid Products has a great plug and play kit for this bike, which helped on the decision.

How to forget about cold rainy winter evenings.

How to forget about cold rainy winter evenings.

A second reason is to have a multi-cylinder adventure motorcycle that I can use for solo rides into the the unknown.  It slots nicely between my WR250R and my Tiger 800XC.  I was looking for a bike with a good level of reliability allied with as light weight as possible so I can pick it up from the ground, or be able to turn it around on tight trails or from a down hill situation, all by myself.  The CB500X’s weight is at the upper range of what I wanted (or can handle), but it is today the lightest multi-cylinder bike for such a project.  And it carries Honda’s reliability reputation.  It was about freedom, I wanted this motorcycle to not limit my choice of roads to travel or the desire to travel solo.

The 2015 Honda CB500X - Ready for adventure!

The 2015 Honda CB500X – Ready for adventure!

An added reason for this purchase was a friend of mine from High School and College, Julio (Juca) Petersen who lived in Florida.  He was diagnosed in October of last year with cancer.  He was a Honda rider, and along his life he had an XL250, an XL350, a Transalp and more recently an NC700X.  Should the treatment he underwent had worked, I was hoping he could make it here at some point for a ride with me.  This Honda would had been a perfect bike for him.  Unfortunately the progress of the disease was faster than what the treatment could do for him.  He passed away on February 3rd 2016.  This one is for you Juca!

Purchased the bike on January 9th, 2016.

Purchased the bike on January 9th, 2016.

Turning something negative into an opportunity, working on this bike during the month of February was a source of positive energy for me.  It was about working on motorcycles, something I always had wanted to do but had never felt the energy to pursue it.  Juca’s diagnosis and its outcome hit home pretty hard.  It was about losing a friend.  It was also about someone at my exact age and with similar trajectory in life, and who lived a healthier lifestyle than I did.  Therefore, let’s not procrastinate any longer, let’s build this thing, let’s do things I always wanted to do. We only live once…

Bike came with TKC80 tires, and the I got the Pirelli original tires as well.

Bike came with TKC80 tires, and the I got the Pirelli original tires as well.

I purchased the bike in January and immediately started sourcing parts for it.  The bike had 312 miles on the clock and came with several Rally Raid parts already installed including bash plate, adjustable levers, wide foot pegs, and rear brake reservoir protection.  It also came with TKC80 tires. I could not use the front tire as I was to change the 17 inch front to a 19 inch wheel, but the rear tire was new and re-mounted on the new spoke wheel that came with the Rally Raid kit.

Practically new!

Practically new!

In the next few posts I will document the process I went through for building this bike.  It includes setting up the shop for the build, what parts I bought for it, the parts I built, and its maiden voyage in the Death Valley.  The project included setting up the shop for the build, doing maintenance work on the WR250R that I also took to Death Valley and also maintenance on the truck to transport the bikes to California.

The project included setting up the shop and the CB500X itself. Because it culminated with taking this bike to Death Valley, I also worked on the Truck and the WR250R that I took as a back up bike.

The project included setting up the shop and the CB500X itself. Because it culminated with taking this bike to Death Valley, I also worked on the Truck and the WR250R that I took as a back up bike.

There were steps of this build when the bike was disassembled to almost its core, but somehow I never doubted I could put it back together.  I was on a roll!

Working on the front forks.

Working on the front forks.

I completed the project in time to join a couple of friends for the Death Valley ride.

Somewhere along Highway 89 in California, on my way to the Death Valley

Somewhere along Highway 89 in California, on my way to the Death Valley

The bike performed well in its maiden adventure.  Its main claim to fame was to conquer Goler wash and make it to the top of Mengel pass.

On top of Mengell Pass

On top of Mengel Pass

It also survived a major sand storm, which covered the road I was traveling on with more than a foot of soft sand for several miles.  The bike did rather well on sand!  But that is a story for another chapter.

Sandstorm at the confluence of Warm Spring Canyon rd and West Side rd

Sandstorm at the confluence of Warm Spring Canyon rd. and West Side rd.

Since the bike build was completed, and I went to Death Valley and back, I’ve been enjoying some of my free time on my reorganized motorcycle shop, having fun working on my bikes.  Stay tuned for the next set of posts about the building process and a more detailed account of this motorcycle’s first adventure.

Thank you for reading.

Posted in Bike Reviews, The Book | 4 Comments

2016 Ducati XDiavel S – First Look

I stopped by the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon for a quick chat with the guys at the shop and was caught by surprise by the 2016 XDiavel S at display on the show room.

IMG_0336

I did not have my cameras with me, so my smart phone camera took care of documenting this bike.  Do you remember, not too long ago, when we had those first cameras on mobile telephones, from the time when they were called cell phones? Today’s telephones have great cameras, and we refer to them as smart phones. What’s next?

IMG_0337

Anyway, there it was, the XDiavel, the machine that evolved from the Diavel, bringing this family of bikes closer to the cruiser style.  Well, you could say it is a cruiser, if for anything, this bike has the forward foot controls, wide handlebars, and a low seat height.

IMG_0385

And it has a V-twin motor… which is the most typical configuration for American cruisers.  Yes, let’s call it a cruiser.

However, when you look at the scale of the bike and the spec sheet, the story starts diverting. This bike is compact, for starters.  Which is a good thing in my book.  Second, the motor, a 1262 cc, is different enough from the 1200 DVT you find on the Multistrada. It is tuned for torque at a lower RPM range but still has the Ducati DNA (according to reviews of the people who have ridden this machine). The motor is rated at 95 ft-lb of torque at 5,000RPM with a substantial portion of it reached as low as 2,500RPM, but it still has 156 HP to be reached at 9,500 RPM.  Do you see what I mean? Not sure there is a cruiser out there with these specs.

IMG_0338

I can’t wait for an opportunity to ride an X Diavel to not only experience this variation of the DVT motor, but to learn how it matches with the ergonomics of a cruiser.  Can you imagine a canyon ride with this bike, going fast, with feet forward?  It allows for a 40 degree lean, I hear, which also reinforces the notion that calling it a “cruiser” is not enough to describe this bike. That’s what the X on the name is all about. It is a cruiser and something else.

For now I was happy to have had the opportunity to look at the details of what this bike offers.  For example, the foot controls have adjustments for three forward positions.  If you don’t want the controls set forward, you can get a kit and install them at the regular Diavel position.  If you consider you can also change the seat and adjust handlebars, the combinations of all changeable options allow for 60 different riding positions according to Ducati.

Left foot controls positioned at the most forward setting

Left foot controls positioned at the most forward setting

The motor has all oil and coolant passages routed internally.  You are not going to see hoses hanging out. And the motor looks looks good with styled belt covers.

No oil or coolant hoses hanging out. Nice looking motor!

No oil or coolant hoses hanging out. Nice looking motor!

I like the glossy pain finish of the S model, including the detail of a center matte black stripe, edged on one side by a fine red stripe.  The XDiavel base model has a black matte color.

Matte black center stripe with fine red stripe. A detail that makes a difference.

Matte black center stripe with fine red stripe. A detail that makes a difference.

The exhaust comes out from the side just ahead of the rear wheel.  It looks great, although we will probably see some interesting variations on the theme by the after market industry.

Short exhaust exiting on the side with a dual pipe configuration , if we can call that a pipe...

Short exhaust exiting on the side with a dual pipe configuration , if we can call that a pipe…

Interesting cartoon look to the exhaust pipes, that happen to be really short, coming out of a muffler and catalytic converter.

IMG_0342

The wheels are very nice as well. These rims are exclusive for the S version.

IMG_0344

The seat, not sure how it goes when riding, but it feels good, looks good too. Want to bring a passenger? There is an adapter that extends the rear seat and offers a short back support. Not sure how that will really go, but passengers probably need to have a good sense of adventure to get on the back of this bike – irrespective of the rider’s abilities. The  dual material of the seat, it has what seems to be an imitation suede, is also exclusive for the S version.

IMG_0355

Same goes for the billet rearview mirrors, only available on the S model.

Billet rearview mirrors - exclusive for the S model

Billet rearview mirrors – exclusive for the S model

The S model also has LED Daytime Running Lights and larger Brembo M50 monoblock calipers for the front brake.

M50 Brembo Calipers

Brembo M50 monoblock calipers for the SA model

And this billet support arm.

IMG_0341

Then there is this interesting swing arm, and a first for Ducati, it is belt drive!

Single swing arm, belt driven.

Single swing arm, belt driven.

One interesting quirk on this bike is the launch control, called DPL (Ducati Power Launch). Anyone interested in a drag race? Is this something important? Of course not, but I would put that thing to use if given the opportunity…

Ducati Power Launch - DPL

Ducati Power Launch – DPL

The bike offers three default riding modes:  sport, touring and urban.

Bluetooth module for the infotainment system which, by connecting a smartphone to the dashboard, can show incoming calls and text messages and show what music you are listening to.

Bluetooth module connects a smartphone to the dashboard, displays incoming calls, text messages and shows what music you are listening to.

And each one can be customized in terms of engine power delivery.

Engine can be set for high, medium or low power delivery.

Engine can be set for high, medium or low power delivery.

The eight levels of traction control.

Eight levels of traction control.

Eight levels of traction control.

And there are four settings for ABS.  There is ABS “off” and then three levels of intervention:  Expert, Sport and Safe & Stable.  By the way, this bike has the last generation of the Bosch “cornering” ABS, which is likely to be the “safe and stable” mode, the ABS 3 which is the default mode for Urban and Touring modes.

Bosch's "Cornering" ABS

This bike has Bosch’s “Cornering” ABS

Overall, this is a good looking motorcycle. Yes, it is a cruiser of sorts.

IMG_0353

You can clearly see the similarities between the XDiavel and the regular Diavel. However, the XDiavel seems to be a completely different motorcycle.  I like the XDiavel’s delicate features compared to the Diavel chunky panels.  I understand Ducati’s branding of this model via its headlight shape, but I wished it had a round headlight.  I think a round headlight would contribute to this bike’s cruiser vocation.

The XDiavel and the Diavel

The XDiavel and the Diavel

I can’t wait for an opportunity to take this interesting bike for a ride. The local shop does not have a demo, so I will have to wait.

Who are the potential customers for this bike? Maybe Diavel riders?  Would a Harley Davidson rider switch to a Ducati?  Hardly (pun intended). Maybe other Ducati riders who are looking into cruiser style riding and who were not convinced by the Diavel?  Anyone interested in something different? Certainly this bike does offer something new with a cruiser feel without neglecting performance?  Time will tell who will be riding these machines, I’m certainly interested on this bike and how well it will do.

This post was supposed to be the beginning of the next series of posts covering my new-to-me bike, a 2015 CB500X I purchased with slightly more than 300 miles on the clock.  But I came across the X Diavel yesterday and I decided to report it before starting the series of posts about the building of the CB500X.  The following posts will describe what you need to transform the CB500X into an adventure bike using the Rally Raid Products Level 3 kit and its maiden dirt voyage in the Death Valley in California earlier in March.

Thank you for reading and Stay tuned!

Posted in Bike Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler – First Look

BMW enters the Scrambler scene with the R nineT Scrambler! This bike is an obvious sequel/sister to the R nineT considering this bike has been due a scrambler version since the day it was conceived.  BMW’s R nineT Scrambler was available for viewing at the One Moto Show in Portland last February and I was there to take a close look at it.

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler

This bike has been shown already in the BMW Motorrad site and it has been on the BMW Motorrad channel with a video including commentary by its designer and product manager with additional information not available in print yet, such as a discussion of option packages or accessories that will be available for this bike.  BMW has also released videos of the bike in action and it was also on the cover of BMW’s Motorcycle Magazine in its Spring 2016 edition.

IMG_4163

In other words, this bike is nothing new at this point, you probably have already seen videos and photos of it.  According to BMW’s site this bike will be available at BMW dealers by the third quarter of 2016 as a 2017 model.

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Scramblers, from Cool to Mainstream to…

Motorcyclists have been making scramblers out of standard motorcycles for decades, and continue to do it.  Some people make them into real scramblers but more likely they are standard bikes turned into nicely designed works of art, cool urban machines, some of them are not ridden at all.  Bottom line, the scrambler function has long been gone since dirt bikes, enduro bikes, and adventure bikes are designed to do it so more efficiently.  A scrambler motorcycle is something different today.

Moto Guzzi Scrambler at One Moto Show, 2015

Moto Guzzi Scrambler at One Moto Show, 2015

And it is under this new meaning of scramblers that we have witnessed a mainstreaming of these motorcycles in the last few years.  It started with Triumph selling a scrambler version of the Bonneville in 2006 while Moto Guzzi has been offering a somewhat of a blank canvas for scrambler designs via its standard V7 machines.

It was not until Ducati’s massive campaign of 2014 though, launching the Scrambler Ducati brand, that scrambler bikes came out of their niche to become a mainstream style, a movement of sorts happening in synergy with a hipster revival moment.

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler

The Stage for the Launch of the Ducati Scrambler at EICMA, Fall of 2014

The word “heritage” has had a substantial presence on scrambler marketing campaigns, usually in the context of rebuilding a past that in some cases existed in the exception to sell it as mainstream today.  As a consequence in 2015 and forward we saw a wave of scramblers flooding the market.  These bikes are not only coming from Ducati or Triumph, it includes the ready-to-bolt-on scrambler kits for the Moto Guzzi V7 as well.

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 II with Scrambler Kit

2015 Moto Guzzi V7 II with Scrambler Kit

Another example is Yamaha’s nicely done XSR700.  This bike uses the FZ07 (MT07 in Europe) parallel twin motor with its 270 degree crankshaft angle, a motor people have been praising for its performance and lightness and many adventure riders have been begging Yamaha to use in a mid-level, light weight adventure machine.  But that is another story.

Accessorized 2016 Yamaha XSR700

Accessorized 2016 Yamaha XSR700

Besides BMW and its R nine T Scrambler, which is a reality now, other manufacturers have scrambler concepts in the drawing board. We will know what will turn into actual product sooner or later, probably depending on how the scrambler “movement” goes from here.

The wave has come, will stay for a while… how long will it last?

Just as an example of the impact of the scramblers in the motorcycle industry, last year the Scrambler was Ducati’s best-selling model, turning 2015 into a record selling year for Ducati motorcycles.

Scrambler Ducati

Scrambler Ducati

“Wave” is to me a good analogy because although I assume scramblers are here to stay,  perhaps they will not be at the prominent level they reached in 2015 and so far in 2016. Who knows what will happen 2017.  Maybe it will go the same way flannel shirts and beards have gone – who are these so-called hipsters again? Ducati has since launched another version of its Scrambler, the 400cc (de-tuned version of the 803cc versions) Sixty2, which should help keep the sales momentum going.

The 400cc Sixty2 Scrambler Ducati

The 400cc Sixty2 Scrambler Ducati

Still, I speculate the peak for these Ducati bikes has passed or it will pass soon and going forward sales volume of the Scrambler Ducati should normalize at good levels but likely at lower levels than what we’ve seen in 2015 and what is anticipated for 2016.  Although I use Ducati as the example, I assume the same will go for scrambler models from other manufacturers as the hipster revival movement settles down.

The rational I use to build my opinion is as simple as what these motorcycles are meant to be.  When standards and scramblers were first available in the 60’s, their motors were good for something like 50-60mph cruising speeds.  Today all bikes come with significant increases in power and riders expect their bikes to cruise at 70-80 mph on major freeways.  And all these scramblers on the market today are powerful enough to cruise at speeds higher than 80 mph. However, upright bikes without fairings become a bit of a chore at those speeds.  That is, these bikes are not exactly touring machines.  These bikes are not dirt nor adventure bikes either, despite what their name says.  Of course, people can modify them, they can add wind protection and take them on adventures and long distance travel.  I can see someone taking these bikes, any of these scramblers, around the world easily.

Triumph Scrambler

Triumph Scrambler

The point is that mostly these bikes are meant to be fun, easy to ride urban machines, fun for relaxed rides on the curvy roads on hills around towns, and maybe some short dirt road adventures thrown in for scrambler sake.   What really works for them are the retro looks and what they represent (or what you want them to represent).  But if you want to do any serious riding, if you want canyon riding performance, if you want practicality, if this is your only bike and you want to go adventure riding or touring with it, it will do, but it is not necessarily the best bike for you.  Unless you want it to be, of course, and this is an important point about these bikes.

803cc Air-Cooled V-twin

803cc Air-Cooled V-twin

Therefore, I believe the tendency is for these bikes’ sales to eventually settle down at lower volumes simply because they are more of an exercise in style than a functional machine. After Ducati’s campaign, certainly scramblers are now well-known by the public.  People looking for these bikes are new riders looking for their first motorcycle because they are simple and lighter. Or they are riders who are looking for a second (or third or…) motorcycle, considering they already have their motorcycle of choice (sport, touring, adventure, cruiser, etc.) and practically is not in their mind for this bike. They want something else, that something on the side for that extra fun.  How many motorcyclists have this bike as their only bike, as a true option for seeking the joy of riding?  There are some of course. And that’s what makes this bike the exception and a part of a popular movement.  That’s mostly what will sustain their sales going forward.

To summarize, simplicity is the essence of these machines.  They are fun urban and around town riding machines.  They are bikes to have and enjoy just for the fun of riding  if you can afford such luxury, that is.  This is what real freedom of riding is all about, with an appropriate price tag.  And that’s exactly what I have in mind, if I ever buy one of these machines, I will enjoy it and proceed to ignore the price tag.  They are fun machines, they are stylish, they are simple, but they are not practical nor cheap.

Is BMW’s scrambler late to the party? 

Yes and no.  It probably won’t sell as many as R nineT’s or Scrambler Ducatis were sold in their first couple of years of production.  But BMW R nineT Scramblers will sell well and will probably have a good shelf life.  I could be wrong, meanwhile here I offer a few points on this matter.

BMW started its heritage campaign with the R nineT and that bike has been representing BMW on the heritage wave in a roadster fashion.  BMW could have turned it into a scrambler right away, instead, it seems, BMW timed its release to enter the market when the R nineT sales would be projected to cool down. Good for a production line that will be share by these two bikes, actually.  A third quarter of 2016 for their Scrambler to enter the market, as BMW anticipates, seems just perfect considering until recently R nineT deliveries dealt with waiting lists.  Therefore, the Scrambler will be a new entry when this market will have matured and would be looking for something new.

BMW R nineT

BMW R nineT

Because it is already following the footsteps of the R nineT model, it will likely have both an immediate following and it will also bring fresh air to the R nineT line.  It may not sell at the levels the original R nineT sold when it was first launched, but who knows, BMW motorcycles with their boxer motors have been the base for many riders’ scrambler projects.  Chances are the new Scrambler will be a “natural” for many potential buyers looking for a scrambler.

Luis Moto's Scrambler version of the BMW R nineT

Luis Moto’s Scrambler version of the BMW R nineT – it will look and perform better with the 19-inch front wheel of the BMW R nineT Scrambler

Furthermore, the motor on the R nineT and R nineT Scrambler is the last generation of the BMW air-cooled boxer.  I’ve been estimating this run of air-cooled motors to end after the water-cooled boxers arrived and I have been proven wrong by the R nineT project. Then I thought the R nineT would be short-lived in air-cooled fashion and that soon its motor would be changed to the water-cooled version of the motor.  I was wrong again, so far.  Air cooled motors, because of their need for broader temperature tolerances are in general less fuel-efficient therefore more difficult to pass increasingly tighter emissions legislation.  This last generation of the 1200cc boxer is one of the best BMW air-cooled motors (the est in my opinion) and that on itself is a reason to get this bike, especially when you consider, who knows when, these motors will eventually be extinct.

The air-cooled boxer motor lives on

The air-cooled boxer motor lives on – and 19-inch front wheel

The motor is the essence of a motorcycle.  Scrambler Ducati’s L-twin motors are also air-cooled and in Ducati’s model line up the Scrambler motors are also the only version of the original air-cooled L-twin motors that made Ducati into what they are today, when in the 70’s Ducati transitioned from single cylinder to twin cylinder motors.  Moto Guzzi’s V-7 motor is another great version of traditional air-cooled motors still being sold today.  Triumph, on the other hand, has abdicated of their air-cooled motors in their re-modeled 2016 Bonneville line, Yamaha’s 2016 700XSR is also water-cooled.  Therefore BMW, Ducati and Moto Guzzi will have their scramblers carrying the heritage of these companies’ air cooled motors which were so important for them in the 60’s and 70’s, and which have a following today.

Steel tank on the Scrambler, as opposed to Aluminum in the R nineT

Steel tank on the Scrambler, as opposed to Aluminum in the R nineT

Finally, the Scrambler’s branch on the R nineT will enter the market at a lower entry value than the R nineT did.  How much, I don’t know, I would estimate between US$1,000 and US$2,000, perhaps closer to the latter, less than the R nineT prices.  Reports indicate it offers less expensive components, including the tank which is made of steel and not aluminum like in the R nineT.  It will have alloy wheels instead of spoke wheels.  It will have only one clock as the instrument cluster. Who knows what else is on the list that will help lowering its price point.

Alloy wheels on the scrambler as opposed to spoke wheels on the R nineT

Alloy wheels on the scrambler as opposed to spoke wheels on the R nineT

Having said that, BMW Motorrad video indicates this bike will be offered in packages such as the option of two clocks in the instrument cluster, spoke wheels, different seat options among other possibilities.

Fork gaiters

Traditional fork gaiters

By the way, the spoke wheels that will be available for the Scrambler, at least in what has been released in official BMW photos so far, indicate it will be similar (if not the same) to the wheels you find on the R1200GS: it will be tubeless, which in my opinion is better than what we find on the R nineT today and I do think they look better too!  But it will certainly jack that price of the Scrambler to closer to that of the R nineT.

BMW Motorrad photo - Spoke Wheels for tubeless tires - same or similar to the R1200GS wheels

BMW Motorrad photo – Spoke Wheels for tubeless tires – same or similar to the R1200GS wheels

In other words, I predict this bike will sell well because air-cooled boxer motors land well with the idea of scrambler motorcycles, because the motor represents one of the last chapters on BMW’s Motorrad air-cooled boxer motors history, and it will be the least expensive model (more affordable model?) one can find with a boxer motor in BMW’s line up.

Single clock on the Scrambler (BMW, could you make it the RPM gauge with speed digital?)

Single clock on the Scrambler (BMW, could you make it the RPM gauge with speed digital?)

It will sell well, but it will still be a scrambler. Not a GS. Not a roadster. However, considering how many R nineTs are out there, who knows. Time will tell. I do think BMW’s Scrambler line will have its own trajectory, different than what we see on other scramblers.

Akrapovic Exhaust

Akrapovic Exhaust

Will I buy a Scrambler?

I’ve never owned a scrambler machine but several times I toyed with the idea of building my own, which is part of the fun about owning a scrambler.  I thought about 70’s Honda CB’s, and 60’s or 70’s BMW’s as a good starting base. I actually looked for 1970’s BMWs for sale at some point and eventually test rode one as a real option for building my own scrambler.

BMW Scrambler

BMW Scrambler, similar to what I would like to build – photo source: web images

I also thought about the ready-made Triumph Bonneville or the ready-to-be-made-into-a- scrambler Moto Guzzi V7.  But in the end, I never quite made the move.  And then I rode the BMW R nineT and I fell in love with its boxer motor.

IMG_4121

I’ve ridden GS boxers before, from 1970’s air heads to 2000’s oil and air-cooled to 2013 and newer water-cooled machines.  The water-cooled machines were the only ones I liked up until the R nineT experience.  I confess I was not expecting much from the R nineT which is based on the last generation of the air/oil cooled boxer motors I’ve ridden before.

Air-cooled boxer motor: going, going...

Air-cooled boxer motor: going, going…

Somehow this motor in its R nineT form caught me by surprise.  Perhaps it is because these machines are not meant to be ridden fast and they are so much fun at the meat of their torque curve, and the R nineT is a lighter machine when compared to a GS.  Perhaps the air-cooled motor has been worked some for the R nineT application.  The result is that this motor’s torque at low to mid range, its sublime gear box, its sounds, they all work its magic in the R nineT making it one of the most fun motorcycles I’ve ever ridden in a 60-70/100 pace – which is ideal for these machines – and it is ideal for my riding style on pavement.  I was sold.  Except that its styling didn’t quite work for me. Maybe I should build my own scrambler out of the R nineT.

"Home made" scrambler out of BMW R nineT

“Home made” scrambler out of BMW R nineT

I decided to wait.  And it was not in vain, as the BMW scrambler version of the R nineT seems to check all the fun boxes better than what I could make it be myself.  I really like the looks of this bike, what they changed from the R nineT to make it happen.

Nice lines!

Nice lines!

It looks retro, it is subdued, it has better ergos (in my opinion) than the R nineT.  And I really like the color combination as well.  Just wished the seat was real leather and the single clock showed RPM and not travel speed (BMW here is a suggestion, use the digital space on the clock to show speed, make the analog clock a tachometer).

I want one.

I want one.

In the end, all it needs to do is to have the same motor characteristics as that of the R nineT, which it will (there is no reason to think it won’t).

I definitely want one.

I definitely want one.

If so, it is a bike I would like to own. It would probably be in the front of the line in my shed, the one I will likely take on most of my rides around town.  I look forward to the third quarter of 2016 (July-September) when, according to BMW, this bike will be available.

Next series of posts will be about my new-to-me bike, a 2015 CB500X I purchased with slightly more than 300 miles on the clock.  It will include posts about the building of this bike into an adventure bike using a Rally Raid Products kit and its maiden dirt voyage in the Death Valley in California earlier in March.

Thank you for reading and Stay tuned!

 

Posted in Bike Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

One Moto Show – Portland 2016

I enjoyed seeing so many unique motorcycles, or should I call them creations, last year at the One Moto Show, so I went back this year for more.  And I was not disappointed.  The One Moto show continues to be the place to go to see motorcycle art, get inspired for your own projects, marvel at other people’s creativity.

One Moto Sow - Portland 2016 - Same building as last year

One Moto Sow – Portland 2016 – Same building as last year

Right by the entrance door I was surprised to find this beauty.  A pre-production, 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler.  According to BMW Motorrad news, this bike should be out at the dealers by Q3 2016 as a 2017 model.  I will have a separate post just for this bike, with more photos and more information… just because this bike deserves it.

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Pre-production 2017 BMW R nineT Scrambler.

BMW was again the marque of the show with some interesting creations, like the K bike below.

IMG_6298

Or this R nineT modified to look like the original R 90 S in its sunburst orange version and dressed with some good Roland Sands Designs pieces.

IMG_6275Another view of this beauty.

IMG_6284And then you could find the most outrageous creations, just like last year.  Check this turbo-charged 1982 Harley Davidson beast.  By the way, notice the crowds, I could see see some beards and some flannel shirts, but less of them together.  I suppose we are past the peak of the flannel and bearded hipster movement.

IMG_6294

Another view of this turbo creation.

IMG_6297

There were a few flat trackers on display.  Flat trackers, together with scramblers, are my favorite motorcycles. in terms of looks.  Hence my preference to Scrambler Ducati in its Full Throttle version.

IMG_6300

This one below is probably not the most functional design, but what beautiful lines.  I like the covered forks with a wide tube, covering the lower triple clamp and tapering to the top. And what about the shape of the very short handlebars? It is art for the sake of art, I believe.  Until someone tells me it rides very nicely as well.

IMG_6309

This Honda reminded me of my 250XL. At least the tank, the front fender, the red color, and the yellow and white Honda wings logo matched my humble and never forgotten 250.

IMG_6312What about a 1965 Ducati 250 from before the L-twin motors.

IMG_6320Motorcycles having this old building as a backdrop, a perfect match.

IMG_6332Whatever this building was, this new temporary use seems perfect.

IMG_6324Good crowds too.  I arrived Saturday, at about 11am, and got in right away – no lines.  By the time I left, about an hour later or so, there was a line going around the block.

IMG_6336

Great sense of humor on this for sale sign.

IMG_6363

I thought last year they had more motorcycles, more exhibits, but it could only be my impression.  I’m looking forward to being to the One Moto show again next year.

The next post will be about the BMW R nineT Scrambler. My next bike? Stay tuned.

Posted in Bike Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Riding the 2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

It was only this last February in 2016 when I finally had a chance to ride the Multistrada DVT.  Launched in 2014 as a 2015 Model, the substantially revised Ducati Multistrada with its Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT) motor is already a well known machine. Several reviews have already covered this bike in detail, I will not repeat that information here. Instead I’m going to describe my observations about what this bike represents to the motorcycle industry, especially the adventure segment.  I will summarize my thoughts whether this bike is still top of the heap in its own established sub-category of adventure bikes.  Of course, I will also describe my riding impressions of the DVT machine, and it will be from the perspective of the owner of a 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak.

Still top of the heap?

Multistrada DVT: Still top of the heap?

What the Ducati Multistrada represents to the motorcycle industry

When the Multistrada 1200 was launched in 2010, the notion of adventure motorcycles was just being consolidated as a category.  At that time, and still today, the BMW R1200GS was the lead of the category, number one in sales volume around the world, the yard stick to which others are measured, the icon of adventure riding. The success story of BMW has led other motorcycle manufacturers to bring large adventure motorcycles to market.  Today most every brand has a large adventure motorcycle in their line up.

The Ducati Multistrada 1200. September 3rd, 2011

The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

In 2010, perhaps we could call it the early years of large adventure motorcycles, the launch of the adventure-styled Multistrada with its superbike motor, four riding modes (urban, touring, sport and enduro), electronically adjusted suspension, and three engine maps (100HP, 150 HP low and 150 HP high) created quite the stir.  People didn’t quite know what to make of this very powerful yet versatile machine with enduro ergonomics.  Was Ducati after the BMW R1200GS market?  Well, it had an “enduro” riding mode, good suspension travel and certainly there was a demand for adventure motorcycles then, as there is now.  It was something different, though.

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

When we look at the large adventure motorcycle category today, only six years after its 2010 launch, we see plenty of options, with at least one new model being launched every year since that time.  When we compare 2010 to 2016 and see what patterns emerged from all the new large adventure motorcycles launched since 2010, the Multistrada clearly shows up as the leader of a new segment. The sport bike motor, the high level of electronics and riding aids, a glossy bike on an enduro platform have influenced many manufacturers which since have followed suit.  Including BMW and KTM.  Overall one can say two new segments within adventure motorcycles, which incidentally have already been observed and discussed by many, are now consolidated, especially when we consider the launch of two key new products in 2015.

Leaders of their own packs: The Multistrada and the GS

Leaders of their own packs: The Multistrada and the GS

The S1000XR is one of these products, a clear attempt by BMW to cash in on what is now being called the sport touring category or some variation on the theme (in Italy they like to call it “cross-over”). I call it adventure-inspired sport touring motorcycles. What else, right? While the other new product, Ducati’s Multistrada Enduro, makes it clear the original Multistrada was, in fact, a road version of an adventure motorcycle, it was a new segment within the adventure motorcycle segment. The Multistrada Enduro is clearly eyeing the R1200GS market, a more dirt oriented machine, if you dare. While the S1000XR goes after the Multistrada market, the adventure-inspired sport touring market, with an emphasis on the sport side of it.

Yes, I know, and I haven’t forgotten, other manufacturers have already been sorting themselves out on this branching field. Aprilia has its Caponord in a “regular” and a Rally version, Moto Guzzi has several years of its NTX version of the Stelvio.  KTM launched its 1200 Adventure line in two models, one a bit more road oriented than the other, although both can be placed  more towards the real adventure side of this equation. Of course, BMW has been offering the GS in Adventure and in regular trim, and the regular trim can be bought with alloy or spoke wheels.  There are plenty of other examples to mention.

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

The important point here is that not unlike what the BMW R1200GS has done to the industry, the Ducati Multistrada has established itself as a product leader within this segment. In fact, it has created its own segment.  You call it what makes most sense to you.  As mentioned before, I currently call it the adventure-styled sport touring segment.  They are bikes built around superbike motors with an adventure flavor with their enduro ergonomics, reasonable suspension travel, as ready for the long haul as they are for spirited canyon riding or track days.  These are enduring descriptors, not unlike what people used in 2010 to describe the 1200 Multistrada at is launch.  The question is: does the 2016 variant of the Multistrada still deliver the goods in this increasingly competitive market?

It still has a beak: angrier bird!

It still has a beak: angrier bird!

Top of the Heap

With leadership comes responsibility.  At some point in the early 2000’s I traveled to Oakland, California for a professional development training on “Scenario Planning” offered by Global Business Network.  I was the low profile guy sitting side by side with executives from giants such as Coca-Cola and Procter and Gamble.  As part of the Scenario Planning activities I learned from these executives, the biggest fear of their organizations was to one day no longer be number one in their industry.

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT - a handsome machine.

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT – a handsome machine.

Ducati must feel the same about the Multistrada.  The Multistrada has been its best seller product until the Scrambler came along.  It remains a strong seller in its segment, despite its getting crowded.  I can only assume Ducati has been working hard to keep itself on top of the sales sheet for the Multistrada. Or at least keep a strong presence and maintain the Multistrada status as the yard stick against which others measure their products.

The specific case of the BMW S1000XR comes to attention, because when BMW enters a market, you pay attention.  Arguably perhaps, I see it as the most direct competitor Ducati has ever had for the Multistrada, despite Aprilia’s Caponord being much more of a fac-simile to the Multistrada.  Aprilia products do not show the sales volume BMW products do.  It seems to me there was no question Ducati knew what was coming and got ready for it in two fronts. The DVT bike is the third generation of the Multistrada 1200 in six years of production, now seven years.  That’s quite a quick evolution process, clearly denoting the need to stay fresh, incorporate the newest technology, stay ahead of the game.  In its Multistrada Enduro version, Ducati opens a second front of attack, but that is not the bike we are depicting here.

BMW 1000 XR and the Multistrada DVT

BMW S1000 XR and the Multistrada DVT

I had a chance to ride the BMW S1000XR and learned from that experience that it is clearly a top notch product.  It has more actual horse power than the Ducati, a nicer and smoother gear box, quick-shifter assist, and it perhaps shows a greater appeal to a younger crowd especially the four-inline motor lovers.  Is it enough, though, to take the top post away from the Multistrada? Several comparisons have been made by journalists pitching these bikes against each other.  The results have been consistent, with most of them pointing their preference to the BMW.  I can see their point. Until touring comes to mind, that is.

The Ducati still has a motor with longer legs for touring.  The twin motor revs effortless at higher speeds, it seems it is relaxed at cruising speeds, and it is always ready for more, if you so want.  And the DVT makes that an even greater experience by making it work smoothly. On my Multistrada, 500-mile days are easy days. With the DVT, I project this is an even better experience.

The revised seat height, which is lower than the previous Multistrada, and I believe is lower than the S1000XR, will make this bike available to people who may have felt Mjltistradas were too tall for them.  The DVT motor offers more throttle stability for low speed riding while offering an unparalleled V-twin rush of power past 6,000 RPM.  And the throttle by wire of the Ducati seems a lot more direct, it resembles more of a traditional cable-operated throttle than the BMW’s toned down (even on dynamic mode) twist-to-power ratio.  Well, some people may prefer the tamer throttle actuation BMW offers in its S1000XR. Not my case, I’m a sucker for instant but manageable power delivery. The Ducati Multistrada, both in DVT and pre=DVT versions does it very well, in my opinion, at its highest performance engine map.

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

2016 Ducati Multistrada DVT

The one area the BMW notably lacks is the touring capability.  Not that it can’t do it, just that its motor seems to always be over-exerting itself (it is not overexerting itself, obviously, it is just how its 4-inline motors behave), and most people complain about a buzzing vibration at the handlebars which kicks in exactly at cruising speeds (between 5 and 6 K RPM).  I did experience the vibration when I rode it and although it didn’t bother me on spirited riding and just tooling around town, I can imagine how much of a problem it could be on long average speed journeys.  When riding fast on mountain roads the BMW shows its edge by offering more gear options (more gears are the “right” gear for each circumstance), better riding aids (shift assist), and overall more of a sport bike feel.

Overall, though, the Multistrada remains a more complete motorcycle, it remains top of the heap in my opinion. I have a feeling this is not the conventional wisdom about this bike, unless longer journeys are in the planning, when the Multistrada edges the S1000XR.  It makes, in my opinion, the Multistrada DVT a more complete package considering urban, canyon carving, and touring riding options.

Having said that, we need to keep things in perspective here. We are talking here about two motorcycles that are clearly above the rest of offerings in this field.  One can’t go wrong going either way.

How does it compare to my 2013 Pikes Peak?

The Multistrada DVT is better than my 2013 Pikes Peak in all aspects.  It is more powerful (160 HP compared to 150, 100 ft-lb of torque compared to 90), it has better technology (Bosch’s latest ABS product, the so called “cornering” ABS), the motor is smoother, suspension has been improved (Skyhook “Evo”), seat height is lower (better reach to ground), it sounds better, it has color TFT dash, cornering lights, better fuel consumption, more intuitive navigation of menus for riding options.  Did I miss anything?

Revised information display. More information, more intuitive navigation of menus. Base model depicted (monochrome display - other versions have a color TFT display)

Revised information display. More information, more intuitive navigation of menus. Base model depicted (monochrome display – other versions have a color TFT display)

Turning the motor on you immediately notice the lower pitched growl of the motor. Releasing the clutch and it is smoother than my 2013.  I started it on touring mode and as soon as I got to the country roads I got a taste about how it behaves on the upper range of the RPM.  On touring mode you clearly notice a flat spot on the RPM band, from about 4,000 to 6,000 RPM.  But once you hit the 6K mark, if you keep on the throttle you will experience a rush of power that has been unequaled on my riding experience.  What an awesome sensation.  It sounds great and it delivers instant response to throttle input.

Soon I was changing to Sport mode, which by the way is now much easier to execute while on the move with better menu navigation.  On sport mode the 4-6K flat portion of the torque curve is less noticeable, diminishing a bit the impact you experience once you hit the 6K RPM.  But the greater power delivery of sport mode is there. The engine is smoother under heavy acceleration when compared to my 2013 model.  You clearly perceive the overall greater power delivery of the DVT motor. It is a new motorcycle.

Most salient update: The Ducati Variable Timing (DVT) motor

Most salient update: The Testastretta Ducati Variable Timing (DVT) motor

The bike I tested was the standard version, with no Skyhook suspension (it comes with fully adjustable Marzochi/Sachs mechanical forks/shock front to back respectively).  And the dashboard was not the color TFT version.  Other than that, it is the same bike with cornering ABS, DVT and all the fun bits that comes with the revised motor.  The suspension was a bit on the soft side and I noticed front dive under braking.  Suspension adjustments could probably take care of its softness and perhaps some of the brake dive.  I would definitely  the S version, though.

Further on the list of improvements, the windscreen is taller and wider than the previous models. It has the same easy to operate adjustment – you can move it up or down while in motion.

Taller, wider adjustable windscreen

Taller, wider adjustable windscreen

The DVT bikes have two height adjustments for the seat.  The bike I tested had the seat positioned on the highest level and I still had a better reach to the ground than what I have on my Multistrada.  The bike looks better as well, more upscale, although this is obviously subjective.

Seat can be adjusted to two positions- shown on high setting

Seat can be adjusted to two positions- shown on high setting (check the trim under the seat)

So here comes the question you might be wondering: will I update my 2013 Pikes Peak with a DVT? There is no question this bike is better than my 2013 Pikes Peak.  Having said that, my 2013 is practically still new to me.  I still like its performance, I still like its look, and I’m happy with its reliability.  Furthermore, the new Pikes Peak, comes with Ohlins forks and a rear TTX shock. It is a great option, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to mechanical suspension after enjoying the Skyhook.  Second, the new Pikes Peak does not come with the lighter weight, forged Marchesini wheels I have on my 2013 Pikes Peak.  Even if the new Pikes Peak was a straight improvement across all options, I still would keep my 2013 for now.

Eventually the time will come for me to upgrade the Pikes Peak.  When that time comes the DVT Multistrada, in Pikes Peak form if available, will certainly be on top of my very short list.

2016 Pikes Peak DVT. Looks great, love the short carbon fibre screen

2016 Pikes Peak DVT. Looks great, love the short carbon fiber vented screen

If you are in west/central Oregon stop by the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon and talk with Mickey to organize a test ride of this great motorcycle.  You don’t want to miss this opportunity!  Last time I checked they had a few Multistradas on the floor (Pikes Peak, Red S Touring, White S Touring, and the base Touring model I tested).

Thank you for reading… and hang on to your wallet if you take this bike for a test ride or this bike may follow you home. You’ve been warned.

Posted in Bike Reviews | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

V.I.P. for 15 minutes, a new (to me) motorcycle, and a logo

Frequent travel for work, then holiday vacation, and the Pacific Northwest winter weather all conspired to keep me away from my motorcycle shed in the last few months.  I like traveling and I like flying, so I will not complain about that part of my absence from here.  When you fly frequently enough you get a few passenger perks here and there and I’m still smiling from what was the ultimate, for me, flying perk which I got last week.  A complete surprise, an awesome service. Also important to note, you might say, during this time away from posting I acquired a new (to me) motorcycle.  Lastly, I did create a logo for this site.

Traveling the Columbia River Gorge to see a motorcycle

Traveling the Columbia River Gorge in early January to see a motorcycle

VIP for 15 minutes

Flying out of Eugene you have to stop somewhere to change planes if your destination is anywhere outside a 2-hour flight distance from here.  Last week I was on a flight to Washington DC, which included a layover and change of planes in Denver.  I bought the ticket from United and did not pay much attention to it.  My bottom line was that it has a reasonable price with the earliest possible arrival in DC (flights going east typically leave Eugene at around 6am Pacific Standard Time to arrive on the east cost at about 4pm Eastern Standard Time with at least one connecting stop in between).

When the plane landed in Denver I checked my United app and realized I would only have about 18 minutes to walk between my arrival gate and the departure gate of my next flight, Denver to Baltimore’s BWI airport.  A hint here: when flying to DC, and you want to get good deals on tickets, select airport code WAS and it will search flights to the three main airports serving DC (DCA – National (yes, I still call it National), IAD – Dulles, and BWI – Baltimore.

Washington DC under a layer of snow

Washington DC under a layer of snow

Of course, WAS will only work if you have the time and the disposition to take public transportation, as a cab or Uber ride from BWI, for example, might eat your lower price advantage quickly.  In my case, my final destination was Alexandria, Virginia, and between AMTRAK and Metro, it cost me $11.80 and about 1 hour and 1o minutes to go from BWI to my hotel at Kings St. in Alexandria, VA.

The AMTRAK station by the BWI airport - $7 and about 40 minutes to Union Station in DC

AMTRAK station at BWI airport: $7 and 40 minutes of comfortable travel (you can work while you travel as well) to Union Station in DC

I have this tendency of going on detours when telling a story… so going back to my lay over in Denver, as soon as I landed in Denver I realized my connecting flight would start boarding in less than 20 minutes from my plane’s arrival at the gate.  I was arriving at gate 88 and my flight to BWI departed from Gate 20, on the same United terminal but at opposite ends of Concourse B.  If you know the Denver airport, this means a good distance, maybe half a mile.  However, once you climb the stairs from the commuter planes area (where gate 88 is located), it is a straight shot on the wide terminal to the low numbers on the other side of Concourse B.  I was actually looking forward to the long walk, thinking about how much a power walk between these two gates would contribute to meeting my daily walk/jog/run goal on my Fitbit.  Thanks to left over upgrade points which were expiring at the end of January, so I had to use or I would lose them, I was flying first class, which meant I was one of the first passengers to exit the plane, which would help on getting to the other end of the terminal in time for my next flight.  It was all good and I was on a happy place, looking forward to the walk.

As I walked out of the plane and entered the jet bridge I immediately saw a well dressed lady, still wearing United uniform, but it did look a lot more upscale than the uniform of gate staff or flight attendants.  She was displaying to exiting passengers an I-pad and it had my name on it in big letters.  My first thought was that I had probably done something wrong considering I’m typically pushing boundaries on everything I do, so I’m usually on the look out f0r a possible contrary reaction.  Why in this world would my name be called out in the middle of my flight, right? I approached her and sheepishly, and probably showing a puzzled look on my face, I said “that’s me”.  She mentioned she was offering me a service United usually offers to top frequent flyers (I fly a lot but I’m not at that level), however, when they have idle time, she explained, they look for other frequent flyer passengers in need for these services.  And because I had a very tight connection between my flights, she continued, they were going to drive me to my connecting flight.

Denver Airport main Terminal - January 27th, 2016

Denver Airport main Terminal – January 27th, 2016

She asked me if I had all my bags with me and then asked me to follow her downstairs, from the jet bridge to the tarmac where a Mercedes GL was waiting for me, lift gate open for my bag.  A driver greets me, extends his hand for a hand shake, offers assistance with my bags and opens the rear passenger door for me.

United's Mercedes GL SUV at the Tarmac, Denver airport

United’s Mercedes GL SUV at the Tarmac, Denver airport

They drove me to my connecting flight via the tarmac.  We had a quick chit chat on the way, they were very nice and very polite people.  They thanked me for my loyalty to United, I thanked them for this awesome service – it was a nice exchange of pleasantries.  I try to keep my loyalty to United since United offers the most options from Eugene and to the regions I fly the most to the Pacific Islands between Hawaii and Asia.  Having said that, I always select the least expensive tickets which offers the convenience I need to attend work meetings.  On this trip last week, for example, my return flight was on Alaska Airlines, as I had to fly via Seattle for a meeting in Olympia, WA on my way back home, and Alaska was the only airline offering a flight the way I needed to cover the tight timeline between meetings in opposite sides of the country.

United's Mercedes GL in Denver, January 27th, 2015

United’s Mercedes GL in Denver, January 27th, 2015

I had seen these United Mercedez SUV’s on the tarmac at other airports before and I always wondered who were these very important people people using this service.  I thought they were some important dignitaries, actors who can not afford their own jet yet, some very special people.  Well, it turns out, some regular folks like me can also make use of this service.  I’m still smiling when I think about this service United offered to me last week.  I have a feeling this will never happen again, one time makes me happy enough, though.  Thank you United, and I will make sure I describe my satisfaction to it on my evaluation of the flight.  It certainly overshadows the sketchy treatment I received at the United Club in Honolulu, the week prior, when the United attendant at the Club desk made it very clear to me that she prefers to serve Club Members who pay $650 a year for their Club membership rather than the premier passengers on international flights who also have access to United’s lounges (by the time she mentioned the $650 Club members play I had already spent $5,000 on United flights since the beginning of the year).

A New (to me) Motorcycle

Going to the next subject for this post, I did mention another motorcycle, didn’t I?  I will have a full post on this new to me motorcycle I purchased in January (it might take a few weeks as I will be working on it soon).  It is a CB500X, practically new with a little over 300 miles on the clock when I bought it.  I think it was a good deal for the seller and buyer (those are the best deals, when both perceive it was a good purchase / selling experience, we both got what we needed or wanted).  The plan for this bike is to make it into a light adventure motorcycle using the Rally Raid Level 3 Kit which is made for this bike in the United Kingdom by a company, Rally Raid Parts, specialized in making improvements to motorcycles so these bikes perform better as adventure riding machines.  I already ordered the kit and should be soon receiving it and installing it on the bike.  The previous owner already installed Rally Raid parts on this bike, including the bash plate (includes with motor and oil pan protection), wider foot pegs, rear brake reservoir protection, and adjustable brake and clutch levers.  Not bad at all!

There's something on the back of my truck!

There’s something on the back of my truck!

I’ve taken this bike on short trips around the house and it is a lot of fun and sounds great with its Yoshimura slip on muffler.  The CB500X does not match the Tiger 800 XC in terms of power or long distance touring, of course, but it seems like it will do a good enough job on highways.  And with the Rally Raid Level 3 kit I’m sure it will do wonders on the dirt, especially on dirt roads requiring more accurate riding technique where I’ve been reluctant to ride the Tiger.  This bike will work perfectly for me when riding solo in the high desert, on back country rides on the neighboring states (something that has been in the works for a while and now this bike will open possibilities), because it is lighter and I’m counting on Honda’s reliability.  I will keep the Tiger 800 XC for longer trips.  Should I go to Alaska one day, the Tiger would be my choice if I still have it by that who knows when future time.

But there is something else about the CB500X.  I have a very good friend who lives in Florida.  We went to the same high school, same college, and we pursued similar graduate programs although in separate schools (I went to the Ohio State University he went to University of Georgia Athens).  At one point we both had Honda motorcycles (I had my XL250 and he had an XL350 – but if I remember correctly, he did have a 250 at some point).  Eventually he moved on to a Honda TransAlp and I bought the BMW Dakar 650.  Now he has an NC700X and I have the Tiger 800 XC as my adventure riding motorcycle. Similar trajectories.  Just a couple of months ago I got news he is fighting a terrible disease. I’m hoping he is responding to treatment, and I hope he will ride again.

He and I never rode together, I realized, but I think we talked about riding to South America together at one point (or I thought it was a great idea at some point).  Therefore I invited him to come ride here with me this coming Spring, Summer, or Fall, whenever he feels good about it. I do think this bike will be awesome for him, it is a lot of fun as much as it is also very easy to ride.  If he will be up for a ride, and I wish he will be in a path to recovery soon, this bike will be waiting for him. I sure hope riding in the high desert would bring some much needed endorphins for him and for me as well, as I love riding in eastern Oregon. I hope he will join me for a ride, even if it is a ride to the coast or around town to the local wineries.

A Logo for this Site

Lastly, I did create a logo for this site and printed it on a few T-shirts as an experiment.  I’ve been thinking about making video logs, not sure whether I’m up for that task or not.  If I do, I already have this draft of a logo.

I'd Rather be Riding logo and T-shirts

I’d Rather be Riding logo and T-shirts

These are my updates for now.  Besides the CB500X post that will be coming in a few weeks (I hope to get the Rally Raid kit in the next few days) I have a few other posts in the making, one of them will require some research. So please stay tuned.  Thank you for reading!

Posted in Bike Reviews, Random Thoughts, The Book, Travel | Tagged , | 3 Comments