Taking the Ducati Multistrada to Northern California

This was my fourth visit to Northern California with the 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak.  There is no question to me, this type of travel, this type of motorcycle, having it loaded with travel gear and all, riding it on the nice roads we find in Northern California, that is sport-touring and is perhaps what the Multistrada is all about.  Much more than urban, and I should not even mention enduro, this motorcycle is about sport touring.  Emphasis on sport or not, it does very well on touring duty.

2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak - All packed and ready to go!

2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak – All packed and ready to go for another trip to Northern California!

We could leave the urban and enduro modes of this motorcycle as a function of its upright riding position, which I actually like and is what makes this motorcycle look they way it does, unique when it was launched in 2010.

I basically only ride it on Touring or Sort modes.

I basically only ride it on Touring or Sort modes.

Now that Ducati has developed the Multistrada Enduro, perhaps we can free ourselves from interpreting the Multistrada as a four-mode machine.  I’m on my fourth year of ownership of this bike and I never used the “enduro” mode, even when I’ve taken this motorcycle off-pavement.  And I only use “urban” in the very few instances when I get stuck on traffic and want the bike lower for a better reach to the ground from my 30 inch inseam.  I can confirm, after three and a half years of ownership, this bike is a sport tourer.

Raring to go!

Raring to go!

In Touring or sport mode, my rides to Northern California, or anywhere requiring 500 mile days, with a good section of twisties, from tight to long sweeping curves, are the ideal environment for this motorcycle.  It is where I get the most satisfaction from riding it, it is where this motorcycle makes the most sense to me.  In my opinion, the Multistrada did set the bar higher for motorcycle travel offering a great combination of performance, comfort, and capacity to carry gear. Very few motorcycles offer this combination without compromising much one or the other functions. On top of that, since 2013 the Multistrada has the option of semi-active suspension, besides ABS, traction control and other electronic aids.

The Multistrada with Mt Shasta on the background

The Multistrada with Mt Shasta on the background

As an Italian citizen, I’m amazed my compatriots have conceptualized and delivered such a machine, and even more, have created a new segment for touring motorcycles.  This bike is no longer unique in its configuration for several years already, and this field is growing each year with new bikes such as the KTM 1290 GT, the BMW S1000XR, just to mention a couple when we know there are so many other great sport-tourers, bikes with great and powerful motors built on travel-ready frames with comfortable adventure style ergonomics, and packed with a suite of high tech riding aids.

KTM 1290 GT

KTM 1290 GT

The Multistrada remains such a great product, it has been the leader of this segment, and since the 2015 model, with its DVT version, it has raised the sport touring bar.  We, the consumers, benefit from such improvements as these bikes have brought to the market riding modes, motorcycle stability control (cornering ABS), semi-active suspension, traction control and of course, more power…  When time comes to upgrade my Multistrada, there are these other options out there, but for now the Pikes Peak DVT is at the top of my short list.  For now, though, I’m really happy with what I have.  And the report on this trip describes why.

The Multistrada Pikes Peak entering California for the fourth time.

The Multistrada Pikes Peak entering California for the fourth time.

As I was saying at the beginning of this post, before I got distracted declaring my respect to this type of motorcycle and in particular to the Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak, this was my fourth trip to Northern California with this bike.  These gatherings are organized by a group of Ducati riders who participate in the Ducati.ms forum.  Locations are chosen with the goal being to provide riders with a great selection of fun roads.  This gives me a chance to talk about the Butler motorcycle maps.

Butler Motorcycle Maps

Butler Motorcycle Maps

There are a few books describing great riding roads, and like those books, these series of maps rate roads based on a motorcycling criteria.  I would have color-coded them differently, going from yellow to orange to red as a gradient.  Instead, they rate yellow at the highest level, then red and last orange.  Bottom line, yellow, red and orange roads are expected to be fun riding roads.

Wouldn't you change the colors to from yellow to orange to red or vice-versa?

Wouldn’t you change the colors to from yellow to orange to red or vice-versa?

Although not using Butler maps in specific, we decide the location for these meetings using a similar criteria to what Butler maps provide.  On my first two years attending these meetings the get together was in Graeagle.  And the last two years have been in Weaverville.

Weaverville, surrounded by G1 (yellow), G2 (red) and G3 (orange) roads.

Weaverville, surrounded by G1 (yellow), G2 (red) and G3 (orange) roads.

For next year, there has been talks about Topaz Lake close to the border with Nevada and not too far from Yosemite.  Who knows, these decisions are not final until the winter, but I like the idea of changing locations every two years or so and exploring new areas.  I’ve never been to Yosemite.

Next year, Topaz Lake?

Next year, Topaz Lake?

Back to 2016, this year’s ride from Eugene to Weaverville was rather eventful.  I was supposed to leave early in the morning with a plan to go to Crater Lake and from there to Klamath Falls and then Weed (now in California) and from Weed take SR3 to Weaverville. Since I didn’t leave until 10 in the morning, I by-passed Crater Lake on this trip.

These trips happen in the later part of June, which usually is already settled for summer at these parts of the world, meaning chances for rain are very small.  Not the case for 2016.  My choice of roads turned adventuresome as I got low temperatures at the Cascades.

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And lots of rain for good portions of the trip, including hail!

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And then all sorts of deer… can you see this one right in the middle of the road?  Well, deer is not the result of my choice of roads, but I had never seen these many deer crossing roads like on this trip.

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And even one elk.  That thing was tall!

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From these two pictures it looks as if the deer and the elk are far away, but remember, this is taken with the GoPro camera on its widest angle.  In other words, they were not too far from me.  And this is just a sample of the more than seven deer I encountered on this trip.  The ones that I saw, that is, because they crossed the road in front of me, I would guess there were plenty more.  Be careful out there!

I made it into Weaverville by 6pm under a good amount of rain.  I got settled at the hotel, I was the first to arrive, so I went on a walk to “downtown” Weaverville for dinner.

Downtown Weaverville

Downtown Weaverville, June 2016

By the time I was back from dinner others had arrived.  The plan was to go decide which way to go on the next day, chose a set of the many nice roads in the area.  Instead, it rained, it rained a lot!

The bike in the porch of my hotel cabin, protected from torrential rains

The bike in the porch of my hotel cabin, protected from torrential rains

That’s sheets of water…

Sheets of water, literally.

Sheets of water, literally.

A few guys ventured out of town and got a good day of riding, as the rain was mostly circumscript to Weaverville, after all.  I joined the lazy bastards crew.

Shooting the sh!t and bench racing under the porch

Shooting the sh!t and bench racing under the porch

And that’s how things stayed until the caterers showed up with dinner.

Portable barbecue

Portable barbecue

On the next day, Saturday, my last day on this trip, we woke up to a sunny day, no indication it had ever rained in that area.

Packing the bike, ready to ride back to Eugene, first stopping at Eureka.

Packing the bike, ready to ride back to Eugene, first stopping at Eureka.

The plan was to go to Eureka and have lunch at the Black Lightening Cafe, an establishment owned by a rider and which has become a hangout for local motorcyclists or any rider traveling on 101.  Because Eureka is on my way back home I decided to travel north from Eureka in the direction of home.  Everyone got ready in time and we were off towards Eureka, traveling on SR3 and then SR36, two great, highly recommended roads (check the map photo above, plenty of yellow, red and orange rated segments on these roads).

Getting ready to leave towards Eureka

Getting ready to leave towards Eureka

I have some video of the ride on SR3, but it is taking me a long time to get it ready, editing video is not my strongest suite (yet) but I promise I will put something together for your enjoyment.  Video is a lot better in telling how fun these roads are, much better than any words I could use to describe what it is to ride on these roads.  We stopped a couple of times along the way.

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We made it to Eureka just at the right time for lunch.

Exclusive motorcycle parking in front of the Black Lightening Cafe

Exclusive motorcycle parking in front of the Black Lightening Cafe

All settled for lunch!

Motorcycle only parking!

Motorcycle-only parking!

Great food, great conversations.  The Black Lightening Cafe also sells riding gear, by the way.

Black Lightning Cafe, Eureka, California

Black Lightning Cafe, Eureka, California

From there I said my goodbyes to the gang and started my ride back home via 101, enjoying the coast.

Somewhere on 101 already in Oregon

Somewhere on 101 already in Oregon

I thought about spending the night at some place along the way but in the end, as I continued north, I realized I could make it home before dark.

Made it back home just before it got dark

Made it back home just before it got dark

Despite the rain on the way down to California, despite the heavy rain on the day I had scheduled to ride in the area without the travel load on the motorcycle, I can’t complain.  It was fun riding to California in the rain, it was a small adventure, made it more interesting, and it was fun riding on the way down from Weaverville to Eureka, even with the bike loaded, trying to keep up with the faster riders.  After all, this is what this bike is all about. 500 mile-days is nothing for this bike, traveling with it loaded, not a big deal, even when things get one or two notches up toward the sport side of things.

An amazing motorcycle

An amazing motorcycle

Sunday morning I washed the bike, checked all fluids, cleaned and lubed the chain, it was ready for the next adventure. What an amazing machine.

Also, I want to make a note, this is a great group of riders and I really enjoy this annual event, I’m already looking forward to next year’s meeting, be it in Topaz Lake or not.  People from several riding backgrounds show up, some don’t even ride a Ducati (they perhaps once had a Ducati motorcycle, maybe not).  There is a great sense of camaraderie within the group and to me, in particular, these events are part of my road riding school.  Among this group of riders there are some excellent riders and following them on the road has been a lesson on fast but safe road riding every time. Thank you Jessica and Chip!  And I want to include a special thank you to Scott and Jessica who organize these events!

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What’s next for this site? I still have several reports to draft and publish: The CB500X Adventure and its maiden ride in the Death Valley; riding the XDiavel, riding the BMW R nineT (again!), and talking about motorcycle GPS.  And videos to edit to complement the stories!  Stay tuned!

Posted in Bike Reviews, Riding the Ducati | 2 Comments

A chance encounter with Simon and Lisa

Do I need to tell you who Simon and Lisa Thomas are? If you are into adventure riding I bet you know them.  Maybe you know them from the many activities they do as part of their travels around the world, beyond the motorcycles, such as their public speaking or charity work.  Just in case, here is the quick summary: they have been traveling the world on motorcycles for more than 10 years (13 years and counting!).

a chance encounter with Lisa and Simon at the BMW shop

a chance encounter with Lisa and Simon at the BMW shop

I have known about Simon and Lisa for a while from reading travel discussions on adventure riding motorcycle forums but I only had the great privilege of meeting them in September of 2013 when they stopped by Eugene to talk about their travels around the world at our local BMW shop.  Thanks to Scott and Madelyn at the European Motorcycles of Western Oregon for that opportunity to meet them and spend time with them back in 2013.  When I was invited to that gathering, Simon, being informed of my Brazilian connection, asked if I had Cachaça, the Brazilian Rum.  Not only did I have cachaça, but I also had the caipirinha paraphernalia.  Added lime and sugar to the mix and Simon showed us what he learned from their travels through Brazil.

Simon, caipirinha expert - September 2013

Simon, the caipirinha expert – September 2013

Three years later, yesterday I got out of the office on my lunch break to run an errand at the Oregon DMV (my WR250R’s rear wheel chewed the bike’s license plate) and since I was in the neighborhood I decided to make a quick stop at the BMW/Ducati shop to snap a photo of a new bike they have on the floor.  First thing Mickey said as I walked in is that Simon and Lisa were there.  What?  They had stopped for a very quick visit as they traveled north to participate on the June 23-26 Touratech Rally – West, in Plain, WA.  They were traveling with another family, who also travels on motorcycle!  They are Ted, Sandy and Jack Borden (very nice people as well, check their site and learn about their travels!).

Scott & Madelyn, Simon & Lisa, and Ted, Sandy & Jack. 6/22/2016

Scott & Madelyn, Simon & Lisa, and Ted, Sandy & Jack. 6/22/2016

It was great to have a chance to re-connect with Simon and Lisa. Lisa even gave me a quick lesson on Instagram!  Thank you Lisa! And what about a selfie with Simon?

What about a selfie with Simon?

What about a selfie with Simon?

And I even got to sit on Simon’s motorcycle and imagine my own travels.  One day.

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If you run into them on your own travels, stop and say hi. They are great people, inspirational and contagious on their enthusiasm for adventure riding and other important life matters.

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There you go, true inspiration! (photo by Carl Best)

What was meant to be a five-minute errand turned into a short adventure, when I got to connect with Simon and Lisa after almost three years since the last time (who knows how many thousands of miles they traveled since that last time) and got a sneak preview on their plans for Alaska this summer.  Check their site, 2RideTheWorld, for more information.

Thank you for reading!

 

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Taking the Ducati Multistrada on a shakedown ride

What a beautiful sunny Sunday, a great day to take the Multistrada on a shakedown ride, a great day to be reminded of how great this motorcycle is.

The Multistrada on a Sunny Sunday

The Multistrada on a Sunny Sunday

This has been an unusual year in terms of my riding priorities.  Up until this year the Ducati has been the go-to motorcycle for me, the unambiguous favorite, the one I pick when I open the shed, and it is always ready to go for a ride.  This year it is June 12th already, we are almost half way in 2016 (scary, uh?) and today was only the second time I took the Ducati out for a ride.  No wonder, with all the work on the CB500X, and how much fun it has been to ride that little bike… and then I rode the WR250X in the Death Valley as well (I took both bikes on that trip), and there is the Triumph with which I’ve enjoyed a few rides with its new exhaust (Yoshimura), and all along the Ducati has been patiently sitting there on the trickle charger.  This is not right.

Pink Roses and the Red and White Ducati

Pink Roses and the Red and White Ducati

This ride of today was a wake up call.  Thank goodness I have some action scheduled for this bike this coming week! I will take the Ducati on my annual trip to Northern California. Today I wanted to see if the bike’s systems are in top shape, hence the shakedown ride.  Well, the shakedown was for me as well, I needed to get reacquainted with this bike’s weight and power again.  And the lesson learned was the  reminder about how nice it is to ride this machine.  And I’m glad it is so, as it energized me to get everything in place for the upcoming 1,000 mile trip.

Here is a video compilation of today’s ride and for the first time I say a few words about the ride and the motorcycle during the video.  At the end of the video you will see (and hear) that while at the gas station, the attendant said: “nice bike, uh… (about three times)” and then he added “it’s a lot of CC’s for such a little guy” or something like that. It was worth keeping it and documenting it because it is exactly how I feel about this bike: I respect each and everyone of the 150 horses that offer a measure of this bike’s power.

 

So, how was the the shakedown ride?  The bike is running great, all horses are accounted for and at the readiness for this next trip.  By the way, I find it incredible that this motorcycle, despite its 1.2 liter motor and 150hp can still run at about 45 mpg, giving me a solid 200 mile range from a full tank, time after time.

201 miles with 9 miles to go but half a gallon in the tank (it 4.45 gallons to fill)

201 miles with 9 miles to go (it took 4.45 gallons to fill so in reality I would have some 20 miles to go)

Thank you for reading!

Upcoming stories:

Not necessarily in this order, here are a few stories I’m organizing and should be drafting soon:

CB500X: I will continue the CB500X Adventure series with post number 4 where I will document its adventure on the Death Valley.  What an awesome adventure it was, including a rainstorm, several bikes’ being dropped – one of these drops could be called a crash – riding through a sandstorm, some drama, and strong winds on the way in and the way back!  I will include and a few observations about the CB500X Adventure and Rally Raid products on that post as well. Maybe it will be a separate post so I can talk about something that went wrong with the bike (partially my fault) and the after ride maintenance, such as oil change and air filter change – I wanted to make sure I cleaned the sand that went everywhere from riding through the sandstorm.

Ducati XDiavel: I have ridden the Ducati XDiavel as well, which is something completely different than the bikes I usually ride.  I’ve been looking at reviews of cruisers lately: with the new crop of sport cruisers and heritage motorcycles, there are a few interesting motorcycles out there and a lot of interest from riders. I will post here the ride on the XDiavel (I actually rode it twice) and my comments and observations on cruisers and heritage bikes.

Ducati Multistrada: As I mentioned earlier on this post, I will be on a trip to Northern California on the Ducati. I usually don’t document those rides here, if I remember correctly I only documented the first one, in 2013. Just in case, this will be my forth trip to meet a group of Ducati owners in California (twice to Graeagle in the Sierras and now a second time to Weaverville in the Trinity Alps).

GPS: Use a motorcycle specific or use a car GPS on your motorcycle? I’ve been using car GPS’s on my motorcycles for almost 10 years already, I’m on my second one, the first one still works, just that it is so out dated it became obsolete.  Car GPS’s are not waterproof, they are not advertised as shock resistance, and whatever else people claim they need to be for a motorcycle application, and still the two Nuvi GPS’s I’ve used for almost 10 years have worked very well under all weather conditions and types of riding.  I will tell the story of how these car GPS’s work and how I prepare them for a motorcycle application.  And I will discuss why I haven’t bought a motorcycle GPS!  Yet.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Riding the Ducati | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Honda CB500X Adventure – Part 3: Building the bike

The purchase of this bike, the research about the adventure kit, the communication with Rally Raid Products team, sourcing or building the parts not included on the kit, getting a few odd tools here and there and getting the shop ready has been a great adventure already, and you can read about it on the two previous posts.  The result of this effort is a simple but effective adventure motorcycle and riding it has been a positive surprise.  However, that is for Part 4 of this story, on today’s post I will document the actual building of the bike.

Job completed! March 2016

Job completed! March 2016

Rally Raid Products took on the challenge of building an adventure bike kit for this machine.  They designed and developed three do-it-yourself kits for this bike and a few other parts and accessories to complement the kit.  The Level 3 kit, the one I got for my bike, is the version geared for more off road riding.  Below is a picture of what is included on the kit: 19 inch front and 17 inch rear spoke wheels, triple tree, revised dog bone, new shock, springs and valves for front forks, taller side stand and front fender.

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

Getting the Rally Raid Kit

I purchased the kit via Giant Loop here in Oregon, who happens to be the sole representative of this kit by Rally Raid here in the United States.  I got top notch treatment by Harold Cecil at Giant Loop and Jenny Morgan at Rally Raid Products.  All my questions were answered within hours of my asking via email or telephone.

The instructions for the build, in chapters for each of the components of the Level 3 kit, are available on line in the Rally Raid Products site.  These instructions are well written, they have enough detail, step by step from the very start, with good quality photos.  Anyone with limited mechanical experience can give a shot at this build.  Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it as well.  I printed the instructions and consulted it along the build process.

Rally Raid Products - set of instructions for Installing Level III Kit on CB500X

Rally Raid Products – set of instructions for Installing Level III Kit on CB500X

Beyond the Rally Raid official instructions, Juan Browne‘s videos were invaluable to complete the job.  Juan is a CB500X owner and an enthusiast of the adventure kit, he has a great way with words and produces nice videos.  Juan’s videos on the build explain the steps of the process with a similar amount of detail as what you find in the instructions, but for some people, like me, a video is a better learning media.  I watched each video a couple of times and by the time I got to work on my motorcycle I knew exactly what needed to be done and in what order.  Still, I followed the printed, official instructions from Rally Raid Products on critical areas of the build.

Check the Rally Raid Instructions and Juan’s videos out before you make a decision whether you should give it a try to build it yourself or get assistance for certain parts of the build or you can get it completely done by a motorcycle shop.  Giant Loop itself offers to build the bike for you, or you can get a bike already built by them, a turn-key deal (at least they were making such an offer at some point).

Building my CB500X Adventure

I’m not going to give you step by step building instructions here, as the two sets of instructions I described above are excellent and I can’t possibly improve upon them!  I will simply document a summary of my steps and then show you a time-lapse of the entire build.

Reading the instructions and watching the videos was essential for planning the build.  By the time I got the kit I had all the tools I needed, I had the knowledge of what to do and had the shop ready to hit the ground running when everything arrived (see Parts 1 and 2 of this build).  I used my new lift to do this work. What a difference it makes to work with the bike at the right height for each part of the work.

Bike strapped to the lift

Bike strapped to the lift

Day 1 (Saturday afternoon)

I decided to start with the easiest end of the build, the rear shock.  If you are new to to working on motorcycles I recommend breaking the process into clear steps and start with what you consider the more straight forward and simple step.  Once you accomplish the first step you will likely gain the confidence to move on to the more complicated parts of the build.

Lifted the rear of the bike

Lifted the rear of the bike with jack

Once the bike was strapped to the lift I used another jack to raise the rear of the bike.  The flat jack I used works well when you have the RRP bash plate installed already.  My bike already came with the bash plate, which was installed by the previous owner.  I removed the rear wheel and followed the steps on the instruction.  It was very simple and easy to make progress on this work, especially considering all fasteners are new (no rust in sight) on this bike.

Ready for new rear shock

Ready for new rear shock

The kit raises the bike 2 inches, the rear height increase comes from two changes: 1) the rear shock is taller, by almost two inches.

The white spring is on the new shock assembly, the black spring is on the OEM assembly

The white spring is on the new shock assembly, the black spring is on the OEM assembly

2) a revised dog bone provides a different leverage to the spring & shock structure completing the 2-inch increase on this bike’s ground clearance.

The RRP dog bone is below

The RRP dog bone on the right

I did ask John Mitchinson, the Rally Raid Products owner and kit developer, about the strength of the revised dog bone, considering the shaft portion attaches to the bike and shock at an angle.  He did test it and showed the results where it will sustain the forces it needs to sustain, without breaking. Anyway, the shock went in without a hitch.

RRP rear shock installed

RRP rear shock installed

The remote reservoir with the clickers was installed close to the passenger peg, for easy access.

Shock reservoir and clickers, easy access

Shock reservoir and clickers, nice position, easy access

The rear shock was a rather easy job.  Certainly the lift made things a lot easier.  Of course, the RRP’s well written instructions and Juan’s videos were instrumental to make this build move smoothly.

The next step for day one was to prepare the bike for the triple tree and removal of the forks.  It turns out removing the front fairing was very straight forward as well, except for finding the right way to remove the electrical connections for the lights and turn signals which are inside the fairing with no easy access until the fairing is lose.  The entire front fairing is removed as one piece.

End of day 1, bike is ready for Day 2, front end work

End of day 1, bike is ready for Day 2, front end work

At some point on Day 1 I installed the longer side stand.  Or did I do it on day 2?  That was a simple side project, pun intended.

Day 2, Sunday afternoon: Remove triple tree, remove forks, install Rally Raid triple tree

In theory this was the most difficult part of the build. And it turned out it was. I started by removing the front wheel.

Getting ready to tackle the most difficult part of the build

Getting ready to tackle the most difficult part of the build

The difficult part of this step the drilling and removal of the security bolts of the ignition cylinder.  After destroying one platinum and two titanium drill bits I learned the key to success for this job is slow RPM on the drill.  Keep it cool and lubricated if needed, then it works really well.  Lesson learned.

I spent two much time drilling these security bolts

I spent two much time drilling these security bolts

Once those bolts were removed the process went back to its easy and straight forward removal of parts and re-assembly, plug and play mode.  I removed the forks and the triple tree, getting the bike to its highest state of disassembly at this point of the project.

Highest state of disassembly for this project

Highest state of disassembly for this project

Now is basically reassembly. First thing was to install the RRP triple tree.

Rally Raid Products Triple Tree for the CB500X

Rally Raid Products Triple Tree for the CB500X: machined and anodized in black

And that was it for day 2.  Spending so much time drilling those bolts and having to go to the hardware store two times to get more drill bits eliminated my chances for finishing the job on this second day (well, actually I’ve been only working half days…).

Day Three (Monday Evening)

On day three (Monday evening) I started by preparing the folks (drain oil, remove OEM springs and valves and install RRP springs and valves, replace the oil).  I used the original tire chock that came on the lift and turned it into a vice to work on the forks. It gave me great leverage to remove the allen bolt at the bottom of the fork and then used the vice to keep the fork in the right position to drain the fork oil.

Secure fork to remove drain bolt and drain oil

Secure fork to remove drain bolt and drain oil

Removing the OEM springs and valve is a very straight forward job.  On the photo below you will see in the middle the OEM springs (progressive springs) and valve and the RRP level 3 springs and valves. Notice that white plastic tube on the OEM set up.  That is a spacer and it is what allowed Rally Raid to conceptualize the idea of using the original forks for this bike and still gain two inches of travel with improved valves, springs and all.

RRP Level III sptrings and valves compared to OEM spring and valve (center)

RRP Level III springs and valves compared to OEM spring, valve and spacer (center)

Fitting the RRP fork internals was also a straight forward job.  The kit even included the fork oil!  Once I reinstalled the forks I was able to stabilize the bike so I could have both wheels out.

Both wheels out! Ready for final step.

Both wheels out! Ready for final step.

That was it for Day 3, bike is now only waiting for the wheels, seat and fairing to be reinstalled.

Day 4 (Tuesday Evening)

On the morning I took the wheels to a local bike shop.  The bike came with Continental TKC 80 tires installed and the original Pirelli Scorpions which had been dismounted offf the wheels with less than 300 miles.  All I needed to do was to buy a 19in TKC 80 to complete the set (I have an extra 17 inch front wheel TKC 80).  A local shop mounted the 17in and 19in TKC 80s on the spoke wheels and re-mounted the Pirelli Scorpions on the original alloy wheels.  Now I can re-install the original wheels on the bike when I want to have it in Super Moto mode!

Wheels ready to be set up with the proper tires

Wheels ready to be set up with the proper tires

Once I installed the wheels on the bike I took it out of the lift to see how it stood and to check if everything looked and felt okay.  And of course, to see how much taller the bike was.  And it is taller by at least two full inches as mentioned by other reviewers.

All I have to do now is install the fairing, with the dashboard, windscreen and headlight.

All I have to do now is install the fairing, with the dashboard, windscreen and headlight.

The bike was looking like a real adventure bike by this time. It looks interesting without the fairing.  One day we will have an adventure bike that will not look like a transformer toy.  It will not have a beak, no tall dirt-bike front fender, no fairing (just a small windscreen), and with round headlights.  Yes, one day, a scrambler-styled motorcycle build around a solid adventure motorcycle platform (suspension, electronics) set up properly for adventure (subframe for travel with gear).  But I digress.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

From here on it was all about getting the fairing and side panels back on the bike and the job was complete. There are some rubber grommets on some of the side panel fasteners that you need to make sure you know they are there and keep track of them on disassembly.  You will need them to secure the panels properly during reassembly.

RRP Level III Kit installed, bike is almost ready for an adventure

RRP Level III Kit installed, bike is almost ready for an adventure

Here is a time lapse of the building process.

 

A Few Final, Important Touches

The RRP Kit is the major step on this build.  However, to complete the “adventure” project this bike required a few more steps: a GPS base, 12V power source by the handlebars, side racks, bags, tail tidy (well this one is not an adventure requirement), a radiator protector, a shock protector, bark busters, and Leo Vince slip on exhaust (well this last one is not an adventure requirement but it is smaller than the OEM exhaust allowing more options for bags).

GPS base and mount.  I like the GPS to be as tall as possible so my eyes to do not need to divert much from the road when I want to check information.  This bike’s structure for the windscreen is perfect for such a tall installation.  I checked the pile of scrap metal in my shop and found two pieces of aluminum that only required a slight convincing (cutting, bending and drilling) to take the shape required for their new job.

GPS mount: Checking my scrap metal box and parts bin I found what I needed

GPS mount: Checking my scrap metal box and parts bin I found what I needed

And here it is installed on the bike, where it positions the GPS just above the instrument cluster.  Perfect!  It has an extra RAM base for a second GPS or other gadget.

GPS mounted (this GPS is a car GPS, a cheap Nuvi something or another

GPS mounted (this GPS is a car GPS, a cheap Nuvi something or another (the smallest I could find)

12V Power Source. Power for the GPS was via a cable connected directly to the battery and brought forward to the instrument cluster area.

I always have these cables around.

I always have these cables around.

The cable has to be long enough to travel from the battery (under the seat) to the front of the bike.

Powelet 12V power source by the instrument cluster.

Powelet 12V power source by the instrument cluster.

It allows connecting various types of plugs and devices at the front of the bike.

Several options available

Several options available

I have a second cable that I use to trickle charge the battery.  It also works for charging devices carried on the bike’s bags.

Cable for trickle charger for the battery.

Cable for trickle charger for the battery.

R & G Tail Tidy.  This is not an adventure requirement but it makes the bike more compact, and works better for the smaller American license plates.

OEM on the left, R & G on the right, ready to be installed

OEM on the left, R & G on the right, ready to be installed

It requires a good amount of disassembly on the rear of the bike for installation but it is all plug and play.  R & G offers a smaller tail tidy which will require sawing a small portion of the metal structure on the rear of the bike.  I picked the size that allows the bike to be reversed back to OEM condition.

Ready for installing R & G tail tidy

Ready for installing R & G tail tidy

SW Motech Side Racks:  I like soft bags, I have two sets of Giant Loop bags (Coyote and Great Basin) that work really well on this bike.  However, I like the practicality of side bags, smaller side bags, how I have on my WR250X.  I chose side racks because they offer more options for soft, side bags.  Particularly I chose the SW Motech racks because they can be easily disassembled when they are not needed and they are positioned closer to the bike and not too far back.

SW Motech side racks

SW Motech side racks

However, with the tail tidy bringing the blinkers back, there is a fight for space between the side racks and the blinkers I did not anticipate.

SW Motech side racks and blinkers relocated with tail tidy fight for same space

SW Motech side racks and blinkers relocated with tail tidy fight for same space

The blinkers are still visible.  This may need to be addressed. Or not.

Softbags.  I like my WR250X dirtbaz as mentioned earlier, for practicality (easy access, small).  Therefore that’s what I installed on this bike. I also like the idea of a same set of bags that can be transferred from one bike to the other. I can use my Giant Loop bags on all my bikes.  The dirtbagz work only on the CB500X and the WR250R.  You will see the dirtbagz are installed on reverse position on the CB500X, when compared to how they are installed on the WR250R.  It allows the shape of the bag to give room for the CB500X’s lower but angled up exhaust.

Dirtbagz

Dirtbagz

The problem I encountered is that the bags attached with straps did not stay in place on my first dirt ride in the Death Valley.  As a result they fell backwards, turned, and landed on the exhaust.

At the cabin on Hunter Mountain in Death Valley. Dirtbagz is burned...

At the cabin on Hunter Mountain in Death Valley. Dirtbagz is burned…

The right (exhaust side) bag burned really good.

Dirtbagz burned...

Dirtbagz burned…

I bought a new set of Dirtbagz and installed a loop on my SW Motech racks to keep the bags in place, similar to how they are installed on official racks made by Dirtbagz (they do not make a rack for the CB500X – I wish they did – it would certainly work much better and be lighter).

Temporary solution, will look for a larger loop and then seal the connections.

Temporary solution, will look for a larger loop and then seal the connections.

Having said that, my rigging of the rack does the job now, the bags are installed firm now, they don’t move and clear the exhaust very well.  And now the bags are placed forward enough that they do not interfere with the blinkers.

New set up. Bags do not interfere with blinkers.

New set up. Bags do not interfere with blinkers.

After 200 miles riding with the new bags carrying a good load of heavy tools and spare tubes and the new attachments on the loops were approved, the bags did not move and did not burn either.

New Dierbagz - survived 200 miles of riding carrying a typical load

New Dierbagz – survived 200 miles of riding carrying a typical load

For over night camping trips all I need to do is place a duffel bag on the back of the bike and I’m all set. I could also fit my Great Basin Giant Loop bag (or the Coyote) and I should be fine as well. Please note, neither my Giant Loop bags nor my Dirtbagz are waterproof.  I purchased a water proof duffel bag to keep camping gear and clothes dry if it comes to that.  For everything else, camera equipment and electronics, I have waterproof containers that fit in the dirtbagz.

Radiator Protector.  R & G makes a great plug and play radiator protector for this bike. Unfortunately during the entire time I was building this bike and getting it ready for its maiden trip at the Death Valley they were on back order. What to do? Build your own. I used a piece of gutter leaf guard, cut it to the appropriate dimension, doubled up a portion of it to get more structure to it, and zip-tied it to the bike.  Works wonderfully well!

Gutter leaf guard (aluminum) and zip ties do a great job!

Gutter leaf guard (aluminum) and zip ties do a great job!

Shock protector.  There are neoprene sleeves for the shock available in the market.  But I like to see that nice white spring. The solution was to fabricate my own inner fender (from car carpets, a left over from my Triumph Tiger project – similar application) and screw it to a plastic frame under the seat. Perfect.

Inner fender - shock protector

Inner fender – shock protector

Hand guards. Hand guards are very important to protect brake and clutch levers during a fall.  I chose the Barkbuster Storm, another straight forward job.

Barkbuster Storm works well.

Barkbuster Storm works well.

The only item missing is a protector for the headlight.  I found a Thai made metal guard, which should work really well.

This is it. The bike, with the Rally Raid Products level 3 and a few other accessories looks great and it has shown it delivers the adventure riding experience. The bike, Level 3 kit installed, is surprisingly good on pavement, does rather well on the twisties, and it is awesome on dirt roads.  If you like to ride a bike fast on gravel roads, I can assure you the “adventurized” CB500X will deliver.  No need for traction control when the power delivery is somewhat soft, you can ride it with abandon, push it, and it will perform rather controlled rear wheel slides on dirt and gravel roads.  Just not quite a rally machine, but good enough for plenty of fun.  I really like it.

But this is what we will talk about on the next post.

Thank you for reading.

Posted in Bike Reviews, The Book | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

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.

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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 | 6 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.

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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 but until we know whether I’m right or not, 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 shared 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 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, brakes are probably one notch down on the quality spectrum.  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!

 

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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.

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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.

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