Death Valley 2017 Edition – Getting to California

Traveling with a trailer was a new adventure for me, and I learned many things about RV’ing on this five-day trip. However, in preparing for it there was only one question that kept coming back and again, which really worried me, which was whether my old truck would make the 1,700 miles round trip to California with the loaded trailer, going over the several mountain passes, winter storms, and strong winds along the way.

The old truck in the Death Valley.

I had tested the truck’s towing capacity with the empty trailer. At slow, city speeds there was barely a change in pulling or stopping power.  At highway speeds I could tell there was something dragging behind it but overall the truck felt good and solid.


Going up Willamette Pass, March 2017

However, there were two conditions where I did not test the truck ahead of this trip due to lack of time and which worried me:  how the ruck would pull the fully loaded the trailer (two motorcycles and the riding gear, tools, and what I need for the five days effectively doubled its weight, I estimate the loaded trailer was at about 3,000lbs); and on top of that, how would it manage going up and down the steep passes that I need to go through on this trip?  While 3,000 lbs is within the truck’s towing capacity (3,500lbs for the 1996 five speed, 4×4, 302 V8, Ford F150), that towing limit was rated for a new truck in factory condition, I would say. 21 years later several horses have certainly escaped the barn.

I knew I would only test the truck’s capacity in the real application, like many projects I do.  Therefore I had a plan B, should I have any problem with the truck, which would be to rent a truck.  And if this would be an issue, the long term plan would be to buy a newer truck, with an automatic transmission (better towing capacity with a torque converter).


Trailer almost fully loaded.

Meanwhile one thing I learned is that the trailer made loading everything for this trip a breeze. That ramp was perfect for loading the bikes, the riding gear, and everything else I needed to “live” in this trailer on this five-day trip. At first I thought the two bikes would not fit side by side, requiring some strategic thinking to load the bikes, instead, they fit well and it was very easy to load and secure them (no wheel chock, by the way).

A second lesson I learned about having a trailer is that I took with me a lot more than what I really needed for this trip. The old saying “if you build it, they will come” may have a version that says “if you have the space, you will use it”. I made some mental notes about this issue so that on the next trip I can make sure I only bring with me what I really need and may downsize on other items.

Survived the first pass (Willamette Pass @ Hwy 58)!

I good portion of my worries about the truck’s capacity to do this job were dismissed as I started my drive south.  I took highway 58 towards Willamette Pass, which was my first test of the truck’s towing capacity.  It went up the pass with the appropriate downshifting, sometimes down to third gear. On those circumstances I was traveling at about 45-50 mph, a similar pace as to the tractor-trailers, which was important.  But other than climbing or going down hills and mountains, the truck behaved as if I was not towing anything.

For the most part I had to look back and make sure the trailer was still there

The real challenge, however, still remained for when I got to the Death Valley itself. On the way there, though, all was good and I was glad there was no snow on the road and especially at the passes along the way. However it rained and rained a lot all the way to California and then some.

Rain all the way in Oregon and in Northern California

Just north of Susanville the weather cleared and from there it was smooth sailing all the way to Bishop, CA, where I spent the night.

Just about getting past the last rain shower on the way south

The Death Valley 2017 Edition involved five groups of people, four of them from California.  We were a total of eight people, six riders for this adventure.  Three of these groups met in Bishop, CA, before going down to Death Valley, repeating last year’s stop at the Paiute Casino RV parking area.

Just getting there is already part of the adventure. Nice views on Hwy 139.

Eugene to Bishop is a 630 mile journey, about 1,000 km, which took me about 12-13 hours with the loaded truck. I left Eugene past 11am and arrived in Bishop past midnight.  The other two groups were there already, on the Paiute RV parking area just north of town.  I spread my pad and sleeping bag between the bikes and slept in the trailer for the first time, surrounded by the bikes and all my gear.  It was really cold, my 32 degrees sleeping bag with an extra liner did not do a good job in keeping me warm.  I had extra blankets in one of my gear containers, but I was too cold and too lazy to go look for them in the middle of the night.  I just slept in the cold as much as I could. Another lesson learned is to be better prepared for sleeping with the trailer loaded, keeping all the “on the trip” sleeping stuff together and with easy access.

Bishop is a nice location to spend the night for this long trip simply because it is close enough to the Death Valley.  If you leave Bishop by mid-morning you arrive in the Death Valley in time to check in and go for a ride before night fall.  As it has become a tradition on these pit stops, in the morning we stopped at the Schat’s Bakery for a cup of coffee and get some bread and pastries supplies.

Erick Schat’s Bakery, Bishop, CA

I highly recommend this bakery if you are driving through Bishop. Since then, however, I’ve heard of another good bakery south of town, the Great Basin Bakery, which is supposed to be really good as well. I will give it a try next time.  After coffee we got back on the road.

Beautiful area of this country!

We stopped for fuel (fuel is very expensive in the Death Valley) and continued south and east, and in no time we arrived at the Death Valley park under clear and sunny skies.

The convoy of three arriving at the Death Valley National Park

The truck did well so far, but it still would need to go up the steepest climb of this trip, the real challenge, which would be climbing up and down the mountains that are part of the Panamint Range inside the park.  The truck did it, however I had to take it down to second gear.  At a speed of 25 mph, with the air conditioning turned off, it was a long and slow climb.

On the way back, on these same climbs, the engine light came on.  I stopped, checked everything, all fluids looked good, I did not see anything out of place. Eventually, after a few stops, with the ignition key being turned on and off several times, the engine light turned itself off.  Who knows what triggered it, except that some key engine information went beyond its expected parameters.  And I guess it was a temporary situation.

Climbing these steep mountains inside the part, second gear at 25 mph

Back to the trip, all teams arrived at about the same time, we got settled on our camping area (Stovepipe Wells), we unloaded the bikes, and without much ado we were out for a ride towards Skidoo mines and then Aguareberry Point for the sunset.  It was really warm in the valley, which leads me to another lesson:  windows are not enough to manage hot days in the trailer, I will need to install a roof vent.  I already looked into this, and when I complete this task I will prepare a complete post about the cargo trailer turned into a toy hauler travel trailer.

Bikes unloaded, ready for the first ride!

What I can say is that my worries about this trip were dissipated, the old truck made it.  Besides the engine light, the only other problem I noticed was that the truck pulled to the right when braking hard with the weight of the trailer.  I need to investigate that.  And gas consumption varied from 9 to 11 mpg, down from its usual 12-15 mpg.  I assume this is normal for a V8.

I plan to keep this truck for as long as it can make these trips.  The day it doesn’t make one of these trips or something else major happens to it, that will be the time to get something newer and more capable.  For now, it does all right and in my mind it would be a waste of resources to spend money on another truck.

A very good truck.

On the next post I will document our first ride of this trip, when we visited the Skidoo mining area and the Aguereberry Point.

First ride of the trip: Coming down from the Skidoo mining area in the magic hour.

Stay tuned and thank you for reading.







Posted in Riding the Honda, Riding the Yamaha, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Death Valley 2017 Edition – Part 2 – Getting stuff ready for the trip

I worked on three main items to get ready for this year’s trip to the Death Valley:  got a trailer and prepared it for the trip; performed a couple of upgrades on the Honda; and a couple of upgrades on the Yamaha.  Let’s start with the Honda.

The Honda CB500X Adventure in the Titus Canyon, Death Valley, March 2017

Getting the Honda Ready

Last year I bought the Honda CB500X and turned it into an adventure motorcycle by installing the Rally Raid level III kit.  This year all I had to do was fine-tune the bike’s adventure fitness by installing auxiliary lights (Denali DR1), adjusting the compression on the rear shock, and adding the double-take mirrors. That was it!

Denali DR1 lights installed on the CB500X, February 2017

There is no question there is quality on these Denali lights. They come in a nice box, with a proper wiring kit, with great instructions, and they have a list of mounting accessories and lens filters.  I bought these lights based on reviews from other riders and the ratings on their light beam type and reach. I was looking for something powerful enough to make riding at night safer, especially when riding off road, something I would encounter on this year’s trip if judging by last year’s adventures (and it was confirmed on this year’s ride).

These lights are powerful…

But are these fancy lights worth their price? Let’s check the Ebay made-in-china lights I installed in the Yamaha, I will compare their prices and the results of both sets later on and will compare them in more detail on another post. First let’s continue with the installation on the Honda.  Denali DR1 lights have a set of accessories, as mentioned earlier, including universal mounting brackets which will fit most any motorcycle brand and mounts that are specific to a motorcycle model, as is the case for the brackets I got.

Mounting bracket, a perfect fit.

The instructions were very easy to follow, the wiring is obviously made for motorcycles by people who understand how motorcycles operate, and the kit comes with everything you need for a complete and professional installation.

Straight forward installation.

It helps that the Honda offers enough space to route the wires alongside the tank and inside the fairing all the way to the front of the bike, and the bike also has plenty of space under the seat for the fuse and the relay.

There was even a place to screw the relay under the seat of the Honda

The final assembly looks good and “official”!

Denali DR1 lights installed.

And to complete the job, I added caps to the lights which are actually lens filters.  I opted for the transparent “flood” option, which diffuses the light (they come in spot light or flood options, transparent or yellow).

Denali snap-on filter lens

It is basically a plastic cap that fits on top of the light and, for my application in the desert, with all the gravel and rocks, also serve as a lens protector.

The final result of installing the Denali DR1 lights was a much improved field of vision at night. On top of that, they are great looking lights and when using the filter caps to protect the lens, these lights are perfect for adventure riding.

Thumbs up for these lights.  However, they are expensive… The Denali DR1 was $350 for the set of lights, $60 for the mounting bracket, and $40 for the lens filters (caps), for a total of $450.  Looking in retrospect, and based on what I installed in the Yamaha, I would not recommend buying the Denali set (or any similar and expensive set) unless you worry about how the bike looks. As mentioned before, I will compare the two sets on another post.

This bike is all set for adventure.

The next job on the Honda was to adjust the rear shock.  The main objective was to adjust the pre-load, get the bike on the proper sag, which required a simple adjustment to the shock’s lock nut, something I should had done last year.

By the way, the tool that came with the Rally Raid kit specifically included to adjust the lock nut by the round holes in the collar of the shock is not very appropriate, as the shock collar material does not have the strength to support the torque of the required turning force.  I ended up having to use a different tool that embraced the entire nut to be able to turn it properly.

I did not have a chance to test ride the bike after the adjustment before until I rode it in the Death Valley. My very first impression when I first turned a wheel on the bike after the adjustment was that my rear tire was deflated, so soft the bike became. As a result, the bike was almost an inch lowered, more comfortable, and still handled great on gravel roads. Thumbs up for the Rally Raid rear shock!

Adjusting the shock

The final touch was to install the double take mirrors. Easy job on the installation, they look better and are more appropriate than the OEM for the adventure application, but with mixed practical results.  They were constantly needing adjustment, I was never able to tighten them firm enough, it seemed.  But at least I could re-tighten them easily and on the go, as opposed to the OEMs, and eventually after so much clamping force was applied to it that it deformed the ram ball mount enough for the mirrors to stay put.  Therefore, I’m not convinced this is a permanent solution yet. Anyway, at this point this bike is all set for adventure, it is ready to go on a trip around the world.

Ready for adventure. This bike has proven that it can ride on all types of roads.

Getting the Yamaha Ready

Now let’s talk about the Yamaha.  In terms of auxiliary lights, my original plan was to install auxiliary light wiring kits on both bikes and transfer the Denali DR1 lights to the bike I would ride.  After I finished the work on the lights for the Honda I thought some more about this and decided for a different set of lights for the Yamaha.

The Denali sets are too expensive for the Yamaha, I concluded.  There is nothing wrong with the Yamaha, mind you, just that it is a bike that is set for trail and technical riding and therefore more prone to being dropped… It turned out to be a very good decision in hindsight, but that is for another chapter.  Therefore, I chose a cheap set of lights for the Yamaha, some Chinese-made knock offs of Kawell sets (which already are cheap sets of auxiliary lights) called Liteway.  They are 4-inch diameter sets rated at 27w (the Denali DR1s are rated at 10w).

No-brand LED lights for the Yamaha

The lights came on generic boxes, with the minimum you need to install them (a set of screws and a mounting bracket that allows angling the light right/left and up/down).  I had to purchase the wiring harness separately, but for about $15 for the harness, it was a deal.  The lights themselves are less than $15 a pair, so I bought two sets, one called “flood” the other called “spot” but to be honest with you, I don’t think they are different at all.  Anyway, I installed one flood light and one spot light on the bike, for maximum lighting potential, and now I have a back up set of lights.  For a final tally, two sets of lights and the wiring harness (which is very similar to the harness for the Denali) cost $45, which is exactly 10% of what I paid on the Denali DR1.

What about a mounting bracket to install these lights on the bike?  It happened that I had L-brackets in my shop supplies and those brackets worked perfectly with the bike’s reflector bracket.  For better looks I cut the horizontal side of the L-bracket to match the lights support bracket length, and bent the vertical side of he L-bracket to match the reflector bend (and added another bolt hole to the bike’s bracket – it had only one). These lights are not motorcycle lights, they are made for off-road trucks.  The wiring harness I bought was also not made for motorcycles so I had to cut it shorter.  The result was a perfect and solid enough fit!  It looks a bit, let’s say, industrial, not to say rigged, but it worked perfectly well.

Generic L-bracket bolted to bike’s reflector bracket was perfect for the “Liteway” lights installation.

The Yamaha has very limited space in its frame, under the plastic fairing, and under the seat to install the wiring and the relay.  It was tight but it worked!

Wiring harness – tight spaces to fit it on this bike.

Because these lights are made for trucks, they are disproportionately large for the motorcycle.  At the same time, they look a bit rugged (let’s say they are not fancy-looking or sophisticated).  They probably wouldn’t look too good on the Ducati, or maybe the Tiger, but they would fit the Honda well enough, I would say.  In the Yamaha, it looks like a perfect fit to me, especially if they can do the job for under $45. Actually, under $30 (since $45 was the price for the wiring kit and the two sets of lights). And the lights worked very well in a real application in the Death Valley, as I will document later.  Thumbs up for the Liteway LED auxiliary lights set!

Testing the lights on the Yamaha

Another task for the Yamaha was to get a new rear tire.

Getting it ready for a new rear tire

I opted for the Michelin T63 just because it was the only tire available on the size I needed for this bike at my friend Rod Johnson’s shop (Cycle Parts).  By the way, if you are in this  area, buy tires at Cycle Parts, they will install them for free (if you bring the wheels only and not the entire bike).  As a policy, I will always try to buy things directly at the local shops instead of online or on franchise stores.  I know, it seems like a lost cause these days of online shopping, but while these local shops are operating I will support them by giving them a first option!

The Yamaha on top of Mengel Pass

Besides the tire, the only other item to install for this bike to be ready were the double take mirrors (same set as in the Honda, just different RAM ball base so I did not need to change those from bike to bike). Oh, yes, and an oil change, of course.

Bike parked at Ballarat.

Buying the trailer and getting it ready for this trip and beyond

The final and most labor-intensive item for this trip was the trailer.  It is something I’ve been thinking about for a while – a simple trailer that makes it easy for me to load the bikes on my own, and at the same time I can sleep in it. I did some research, looked around for a while. I wanted a trailer that could be pulled by my truck, a 1996 4×4 Ford F150 with the 302 motor (5.0L V8), matted to a 5-speed transmission and a 3.55 rear axle ratio.  While an automatic Ford F150 of the same vintage and with the same specs can pull more than 6,000 lbs, the 5-speed is limited to 3,500lbs.

1996 F150 towing capacity

Eventually I will upgrade this truck, but I need a very good reason for doing it first. I paid slightly more than $5,000 for this truck about 10 years ago, it was such a deal, I just find it to be a complete waste of money to get rid of considering it works really well, it doesn’t burn any oil, the air conditioning blows cold air.

Even if this truck had a larger towing capacity, I would still prefer to have a smaller trailer rather than a larger one.  I was looking for something that would be as manageable as possible (easy to maneuver, hook it up, and store) and also as inexpensive as possible – after all, I didn’t want the trailer, a tool in my opinion, to be more expensive than any of my motorcycles.

Therefore, the parameters were set. It would be an enclosed trailer that would be the lightest and smallest trailer that would: 1) fit two motorcycles; 2) have a ramp door to easily load the bikes; 3) once the motorcycles were unloaded it could accommodate a cot, a table, and a cooking/sink area; and 4) be tall enough for me to walk inside it without hitting my head on the ceiling, so the interior height needed to be taller than 6ft (but not too much taller than that to minimize air displacement when moving).

That’s all I needed and I stuck to the minimum necessary.  Looking at all options available, I decided for a 6×12 enclosed trailer, with a single axle.  These trailers weigh about 1,500lbs with a carrying capacity of another 1,500 lbs with the gross weight rated at 3,000lbs. Perfect to carry two motorcycles and gear (or even three motorcycles).  I looked at used trailers but not much could be found in this area. Therefore I chose what was available locally, a brand new Interstate Victory available at Trailer Plus.  Chris and Brandon, from Trailer Plus helped me with the purchase process and were very patient with my many questions and ideas.  They contributed to this built by offering ideas and suggestions. Thanks guys!

6 x 12 Interstate Victory at Trailer Plus

This trailer has the perfect size to fit two motorcycles (as mentioned earlier, I could squeeze three bikes if needed), it has a nice loading ramp, and the perfect height.

Loading ramp, side door, a blank canvas at this point.

I had no interest in turning it into a bug-out or stealth camping trailer, so the guys at TrailerPlus installed three windows to make it as livable or enjoyable as possible, and  three sets of etracks (one set on the floor and two sets on the walls) which allows me to organize the bikes and cargo on several different ways.  They also installed a full electric hookup (120 volts) with one light fixture and two double outlets.

Building it to my specs

And then I organized the front of the trailer to accommodate a bench area for cooking, I installed a sink, which connects to a gray water tank, and installed a refrigerator.

Building the shelves for the front of the trailer.

The refrigerator will be used at my shop as well, when not in use at the trailer. I also organized some fabric to serve as curtains. And it was done!

All set: 5-gallon water with fixture for sink, 5-gallon gray water tank, 5-gallon reserve water, Coleman stove top, Coleman cot, refrigerator.

The bikes fit very well with plenty of space left for carrying other travel gear and equipment on the sides (cot, table, chair, riding gear, chairs, etc).  And I was able to lay my pad and sleeping bag between the bikes to sleep on the way in and back on the trip to the Death Valley.

Plenty of room!

When the bikes were unloaded, I installed a folding table and chair on the back of the trailer, perfect to work on my computer (manage the photos, videos) and charge cameras, etc.

What else do I need for a travel trailer?

Perfect set up.  What else would someone need, right? Okay, what about a hammock? Check!

Now you are talking!

I will prepare a post dedicated to the trailer where I will discuss in more detail the choice of trailer and the build after I finish the Death Valley set of posts (it has a couple of other features I did not include here and one other accessory that I will install to make it a nice and complete travel trailer, toy hauler).  All I can say for now is that it worked very well, it did its job, it completed its first 1,700 miles providing four nights of service and safely carried two motorcycles.

Leaving Bishop, CA, going towards Reno, NV.

As always, I had a great time in the shop, getting things ready for the trip.  This time I had this small heater to help take the edge of the cold nights while I worked on the bikes.  This thing goes through canisters faster than I go through beers…

Mr Heater to the rescue on the cold winter nights at the shop

Talking about beer, I usually drink Indian Pale Ale beers, my favorite kind of beer, perfect for an Oregonian (I’ve been living here longer than 10 years, I should qualify as Oregonian by now for the time invested here or for my taste of beer, whichever is more important).  But I had some left over Pabst Blue Ribbons from a barbecue with friends at my house and had to finish this supply. They taste like nothing but are light, perfect to accompany me in my work on the bikes.  Note: I do not recommend anyone to drink and operate power tools, machinery, or to work on anything that require fine dexterity (of course and don’t drink and drive or ride).

PBR company

That was it for this portion of my Death Valley 2017 Edition report.  Stay tuned for the next chapter when I will report my trip to the Death Valley, my impressions about the 1996 Ford truck and how it handled the fully loaded trailer going up and own passes and dealing with heavy winds.

Thank you for reading.

Posted in Riding the Honda, Riding the Yamaha | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Forget about motorcycles!

Forget about motorcycles, let’s do something else for mechanical entertainment.

It is not an April fool’s joke, neither a permanent decision.  It reflects, however, the need to get my lawn mower ready for the grass growing season. And why not use the motorcycle lift to work on it?

Well, I did wash the Honda this morning, before it started raining.  I will continue that work on the Honda and then the Yamaha, the two bikes that went to the Death Valley, tomorrow. For now, let’s do the basic maintenance on the Troy Bilt / Honda lawn mower and let’s start spring the right way.

I will continue my report on the Death Valley trip very soon as well. The next chapter will be the work for getting ready which includes fun activities (well, they are fun for me) such as installing auxiliary lights on the Honda and the Yamaha, buying the trailer, and working on the trailer.

Trailer almost ready for action, March 2017

Fun work!  More on that soon!  Thank you for reading.

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Death Valley 2017 Edition, Part 1

I would guess everyone has a short list of places they like to visit multiple times.  The Death Valley is one of these places for me.  Geographically speaking it is large enough for me to experience new places every time I’m there.

On top of Mengel Pass with the WR250R, March 2017

That’s not the main reason to return to that park, however.  I don’t mind going back to the same roads and places every time, I don’t mind riding on the same roads.  Just being in such a challenging location is plenty good. Each time there is a chance to learn a bit more about human endeavors in general, how much humans are willing to risk in such inhospitable conditions for the expectation of making good money.

Skidoo mine area, March 2017

Or how people use the Death Valley area simply to hide from the rest of the world as was the case for Charles Manson who envisioned an apocalyptic race war which he called Helter Skelter (after the 1968 Beattles’ song from The White Album), and while committing a long list of other crimes, hid out at Barker Ranch just a few miles up from Ballarat off of Goller Wash.

Charles Manson truck, Ballarat, Califonia, March 2017

If that is not enough, it is guaranteed, roads and landscapes will look different from year to year depending on the time of the day you travel through them, the weather conditions you will experience at the moment you visit locations in the park will be different from year to year, or the roads you know well will be different according to how they have been impacted by winter storms.

Stripped Butte, something I completely missed last year when trying to outrun a rain storm right at this same place.

Last year we experienced rain storms and sand storms.  This year it was above the average hot for this time of the year, temperatures were hitting the mid to upper nineties during the day at the bottom of the valleys, and everyday followed the next with clear blue skies.

Arriving at West Side Road. Last year this view was not possible, as we were covered by a sand storm.

Of course, traveling back and forth from Oregon to the Death Valley is already part of the experience.

Getting close to Susanville on my way south, March 2017

I did some minor work on the bikes preparing for this trip.  The large ticket item being auxiliary lights on both bikes, which proved very good on this year’s ride.

The CB500X and the WR250R got auxiliary lights, February 2017

The biggest preparation however, which was part of the planning for this trip and hopefully will work for other motorcycle adventures, was the purchase of an enclosed cargo trailer and setting it up to be a motorcycle trailer and sleeping quarters for these trips.

Electricity, windows and e-tracks installed on the trailer. February, 2017

My biggest worry about this trip was whether my 1996 Ford F150 truck, with the 5.0 Liter V-8 (302 motor) would be able to pull this trailer which would be about 3,000lbs fully loaded.  But it made it, no problems.  There were some moments, such as climbing out of the valley of the Death Valley at 90 degrees temperature when the truck would not go past 2nd gear and 25 mph, but other than that, it did very well at normal highway speeds, when the wind did not blow too hard.

The old truck made it to the Death Valley and back, once again. March 2017

This time around I met with two of the riders from last year’s trip and three other riders joined the group, and then two other friends joined us on a very nice and new Ford Raptor.

The riders of the Death Valley 2017 edition

On the following posts I will be describing the preparations for this trip and the rides we’ve taken on the 2017 edition.  We had a great time, the riders were all very good.  If counting the crashes and bike drops, I would be rated the worst rider of the group, as the WR250R had its chance to show how strong it is, surviving very creative crashes.  The CB500X survived unscathed, meaning I did not drop it or crash it and it ran flawlessly.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Riding the Honda, Riding the Yamaha, The Book | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s always a motorcycle that will inspire me…

There is always a motorcycle that will inspire me to write or ride.  Usually they are  adventure or scrambler motorcycles. Every now and then, though, there is a different kind of motorcycle being the source of inspiration. The last time this happened, in 2012, the bike in question was the 2012 848 Streetfighter.  It inspired me, I acquired it, it became an interesting detour in my riding style which culminated with my decision to get my 2013 Multistrada Pikes Peak. I miss that yellow 848 Streetfighter.

The Ducati 848, May 16 2012

The Ducati 848, soon after I purchased it, May 16 2012

Although I did not stay with that bike for too long, I had a great time with it. It turns out, one of my favorite shots of this bike is on the banner of this site, I like keeping it there even if it has nothing to do with the bikes I ride as a rule.

McKenzie Pass, Oregon. July 4th, 2012

McKenzie Pass, Oregon. July 4th, 2012

This winter has been exceptionally hard for me, work has been stressful and then there is the weather; I’m just looking out of the window of my office as I type these words, it is a Sunday morning, March 5th 2017, and it is snowing on my backyard.

I’m writing this post after having watched a wave of Youtube reviews on the new 2017 Ducati Supersport following its launch in Spain three weeks back.  What is interesting about this motorcycle’s reviews is that just about everyone who rode this bike is telling the same story about it.

Was it the Ducati marketing spiel during the press meeting what influenced the reviewers’ opinions? Usually a well made presentation evens up the pitch, you can hear the reviewers regurgitating the same information they had just heard from manufacturer’s officials. On the other hand, perhaps these journalists and riders who had a chance to see it, ride it on road and on track, have all of them perceived it the same way, because that’s the way the bike really is.

The 2017 Supersport has distinctly and officially piqued my interest based on these reviews.  On paper, it seems interesting as well. Now I need to see one and ride one to make my own mind about it. Meanwhile, there is no question, this bike has inspired me.

The 2017 Ducati Supersport S

The 2017 Ducati Supersport S

The 2017 Supersport brings back an evolved view of a Ducati tradition

I do not connect this new bike with its history, the history of the Super Sport line which eventually became Supersport, simply because that history occurred before my time and before my exposure to Ducati motorcycles.  But it is an important historical and iconic motorcycle or line of motorcycles for Ducati.

The 1974 Super Sport model, the first of them, was the result of a confluence of important names in Ducati’s history: Paul Smart’s victory at the Imola 200 in 1971 on a 750 V-twin (the first series of V-twin motors), and the accounts of Fabio Taglioni’s interest in designing something more aggressive, culminating with the 1974 750 Super Sport.  The result was a bike built around that first winning V-Twin motor, created for or responding to a new and growing group of riders, street riders interested in riding sporty motorcycles.  And history tells us this bike represented a new chapter in the Ducati history books.

The 1974 Super Sport

The 1974 Super Sport

You may be interested in looking back at that significance of Paul Smart’s victory, Fabio Taglioni’s designs, and the concept of the Super Sport motorcycle, in case you are new to Ducati and have an interest on this bike.  New Ducati owners, and I’m partly on this group, probably have today a completely different view of what Ducati is all about, which is very much representative of the brand’s evolution, where it is today after so many years of changes.

If you have an interest in the Ducati history, there’s plenty to read about the 70s, when the move from single cylinder to V-twin motors took place, it’s all over the internet, so I will not repeat that information and bother you with it here. However, in case you want to know more or refresh your memory about the Super Sport line of Ducati motorcycles I recommend you read a very recent historical review on these bikes by Bennetts which was written in anticipation of the launch of the 2017 Supersport

Ducati Super Sport

Ducati Super Sport

To summarize, this line of bikes has had several iterations with different levels of success. According to some, the bikes that followed the 1974 SS all remain in its shadow.  Among the several Ducati business “ownerships” during so many years, Claudio Castiglioni (ownership period 1985-1996) changed this line’s name from Super Sport to Supersport.

Some say this change in the name was because the bike had become a tamer version of a super sport bike, which seems to characterize today’s interpretation of the Supersport, a tame, easy to ride motorcycle, according to the reviews following the launch.

And to complete this model’s story, 2006 was the last year a Supersport was produced until the 2017 model.

2006 Ducati Supersport

2006 Ducati Supersport, the last one of the previous series until the 2017 model

In those early 2000’s the Multistrada was a fresh new style, offered a type of riding that was experiencing growing popularity. The popularity of the Multistrada may have been what put the Supersport line into the sidelines, and also the Sport Touring line of motorcycles. I’m not certain about this, but it is a possible scenario to explain why Ducati ended the Supersport and also the Sport Touring lines.  After all, the Multistrada is a multi-roads and styles motorcycle, with its four riding modes: sport, touring, urban and enduro, especially after the 2010 model.

2007 Ducati Sport Touring (ST3)

2007 Ducati Sport Touring (ST3)

Perhaps the day after those motorcycle lines ended (SS and ST) some Ducati fans were already asking Ducati to bring them back to the market.  Instead, Ducati has broadened the Multistrada line which now has three main subgroups (1200, 1200 Enduro, and 950 models, aside from trim levels such as the “S” model and the Pikes Peak).

On the sport side of the equation, Ducati sharpened its sport offerings with the Panigale line which now comes in several versions as well distributed by displacement, purpose, trim levels, and special editions.  These are very specialized, technical machines.

It seems as if a gap opened up on the line up, with on one end the multi-purpose machine around the Multistrada line, which does all things well, but with compromises here and there, or very serious, specialized sport machines with the Panigale line on the other end.

2017 Ducati Supersport S

2017 Ducati Supersport S

Ducati seems to have captured that missing gap, the Supersport and Sport Touring into one package, under the Supersport name.  For some reviewers, the 2017 Supersport represents the return of the Sport Touring bikes, since it can be ordered with semi-rigid panniers, it comes with three-position adjustable windshield, more upright ergonomics for the rider, and a passenger seat.  On the other hand, it obviously is Ducati’s answer for the requests for a Suportsport as well, a more subdued sport line of bikes, if at all, since Supersport is on the name of the bike.

The Multistrada is a good sport touring motorcycle, I know, I own one.  But it lacks the sport line looks, a finesse in design and in behavior.  And the Panigale line is something different, it has always been a family of precise, technical bikes for the track or for road riding, targeted to performance-oriented riders, and hence somewhat challenging to the public at large. Personally, I’ve never considered a Panigale a bike to own, except if I was a collector.

More than filling a gap, the 2017 Supersport opens the door for possibilities.  I do think it will be a good seller.

2017 Ducati Supersport S

2017 Ducati Supersport S

What moves the Supersport

This bike has the same 937cc V-twin motor as the one on the Multistrada 950, the Hypermotard and Hyperstrada line.  Ducati is quoted as saying the motor is different on the Supersport, however, with different crank, throttle bodies, and different heads as the motor is part of the motorcycle frame, similar to what happens on the Panigale.

The bike’s front end is similar to the Panigale line, beautiful indeed, contrasting with the rear end which is more rounded and could be better compared to the rear of the Monster.

The bike comes with Ducati’s “safety pack” with three levels of ABS (Bosch 9 series – not sure it includes the so-called “cornering” ABS), eight levels of traction control, and three riding modes (sport, touring and urban).

It comes in two trims, with the “S” bringing on the goodies such as fully adjustable Ohlins on both ends, up and down quick-shifter with throttle blip on the down shifting, an optional color (silk white besides the Ducati red) and a rear seat cowl.

The motor produces the same 113 hp found on the Multistrada 950 and Hypermotard/Hyperstrada although with slightly different torque specifications.

  • Engine: Testastretta 11°, L-Twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
  • Displacement: 937 cc
  • Bore X stroke: 94 x 67.5
  • Compression ratio: 12,6± 0.5 :1
  • Power: 113 hp @ 9.000 RPM
  • Torque: 71.3 lb-ft @ 6.500 RPM

This is not earth-shattering power, but the reviews seem to indicate it is enough for this bike.

So, what are journalists and reviewers saying about this bike?

It is interesting that journalists and reviewers seem to agree on the subjective experience about this motorcycle, on matters where usually people differ if not in direction, then on degree.  And what they agree about resonates with what I’ve been wanting on a motorcycle since I sold my Streetfighter and started to enjoy street riding with my Tiger 800XC and Multistrada.

The Yellow Ducati and the Heceta Lighthouse. September 23rd, 2012

The Yellow Ducati and the Heceta Lighthouse. September 23rd, 2012

It took me a while to feel comfortable enough on the Multistrada to eventually make it go faster then my Tiger 800XC.  Of course, the Multistrada is a much more competent motorcycle on the road, has better brakes, better suspension, a lot more power, but it is not as easy and fluid to manage as the Tiger 800 XC, with its slow but steady front end, linear fueling, fluidity of the three cylinder motor, short gears, and drama-free brakes (not efficient brakes, but easy to operate).

The Multistrada has required some getting used to, after two or three riding seasons, however, I was able to extract more of what it is all about and now it is my unambiguous choice when the plan is to reach the mountains and their curvy roads. It is much safer and faster than the Triumph.  Please note, I still consider myself a beginner when it comes to road riding and I definitely do not extract all of what the Multistrada can deliver.

Regular visit to Sisters via McEnzie Pass

Regular visit to Sisters via McEnzie Pass

Going further back on my riding history, my 848 Streetfighter was a tame version of its Streetfighter S bigger brother, but it was still a raw motorcycle in my opinion. It had plenty of power for its size and a motor that really felt good when ridden aggressively. But it was rough on the edges, which I’m sure is great for aggressive riders, but that is not my case.

That’s where the Supersport comes into the conversation.  Journalists have described the 2017 Ducati Supersport as a motorcycle that is easy to ride.  The power, they claim, is in that sweet spot, not too much, just enough.  They claim the bike’s handling is spot on, making it easy for anyone to extract more from what the bike can deliver.

Here are some quotes:

The bike is incredibly agile and easy to handle (…) It feels like a Ducati sport bike for the road, one that you can ride every day. Marc Potter, Bennetts

There are surely aging Ducati fans weary of superbike ergonomics but feel too young at heart for a touring bike. And Ducati thinks that there are sprightly newcomers who want Panigale looks without the terror of 160hp. Makes sense. (…) It’s a stately and venerable concept that deserves to be alive and well. Splits the difference between superbike and sport-tourer, true to the Ducati name. Zack Courts, Motorcyclist

The SuperSport lacks the outright aggression of a more focused bike like the Panigale 959, but on road and track it delivers a magic blend of composure, comfort and sporting agility. And it’s superb on the road; Ducati really has got the handling and ride feel spot-on because it fully delivers across the gamut of the riding and rider its aimed at. Simon Greenacre, Visordown

“Sport riding experience anywhere, anytime.” One of Ducati’s official line on this bike.

Will I buy this motorcycle?

My motorcycle budget for this year has already been topped off, so I know it will not happen this year.  I did not purchase a motorcycle this year, but I did acquire something that will hopefully take me riding to different and more places this year, and which could actually be something to consider for a future purchase of a motorcycle such as the Supersport.  More on that soon.

Having said that, there are three motorcycles on my “would like to own” short list and the Supersport is on this list. Of course, its permanence on this soft list will depend on my own perceptions of what people mean by the “comfort ergos” been talked about in reference to this bike and my take on its performance. I definitely want to ride it, who knows, I might like it too much.

I would certainly welcome an opportunity to better explore road riding – a job that was started by the 848 Streetfighter – with a machine that is suitable to my not so aggressive riding style, and has been filled by the Multistrada and the Tiger, while the adventure duties have fallen into the Rally Raid CB500X and the WR250R.

Thank you for reading!


Posted in Bike Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The count down to Spring has started!

Nothing like an unusually set of cold weeks here in west-central Oregon for me to officially start the count down for Spring .  March 20 is when it will happen in 2017. As of today 62 days separate us from officially celebrating it. The sun, with its companions warmth, longer days, and great riding, is on its way back.

No way Jose.

No way Jose, she said.

I could use the couple of snow storms interspersed with ice rain we’ve had here in Oregon as an excuse not to ride and not to write.  Well, it was a strong contributor together with travel with family, to visit friends, and for work, preventing me from riding.

São Paulo, Brazil

Landing at Guarulhos Airport, São Paulo, Brazil.

Landing at Guarulhos Airport, São Paulo, Brazil – a sea of tall condominiums.

Porto Alegre, Brazil

Landing at Salgado Filho Airport, in Porto Alegre.

Landing at Salgado Filho Airport, in Porto Alegre, an undiscovered paradise.

Ice Rain in Eugene

Beautiful but destructive icerain

Beautiful but destructive ice rain

Unusual set of snow days in Eugene.

Nice walk by the river on a snow day

Nice walk by the river on a snow day

Keeping me away from writing, on the other hand, has been an expedition on video editing. It seems people have been watching Youtube videos instead of reading blogs for getting informal information on topics of interest.

Maybe I’m only speaking for myself? I have three Youtube channels, one of them is called “TheCDANet”.  I’ve had this channel for several years, there are several videos on this channel, mostly riding footage.  Since most of these videos are in unedited form, I barely have 50 subscribers on that channel. I also started an “I’d rather be riding” channel to become the official companion of this blog.  I started it several months ago but have not made any videos for it yet.  Over the holidays I started another channel, this one is for personal and family stories. I have only one video on that channel and it went viral. Viral within my family that is.

This scenario has to change.  I don’t know how far I will go in terms of making videos, but during the winter break I uploaded Adobe Premier Pro (Creative Cloud) and started learning about video editing.  I have enough footage to make videos from past rides in the Death Valley, in northern California, the Steens (here in Oregon), a few test rides, or to simply discuss something about each of my own bikes. Let’s see how that goes.

Meanwhile, this new year looks promising in terms of riding. I already organized my annual epic (to me) rides; one will be to the Death Valley (CB500X Adventure and WR250R), and another to Northern California (Multistrada). And I’m planning to start another annual ride to my beloved Oregon’s southeast area (likely a solo ride).  And for the following years I would like to start a series of rides to the various Backcountry Discovery Routes. Ultimately, who knows when but certainly not this year, there will be a ride to Alaska and another to Patagonia, two places I’ve visited before by car or plane and can’t wait to be on those places on a motorcycle.  I would also like to take a road riding course and get some track days on my belt as well.

For now, though, the bikes are safely dry in the stable. Looking at this picture, don’t they seem as anxious as I am about the start of the new riding season?

Bikes waiting for better riding days

Bikes waiting for better riding days

Up next, in preparation for the Death Valley ride I will do some maintenance and improvement work on the Honda and the Yamaha.  I’m just waiting for warmer days (typically, Oregon winters are not too cold, so those warmer days will come soon) so I can start working on the bikes.  For now, all I do in the garage is to transfer the battery tender from one bike to another.

Battery tender, keeping all bikes charged!

Battery tender, keeping all bikes charged and ready to go!

One of the improvements to the Honda will be a set of auxiliary lights.  Last year, on our Death Valley rides, we always came back to camp after dark. This time I will be ready for it. Santa Klaus stopped by and delivered a set of Denali single-intensity lights that should illuminate plenty of trail ahead of me for possible night rides.  I got another set of wires and switches for these lights, so besides the Honda, another bike will get the privilege of having these lights as well, likely the Yamaha for now.

These lights are powerful...

These lights are powerful… 695 feet will be plenty good on a gravel road

Other work on the Honda will include installing a set of adventure riding mirrors, adjustments to the rear shock, and adjustments to the clutch cable, all needed improvements based on last year’s experience riding this bike on the Death Valley.  The Yamaha will get  adventure mirrors as well (maybe the same set for both bikes) and a new rear tire.  They will both get oil changes, and other basic maintenance work of course.

I hope you are all doing well, are enjoying the new year, and are looking forward to the 2017 riding season!  Thank you for reading.

Posted in Random Thoughts, The Book | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Yamaha T7: An ideal adventure/rally machine one step closer to reality!

Are you ready for this?

Yamaha T7 concept

Yamaha T7 concept

Exactly two years ago, at EICMA 2014, Honda delivered a concept motorcycle, the much rumored and anticipated Africa Twin.  To many it was the answer for what they always wanted.  To others, myself included, it missed the mark.

New Africa Twin prototype

New Africa Twin prototype

Honda delivered a great motorcycle, and perhaps it was the first motorcycle to make a dent on the BMW and KTM hegemony at the top of the charts of adventure motorcycles.  But aside from DCT (dual clutch automatic transmission which is not a consensus as a needed equipment to begin with) and a dual air cleaner system in the place usually taken by the fuel tank (which helps with a lower center of gravity when most of the tank volume sits lower), it had nothing really new to offer.  It is lighter than the large, 1200cc series of bikes, but it is heavier than the already heavy middle weight, 800cc series.

Honda Africa Twin - may have a true adventure competitor soon!

Honda Africa Twin – may have a true adventure competitor soon!

As an adventure rider, I appreciated what Honda brought to the equation. It is a compromise that many many riders appreciate, the bike certainly filled the gap left by the KTM 9X0 series and then some. It is a success story! However, the so called dual cylinder, lighter weight, rally looking and hopefully rally performing adventure motorcycle gap was not closed with the Africa Twin.

The ellusive gap... are we finally there?

The ellusive gap… are we finally there?

Since the Africa Twin did not answer my questions, and no other manufacturer answered these questions (or dreams?) up to now, I went my own way and “built” my own lighter weight, dual cylinder adventure motorcycle using a Rally Raid kit on a Honda CB500X, a  city bike (CB).  The existence of the Rally Raid kit on itself is a sign there is an unresolved gap on the motorcycle industry.

Job completed! March 2016

Honda CB500X Adventure: Rally Raid Level 3 Adventure Kit

It turns out the CB500X Adventure is a fun machine. Power, a low 48hp, is not an issue at all.  But power delivery is the issue that prevents this motorcycle to become an ideal bike for technical riding, when clutch slippage (wide and strong friction zone) is needed.  Add to it the 19 inch front wheel and limited front suspension and this bike is not there.  I enjoy it, but it remains a temporary solution.

The 2015 Honda CB500X, with Rally Raid Level 3

The 2015 Honda CB500X, with Rally Raid Level 3 “adventure” kit, in Death Valley, 2016

EICMA 2016 and Yamaha T7 – Renewed Hope!

Two years later, and Yamaha pulls the same trick at EICMA, releasing a prototype machine. Just that it looks much more like what we have been wanting, dreaming about,  and expecting, you are on the same boat I am: a dual cylinder motorcycle that is a serious off-roader, not only an adventure machine, but one that is also a rally machine. Something that has some power, but does not compromise its fun factor with extra weight or reliability issues. Is this the sweet spot?

After the Africa Twin failed to fill that spot, which is my opinion on the matter, mind you, since I know many of you like the Africa Twin, I turned my attention to other motorcycles that could fit the sweet spot.  Besides the Yamaha T7, two other motorcycles in several states of development called my attention.  One of them was launched this year at EICMA and was somewhat of a surprise, is the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled.

It is not a rally machine but it is a lot closer to the real thing when compared to the outgoing Urban Enduro.  It has more suspension travel which is adjustable (fully adjustable on the rear), more ground clearance, a 19-in front wheel (as opposed to the 18-in wheel) and the simplicity of the design.  With no fairings, it looks like the real thing!  It is not what I’m looking for, but bet it is a fun machine.

Scrambler Ducati Desert Sled

Scrambler Ducati Desert Sled

Another motorcycle that will rock this market will be the long speculated KTM 790 adventure, which in KTM fashion would likely be a rally ready machine.  KTM machines are ready to race, right?  That bike has not materialized itself yet, but a street version, the KTM Duke 790, with the anticipated parallel twin motor, has shown up in concept form at EICMA 2016.  If the motor exists, then the KTM 790 in adventure form is likely in the works.

KTM 790 Duke concept

KTM 790 Duke concept

Meanwhile we have a true concept, in my opinion the star of the 2016 edition of the EICMA, the Yamaha T7.  This is the third bike on my short list of ideal adventure machines, and top of my list pf desired machines, the dreamed and rumored Yamaha XTZ 700.  The Yamaha T7 concept is a potential appropriate size Ténéré, the real inheritor of what the XT600Z (and 750) meant to enduro machines, it seems. On looks alone this concept seems to be exactly what we have been asking for.  And Yamaha’s own words seem to confirm it.  This is what Yamaha tells us about the T7:

Many of the current middleweight Adventure models are perceived as too oriented to the street and too sophisticated. They are therefore not suitable for use in real off-road conditions. The Adventure universe needs new specimens that can offer the versatility to tackle long distances and great endurance, typical of the original Ténéré, combined with a contemporary design and top technologies.

I agree with Yamaha.  Or they may have been reading my posts and, of course, I’m only one of the many who have been asking for this motorcycle in motorcycle forums and motorcycle reviews.

Is the T7 the holly grail?

The T7 is obviously only a concept, looking very rally, enduro like, a bike ready for serious off road riding. It was developed by the Yamaha teams in Europe which include, according to my Italian friends, engineers from Yamaha’s rally team in France, research and development by the Yamaha team in Italy, and design by the Dutch team.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

The concept bike seems to have a steel frame designed specifically to cradle the 700cc parallel twin motor, lots of carbon pieces, a flat dirtbike seat, and an Akrapovic exhaust.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Add to it a very rally-like fairing, almost vertical wind-screen, and tall cockpit and the bike looks like the real thing.

LED lights on the Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

LED lights on the Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

These are items that will likely be toned down on a consumer version.  The spy or leaked photos we shared here on a previous post did not display some of the innovative design carbon pieces we see on the EICMA 2016 concept, for example. Who knows what direction Yamaha will take from this concept.

Is this Yamaha's mid-size adventure Ténéré?

Is this Yamaha’s mid-size adventure Ténéré?

What we know is that the motor is the CP2 (cross-plane two cylinder), at a minimum it is an adventure-dedicated version of the compact and light weight parallel twin, 270 degree crankshaft, 700cc, 74hp motor available on several models on the Yamaha line up (MT-07 / FZ-07 and XSR700).

MT-07 (FZ-07) 700cc parallel twin motor

MT-07 (FZ-07) 700cc parallel twin motor

Another item we can see are the 21-inch front wheel and 18-inch rear wheel.  All in all the motor, the frame, and the wheel sizes offer the backbone, the combination of parts, materials and shapes that makes this bike look like a serious off-road machine.  Even if the actual product is toned down, you know what can be done.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2017

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2017

The weight of such a beast should be anywhere between 450 and 475 lbs if we use the MT-07 Tracer as a base, which is rated at 433 lbs wet.  The added weight would come from a larger tank, larger spoke wheels, stronger frame and sub-frame, longer suspension, bash plate, taller fairing and windscreen, etc.

It should still be lighter than the current 800cc offerings from Triumph and BMW, and certainly looks to be a lot more dirt-oriented than those two bikes.  The motor is an already known factor, and there is plenty of praise out there for it.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

We will know more about this bike in 2017. The bike should be ready by the fall of 2017, when the show season starts and it is likely that Yamaha will use that time to officially introduce it to the public in its final form. Yamaha indicated it should be available for sale to the public in 2018.

In conclusion… I’m cautiously optimistic that this bike will be the yard stick against which  mid-size adventure motorcycles with real off-road ambitions will be measured. KTM is likely to offer a competitor which will have more power, will likely be lighter, but might be more expensive and perhaps at a different level of sophistication.  It seems we are finally getting attention to this segment of the market, actually, Yamaha may be creating a new segment to this market.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Personally, it seems I will be finding a solution for a motorcycle in this segment, one that is very likely a potential replacement for my CB500X Adventure.  If I can enjoy riding the 48 hp motor on my CB500X when off pavement, having a 74hp motor, delivering a broader torque curve, better sounds and more traction from its 270 degrees crankshaft, the Yamaha might just be perfect for what I want.

More from Yamaha’s press release on this bike:

This lightweight machine is based on an all new chassis that has been designed to complement a specially developed version of Yamaha’s highly acclaimed 700cc CP2 engine, delivering strong torque and an easy power delivery for perfect traction in all conditions.

Equipped with an aluminum fuel tank, 4-projector LED headlight, a carbon fairing and skid plate, and a custom made Akrapovič exhaust – as well as high specification KYB front suspension – the T7 is a vision of the ideal adventure machine, and is playing a major role in the development of Yamaha’s next generation adventure models.

A new chapter from the book of legends will be on the street – and on the dirt – from 2018.

It indicates this bike is a concept, or “a vision of the ideal adventure machine” so we will have to wait to see what the final product will be. It certainly is a great step in the right direction.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a professional rider, and obviously not a professional writer. I write this blog as a hobby and because of my passion for motorcycles and motorcycle riding. I’m not affiliated with any business or organization related to the content of my posts, I’m not paid to write and publish my posts. The potential income generated by advertisements you may come across on my posts are going to WordPress, the organization hosting my posts. I pay WordPress to manage and host my posts, I would have to pay more to have advert-free posts.

Posted in Bike Reviews, The Book | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Scrambler Ducati new models: Cafe Racer and Desert Sled

There is no question heritage, classic, retro-looking motorcycles continue to be popular.  There is something about that basic motorcycle design where a gas tank looks like a gas tank, the motor is visible and it is air-cooled, and headlights are round.

Scrambler Ducati: Italia Independent

Scrambler Ducati: Italia Independent (limited edition, 1,077 models)

Back in 2014 at EICMA, two years ago exactly, Ducati jumped on the heritage motorcycle trend creating the Scrambler Ducati brand and introduced the four heritage models: Icon, Urban Enduro, Classic and Full Throttle.  At that very same time they announced the Scrambler brand would be expanding its line of motorcycles very soon.

And they followed up on their promise and less than a year from that time three new bikes were announced.  These new bikes carry very small changes to the themes already available, they are the Sixty2, the Flat Track Pro and the limited edition Italia Independent. In total today there are six different Scrambler models, seven when including the limited edition Italia Independent.

The six versions which, with the addition of the Italia Independent make the Scrambler Ducati choices today. Tomorrow, though...

The six versions of the Scrambler Ducati brand available today, plus the limited edition Italia Independent.  Tomorrow, though…

Now the Scrambler Ducati brand is getting ready to announce two new models: a cafe racer and a desert sled.  The question is, how different will these new bikes be from the bikes in the current range?

First of all, if we really go down to the essence of these bikes, there are only two different models on the current line up: The Sixty2 and the rest of them. The Sixty2 is the entry model with the 400cc motor (the same 803 cc motor from the other bikes, but stroked for less displacement to meet entry level rider requirements in key markets). Along with the less powerful motor, the Sixty2 has a list of components that were downgraded to bring the bike as close as possible to a better entry level point, or lower price point, including a double swing arm, for example.

The 400cc Sixty2 Scrambler Ducati

The 400cc Sixty2 Scrambler Ducati

The other five models are variations on the Icon theme. What changes from model to model are colors (tank and seat), tank side cover, handlebars, fenders, wheels (spoke or cast), exhaust (silencer only) and a small set of accessories.  That is, aside from the Sixty2, all other bikes on the Scrambler line are, in essence, the same motorcycle in different configurations.

The Cafe Racer

We have not seen photographs on the cafe racer, the new model which be will announced on November 7th, except for the few seconds of video on the Scrambler Ducati site.  But we can speculate freely, right? What we know is that from all the 803cc bikes, the one with more radical differences from the rest is the Italia Independent and it is the one that mostly resembles a cafe racer. But it is a limited edition motorcycle.

The Italia Independent, a limited edition in cafe racer style

The Italia Independent, a limited edition Scrambler in cafe racer style

My take on the upcoming Cafe Racer is that it will have some similarities with the Italia Independent, but it will be priced to be more affordable.

It will likely have the same 803cc motor because, well, with Euro 4 emissions, I doubt Ducati will invest on the upscale of that portion of the bike. It is just a guess, but if we take in consideration these are bikes are designed for urban use, then 803cc and 70+ hp is plenty of power for urban and around town riding.  What matters on these bikes is that the motor is air-cooled, and it sounds like a real motorcycle, and a V-twin makes a lot of sense for a Cafe Racer styled motorcycle.

Picture this with spoke wheels

Picture this with spoke wheels

Based on the very short video on Ducati’s site, one other item to consider for this bike would be spoke wheels.  Judging by what we could see from that video, the mirrors could be bar-end mirrors but positioned above the handlebars, and the handlebars appear to be taller than what you find on the Italia Independent.

On the other hand, there is the Full Throttle, which is the most “urban” of the Scramblers, in my opinion, with lower handlebars and its color.  I believe the Cafe Racer will be an improved Full Throttle or a downgraded Italia Independent.  Same motor, black color or other dark color(s), lower handlebars than Full Throttle, but higher than what we find in the Italia Independent.  Outside of the middle position between these two other bikes it could have (or I would hope to see) a flatter seat, spoke wheels, and a typical cafe racer tail to complete the package.  Of course, it should have a different exhaust note as well.

2015 Scrambler Ducati Full Throttle (customized)

2015 Scrambler Ducati Full Throttle (customized using currently available accessories)

As a consequence of this speculation, and if I’m halfway correct, I would not be surprised if the Full Throttle is discontinued, since Ducati already offers the Flat Track Pro as an option for what the Full Throttle seemed to be destined to do in the first place. Actually, to me the Full Throttle had an identify crisis, a split personality, as it looked more urban than all the other models, but at the same time it seemed as the most appropriate flat rack version on the Scrambler line.

The Desert Sled

The other Scrambler to be launched in a few weeks from now is going to be called the Desert Sled. We have seen a spy photo of this bike before, and we have written a post speculating about the bike on the spy photo as a more appropriate Enduro version on the Scrambler line.

Scrambler Enduro?

Desert Sled

When I say more appropriate, I’m talking about more appropriate enduro than the Urban Enduro is on the Scrambler line.

2016 Scrambler Ducati

2016 Scrambler Ducati Urban Enduro

However, again, I believe the upcoming Desert Sled will only be a variation on the current theme. Will it be a better Urban Enduro? Similar to how I see the Cafe Racer, I believe the Desert Sled will have the same 803cc motor, for example, and from there just accessories but hopefully components that are more tailored for real enduro use than the current Urban Enduro is.

Judging by the spy photo, for example, the Desert Sled will have the same single front disc as the Urban Enduro, the same high fender, the same tall handlebars and single clock.  One important item for an off road machine is suspension travel. It is difficult to tell from the spy shot and comparing to the current Urban Enduro, whether the Desert Sled has gained any suspension travel.

2016 Urban Enduro Scrambler Ducati

2016 Urban Enduro Scrambler Ducati

It could have other improvements such as a 19 inch front wheel instead of the 18-inch wheel of the Urban Enduro.  Also, the spy picture shows side and top racks, which indicates some touring or adventure type of riding may be possible out of this machine. It could also have the double swing arm of the Sixty2, just to make it a stronger and more apt desert machine.

I know I’m part of a very small fraction of the buying public who would want a real desert sled, but because I know I’m part of this small niche in the market, I do not hold my hopes up that this Ducati will be the machine to make me sell my Honda CB500X yet. In the end, our guess is that the Desert Sled will only be an improved Urban Enduro.

Likely the Desert Sled, and the name seems to tell the story better than the pictures, is more about bringing back, in the Scrambler Ducati brand fashion, the styling from the 60’s immortalized by Steve McQueen’s desert machines. The short promotion video, not showing the bike in complete form but showing people hanging out on a typical California or Nevada desert motel and swimming pool completes the story of this being another lifestyle motorcycle.

803cc Air-Cooled V-twin

Desert Sled, likely a better version of the Urban Enduro

What’s Next?

In essence, I would guess these new bikes, the Cafe Racer and the Desert Sled, will continue to be variations on the Icon theme.  Perhaps this time around though, the variation will go a bit beyond the line of accessories and go into different components and perhaps, on a more optimistic scenario, appropriate changes to these bikes frames.  And, likely it will be the case that these two bikes will have their own set of accessories. In my case, where I would be wanting to see a real desert racer, the desert sled will likely fall short of my expectations.

On the other hand, I’m glad the Ducati heritage or classic or retro-line, whatever you want to call it, will retain the air-cooled v-twin motor that is an evolution of the original motor that in the 70’s brought Ducati to the forefront, and which to today remains the signature of Ducati motorcycles, although it today comes in much more efficient and powerful water-cooled versions including the super-quadro and DVT versions. The scrambler line is the only line, unless a new 2017 entry level Monster or Motard would prove otherwise, where the v-twin motor in its air-cooled version remains alive.

Talking about heritage, it is good to be reminded, Ducati considers these bikes to be post-heritage, actually, and here is their definition from the time of the launch of the Scrambler line two years ago, and which still can be found on their site today:

“Post-heritage” design means taking the best from the past to create something unique and absolutely contemporary. The Ducati Scrambler is not a vintage motorcycle, but the ideal result of how the famous motorcycle from Borgo Panigale would be if Ducati had never stopped producing it.

We will be hearing from Ducati at their annual world premiere which will be broadcast live on November 7th, the evening before the EICMA 2016 starts (EICMA runs from November 8 to 13).  Besides these two new or improved versions of current scramblers, Ducati will be announcing a series of new models as it continues its production growth and product line expansion. A Super Sport, a smaller Multistrada and improvements to the DVT motor on the 1200 Multistrada will be hot items for this year’s launch. And who knows, what other surprises Ducati will have in store for us.

Back to the Scramblers, I’ve been talking about heritage bikes for a long time, yet I have not committed to getting one yet. However, such a motorcycle is what will likely be next on my motorcycle line up. Will it be a Ducati of the scrambler variety? Or a BMW Scrambler? Or a real standard, something real and original from the 70’s? I don’t know, except that it will have round headlights.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a professional rider, and obviously not a professional writer. I write this blog as a hobby and because of my passion for motorcycles and motorcycle riding. I’m not affiliated with any business or organization related to the content of my posts, I’m not paid to write and publish my posts. The potential income generated by advertisements you may come across on my posts are going to WordPress, the organization hosting my posts. I pay WordPress to manage and host my posts, I would have to pay more to have advert-free posts.

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Disruptive Innovations and the Future of the Motorcycle Industry

Mobile phones rendered landline telephones obsolete. Smartphones are killing the digital consumer cameras which only a few years earlier rendered film cameras obsolete. Uber has disrupted the taxi cab industry. Youtube and Netflicks are disrupting cable TV faster than cable TV displaced network TV.  Do we need a definition of disruptive innovation or will these examples suffice for us to understand it? Calling these innovations “disruptive” is a way to understand change, see how quickly it can be ignited, and how unexpected it can be.  Let’s talk about how disruptive innovations could change the motorcycle industry.

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

Let’s start with the obvious:  the automotive industry.  Most innovations taking place in the auto industry trickle down to the motorcycle industry, and changes are happening at a fast pace in the auto industry. As pointed out by GM’s CEO in January of 2016, at the launch of the Chevy Bolt, the “auto industry is set to change more in the next 5-10 years than it has changed in the last 50 years”.

Mary Barra, GM CEO at the Launch of the Chevy Bolt in Detroit, January of 2016: The auto industry will change more in the next 5-10 years than it did in the last 50 years

Mary Barra, GM CEO at the Launch of the Chevy Bolt in Detroit, January of 2016: “The auto industry will change more in the next 5-10 years than it did in the last 50 years”

The recent 2016 Paris Motor Show was a showcase of these changes that are coming to the auto industry.  Mercedes Benz is a great example, they are embracing the inevitable by using the very set of disruptive innovations as a marketing campaign for their next generation of cars. They call it the CASE Pillars, where the next generation of Mercedes cars will be Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric.

Mercedes Benz EQ Concept Car, 2016 Paris Auto Show

Mercedes Benz EQ Concept Car, 2016 Paris Auto Show

Volkswagen is on a similar trajectory. Call it perfect timing, brilliant strategy, shrewd, or all of the above when Volkswagen uses the infamous “Diesel Gate” to leverage a revolutionary marketing campaign.  VW’s marketing campaign aims to change the public perception of the VW brand as the emissions cheating company to become the leading manufacturer of electric cars, which they state will be accomplished by 2025 with a full line of electric cars, including autonomous vehicles, such as the I.D. concept shown in the Paris motor show.  Clever strategy at a minimum.

VW I.D. Concept Car, 2016 Paris Auto Show

Volkswagen I.D. Concept Car, 2016 Paris Auto Show

Many other car manufacturers are on the same boat, besides the ones who are already invested on this future, including BMW who has been selling electrical cars for several years, and Nissan who has been the bastion for affordable electric cars with its Leaf.  While Nissan is currently working to get more powerful batteries on the Leaf, Chevrolet’s Bolt is set to be the first high performance, and still competitively priced, 200+ mile-range electric car, beating Tesla’s Model 3 to the market. The Leaf, the Bolt, and the Model 3 will be followed by several other cars from other manufacturers, very soon, in the next couple of years perhaps, which will be priced similarly to their internal combustion engine counterparts and will perform at the same level, if not better.  No more excuses will be needed not to jump on the electric bandwagon.

There is one other example I will mention, which is the Wanxiang Group from China.  I mention this group because China will be the largest market for vehicles in the world and they already have several small electric cars in the market.  However, when they aim at the top of the market, squarely at Tesla, when Wanxiang Group’s purchased Fisker assets a few years back to resurrect the Fisker Karma, to be renamed the Karma Revero. You know they are serious, they understand this change is inevitable.

Karma Revero (PRNewsFoto/Karma Automotive)

Karma Revero (PRNewsFoto/Karma Automotive)

Electric cars are, no question, the one change that is inevitable.  The question in many people’s minds is when will internal combustion engines stop being produced. Some analysts say as early as 2030.

That number, 2030, seems to be coming too fast, but it is not unrealistic, and it makes sense when we look at how fast land lines or film cameras or horse-driven cars, for that matter, stopped being produced when disruptive innovations took a hold of the market. Some historians indicate it took about 10 years for larger urban centers to substitute horse-driven cars for gasoline driven cars.

All I can say is “the times are a changing” and with that goes a small homage to Bob Dillan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.  So what’s next? Electric is a given, what about the other pillars? Will connectivity, autonomous and perhaps shared be the next set of benchmarks?

Autonomous is of course already happening as well. Tesla is currently on its version 8.0 of its operating system which includes improvements on the cars’ automation. Last year I was waiting for my Uber at the San Francisco airport when I spotted a BMW with what seems to be a Bosch derived automated driving system.

BMW with Bosh Automated system, spotted at San Francisco airport in July 2015

BMW with Bosh Automated system, spotted at San Francisco airport in July 2015

Connectivity is happening already on basic levels. When you buy a car today there are versions or options where you plug in your smart phone and it uses it for navigation, music, communication. Blue tooth has been around for a long time.  Cruise control is already available using sensors to adjust speed with traffic ahead. It is just a question of continuous improvement, both from the cars’ perspective but also from the streets, roads, traffic signs, which could likely be adapted to passively or actively communicate with cars.

The shared part has been around for a while as well. We’ve had the Zipcar in our town, for example, but it still is a niche product. It will likely go to another level when automated cars become the norm and anyone can share their automated car with others when not using it. It’s the Uber of the future, the Uber sans driver.  Actually the shared car could disrupt Uber like Uber is disrupting the cab industry.  The shared car should also be disruptive to auto industry overall if it reduces individual car ownership.

Zipcar - still trying to find solid footing

Zipcar – still trying to find solid footing

To summarize, we are almost at a critical mass with electric cars and the related disruptive innovations, so much so I already wonder whether people will remember Elon Musk and Tesla as the visionary guy and his company who brought to us this main change to the auto industry.

2016 Tesla Model S

2016 Tesla Model S

Just to be reminded, by entering at the top of the market with a luxury car that was electric, expensive but better (in many accounts) than the internal combustion cars of its time, Tesla was the success story people wanted to see happen to be able to embrace this change.  It would likely not have happened if the Gee Wiz had been the poster child for electrified cars.

The G-Whiz

The G-Whiz

By the way, do you know what automobile manufacturer and which model, using gasoline powered motors, was the main disruptive technology of the 1900’s, and which was responsible for eliminating horse-driven or electric cars from urban streets?

Victorian London, circa 1900's - the end of the horse drawn cars

Victorian London, circa 1900’s – close to the end of horse drawn cars

Yes, I did say horse-driven and electric cars of the 1900’s, as many first cars were battery powered electric vehicles. We are just coming back to electric cars after a 100 years detour with internal combustion engines.


What about Motorcycles?

Let’s get back to what matters to us, motorcycle riders. As we mentioned before, most innovations on the motorcycle industry are derivatives of innovations taking place in the auto industry. ABS, fuel injection, semi-active suspension are good examples.

Do you remember in 2009 when the 2010 Ducati Multistrada was introduced? That motorcycle was the pinnacle of technology, it still is, but in 2010 it represented a dividing mark on the motorcycle industry. The Multistrada had electronically actuated suspension compression and damping levels and menu driven riding modes (urban, enduro, touring and sport) which controlled ABS levels of engagement, traction control, and engine fuel maps which together changed the motorcycle’s dynamic characteristics.  And you could further customize each of the four pre-set riding modes on any of the variables (ABS, traction control, suspension damping) to better match your riding style or the ride you planned for the day.

The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

Although the Multistrada was innovative, it probably could be seen more of an evolutionary than a revolutionary motorcycle, if we keep in perspective the latest changes in the auto industry. Nonetheless the Multistrada was a dividing mark when in 2010 that motorcycled packed the full set of evolutionary technologies available at the time. Seven years later and those technologies are now ubiquitous on the top of line models offered by all manufacturers and some of those items such as ABS and riding modes are now common on middle of the range models across almost all brands of motorcycles.

Yamaha FZ-09

Yamaha FZ-09 (MT-09) dashboard, with riding mode selection

Soon all bikes will have ABS (already the case in Europe), and eventually all will come equipped with cornering ABS (still somewhat new), throttle by wire, cruise control, and riding modes.  It’s simply a question of time.  Can you call these sets of technologies disruptive? Perhaps and more likely you can call them disruptive if you were a carburetor or drum brake maker and did not retool your industry to become a manufacturer of fuel injection systems and disc brakes respectively.

Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric

Which of the set of disruptive technologies of the auto industry will impact the motorcycle industry? Again, let’s use Mercedes’ four pillars (connected, autonomous, shared and electric) to discuss possible scenarios of what the future will look like for the motorcycle industry. And then we should talk about BMW’s vision described by its Next 100 concept.

Electric is the easiest and already available technology, so let’s start there. We already have electric motorcycles, and scooters.  But very few manufacturers are entering the viable production zone at this point.  Zero has been around for a while, for example, and is one of the few manufacturers of electric bikes selling these bikes to the public. Their latest model the SR ZF 13.0 with the “power tank” is claimed to reach up to 197 miles with one charge.

2016 Zero SR ZF - Up to 197 miles of range

2016 Zero SR ZF – Up to 197 miles of range with the “power tank”

Harley Davidson has created its electric motorcycle concept, the Livewire. It created a lot of buzz especially because it came from Harley. The Livewire toured the United States in 2014 and the following year in Europe, but apparently there is no actual movement from Harley Davidson indicating this bike will be produced any time soon.

Harley Davidson Livewire concept

Harley Davidson Livewire concept

Victory Motorcycles has purchased Brammo and has been developing motorcycle concepts and has entered them on specific races and has been competitive on these races. In 2016 they entered the Pikes Peak race with an electric motorcycle, claiming second place. Incidentally, this Victory electric motorcycle, which was piloted by Don Canet, could have won this year’s Pikes Peak race if it weren’t for them qualifying first and because of it they  started the race early in the morning when the track was still wet on the last few miles at the top.  If they had started their run later in the morning they would have won it based on their times on the lower sections of the mountain where the road was dry (and you know electric motors do not lose power at higher altitude). If Victory keeps up the effort they are on the path to win the 2017 race with an electric motorcycle.

Victory Empulse, Pikes Peak 2016. Second fastest Motorcycle overall.

Victory Empulse, Pikes Peak 2016. Second fastest Motorcycle overall with Don Canet (notice the wet track)

Before the Pikes Peak race we had been witnessing the evolution of electric motorcycles on the prestigious TT race as well. Electric bikes competing at the TT races, called the TT Zero race, have been improving their performance year after year, from about 89 mph average speed per lap on the first iteration of this race in 2011, they have now reached close to 120 mph in the 2016 race, only on the sixth year after that first TT Zero race.

Victory electric motorcycle - TT race

Victory electric motorcycle – TT race 2016

Although the performance of electric motorcycles both on the TT races and the Pikes Peak race has approached and perhaps surpassed the performance of internal combustion motorcycles, it has hardly made a dent on the consumer market.  Victory’s Empulse TT starts at US $20,000. Do you see these bikes on the street?

2016 Victory Empulse TT

2016 Victory Empulse TT

Zero motorcycles and other electric motorcycle brands have struggled to develop a competitive edge on the motorcycle industry.  There is no Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S equivalent in the motorcycle line up. You don’t see many video bloggers with electric motorcycles like you see in the auto side of the equation, where Tesla, Nissan Leaf and BMW I3 owners have popular Youtube channels simply because of the cars they drive.

2016 Zero S Streetfighter (photo from Zero site)

2016 Zero S Streetfighter (photo from Zero site) Price starts at US $9,895 already deducting a US $1,110 federal tax credit

It is easy to conclude motorcycles are lagging on the change, the electric disruptive innovation has not made a mark on the industry yet. Connectivity, yes, top of the range motorcycles are now blue tooth hubs for helmet to helmet and smartphone communications. Autonomous, well, that is a challenge for two-wheel vehicles, although BMW seems to be aiming at that (more on that later). Shared, I doubt it for what motorcycle represents, unless we are talking about small displacement urban mobility.

But electric motors have not created the same critical mass for the main motorcycle markets as you see on the auto industry. A couple of explanations come to mind. One of them is that motorcycles already are more efficient means of transportation to begin with, so they are not bringing that environmentally conscious consumer to the show room to write a check and ride away with an environmentally friendly motorcycle.

Another reason could be that motorcycles are not viewed as means of transportation in many markets, but as a symbol of adventure, a sport or a hobby and with that, there is no incentive for getting rid of the internal combustion engine, which is an intrinsic part of the riding experience. If riders don’t view a motorcycle as a means of transportation, and I’m on this camp, electric motors are not a target. Motorcycle riding is my hobby and my escape route to adventure.

Again, that potential environmentally conscious consumer is not available when we talk about motorcycles as a sport and hobby product. And when we talk about adventure, electric motors are not there yet (no re-charging stations in the middle of nowhere), although I bet electric motors with their high torque figures and linear acceleration would perform really well in some technical situations for as long as the batteries have charge.

The road continued with no other challenges until a few miles after the mine operations

Adventure riding – not ready for electric motors yet – although they could perform very well, when there is charge on a battery

At the model range where people see motorcycles as means of transportation, however, at the low cost, or low displacement and scooter levels, where people use the word “mobility” to refer to two-wheel vehicles, that’s where we see more movement towards electric models.

Jetson Electric bike - a Gee-Wiz of the motorcycle world

Jetson Electric bike – a Gee-Wiz of the motorcycle world

While the auto industry seems to be riding just at the edge of the wave of cleaner emissions, motorcycles seem to be towed behind by world leading legislation such as Euro 4 and California emissions legislation in Europe and the United States, respectively. That means only one thing: motorcycles will lag behind on the changes but eventually will be dragged to make it happen by legislation. The writing is on the wall.

BMW Motorrad:  ACES and the Vision Next 100

Today one of the most successful motorcycles on BMW Motorrad line up is the 90th anniversary of BMW Motorrad celebratory models (BMW was found in 1916, produced its first motorcycle, motorrad, in 1921).  These celebratory bikes are the retro-looking and retro-driven (air/oil cooled motors) R NineT and its models: the Pure, Racer, Scrambler and the first one, the well known Roadster.

Another 'round the world machine?

2017 BMW R NineT Scrambler

That’s 90 years of BMW Motorrad.  BMW itself is celebrating its 100th anniversary now and to celebrate it, BMW has launched an international exhibit to kick start its next 100 years with a renewed vision, which they call the Vision Next 100.  This exhibit has started in Berlin and traveled to two other places in the world before ending in Los Angeles last week.

BMW Vision 100 Next

BMW Vision 100 Next

As part of this international celebratory exhibit, we can call it a marketing campaign, BMW presented futuristic concept vehicles based on the ACES idea across all their brands. ACES? Does it sound familiar? Yes, they are talking about Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared vehicles, the disruptive innovations discussed earlier, that Mercedes organized as CASE.

The Great Escape

BMW Motorrad is part of ACES as well, but I was so glad to hear BMW was referring to motorcycles as “the last or the final great escapes from every day life (…) providing an experience for all the senses” on this marketing campaign. This means there is hope that in this vision BMW motorcycles will continue be fun to be ridden.

Does it have to look like a boomerang?

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100: Does it have to look like a boomerang?

A two wheel concept vehicle, well, a futuristic looking motorcycle, was presented in this traveling exhibit.  It is not a prediction of the future, not a prediction of BMW products for the next 100 years, but part of the vision for the future of each of the BMW brands.  The concept is to show “what could happen in three or four vehicle generations from now”, according to their presentation in Los Angeles. I agree with the BMW official who said, as part of this presentation, “the best way to predict the future is to start to create it”.

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

As part of the presentation of this concept, BMW officials talked about six trends related to mobility (yes, another list – but I’m adding it here because I think it can be applied to my day job and life in general) which are used for product development:

  1. Mobility is becoming versatile
  2. Connectivity is becoming second nature
  3. Mobility is becoming tailor-made
  4. Technology is becoming human
  5. Energy is becoming emissions-free
  6. Responsibility is becoming diverse
BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100

The look of the concept itself is described to reflect the triangular frames of the 1920’s BMW motorcycles and the obvious boxer motor we still see today on BMW motorocycles, although it is clearly an electric vehicle.

It makes me wonder… does it have to look like a boomerang?  The R NineT motorcycles are a hot item today and they look so much less futuristic than the contemporaneous 2016 R1200GS line does. Therefore, I wonder, can you have all the technology you need to put in practice this Next 100 vision, but still make it look like a regular motorcycle?  I bet that is not only possible but when 2030 comes around and we see the motorcycles being produced, and we look back at these pictures of 2016, we will realize how wrong the BMW concept was in terms of looks. Call it wishful thinking from my part.

Besides looking like a boomerang, this concept packs some interesting technology. The bike was ridden onto the stage and stopped and self-balanced itself on two wheels, no side-stand or rider feet touched the ground.  According to the presentation, the only time the bike needs a side stand is when it is turned off.

BMW Motorrad

BMW Motorrad “next 100” concept

Another technology included on this bike was related to connectivity to the road. A video shows the motorcycle display (which is on the rider’s visor as a heads up display and not on the dash of the bike) the ideal line the rider should take through a coming curve and overlaid a picture of the handle bars to indicate the ideal lean angle of the bike. For beginner riders, the bike would change the lean angle to improve safety (to have the bike follow the ideal line for the curve at the speed of travel), and for the experienced rider, it can just show the best line and lean angle and let the rider pick it by him or herself, or can actively boost the motorcycle dynamics ( did not hear an explanation what that does or how that works).

According to the description, the bike’ s sensors add foresight to the experience, more than what we, humans, can see, and only the laws of physics would limit the riding experience.  The vision 100 concept was described as a motorcycle that combines the analog and digitized worlds generating more safety and fun to the riding experience. So much more safety, they continued, the rider does not need to wear a helmet or other protective gear. Well, I would say, for this to work it has to be imagined that all other vehicles on the road, and deer jumping out of forests and other wildlife crossing our roads, will not interfere with the path of this motorcycle or the motorcycle will anticipate those incidents as well.

Next 100: No need to wear helmets or other protective gear

Next 100: No need to wear helmets or other protective gear

I’m not so sure about all these innovations envisioned by BMW, if they will all be possible in the real world, but I would welcome more safety, if it is possible.  BMW did not mention electric motors, but one can assume it is a big part of the equation.  They did mention that motorcycles should continue to provide pure emotion when being ridden involving all senses, the sound, and the wind.  So there is hope their vision of the “great escape” means motorcycles will continue to be what I call a sport, a route for adventure, or a hobby and just not an efficient transportation.

My personal take on disruptive innovations and the motorcycle industry

I am all about playing my role in reducing carbon emissions and making sure we slow down, and if possible stop global warming. In the last three years I’ve been five times to the Marshall Islands, a nation made out of 24 atolls. I’ve seen upfront what it means to live in a place in the middle of a vast ocean where the highest ground is only about 6ft above sea level.

Majuro Atoll: higher sea level and storm created waves that destroyed the foundation of the house (July 2015)

Majuro Atoll: higher sea level and storm created waves that destroyed the foundation of this cabin (July 2015).

It is scary going to this atoll, in the middle of nowhere, when you know you cannot escape a storm going to “higher ground”. And if you do need to escape, the airport may have been flooded, the runway destroyed, and rescue planes cannot land.  But I’m only a visitor, I’m only there a few days at a time.  What about the people who live there? One of my clients took me out on a quick tour the last time I was there, this last July, and pointed out to a flat slab of concrete: “that is where my house was” she said.  And that story happens in other places of the world, and eventually other impacts from global warming will also hit closer to home, our farmers and our urban living conditions will be affected as well. South Florida comes to mind.

Landing in Majuro atoll, Marshall Islands, July 2015

Landing in Majuro atoll, Marshall Islands, July 2015

On the other hand, I love motorcycles and a major part of what I enjoy while riding is about the internal combustion engine. I like all types of motors, be them a single cylinder, parallel twins, V-twins, boxer-twins and even in-line threes or fours. They all sound and vibrate in their own specific way, have torque and acceleration dynamics based on their configuration and displacement.  I won’t mind eventually getting an electric car, but an electric motorcycle is something I’m not looking forward to having if that is the only alternative I would have.

My 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

My 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

For the people like me, perhaps most of you reading this post, who love an internal combustion engine, motorcycles will likely lag behind on this revolution, even if the disruptive innovations will open new frontiers and new technologies that will improve the riding experience.

I consider ourselves to be lucky for still being allowed to ride when safety has regulated the auto industry many times over (seat belts, deformation zones, airbags, anti-lock brake systems, and eventually connected and autonomous cars) while motorcycles do not need to have a bumper neither most of those active or passive safety systems. As a matter of fact, in some American states you do not need to wear a helmet! How fortunate we are.

My 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

My 2013 Ducati Multistrada Pikes Peak

Electric is a given, but for now we should not be complaining about California’s clean air regulations or Europe’s Euro 4 standards either.  If by 2030 manufacturers will no longer produce internal combustion vehicles, and that will also apply to motorcycles, well, that’s only 13-14 years from now!  We may not have a choice eventually, so we should get on with the changes, but enjoy, while we can, our internal combustion engines. I will do that.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer:  I’m not a professional rider, and obviously not a professional writer. I write this blog as a hobby and because of my passion for motorcycles and motorcycle riding. I’m not affiliated with any business or organization related to the content of my posts, I’m not paid to write and publish my posts. The potential income generated by advertisements you may come across on my posts are going to WordPress, the organization hosting my posts. I pay WordPress to manage and host my posts, I would have to pay more to have advert-free posts.

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Why are motorcycle GPS devices so expensive? (and other mumblings about GPSes)

Have you ever wondered why GPS devices are so expensive when they are designed for motorcycles? Upfront I can already tell you, I don’t have an answer.  Anyway, let’s talk about it and about GPS devices in general and see what we can learn about them.

Current GPS: Garmin Nuvi 2495, more than two years of use on the motorcycles.

My GPS is a Garmin Nuvi 2495.  It is a car GPS, with more than two years of use on my motorcycles on all kinds of weather, including this ride here, when I went through rain and hail (June 2016)

Stand alone GPS devices are on the brink of extinction

How can I start a story without bringing up some context first? Two main items come to mind.  First is that portable GPS devices for vehicles are likely on the edge of extinction.  Our smart phones take care of our navigation needs these days.  New cars already come with their own navigation systems or they have an interface to connect and in some cases display your smart phone on the car’s own dashboard or screen.

Just a sample of the many navigation apps available for smart phones

Just a sample of the many navigation apps available for smart phones

For motorcycles, things are a few steps behind. While some riders use their smart phones as a GPS on their motorcycles, you get mixed results for this kind of use.  For one thing you cannot operate all smart phones with gloves. Second, smart phones are more delicate devices and more challenged when under the elements and on off road rides on a motorcycle.

I’ve been hearing recently about “disruptive innovations.”  The smart phone is perhaps the most disruptive of all innovations of the last 10 years.  The I-phone, for example, is only 9 years old and together with other smart phone devices that were released right after the I-phone, they have transformed our lives and how we operate in all areas of work and play.  Smart phones virtually ended telephone land lines, they are pushing consumer cameras off the market (the so called point-and-shoot cameras are basically gone), they challenge laptops, they will end the use of credit cards, they are our office operations on the palm of our hand, and yes, for our topic at hand, eventually they will make GPS devices redundant, even for motorcycle applications.

For now, though, I appreciate Garmin, Tom Tom and all other companies who continue to produce GPS stand alone devices, offering them on applications that work for hikers, cars, boats, airplanes, motorcycles, even when it is likely that one day they will no longer be needed for several if not all of these applications as stand alone devices.

I really like GPS Devices!

The second contextual factor I want to bring to the front of this conversation is about my relationship with GPS devices and maps.  I like paper maps, but I love GPSes.

My first map of the USA, with two years of travel documented. This map is old...

A historical map, two years of travel documented on a paper map when I first moved to Ohio.

I have paper maps for every location I traveled to.  Even when virtual maps are available on line, and I can plan a ride using software and a GPS, I like the physical contact with a paper map, the perspective you get from following a line on paper. When riding on a new location I like to eventually pull the map out and get a broader perspective about where I am and where I’m going next.

A small sample of my map collection

A small sample of my map collection

But I really like GPS devices.  My relationship with GPS devices started early when these products had just become available as consumer devices somewhere in the early 2000’s. The first time I used a GPS made me realize how convenient they are, and I remember exactly how it happened.  I lived in Columbus, OH, the heart of it all, at that time and had an ongoing project in Springfield, IL, land of Lincoln.  I used to fly frequently between Columbus and Springfield, this was the time when TWA existed and it had a hub in St Louis.  Remember TWA?  To fly to Springfield I had to change planes at the Saint Louis Airport, where I would take a turbo-prop plane for the short hop to Springfield.

On one of those trips, in 2003 I believe, I was coming back to Columbus. I had been dropped off at the Springfield airport and walked to the TWA counter to learn my flight from Springfield to St. Louis had been cancelled (side note: today we have apps on our smart phones that provide us with instant instant flight information – another disruption from this innovation, displacing a good amount of staff on airport desks – I fly may times in a year and I rarely, very rarely interface with staff in the many airports on my travels).  But this story is not about smart phones, it happened before smart phones existed, so when I learned about the cancellation of my flight, I also learned no other flights were available, it was the last flight of the day to St. Luis., and I was stuck in Springfield.

Well, there was an option, I could rent a car and drive to St Louis.  The two airports in question are 113 miles apart, a trip that is supposed to take 1h 45min if there is no traffic.  I negotiated a deal with TWA and rented the car, although they told me it was going to be a close call considering the travel time, plus the time it would take to return the car, and the time to get to my gate.

Luckily the rental car came with one of those early GPS devices, similar to the Nuvi 260 I would eventually purchase in 2005.  I was new to GPS devices, in fact, it was the very first time I manipulated and used one.  I entered the address where I had to return the car at the St Louis airport and went out on my drive.  Time was tight, there was no margin for error.  I instantly loved the directions given by the GPS, I was not going to spend time stopping to look at maps or backtracking after getting lost.

I learned how convenient it was to have the ETA feature (estimated time of arrival). As I drove south on 55 (incidentally a portion of 55 going north or south from Springfield is also the famous Route 66), I was gaining a few minutes on the ETA, traveling slightly (slightly, right) faster than the speed limit.  When I arrived in St Louis and merged onto I-70 west towards the airport, if memory serves me right it was somewhere around 7 or 8 in the evening, traffic was intense on I-70 and the ETA started going up.  And then I hit construction.

The road was closed for several miles, including the exit I should had taken to get to the airport, forcing me to exit I-70 and get on a detour.  I was in trouble by this time, I thought I was done with trying to arrive on time, I would miss my flight, and I would still get lost.  That’s when I heard another great feature of the GPS in action. As soon as I exited the freeway the words “recalculating” from the woman’s voice on the GPS came up and soon it put me on another route telling me again where to go, and I arrived on time to get to my flight. I was relieved. And I was impressed.

I have another very similar story when a GPS was a savior again, this one was in California in 2006, and this other story carried a bit of extra drama.  Maybe I will tell that other story at the end on this post, I don’t want to make the post yet longer.

What is relevant from this drive from Springfield to Saint Louis is that it got me hooked on GPS devices.  Not that I didn’t like gadgets already and not that I already had my eyes set on a GPS, but I learned how really convenient these devices were, there was not way back from that experience.  Sine I bought my first GPS in 2005, whenever I travel by car or motorcycle, I always want a GPS at my disposal. I love perusing information on my GPS, from the ETA, to alternate routes, to gas stations, restaurants, hotels, ATM, attractions n the area I’m riding or driving, besides the directions themselves. And now, with my latest GPS, I also have weather and traffic information, as well as telephone call notifications thanks to a blue tooth connection with my phone (here you go, the smart phone shows up again).

I agree with most people who say a GPS does not substitute a map.  I also agree that using a GPS can create a tunnel vision effect distracting me from landmarks as I get fixated on the directions the GPS provides me. Therefore, I strongly recommend that at a minimum the rider studies the maps of where he or she plans to ride before engaging on a trip with a GPS.  However, all in all, taking in consideration the appropriate caveats, I find GPS devices an indispensable tool for my car or motorcycle trips.

GPS devices are great, but why are they so expensive for motorcycle applications?

However, I continue to wonder, why are these devices, when dedicated for a motorcycle, so expensive? Are we paying the “extinction” tax (similar to the oil depletion tax subsidies we all pay)?  Perhaps this price differential resides on the differences between a car and a motorcycle GPS?

Garmin Zumo 395

Garmin Zumo 395 ($600)

The two versions of motorcycle GPSes currently available from Garmin, the 395LM and the 595LM, cost $600 and $900 respectively.

Garmin Zumo 595

Garmin Zumo 595 ($900)

I’m not sure about the prices of Tom Tom and other brands that might be available for motorcycles.  But I know Garmin GPSes have a motorcycle surcharge of sorts because comparatively to the 395 and 595 devices, two years ago I bought a Nuvi 2497, a car dedicated GPS, for $130.  That’s a fraction of the price of the Zumo devices.

Garmin Nuvi 2497 - an automotive GPS

Garmin Nuvi 2497 – an automotive GPS

I’ve browsed and lusted after motorcycle GPS devices for many years, always wondering when their prices would come  down enough to make sense for me to buy one. Car devices did become less expensive but motorcycle devices became more sophisticated and more expensive.  So I never bought one.

That’s why I use that Nuvi 2497, an inexpensive car GPS, on my motorcycles. As an alternative, or back up, I carry with me a GPS device designed for hikers (Garmin Oregon 450), I also carry my smart phone, and at least a paper map for each state or region I will be traveling on.

Despite liking GPS devices I’ve only bought three such devices so far, all of them Garmin devices:  A Nuvi 260 (more than 12 years old now), the Oregon 450 (about 6 years old, I believe), and the Nuvi 2497 (two years old) which is now my main GPS device. The three of them work well even after being exposed to all kinds of weather, from rain to hail, to sandstorms, to dirt and gravel roads. They have survived everything I encountered so far on my motorcycle rides.

My Garmin Nuvi 260. Retired in 2014 after 8 years of motorcycle use. It still works!

My Garmin Nuvi 260. Retired in 2014 after 10 years of use, including eight years of motorcycle use at that time. It still works!

What are then the differences between a motorcycle GPS and a car GPS? Are these differences enough to justify the price difference? I can tell you again: I still don’t know the answer to the price difference question. But let’s explore the possible reasons for this price differential.

What are these differences between a car and a motorcycle GPS?

To try to answer this question I looked at the official Garmin specs and the key differences across three devices: the two motorcycle devices (Zumo 395 and Zumo 595) and my Nuvi 2497 device. Lets talk about the price differences first.  The Nuvi 2497 I use cost me $130.  Today, a GPS with similar features, the Garmin Drive 50LMT, is rated at $230 (interesting price increase, but the 4 inch GPSes, like my Nuvi 2497 are no longer available).

Garmin Drive 50 LMT (Nuvi 2497 is no longer available)

Garmin Drive 50 LMT (Nuvi 2497 is no longer available)

That means, the Garming Zumo 595 costs 3.5 times more than the Garmin Drive 50 LMT, and the Zumo 395 costs 2.6 times more than the Garmin Drive 50 LMT.  If you don’t want blue tooth connection, you can get the Garmin Drive 50 for less than $200.

Main difference: Is the Nuvi 2497 waterproof?

I assume the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is whether the GPS is waterproof, a very important characteristic for motorcycle use.



Nuvi 2497


Zumo 395


Zumo 595


The Nuvi is not waterproof.  But is it really?  My two non-waterproof GPS devices have been on rain, hail and sandstorms.  And they have never failed. So far. 12 years and counting…

The Nuvi 2497 during a rain shower.

The Nuvi 2497 during a rain shower.

How do I manage that? For one thing, its case appears to be waterproof already from Garmin. Of course there are the various water ingress points such as the on/off button, the card slot, speakers, the microphone (the 21497 can be voice actuated) and the cable connection.  None of these are waterproof.  That’s when Gorilla tape enters the conversation.

Gorilla Tape

Gorilla Tape

What I’ve done to both my Nuvi 260 and more recently to my Nuvi 2497 is to cover all water ingress zones with Gorilla tape.

The back of the Nuvi 260 after tape was removed after its retirement. The same Gorilla tape lasted all years of use!

The back of the Nuvi 260, you can see the marks left by the tape after it was removed when I retired this GPS (maps were so outdated after so many years it was cheaper to buy a new GPS).

I did the same thing for the Nuvi 2497.  I covered the on/off button, the speaker, the microphone, and the card slot with Gorilla tape.  After two years I recently took a closer look and realized it needs some adjustments (picture below shows the tape coming unglued).  But this device has never failed me so far. The thing is, even if it had failed, I could buy another two of them before I would get to the Zumo price.

Two years later, the Gorilla tape needs some adjustments.

Nuvi 2497 two years later, the Gorilla tape needs some adjustments.

Probably the most difficult component to keep dry is where the cable connects to the back of the unit.  I use a RAM mount (another important item that makes it work on motorcycles) and covered the connecting cable with Gorilla tape on top of the RAM mount.  In this case, I tried using Powerlet cables so the unit can be mounted and dismounted without removing it from the RAM mount.  But the Powerlet cables did not deliver the promised performance. More on that later.

Gorilla Tape covering the connection on the back of the unit.

Gorilla Tape covering the connection on the back of the unit, back when it was new

As mentioned before, despite the improvised nature, this set up has proven to work, keeping this GPS operational under all types of riding and all weather conditions.  It is not perfect, it requires keeping an eye on it.  It is here where you can make your first calculation:  is the inconvenience of adding Gorilla tape to several parts of this GPS a problem?  What if water enters the unit and damages it? Well, how many times this has to happen, how many Nuvi devices you need to buy before you get to the price of the motorcycle version?  So far I’ve been using this method for 10 years without a problem, without failure.The bottom line?  I’m not sure making the Zumo line waterproof explains the cost differential.  But for me, since the devices I use have survived the elements so far, then the price differential does not justify it.

Another main difference: How bright the screen is!

Let;s try something else. A car device does not need to be too bright since it is likely it will be seen on the interior of a car, which is shaded.


Nuvi 2497

WQVGA color TFT with white backlight

Zumo 395

WQVGA color TFT with white backlight

Zumo 595


For a motorcycle device, this is different. You will be under the elements and under direct sun light. The TFT display with white backlight of the Nuvi (or the Zumo 395 for that matter) is not bright enough, depending on where the sun is.  Direct sun light is the worst possible scenario for these screens.  At night or on cloudy days it is fine.  A transflective display is great under direct sun light.  Is it worth the investment? If I were to buy one of the two Zumo devices for this reason it would have to be the Zumo 595, and then the $900 is too much, in my opinion. It is more than what I consider worth for the benefit of having the brighter screen.

Other Motorcycle specific specs?

So far, the cost of making the device waterproof and have a transflective screen may explain most of the cost differential.  However, these two items have not become essential for me to have on my devices, therefore, they have not justified the premium price. Therefore, let’s go forward and examine more specific motorcycle features of the Zumo line and how it compares to my Nuvi.



Trip Planner

Tire Pressure Monitor


Nuvi 2497

No adventurous routing …

Trip Planner:
Trip Log

No tire pressure monitoring system

Smart notifications via Smartphone Link.

Zumo 395

Garmin Adventurous Routing™:

Trip Planner:
Trip Log

Tire pressure monitor system
sensors sold separately

I assume it comes with smart notifications

Zumo 595

Garmin Adventurous Routing™:

Trip Planner:
Trip Log

Tire pressure monitor system sensors sold separately

Streaming music/media

Smart notifications:

I would like to have the tire pressure monitors and the routing capability.  For the routing I use my Oregon 450.  It is small, since it is meant to be a handheld device, but it is very doable in a motorcycle application.  It would be more convenient to have all of that in one unit. That would be one feature I would like to have on a new device.

Garmin Oregon 450 on my WR250R, Death Valley, March 2016

Garmin Oregon 450 on my WR250R, Death Valley, March 2016

Then again, the reality is that I only really use it when going off road. Perhaps it is because of the inconvenience of having to bring the Oregon 450 with me, setting it up, is that the result is that most of the time, by a great, great margin, I’m only using my Nuvi, even when going off road. Point for the Zumo line here.

My Garmin Oregon 450, a GPS for hikers, and I use it on my motorcycles and on my bicycles

My Garmin Oregon 450, a GPS for hikers, and I use it on my motorcycles and on my bicycles

The tire pressure monitor is a convenient feature.  It hasn’t justified the expense to me yet, but in the future this is something to look into. Some motorcycles already come with their own tire pressure monitors these days. For now, point to the Zumo line.

Did I miss any other essential features here?

A clear disadvantage for car GPSes when using on a motorcycle are the cables and the micro-USB connection.  The Nuvi devices devices come with a regular and large 12 V plug and a long and bulky cable and a very fragile connector with the GPS (micro USB). Besides being bulky, they are not meant to be connected and disconnected on a regular basis, where dust and water may get into the connections.  I’ve tried instead to use Powerlet cables, as mentioned before, but for some reason they don’t work very well.

Powerlet extension for Garmin GPS

Powerlet extension for Garmin GPS, a collection of failed cables

Frequently these cables get disconnected, no matter how much tape I use to keep connecting points tight, and the GPS turns off or keeps turning on and off.  It is really a problem.  Therefore I’ve given up the Powerlet option after many tries and have resorted to plugging and unplugging the GPS using the long and bulky car cable.  It uses a bit more of Gorilla tape (I can re-use it but there is only so much the tape can take until it no longer seals the connections), but so far, so good…  If there is an achilles heel for the car GPS on a motorcycle application, that will be its cable and connectors.  Point for the Zumo again.

In conclusion

The bottom line is that, in my opinion, I don’t need to buy an expensive GPS to have a navigation system for my motorcycles.  There are risks associated with it but so far it has worked very well for me.

Hail! Nuvi 2497 unaffected by hail

Nuvi 2497, unaffected by hail

Maybe I’ve been lucky, but my car GPS devices have survived all sorts of riding and types of terrain without a problem.  Rain and hail have not been a problem, a sandstorm has not been a problem either. From dirt to gravel roads, nothing has been a problem for my Nuvi devices either.

But then again, why is the Zumo line so expensive? Is its waterproof capacity what makes it so expensive?  Is it the capacity (software) to offer a route and track system? The navigation software cuts across so many Garmin products, you would think there are economies of scale on the programming of the device. Is it the tire monitor pressure system? Is it the transflective display?  Are there other features I forgot to mention?  All in all, at the end of the day, I’m happy with the budget device I have.  Would I prefer to have a Garmin 595? Yes. Price it much lower and I will buy one tomorrow.

The counterpoint: There is one exception to my analysis. I do think motorcycle GPSes are really convenient on BMW motorcycles, since you can navigate the GPS menus without taking your hand from the handlebars.  The combination of the built n control and the GPS and its proprietary mount makes it yet more expensive.  But I do see value on it, something to consider. (Note: back to the disruptive innovation, I can see how eventually such a clever wheel (or similar device on a motorcycle) will control your Smart phone and hence your smartphone built-in GPS and the stand alone GPS will still be gone.  It is just a question of time, the wheel has opened the door for this possibility).

GPS control wheel, installed GPS on the background

BMW S1000XR: GPS control wheel on the left, GPS on the background

Meanwhile, when my Nuvi 2497 dies I will get the next Nuvi available or equivalent.  And as you can see, I don’t have an answer.  Maybe you have your own answer for how much you are willing to pay to have the one device that will take care of all your navigation needs on a motorcycle.

Bonus feature (or making the long story longer yet):

The other story I mentioned earlier, when a GPS was a savior, was in 2005.  It is very similar to the story in Springfield.  This time it was in Sacramento, California.

I was coming back from Sacramento, after a work meeting with a colleague of mine.  I did not have a smartphone yet, the I-phone was released in 2007, so I had my Nuvi 260 with me because we rented a car in Sacramento.

We finished our business, returned the car and went to the United desk.  When we got there there was a crowd of people around the agent. Yes, the connecting flight to San Francisco, from which we would catch our flight to Eugene had been canceled. No other options were available that late in the day.  My colleague had her daughter at home with a sitter and the sitter would not be available to stay another night, so she really did not want to miss the San Francisco to Eugene flight.

I brought up the rental car scenario to the United agent, they said United was not going to pay for it.  As we were negotiating this, and I do negotiate almost anything, another passenger, wearing a gray suit, arrived.  He was really agitated and just said: I will pay for the car and we travel together to San Francisco. I looked at my colleague, she nodded yes, and that was it. We had transportation.

Very similar to my story in Springfield, making it by car would be very, very close! Everything would have to work very well for us to arrive on time for the connecting flight.  The distance between the Sacramento and San Francisco airports is 105 miles via the faster route, and is expected to take just less than two hours to arrive.

We got the car, well the guy on a suit got the car (I can’t remember his name, I think it was Greg, let’s call him Greg).  As soon as we start driving we started to learn Greg’s story.  First of all, his flight was departing 3o minutes earlier than hours. If our time was tight, his was even tighter.

The second story Greg told us, as we are already on the I-80 towards San Francisco is that he was an attorney working out of New York City. He had come down to Sacramento for a deposition on a malpractice law suit against a dentist. As he is finishing his work he gets a phone call from a hospital in NYC, and he learns his wife had been admitted in the emergency area of the hospital due to a health issue (I don’t remember what it was, I think it was heart related).  His two young kids (under 6 years old) were at home with the cleaning lady.

This guy could not afford to miss his San Francisco to New York flight.  I became the co-pilot and operations manager. I think the car rental agency was National, and because now I learned Greg was really in a hurry I called the car rental company and got the exact location for delivering the car,  I took my Nuvi 260 out of the bag and entered the address and got an official ETA. The ETA was tight, very tight.  We would make it if we did not need to return the car. So Greg steps on it, we are driving upwards to 85 mph. My colleague on the back seat complains about the speed we are traveling and we both turn and say “shut up”.  Well, we did not say it that way, but we did tell her we would be fine, just relax. But we slowed down some.

So I had another idea, and called National again, asking for a curb side delivery of the car (as in deliver the car at the United departure area of the airport).  After a few back and forth conversations, and explaining our situation, they said they could not do it as we requested at that time, but offered to let us drive to National, close the deal (return the car), but stay in the car and an agent would drive us to Greg’s check in area.

The GPS helped us navigate the freeway system as we arrived in the San Francisco area and then took us straight to National. The agent jumped on the car with the paperwork, took the drivers’ position, and delivered us to Greg’s gate.  We haven’t heard from Greg since the time we said goodbye to him at the United desk in San Francisco, but we know he did not miss his flight.

And the Nuvi 260 was really helpful in making sure he did not miss his flight. We did not miss our flight either.

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer:  I’m not a professional rider, and obviously not a professional writer. I write this blog as a hobby and because of my passion for motorcycles and motorcycle riding. I’m not affiliated with any business or organization related to the content of my posts, I’m not paid to write and publish my posts. The potential income generated by advertisements you may come across on my posts are going to WordPress, the organization hosting my content. I pay WordPress to manage and host my content, I would have to pay more to have advert-free posts.

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