Best Motorcycles for Newer Riders

This 400 pound 2000 MZ Scorpion 660 single makes 48hp and served as my daughter’s first street bike…and my road race bike. It cost $2,200

Surf any motorcycle forum or Facebook group and you’ll invariably find a thread asking for advice about the best motorcycles for new riders. Read the comments and you’ll see a very wide range of arguments for and against certain sizes, styles and models. You will also read discussions about whether the newbie will outgrow a 250cc “starter” bike too soon, followed by well-meaning people reassuring the new rider that they will be fine buying a 600cc super-sport machine or 1200cc cruiser.
You’ll even come across suggestions that a 1000+cc superbike or 1800+cc cruiser is just the ticket. These dodo birds can be identified by their native call: “I learned on a 195hp Hayabusa and did just fine, so don’t be a wussy.” Ummmm. okay.
One thing to consider when filtering advice is that people who have been riding a while seem to forget what it is like to be a newbie and view this issue through their own experience. And their advice is further skewed if learning to ride came to them easier than the average person. This leads to inappropriate advice that does not apply to most average beginners.
Here are my thoughts on the topic:

Size and Power Matters

I don’t care what the internet “experts” say, with few exceptions a new rider is better off starting on a physically smaller bike with modest power.
Newer riders use most of their bandwidth just staying upright without whiskey-throttling themselves into a fence. Toss them into the real world and their heads explode trying to juggle the controls while negotiating blind curves, distracted drivers and surface hazards they never had to worry about as car drivers.
You could argue that these challenges are present no matter what bike the beginner is riding. This is true, but a smaller, less powerful bike is easier to control and is much less likely to intimidate. The odds of a newer rider sticking with riding are greater if the bike they ride is fun…and fun to a newbie means easy to ride…and that means less weight and power.

Fit Matters

This older Honda Rebel is a popular bike for new riders with short inseams.

Alright, there are times when a larger , more powerful bike makes sense like when it has to haul around a large human. In this case, I suggest a mid-sized bike with just enough power to comfortably maintain 70mph with adequate legroom and reach the handlebars.
The type of bike chosen needs to match physical limits. A person with a bad back should choose a bike with more upright ergonomics. Despite common belief, cruisers aren’t good for most people who have back issues, as the riding position rounds the spine, causing discs to bulge. People with neck or shoulder problems may need to stay away from race-replica sport bikes. I choose to ride a Triumph Street Triple as my track day bike, because it has most of the capability of a pure super sport bike, but with higher handlebars.
Reader Bruce A. pointed me to this cool site that can help you visualize how a person your size might fit on certain bikes. Click on the Options tab to see if your inseam will allow you to stand flat footed.

Seat Height

Suzuki 650 Gladius (a version of the SV650)

A big concern of most new riders (and a lot of experience riders, as well) is seat height, or more precisely, “can I touch flat-footed?”. This is understandable if the person is anxious about balancing a heavy motorcycle. The lighter the bike, the less concerning it is to have only the balls of your feet on the ground.
Most smaller riders choose cruisers because they typically have low seat heights. If you’re “inseam challenged” but want a bike that is more versatile than a cruiser, like a sporty standard or perhaps a small sportbike to carve curves to do track days you’ll have a few good options.  Harley, Triumph and BMW offer low versions of certain models and many manufacturers have low seats and other components to help smaller riders feel more secure.
It may be possible to lower the chassis of some bikes using aftermarket suspension links and by slipping the forks higher in the triple clamps. You can also have seats cut down or find a lower aftermarket seat.

Learning Balance

Here’s one thing to consider…after some time learning how to balance the bike while stopping and starting, then not being able to touch flat-footed becomes much less of an issue. Once you become familiar with the balance of your bike and learn the slow speed techniques, you will be surprised how easy it is to keep a bike upright.
This means that eventually, you will be able to consider almost any bike on the market. Just don’t go crazy…you may drool over a big cruiser, tourer or adventure bike, but be realistic that the bike is a good fit.
Case in point, any capable dirtbike has around a 34-inch seat height. Few people I know have an inseam that long, meaning that all dirt riders must manage while only touching tippy-toe. Dirt riders quickly learn how to balance, and their dirtbikes are very light. Sure, a dirtbike can still weight over 300 pounds, but that is manageable by most reasonably fit individuals. Another example of light makes right!

New?

Ninja 250- sporty, comfortable and capable. This generation bike can be found cheap.

It’s tempting to throw down your money on a shiny new motorcycle. This option eliminates the stress of buying a used machine from some potential Craigslist scammer and you get the benefit of modern amenities and safety features, like ABS and traction control. Not to mention the pride of owning the newest model on the road.
However, dropping $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 on a bike that will likely get dropped puts a lot more stress on the new rider. Too much attention will be put on avoiding that first scratch on those shiny chrome or plastic parts. And stress does not create the best condition for fun or open learning. That’s why it’s almost always better to buy a cared-for used motorcycle that isn’t as precious.

Used!

Buying used means you need to do your research about whether an older model bike is appropriate, which includes being patient in your search for the right motorcycle. Unlike cars and trucks, most motorcycles do not rack up very high miles.
You will also likely need to do some maintenance tasks before the bike is fully up to snuff. Depending on whether or not you live in an area with long riding season, it’s not unusual to find a five year old bike with only 5,000 miles. That means that not too much will need to be done to make it roadworthy. However, a frequently ridden motorcycle five or more years old will have more 10,000 or more miles. Here are a list of components that often need replacement:

  • New tires (worn to the tread wear indicator, or older than five years)
  • Chain and sprockets (most OEM units last about 12-15,000 miles)
  • Brake pads (anywhere from 6-12,000 miles).

Of course, a oil and filter change and brake fluid replacement, as well as general lubrication needs to be done. Read more about motorcycle maintenance HERE.
Keep in mind that whatever bike you buy (new or used), you want easy access to service and parts. Exotic bikes are cool, but it sucks if you have to drive hours to get it serviced and even worse if you have to wait too long for parts.

Mo Money

Another reason to buy used is so you have enough money left over in your budget to buy good protective gear. It is said that if you can’t afford a good helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots, then you can’t afford to be a motorcyclist. While that may sound draconian, it is a smart rule to follow.
You will also have money left to pay for advanced rider training. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that once you know how to operate the bike that you know how to “ride”, which involves much more than simply being able to control the machine.

Ken racing an old 50hp Kawasaki EX500 Ninja worth less than $2,000. Photo: Jonas Powell Photography

Ride a Slow Bike Fast

I want to emphasize that the bikes I am listing below are not only “beginner bikes”! These bikes are appropriate for new riders, but are also entertaining enough to captivate experienced riders who know how much fun it is to ride lightweight machines. Unfortunately, most people think that moving up to the large displacement as soon as possible is the way to go. It’s not.
Take me for example. I have ridden almost every large and small motorcycle on the market and still choose to stick with my middleweight Triumph Tiger 800 (streetbike) and Street Triple (track bike).
Speaking of track day bikes, I constantly caution track day riders from buying larger and more powerful bikes, and instead, stick with the smaller bike they started on and learn to ride it really well before considering a move.
Even riders at the top of their game don’t often find benefit in owning a bike with more power. Believe me, it is quite possible to ride faster on board a 600cc sportbike, or even a well-setup SV650 than someone struggling to manage the power of a liter-sized superbike. Lower-powered bikes push the rider to ride more efficiently and corner with greater precision. Big power tends to be a crutch that slows down skill development. As the saying goes, “it’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast, rather than ride a fast bike slow”.
The video shows the Intermediate (Yellow group) session with Tony’s Track Days. Before anyone asks; the suspension and every other component on the 250R is stock. Thanks Younia, for the ride!

One last thing to consider are the benefits to riding off-road for new and experienced riders to learn traction management, body positioning and throttle control where there are no texting teens to punt you off the road.

Best Bikes for Beginners

So, here is my list of street bikes appropriate for new or newer riders, by size and category:

250-400cc

Kawasaki KLX250s

Dual-Sport

Dual-sports are used on pavement and dirt. They have tall seat heights, but are very light compared to other street-legal bikes.

Nighthawk 250

Street Sport/Standard

Cruiser/Classic


500-800cc

Dual-Sport

  • Kawasaki KLR650- The Swiss Army knife of motorcycles. Big and heavy but a workhorse with good balance and power for all riders.$$
  • Suzuki DRz400s/sm – A larger dual sport for long-legged riders. The SM is a supermoto street version.$$
  • BMW F700/800GS- The slightly lower, street-leaning version of the more off-road 800GS. $$$

Street Sport/Standard

A mid-sized cruiser

Cruiser/Classic

Other bikes to consider:

This is a list I came up with, but I know I’m missing some options, like older bikes. Please include your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll consider adding it to the list.

What You Won’t See On My List

A lot of beginners eye bikes in the 600cc class of sport bikes, thinking the engine size makes it manageable for a newb. But, 600s are shar edged tools that can cut a rider whose skills aren’t developed enough. Yes, beginners survive starting on a 600, but why put the beginner through the stress of having to manage a machine designed for experienced riders?
You may wonder why there are several 650cc and 800cc bikes on my list. Well, those bikes are designed to be easy to ride by average riders wanting a bike that is comfortable and practical for all types of riding. The engine displacement may be greater, but the power delivery is more mellow and user-friendly.
Cruisers are sized with big displacement engines, but they are tuned to lug around town and produce less power per cc than standard or sporty models. That’s why it’s not unheard of to find a newb riding a 1000 or 1200cc cruiser as their first bike. But, these bikes are still not great starter bikes becasue they are heavy with forward controls and a long wheelbase, making them unwieldy at slow speeds.

Suzuki SV650

Bottom Line

Get a used Ninja 250/300 if you’re small and like performance machines. Get a Honda Rebel 300 or 500 if you like cruisers and have a really short inseam. Score a Honda CRF250L or a Kawi KLX250s if you lean more toward off-roading and have long legs or get a XT225/250 if you have shorter legs. Get a Kawi 300 Versys if you like adventure-bike styling and capability.
A step up in size may be just fine for a lot of beginners. In this case, the Honda CB500 series makes a lot of sense. I like the Vulcan S for a mid-sized cruiser and a cheap, used DRz400s for a bigger dual-sport. KLR650 are other more off road worthy option.
For someone who is pretty comfortable on two wheels, a Ninja 650 or SV650 are my most recommended bikes becasue they are capable of touring, commuting and doing track days. You can even ride dirt roads pretty well on these bikes.  The Versys 650 is another great option, as is the Yamaha FZ-07.
For bigger dudes, A BMW 700/800GS or F800R may work. For cruisers, you may get away with a Harley 883 or even a 1000 Sportster, but I’d seriously look at the Indian Scout. For sport bikes, I’d steer you to, you guessed it…an SV650.
 


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Review: Racer High Speed Gloves

otmpix.com

I ride over 2,000 track miles every season. That means I spend a lot of time wearing road race gloves. I need high-performance gloves that are comfortable as well as protective.
Racer’s High Speed Glove is a premium CE certified, professional-level glove for road racers and serious track day riders. Racer says this is their best selling glove.
The glove is made of cowhide with TPU hard protectors on the knuckles and there is an egg-sized protector on the outside of the wrist. The knuckles are covered with rugged SuperFabric®.  There is a wide gauntlet closure and narrow wrist closure using Velcro.
From the Knox website.

The High Speed’s palms are made from kangaroo skin with a leather grip patch and two Knox® SPS palm sliders (SPS stands for “Scaphoid Protection System”). As you can guess by the name, these sliders are designed to prevent scaphoid injuries by allowing your hand to slide rather than grab the pavement and stretch or compress the wrist.
The pinkie and ring fingers are joined with a piece of leather to prevent what Racer calls “finger roll”. I’m not sure what that is, but I imagine connecting your two smallest fingers together makes a single sturdier digit.  My Heroic gloves have the same feature.
The gloves are comfortable to wear, taking exactly zero minutes to break in. The fingers are a bit stiff, but nothing concerning. The leather is perforated and vented at the gauntlet and a little bit along the fingers. Airflow seems adequate, since I never felt that my hands got particularly hot during the hottest days on track.
Gripes? I wish the gauntlet were 1/2″ longer so it better covers the sleeves of my leathers. Also, I would like some more protection on the back of my hand, just above the wrist. My Heroic SP-R Pro gloves have a simple rigid panel that seems to be a good idea. Maybe the High Speed glove could be a bit more protective in a few places, but I bet these would do a fine job keeping my paws in one piece in a crash.
Likes? I like a lot. I like the hard Knox scaphoid sliders and the slider on the outside of the wrist. I also like the fit and comfort. The Kangaroo hide is very soft, but protective. These gloves are comfortable enough to be used on the street.
You can get the High Speed in either Black or White/Black for $280.00. That sound expensive? Well, it’s the going rate for really good gloves. Besides, your hands are damn well worth it.

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How to Not Suck at Motorcycle Maintenance

chain-copy
My daughter cleaning and lubing a chain.

Motorcycling is much more than simply owning a two-wheeler. It also means learning to ride well enough to be safe and having the ability to maintain your motorcycle so that the machine you straddle is in top-notch condition.
This is not a trivial requirement. Stories abound of hapless riders falling victim to incidents caused by ill-maintained motorcycles. Failure to lubricate, air-up, tighten or replace certain parts can lead to painful and expensive mishaps that could have been avoided with a bit of preventive maintenance.
New riders can easily become discouraged once they realize that it is time and cost-prohibitive to bring their motorcycle to their local repair shop or dealer to perform frequent chores. It just makes sense to learn how to lube and adjust your chain, change your oil and perform small adjustments that need attention from time to time. It also makes sense to have the ability to bolt on accessories.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to learn how to be self-sufficient. And once you start getting your hands dirty you’ll find a deeper connection with your motorcycle (and with riding).
Once you adopt these basic principals, the next step is to find your owner’s manual and buy a bike-specific repair manual so you can know what is involved with a particular project. Some jobs are better left to the pros, but a surprising number of tasks are very doable by an adventurous owner.
Below is a basic list of tips I put together that will help get you started.
Note: This article contains links from Bike Bandit. I usually turn down these sponsored post offers, but I said yes because I have been using them for years as my go-to source for OEM (original equipment) parts and other goodies. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. Really.

1. Lefty Loosey

When my daughter was old enough to hold a wrench, I made sure to include her in some basic maintenance chores. She resisted at the time, but she now thanks me. She is not afraid to tackle maintenance chores partly because I exposed her to what it feels like to simply turn wrenches and screwdrivers on various fasteners and components. The first thing she needed to learn is the law of “lefty loosey, righty tighty”. If a nut or bolt won’t seem to budge, first confirm that you’re turning it the right way. Believe me, this happens all the time with newbies.

2. Use the Right Tools

There is a difference between a #2 and #3 Phillips screw driver. Asking a #2 to loosen a tight #3 screw may work out, but don’t be surprised if you then have to deal with a bunged screw head. Having a set of extractors, vice-grips and taps might save the day. Maybe. Get a comprehensive set of metric (or SAE for you American bike owners) sockets and wrenches so you avoid using adjustable wrenches and pliers, which often make your job downright miserable.

3. Stubborn Nuts

Speaking of tough nuts…Many people struggle because they don’t know how much force is needed to loosen a stubborn nut, screw or bolt. The right amount of oomph needed to get a fastener undone becomes a “sense”. I can usually feel when a bolt is about to strip (damage threads) or break (sh*t). This comes from experience. But, don’t be deterred. As long as you have the right sized tool (no adjustable wrenches, please) and follow the law of “lefty loosey, righty tighty”  then go for it. Just be sure to maintain pressure where the tool meets the fastener so it doesn’t slip on the screw, nut or bolt head.
If it still won’t budge, give it a squirt of Liquid Wrench and let it sit a bit, or apply heat for really stubborn fasteners. If it still won’t give, then clamp on a pair of vice-grips and give it a go. If you are still having trouble, you’re going to need help from someone who can extract the boogered fastener. Or keep at it yourself. Expect to use swear words not heard since your college days. @#%&@* It will eventually come out. Have faith.

4. Understand How Things Work

You will be a more daring and successful mechanic if you learn how a motorcycle’s brake, drive, electrical, and control systems work. It will make more sense why the manual says to remove the whatchamajigger if you know its relationship within the system. You will also be better able to diagnose problems if you know that the thingamajig drives the whatsahoozit.
There are lots of online articles to help with this, and to walk you through specific jobs. You can also take a look at the series of videos from the MC Garage that cover many of the basic maintenance tasks faced by us motorcycle riders. If you plan on doing more complex tasks like valve adjustments, you’d be smart to learn how the engine works, but it’s not necessary for most maintenance chores.

5. Have a Reliable Source for Motorcycle Parts

Let’s say you learned that you need to replace your chain and sprockets, air filter or clutch cable. You can go to your local dealer to buy parts, or you can choose to shop online without leaving your living room. I am a big supporter of my local dealers, but I sometimes feel like they are little more than middlemen between me and the parts distributor. However, if you’re new to this whole motorcycle fixing thing, a knowledgable dealer can offer advice and guidance not easily accessed from online retailers.
Also, delivery can be shorter if I ordered parts online myself and had them delivered directly to my door.
bikebandit-logo Bike Bandit has delivered prompt service time and again. Even if I end up buying from my dealer, I regularly use their online parts microfiche to learn about the project and make sure all the right parts are ordered. Their search function gets me to the correct page quickly. They also have a “My Garage” list to quickly find parts that fit the bikes I own.

Accessories

While I am ordering maintenance parts I usually end up shopping for other goodies like motorcycle accessories or motorcycle gear. Much of my accessory shopping is done at Twisted Throttle, but I always seem to have some “Bandit Bucks” to spend, so I end up adding something to my order. Besides, Bike Bandit has gear and accessories that Twisted doesn’t carry. I find Bike Bandit easy to work with and their selection is very good. Check them out at www.bikebandit.com.


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Adventure Accessories for the Triumph Tiger 800

Mitas-bike-2The arrival of the newest addition to the RITZ garage is a Phantom Black 2016 Tiger 800 XRx. The Tiger has proven to be a true all-arounder. I have toured on it, done a track day, conquered Deal’s Gap and navigated some pretty gnarly roads and single track on the Tiger.
See my LONG-TERM review of the Tiger 800 XRx
I bolted on some accessories (“farkles” to you ADV guys) to help increase the Tiger’s versatility. My friends at Twisted Throttle took care of getting me all the best accessories I needed. They have some of the best Adventure bike accessories. Here is what I installed.

Bike Protection

SW-MOTECH Crash Bars
SW-MOTECH Crash Bars

SW-MOTECH Crash Bars
SW Motech is a German company specializing in top-shelf bike protection. Their crash bars are seriously beefy compared with others I’ve seen, including the Triumph branded bars. The trade off is weight. The SW bars add some pounds to the bike, with much of it held high where the upper loop is located at tank level.
The advantage of the high loop is the protection offered to the fuel tank. But, realistically, a low bar that protects just the engine is a fine option, partly because if the tank makes contact with the ground, it is the plastic side panels that get nailed, and those are only about $60.00 to replace. An good engine guard alternative are the R&G Engine Guards.
Another problem I found with the high SW bars is vibration. It seems as though the setup acts a bit like a tuning fork. Although I noticed the vibes on my first ride with them installed, I no longer notice it at all so this should not be a deal breaker. If you want maximum protection, the SW-M bars are the way to go.
Skid Plate/Sump Guard
SW-MOTECH Skid Plate/Sump Guard

SW-Motech Skid Plate (Sump Guard)
The Tiger comes with a decent plastic skid plate, but it is not beefy enough for the type of abuse the bottom of the engine and frame will be exposed to so I ordered the SW-Motech skid plate. It mounts easily and covers much more of the vulnerable underparts not protected by the OEM plate, including the oil filter, lower exhaust canister and frame rails. It’s quite satisfying to hear the sound of rocks pinging off it’s surface. Money well spent.
R&G Radiator Guard
Putting a hole in a radiator from an errant stone  will end your day real fast and is an expensive repair so I installed the R&G rad guard. R&G makes a heavier duty stainless steel guard, but I went with the lightweight aluminum unit. It installs easily and looks great.
I need a Hugger
R&G Hugger

R&G Rear Hugger
A Hugger is a rear fender that mounts close to the rear tire to help keep your rear shock clean. The R&G hugger bolted on perfectly and gives a custom look to the Tiger’s rear end.
Pyramid Fenda Extenda
The Fenda Extenda mounts to the bottom of the front fender to help keep crap from flying onto the front of your engine and radiator. It requires some drilling, but is easy enough to install.

Luggage

Side carriers and crash bars
Side carriers and crash bars

SW-Motech Hard Bag Sidecarriers
I already owned a set of DrySpec D20 drybag saddlebags and wasn’t planning to buy hard cases until I realized that the soft saddlebags needed to be supported by a side carrier to avoid drooping under the rear fender and seat. I went ahead and bought the SW-Motech side carriers for use with the D20s but then decided to go for some side cases after all (see below). These carriers are awesome. They quickly release from the bike with just a twist of 4 Zeus fasteners. And the quality is top-notch. They carry all brands of side cases with the proper adapter kit.
The Givi E-22 side cases look good and are narrow and light.

Givi E-22 Side Cases
There are a lot of side cases to choose from, including the Trax Boxes and cases from Givi and other manufacturers. But, I chose the most lightweight and inexpensive hard case option; the Givi E-22. The 22 is an updated version of the basic E-20 that has been around for years. The new shape looks great and it is just big enough for my needs. Their small size means that the width of the bike when they are installed is fairly narrow.
The cases open at the top so my contents don’t go spilling onto the pavement when I open them. At the low price of less than $250.00 for the SET, you don’t get premium construction, but they have held together just fine and I expect them to perform well for many seasons. FYI, I mount mine backwards from what is intended because I like the way the rearward slop looks on the Tiger.
Bags Connection City tank bag with Quick release ring.
Bags Connection City tank bag with Quick release ring.

Bags-Connection City Tank Bag
The BC tank bags are pricey, but are also well made and highly functional. The quick-connect tank ring is really easy to use and is totally secure. I ride the roughest roads with the small City bag and it has never flown the coop. For Tiger 800 riders, you want to mount the top ring as far back as possible on the bag so it doesn’t interfere with your man (or woman) junk when standing, especially on uphill climbs.
You can opt for the electrified tank ring version that gets power inside the bag just by mounting it to the special tank ring. I chose the non-e setup and feed a Euro plug-to-SAE cord a SAE-to-Cigarette socket through the front cord port to get power from the Triumph power socket to the tank bag. I charge my phone, Interphone Bluetooth Comms and whatever else needs juicing up during a ride.
tiger-steelrack
The SW-MOTECH Steel rack mounts over the stock luggage plate.

SW-Motech Topcase Steel Rack
I already had a Coocase topcase from my last bike, but I needed a way to mount it to the Tiger. I could have drilled the OEM luggage plate and rigged up the Coocase to it, but I decided to do it right by buying a SW-M Steel rack. The rack is super-strong and mounts over the plastic Triumph plate for a rugged mounting solution. You can opt for the slightly lighter Alu-Rack, but I like the look of the Steel rack and the lower price.
BDry Spec Drybag saddle bags with SW-MOTECH side carriers and City tank Bag.
Dry Spec drybag saddle bags with SW-MOTECH side carriers and City tank Bag. The Coocase top box is mounted to a SW-MOTECH Steel Rack.

DrySpec Saddlebags & DrySpec Duffle
A lot of ADV riders opt for Hard Cases, like the SW-MOTECH Trax Boxes or the GIVI Trekker Cases. I went with more street-oriented Givi E-22 Side Cases for road and touring. But for real off-road trips, I opt for soft side luggage for two reasons. One, the DrySpec Saddlebags will not get damaged in a fall, and two there is no risk of getting a leg crushed underneath the boxes in a fall or having my calf come in contact with the front of a box when I have to dab my foot while in motion.
The DrySpec Saddlebags & DrySpec Duffle are both totally immersible and sturdy enough to over-pack. They are small, but that just forces me to pack light. The integrated mounting straps are really secure and easy to install.
Tool Tube
Tool Tube

Tool Tube
The space between the side carrier and the right side of the Tiger is occupied by the exhaust, but there is lots of space on the left side for something. That something I chose was a Tool Tube. I put extra tools, a small can of chain lube and a few other items in their for safe keeping.

Comfort

MRA Spoiler Blade and GPS Mount.
MRA Spoiler Blade and GPS Mount.

MRA X-creen Sport Clamp-on Air Spoiler
I get a ton of questions about the spoiler blade I have mounted on the Tiger’s stock windscreen. A lot of people have replaced the stocker screen with MRA or Givi screens, but I like the look of the stock screen, and with the addition of the adjustable MRA X-creen spolier blade, I am perfectly happy with the way it manages wind. I wrote a complete review of the MRA X-Creen earlier when I first mounted one on my Sprint RS. A great option.
roxROX Bar Risers
Standing is a big part of off-road riding. The stock bar mounts were okay, but the reach when standing was a bit far and I was also hoping to find a better bar position that alleviated the cramp I get in my upper back. The ROX risers are nicely made and offer a wide range of adjustability with two points of rotational movement. Now, I can stand naturally when riding off road, but the back cramp is still there. I just can’t seem to find a position that helps this problem. I will continue to work with the ROX risers to find that solution.

Electronics

RAM Mounts and X-Grip Phone Holder
RAM Mounts and arms reliably hold my GoPro, iPhone and GPS. There are so many options that it forces you to get creative about where to mount the RAM ball and then which RAM arms to use for your particular needs.
The X-Grip has proven to be a secure and easy mount for my iPhone 5 and 6, even when riding single-track trails on my KLX. Just be sure to use the RAM Tether on rough terrain.

GPS Holder with RAM ball.
GPS Holder with RAM ball.

SW-Motech GPS Mount
This Mount positions your GPS (or other device) right smack dab in the middle of the windscreen, just above the instruments using custom bracket and a RAM ball and arm. It’s a perfect solution to prevent having a GPS cluttering your handlebars. It is high quality and mounts easily.
Tank Bag Power
Click the title link to see various electrified tank bag options. I mentioned the tank bag system I have that uses a Euro plug-to-SAE cord a SAE-to-Cigarette socket to power the tank bag. Either option is a good one. Having power in your tank bag is a necessity in today’s e-world.

Tires

tiger-mitas-oem
Mitas 50/50 tire on top. Metzeler 90/10 tire on bottom.

Mitas E-07
I wrote a complete review of the Mitas E-07 50/50 tires. In a nutshell, these tires are great and will allow you to go places you never thought you would. For the Tiger Roadie, order the 110 front tire to avoid the ridiculous oversteer. Order the standard (not Dakar) version for the 800.
Mitas Terra Force
I have not mounted these 90/10 dual sport tires yet, so keep an eye out next year for a full review.
 


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Review: Motus MST-R – American Made

The  Motus MST-R is an American hot rod. Its push-rod “baby block” motor hearkens back to the days of monster V-8 Cobras, GTOs, Trans Ams, Z-28s and Dodge Chargers. Badass. The Motus also hints at the exotica of a Ferrari with its high-end components and sophisticated styling.

Engine

The centerpiece of the Motus is the 1655cc longitudinal V-4. Firing up the Motus is like awakening an angry beast. The mechanical raucousness from the push-rod motor is a bit unsettling until you realize that it’s supposed to sound that way. Jokes about needing to add more oil should be expected. The racket smooths out significantly once underway and transitions to a song of badassness coming from the carbon-fiber exhaust.
The motor is well controlled but is also kind of a brute at the same time. The combination of mechanical sensations and gobs of torque make this a bike that gets attention.
With a claimed 180hp and 120 ft lbs, power is plentiful (the regular MST makes 165hp). Acceleration is less urgent than a pure sports bike, like an R1, but the Motus sure can get up and go. And the always-available torque means it pulls like a freight train.
180-ish horsepower can be intimidating, but the Motus delivers the power in a controlled manner and right from the bottom of the rev range. Rev it to the 8,000rpm redline (push-rods limit RPM) and the landscape rushes by with immediacy.
Thankfully, the bike can also lope along at legal speeds. It just doesn’t really like to. The fueling is fine, but I suspect it is the motor that causes the bike to surge at steady low-range RPM where it hunts for a calm and steady pace. Get on the gas and the motor is happier, just keep an eye out for the authorities.

Fueling

The Ride-by-Wire throttle meets modern standards and is easy enough to control, but there is a slight amount of surging that is reminiscent of a system that is not 100% sorted. Like many OEM FI systems, a bit of re-mapping may smooth things out. That said, the bike is controllable enough to make tight parking lot maneuvers, but it takes some extra skill to do it smoothly.
These days, we expect electronic nannys on our premium bikes, but the Motus does not have Traction Control or ABS. Next year, I’m told.

Transmission

The 6-speed (with overdrive) tranny is kinda industrial. It reminds me of transmissions found on big cruisers. Clutchless upshifts are possible, but not recommended. The clutch is easy to control when leaving from a stop and I never missed a gear, so it’s all good. Finding neutral is a chore, though. The full color LCD instrument cluster includes a helpful gear indicator.

Handling

It puzzles me when a bike ships with the best available shock and fork components, but is not set up very well. This is the case of the Motus. The fully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 and NIX30 forks will allow the right settings after some fiddling.
Jim Hamlin of Hamlin Cycles noted that the shock spring rate is also too soft for most riders. The resulting low rear ride height causes some awkward handling characteristics and hinders feedback, making me apprehensive to push it too much.
The bike turns in fine, feels reasonably neutral mid corner, and is stable. Like the motor, the suspension works best when is being worked hard. But, that’s when the too-light rebound damping showed its head. Four clicks of added rebound damping put it in the ballpark, but more tweaks will be necessary to get this sorted.
The forks seemed fine, so I’d concentrate on getting the shock set up first.

Comfort

The MST-R comes with a Sargent seat. It’s supportive enough around the sit bone area, but becomes too narrow at the front. I give it a 5 out of 10.
The windscreen is adjustable, but the stock touring screen that is fitted on this bike created a lot of wind noise at the taller setting. Apparently, the sport screen is the same height, so I don’t see that as a solution. I hear some riders have cut down the stock screen to try and get the wind to hit closer to shoulder height. Your results may vary.
This particular bike was fitted with adjustable Heli-bars. They reach back toward the rider and feel like ape-hangers to me. I would opt for a more direct connection to the bike and a position that is lower and more forward.
You’ll may want to buy some asbestos-lined riding pants, because the engine heat is pretty intense.

Brakes

Brembo makes top shelf braking components that offer good feel and controlled power delivery. They are not overly powerful, which suits the task of this bike. The rear brake is controllable and well placed. But, no ABS. Really?

motus-poseOverall Thoughts

I was grateful to my student John for letting me take his ultra-cool sport tourer out for a spin. The bike reminds me of an angry Moto Guzzi. The transverse motor rocks side-to-side when you blip the throttle at a standstill and the chassis has that lazy, yet sporty feel to it, like a Norge.
So, who would love this bike? I’d say it is someone who wants a unique experience over refinement. Those who love visceral feedback and a bully-like sound from their machines will be happy. Honda ST riders will likely not be able to get past the relative coarseness.
The Motus is a tough guy, but is not an unshaven bully who hangs out in dark bars. Instead, it’s more like a well-dressed mobster who is polite and charming. It’s just the thing for those who like living large and don’t mind some rough edges.

Value

At over $30k the Motus is expensive. It performs well, but is a bike that takes getting used to…like so many things worth owning. Is it worth the money? For a lot of folks, it is. It would be a tough sell for a frugal Yankee like me.
Motus Motorcycles


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Product Review: Mitas E-07 Dakar Dual Sport Tires

Mitas-bikeMy 2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx has proven its awesomeness, both on the street and off-road. To gain even more confidence in rough terrain, I swapped the stock Metzeler Tourance Next (90% road/10% off-road) tires for a set of Mitas E-07 Dakar Dual Sport/Adventure bike 50/50 buns.
Mitas (pronounced Me-tass, think “Meet us”) has been around for a while as a maker of agricultural tires, but also manufactures vintage, moped, scooter, flat track, speedway, street and off-road motorcycle tires and is now becoming one of the go-to tires for Adventure (ADV) bikes.
Since I have not tried the most well-known players on the ADV/DS tire spectrum, I cannot make a direct comparison. So, the review is of my impressions of this tire only.
Disclosure: Even though I bought the first “Dakar” set from Twisted Throttle, MotoRace/Mitas generously supplied me with the second “Standard” set so I was using the correct tire for my weight and bike. See more about the different versions below.

The OEM Tire

The Metzeler Tourance Next tires did okay on the track.
The Metzeler Tourance Next tires did okay on the track. www.owenstrackdayphotos.com

On the street, the Metzeler Tourances were fine, but felt numb. This became even more apparent during a track day where the Tourance tires could not communicate well enough to instill much confidence. Grip was good though; I managed to corner hard enough to mangle both of the Tiger’s footpeg feelers.

Why the Tire Swap?

The Metzelers were also fine for the easy packed and semi-packed graded roads, but the lack of feedback made me wonder whether I was about to push the front tire right out from under the bike on gravely surfaces like I did on the Multistrada last year.
Another reason for the swap to more off-road worthy tires was for an intermediate-level ADV course I was taking with Jimmy Lewis at the Dirt Daze rally in Lake George.
After talking with knowledgeable ADV friends, I decided on the Mitas E-07 50/50s. Reviews suggest that they would provide good mileage, fine road handling and wet weather traction, as well as really good off-road capabilities.
standThe aggressive tread suggests that they will climb anything I plan to tackle, but I wondered just how good they’ll be on the street. I had them mounted just before I was to take a 1500 mile trip to North Carolina, so I was about to find out.

Pavement Performance

The wandering feel of a knobbie-type tire on pavement takes some getting used to. I ride my KLX 250 on the street at a sporting pace with full knobbies, so I am comfortable with how an off-road tire feels when cornering on the road. Despite the usual weird sense that the tires are about to slip out from under you (they won’t), the E-07s provide plenty of grip on both dry and wet pavement.
I did 1400 miles through VA and NC, including a run of Deal’s Gap and the Cherolhala and had a blast. That was with the bike being loaded with camping gear. No, the E-07s aren’t as sure-footed as a road tire and I wouldn’t do a track day on them, but they were absolutely fine as a street tire.
Whine and Vibes
One thing you will notice when riding with these tires on pavement is the high-pitched whine and the added vibration caused by the aggressive tread. I like a quiet tire, so this was a compromise I was going to have to tolerate in order to enjoy the more capable off-road qualities. It turns out I got used to it pretty quickly.
Oversteer
However, it took me longer to acclimate to the abrupt turn-in and oversteer. To keep the bike from dropping too quickly and too far into a lean, I had to countersteer on the outside handlebar. Mike, a student of mine, also commented on the quick steering characteristics after he mounted E-07s on his Super Tenere.
This quick-turning behavior is to be expected from an off-road tire where nimble maneuvering is a priority over stability. There is always a compromise.
The remedy is to mount a wider front tire: I inadvertently ordered a 110 front tire from Motorace instead of the stock 100 size tire. This proved to be a very good thing as the wider front tire took care of the annoying oversteering problem. So, Tiger XR owners, order the 110 front!
Stiff Ride
If you mount dual sport tires, whether they are 90/10 or 50/50, you will have to endure a stiffer  ride compared to a street-only tire like the Dunlop Road Smart. The carcass has to be stiff to handle rocky and rough terrain you’re likely to encounter. Again, compromises must be made.

Riding Off-Road

Mitas-bike-2My first off-road excursion with the E-07s was, um, interesting. Here I had a set of very aggressive tractor-like tires, yet the Tiger’s traction control kicked in almost as soon as I tried accelerating up the first gravel hill. Okay, I had forgotten to switch to “Off-Road” mode, so the TC was on full “nanny”. But, still. The 90/10 Metzelers would have at least allowed me to make it up the hill. Switching to the correct mode helped, but the TC was still going nuts.
I now realize that the Tiger’s TC electronics must have needed to re-calibrate itself for the new tires. I never had that problem again.
I can tell you with great confidence that these tires rock off-road! The Mitas tires give me so much more confidence that I now tackle some pretty gnarly terrain that I never thought I’d experience on the Tiger. This is good…and bad. Bad because it would be easy to go places that the tires can handle, but that the bike may not. Easy there, Tiger.
In New England, most of our ADV-type riding consists of packed dirt, lose gravel, rocky outcroppings and mud. We don’t have a lot of sand, so your results may vary in those conditions.

Pressures

I experimented with tire pressures to try and help soften the rough pavement ride from the stiff Dakar carcass. I also wanted to find a pressure that will balance road wear and off-road grip without needing to air-down for dirt and then air-up later for pavement. The stiffer Dakar tire did well when set at mid-to-high twenty pounds of pressure. I expected the tire to wear faster, but the ride was better and off-road traction was great.

Wear

wearWith all this awesome off-road grip, you’d expect the Mitas E-07s to wear quickly on the street. Well, you’d be wrong. I hear that the Conti TKC-80s only last about 3,000 miles. In contrast, I put 4,500 miles on the Dakar set and there was at least another 2,000 miles left when I decided to change the rear. See photos.
I changed the rear before it was completely worn because the flattened profile became annoying enough that I made the swap to a new rear. I would have been happy enough riding these things down to the wear bars, but I had a new rear in the garage, so made the swap early.
When new, the E-07 has a stabilizing bridge that wears down flush to the center strip in about 1500-2000 miles. The 150 section Heidenau also has a center strip, but it is much wider than the Mitas, making the Heidenau not as good for climbing once the center lugs wear flat to the bridge bars. In contrast, the Mitas has great centerline grip throughout its whole life.
Note that the wear bars are NOT at the center of the tire. The wear bars are the deeper bars that are off center (see photo).
Update: The rear tire now has 6,500 miles and still has meat left on it for another 1500 miles, I bet. The front tire is at the wear bars at about 7,000 miles and the blocks have worn unevenly and cupped. That’s at 28 pounds front and rear.

Dakar versus Standard Versions

When I bought the first set of tires I did not know the difference between the Dakar and the Standard model. The Dakar version has an additional belt to add more durability and stiffness, which makes sense for heavier riders on big(ger) ADV bikes, like the R1200GS who mount hard luggage and load their bikes to the hilt. That’s not me.
The “Standard” version makes more sense for a lightweight rider on a Tiger 800. That said, there is an argument for mounting the stiffer tire on bikes with cast (as opposed to spoked) wheels to protect them from getting damaged over sharp rocks.
NOTE: Twisted Throttle has only the “Dakar” version of the E-07 in stock as of this writing, but I’m sure they will get you the “Standard” version if you ask.

Buy These Tires…If You Can Really Use Them.

Mitas-ZThe Mitas E-07 looks tough as nails, rides well on both wet and dry pavement and does really, really well off-road. I didn’t think I’d like them as much as I do. I say, go for it!
But, before you decide to buy these or any 50/50 tire, be realistic about whether you really need this level of off-road capability. Sure, they look cool, but if your riding is 95% road, then the 90/10 tires will likely suit your needs just fine and be more pavement-riding friendly.
TT_Homepage_logo
Buy your Dakar versions tires from Twisted Throttle and help support this blog. They also have quality luggage & racks, riding gear, electronics, auxiliary lighting, bike protection, and much more. Happy shopping!


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