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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Review: 2017 BMW R1200RS

After spending the better part of two weeks in the saddle of a 2017 BMW R1200RS riding the Alps and Dolomites of Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Austria, I have developed a pretty good idea of what this bike is about.
The R1200RS is Beemer’s sport touring bike that uses the ubiquitous 1170cc boxer opposed twin motor. The RS is essentially the faired version of the R1200R naked roadster. Similar bikes include the Ninja 1000, FJ-09 and Suzuki GSX-S 1000F. Or even the Motus or Energica E-bike.
You can familiarize yourself more with the specs and details of the RS at the BMW Motorrad website.

Pricing

The base price of the RS is around $15,000, but you’ll quickly find yourself nearing or exceeding the $20k mark after adding the Premium package and luggage.
The bike I rented from Moto Mader in Oberentfeld, Switzerland was equipped with the Premium package that includes among other things, Dynamic Suspension Adjustment (DSA) and Gear Shift Assist. The BMW site says the bike retails for $21,125 as it was equipped on my tour. See the screen shots for the price breakdown and a list of goodies you get for the extra $3k.

Weight

At 520 pounds wet, the RS is on the heavy side. That’s the same as the Ninja 1000 but is almost 50 pounds heavier than the Suzuki. Add another 30-40 pounds for luggage (and mounting hardware) and you’ve got a pretty hefty bike. Heck, the touring RT version is 600 pounds with luggage, so it’s not that much lighter than the full-on RT tourer, which is arguably a better package.

Engine Performance

The R1200 motor is a tractor. It produces 125 hp at the crank and 92 ft pounds of torque, so it’s no slouch. And it pulls from under 2 grand (rpm). The motor vibrates a fair amount at highway speeds, but it’s character is quite appealing. It was happy motoring down the Autobahn at 100mph, as well as pulling us up the first gear uphill hairpins.
The fueling from the ride-by-wire throttle was spot on, except for a little bit of “hunting” on deceleration on long downhills. It’s not as bad as on my Tiger 800, but I did notice it.
Shifting is reasonably smooth and the Gear Shift Assist allows upshifts without using the clutch or rolling off the throttle. The system worked great from 3rd-to-4th, 4th-to-5th, and 5th-to-6th, but was too rough when shifting in the lower gears. Clutchless downshifts are also rough, because it does not include the auto-blip feature found on the S1000RR. Still, it was nice to rip through the upper gears like a roadracer.

Handling

One word describes the RS’s handling: stable. But that stability comes at the cost of agility. The RS handles sweeping turns, both smooth and bumpy quite well, but when the it comes to tight, slow hairpin turns the RS felt cumbersome.
And slow speed maneuvers had the bike feeling unbalanced. It took me a few days to get used to the slow speed manners of the RS, which is about 2 and a half days longer than it usually takes for me to adjust to a new bike. To be fair, most of the time I had my lovely wife, Caroline in the passenger seat, which added to the unbalanced slow speed feel.
One highlight is the ESA- (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) feature. The dynamic ESA really works and makes the premium package worth considering.
I selected the “dynamic” suspension setting using the handlebar toggle switch and managed to stumble through the complex menu to select the appropriate mode for having a passenger. The bike comes with the typical rider modes (Rain, Road, Dynamic and User) which are easily accessed by a button on the right control pod.

Two-Up Performance

As I mentioned, I spent most of my time with a passenger on board. The bike has plenty of power to handle two people and full luggage. But, the RS is not the best bike for passengering. In contrast, the RT felt perfectly balanced with Caroline on the back. Go with the RT if passengers are your thing.
Riding solo, the bike is much more predictable and nimble enough for me to rip down the Stella pass with confidence. See the video below. But, the F800GT I rode would be my bike of choice from the Beemer lineup for the tight stuff.

Comfort and Protection

I chose the RS over the naked R for the extra wind and weather protection. This proved to be a good move, since we experienced some rather epic rain over five consecutive days.
The wide and relatively flat windscreen provides a decent amount of wind protection. It has a high and low setting that created little buffeting at slower speeds but was very loud at highway speeds at the high setting. Keep in mind that I’m 5’9″, so your results may vary.
The seat is quite comfortable, allowing me to be squirm-free for most of the day. I did need relief after long days in the saddle, but overall, it’s quite good. Caroline was happy with the passenger seat.
The heated grips were terrific when we encountered torrential rain and 49 F temperatures for hours on end. I envied the RT riders who also had heated seats and greater protection from the Alpine rain.

Luggage

The $1,100 optional side cases are standard BMW units that open sideways. They held plenty of stuff and were waterproof. The latches are a bit cheap-feeling and a couple of the other riders had trouble with their topcase locks failing. We had no such problems.
Speaking of topcases, the small Beemer item was fine. But, at over $900.00 (I assume that includes the mounting hardware) I’d look for a bit larger Givi or Shad box for a lot less money.
The small BMW tankbag is secured with straps and costs a lot of bucks for what it is. It’s not waterproof, but has an inner drawstring bag to help keep things semi-dry. My recommendation: Get a SW-Motech /Bags Connection bag that is much sturdier and uses a slick locking ring system.

Compared with the RT

I switched bikes with another rider on the tour to see what the RT is like in comparison to the RS. I had been dismayed with the RS’s cumbersome handling and was a bit apprehensive about riding the even heavier RT.
But, to my surprise, the RT was much more balanced. Slow speed maneuvers and negotiating the tight hairpins is a breeze. And seeing the way the solo RT riders were hustling their bikes around shows just how capable the RT is with or without a passenger. At least one rider plans to buy an RT after they got home. I can see why.

Niggle

One little thing I found perplexing is that the self-cancelling turn signals stay on too long. Long enough that I didn’t think the bike had the feature. Come on BMW.

The Takeaway

The RS is a beautiful bike, especially in the blue and white color scheme. I like the way the exhaust looks and the asymmetric headlights are cool. The bike sounds great and the motor is powerful and grunty.
I could definitely grow to love the RS, but would likely opt for a lighter weight FJ-09 with it’s raucous motor and cheaper price.
I enjoyed my time on the RS, especially after I got a better feel for it’s awkward slow speed handling. The bike rails through fast and medium-fast sweepers and hustles down the highway comfortably. And even though it’s not great in the hairpins I managed fine. Here is a video of me on the RS descending the Gardena Pass in Italy.

Tell us your thoughts below.


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Long-Term Review: 2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx

2016 Triumph Tiger 800XRx
2016 Triumph Tiger 800XRx

The 2016 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx has spent this past summer as my instructor bike (both on-street and off-road), sport tourer and general go-to machine. After putting almost 9,000 miles on the ODO since March, I can now offer an in-depth review of this bike.
As a contributor to Motorcyclist Magazine and lead instructor at Tony’s Track Days, I have the opportunity to ride lots of different motorcycles. However, I get only a short amount of time in the saddle of these bikes.
During a on-day press launch or track session I get immediate impressions of power delivery, suspension compliance, fit and finish and ergonomics, but that’s about it. After putting 9k on the Tiger in all sorts of conditions I can share a comprehensive review.

Why the Tiger?

dual-sport-static The Tiger is versatile! It is capable of crossing the country, commuting, scratching around at a track day and riding on some pretty gnarly dirt roads and trails. While the 800 is a Swiss army knife, it is a compromise. The Tiger is a fun street bike that can keep up with most supersport bikes in the hands of a good rider at reasonable speeds. It is also a comfortable traveler that can handle a decent load of luggage and even a passenger.
As an off-road mount, it is best suited to mostly graded fire roads, but is surprisingly capable managing rocky trails. As with all heavy ADV bikes, you’ve got to be smart about what you’re getting into. I tackled a rather steep and rocky bit of single track trail that I handle easily with my KLX250s, but was a handful on the Tiger. I made it, but it coulda been ugly if I had fallen, since I was alone with no cell service.
The Tiger encourages discovery. The Tiger expands the number of places I can ride, by a huge margin. The 800 is totally at home navigating the many unimproved roads and tight paved byways that snake through Western Massachusetts where I live. I can ride 100 miles of mostly dirt roads and stay within one hour of my house! Lucky me.
There are other machines that also fit the bill; the BMW F800GS, Kawasaki KLR, the super-sized BMW R1200 GS or the new and awesome 2016 Tiger 1200 Explorer.  I chose the Tiger 800 for it’s features, lighter weight and reasonable.

Why the Roadie Version and not the XCx?

Mitas-poseI debated getting the more off-road worthy, spoke wheeled and taller XCx. But, I opted for the Road version (XRx) because I thought the bike would be spending 90% of its time on pavement. I also knew that the XR would be more than capable of the dirty riding I planned to tackle.
Since I am spending more time off-road than I expected, I probably should have gone with the XC. The XC is perfectly capable of long street miles and more importantly, it comes with adjustable WP suspension. Also, the XC comes with many of the things I’m ending up buying for the XR anyway, including engine, sump and radiator guards. Also, the spoked wheels and the 21 inch front wheel are more off-road friendly and more durable. Although, I’m happy to not have tube tires.
Here’s a long video review of the Tiger.


Let’s break down the review into components.

Engine

I love the power characteristics of the three-cylinder motor (based on the Street Triple motor). It has a nice combination of spunk and character with just the right kind and amount of vibration that tells you you’re straddling a machine. The vibes are never annoying. As a matter of fact, the bike is surprisingly smooth…smoother than my 2012 Street Triple R.
The whistling/snarling sound of the motor is unique. While an aftermarket exhaust will decrease weight and make for a nice sonic impression, I am perfectly happy with the way the stocker looks and sounds. Besides, I’m a proponent of quiet exhausts and I have better things to spend my money on. Read about all the accessories I put on the Tiger.
The triple is a terrific street engine, but it’s not so well suited as an off-road motor. It’s a bit too RPM-needy compared to a twin, like a F800GS. While the motor is easily controllable, it doesn’t exactly plod along the way you need an off-road motor to do from time to time. I found the Explorer 1200 to be better at slow speed plodding than the 800, partly because the ample torque was always on tap, whereas the 800 needs some revs. I’ve gotten used to it, but it is the one area where a BMW might be a better choice.
The engine has given me zero trouble, and if my Striple is any indicator, it will be reliable as a stone.

Power Delivery

As far as power delivery goes, the ride-by-wire throttle is super-light and takes some getting used to. When I first got the bike, I struggled to calibrate my right hand to keep the throttle steady. I’ve since learned to manage the sensitive throttle just fine, but I wish there was a simple way to increase throttle tube resistance.
Part of the reason the light throttle isn’t a big problem is because the fueling is very good. One of my pet peeves is snatchy fueling and this is a big reason why I rejected the FJ-09 as a contender. One area where the Tiger’s fueling falls short is when descending long hills, the fueling “hunts” while decelerating under engine braking. It’s not that bad, but it annoys me.
The Tiger comes with Traction Control (TTC) that can be set to either “Road”, “Off-Road” or “Off”. Road mode enables full TTC, whereas Off-Road mode allows more wheel slip. Sometimes even the Off-Road TC can intervene too much when climbing rocky or washboard surfaces. Thankfully you can turn it off. See more about Rider Modes below.

Clutch and Transmission

The clutch is light and progressive for easy launches and the transmission is flawless (it is sourced from the Daytona). I can launch smoothly from a stop and perform clutchless upshifts with ease. The ratios are just fine for street riding with the engine spinning around 5k in top gear at highway speeds, allowing plenty of zip when accelerating. The clutch lever is adjustable and neutral is easy to find. Not much more to say.

Brakes

The twin piston Nissin brakes are nothing special. They aren’t radial mount 4 piston units found on higher end machines like the Street Triple R, so they don’t provide exceptional feel and aren’t terribly powerful, but they don’t need to be. Instead, they are well-suited for the mission of slowing a 500 pound ADV bike with predictability and control.
The Tiger comes with ABS that can be set to either “Road”, “Off-Road” or “Off”. Road mode enables full front and rear ABS, whereas Off-Road mode disables ABS at the rear wheel and allows more wheel slip in the front. I don’t fully disable ABS. I like ABS.
The front brake lever is adjustable for reach and of course you can rotate the perch on the tubular handlebar to get the right angle for your primary use. I position my lever slightly low for street riding (sitting), but it ends up being a bit too high when standing off-road.
The rear brake has decent power and control and the pedal has a step up on the inner edge to allow easy use when standing up. Just rotate your right foot inward (pigeon toe) to use the tab.

Foot Pegs

The Metzeler Tourance Next tires did okay on the track.
The Tiger did great on the track, especially after I took off the peg feelers.

The foot pegs are positioned perfectly for sitting and standing. The peg size is broad enough for reasonable comfort and stability when standing. The rubber inserts can be removed by simply pulling them off. This helps for off-road conditions where you need the metal serrated teeth to grip into your boot soles. Getting them back on takes some fussing.
The Tiger has one strange design flaw. Surprisingly, the passenger pegs are mounted to frame brackets that are welded to the non-removable subframe. This means that a tipover or crash could break the bracket and ruin the whole frame. The Explorer 1200 has bolt-on passenger peg brackets.
The pegs are located low enough for all sensible street riding, but are a bit low for more extreme cornering. I rode the Tiger at a track day at Loudon and after a few sessions of grinding the peg feelers, I removed them.

Suspension

The forks are the weak link in this bike. As I mentioned earlier, I really wish I had the adjustable WP suspension. It’s not that the non-adjustable upside down Showa forks are lousy, it’s just that I’m a bit of a suspension princess and non-compliant suspension really annoys me.

Yankee Beemers grass Moto-Gymkhana
Yankee Beemers grass Moto-Gymkhana

The bike manages bumpy roads and off-road surfaces just fine and is always stable, in control, and handles nicely in corners. So, what’s the problem? Well, the forks tend to jackhammer over ripples and small bumps on smooth pavement. Either the forks have a lot of static friction (Stiction) or the compression damping is too high to allow the forks to respond to these small irregularities.
Off-road, the suspension is great. It manages sharp rocks fine at a moderate pace and handles front wheel lofting, but expect serious bottoming if you plan to do any sweet jumps. At the Yankee Beemers Rally, I participated in the grass Moto-Gymkhana where the fast perimeter course included a jump and the inevitible landing. Also, the landing off the teeter totter resulted in significant seismic activity.

Rider Modes

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-49-41-amI mentioned ABS and TC settings above, but there are also Power Delivery (MAP) Modes to discuss. The Tiger has 4 MAP Modes: Rain, Road, Sport and Off-Road. See the pages from the Owner’s Manual on the right for details about how they differ.
To change various modes you have to reach to press the “M” button on the dash and then close the throttle and squeeze the clutch for it to take. FYI, the off-road mode will revert back to the last road mode if you turn off the key, which is why I often shut off the bike using the kill switch if I’m going to stop for a minute to, say, take a photo.
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-49-51-amFrankly, I could do without the MAP modes. Sure, there is a slight difference between each mode, but it’s subtle. I tend to keep the bike in Road Mode most of the time, even in the rain, and the Off-road MAP seems no different than the Road MAP. The fueling on the Tiger is so well sorted that I find it unnecessary to switch to a “softer” setting.
And the “Sport” MAP is not really that much sharper than the road mode. I would not consider the base XR, because I couldn’t do without adjustable/switchable TC for off-road riding.

Comfort

The Tiger features the ideal comfort package; high tubular handlebars that are adjustable for angle and height; a “Comfort” seat that is one of the best I’ve used; great legroom. Yet, I’ve never had more trouble being comfortable on a motorcycle.The thing is that I get a nasty cramp between my shoulder blades almost immediately.
I added Rox risers, rotated the bars in every conceivable way, with no improvement. It was only recently that I determined that it is my personal anatomy to blame. Not only is my hunchback posture a likely problem, but also I broke my collarbone last year which seems to have messed up my symmetry enough to cause this cramping. The cure is to stretch the pecs to regain the symmetry and strengthen my upper back. Stay tuned.
When standing, the side panels at the rear/bottom of the tank cause my knees to splay out more than I like. This causes a slight imbalance that I have to make up for with my arms and back, which is tiring after about 6 or 8 miles of rough off-road terrain. The Explorer 1200 is better because the area where the seat meets the tank is narrower.
The Tiger 800 is a tall bike. Its adjustable seat height is 33″ at its low setting and 33.8 ” at the higher setting. (a Low seat version is available with a range of 31.1″ and 31.9″). I am 5′ 9″ with a 32″ inseam and am able to touch with both feet touching.

Miscellaneous

Electronic cruise control is cool. It’s useful on highway trips and when I want to zip a vent with my right hand without stopping. However, I don’t use it as much as I thought I would. It’s very easy to use and works perfectly, though. Pro Tip: use the rear brake to disengage the cruise control to avoid the abrupt deceleration that occurs if you twist the throttle off to shut it off.
The Adjustable Windscreen works really well for me. Some people complain that it wobbles a lot and doesn’t manage wind as well as they’d like. I have no problems at all with the stocker. The screen is moderately adjustable, but not too much, so I added an adjustable MRA Spoiler blade, which makes the stock shield more versatile.

Accessories and Luggage

I wrote an article on accessorizing the Tiger. Read it Here.

Tires

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

The stock Metzeler Tourance Next tires are fine for most people. I did a track day on them and they stuck, but delivered very little feel. This is expected because a 90/10 tire is designed to handle the rigors of rocks and such and is typically stiff with less emphasis on pavement performance.
For the last 6,000 miles, I’ve been rocking the 50/50 Mitas E-07. I wrote a review of the Mitas E-07 50/50 tires. In a nutshell, these tires are great and allow me to go places I never thought I could. For the Tiger Roadie, order the 110 front tire to avoid the ridiculous oversteer. Order the standard (not Dakar) version for the 800.

How is it to Ride?

Slow speed Maneuvers
The Tiger is mostly easy to ride but is cumbersome at a standstill. Once you get the bike rolling at about 5 mph, then all is well, but as soon as you go below that speed, the bike turns into an awkward, top heavy beast. Unlike ADV bikes with a lower center of gravity, the Tiger carries it’s weight up high. The engine is mounted high to give ground clearance. Mounting the 5.3 gallon fuel tank on top of that doesn’t help. This all makes for a bike that wants to topple over at standstill. It doesn’t help that I have a top box and tankbag.
That doesn’t mean the bike can’t do tight U-turns. It absolutely can. You just have to get up to at least 3- 5 mph and keep it there. 7 mph is better. The higher speed means you have to lean the bike over more to tighten your arc without slowing down. Learn how to ride slowly by reading this article.

Steep, slippery and rocky...a bit difficult for the Tiger.
Steep, slippery and rocky…a bit difficult for the Tiger.

Off-road
The Tiger is an absolute hoot on dirt roads and dual-track trails. I’ve done some bony hill climbs and rocky descents and tackled terrain I didn’t think possible on a 500+ pound motorcycle. But, the sheer size of the bike makes me a chicken when riding in sand, slimy muck and deep loose gravel. The fact is that the high weight causes the front tire to plow into the soft surface. The solution is to be on the gas. That’s why big ADV bikes tend to struggle when descending and are better at ascending where you’re on the gas.
The problem is that all that weight has inertia that will get you into trouble real quick if it starts heading in the wrong direction. A mistake on a 250 pound dirt bike can go almost unnoticed, but not with these ADV beasts.
Stay away from really mucky, loose terrain and you’ll have a blast. Oh, and be sure to ride with friends in case you get horizontal. And learn how to pick up your bike by yourself, as well. I strongly recommend you get some off-road training before venturing off road on your ADV machine.
Corner Scratching
The Tiger is a little bit dirt bike and a little bit sport bike. Even with the 50/50 tires, I can pretty much keep with any sportbike ridden by an average rider. I had a great time on Deal’s Gap and at a track day. While it has it’s limits, the bike railed through the turns with good stability and decent precision. The 19″ front wheel helps with high speed pavement stability compared with the 21″ front wheel on the XC.
Traveling
The Tiger is a champ on the highway. I rode the lower half of the Blue Ridge Parkway and put on several highway miles. Mount a tankbag, sidecases and a windscreen spoiler blade and off you go.
The Tiger 800XRx has proven to be a terrific motorcycle that has expanded my riding immensely. I hunt for roads that I’ve always wondered where they went; roads I never would have ventured on with the Sprint.  I’m happy that I own the Tiger and will always have an Adventure bike in my garage.
I did a bit of two-up riding with my wife, Caroline while in NC. We decided to spend a day doing the “Gravelhala” that mostly parallels the Cherohala Skyway. Since her z750s wasn’t a great off road bike, she jumped on the back and we took off. Overall, Caroline liked the flat, wide seat and the large grab rails. The rubber footpegs we nice, too. She really enjoyed having the top box to lean against for the bit of road riding we did together. Overall, it’s a good mount for a passenger.


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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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2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Review

Ken-Speed Triple-road-sm
I recently returned from Spain after testing the 2016 Triumph Speed Triple R. Take a look at the short video to hear some of my thoughts.

But, first, some history:

Way back in 1994, Triumph introduced the Speed Triple. This bike was the first real mashup of sportbike performance with the naked styling and practicality of a universal “standard” motorcycle. This new Streetfighter genre helped redefine the Hinckley based company as a serious player.
Over the years, the Speed T went through an evolution that saw increases in motor displacement, as well as upgraded suspension and brakes. In 2011 Triumph jettisoned the classic round “bug-eye” dual headlight arrangement for the current love ‘em or hate ‘em oblong-shaped beams. That year, ABS was first offered as an option.
Ken-Speed Triple-track-sq-smIn 2012 Triumph introduced the uprated “R” model that included Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, lightweight forged aluminum hoops and bits of carbon fiber trim. To this day the Speed Triple has remained one of the most well-rounded and exciting bikes on the market, earning Motorcyclist’s “Best Naked Bike” award in 2011 and 2012. A lot has happened in the naked bike segment since then and Triumph knew the Speed Triple was in need of some serious love if it is to rise to the top once again.
To get a feel for the new Speed Triple, we rode in the coastal hills an hour south of Barcelona and ended the day riding on the tight and technical Carafat Circuit.
So, how was the bike?

The standard “S” model is priced at $13,200. Add $1,700 to get the “R” version’s top-shelf Öhlins suspenders and carbon bits for a total of $14,900.

More video


Turn 4, Calafat Circuit, Spain

Catalan hills

Read my review at MotorcyclistOnline.com

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Product Review: TCX X-Desert Boot

TCX-X-Desert-1After riding in a pair of vintage Fox off-road boots for several years, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Enter the TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex boots.
The X-Desert name suggests a hard-core boot intended for super-rugged adventures far from home. In reality, the X-Desert is a kinder, gentler boot for less daunting conditions. As a matter of fact, TCX categorizes the X-Desert as a Touring/Adventure boot that is found under the “Touring Line” section of their website. And this makes sense. Even though the X-Desert looks burly it is made for street riders who want the look and near protection of a full off-road boot, but with the comfort of a touring boot.
And this is why I chose them. While I ride hard in gnarly conditions, I’m tend to mostly ride on fire roads and intermediate-level trails. Also, it’s not unusual that I need to stand and walk for a period of time, which makes these boots a good fit for me.
Speaking of fit, I wear a size 9.5 or 10 street shoe and the TCX 44 fits great. My feet are on the narrow side so their “normal” width is a bit too roomy, but not a problem.
To achieve this level of comfort, TCX foregos the ski-boot stiffness found in true off-road boots for a flexible carcass and sole. The X-Desert is indeed a lot more flexible and less protective than a fully dedicated off-road boot, like the Pro 2.1. The X-Desert toe box is rigid, but the middle part of the boot is not, so a well-placed rock or stick will hurt.
Dual-sport-HomeI’ve worn these boots in a wide range of conditions, including a two-day MotoMark1 Overland Confidence Course in and around the Great Smoky Mountains. I give them high marks for comfort and looks (when clean) and they were great for both paved and dirt riding. While there, I tested the waterproof claim by standing in a small pond up to my ankles for a few minutes and my socks remained dry.
The only criticism I have is that the flexible sole does not offer the support needed when standing on gnarled footpegs for long periods of time. A traditionally stiff off-road boot provides a rigid sole that spreads the load across the whole foot. But, that’s a small trade-off for being able to walk like a normal person.
I’ll be using these boots for ice riding in a few weeks. I expect the Gore-Tex to keep my feet dry and comfortable and the lighter weight should allow my legs to withstand hours of leg-out riding.
The X-Desert’s durability has so far been good, with all fasteners and buckles holding up fine. Time will tell whether the plastic receivers for the aluminum buckles will withstand the rigors of use, but so far, so good.
The X-Desert are a great touring companion and are a perfect choice for the ADV rider who has no intention of jumping their 600-pound GS over boulders or fallen trees. If you do plan on tackling more advanced conditions, you will want to consider a boot with more protection (and stiffness).
Recommended!


From the Revzilla product page:
TCX-X-Desert-boxFeatures:

  • Full grain leather with GORE-TEX® waterproof membrane
  • PU ankle protection with carbon look insert
  • PU gearshift pad
  • PU shin guard
  • Suede heat and wear protection on inside calves
  • Reinforced PU heel
  • 3 adjustable aluminum buckles
  • Anatomical and replaceable footbed
  • New Enduro sole with specific profile for maximum grip

This is NOT a paid post, but I am writing this review to thank Randy and Dave from Velocity Sports Group for hooking me up with these boots.
Velocity logo


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Ride Review: 2014 Indian Chieftain

Indian-pose1Recently, I attended a Stayin’ Safe two-day training tour. Because the tour was happening 500 boring highway miles away in Ohio, I decided to drive the Crosstrek and then borrow a 2014 Indian Chieftain from a friend.
The Chieftain is not a motorcycle I would have chosen for the tour whose route included mile after mile of undulating tarmac with blind hill crests and moderately tight switchbacks. That’s because the Indian is a large motorcycle with a very long wheelbase and a dished out seat better suited to upright riding than deep cornering.
For the highway sections, the Chieftain was great. The engine thrums along lazily and the bike is dead stable. Roll on the gas and the Indian accelerates briskly when passing at highway speed. Even though the big Indian is intended primarily for straight-line riding it performed reasonably well when the road bent and turned.

Indian-pose2Engine

The Chieftain is powered by the 1818cc Thunderstroke 111, delivering a rumbling 119 lbs/ft of power that totally suits the character of the big bike. Twist the throttle and the bike lunges forward with authority. The finned-tipped “Stage 1” exhaust is a bit loud but makes all the right sounds. Pulling power is abundant for any situation. Just twist the grip and the bike launches forward.
Sixth gear on the highway sees the tach hover just over the 3,000 rpm mark. On the back roads, I kept the bike mostly in third gear with an occasional need for second gear when accelerating out of slow uphill turns.

Fueling

Staying SafeThe ride by wire throttle controls the predictable fuel injection. I did notice some hunting at slow speeds and a weird on-off surge when keeping the throttle closed during extended-duration engine braking while descending long, steep hills. And there was a bit of abruptness when performing tight parking lot maneuvers, but mostly it was good.

Transmission

I’ve ridden a lot of motorcycles whose transmissions range from butter-smooth to notchy and imprecise. But, I haven’t experienced a transmission as agricultural as the Chieftain’s since I had to learn to double-clutch a 1960s International Harvester truck as a teen.
Shifting the 6-speed Chieftain was always positive, but it literally sounds like a sledge hammer slamming into the sidewall of a pickup truck bed. Whack!
Needless to say, you shouldn’t expect rapid shifting maneuvers on this motorcycle. I tried a clutchless upshift at one point and quickly gave up any future attempts. The tranny was much smoother with a deliberate quick-shift technique (keep the revs up while upshifting and blip the throttle when shifting down).

Indian-cockpitComfort

For reference, I’m 5’9″ tall and weigh 155 pounds. While my somewhat lanky physique is in the average range, it is not large enough to match the ergonomics of the long Indian. My legs must stretch a bit too far to reach the rear brake and shifter and my arms are not long enough to allow full lock steering without moving far forward on the seat. If this was my bike, I would go for Indian’s “shorter-reach” seat option.
The leather seat is dished out nicely but is not padded enough for my boney butt. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.
The temperatures hovered in the mid-80s during our tour and I wished I could have had less wind protection from the wide handlebar mounted fairing and windshield. The protection was welcome at highway speeds though.
The windshield is electrically adjustable, but the lowest setting was still too high for me, causing me to look through the screen even though I wanted to look over it. The visual distortion below the top edge made me chose to put the screen in its highest position where there was little distortion. Indian offers a lower screen option which would solve the problem.
The air cooled engine puts out a lot of heat and was uncomfortable when in traffic. Even my Macna Silicum mesh pants couldn’t flow enough air to combat the engine heat. But, once underway, I didn’t notice it.
The large diameter handlebar caused my smallish hands to cramp a bit, but the electronic cruise control provided relief on the throttle side.

Indian-closeHandling

The Chieftain was dead stable and feels much lighter than its 848 pounds when at speed. The heft became more obvious during slow speed maneuvers. The bike behaves well enough, but it doesn’t take much to feel unbalanced. Once, making a tight u-turn, the 130mm front tire rolled over a rock causing the bike to drop into the turn…not enough to cause a tipover, but disconcerting nonetheless.
This tendency to bump-steer reared its head a couple more times while rounding tight hairpins when rolling over bits of gravel.
Ground clearance was pretty good for a long and low cruiser. The floorboards hit first during pretty aggressive cornering. Positioning my boots on the rearward edge of the long floorboards allowed a sporty and more balanced position where I could use my boot heels as corner feelers as they graze the pavement.
But I kept lean angles sane since the bias ply tires gave little feedback. Indian marketing man and FB friend, Robert Pandya noted that the Chieftain is sensitive to tire pressures. It had occurred to me during the ride that tire pressures could probably help the handling, so make sure you have the proper pressures.

Lance Oliver photo
Lance Oliver photo

Brakes

The ABS-equipped brakes are strong and controllable. The rear brake pedal is huge with a forward surface that must contribute to a fair amount of wind drag at speed.

Value

At almost $23,000 the Chieftain costs as much as my Subaru Crosstrek. It’s a mighty fine motorcycle, but for that kind of money, I’d want a smoother transmission, less engine heat and maybe a locking fuel cap. But, the bike is lovely (from most angles) and has a lot of nice features, including the great looking electronically locking saddlebags that provide a decent amount of waterproof capacity.

Overall Thoughts

Indian-rainThe more I rode the Indian, the more I liked it. But, I couldn’t get used to the cumbersome slow speed handling (note to self to double-check tire pressures). The engine heat is somewhat bothersome and the “big and tall” ergonomics don’t fit me.
I’m a sport and sport touring rider, but I get why people like these bagger motorcycles. If the bike were a bit smaller, with a better looking fairing and more agility, I could probably be convinced to have one of these in my garage. Maybe a Scout would be just the thing.


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Ride Review: 2015 BMW S1000RR at COTA

Kevin Wing Photo
Kevin Wing Photo
This is Part 2 of a series documenting my experience riding the new BMW S1000RR during the North American Press launch at the world-famous COTA racetrack in Austin, Texas. Check out Part One if you’re interested in learning about my first experience as a jetset moto-journalist.

Early last February, I got a text from Steve Lita, editor of Motorcycle Magazine-Rides and Culture asking me if I was available to attend the 2015 BMW S1000RR media launch. Why yes, I am.

COTA-track-informationThe Circuit of the Americas

The opportunity to ride the 2015 BMW S1000RR is certainly huge. But equally huge was the fact that I was going to ride the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) where the official North American Media launch was to take place.
When I flew into Austin, I got a birds-eye view of the 3.4 mile track with its 251-foot viewing tower and sweeping turns bordered by massive amounts of red, white and blue paint. What I wasn’t able to see from so far up was the 130 foot change in elevation. Photos and on-board videos do no justice to the hill approaching turn 1.
COTA_airThe track is fast with many triple-digit corners and a 3/4 mile back straight where I saw 175mph on the digital speedo. Many people say that the track is difficult to learn. I found it not too challenging (I found Barber to be trickier).
It took me two sessions to get the turn 2-7 series of Ss figured out, but I never found consistent reference points in the turn 8/9 blind chicane and the turn 17-18 segment confounded my lack of discipline to stay wide until just the right time. Another two sessions would have done wonders (we had 4 sessions, total).
In the end, I got along with the track just fine. My lap times weren’t great, but hardly embarrassing either. And I didn’t crash…not every journalist was able to say that.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 12.08.47 PM
Uber-fast guys, Nate Kern and Roland Sands (yes, THAT Roland Sands) pass underneath me.

Know Your Tester

Anytime someone shares their impressions of a bike’s performance you should find out a bit about who is doing the reporting. Without the context of the rider’s experience, you may end up with a false impression based on biases or lack of real-world knowledge. A reporter who has little experience on a supersport machine will come to conclusions that may not be useful or accurate. On the other hand, reading a review written by a professional road racer may not be meaningful if you never plan to take the bike to the track.
I am a street rider, track day instructor, occasional road racer and motorcycle safety professional who focuses primarily on advancing riders’ skills. This means that I’m able to evaluate a motorcycle from many different angles (pun not intended) and convey the bike’s capabilities, not only as a track bike but also as a potential street mount.
Since this was a racetrack launch and performance review, I needed to ride the S1000RR hard enough, but not risk tossing the $19k machine down the track. I had ridden S1000RRs before…the one I crashed (read Part 1) and another one that I didn’t crash. I’ve also ridden a handful of top-shelf liter-bikes on racetracks on the East coast, but nothing approaching 200hp.
I may have been seconds-slower than the faster guys, but the data on the instrument cluster indicated that I was using a decent amount of deceleration force and the fancy lean angle gauge said I achieved a respectable 54 degrees of lean to the right, but only 51 degrees to the left.

BMW_S1000RR-DynoRiding the S1000RR

The S1000RR is both a wolf in wolf’s clothing and a sheep in wolf’s clothing. The headlights, turn signals, heated grips and cruise control say “streetbike”, while the space shuttle power, ultra-light throttle action and racey geometry say “race weapon”.
Thankfully, the 2015 RR is a sweetheart when it comes to power delivery. The fueling is impeccable and linear. Still, we are talking about a 199hp (claimed at the crank) bike that weights 457 pounds soaking wet.
Compared to the first two generations of S1000RRs, the 2015 model is a comprehensive redesign of engine, frame, electronics and performance. The Pirelli SuperCorsa SP street/track day tires took a couple laps to warm up in the very humid 60 degree Texas morning air, but then provided confident grip and stability.
Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 6.17.29 PMThe first time accelerating down the long back straight took my breath away. 160, 165, 170. Holy shit. And the throttle wasn’t even quite fully open. Subsequent laps saw the speedo top 175 mph and there was more power that I was leaving on the table.
The Gear Shift Assist Pro helped me reach this lofty speed with clutchless upshifts delivering uninterrupted power from second gear to 6th. The clutchless downshifts are a RR exclusive for 2015 (others will offer this feature very soon, I predict), allowing me to bang down on the shifter (or up for GP shift) as it auto-blips the throttle for mostly seamless shifts.
The upshifts worked great once I stopped pre-loading the shifter (it confuses the electronics). But, the downshifts were less cooperative no matter what I tried with one of the bikes not downshifting without doing it the old-fashioned way. Also, the shift lever felt vague, causing me to wonder if the tranny actually made the downshift or not. The transmission is buttery smooth, BTW.
Here’s the on-board video:

Good Brakes, Thank goodness

OK, high speed runs are exhilarating but don’t hold my attention for long. The 2nd gear hairpin at the end of the straight…now THAT got my attention! At that moment, my focus was 100% on braking power and stability.
Thankfully, the Brembo calipers (and 320mm rotors) provide wonderfully powerful and precise lever action, allowing hard, fade-free braking as well as precise trailbraking control and feedback. The RR is so stable under hard braking that it felt almost like cheating. The electronic Race ABS surely plays a role in instilling confidence, but it’s the ABS in concert with the anti-lift (stoppie) control, slipper clutch, semi-active electronic suspension damping and the superbly balanced chassis that really raises the bar.
Not that I ever really noticed any of those things…not because I wasn’t pushing hard, but because these e-aids are so finely tuned. I did notice when the anti-lift control was shut off as the rear tire skimmed the tarmac during one particularly aggressive corner approach. Race ABS and anti-lift can be set for various levels of intrusion using either the rider modes or by selecting a’ la carte under User mode. More about the electronics can be found below.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 9.54.17 PM
Kevin Wing photo

It Handles, Too

Swinging a leg over the RR immediately reveals a lithe package. Once underway, the bike felt to me like a slightly heavy R6, and at 457 pounds (wet) it’s only 40 pounds off. That seems like a lot, but the power and chassis engineering mask that weight. The agility became apparent in the fast Ss, the blind chicane and the switchbacks. The chassis was dead stable when trailbraking and cornering at fast, knee down speeds.
The fully adjustable suspension on the base model is more than good enough for most people. But I’d spend the extra dough on the Dynamic Damping Control. It responds in milliseconds to changes in braking, cornering, accelerating and road surface. It’s like having an on-board suspension expert tweaking the clickers as needed for the best grip, drive and stability.

A Possible Street bike?

I didn’t get the chance to ride the bike on the street, so I can only speculate on how the RR will perform as a day to day companion. But, in my estimation I bet the combination of light weight and impeccable balance will make the RR a sweet day-to-day mount.
It wasn’t long ago that I would think someone was crazy who suggested that an almost 200hp bike would make a decent street bike, but the S1000’s fueling is so good and the power so controlled that it is indeed viable.  It has all the right features to make a fine street machine…gobs of easy-to-use torque, a ton of electronic stability aids and a reasonably comfortable ergonomic package. The cruise control and heated grips also help.

BMW_DDCLiving with Electronics

Electronics have become a huge part of modern motorcycle engineering and the RR has ample amounts of e-technology. The RR has Lift (stoppie) Control Stability control and Race ABS to help going from 175 to 35 an almost drama-free experience. More intervention happens in Rain and Race rider Mode (This should be called Street Mode, IMO) and very little interference in Slick Mode (the mode I rode in most of the day).
Stability Control (base model) and 14-step Traction Control (Standard and Premium Packages) also intervene appropriately to match the 3 (Base) or 5 (Optional) rider modes. The Premium packages include “User” mode which can be customized almost infinitely to combine rider modes, TC and ABS settings.
All this manifests into a very sophisticated machine that can mitigate (and mask) the consequences of some mistakes. This gives a lot of confidence, but make no mistake…you can still crash this bike, so don’t get too cocky.
With this number of electronic options comes a learning curve. It will take a dedicated and savvy owner with about a season of track time to discover all the potential of the RR. I also wonder how the electronics will fare over many miles of normal exposure to weather and time.

Kevin Wing photo
Kevin Wing photo

In Summary

Buy one. You’ll spend $15,500 for the base model, which is a good value for an excellent machine. For $16,795 you get the Shift-assist Pro, cruise control, heated grips and upgraded TC. But, I suggest you fork over the $18,695 for the DDC and forged wheels. It may mean you eat spaghetti out of a can for a while, but you won’t regret it, especially if you ride on the track.
Please look for the article I wrote for Motorcycle Magazine-Rides and Culture where I go into greater detail about the electronics and features.

BMW S 1000 RR COTA PRESS LAUNCH from mybmw on Vimeo.


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