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Last Sunday was the rain date for Lansdale Bike Night, an annual event in one of the local burghs here in Southeastern PA. The motorcycle show is “ok”, heavily weighted toward Harleys and custom choppers, which do nothing for me. There’s usually a small collection of classic bikes – Triumphs Nortons and the like – and some really weird ones too (like the year there was a chopper with body molding to make it look like a fighter jet.)
This year the date was changed at the last minute due to weather, so there was a lighter than usual crowd and fewer bikes than normal. I walked around for 45 minutes and left. Not much to do.
As I was heading out of town, though, something caught my eye. A black classic bike parked along one of the side streets. I pulled over. Here are some pics.
It’s a beautiful machine and a piece of motorcycle history, but the owner was sitting on the curb near the bike visibly distressed. To hear him tell his story, he had just ridden the bike back from Colorado where he attended a Vincent owners’ rally. He had arrived at Lansdale Bike Night too late for the judging, and the organizers wouldn’t even let him park his bike in the area where all the show bikes were. Apparently one of the people directing bikes through the Main Street area cursed at him and told him to get his bike off the &$^# street.
Whether this was truth, exaggeration, or not, it’s a real shame that The Vincent never made it into the show.
In May 2011 I made what I consider to be one of the worst decisions of my life: I traded my beloved 2008 Triumph America for a bigger bike, a Triumph Rocket III Touring. I had gotten it in my head that I needed a big bike. Not just a big bike, the BIGGEST bike.
Almost from the moment I brought the Rocket III home from the dealership, I realized it wasn’t the right bike for me. I really missed my America. I was sorry I had traded it in. I was disappointed in myself for getting bitten by the ‘bigger is better’ bug and had been kicking myself ever since. I pined to have an America back in my stable again.
Early this season I sold the Rocket and bought a used V-Strom, which has proven to be a very good choice for me. But I had it in the back of my head that if the opportunity presented itself, I would add another America to the stable. For much of this season I had my eye out for another used one.
Then a few weeks ago I took a riding class at a racetrack and had suddenly gotten bit by the track day bug. Now I had it in my mind to get an inexpensive track bike and do more track days – something like a mid 2000’s R6 or CBR-600. So yesterday I made the rounds of local dealerships looking for a candidate to buy.
As I pulled into Martin Motorsports, one of my usual haunts, I noticed a woman standing next to a Pacific Blue and New England White America just like the one I used to own. “Cool,” I thought. “An America like my old one.” I parked my ‘Strom and walked over to say hi.
“Hi there, I used to have a bike just like that,” I said with a smile as I approached her. Then, as I got closer, I noticed something. Not only was this America just like my old one, it WAS my old one. There was a telltale scratch on the tank that had its roots in a camping trip I had taken with some friends in 2010. We had paused to rest and take some pictures near a pretty lake, and as we were gearing up and getting ready to go,I swung my leg over the tank and a rock in the heel of my boot made an ugly scratchmark.
This bike had the same scratch.
“Did you buy this bike at Hermy’s?” I asked.
“Yes, we did,” she replied.
“Last May?” I asked.
“Yes, my husband and I bought this last May,” she replied.
“This used to be my bike.”
I told her the story about how I had traded it and missed it, when she dropped this bombshell: “We just traded it in for a Thunderbird.”
I could not believe it. I had missed this bike for the past year and three months. I had thought about getting an America to replace it. And here it was, about to be placed on the showroom floor of my favorite motorcycle dealership.
Today, my beloved 2008 Triumph America is back in my garage. It was an expensive round trip, as I got trade-in value for the America in May 2011 and paid retail value to buy it back yesterday; and I bought the Rocket at retail value in May 2011 and sold it for something less than retail value this past February. I don’t want to think about how much money this bad decision cost me, really. But I am so grateful that the bike is back in my life.
When I tested it out yesterday, it was like being back with an old friend. When I drove it home, it was like it had never left. When I was signing the papers to buy the bike, the woman who handles transactions at Martin’s remarked, “You just can’t get away from this bike, huh?” I literally started to well up and replied, “No. It’s not that. I have an emotional connection to this bike. I made a mistake and it found its way back to me.”
So many strange coincidences had to happen for this bike to get reunited with me: I went out yesterday shopping for a sport bike and ended up at Martin’s at around 1PM; Frank and Holly, the couple who owned the America, were just out riding, stopped at Martin’s, and fell in love with the Thunderbird they ended up buying at around the same time. I believe that the Pacific Blue and New England White 2008 America that I started my motorcycling career with will now be in my garage forever. Perhaps one day one of my grandchildren-to-be will inherit it…
I saw this bike a few weeks ago in the parking lot of a local bike shop. The owner is a 4’6″ woman in her 50s who built it from a basket case. The thing I like most about it is that sweet-looking 4 into one exhaust. Enjoy!
My friend Scott is a fan of classic bikes. He has two right now – an early 80’s BMW K100 and this – his prized Honda CB450. He had the Honda out yesterday and I snapped a couple of pictures. He bought the bike a couple of years ago for $500 and says it had makeshift plumbing pipes for exhaust. It was a near-basket case. I’d say he did a pretty nice job with the restoration, eh?
I used my iPhone and uploaded a few pics with Instagram too. Still trying to figure out what makes this app worth a billion to Mark Zuckerberg….
This is a question that comes up time and time again on the internet: what’s the best bike for a first time rider. And any time someone writes on the subject, it’s like whack-a-mole: you’re gonna get hit in the head by someone who disagrees with your list.
I’m doing it a little different and taking a page out of People Magazine’s formula with my list of the sexiest bikes for first time riders. Let’s face it. Part of the appeal of riding a motorcycle is the massive incremental sex appeal that it gives the rider. Someone who knows how to throw a leg over a two-wheeled beast and launch it is by definition sexier than someone who doesn’t.
I had a few criteria for this list. (1) the bike had to be less than 1000 cc’s, which I think is the upper limit for a first time rider. (2) the bike had to be available in the 2012 model year. And (3) the bike had to cost less than $10,000 out the showroom door (not hard to do considering criteria #1, but I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend anyone – let alone a first time rider – buy a brand-new bike. You end up paying dealer setup fees and shipping which can add another grand to your purchase price. There are so many bikes available used that if you don’t have your heart set on a bike that was just introduced, you can find low mileage late model year options on Craigslist or Ebay or the motorcycle forums and save thousands. But for the sake of setting a line in the sand, these are all 2012 models.
Here’s my list:
10. Honda NC700X. This bike is set to hit showrooms later this spring. I saw it’s debut at the New York Motorcycle Show and it’s very cool. Just please please please – if you buy one – don’t get automatic transmission, OK? It automatically eliminates the sexy quotient.
9. Triumph America. Cruisers are sexy, and the Triumph marque adds a little something-something. I rode this bike for three years and if you’re a new rider in the market for a cruiser, I can’t say enough about it. In a sea of homogeneous middleweight cruisers (take the badges off a Vulcan, Shadow, Boulevard, or Star and you’d have a hard time telling them apart), the America stands out.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 250. Many fellow riders think that a first time rider should consider only 250 cc and below motorcycles. I think this approach really limits choices. Nevertheless, the Ninja 250 is just a great looking bike that owners love. On the motorcycles subreddit (fantastic motorcycle forum – go there if you haven’t already) a Ninja 250 owner crossed the 30,000 mile mark this week, so it’s NOT a bike you’ll outgrow.
7. Suzuki V-Strom 650. The 2007 edition of the V-Strom is my current ride and I’m thrilled with it. It’s comfortable, versatile, nimble, easy to ride and easy to love. The 2012 version is less versatile (it’s off-road capabilities have been stripped away) but it’s still a great-looking machine and in fact is sexier than the 04-11 Weestroms.
6. Honda CBR250R. I saw this bike sitting on the floor at the NYC moto show and it definitely qualifies as sexy. It also tends to win all of the 250 cc shootouts that the motorcycle pubs do every year.
5. Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So many people who get a M class license want to ride Harleys, and this is the only one that really qualifies as a bike for first-time riders. And my brother-in-law recently let me take his Dyna for a spin and I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.
4. BMW F650GS. Nice bike, looks great, goes off road, has that BMW logo on the tank that just gives it that extra boost of sex appeal. Plus riding a BMW Adventure-Sport bike automatically links you to Ewan and Charley, even if the tires never see dirt and you never eat The Stew of 100 Testicles. I tried out a 650GS last year and found it a bit small for my 6’2″ frame but still…gotta be on this list.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 650. Drop-dead gorgeous. Looks fast standing still. Getting great reviews from the motorcycling press. Comfortable to straddle with a neutral upright riding position. A flat-out winner.
2. Triumph Bonneville. Just one of the coolest bikes on two wheels. 60’s retro sensibilities and all of the modern technology, fun to ride, turns heads everywhere it goes, moddable to your heart’s content. A fantastic, fantastic machine.
1. Ducati Monster 696. The Monster is a work of art. There is some debate as to whether it’s really for first time riders (in fact there was some discussion about this very point last night on Reddit) but I vote yes. And it simply defines sexy. At Fast by Ferracci here in the Philadelphia area, you can get a Monster for $9,947.70 out the door ($8,795 MSRP plus 6% sales tax, $525 dealer prep and freight, and $100 documentation fee) so it just qualifies for the list.
Honorable mention: Husqvarna Concept Baja. C’mon, Kris Odwarka. Pull some strings and make this beauty a reality! If it were available today, it would be #3 on my list. And there would be one in my garage.
What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!
Yesterday I picked up the Rocket’s replacement at Ferracci’s. I considered a lot of different bikes – too many – and ultimately decided on the bike I’ve wanted in my stable and pined after since last summer, the venerable Suzuki V-Strom 650.
This is a big departure for me in a lot of ways:
- My first non-Triumph. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license in 2008 were Triumphs, first the America then the Rocket III Touring. As a result, I’ve got dozens of items of Triumph garb and all my motorcycle helmets have Triumph stickers. My name on at least a dozen online motorcycle forums is PersonalTriumph (a reference to both my allegiance to the Triumph marque as well as some personal accomplishments.) When I decided on the ‘Strom it was hard to face the fact that I would not have a Triumph in my garage. I suspect at some point in the future I may have another though.
- My first non-cruiser. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license were cruisers. The ‘Strom is my first sport bike.
- My first dual sport. The ‘Strom is designed for light-duty off-roading. I’m going to do some research and find some fire roads up in the Poconos to give this a shot. I’ve already experimented with a lap around my yard. (Don’t tell my landlord though!)
My first impressions after about 24 hours of owning the ‘Strom are extremely favorable:
- Twitchy. This bike handles like a dream. I think about turning, and it seems to turn. I’m sure other sport bikes handle better, but coming as I do from the land of cruisers this is a really welcome change.
- Fast. I was worried that going from the 2300cc Rocket to the 650cc ‘Strom would leave me longing for the days of plentiful roll-on power. It’s a non-issue. In fact, the ‘Strom feels faster than the Rocket. I was on the highway this morning, cruising along at what seemed like a comfortable and reasonable pace. I looked down at my speedometer and I was going…well…way too fast. I need to be careful.
- Light. After ‘rassling with the 900+ pound Rocket for the better part of the past year, it’s such a nice change to have a lightweight machine that I can easily roll around.
- A bargain. I bought my V-Strom used. It’s a 2007 with around 10k miles on it that I got for less than $4,000. (Bonus: I was able to bank several grand after liquidating the Rocket.) But a brand new leftover 2011 with ABS and a warranty can be had at your local Suzuki dealer for around $7 grand. Even a brand new 2012 is just over $8 grand. It’s a fantastic machine for the money.
- Its good to be in love again. After spending the past year falling in and out of love with the Rocket (and even feeling vague trepidation about it during the good times) it’s wonderful to once again have a bike that gets my heart pounding and my pulse racing every time I look at it.
There are a lot of folks who love the Rocket III, so don’t let my bad experience color you if you’re considering the bike. In fact, I think my friend Art will ditch me when I tell him the swap-out that I made, because he is so enamored with the Rocket. One of my fellow Rideitors on the Reddit motorcycle forum stated it best: “although you did enjoy it for a while I think you have eliminated a lot of the things you don’t want in a bike because they don’t fit your riding style. Its a little like dating the hot girl who turns out to be a superficial, high maintenance pain in the ass. Well said, my friend. Well said.
If you’re a new rider, definitely put the V-Strom on your list of bikes to consider. I’ll keep you all updated as I get more experience with this bike.There is also a lot of help online at Stromtrooper, the V-Strom owners forum, which I have found to be one of the most comprehensive, active, and friendly motorcycle forums on the internet since I started lurking there last August.
Ignore this post. I need a place to host these pictures because I’m trying to sell the bike. I’ve had a hankering to try something adventure-sport oriented that can occasionally go offroad and have my eye on a nicely-farkled V-Strom 650 that’s for sale pretty close to my house.
By the way, the bike DOES have baffles. I’m not of the “loud pipes save lives” mindset. Loud pipes may save lives but they also cause politicians to create new laws that none of us like.
Also note that even though one of my ‘beats’ for this blog is the first time rider, this bike is most definitely NOT for first time riders. It’s a 2300 CC beast that requires an experienced pilot. I’ve actually gotten criticism for this: “You have a blog for first time riders and ride a Rocket III??? WTF???”