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I blogged about this fantastic trip earlier this month. Here are the rest of my pictures – well, at least some of the best. Between setting up the GoPro to take stills every 30 seconds and stopping around every bend to take a photo of another jaw-dropping view with my still camera, I had over 600 pictures.

Bring me that horizon!

This past Memorial Day weekend I had nothing to do, no plans, didn’t have my kids. I decided to take an impromptu trip out West and do some riding and camping. I’m not one to do things spur of the moment but something gripped me and told me it was right. So I told my co-workers I was taking Friday off, hopped online, booked a cheap flight to Denver ($300 roundtrip on Southwest), found a motorcycle rental place and reserved the cheapest bike they had (BMW F650GS at $135 a day) and decided to do something I’ve never done before. Just take off.

Canyonlands National Park

I’m so freaking glad I did it. Colorado and Utah are stunningly gorgeous. There is no such thing as a bad motorcycle road out there. The people are just fantastic. Even though it was just four days, it was the experience of a lifetime. I love being on a motorcycle.

The low points (there were a few):

  • Work. My plan was to get the bike early in the AM and get started early-early Friday morning, but I had a client crisis blow up and had to work for a good chunk of  the morning from my hotel room at the Denver Airport. I didn’t get on the bike until later than I wanted.
  • I got a speeding ticket. There was exactly one rural stretch of Route 50 where the speed limit dropped to 55. The rest of it is 65. Guess where there were about 5 cops all up and down the road? What really galls me – I was doing 70 in a 55. Anywhere else on the planet, the cop wouldn’t look up from his donuts. Not this two-bit backwater deputy sheriff, no sireee. So there was a tax of $169.50 on my trip. Officer Turner of the Montrose County Sheriff’s Department: you should be ashamed of yourself for your part in this fraud perpetrated against unsuspecting Colorado tourists.
  • Windstorms cut my day short on Saturday. My plan was to make it to Moab by Saturday but the wind as I got closer to Grand Junction was ridiculous. When I stopped for gas someone told me that this was due to a big windstorm and there would be 75-90 mph gusts. I decided against traveling any further that day, as I was having a hard enough time keeping my light 650 upright on certain stretches of open highway. I checked into a hotel and chillaxed.

The high points (too many to list but here are a few):

  • Shortly after this picture was taken (on top of Pike’s Peak), I fell flat on my face because of disorientation from the change in altitude.

    Pike’s Peak. Climbing Pike’s Peak on the 650 was a major accomplishment. At the top I met a fellow inmate from the Advrider forum who chatted me up for a bit and gave me some great tips for future trips.

  • Gunnison, CO. What a cool town. An oasis in the middle of nowhere. Some of the nicest and friendliest girls on the planet, too. 🙂
  • Arches National Park. Every American should see this in their lifetime. Jaw dropping.
  • Moab, Utah. Sedona, but on a much grander scale. I told my daughter (who loves Sedona) to imagine Sedona, but 100 times larger.
  • Reddit. I met up with a friend from the Reddit motorcycle forum in Grand Junction. He spent an hour with me giving me lots of helpful tips. The cameraderie of motorcyclists is pervasive!

Things I learned:

  • Roads like this look inviting, especially on a GS, but it takes a very different skill set to navigate them.

    Offroading is way harder than it looks. Sand is evil.

  • Acclimatize. Don’t go from sea level to 14,000 feet in the span of 24 hours. I was really struggling at the top of Pike’s Peak.
  • The Lost Cajun. What a great little restaurant in Frisco, CO. Only 5 minutes off interstate 70. By all means, stop there and enjoy the company of the owner, Raymond Griffin. The food is wonderful but Raymond’s life wisdom and company was worth the trip all by itself.

I’ll be doing more impromtu ( and promptu ) trips like this. I’m already scheming about when I can do something like this in Ireland. Stay tuned.

Arches National Park is a must-see.

I’ll post more pictures and video in the coming days.

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.

NC700X at its big unveil at the NYC motorcycle show.


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.

The bike is sexy, too. 😉


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.

Sweet shot of the Ninja 250. Image (C) Kawasaki.


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.

The 2012 edition of the venerable V-Strom 650. Sweet look but no fire roads on this one.


6Honda 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.

Sexy little thang.


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.

Something about 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.

The Sertão version of the G650GS.


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.

Damn that's sexy. Image (c) Kawasaki.



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.

Yeah. That'll turn some heads. Image (c) Triumph Motorcycles.




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.

In the immortal words of Annie Savoy, "Oh my..." Image linked from motorride.net.


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.

Husqvarna president Kris Odwarka shows off the Concept Baja.



What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!