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Everyone’s doing it. So why not me. A lot of the gift lists I see are really bad. Here’s a good list of stuff you can get for the motorcycle rider in your life. Maybe even me.

1. Something to make the buns more comfortable on long rides. 

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

There are a lot of different varieties of things you can throw on a motorcycle seat to extend saddle time and delay monkey butt. Inflatable, gel-filled, lambskin. You can even get an entire new custom seat to try and crack this problem. I’ve tried a number of them, and the one I find works best is a simple wooden bead seat cover from Whitehorse Gear.  The best thing about this particular seat cover is it is simple to install and will fit on just about every bike. For $25 it’s affordable and the biker in your life will definitely appreciate it. Whitehorse Gear even throws in a free kickstand support with every purchase. I have the beaded cover for my V-Strom, but haven’t picked up a second one yet for the Triumph America that I acquired in August.

2. Branded motorcycle gear. 

Your biker will always appreciate something that helps them advertise the make of their bike, regardless of the brand they ride. For example, I practically have a lifetime supply of Triumph tee shirts, jackets, and sweat shirts. But the newly-opened online Triumph store has a nice selection of other Triumph-branded gear that my kids could get me if they weren’t sure what I’d like for Christmas (hint, hint). Like the Triumph mug or pen or even this mouse pad.

In addition, even though I bought a Suzuki V-Strom at the beginning of the year, I don’t have any Suzuki-branded merch, so that would be nice.

3. GoPro.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

At $300 this is on the “pricey” end of the gift spectrum, but just about every biker wants one of these doohickeys. GoPro is based in Silly Con Valley, right down the road from Apple, so they know how to market and they know how to sell. Accordingly, they do a nice job of adding features and functionality every year, and about a month after I bought my first GoPro they were onto version 2 and now they’ve just announced version 3 (just in time for Christmas!!) So even if you’re biker already has a GoPro, they need a new one because the old one is just so last month.

There are lots of accessories for the GoPro, too, so if you don’t have $300 to drop there are a few that would be on any motorcyclist’s wish list if they already have a GoPro, such as the tripod mount, the wall charger, the LCD backpack (I’ve always found it extremely frustrating that I can’t see what I’m filming while I’m filming or even THAT I’m filming with the GoPro. This caused me to lose some of the best footage I ever thought I was getting on a ride this fall) and extra batteries (GoPros have notoriously low battery life – at least in my experience.)

4. Heated handgrips.

I don’t have these on my bike. If I was to put heated handgrips on one of my bikes, it would be the V-Strom, which I ride most often and frequently in the early morning chill on my commute to work. There are a couple of aftermarket kits but the Oxford Grips seem to get good reviews from bikers and they’re easy to install and under $100. They are available on a number of gear sites such as Twisted Throttle.

Another alternative along these lines would be the BarkBusters handguards. They don’t heat the grips but they do protect the hands from the wind.

5. Cruise Control.

The Kaoko throttle lock system is a nice cost-effective aftermarket upgrade to just about any bike.

6. A six-pack from the “sure I can dream” category.

  1. A new bike. If I had my druthers, a 2013 Triumph Street Triple R is the one I’d like to add to my stable.
  2. A new used bike. It doesn’t even have to be new, a good quality used bike will float their boat just as well. There is a beautiful Bandit 1250 with low miles available at a dealership near me. If you want your biker to love you forever, get him (or her) a new bike.
  3. A full complement of Gerbings heated gear. Heated gear will extend the riding season by a month in either direction, and it will come in handy on really long tours. The whole enchilada of Gerbings will set you back about a grand.
  4. Icon 1000 Elsinore boots. I think these are some of the coolest looking motorcycle boots out there. I’d like a pair in each color, please. Size 10.5.
  5. A leather track suit. Budget about a grand for these. I did my first track day last summer, and would like to do more. And since you’re getting me a trackable bike in 1 or 2 above, I’m going to need this. I’m a size 46.
  6. Manayunk Triumph. If I could have any job in the world, it would be owner of this dealership. So since this is from the ‘dream’ category in an alternate universe where my significant other is a millionaire (heck, billionaire) sugar momma, I might as well think big and put this on the list.

OK so this started out with the intention to make a really useful and helpful list of things that my readers (or their significant others) could put on their Christmas shopping list, and ended up getting rather silly with me crossing one of the biggest items off my bucket list (to work in the motorcycle industry and perhaps own a dealership.) But hey, this is the season for dreaming, so deal with it!

Happy holidays to all.

Well my year-long love/hate relationship with the Triumph Rocket III Touring is officially over. I had posted it for sale back in February on Craigslist and had exactly one person come look for it about a month ago. He lowballed me and I declined. I never heard back from him (or anyone else) and had pretty much decided to just ride the bike for another year and give it another chance.

Then out of the blue on Wednesday the guy called me and told me he was ready to buy and would pay my asking price. He and a buddy came last night with a cashiers check, put it on a trailer, and its gone.

Better times.

So ends this saga. I was enraptured last spring by the notion that bigger is better. I tested the R3T at a demo day and decided I had to have one. A few twists and turns later I had the big, powerful, head-turning bike I wanted. I hated it almost from the beginning:

  • It was hot. And not in a good way. The 2300 cc engine generates a crap-ton of heat, and made the bike wickedly uncomfortable to ride in the summer months. I’d arrive at work after my morning commute drenched in sweat. If I got stopped at a red light I would literally have to turn the motor off. I’m convinced that Triumph de-tuned the demo bikes at its demo events or richened up the fuel mixture to make this less noticeable because the demo bike I rode (and I took 2-3 turns on it) didn’t run hot.
  • It sucked gas. Ask any Rocket III owner or Triumph dealer what the MPGs are on this bike and they’ll say, “Oh, about 40 miles per gallon.” It’s bullshit. This thing drinks gas like a drunken college fratboy drinks beer.
  • It was expensive to own. My premium doubled the day I bought the bike. My gasoline bill went up by at least 40%. Tires and maintenance were expensive. It goes on and on.
  • It was heavy. Backing out of my parking space at home became part of my workout routine.

I should have known all these things. I lost sight of it though after getting drunk on the notion that bigger is better when it comes to motorcycles. My very expensive lesson learned: it isn’t.

The Rocket added insult to injury when the shifting mechanism failed in August, leaving me stuck in third gear permanently. The repair cost me three weeks of ride time during the nicest time of the year. To Triumph’s credit, they covered the repair under warranty even though the manufacturers warranty had officially expired a month earlier (big assist to Steve, the service manager at Manayunk Triumph, who facilitated this and who tolerated my daily calls for a status update.)

There were good times too. My trip through West Virginia and North Carolina in October was an absolute blast on the Rocket. The bike was just flat-out built for rolling up miles on the open road. There were times when I would twist the throttle and that 2300 cc beast would spring to life and I would feel nothing  but…joy. Ultimately when the dude called and told me he would take the bike, I decided it was an opportunity to reset and pick something else.

Tomorrow I’m going to pick up its replacement. It’s already paid for. Stay tuned…

As I mentioned in my first post, I spend a lot of time on weekends visiting local motorcycle dealers and testing out new bikes. I’m grateful that most of the dealers in my area support test rides and will let me take a spin. I’ve even been honest with them: “I’m not looking to buy.” They seem to get it. Maybe I’ll take a ride and just have to have the bike. This has happened recently. Twice this season, in fact.

So as the season winds down, I’m going to list the bikes I tested this year and provide a brief blurb on each. When I put this list together, I was pretty shocked. I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes this year.

With my Rocket III Touring on the Blue Ridge Parkway, October 2011. The Rocket was made for trips like this.

1a. Rocket III Touring. Numero Uno on this list is the bike I currently own. I rode the R3T a number of times at a demo day at Eurosports back in May. I liked it so much I ended up shopping for one and bought my current ride from Hermy’s later that month. Since then it’s been a love/hate relationship. In summer, on a 90 degree day, in traffic, I hate this bike. It is like riding a convection oven, it throws off so much heat from that 2300 cc powerplant. When I’m filling it up with gas, I hate it. I’ve averaged 30 miles per gallon this year and more often than not been in the mid 20’s. But when I’m rolling up heavy miles and cruising along on a nice twisty, or passing a tractor trailer on the slab, I absolutely love it. When I’m on a trip with my friends and hauling my camping gear, I love it. When I park it on Main Street in New Hope next to about a dozen ElectraGlides and the peeps walking by stop to look at my bike and ignore the Harleys, I love it. Read the rest of this entry »